The importance of nutrition in healthcare


Good nutrition in any healthcare setting is important, particularly in sectors such as care homes and hospitals. Having access to healthy, nutritious food can go a long way in assisting recovery from illness and help maintain a good level of health. The effective management of food intake and nutrition are both key to good health as we get older. Having a healthy diet and eating the right foods can help your body cope more successfully with an ongoing illness or other healthcare problems. 

Food and nutrition are how we get energy and fuel into our bodies. We need to replace nutrients in our bodies with a new supply each day. Nutrition includes fats, proteins and carbohydrates. In addition, water is an important component of good nutrition. Maintaining key vitamins and minerals is also important to maintaining good health, especially for those over 50. 

A healthy diet should include a lot of natural foods and should consist of plenty of fruits and vegetables. Whole grains, such as whole-grain bread and brown rice, should also have a place in a healthy diet. Protein should come from lean meats and poultry and dairy products should be low-fat. 

Good nutrition also involves avoiding certain kinds of foods, such as salt which can lead to high blood pressure. Watching cholesterol and fat intake is also important for good nutrition. Healthy eating habits can also increase energy levels, improve wellness & well-being and help recover from illness or injury.

According to Age UK, 1 in 10 older people are undernourished. Of these, over 90% live in the community rather than in residential elderly care and 35% of those admitted to care homes are also affected by malnutrition.

Implementing healthy habits

As age creeps up on us all, it can be difficult to maintain an interest in healthy eating and actively engage in good habits. Losing interest in cooking good, healthy meals can be difficult for people living alone or with mobility issues. Thinking about some of the problems people may face and ways to help them can be a good starting point in improving the eating habits of people in all sectors of healthcare. 

  • Food loses its taste and is no longer enjoyable.- Try adding some herbs and spices, seasoning can often help improve the taste of food. Certain medicines can make the food once loved taste differently. 
  • Difficulty chewing- if this is the case, try softer foods that are easier to chew and smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Eating alone- get together with friends or family, or a group of like-minded people so eating is no longer a chore but something to enjoy and look forward to.
  • Difficulty shopping or cooking meals- ask for support, there are people who can provide assistance at meal times or preparing food. Family and friends may be able to be of assistance.

Maintaining good health

For those receiving elderly care, whether, in the community or residential care, access to good nutrition is often out of their control. Research suggests that those in the community are more likely to suffer from poor nutrition, which is likely, not surprising for many. Those without family support may opt for pre-prepared food that is easy to eat. Additionally, many older people receive some care and are on the poverty line. Accessing good-quality food may be a stretch to their budget.

Given that the UK population is ageing, the cost of care in the long term is becoming unaffordable. As such, it is important that people age well so that their care needs are reduced in later life. Ensuring good nutrition is one way in which this can be achieved. 

Managing hydration and nutrition in care is vital to help older people reduce their risk of malnutrition and dehydration and give them the best chance at maintaining a happy and healthy life as long as possible.

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