The Critical Role Nutrition Plays in Your Rehabilitation Journey


As we approach the New Year, it can be a good time to evaluate your health goals for the upcoming year. It can be even more critical to consider your nutrition and wellness if you have been admitted to a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) after a recent hospitalization.

Maintaining a healthy diet can reduce the risk of hospital readmission and prevent common chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. According to a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, malnourished patients are twice as likely to be readmitted to the hospital than well-nourished patients, and may have an increased risk for developing further health complications.

Fortunately, skilled nursing centers are now required by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to have a registered dietitian, or dietary manager with a consulting dietitian, as part of a patient’s interdisciplinary team. A dietitian can have a vital role in a patient’s recovery journey ensuring a successful transition from hospital to home.

Most patients that are admitted to a skilled nursing center will need modified or specialized diets to coincide with their entire recovery program. At a Prestige Care Skilled Nursing and Post-Acute Center, our registered dietitians and dietary team take into consideration the variety of nutritional needs for every individual and work with each patient to create a personalized meal plan to ensure they are receiving the appropriate diet necessary for a successful recovery.

This diet may consist of a dedicated amount of lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and daily water intake depending on a patient’s specific care needs. Special accommodations may also be required, such as serving food in a way that can be consumed by patients who have a difficult time with chewing or swallowing.

Senior Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Prestige, Kendra Swartz, says, “We tailor each patient’s diet depending on their health needs… this could be a heart healthy diet for someone who just had a stroke or heart attack, a controlled carbohydrate diet for a patient with diabetes, they may need extra protein to help recover from a wound, or foods rich in iron if they have anemia. We may also incorporate a drink supplement if they are malnourished and need extra calories.”

Although, some patients may have a restricted meal plan it is important to note that we offer all patients a variety of choices to accommodate their preferences. Our patients receive a weekly menu to order from and can work with the center’s dietary manager to discuss other options.

Our dietary teams also work closely with other members of the patient’s interdisciplinary team. This may include working with the patient’s registered nurse, social worker, therapist, and the center’s chef to determine their personalized approach to recovery and optimize their care.

Benefits of a Healthy Diet During Your Recovery

A well-balanced nutritional diet is necessary to maintain healthy organ function and sufficient energy, particularly if you are recovering from a hospitalization.

After an unplanned hospitalization, patients may be suffering from additional muscle loss and a lack of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are necessary to avoid malnutrition. Patients who are receiving a proper nutrition coupled with their routine rehabilitation program may be less susceptible to falls, weakness, and lethargy that can all lead to hospital readmission.

Post-Discharge from a Skilled Nursing Center

After discharge from a skilled nursing center, it is important to continue following a healthy meal plan to prevent hospitalization, especially if you have a chronic condition, or are at risk for malnutrition.

Kendra suggests, “Take note of how your food looks and the portions sizes [during your stay at a skilled nursing center]. There are certain amounts of protein, fruits, and vegetables each patient needs to continue to stay healthy.”

Your registered dietitian can answer any questions you may have regarding your post-discharge nutrition plan, but you can also find support from your loved ones. Ensure they are involved in the discussions with your discharge team so they can help with your transition to home.

Some questions to consider when discussing your post-discharge meal plan with your dietitian and loved ones include:

  • What long-term dietary changes should be made upon discharge to continue recovery and reduce potential readmission?
  • Who will be responsible for the grocery shopping?
  • Who will prepare the meals?
  • Are there additional supplements I can take to ensure I am receiving adequate nourishment?

Top Nutritional Tips to Remember:

Manage your salt intake: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that Americans consume less than 2,300 milligrams of salt each day.   

Stay hydrated: don’t forget to drink water throughout the day to avoid dehydration and reduce salt and sugar cravings.

Be cautious of your sugar cravings: try to avoid items that are high in added sugars and try swapping it out with fresh fruit instead.

Eat your greens: try including less starchy vegetables like spinach and greens beans for a well-balanced meal.

At Prestige Care, we know the importance of a well-balanced, nutritious meal and our expert dietary team is there to help every step of the way in your recovery journey to ensure your successful transition back to your active and independent lifestyle. Contact the center closest to you or your loved one to find out more about their care options.