Food as medicine:

Advocating for healthier food options inside the hospital

Sometimes God prepares you way ahead of time for trials and tribulations that may be coming down the road. He places certain desires in your heart that you would have never thought of on your own and before you know it, your life is headed in a direction you never planned but it’s a good one!  This is how it was for me when I started Cleangoodeats. Prior to this, I had a completely different career and the desire to start a business where I focus on restoring healthy relationships and familial bonds through food never occurred to me. But then one day, after having no other choice but to learn how to prep healthy meals for my family due to underlying allergies and medical conditions they suffered from, a seed was planted and I thought;“If my family is experiencing this special need for food, I know other families are as well.” Thus Cleangoodeats was born.

Fast forward to today and I thank God for instilling in me the passion to serve my family and others through health and wellness education. But most importantly, I thank God for preparing me for this battle against cancer that my family is currently fighting. If you didn’t read Tuesday’s blog post, my husband was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and believe me when I say, it has definitely been a battle. But thanks to God’s preparation, I’m more than equipped for the fight.

            With cancer patients, every single thing from the air they breathe to the foods they consume is critical to their health. Unfortunately, our experience with nutrition in the hospital has been a diet of convenience rather than one that caters to the dietary needs of cancer patients like my husband. Sugar is one of the main ingredients that cancer feeds on. As a matter of fact, it thrives off of sugar. Needless to say, it’s been a staple ingredient in many of the foods served to him. He’s also been served legumes, which he’s allergic to, but I don’t think too much communication goes on between the nurses and the dietary staff. Not every day has been bad. There have been days when the food has been ok for him to consume but those days have been few and far between. I am very appreciative of the care we have received from the doctors and nurses. They have been extraordinary and I know they are doing everything they can. I also know it’s not up to them to make sure all of my husband’s dietary needs are met. It is on the dietician to ensure that the food staff is complying but unfortunately, dieticians and the food staff may not always accurately communicate either. This is a concern, not just for my family but for all cancer patients. A 2014 study conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), found that more than 20 percent of the 208 hospitals they surveyed had cafeterias that were dominated by foods that were high in sugar, salt and cholesterol.  

            With cancer patients, every single thing from the air they breathe to the foods they consume is critical to their health. Unfortunately, our experience with nutrition in the hospital has been a diet of convenience rather than one that caters to the dietary needs of cancer patients like my husband. Sugar is one of the main ingredients that cancer feeds on. As a matter of fact, it thrives off of sugar. Needless to say, it’s been a staple ingredient in many of the foods served to him. He’s also been served legumes, which he’s allergic to, but I don’t think too much communication goes on between the nurses and the dietary staff. Not every day has been bad. There have been days when the food has been ok for him to consume but those days have been few and far between. I am very appreciative of the care we have received from the doctors and nurses. They have been extraordinary and I know they are doing everything they can. I also know it’s not up to them to make sure all of my husband’s dietary needs are met. It is on the dietician to ensure that the food staff is complying but unfortunately, dieticians and the food staff may not always accurately communicate either. This is a concern, not just for my family but for all cancer patients. A 2014 study conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), found that more than 20 percent of the 208 hospitals they surveyed had cafeterias that were dominated by foods that were high in sugar, salt and cholesterol.

  1. Seek out a holistic nutritionist who specializes in cancer nutrition: Yes, They do exist! Thanks to my own knowledge and training, I’m able to advocate for my husband and I know where to begin but I understand that everyone doesn’t have this advantage. There is actually such a thing as Registered Dietitians who specialize in oncology nutrition. We went this route at first but it did not work for us and here’s why. They believe in conventional nutrition which is not healing to the gut, and you all know how I feel about gut health. The meals they provide are purely protein based (without fiber) or meal supplements like boost and ensure which out of the first 4 ingredients, 3 are sugar.
  1. Do it yourself! I made the decision to make all of my husband’s food because of his multitude of allergies and their stance on “nutrition” so this of course, is another option. One of the first steps you would need to take if you decide to go the do it yourself route is focusing on food preparation. Learning how to properly handle food, as well as which foods a cancer patient should be consuming is a big deal. The immune system of a cancer patient is extremely compromised and everything from how the food is handled to how it is cooked needs to be taken into consideration. While there are several precautions that need to be taken with the food, a few of the most important ones are;
    • Washing raw fruits and veggies well before eating.
    • Avoiding what’s considered “high risk” foods like; undercooked eggs, meat, poultry, fish, unpasteurized milk and cheese, to name a few.
    • Refrigerating food quickly after eating.
    • Thawing frozen meats in the fridge and not on the counter.
    • Avoiding cross contamination of raw meats and veggies.

These are just a few tips and of course, you can consult a holistic nutritionist to help you on the do-it-yourself route as well. While these tips aren’t comprehensive, they are a start. The most important thing to realize is that you aren’t stuck to suffer with the options provided to you by the hospital and that you can speak up and demand either quality nutrition suitable to you or your loved ones needs, or you can refuse what they’re offering all together and do it yourself. Knowing you have options and taking action is the first step to making sure you’re doing everything you can to be proactive in your recovery process.

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