This investigation follows seminal work on nutrient degradation as the authors seek to quantify how much vitamin C, as a marker of nutrient quality, is retained at various stages of processing (frozen, steamed, trayline and delivery) of peas at two New Jersey hospitals. Healthcare providers use nutrient data standards provided by various national and international government and nongovernment agencies. Physicians, dietitians and menu planners rely on these values for nutritional therapy. We found that the current methodology for predicting nutritional outcomes of cooked foods in hospitals may not be reliable in assessing nutrients served to patients. Sampled peas were found to contain significantly (P < 0.05 for both Hospitals A and B) less vitamin C compared with the published standard value (‘cooked’) for vitamin C. In Hospitals A and B, the nutrient quality of vitamin C was significantly reduced (P < 0.05) as peas progressed to patients. As improved nutritional status has been shown to correlate with faster healing and recovery, thus reduced hospital stays, we recommend that hospitals use improved cooking methods to reduce the loss of nutrients in foods served to patients. Vegetables in particular should be cooked for the briefest period of time or at the lowest temperature that ensures safety.