Articles and Information from GA Foods

Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD

Find me on:

Recent Posts

5 Things You Miss with Holiday Stress

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Dec 15, 2016 8:17:40 AM

holiday-stress.jpg

Remember the excitement of the holidays as a child? Everything seemed sparkly and magical. As adults, a lot of time, money, and energy is spent trying to recapture that childhood magic. But as the holidays approach, you may begin feeling more like the Grinch than the child inside of you.

Why are so many people overwhelmed and stressed during the holidays? Common causes are unrealistic expectations, too many commitments, and financial pressures. If you are a caregiver, the stress is multiplied. Here are a few special feelings and moments you may miss if you let holiday stress control you:

1. Celebration

Let go of the holiday dreams portrayed by Hallmark movies and Pinterest. You do not have to recreate your grandma’s gingerbread cookies or decorate every room in your house. Instead of spinning your wheels, take the time to celebrate and truly enjoy your family and friends. Focus on a few traditions that make the holidays meaningful to you and your care recipient. Caregiving or caregiver burnout may change your current circumstances, so be open to new ways to celebrate*.

To prevent caregiver burnout download our free eBook, A Caregiver’s Guide to Taking Care of You.

2. Joy

Psychologists report that it is the giver, not the recipient that receives joy from gift giving. Anxiety over finding the perfect gift will rob you of the pleasure from giving. In addition, if gift giving causes financial hardship, it may lead to even more strain. Begin with a gift budget and be disciplined about staying within that budget. Consider donating to a charity or doing a family gift exchange instead of buying something for everyone on your list. If time allows, consider handmade gifts. Recipients will appreciate the time and thought you put into making their gift.

3. Peace

Planning ahead can lead to a stress-free holiday, particularly if you are a caregiver. There are many free holiday planners available online. (This site has fillable forms!) Several holiday tasks can be done ahead of time. Find recipes that can be cooked and frozen. Ask others to help – including your children. Kids love wrapping presents and decorating the tree. Instead of focusing on buying presents and decorating, focus on being present. Enjoy the moment and take time to give thanks. And, to keep peace during the holiday season, don’t set high expectations of yourself and others. Be flexible and willing to change plans, if needed. 

4. Fun

The first rule of fun during the holidays, is do not overschedule. It is ok to say no, especially to events that aren’t important to you. This will give you more time to do the things you enjoy. Visits with family and friends do not need to be limited to holidays only. If you are unable to attend a friend’s party, offer to meet them for brunch in January.

5. Good Health

Stress can affect your health, causing headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, fatigue, stomach upset, and sleep problems. If you do start to feel anxious or stressed, take a moment for yourself. Spending a few minutes doing something you enjoy may be all it takes to re-energize. Also, many caregivers neglect their own health, so be sure to make healthy choices during the holidays, such as eating healthy foods, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep.

Take Control

Preventing stress is the key to surviving the holidays. Take control of the holidays, don’t let them control you. If a holiday activity makes you feel overwhelmed, re-consider if it is necessary. This holiday season, focus on making memories and enjoying your family and care recipients.

If you or someone you know has caregiver burnout or is ignoring their own needs, download our free eBook, A Caregiver’s Guide to Taking Care of You.

Download eBook

*Be sure to check out next week's article! We will be sharing favority holiday traditions from GA Foods' employees!

Read More

Topics: Reduce Stress, Caregivers, Stress, Caregiver Burnout

Does Being a Caregiver Keep You Up at Night?

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Dec 5, 2016 2:49:28 PM

Caregivers

Caregiving is demanding. Whether you live next-door or 1,000 miles away, it is challenging. It is estimated there are over 34 million people providing unpaid care to ill, disabled, and elderly adults. Caregiving can range from social calls to your uncle to providing direct medical care for a parent. Not knowing how to navigate through the responsibilities can make you feel helpless.

Tips for Caregivers

As a caregiver, you are not alone. Here are some tips to assist you:

Allow your loved ones to make their own decisions regarding their care, if they are able. Cognitive changes are normal as people age, causing older adults to be slower in processing information and making decisions. However, that doesn’t mean they are incapable. Include them in all discussions about their health and care needs.

Hire a geriatric care manager. Most are licensed social workers or nurses and are trained to identify the care needs of older adults, and help families put together a plan. Their goal is to improve the quality of life for the older adult and help them live as independently as possible. To find a care manager, click here.

