Meghna Lilaram, OD, recently became the first optometrist to earn her certification in culinary medicine. She advises offering easy-to-digest suggestions to patients to keep it from being overwhelming. “One or two principles or ideas to help keep them healthy and well can be really helpful,” she says.
The kind of conversations you will have with patients will ultimately vary depending on your setting and population. For example, Dr. Lilaram works in a community health, multidisciplinary setting so she never wants to step on any other department’s toes. She also knows that not all of her patient population has access to a computer for recipes. In some cases, COVID-19 may leave individuals unemployed and unmotivated. “Thirty minutes to prepare a meal can be a lot for someone, so we want to be considerate of that,” she says. The advice she offers needs to be straight to the action point.
Make little changes to include more natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish in your diet as you cut back on processed foods and meat. Frozen veggies are often just as good as fresh, which can be costly to buy and have potential to go bad or be wasted.
Some suggestions to offer could be to consider a corn tortilla instead of a flour one, add a handful of spinach to a dish or throw some vegetables such as peppers or tomato in with your fajita mix, etc.
Drink more water.
Get up and get moving. Every little bit counts!
Be more mindful when cooking. Pay attention to the details as your dish comes together. “Cooking brings joy, and we’re often guilty of just throwing things in,” Dr. Lilaram says. “But if you pay attention to the smells and listen to the sizzle, it can become a more enjoyable experience,” one that patients can feel good about and want to repeat.
Dr. Lilaram advises that it can be hard for patients to accept that their diets are not the best, so be understanding in your approach. If they are open to discuss, work some of these points into the conversation. “They don’t have to change everything, but all of the steps they take do assist in their efforts.”