How do nurses assist patients with healthy eating?

The role of a nurse extends beyond caring for sick patients. One of the many important tasks they perform is assisting patients with healthy eating. A healthy eating plan is an important part of a patient’s recovery program following surgery or sickness. Guidance on nutrition is also part of a nurse’s remit promoting healthy lifestyles. In this article, we’re going to explore how nurses can help patients achieve healthy eating patterns.

Seeing patients thrive and achieve their health goals through good nutrition is one of the many rewarding aspects of a nurse’s role. This may inspire you to find out more about how to qualify as a nurse. If so, you’ll also be able to find information in the article on flexible programs to help you do this.

Nutritional assessment

As part of their role, nurses assess patients’ nutritional status on first admission to their ward or outpatient facility.

They can do this by noting the following data:

  • Height and weight.
  • BMI (body mass index).
  • Food allergies and dietary requirements.
  • Eating habits and preferences.
  • Any physical issues that inhibit eating, such as swallowing difficulties.

This information helps them understand whether the patient is at risk of nutrition-related issues. These include conditions such as malnutrition, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Assessment should be carried out regularly to get a full and evolving picture of a patient’s health.

Patient education

Patient education is a vital part of a nurse’s role, whether they are practicing in a hospital setting or in the community. In an inpatient setting, nurses can offer patients advice at the bedside and give them information to take away on discharge. In the community, a nurse may have one-on-one discussions with patients about healthy eating. This could be to address specific issues, such as managing diabetes or it could be as part of a proactive campaign to help patients improve their overall health. Nurses can also give talks and presentations at schools, community facilities, and in their clinics.

Meal planning and goal setting

By helping patients plan meals and set goals, nurses encourage them to take ownership of their well-being. These techniques are often used in a community setting, where nurses see a patient on a long-term basis. Working together, nurses and patients can set achievable, focused goals. These could include swapping sugary treats for fruit or including whole foods with every meal.

Nurses can also help with meal planning. This can include working together on low-calorie dinner ideas or finding resources to aid planning. With regular reviews to check progress, this can be an effective way to promote and maintain healthy eating habits.

Addressing dietary restrictions

Dietary restrictions may be linked to a patient’s long-term health condition. Examples of these include diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). In these cases, nurses can provide patients with materials and support to work around their challenges. They may also connect them with community groups where they can share experiences.

The term “dietary restrictions” can also refer to foods or drinks a person won’t consume for other reasons. These include religious reasons or ethical/moral choices, such as a vegetarian or vegan diet. Here, nurses can educate patients about nutrients they may be lacking and how they can substitute them.

Behavioral change support

Unhealthy eating patterns can be linked to a variety of behaviors, feelings, and beliefs. In some cases, a nurse will have the expertise to provide this support themselves. They may be a specialist nurse practitioner working in mental health, for example. In other cases, they may need to refer their patient to specialized services. An example of this may be a patient living with an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa who is also working through anxiety or trauma.

Cooking and nutrition workshops

Cooking and nutrition workshops bring communities together, giving participants the skills to improve their nutrition. Nurses who work in the community have a strong focus on promoting healthy lifestyles. These types of events fit perfectly within this remit. Workshops may be general in nature or may be targeted to specific groups. These include parents or carers of young children, people living with cancer, or the elderly.

Giving patients the skills to improve their nutrition leads to positive long-term outcomes. One study that looked at the effect of cooking classes on behavior found that participants had a more positive attitude toward eating healthily and improved their diets as a result.

Qualify as a nurse in less than two years

If a career in nursing appeals to you, know that even if you possess a degree (even in an unrelated field) you could qualify as a nurse in less than two years. Many individuals opt for hybrid ABSN (Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing) programs to fulfill this goal. The Hybrid Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program offered by Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, for example, provides students with the opportunity to study online and complement their learning with practical experience and clinical placements. This flexible format means students can learn at a time and in a location that suits them best. The program is available to candidates with a non-nursing degree and doesn’t require any experience in this field.

In this program, coursework is 100% online with two on-campus immersion experiences offered in addition. Students are supported to find clinical placements so they can practice their skills in real-life settings. The course can be completed in only 15 months, preparing students for the NCLEX-RN exam. Once they’ve passed, they may practice as a registered nurse.

If you’re looking to expand your career horizons, then this program could be exactly what you’re looking for in terms of flexibility and support.

Support patients to achieve better well-being

Good nutrition is linked to a host of benefits. An understanding of these issues and a desire to empower patients with healthy eating choices is a fundamental part of a nurse’s role. If you like the idea of supporting patients to achieve better health and well-being, consider retraining as a registered nurse. By following a program such as the Hybrid ABSN offered by Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, you could achieve this goal in as little as 15 months.

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