Enlist others to help. With your loved ones, make a list of the tasks they need assistance with such as mowing the lawn, shoveling the sidewalk, or grocery shopping. Friends, neighbors, or community organizations might be able to support them with these tasks. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help; you don’t know who is willing unless you ask. Also, your local agency on aging might be able to provide resources for you. www.Eldercare.gov can direct you to the correct agency. Provide everyone with your contact information, so they can reach you if they have any concerns.

Arrange for a home health aide. Aides can help with personal care, homemaking chores, and even health care. Often these services are paid for by government agencies or health insurance.

Consider home-delivered meals. Good nutrition improves the overall health and quality of life for seniors. Studies have shown that home-delivered meals reduce the risk of hospitalizations and defers nursing home placement. Ninety-two percent of seniors receiving home-delivered meals, report these meals allow them to remain independent and living in their own home. Home-delivered meals may be available through the local agency on aging (www.Eldercare.gov) or provided as a benefit through your loved ones’ health plan.

Long-Distance Caregivers

Even if you are not the primary caregiver, there are still many responsibilities you can undertake. Offering emotional support to the primary caregiver as well as respite care will be appreciated. The primary caregiver may be hesitant to ask for help, so offer to pay bills, organize paperwork, or update family and friends. As a long-distance caregiver, you can also help the primary caregiver identify benefits and programs for which your loved one may qualify. The website, www.benefitscheckup.org, is a good place to start.

Caregiver Support Groups

You may benefit from joining a caregiver support group. Meeting other caregivers will help you identify resources and exchange ideas. Be sure to take care of yourself during this time. Read this article for more ideas and download our free caregiver eBook, A Caregiver’s Guide to Taking Care of You.

Profile of a Caregiver

Read More

Topics: Senior Health, Caregivers, Care Managers

Confessions from a Caregiver

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Nov 16, 2016 3:13:44 PM


Caregiver-Stress.jpg
Pictured is Maureen and her children with her mother, Alice. (And by the way, it was Maureen's 43rd birthday!)

My Back Story

In 1992, we placed my dad in a long-term care facility. He was partially paralyzed from a stroke, and we couldn’t care for him at home. After a year of living apart from my dad, my mother asked to move in with me. Despite living in a senior living community, she was lonely. She was only 71-years old. She had some health issues and limited mobility, but she was completely independent. At the time, my husband and I had a 2-year old daughter and another baby on the way. I had a busy and demanding career. The thought of having another person in our home to help out was very appealing.

Download our free eBook, A Caregiver’s Guide to Taking Care of You

True Confessions

However, over the 18 years that she lived with us, her health steadily declined and she became more dependent. Fortunately, she was never to the point of needing help with activities like bathing or feeding, but we couldn’t leave her alone overnight. She needed us to drive her to doctors’ appointments. (No Uber, yet!) Simple activities like grocery shopping, attending church, or going out to dinner required wrestling her wheelchair into our car. We had to run her errands, like going to the bank or picking up prescriptions. There was constant fear that she would fall and break her hip. And she hated having to rely on us for everything.

Here is my confession – I didn’t make it easy for her. Between juggling my career, my family, and her needs, I was tired and exhausted. I resented her presence. Sometimes, I wanted to be alone with my husband and children for dinner. I wanted to be able to go away for a weekend with my family without having to make arrangements for my mom. I got tired of having to take time off work to take her to the doctor. And she knew how I felt about everything.

My mom never wanted to be a burden. So she asked a neighbor to take her shopping. She asked my kids to run her errands. She asked people from church to take her to the doctor. She visited my sister to give us time alone. And she tried to do anything she could to make life easier for me.

This made me feel guilty because now other people’s lives were being disrupted, not just mine. My neighbors, friends, and family shouldn’t be impacted to make my life easier. I should be able to do this on my own. She took care of me for over 18 years. As her daughter, it was now my responsibility to take care of her. And I could not have been more wrong.

No One is a Caregiver Superhero

My mom passed away five years ago after complications from hip surgery. (Yep, she fell and broke her hip.) I’ve had time to get some perspective, which leads me to my next confession – I’m not a caregiving superhero – actually no one is a caregiving superhero.             

