Dr. Joanna Manalo, a cardiologist at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, relates that she advises all her patients to eat proper, balanced meals—but no matter how persistent she is, patients often break the rules… and go back to their old eating habits.
“[Before my patients are discharged], they have an interview with a dietician. May listahan sila ng mga bawal—pero they don’t know how to apply it. You tell them ‘Everything in moderation.’ They ask, ‘Doctora, ano po ba ang moderation? Ganito kalaki? Ganito kaliit?’ They don’t know what to do. That’s why they end up going back to their usual,” Dr. Manalo laments. “Kasi, what will you learn from a one-time interview with a dietician?”
The cardiologist stresses that, besides giving the patient a list, a health practitioner needs to educate the patient so that, not only can he carry out the diet plan, but also learn how to choose the right dishes wherever he may be.
But first—what is a diet plan? Is it a long list of forbidden food? Dr. Manalo explains that while certain health conditions require a patient to minimize or totally avoid certain foodstuff, a diet plan is more than a list of “Thou shall nots.” In fact, it’s a plan that sees meals as a form of treatment. “Your diet should be part of treatment,” says the cardiologist. “Diet plays a role in cancer, diabetes, hypertension… overall, your diet affects your health. Siyempre, you eat all the time!”
The reason a patient needs to get in touch with a dietician who can not only teach him the basics 10 minutes prior to hospital discharge but also guide him through dietary counseling for at least 4 weeks after discharge (which Dr. Manalo deems ideal) is that the diet-as-treatment approach differs per condition.
“For example, the patient has hypertension,” Dr. Manalo expounds, “ipagbabawal sa kanya ang salty food, sodium. Encouraged ang low cholesterol. Yun lang, walang masyadong restrictions. Pagdating sa diabetes, maraming restrictions—you have to look at sugar, look at carbohydrates. Plus, [people with diabetes] tend to have high cholesterol levels. They can also have hypertension—bawal sa maalat, bawal sa matamis! Actually that’s why ampalaya seems to be the only thing that [people with diabetes can eat!].”