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Medical Matters: Dietary advice we should all digest to enjoy healthy lifestyle – Torbay Weekly

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Irene McClelland, Mealtime Enhancement Lead at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust. Irene talks about the importance of good nutrition and hydration in living healthy lives.

Nutrition and Hydration Week is a national initiative that brings people together to raise awareness of the role of food and drink in good health and wellbeing.

In our local NHS services, we use this opportunity to highlight the importance of maintaining a balanced diet and staying hydrated to the people we care for and for our colleagues who support them. 

This year we are also reminding our colleagues of its importance too as we know that often, staying hydrated and taking regular breaks to eat something can sometimes prove challenging in busy and demanding roles.

Some issues that we are particularly focusing on this year include the increased risks for people who work night shifts, the dangers of ultra processed food and sustainability in what we eat; how our diets impact the natural environment. 

Eating a balanced diet is not only important in helping us to live healthy lives, but it can also make us feel better. As part of the nutrition and dietetics team at Torbay and South Devon, we want people to know that consuming a range of food types is important.

We’re all familiar with the encouragement to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and we need to balance this with high fibre starchy foods, dairy (or alternatives), and proteins such as beans, pulses, fish, egg and meat.

In the UK, people often eat and drink too many calories, so we need to be mindful of our intake. However, the occasional treat as part of a balanced diet isn’t something to discourage providing that we are being responsible with the foods we eat. 

When people aren’t getting the right amount of nutrients, we refer to this as malnutrition. This could be undernutrition or overnutrition. Both types are serious conditions that have negative health impacts for people overall. 

For good hydration, the Eatwell Guide recommends that we should drink at least 6 – 8 cups or glasses of fluid a day. Water is a healthy choice but other drinks can also count towards your fluid intake, including low fat milk and sugar-free drinks like tea and coffee.

You may need to drink more fluids if you’re pregnant, in a hot environment, physically active for long periods or ill/recovering from illness. People should drink enough to ensure that your pee is a pale-yellow colour.

Some people are particularly at risk from becoming dehydrated, including young children and elderly people. This is especially an issue during warmer weather, and we should all take responsibility to regularly check on those most at risk from becoming dehydrated. 

At Torbay and South Devon, our colleagues who work out in the community and in social care services are aware of the common signs and symptoms and are good at identifying when the people they support need additional support and advice.

In our hospital wards and departments, we have a range of initiatives in place to make sure that the people in our care have plenty to eat and drink.

This includes protected mealtimes so that we stop as many interruptions as possible. We also have mealtime assistant volunteers who support people that may need additional help to eat and drink. 

We are also passionate about supporting communal mealtimes where inpatients on the ward have a dedicated space to eat their meals with others away from their beds. This is a much more comfortable environment for people to enjoy their meals. 

If you’d like to find out more about staying well and keeping up good levels of nutrition and hydration, visit our Nutrition and Dietetics page on the Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust website: www.torbayandsouthdevon.nhs.uk/services/nutrition-dietetics/

The BDA which is the Association for UK Dietitians website has a range of useful resources that have general advice and information and can help increase awareness: www.bda.uk.com 

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