Young people who have been treated for an eating disorder at the Evergreen Centre have told us what was (and wasn’t) helpful at mealtimes.

The below information will give you advice and guidance and will answer some commonly asked questions. It also tells you what you can expect from staff and what they expect from you during mealtimes.

If there is anything you are unsure about, or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to tell a member of staff who will try and help you as much as possible.

We understand that mealtimes can be scary and upsetting. We are here to help and support you. We will not be judgemental and aim to be approachable and encouraging during what we know is a stressful time.

A range of distraction resources will be used alongside guidance and support.


Meal times



Morning snack




Afternoon snack

3.00 pm





You are expected to attend all meals.


Who will be in the dining room during meals?

Patients and staff eat together. Mealtimes are a good opportunity to strengthen relationships with staff and for peers to support and encourage one another.


Time allocated for meals

Main meals last a maximum of 30 minutes. During this time, all items listed on your dietary plan must be consumed.

You will be expected to organise your time during the meal so that all items are eaten. This means leaving enough time for desert! Staff will give you prompts if this is helpful to you.

20 minutes will be allocated for snacks.

All patients will be expected to remain in the dining room until the meal time is complete.


Post meal support

We are aware that many people feel distressed following meals. A post meal support group is available where staff will offer distraction and support.

Those in stage one and two will be expected to engage in each post meal support session. The amount of time you need to engage in post meal support depends upon what ‘stage’ you are in. For those in stage three, post meal support will be optional. Your key-nurse will tell you what stage you are in.

Some people find it useful to bring a distraction bag with items like magazines, books or a personal diary, where thoughts and feelings can be recorded, to post meal support.

It is very important that you gather all the belongings you need and use the toilet before having a meal or snack.


The menu

We will serve a range of fresh and nutritional food, sourced locally and prepared by our own chef.

Each morning, we will meet and help you choose your menu for the next day. We recognise this may be a stressful activity for you and will give you support and guidance to do this.


How do I know what I have to eat?

Dietitians will help create a personal diet plan for you on admission which will be given to you and the team. The plan is designed to restore your weight to a safe and healthy level.

The meal plan aims to increase your weight by approximately 500g – 1kg per week (on average). This is based upon national evidence based guidance for in-patient units. Although staff appreciate and understand that this will be difficult to cope with, we will support you throughout.

The team will closely monitor your weight. In rare circumstances you might gain more weight than is expected. If this happens your meal plan will be adapted. However, within the first few weeks of consuming a healthy diet, some individuals gain more weight than expected. This is perfectly normal and occurs due to the body ‘adjusting’ to regular energy intake. Your body will adjust to this.  

If you do not gain the expected amount of weight per week, then your plan will be reviewed and increased, in consultation with you.

Genuine food allergies or intolerances will be acknowledged.


Dining room etiquette

Whilst in the dining room, we expect you to eat the food presented to you. This includes sauces that some dishes may be served in. Any food smeared onto hands or the furniture may be served again.

If there is anything in your dietary plan you do not understand or are unhappy with, please speak to staff who will help you.


What if I can’t decide what to choose at a mealtime?

Each week you will choose your food options for the following week.

Once you have decided what to eat, and menu choices have been submitted to the chef, you will not be able to change your choice.


What happens if I can’t follow my meal plan?

Your diet plan has been designed specifically to keep you safe and to meet your current health needs. If you are unable to complete a meal, the following choices are available to you:

If you are unable to begin a meal or snack

You will be offered a nutritional supplement half way through the allocated meal time. Once this has been served, you will have the next half of the meal time to consume this.

If you are unable to drink the nutritional supplement

You can choose for the remaining volume of the supplement to be administered by naso-gastric tube. This safeguards your physical health making sure you continue to make the progress necessary to begin the recovery process.

If you feel unable to take any nutrition at all

Staff will discuss next steps with you.


Can I have contact with the dietitian?

You will have regular contact with the dietitian, both individually and as part of a therapeutic group situation.

You can also discuss elements of your dietary plan with your key nurse who can make contact with the dietitian on your behalf.


Can I ‘swap’ certain items that are on my plan?

This is not advised. Once a choice has been made, some people find that they worry excessively whether they have made the ‘best’ choice. In our experience, this is part of the eating disorder. Sticking with your original choice makes this anxiety easier in time.

Also, the chef needs time to prepare meals. We ask you to make your menu choices the week before, so that the right amount of each meal can be prepared.

On very rare occasions there may not be certain foods available that you need to have. In these very rare circumstances staff will decide on a most suitable option.


Some helpful advice

Below is some helpful advice from young people who have had an eating disorder:

“Listen, talk to and work with the staff”.


“Try as hard as you can at mealtimes to challenge your thinking/anxieties - try and eat food that you normally avoid”.


“Support and encourage peers at mealtimes”.


“Don’t feel ‘greedy’ if you have managed to eat what is on your plan and someone else hasn’t”.


“Eat within the time-scales that have been given. Don’t eat slowly so you can avoid a particular food”.


“If you are finding it difficult then say so!”


“Try and have a general chat with staff when eating – this helps to distract your thoughts and also normalises eating behaviours”.


“Don’t cut your food into tiny portions – again it is very important to normalise your eating behaviours”.


“Tell staff what you find useful at mealtimes and also what isn’t useful”.


“Attend meals at the given times”.


An important and crucial bit of advice...

Try, try and try…don’t give up!


Leaflet reference: L506
Version: V3
Date last updated: 12 / 2016
Archive date: 12 / 2019

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