Caregiving is hard. Caregiving comes from a place of love and can be rewarding, but it is hard. It is demanding. It is stressful. As a matter of fact, it is bad for your health. Studies have shown that caregivers are more likely to have a chronic illness than non-caregivers. Caregivers are at greater risk for depression and a decline in quality of life.

Caregivers aren’t limited to those caring for an aging, disabled, or ill family member. A caregiver can be a foster parent or a grandma raising her grandchildren. A caregiver can be a professional like a nurse, case manager, or social worker. A caregiver may provide full- or part-time care. They may live with the care recipient or provide care and support from a distance. The care may range from helping with tasks like shopping and cleaning to providing complex medical care.

The best advice I can give a caregiver is take care of yourself. Taking care of you isn’t selfish. It doesn’t mean you are a failure. It gives you the strength and energy needed as a caregiver. It actually helps you become a better caregiver.

I was fortunate -- I had great support from my sister. But if you or someone you know has caregiver burnout or is ignoring their own needs, download our free eBook, A Caregiver’s Guide to Taking Care of You.

Download eBook

Read More

Topics: Senior Health, Caregivers, Care Managers

Teens and Food Insecurity

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Oct 5, 2016 11:00:00 AM

teen_food_insecurity.pngFood insecurity in children is a significant problem in the United States. According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates, 7.8 percent of American households with children were food insecure* in 2015 – a percentage that amounts to 3 million households that were unable to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children. Additionally, in 247,000 households, food security was characterized as very low, indicating periods of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.

Food insecurity is known to have detrimental effects on children of all ages. However, according to recent research, teens experience its effects quite differently than younger children. This research, done by the Urban Institute (a research organization that focuses on economic and social policy) and Feeding America (a nationwide network of food banks), examined the unique perspective and struggles of teens who face food insecurity in their homes. This was done via the creation of 20 focus groups made up of teens, ages 13 to 18, in 10 diverse communities. According to researchers, findings were similar across all of the focus groups, and many of them were rather disturbing. Among the most notable findings are:

Food Insecurity in Children: Teens Feel Responsible

Unlike younger children, teens in household experiencing food insecurity frequently feel obligated to help provide for themselves and others. While parents typically try to protect their teens from hunger, as well as those feelings of responsibility, teenagers commonly take an active role anyway. Often, that role includes depriving themselves to ensure that younger siblings have enough to eat, finding ways to bring food into the household, and/or working out ways to stretch family food supplies – eating with friends or relatives, for instance, or saving school lunches to bring home.

Learn more about the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act here.

Fear Of Being Stigmatized Deters Teens From Traditional Assistance Avenues

Teens are well aware that food insecurity in children is a widespread problem. Among teens who participated in this study, even those who did not experience food insecurity in their own homes were aware of neighbors or classmates who suffered from hunger on a regular basis. However, in spite of that awareness, teens from food-insecure families were found to work actively to hide the problem in their own homes due to a fear of being stigmatized. That fear led many teens to avoid traditional means of assistance, such as food pantries or free school meal programs, accepting help only from close friends or family in private. 

Some Teens Take Drastic Measures To Help Provide

Researchers found that the vast majority of teens who are determined to assist in providing for their families would prefer to provide that help via income from gainful employment. However, job opportunities for teenagers are very limited, particularly in communities with high poverty rates. Consequently, many teens resort to less conventional methods to bring money and/or food into the household. According to study authors, teens in 8 of the 10 communities involved in this research stated that young people engaged in criminal activity to provide for their families, including shoplifting, drug dealing and theft of items that could be sold for food money. Some teens discussed deliberately going to jail, as well as failing in school in order to be placed – and fed – in summer school. Teens in all 10 communities were aware of teens who resorted to prostitution, having sex in exchange for money to feed their families. Most of these incidents, according to researchers, consisted of exploitative relationships with older adults.

Effective Solutions are Needed

The picture that emerges from these findings illustrates the urgency of effective solutions in addressing food insecurity in children. Study authors stress the need for more research on the affects of food insecurity on teenagers in particular, an issue that has not yet received the attention it deserves.

