Several times per year Craig Hospital hosts Nutrition Week for patients who are interested in pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Three or four patients at a time work with occupational therapists and dieticians to learn about health and nutrition as it relates to spinal cord injuries.
Nutrition Week started in December 2012 with a King Soopers tour tailored to spinal cord injury patients and led by the grocery store’s dietician. Since then, the program has been expanded to include meal planning and shopping. It culminates with the patients cooking and sharing a meal.
It’s a collaborative effort between the Dietary and Occupational Therapy departments with Dietary providing nutritional facts and education and OT helping patients and alumni increase their independence as it relates to food shopping, cooking and kitchen access. The goal of the collaboration is to promote a holistic healthy lifestyle following spinal cord injury. Craig Hospital staff work with patients to modify their habits, from grocery shopping and kitchen setup to meal selection and preparation.
“The class is very personalized. We discuss spinal cord injury-specific topics that create the most challenges for our patients on a daily basis; time and accessibility are big ones. Common talking points include increasing fiber intake, healthier convenience items and what to look for in a frozen entrée. Then, we offer the chance for each patient to practice these newly learned skills,” says Brianna Olander, MS OTR.
Grocery stores can be a source of support. Olander says store employees may assist patrons with shopping, and some stores offer grocery delivery. Increasingly, registered dietitians are employed in grocery store chains across the country.
Patients who have participated in Nutrition Week have been surprised at how good a healthy meal can taste. Others have said they’re satisfied that they’re gaining the knowledge to eat healthier not only for them, but also for their children.