Special hospital meals proving to be popular

by Fumiko Yamaoka

Kyodo

Recipe books and cooking schools detailing low-calorie, low-sodium meals designed by hospital dietitians have developed a strong following among cancer patients and other health-conscious consumers.

In October, the National Cancer Center Hospital East’s patient support center held a cooking lesson where two hospital dietitians gave participants recipes for five dishes, including fiber-rich wheat rice containing dried radish and lotus for people with constipation, and soup with carrot, radish and chicken tenderloin that helps stimulate digestion.

The center, in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, started the cooking school in September 2008 for cancer patients and their families, and classes are held on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.

In September, the center published a book of 215 recipes it developed for cancer patients suffering from lack of appetite, nausea and diarrhea caused by drugs or radiation treatment.

Yumi Ochiai, one of the dietitians, said many patients say they are unable to eat even though they want to, and that their families feel disappointed when they turn down food especially made for them.

“With only a little ingenuity, those patients may be able to eat,” Ochiai said.

Emiko Otake, 64, who lives in Misato, Saitama Prefecture, started going to the school a month after undergoing surgery for stomach cancer three years ago.

“I used to feel nauseous after each bite and go directly to the bathroom,” she said of her ordeal with cancer. But the school helped her find dishes that suit her appetite, and she now feels confident enough to make them for family and friends.

The restaurant on the second floor of Sempo Tokyo Takanawa Hospital began serving healthy meals to diabetes and other patients — using the same recipes used by the hospital — in November 2012.

“We wanted to change people’s impression that food prepared by hospitals is not really delicious,” said Kayoko Adachi, head of the dietitian’s office at the hospital.

Adachi said spices and herbs are used to season the food at the restaurant, which is unusual for hospital food.

Takashi Yamaki, who is being treated for hypertension at the hospital on an outpatient basis, comes all the way from his office to have lunch there every day.

“If I tried to take low-calorie and low-sodium food at the office cafeteria, I’d have to choose the same meals every day and that’s boring,” the 51-year-old said.

“Since my blood pressure is currently stable without medicine, I believe that continuing to eat this restaurant’s food will help treat me,” he said.