Many school nutrition programs have had success in eliminating the stigma teens feel when receiving free and reduced school meals:

  • Universal School Breakfast combined with Breakfast in the Classroom - With this model, all students receive free breakfast. It is served in their first period classroom, so there are no barriers like needing to get to school early.
  • 2nd Chance Breakfast - Usually served after first period, individually-packed Grab n' Go meals are available on a cart in the hallways. If not utilizing Universal Free Breakfast, tablet-based point of service allows for a cashless system, charging agains student accounts or eligibilities. 
  • Healthy Meals Vending - These special vending machines are integrated into the school's point of service, allowing reimbursable meals to be charged against student accounts and eligibilities. Placing them in high traffic areas around the school provides easy access.
  • Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) - CEP is now an option throughout the U.S. Under CEP, a school district can offer all meals at no charge to all students, if 40 percent or more of the students are direct-certified for free meals.  CEP can be used district-wide or just in one school. 

While these options do not negate the problem of teen hunger, they do provide students with healthy meals without social stigma. More needs to be done to provide vulnerable teens with effective support and solutions they need to overcome the unique challenges they face in food-insecure households.

The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act expired over a year ago. Congress still has not passed a reauthorization bill for programs that feed our hungry children and teens. For more information, click below.

New Call-to-action

 

*Food insecurity is the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

Read More

Topics: Child Nutrition, School Lunch, School Breakfast, Food Insecurity, National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

Back-to-School Nutrition Tips for Families!

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Aug 24, 2016 11:00:00 AM

back_to_school_LR.pngAs children head back to school, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to celebrate Kids Eat Right Month by ensuring children are properly fueled to grow and succeed.

"The start of the new school year coincides with Kids Eat Right Month providing the perfect opportunity to revamp your families' eating habits," says registered dietitian, nutritionist, and Academy spokesperson, Caroline Passerrello. 

Here are some tips for developing healthy habits in your children:

Shop Smart

Get your children involved in planning and shopping for your meals. Make sure the planned meals have a variety of foods and include protein, vegetables, fruits, grains and dairy. At the store, encourage your children to pick out one or two new foods to try. Also, use this time to teach them about reading nutrition labels. 

Cook Healthy

Involve your children in food preparation. Let them cut and mix ingredients. Kids are more likely to try new foods if they help prepare them. This is also a good time to teach them about food safety practices such as washing hands before preparing food. For more tips about cooking with kids, check out this video.

Eat Right

School_Lunch_LR.pngEncourage your child to participate in school meals, such as breakfast and lunch. School meals now have strict nutrition standards that most lunches brought from home do not meet. A study done by Tufts University found that only 27% of the packed lunches met 3 out of the 5 nutrition standards for school meals. 

At the end of the day, sit down for a family dinner. Enjoy a healthy meal and share the day's experiences with one another. Research indicates that families who eat together have a stronger bond, and their children have higher self-confidence, and perform better in school.

 

Read More

Topics: Child Nutrition

The FOUR Things ALL Food Service Staff Need to Know!

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Aug 18, 2016 2:34:39 PM

The most important component of food safety is employee training. Though some foodborne illnesses can be traced to specific suppliers, the manner in which food is handled is usually the culprit. 

Investing in training procedures that educate food handlers about the proper way to prepare food is of the utmost importance. Something as simple as an unwashed hand or a seemingly innocent sneeze really can compromise the integrity of a food product. Too many food service providers make the critical mistake of assuming that food handlers understand the nuances of proper personal hygiene. Some employees mistakenly believe that their personal hygiene is up to par when, in reality, it does not meet the standards of their employer.

Hand_Washing.png1. Proper Hand Washing

Every food service worker should be thoroughly trained in regard to how to clean his hands. Simply running warm water over one’s hands with a dab of soap will not provide a comprehensive clean that guarantees food safety. Rather, employees must be shown how to properly wash their hands. They should have the opportunity to view an in-person demonstration as to how hands must be cleaned before work starts, before returning from break/lunch and after using the restroom. To the surprise of many, a thorough hand-cleaning requires the use of hot water and anti-bacterial soap for a minimum of 20 seconds. Employees should be taught to perform a mental countdown during this hand-washing period to ensure their hands are thoroughly cleaned. Even the lower portion of the wrists should be cleaned as this area often comes into contact with food, dishes and utensils.

