Protected mealtimes is an initiative to support increased nutritional intake for all hospitalised patients, particularly those who are malnourished. The increased focus on maximising independence of patients in the subacute setting may provide a supportive environment for implementing these strategies. The aim of the present study was to gain insight into subacute ward practices at mealtimes under usual conditions (i.e. at baseline) where no protected mealtimes policy was implemented. Participants were patients aged 65 years recruited from subacute care facilities at a large healthcare network in Victoria, Australia. Participants were observed at mealtimes and mid meals (i.e. morning tea, afternoon tea and supper) to determine daily energy and protein intake, provision of mealtime assistance and mealtime interruptions. Almost all participants received assistance when it was needed, with positive and negative interruptions experienced by 56.2 and 76.2 of participants, respectively. There was an energy deficit of approximately 2 MJ per day between average intake and estimated requirements. In conclusion, mealtime practices were suboptimal, with particularly high rates of negative interruptions. Protected mealtimes is one strategy that may improve the mealtime environment to support patients dietary intake. Prospective studies are needed to evaluate its implementation and effects.