In a perfect world, diabetic patients would consume less sugar and patients with hypertension would never eat fast foods packed with sodium. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world. Everybody struggles. So how can we expect perfection from our patients?
Most patients want to change their eating habits but aren’t clear where to start, what to do, what will work and what won’t. The key to a patient’s success could simply be that we take the time to educate them.
Here are some essential tips to help patients when discussing diets:
- Define and Discuss: When your patients hear the word “diet” they immediately think of restriction and deprivation. Change this negative perspective into one that is positive. A diet is simply a person’s eating habits. Find out what is their usual daily diet then discuss how to incorporate healthier habits into their diet.
- Show and Tell: About 65 percent of the population is visual learners. Visual aids can help patients understand what they need to do to be successful in changing their diet. Having a 16-ounce bottle of water on hand to show the patient will give them a visual understanding of quantities.
- Alternatives: No sugar. No salt. No, no, no. So many patients are discouraged when it comes to diet changes because of all the “nos”. Instead of all the nos, try the word “replace”. Instead of “no salt”, try “replace salt with fresh or dried herbs”. Patients will succeed when they are redirected instead of restricted.
- Fad Isn’t Fabulous: Many patients want a quick fix. Talk to your patients about the latest in fad diets. Give them all the health risks that are involved. Patients make better choices when they know why and how their health and life may be affected by the latest fad diet.
The truth is that when it comes to discussing diets, patients need as much guidance, direction and motivation as possible. Start simple with the understanding that they do not have to deprive themselves when it comes to making healthy diet choices. Continue to educate the patient at each doctor’s visit and celebrate the small victories of change. Soon the small changes will become habits and habits lead to a lifelong change.
Raenali Publications is a leading provider of innovative, physician-directed patient education in the field of nephrology.