2. Correct Food Handling

It is imperative that food service providers train their staff to handle food in the proper manner. Every food service worker should use gloves unless gloves preclude the proper preparation of the food. The unfortunate truth is that few food service workers use food prep gloves as they should. Plenty of food service workers will touch food with their bare hands, assuming that a hand-washing performed hours ago will prevent the transmission of harmful bacteria and other particles that can cause illness. Food service managers should explain that touching knife handles, cutting boards, pots, pans, trays and other kitchen items can result in tainted food. Each of these kitchen items has the potential to harbor germs and viruses. Merely touching a pan’s handle with one’s hand and then using that hand to prepare food can spread germs to a diner’s meal. Employees must also be trained to discard their gloves after they have come into contact with other potentially germ-laden surfaces. Keep a fresh supply of food prep gloves on-hand at all times so food service workers do not hesitate to scrap their used gloves for a new pair that is guaranteed to be germ-free. Though a steady supply of food prep gloves will certainly add to overhead expenses, their aggregate cost is minimal compared to the risk of sickening a patron and the financial impact of an outbreak of food poisoning.

3. Avoiding Cross-Contamination

Proper food handling procedures extend beyond washing one’s hands and using food prep gloves. Employees must be extensively trained regarding cross-contamination prevention tactics. If possible, use color-coded cutting boards for different ingredients.  For example, green for produce and red for raw meat.  If budget doesn’t allow for designated cutting boards, food handlers should be taught to clean cutting boards and other food preparation surfaces after cutting raw meat, fish and poultry. These surfaces should be cleaned with hot, soapy water and sanitized with at least one tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach (or similar sanitizer) mixed with a gallon of water. 

Utensils used to prepare these foods should be cleaned with hot water and an anti-bacterial dish liquid before being returned to the food preparation area. If these food prep items are not thoroughly cleaned, they could carry harmful bacteria from the meat, poultry or fish and transmit it to the next item that is sliced on the surface or prepared with previously used utensils. Furthermore, it is imperative that food service managers train their staff to keep marinated poultry and meat in a covered dish at all times. This way, potentially harmful airborne particles will not be able to reach the food as it soaks up the marinade’s flavors in the ensuing hours.

thermometer_food_storage.jpg4. Storing Food and Temperature Management

When it comes to food storage, a surprising number of food service managers errantly assume their staff understands the basics. It is widely assumed that food service workers know the ins and outs of proper food storage simply because they have experience in the industry. In reality, most food service workers have drastically different ideas as to what qualifies as the proper way to store food. This is precisely why every employee should be extensively educated regarding the appropriate temperature for food storage and cooking.

If the temperature in the kitchen/food prep space is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, perishable food should be refrigerated within an hour or less. Otherwise, the widely accepted food safety standard for perishable food is to properly store in the refrigerator within two hours or less. Merely tossing perishable food like poultry and meat into the refrigerator/freezer will not suffice. These sensitive items should be tightly wrapped in a secure manner to preserve their quality. A thorough wrapping will also guard against meat juices from leaking out and tainting other food.

Food service workers should also be taught to use a thermometer to check the temperature of the on-site refrigerator and freezer on a regular basis. The refrigerator should always be at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less at all times. The freezer should be kept at zero degrees Fahrenheit or less. Though many food service employees will let fresh fish, poultry and ground meats sit in their home refrigerator/freezer for several days, there is a different standard when it comes to serving the public. Such food should be either cooked or frozen within two days. Pork, lamb, veal and beef should be cooked or frozen in five days or less.

For more training resources, download our free food safety training modules!

New Call-to-action

Read More

Topics: Food Safety

The Causes of Malnutrition in Older Adults

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Apr 27, 2016 11:00:00 AM

While we often hear about children in our society not having access to a proper diet and measures being taken to try to improve their condition, we do not hear as much about the issues facing our older adult population. The fact is, as many as 50-percent of seniors are at risk for shortcomings in their daily food nutrient requirements. Evidence-based research has produced some startling facts that build a case for working to overcome malnutrition in seniors.

