Hallwang Clinic #8 – the diet dilemma

As you can see from the photos below, the food at Hallwang was very good.  Too good in fact.

Cake Tray

Daily freshly-baked cakes (before the men got to it!)

There were three chefs working shifts who cooked haute cuisine-standard, three-course meals to order.  Breakfast was anything you liked. There was even room service for those staying at the clinic and who didn’t want to eat in the restaurant.  There was an open supply of biscuits and fruit for in-between meals.

I’d been on the ketogenic diet before arriving there, with green vegetable juices everyday and sprouts.  Hallwang did its best to cater for my needs, even producing a fresh green juice every morning (along with amazing poached eggs and sausages).  There was xylitol instead of sugar for those who wanted it, and gluten-free or vegetarian options.  If a patient wanted Budwig or kefir, the clinic would do that too.

Lunch

Roast lamb and gnocchi. Special gourmet meal, cooked to perfection by head chef, Sven

But most of the food there was mainstream Western diet, veering on meat and two veg and carbs, and creamy desserts (ice cream!), and light on the fresh salads. The cakes were made with xylitol (and the cake tray was brought out after lunch – a very popular event and you had to get there before the men got to it) and there was a drinks trolley with coke and beer.

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The drinks trolley with a mix of water, soft drinks, juices, cordials and … German beer

I asked why the diet wasn’t more anti-cancer (which to me was zero sugar, low carb, heavy on veggie juices and salads), and the doctor there told me that the treatments at Hallwang worked no matter what people ate.

[I found out that this attitude is prevalent in a lot of the German clinics – an anti-cancer diet or offering nutritional advice just isn’t on top of their lists, they’re more worried about patients losing weight so are happy if their patients eat.]

Unfortunately, I took the doctor at his word (“woo-hoo – so I can have my cake and eat it?”) and fell off the ketogenic bandwagon.  I figured that while I was there and getting infusions and treatments, I was going to have the occasional treat.  It was the first time I’d had cake in years.  Or wine.

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Special festive cake tray. Resist … resist …

Later, I was told not to have too much raw food (i.e. green juices and salads) as it was harder for the liver to process, and my liver was stressed by one of the treatments (Removab) at the clinic.  So another excuse to eat loads of delicious cooked food.

I love my food, so of course I couldn’t say “no” to the cooked breakfast (sausage, amazing German bacon, poached egg, one piece of toast, prunes, flax seed) plus cut fruit and cold meats from the continental breakfast buffet; or the cooked lunch (soup, main, dessert) or tea from the cake tray or the cooked dinner (starter, main, dessert).

In the end, due to lack of exercise and some of the effects of the treatments, if I ate breakfast I was too full and couldn’t eat lunch, so I ended up just having lunch and dinner and that was more than sufficient.

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Fruit and nuts and biscuits just in case you are starving in between meals (and yes, they had bananas, but I didn’t eat a single one)

In general, the standard of the food was excellent, but I must add that sometimes the quality varied, there were a few meals of bog-standard spaghetti bolognaise and Kartofelpuffer (German potato pancakes) and apple sauce, and cold buffets that left me uninspired.  I think it depended on which chef was in the kitchen and the number of patients in the clinic.

At the end of the day, I was grateful that someone else was doing all the cooking and washing-up!

All that eating meant that I put on a couple of kilograms during the first few weeks, but unfortunately lost it all in my final week at Hallwang.

Restaurant2

Hot drinks 24/7

The service by the restaurant staff was amazing.

The waitresses were a delight.  Chief waitress, Tanya was always taking care of me, asking me what I wanted to eat, and making sure I got it.  When I was late for lunch which is verboten to the always-punctual Germans, Jessica braved the wrath of the chefs and got me a meal.

The staff really cared.  One morning I didn’t come down for breakfast, and one of the chefs asked me why I had missed breakfast.  I was impressed that they had noticed, and cared enough to ask.  When I had appointments outside the clinic, they made sure I had a packed lunch.

The staff even took care of partners.  Two of the wives of patients were sunning themselves on the terrace in the summer, and were served cocktails with cut fruit and umbrellas!

All-in-all, the food and the kitchen staff were some of the best things at Hallwang.  They made me feel I was not in a hospital environment, but in a 4-star hotel.

On my last day at the clinic, I got a hug from all the waitresses, and Roland, one of the chefs came out and gave me a hug too.  I had tears in my eyes.

For patients who were not staying in-house in the clinic, three meals a day at the clinic cost about Euros 50-60 (plus 19% VAT).  A snip at that price.

I cannot speak for other German cancer clinics, but the food and service at Hallwang reflected the hefty premium I was paying to be there.

If good quality, fresh food, and wonderful staff add joy to your life, then look for a clinic like Hallwang, that pays attention to such details and spoils its patients.

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Oh yes, there’s a piano in the restaurant and a guitar.  So if you play the piano, don’t forget your sheet music when you go to Hallwang.  Dr Kopic is partial to Chopin.

If you have special dietary requirements, fax/send them to the clinic before your arrival and make sure that the kitchen staff have seen your requirements.  I wrote out a list of the veg that could be in a green vegetable juice because the kitchen staff assumed that “green juice” could include green apples!

I’ve heard that some patients who had colostomy bags or colo-rectal problems had a few problems with getting the right foods prepared, and had to send the food back to the kitchen.  It’s something that needs to be sorted out by Hallwang.

The Germans have a thing about punctuality, so best not to turn up 5 minutes before the kitchen closes for the service, and expect to get a 3-course meal, unless you’re prepared to face some very stressed chefs!  And don’t expect call the kitchen for room service 5 minutes before the kichen closes and hope to get breakfast in bed.  Remember, the chefs are cooking to tight deadlines and for many patients with different requirements.

If the food isn’t to your liking, please speak up.  If you don’t ask, you don’t get.  For example, if you don’t eat meat, or red meat, ask for fish to be prepared for your meals.

The clinic caters for a mainstream diet, but will try to accommodate your requirements.  And if you really don’t like the food at Hallwang, there’s a Netto supermarket about 20 minutes’ walk away with some organic meat and veg.

If you really want raw vegan, salads and sprouts and juices, you’ll struggle at Hallwang, and your best bet is the Hippocrates Institute in the US.

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Update 1 November 2013

Hallwang now has a salad bar for dinner!  It’s only a small salad bar, but that’s better than no salad bar!  Small steps and all that … .

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