“Food First”: Eating Whole Foods for Healthy Living

Salmon and veggies

“You are what you eat” is a saying we’ve all heard—but did you know that what you eat after having surgery can play an important role in your recovery and rehabilitation?

Eating well can help your body heal faster. At Nathaniel Witherell, that means we focus on serving whole foods—foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Most dietitians agree that fresh foods are healthier than processed foods because the food is still intact, with all of its vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Studies have shown that whole foods are also rich in phytochemicals, a powerful plant nutrient; they have more fiber and beneficial fats than processed foods; and they offer protection from diseases.

“We take a ‘food first’ approach,” says Jules Roy-Martin, director of dining services at Nathaniel Witherell. “We select foods that are products of nature—not industry. That means an orange instead of orange juice, or a baked potato instead of French fries. We find that our long-term residents and short-term rehab patients benefit from the freshest food possible because it’s the right fuel for living healthfully and for recovering efficiently.”

Roy-Martin explained that the menus at Nathaniel Witherell feature fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins such as fresh seafood and whole grains, which can help regulate) one’s digestive system and prevent constipation, a common complication after surgery.

“We serve an array of grains such as quinoa, barley, whole-wheat pastas, whole grain brown rice and bulgur wheat,” says Roy-Martin. “In fact, we served quinoa before it was trendy! We serve foods that are tasty, and interesting, but more importantly, nutritious for our patients and residents.”

Whole foods for life

Eating whole foods is great philosophy well after you recover from surgery and for the long-term care of your body, according to Angela Mariano, a registered Dietitian and Nathaniel Witherell’s head chef and clinical nutrition manager. Mariano oversees the nutritional needs of all long-term residents and short-term rehab patients. The dietitians coordinate care with the medical staff and culinary team to provide optimal nutrition to support medical conditions and maintain overall health. Whenever possible, the food services staff relies on fortifying real food instead of administering oral supplements.

“We feel that a natural option is better than a chemical one,” explains Mariano. “For some residents, getting the calories and nutrients to maintain their weight is a concern. So instead of a supplement, we might boost their caloric and protein intake with fortified oatmeal for breakfast.”

Their philosophy of including the healthiest ingredients possible in their food service supports the clinical nutrition program at Nathaniel Witherell, where a patient’s individual needs come first.

 

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