Guest Column

Looking Beyond Traditional Foods at Hospitals

July, 2018

Since India has made forays into modern healthcare, the focus has been on cure solely via medicines, and that do not consider the support of other factors. Slowly, as we begin to learn more about medical science, modern medical treatments have begun to understand the importance of other factors such as food and patient’s comfort for quicker healing. Internationally, more hospitals have adopted therapeutic diets to supplement healing. In India, though we have had this form of treatment historically, we are yet to rediscover it in its entirety.

Nutraceuticals have begun to catch on in India in a big way. The worldwide nutraceutical industry, esteemed at $182.6 billion out of 2015, is one of the quickest developing industries today and it is anticipated that it would expand at a CAGR of 7.3% from 2015 to 2021. India is one of the fast-developing markets in the Asia-Pacific region. According to a recent report, the nutraceuticals industry in India is worth approximately $2.2 billion and is anticipated to grow at 20% to touch $6.1 billion by 2019-2020.

The growth of this industry can be primarily attributed to the change of the Indian way of life. Faster pace, stressed lifestyles, unhealthy eating habits have taken a toll on well-being and health. Lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and hypertension have become extremely common. Naturally, the awareness towards well-being has been growing, and people have begun adopting nutraceuticals as a part of their everyday diet.

In times of distress, when hospitalized, they have had to rely on the bland diet provided by hospitals. Mostly, hospitals that have 80-100 beds and above have a practice of offering catering facilities for its patients. These hospitals have to cater to a wide variety of patients and end up serving the lowest common denominator - food that is safe for everyone. This often results in diets that feed you but do not necessarily help the specific condition or disease. The treatment for the disease is solely taken care by medicines and not food.

Hospitals in India are beginning to realize the importance of food in the overall healing process and attempting to serve personalized meals for patients. Diabetes, renal failure, pre-natal and post-natal treatments for women are some of the treatment areas where hospitals are exploring personalized diets.

This form of retail catering can aid hospitals that have in-house catering reduce their food bills by almost 80%. Hospitals that do not have a patient catering outfit can explore external retail catering outfits that can supply these specialized meals - either in the form of plated meals or ready-to-eat packaged diets, tailored for each condition.

The challenge in this field lies in the suppliers of such therapeutic diets. It takes extensive knowledge of medicine as well as food to ensure the right pairing of ingredients for healing. The secondary challenge is meeting the required price point. Retail catering is cheaper than traditional hospital catering, but the years of investment in R&D does have a separate price component. And cost is one of the key components in this field. Personally-catered meals often add to the already hefty hospital bills, though they are cheaper in the long-run and hospitals can pass the cost benefits to the patient.

When it comes to nature of the food being served, cleanliness and sanitation kept up in the arrangement and serving premises assumes a key part in the support of well-being. Although foods are being checked with significant care amid preparation, there are odds of contamination with remote particles. For the most part, foods given to the patients are thought to be pricey and frequently not acknowledged by patients due to flat taste.

A few cases of regular therapeutic diets are gluten free diet, clear fluid diets, full fluid diets, no-concentrated sweet diet, diabetic (calorie controlled) diet, low-fat diet, high-fiber diet, no additional salts diet and a lot more. Diabetic diet is a standout amongst the most widely recognized therapeutic diets which include restricting high sugar foods to enable control blood sugar levels.

The idea of food synergy makes food more nutritious and delicious with therapeutic benefits. We can look forward to more such pairing of foods with research advancements in future.


Chief Executive Officer, NutriParadise Foods LLP