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Healthy eating and disability

Often when I am asked what I do these days when I am not in my Bella Vista consult room, I tell people that I do home visits predominately for people living with a disability. I am often met with this disbelief 'why would people with disability need a dietitian?' My response is then 'Why would people with a disability NOT need a dietitian?'.

There are a range of reasons why a person with a disability may benefit from a dietitian input.

1. For those who want to establish healthy eating habits. This often takes time, persistence and creativity. I particularly enjoy helping my client select a recipe from a food magazine and together, we modify it to suit their taste and health goal.

2. People with specific health needs or chronic disease such as high cholesterol or diabetes. Specific nutrition advice to help manage their health conditions.

3. Nutrition support. This may include enteral feeding for those who are unsafe to swallow or those who are able to eat but not consuming enough to support their body's nutritional need. A dietitian is able to prescribe nutrition supplement and monitor the nutritional status of the person.

4. Stomach conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. A dietitian is able to guide the person with a disability, and/or their care to work through specific steps to work out a eating plan that is suitable.

5. Help and education on meal planning. This is an essential skills for everyone. Often the person with a disability lives with their family and the meal are prepared by their family member. When they need to live on their own due to aging parents, meal planning skill is vital so the person living with a disability is able to make healthy food choices themselves. If need be, the person with a disability then ask their care workers to purchase those healthy foods for them and to prepare those food according to their own liking.

6. Supermarket food education tour. A dietitian can guide the person with a disability and/or their carer to choose suitable foods in their usual shopping environment. These tours are practical ways to help improve healthy eating, down to exactly where to look for certain items in supermarkets, some of which can be quite large.

These are some of the ways a dietitian can help for people living with a disability. This area of dietetics is definitely a very fulfilling area to work in.

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