Key questions can help patients improve eating habits
The American Medical Association has new recommendations for doctors to help them help their patients develop better eating habits. The latest edition of the federal dietary guidelines recognizes that patients don’t eat food groups and nutrients separately, but in combination which forms a pattern.
The Department of Health and Human Services suggest physicians start by asking pertinent questions, especially given the lack of time they spend with each patient during each appointment. The questions are:
***"What is your family’s favorite dinner?" This is helpful because it gives the doctor a way to suggest healthier alternatives that will be most beneficial since the family most likely eats this meal often.
***"What are some of your family’s favorite food routines and traditions?" Doctors can then help their patients adopt healthy eating ideas into traditions and customs.
***"Who does the grocery shopping and cooking in your home?" This can determine how often the patient cooks and what sort of food they have available. Doctors and patients can set goals to cook more at home.
***"When you are thirsty, what kind of drink do you reach for most often?" An often overlooked part of a person’s diet is what they tend to drink and how that affects their health. Almost half of an American’s added sugar total comes from sugary drinks like sodas, fruit drinks and other sugary drinks. Doctors can help by suggesting patients drink more healthy beverages, especially water.
***"Does eating healthier seem hard or unrealistic?" A patient’s mental barriers are important to know so doctors can help suggest alternative simple solutions.
After asking these questions, doctors should present a positive outlook for patients. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion suggests doctors remind their patients that 1) it’s not all-or-nothing and patients can still enjoy the foods they love; 2) There’s no single way to eat and the key is to find small ways to incorporate healthy food into preferences, traditions, cultures and budgets; and 3) Eating healthier is one of the best ways to prevent disease.