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Tactics for Addressing Nutritional Needs for In-Patient Dining

February 16, 2021

The challenge of a dietitian in the healthcare business is a balancing act between delivering flavorful foods that patients will eat and meeting their nutritional and dietary needs.

The movement toward creating more flavorful menus has been a priority for years while addressing issues of sodium intake and even early stages of malnutrition in patients.

An article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics clearly highlights the issue, which many face. “The importance of identifying at-risk patients is highlighted by data showing that malnutrition is associated with many adverse outcomes, including an increased risk of pressure ulcers and impaired wound healing, immune suppression and increased infection rate, muscle wasting and functional loss, increasing the risk of falls, longer length of hospital stay, higher readmission rates, higher treatment costs, and increased mortality.”

The article pointed to a six-point interdisciplinary approach for the identification of the symptoms of malnutrition by nurses, doctors, and dietitians. Meanwhile, nearly all patients can benefit from reduced sodium intake.

The approach includes:

  1. Create an institutional culture where all stakeholders value nutrition
  2. Redefine clinicians’ roles to include nutrition care
  3. Recognize and diagnose all malnourished patients and those at risk
  4. Rapidly implement comprehensive nutrition interventions and continued monitoring
  5. Communicate nutrition care plans
  6. Develop a comprehensive discharge nutrition care and education plan

Beyond integrating a multi-pronged approach to identifying patients in need of a nutrition plan, some food processors are offering products that have been Nutritionally Enhanced. Red Gold® serves as an example.

“We first began offering Nutritionally Enhanced tomato products a decade ago to address a need we saw for better nutrition among school students,” says David Halt, Red Gold’s Vice President of Foodservice Sales. “The products have helped K-12 dietitians and foodservice directors address the need by simply serving our great-tasting products to all of their students.”

For example, the company’s line of prepared sauces under its Redpack® brand is made with natural sugar, is 70% lower in sodium, is a good source of Vitamins A, C, and E, is made with zero trans fats, and is gluten free; along with no artificial flavors, coloring or preservatives. The company’s Red Gold Tomato Juice and diced tomatoes are available with no salt added. Red Gold also offers a variety of Naturally Balanced portion control cups, such as marinara sauce and salsa that are made with natural sugar and are low sodium—ideal for in-room dining trays.

“We monitor segments, such as healthcare, that need products that address nutritional challenges,” says Halt. “Our products help make the process of developing group plans for better nutrition easier. That benefits everyone, beginning with the patient.”

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