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Proper nutrition plays a big role in disease prevention, recovery from illness and ongoing good health. A healthy diet will help you look and feel good as well. Since nurses are the main point of contact with patients, they must understand the importance of nutrition basics and be able to explain the facts about healthy food choices to their patients. Not only must nurses be able to explain the ins and outs of a healthy diet, they must also lead by example. March is National Nutrition Month when the importance of healthy nutrition in recovery is highlighted on an annual basis.

How Does Nutrition Relate to Health?

Healthy food choices are vital to preventing and managing illness, particularly chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Nurses in home-based healthcare settings stress the importance of health diets in recovery as well.

One fact about healthy eating that a nurse may provide is how a high sugar diet may cause type 2 diabetes. Nutrition for diabetics is crucial. One of the biggest risk factors for type 2 diabetes is being overweight, and a diet high in calories from any source contributes to weight gain. Of course, eating candy is probably a quicker way to obesity (and type 2 diabetes) than whole grains or fish. To that point, our nurses provide proper nutrition advice and monitor results as it relates to recovery and the ultimate goal of a better outcome.

Proper nutrition is not only important for preventing disease, it is also crucial to the recovery process. According to an article by Michael Henning titled “Nursing’s Role in Nutrition,” “The healing of the body can take place only when the nutrients that provide the building blocks for repair are present.” Due to the lack of trained nutritionists, the responsibility of educating patients on healthy eating habits often falls to attending nurses. They can put together diet plans for patients at home for use long after they leave the hospital.

For example, protein is essential to the healing process: Fats and carbohydrates are also important in helping wounds to heal. They stop your body from using protein as an energy source, allowing it to be used to heal tissue.

Not only should people recovering from illness make sure they eat right, they also need to make sure they are eating enough. Many illnesses and treatments can cause a loss of appetite — including anything from a common cold to chemotherapy. Weight loss can increase your chances of infection so having more frequent meals, or little snacks throughout the day can be extremely beneficial.

How Can Nurses Teach Patients About a Healthy Diet?

There are many ways nurses can teach their patients about proper nutrition as it relates to their health. Presentations at community health centers are crucial to community health. A nurse with the right knowledge can prepare a PowerPoint presentation to show for a group of seniors during a health fair. They can also give the attendees literature to take home for further study and guidance.

Nurses who work in home-based settings are likely more concerned with nutrition as it relates to recovery from illness, surgery or other treatments. Nurses can talk to patients at their bedside on in their own kitchens and explain the special meals that will aid recovery, as many patients will be on special diets. Remember that healthy eating goes far beyond the hospital, especially if the patient plans to stay out of the hospital.

Lead By Example (Practice What You Preach)

According to an article titled “Healthy Eating for Healthy Nurses: Nutrition Basics to Promote Health for Nurses and Patient” published in The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, “When healthcare professionals, such as nurses, care for their own health, it is reasonable to think that this will help them to better care for patients.” Nurses often find themselves working a mixed schedule — nightshifts for a few days and then a dayshift a day or two later. Add to that the stress of the job itself, and poor food choices may become the norm. Patients, who are likely getting information about nutrition from their nurses, are likely to be aware of the “health habits” of those nurses. As noted in The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing article, “[patients] were more confident to receive diet and exercise education from a normal weight nurse.” As you can see, the importance of nutrition is clear from both sides on the healthcare equation.