One Size Doesn’t Fit All – Dietitians and Nutrition Managers Supporting Cultural Preferences and Nutrition

The author of the “UHN Connecting Patients with Culturally Appropriate Foods for their Health” blog highlights the importance of cultural awareness and food in healthcare. While nutrition is a science, food is personal and there are many factors that influence the way we eat. A one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition is no longer appropriate. It is important that Registered Dietitians and Nutrition Managers include individual preferences and cultural differences when providing nutrition advice. Building rapport, asking questions, and embracing a willingness to learn about a client or culture leads to higher client satisfaction, realistic plans of care and better health outcomes.

CHA Learning’s Food Service and Nutrition Management Program emphasizes a culturally sensitive curriculum. Not only do students learn about cultural awareness in nutrition services, they also have the opportunity to discuss various cultural groups, common food patterns, and food choices among a diverse network of peers. Students learn from each other, share information about their own cultural holidays, celebrations, and religious beliefs and brainstorm ideas about how to accommodate unique food and nutrition needs in a healthcare setting.

Registered Dietitians and Nutrition Managers are in a pivotal position to effectively provide culturally competent care. Key to this is engaging with people of different cultural backgrounds; such as food specialists, chefs, culinary students, other health care professionals, friends or clients. To be more people centred, we should strive to create (or find) health and nutrition resources in many languages, and provide a culturally diverse range of foods. We should incorporate cultural dishes into menus, promote nutrition week or special theme days and be mindful of religious practices when menu planning. We should encourage dining room conversations about heritage, family traditions, holidays, and associated childhood memories. Food and culture should be celebrated – especially in health care!

March is nutrition month, and the theme this year is More Than Food. CHA Learning congratulates all of its alumni and current students for the great work you do in supporting healthy Canadians!

About the Author

Stephanie is a Registered Dietitian and a graduate of the University of Guelph. Over the last 10 years, she has provided nutritional care to residents in a number of corporate and independent long-term care facilities, as well as convalescent care programs. She is dedicated to improving food service delivery, promoting desirable dining experiences and ensuring resident safety. She has been a mentor to numerous dietetic interns and FSNM students during her career and has given countless presentations to RN and RPN students.

Recently, she has taken on a new role as a Clinical Support Consultant in Long Term Care for a large group of Registered Dietitians across the Greater Toronto Area. In this position she acts as a resource to Registered Dietitians by auditing nutritional care, addressing clinical nutrition concerns, improving facility policies and procedures, coordinating special projects/research studies, and providing training to front-line staff.