Malnutrition_in_Older_Adults.png

The Staggering Costs of Undernourished Older Adults

You are likely aware that malnutrition in seniors will impact their health and well-being, however, it may surprise you to learn that in the United States alone, over 50 billion dollars is attributed to the cost of disease-associated undernourishment in the aging population annually. While chronic health conditions can cause a nutrient deficiency, malnutrition also leads to more health complications, falls and hospital admissions in older adults. It is a dangerous cycle that must be stopped. Some more statistics that may astonish you include:

  • One of every two seniors are at risk of malnutrition
  • A 300-percent increase in healthcare costs is linked to undernourishment in older adults
  • Up to 60-percent of seniors hospitalized suffer from the result of malnutrition 
  • Malnutrition can increase a hospital stay for a senior by as many as four to six days

Considering the relatively low cost of ensuring adequate nourishment, it is vital that we do what we can to prevent malnutrition in seniors.

Adequate Income not the Only Way to Defeat Malnutrition in Seniors

Malnutrition in seniors is not relegated only to those with low incomes. There are several underlying causes of undernourishment in the aging population.  Most can be categorized as physiological, sociological, psychological or pathological.

Physiological Causes

During the aging process, many changes occur in the body that contribute to decreased appetite and a lack of interest in food:

  • A decrease in both the senses of taste and smell lower the desire for meals
  • Diminishes in taste and smell may lead to increased salt and sugar intake and lower the desire for adequate variety of food choices
  • Slower gastric function and decreased acid production delays emptying the system
  • Lean body mass decreases, further slowing metabolism and hunger 

While these changes are a natural progression, being aware of them and watching for signs is critical in preventing malnutrition in seniors.

Sociological Causes

Aging is difficult for many to accept and can have a serious effect on the sociological factors involved in seniors' eating habits:

  • A reduced ability to shop for and prepare food
  • Fixed income and socioeconomic status may affect food choices
  • Impairment of life skills and activities
  • Being alone at mealtimes

Outwardly you may not realize these are all factors in undernourishment, but in this class there are attainable solutions.

Psychological Causes

Concerns in this category run deeper than the social aspect of decreased appetite and should be addressed with a medical professional as soon as they are suspected:

  • Depression and a general attitude that life is meaningless
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Grief over the loss of a spouse or friends
  • Life events that are emotionally stressful

Armed with understanding, combating undernourishment in seniors due to psychological concerns can be improved quickly through emotional support and proper medical attention.

Pathological Causes

The final category of causes is another that requires medical intervention and if symptoms are observed, should be addressed as early as possible:

  • Problems with the teeth and jaws
  • Alcoholism
  • Difficulty with swallowing
  • Underlying disease such as cancer, diabetes and thyroid issues
  • Dementia 
  • Medications that interfere with digestion or hunger

Again, these are all causes that should be addressed by a medical professional as early as possible to mitigate the effects of malnutrition in seniors. 

How We can Overcome Malnutrition in Seniors

While we we may not be able to eradicate undernourishment in all seniors, armed with this information, you can be sure your loved ones or older adults in your care are not at risk for malnutrition. Some tips include:

  • Regular nutritional assessments and follow-up on any prescribed treatments
  • Spend time together, particularly at mealtimes whenever possible
  • Consider a prepared meal service to combat apathy or poor food choices
  • Try to help your senior loved-one stay as active as possible, both socially and physically

One senior at a time, we can all help prevent malnutrition in our older adult population by focusing on those under our care and understanding the underlying causes. 

The more a senior has access to healthy foods and all of life’s necessities, the easier it will be to age-at-home. For more information on choosing a home-delivered meals provider, download our free ebook:

Download 9 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Home-Delivered Meals Provider

 

 

Read More

Topics: Malnutrition in Elderly, Home Delivered Meals, Senior Health, Nutrition Care

Does Food Security Impact Hospital Readmissions?

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Apr 20, 2016 9:59:59 AM

food_insecurity_blog.jpg

Food Security (or Insecurity) Defined!

Food security, or insecurity, is a social, cultural or economic status, whereas hunger is a physiological condition – the physical pain and discomfort someone experiences. Hunger doesn’t describe the scope of food security, or insecurity, which is when people do not have access to enough food for an active, healthy life.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed a validated survey with 18 questions to determine a person’s level of food security. Based on the answers to these questions, the USDA defines the levels of food security as:

  • High food security: answers “no” to all 18 questions.
  • Marginal food security: answers “yes” to one or two questions.
  • Low food security: answers “yes” to three or more questions.
  • Very low food security: answers “yes” to five or more questions in homes without children or “yes” to eight or more questions in households with children.

