The coronavirus pandemic has been a very stressful situation for many people, including your members. From food shortages and stress-eating, your members’ nutrition may be taking a hit. This is why it’s more important than ever to offer a nutrition program at your facility.
According to the CDC, while vitamins are not meant to treat or prevent COVID, certain vitamins and minerals (e.g., zinc, and Vitamins C and D), may improve the way our immune system works to fight off infections, as well as inflammation and swelling.
“Even in a pandemic, people have to eat,” said Jen Zuercher, a registered dietitian with the Edwardsville YMCA in Edwardsville, Illinois. “During this time though, patterns of work, exercise and eating are bound to have changed. Some people are less likely to go out of their homes, spending less time at the grocery store and so forth.”
A lack of routine and less nutrient-dense food are just two challenges your members can be facing. During quarantines, members may be faced with having to cook — if they didn’t cook before — or cook more frequently.
“Having a nutrition program presents opportunities to work with members and help create healthy eating and cooking habits that help maintain or improve health,” said Zuercher. “Nutrition programs provide opportunities for maintaining or improving health that complement exercise, which is particularly important during a time when exercise may be somewhat restricted.”
Offering a nutrition program is more than just telling your members to eat fruits and vegetables. Providing sound and personalized nutrition advice is important.
Zuercher said being able to give generalized nutrition recommendations is great, but not a replacement for the advice and counseling a trained nutrition professional, particularly a registered dietitian, can provide. “Partner with dietitians to coordinate services for your members,” she suggested. “This will help your members better meet their health goals.”
If your facility is considering adding a nutrition program to better serve members during the pandemic, Zuercher offered the following tips to run a successful program:
- Be responsive to clients/patients, maintaining flexibility in terms of when and how they’re available to meet.
- Meet clients where they are in their health journey to provide realistic and personalized recommendations.
- Stay on top of (or ahead of) the latest nutrition topics of interest.