In the past weeks we've shown you how the hospitals in our area are treating heart disease through cardiac rehab programs. The Avera Heart Hospital in Sioux Falls is taking education one step further and helping cardiac patients succeed in their new lifestyle.
It looks like any other classroom but each of these students have one thing in common, heart disease. These men and women are going through cardiac rehab, doing exercises and building up their heart muscle, but their also getting a valuable education in heart healthy nutrition.
"We were looking for ways to reach out to our patients after they've received their education within the hospital and when they get back home and transition to real life and getting to a point where they're able to see the changes they need to make and get help at that point." Said Dietitian Nikki Ver Steeg.
It's called Dining with the Dietitian and it's exactly what the name implies. These patients get to learn while they eat lunch with Ver Steeg.
Ver Steeg says going home can be a very difficult transition and having the classroom setting, with their spouse or friend, is a great forum for patients to ask questions and learn a lot about their changing lifestyle.
"We give them a little information on anti-inflammatory diet, go through their lipid panel and how nutrition relates to that and really give them a hands on approach to planning a meal." Said Ver Steeg.
A key part of what Ver Steeg teaches is the "5-Finger Meal Planning" where each finger represents a different food group or choice for the patients. This helps them remember they need a lean protein, fruit, low fat dairy, veggie, and whole grains in every meal.
"They're able to take this 5-finger Meal Planning approach that we teach them, put it right to work right after class starts, so I teach them for a little bit they go hands on they get their lunch and then they come back and I teach the rest of class." Said Ver Steeg.
When Dining with the Dietitian started in 2006 the class met at restaurants off-site to show patients how to make healthy choices from a menu, but turnout wasn't the best. However, keeping patients at the hospital has proved to be a great decision.
"We let them use our cafeteria, we have a heart healthy cafeteria so we really focus on promoting things we're teaching people, we want to make sure they know we're fighting heart disease on the patient floor but also in the cafe and kitchen." Said Ver Steeg.
Dining with the Dietitian is exclusive to the Avera Heart Hospital but its recent success could prompt other hospitals to follow suit. The program just received the Caring With Excellence Award from the Avera Quality Congress.
"We're very excited about the award, very excited, definitely pumped about it but also wanting to look at ways to expand it and see what else we can do to make it better, that's always what we're striving for." Said Ver Steeg.
Dining with the Dietitian gives patients the knowledge and resources they need to truly change their lives. And it's just another reason why when it comes to your health, you should look no further.
Because Dining with the Dietitian is a service of the cardiac rehab program, patients aren't charged to participate.
For more information about Dining with the Dietitian and other cardiac rehab programs just call 877-AT-AVERA