Food Security Among the Elderly

In the US, 48.1 million people live in households with low or very low food security. Of those people, 20% or 9.6 million are seniors. Seniors with low food security tend to have medical and mobility challenges. Per AARP, those at the greatest risk for low food security are the poor, minorities, the unemployed, the disabled, and those living in the South.

Older adults above the poverty level may also be at risk for low food security, particularly if they are unable to shop for and prepare foods.

Consequences of Low Food Security

Low food security is a strong predictor of health problems like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and pulmonary disease. Adding to the problem, these chronic conditions increase the medical expenses of those with low food security, often forcing them to choose between paying for medical care and buying food. In turn, the chronic conditions increase healthcare expenditures paid by health plans, Medicare and/or Medicaid.

A recent study looked at the impact that low food security has on high rates of hospital readmissions. They interviewed 40 adults with three or more hospitalizations within a 12-month period. Here are their findings:

  • 30% were low or very low food secure
  • 25% were marginally food secure
  • 75% were unable to shop for food on their own
  • 58% were unable to prepare their own food 

The researchers recommend interventions that educate and connect patients with unmet food needs to community resources after discharge. 

hospitalization_LR.pngTransition Care Planning

Healthcare professionals need to evaluate a patient’s food security level as part of the transitional care plan upon discharge from the hospital. Most transition care models don’t incorporate nutrition care, including screening for unmet food needs, after discharge. A guide from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, recommends addressing food security as a strategy to avoid readmissions for diverse populations. After a hospitalization, patients generally have decreased energy, pain, weakness, and a poor appetite, putting those with low food security at an even greater risk for malnutrition, and associated poor outcomes.

Connecting low food secure patients with resources such as home-delivered meals (HDM), decreases their need for shopping and cooking after a hospitalization. HDMs provide a regular source of nutritious food for those that need it for their recovery, reducing medical costs and the risk of a hospital readmission.

 

New Call-to-action

Read More

Topics: Malnutrition in Elderly, Senior Health, Healthcare Cost Reduction, Food Insecurity, Medicare, Food Security, Malnutrition, Medicaid

Celebrate Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day with GA Foods!

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Mar 9, 2016 10:00:00 AM

March is National Nutrition Month® (NNM). NNM focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. This year's theme is "Savor the Flavor of Eating Right," which encourages everyone to take time to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the pleasures, great flavors and social experiences food can add to our lives. For the next few weeks, our blog will focus on health and eating tips as part of NNM.  

Happy RDN Day!

Today is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) Day. RDN Day commemorates the dedication of RDNs as advocates for advancing the nutritional status of people around the world. RDN Day was created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to increase the awareness of registered dietitian nutritionists as the indispensable providers of food and nutrition services and to recognize RDNs for their commitment to helping people enjoy healthy lives. RDNs are the nutrition experts with degrees in nutrition, dietetics, public health or a related field from accredited colleges and universities. In addition, they must complete an internship and pass an examination before practicing.

We'd like to take the time to recognize and spotlight two of the RDNs on the GA Foods team!

Levinia_and_Joann_LR.pngPictured:  Joann Pierre (left) and Levinia Clark (right).

Meet Levinia Clark

Levinia has been with GA Foods for almost 13 years and currently is our Nutrition Services Manager. She completed her internship at the University of Illinois Medical Center and has been practicing for 39 years. She chose to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist because she wanted to learn how and what various nutrients do to the nutritional status of the body. She enjoys her job because she knows the daily nourishment GA Foods provides to children and older adults positively impacts their health.

Levinia's favorite food is Mexican in ANY way, shape or form and she likes going to the beach as often as possible. Her favorite nutrition tip is, "Diet should not be a way of life…rather  healthy eating for a healthy body and healthier you!"

Say Hi to Joann Pierre

Joann went to the University of North Florida for her undergraduate degree as well as her Master's degree and dietetic internship. She has been with GA Foods for over 2 years. Joann decided to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist after taking a few nutrition/dietetic courses. She was drawn to the idea that the foods we eat, cook, create, and grow, shape everything around us from our bodies to the planet we live in. She wants to be a part of positive change in the food world.  Joann loves her job because she knows she is making an impact on our society. Per Joann, "To some, it is just meals we serve, but to me, we provide nourishment and hope for the young to elderly and their families."

