CARDIOLOGY, PRIMARY CARE AND NUTRITION

Blogpost: We, Must Make the Connection

The New York Senate Passes a Bill S1471 that would require hospitals to offer plant-based options for their patients IF signed.

Should we really need legislatures telling hospitals and doctors that nutrition is a vital part of healthcare and needs to be taken as seriously as pills and procedures? I guess so. I am a minority at my community hospitals. I have successfully negotiated plant-based options at both of the hospitals that I am on staff . The dietitians there agree that fruit and vegetables are a mainstay of a healthy diet. But they have difficulty not providing the comfort food choices that people are used to. There are several stumbling blocks keep the huge healing benefits of plants in the background.

Menu planning, the comfort food concept, nutritional education, the overhead of a food service and connection between health and nutrition are just a few of the hurdles a large institution has to overcome.

Hospitals are built on customer satisfaction and surveys. Comfort food and a dinning experience is more important to a lot of hosptials. State of the art equipment and good esthetics are king. They are competing with chain restaurants as a basis for taste. That means sweet, salt and fat. If you are sick, you deserve foods that make you happy not healthy?

Hospital dietary menu services are largely driven by the big food suppliers. Just like chain restaurants, most of the food comes largely prepared and portioned. Gone are the days are cooks in the kitchen preparing meals. So introducing new items to a menu can be very hard.

Hospital dietary staff needs to be reeducated that food is nutrition and part of the treatment plan. This is in contrast to the thought that food that is considered good is what one is familiar with. I have heard a dietary worker more than one time discourage patients from “Dr. Dulaney’s” vegan options. They see vegetables and fruit as a punishment in times of ill health instead of the means to a speedy recovery.

It is agreed that a low salt diet is part of a heart healthy diet, a cardiac diet and a renal diet. But all others need not worry is the general societal view. However, salt is toxic to the vasculature and kidneys resulting in endothelial dysfunction and fluid retention. But low salt or no salt items are more expensive and prepared foods have sodium as a preservative so it is neglected when possible. Some vegan options can be plant based, but also high in salt and oil. In other words, junk food vegan style.

Legislature for healthy food options is a great start, however, we healthcare providers need to set the example. Let’s start by taking the junk food out of the cafeteria and doctor’s lounges. We have to get the health care providers on board before patients will be educated. We need to clean out the hospital’s supply of junk food just like individuals clean out their closets when electing to eat a healthy plant strong diet. What is the worst thing that could happen? Healthy, lean hospital staff educating patients on the benefits of their plant based options? Patients getting well sooner to escape to find that their comfort foods are really causing them to be ill in the first place? What a wonderful world it could be.

3 Comments
  1. Reply
    jamesflee@me.com

    Well said! I applaud your courage to be a candle in the wind for change.
    WELL DONE! And Thank you!
    This type of thinking is what brought me to your practice.

    • Reply
      Dr. Dulaney

      thank you!

  2. Reply
    Ruth Charlesworth

    I could not agree with you more.
    A cousin and very dear friend was a patient at Andersen Cancer Hospital in Texas after each chemo treatment he was given milk shakes and ice cream.
    Several months ago I took my husband to our local ER in Florida as he was having a heart event. It was early in the morning and I did not have any breakfast. The nurse in the ER kindly offered me a a large sugar cake. Rather than hurt his feelings I accepted the cake and headed to the cafeteria for some fruit. There was not one banana or piece of fruit in the cafeteria. All the cereals were sugar loaded.
    There needs to be some serious dietary education for our medical profession and the public at large because all the medicine in the world will not overcome a poorly educated diet.
    Thank you for all that you do in helping people understand what true healthy living is all about. You are an outstanding Doctor and a blessing to your patients.

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