Friday, February 20, 2015

Healthy food and an international hospital

That is the first impression of the food choices
It is quite a while ago that on Twitter a discussion started about the McDonalds branch at the Bumrungrad Hospital. It is indeed the most visible food vendor when you enter the Hospitals 1st floor. And quite a few people complain about it, since it doesn't really fit the otherwise healthy lifestyle that is promoted. 
Is this healthy food?

During the twitter discussion the person behind the Bumrungrad account claimed that they offer many different choices, and when I asked about vegetarian food I was referred to a restaurant at the clinics buildings 12th floor (what was closed last time I came) and the Food Court.

So when I had my recent appointment, I took the time to walk around the food vendors. Indeed. McDonalds is the most prominent, the first one and the biggest. Followed by Au Bon Pain, a sandwich seller and bakery. Then there is a Japanese restaurant, but I haven't seen it open before noon. And the Food court.

Those soups are available with fish at least.
First of all the Food Court offers Thai food, what is in general a good thing, because, hey, we are in Thailand. The problem with Thai food is only that it is not healthy in general. In particular the use of coconut milk and overuse of oil (mainly palm oil or soybean oil) makes it not so good. Many dishes are deep fried, what is the opposite of fresh, because it destroys most of the nutrional value. And nearly all Thai dishes are high in calories.

So what about the Food Court options? The result is a mix. They offer the non-healthy Thai food as well as some healthy dishes, kind of 50/50. I was surprised to even find a vegan stall (and the end of the first row in the far left corner), and I liked the fish dishes. 

There is also Starbucks with high calories and high fat pastries and sandwiches downstairs.

During the twitter discussion I was told I can find vegetarian and healthy food. The question is: Do I need to FIND healthy food in a hospital? Do I even have to SEARCH for it? Or should it be the most prominent offer, right when I enter the Food place.

I asked Bumrungrad some questions and it took the PR-Department 2 weeks to answer them.

1. Why does McDonalds has such a prominent exposure at the hospital and how does the McDonalds menu fit to Bumrungrads healthy food recommendations (like this ?

Answer:  " McDonalds food has been provided as one of the various choices for the relatives of our patient, visitors and general customers who come from various countries for their convenience while are visiting us."

2. The Food court offers a variety of Thai food, even vegan. 
And yes, there is a vegan corner!
 - what kind of cooking oil is used there?
- is there any reason why the calories of the meals can not be published on the signs? As far as I know calorie is the key issue in gaining and loosing weight.

Answer: "Our patient’s food has been provided by the expert team of Sodexo “Professional Food Provider”. The food provided for each patients is depend on the symptom of the patients and according to the doctor’s advice only."

3. What is Bumrungrad doing to actually provide healthy food in general, not as an exception? (I was told the restaurant in the clinic building is closed for renovation?)

Answer: "We have also provided healthy food including vegetarian with various kinds of food for our visitors, relatives and general customers at our food court “FOOD EXPERIENCE” & Japanese Restaurant “Ayame” as well."    

So, no answer regarding the oil that is used and about the calories suggestions. Unfortunately the usual PR-Blabla, and they didn't even read the question (or understand). I wonder if any doctor advises for high-cholesterol food.

Oh, and then I saw NO MSG signs. The thing is that MSG is not dangerous at all. It is an urban myth. It is in tomatoes and broccoli naturally, and it doesn't do ANY harm as longs as it it used in normal doses, like salt. 

So my conclusion: Bumrungrad is a business, not a charity. They want to make money, and it seems that McDonalds pays a good rent. Also, they want to make people feel good, not necessarily live good, so when patients see McDonalds, they may be happy.

By the way, of course McDonalds Food is not unhealthy per se.  It is just sooooo high in calories that it makes you fat. Obese, actually, when you eat a lot. Also, there is not much fiber, not many vitamins, and it is high on carbs. (BigMac, Fries, Sundae and Coke is 1500 calories. That is 3/4 of the daily average calorie intake you should have)

I wonder why Bumrungrad sticks so much on it? Most of their patients are Thai, by the way, even if it looks that people from the Middle East are. They may bring a lot of value, but they are not the majority. The message from Bumrungrad is clear: Eat whatever you want, we deal with the consequences (and this is where the money comes from at the end).

I remember that Samitivej Hospital in downtown has a Starbucks and and Au Bon Pain as well, but no fast food and a quite nice food hall downstairs.

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