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Be a nutrition champion to prevent malnutrition

Friday 14th October, 2022

Dietitians at Maryborough District Health Service (MDHS) are urging community members to be nutrition champions to stay well and prevent malnutrition.

They want everyone to be aware of tips to encourage good nutrition, how to identify the signs of malnutrition and seek help if needed.

The health service recently celebrated Malnutrition Week to raise awareness about preventing and treating malnutrition.

MDHS Dietitian Emajun Patten said malnutrition is a major public health issue and occurs over time when nutritional needs are not met.

Research shows about 50 per cent of older Australians in aged care and 40 per cent in the community are at risk of malnutrition or are malnourished.

“This can be due to a variety of reasons, including some dental problems, medications, social isolation, psychological distress, dementia and financial difficulties.

“Other people at risk include people with gastrointestinal symptoms, eating disorders, or illnesses like cancer or kidney failure, where an increase in nutrients is needed.”

Screening and monitoring are important in helping people to stay well and get help early to prevent the need for major treatments.

“Malnutrition can really affect your quality of life, said Ms Patten.

“It can also lead to poor medical outcomes, increased risk of falls, pressure injuries and infection.”

Signs of malnutrition include unplanned weight loss, loss of appetite, fatigue, poor wound healing or muscle wastage.

If you, or someone you know, shows any signs of malnutrition, or might be at risk of not meeting nutritional requirements, then make an appointment to see a dietitian.

“Maryborough District Health Service employs dietitians to help combat malnutrition and run education programs in the community,” said Ms Patten.

“We can offer personalised, practical, and easy-to-follow dietary advice to help people improve their health through improved eating.

“We also help patients and outpatients at Maryborough Hospital, and at our residential aged care facilities in Maryborough, Avoca and Dunolly.”

Tips to be a nutritional champion and help prevent malnutrition

  • Eat small frequent meals and snacks throughout the day. For example, aim for 6 small meals a day instead of 3 large meals.
  • Add oil, cream, margarine and grated cheese to recipes or onto cooked foods such as vegetables.
  • Add skim milk powder to soups, stews and drinks. Or make a high protein milk by mixing together 500ml full cream milk with ½ cup skim milk powder. Refrigerate and use in place of your ordinary milk.
  • Suggested snacks include cheese and crackers, yoghurt, peanut butter or cheese-based dips on toast, nuts and dried fruit.
  • Make meals and the mealtime environment more enjoyable. For example, encourage social interaction, offer comfortable seating and adequate lighting.
  • Provide help to those with difficulty eating, or refer them to an accredited practising dietitian.

A visit to a dietitian is recommended if you or someone you know are:

  • Demonstrating any signs and symptoms of malnutrition
  • Worried about whether the nutritional needs are being met
  • Experiencing a loss of appetite or sudden weight changes, or
  • Would like advice on the prevention, identification or treatment of malnutrition.

To find out more or make a self-referral visit our allied health page.