Food is essential to life. To sustain life, the nutrients in food must perform three
functions within the body: build tissue, regulate metabolic processes, and provide a
source of energy. A proper diet is essential to good health. A well-nourished person is
more likely to be well developed, mentally and physically alert, and better able to resist
infectious diseases than one who is not well nourished. Proper diet creates a healthier
person and extends the years of normal bodily functions. Diet therapy is the application
of nutritional science to promote human health and treat disease.
FACTORS WHICH INFLUENCE EATING PATTERNS
We all eat certain foods for reasons other than good nutrition and health. Our
eating patterns develop as part of our cultural and social traditions and are influenced
by our life style and life situation. It is important for the nurse to understand factors,
which influence food choice and eating patterns.
a. Social Aspects. Most people prefer to eat with someone, and the patient is
probably used to eating meals with his family. In the hospital he is served his food on a
tray and left alone. Poor nutrition may be the result.
b. Emotional Aspects. The patient may feel guilty for not eating all the food
served, or may overeat just because the food is there. The patient may overeat
because he or she feels sad, lonely, or depressed or may refuse to eat for the same
reasons. Certain foods may be considered "for babies." Some foods may be used as
c. Food Fads and Fallacies. These are scientifically unsubstantiated,
misleading notions or beliefs about certain foods that may persist for a time in a given
community or society. Many people follow fad diets or the practice of eating only certain
foods. Food fads fall into four basic groups: Food cures, harmful foods, food
combinations that restore health or reduce weight, and natural foods that meet body
needs and prevent disease.
d. Financial Considerations. The patient's financial status has a great bearing
on eating patterns. Most people in the United States can afford a diet, which includes a
variety of foods and a sufficient number of calories. However, many Americans
consume an excessive amount of fat and sodium. Excess fat consumption has been
shown to be related to the development of heart disease. Excess sodium consumption
may be a problem for some patients with hypertension. Many Americans with lower
incomes consume a great percentage of their calories in the form of fat, since fat is the