The vital role of nutrition after hospital discharge

The vital role of nutrition after hospital discharge

February 23, 2023

Nutritious food is essential to the healing process after a hospital stay — not only for promoting continued recovery and independence, but for avoiding readmission.


You can never underestimate the importance of proper nutrition, but there are times when it is truly a game changer. Particularly after a hospital stay, nutritious food is vital to the healing process and can be a major factor in avoiding readmission to the hospital. Still, research shows that as many as half of patients admitted to the hospital are at risk for malnutrition or are malnourished, particularly older adults. Of these, only 8 percent are diagnosed as such during their hospital stay.

Malnutrition is a condition that develops when the body is deprived of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients it needs to maintain healthy tissues and organ function. Malnutrition occurs in those who are either undernourished or overnourished. Undernutrition is characterized by a lack of nutrients and insufficient energy supply, whereas overnutrition is marked by excessive nutrient and energy intake and can result in obesity.

Malnutrition during and after hospital stays

Some patients become malnourished during their hospital stay — including approximately one-third of those whose nutritional status is adequate upon admission. Not only are these patients at increased risk of complications during hospitalization, but they’re also more likely to have a longer length of stay and are at greater risk for adverse health events after discharge.

Some of the poor outcomes associated with malnutrition include:

  • Increased risk of pressure ulcers
  • Impaired wound healing
  • Increased infection rate
  • Muscle wasting
  • Functional loss — resulting in more falls
  • Increased mortality

Quick facts:

  • Malnourished adult inpatients have a 54 percent higher likelihood of hospital 30-day readmissions than those who are well-nourished
  • Readmitted malnourished patients have been found to be twice as likely to be diagnosed with a serious infection
  • The average costs per readmission were 26–34 percent higher for patients with malnutrition compared to those without malnutrition

The advantages of home-delivered meals following a hospital stay are clear

Individuals’ nutritional needs don’t stop once they’re discharged from the hospital. In fact, adequate food intake is essential for promoting continued recovery and independence. It is especially key for patients suffering from a chronic condition, which puts them at risk for malnutrition. Patients with chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, or heart disease may require a diet that is lower in sugar, fat, sodium, or cholesterol. Post-discharge meals are equally important to individuals who cannot prepare meals for themselves or whose caregivers can’t fulfill their nutritional needs and to those who are food insecure.

Fortunately, many health plans today support their members in the transition from hospital to home with a home-delivered meals benefit. Studies show home-delivered meals can increase both diet quality and nutrient intake.

Studies show home-delivered meals can increase both diet quality and nutrient intake.


At Mom’s Meals®, we offer a Post-Discharge Care program designed to help health insurers, hospitals, health systems, accountable care organizations, skilled nursing facilities and other health care organizations provide their members and patients expedited nutritional support at the start of their recovery — when time is of the essence — to support healing and reduce readmissions.

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