Joann enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and her dog, TJ. She also likes to cook, run, and attend concerts and basketball games. Her favorite nutrition tip is, "Moderation is key. Enjoy all types of food! Food is not only for nourishment, but it is also here for you to enjoy! Just remember to balance what you eat."

 Thank you!

We appreciate our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists and their valuable contributions and expertise in nutrition. They exemplify GA Foods' core values, touching lives, commitment, one team, ownership, integrity and trust, in everything they do!

For more information on National Nutrition Month®, click here.

RDNday2016_meme2.jpg

Read More

Topics: Nutrition, National Nutrition Month, Registered Dietitians

5 Myths about Healthy Foods

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Mar 2, 2016 10:00:00 AM

If you've glanced at a magazine or online health site lately, you've probably been bombarded by the term 'superfood'. This is a term that is bandied about haphazardly, and often misunderstood, causing people to overeat (or just simply eat) the wrong foods.

There is no true scientific definition for the term 'superfood'; it is just a term that the nutrition world came up with to signify a food that is full of nutrients that keep the body healthy. While there are many foods out there that are good for you, you should never focus on just one, especially if you are focusing on it simply because it’s part of a current craze.

Here are five myths about healthy foods that you can learn from:

1) Coconut Oil: You have probably heard a great deal about coconut oil. It's been touted as a cure-all for nearly everything that ails you. Unfortunately, while coconut oil has been called a 'healthy oil', it is actually very high in saturated fat. While most people claim that it is okay to substitute this oil in everything from baking to frying to sauteing, as it is a medium-chain triglyceride (which would make it a less damaging form of saturated fat), there is no significant research to back up this claim.

Many experts still say that cooking with olive or canola oil is better, as they have the lowest amount of saturated fats.

healthy_meals.jpg2) Egg Whites: For years it seems you have heard conflicting information when it comes to eggs. One study says don't eat the yolks, the next study says eat the entire egg. Today, the science seems to have come to a consensus: eat the yolks, folks!

Once upon a time, yolks were removed because they are high in cholesterol, but not today. Today, nutritionists agree that without the yolks, you lose half the benefits of eggs. The yolk contains all of an egg's fat-soluble vitamins; vitamins A, D, E, and K. Yolks also contain a number of other nutrients, such as choline and selenium.

3) Granola: Granola may have a reputation as a healthy food, but it is actually loaded with calories, sugar and fat. If you've ever added granola to your diet and started gaining weight, it is probably the culprit. For granola lovers, don't worry, you don't have to cut it out of your meal plans entirely, just eat it (like all things) in moderation.

4) Kombucha: One of the newest buzzwords in the health and nutrition market is kombucha. Kombucha is a black tea that is fermented with yeast, bacteria and sugar. The hype is that it can detox the body, give you more energy, improve your digestion, and even enhance your immune system. The truth? There is no proof for any of this. Studies show that it does no more for you than yogurt or popping a probiotic pill.

senior_meals.jpgIt's also important to note that there have been some contamination issues with kombucha, involving bacteria and fungus, which can be very dangerous or anyone with a weakened immune system (such as older people, very young people, or pregnant and nursing mothers).

Remember, there are plenty of teas out there that are very healthy, with their health claims backed by science. Teas contain flavonoids which will help reduce your risk of heart disease.


5) Veggie Burgers:
While they may not be enjoying the heyday that they once did, veggie burgers are still around, and many people believe that they are a healthier option than fresh meat burgers. Not so. Most veggie burgers that you buy in your grocer's freezer section are heavily processed and have ingredients included that you cannot pronounce.

If you must eat a veggie burger, make sure to read the ingredient list and opt for ones with less ingredients (the more minimally processed choices). But if you were simply eating veggie burgers to save calories, opt for a fish-based burger, a turkey burger, a ground chicken burger or a lean red meat burger. Typically these will offer you more nutrition, fewer chemical additives, and fewer calories.

Variety is the Spice of Life

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans stress variety. Remember that no single food can provide every single nutrient that your body needs to function properly, so your best bet is to eat a variety of healthy foods.

If you are looking for healthy meals delivered, look to GA Foods. Download our free eBook to learn more about selecting a home-delivered meals provider. 

  Download 9 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Home-Delivered Meals Provider

Read More

Topics: Nutrition, Home Delivered Meals, Healthy Lunch

Search this Blog

Subscribe