According to HIV.gov, there are more than 1.1 million individuals living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. We have made great strides in treatment, prevention, and acceptance of those coping with the disease. Dietitians can make meaningful change as well by empowering their clients with strategies designed to maintain their good health.
Maintaining Weight and Promoting Well-Being
HIV/AIDS is defined by immune system impairment. As the immune system works harder to fight illness and infection, more calories are needed to prevent weight loss. Encourage your clients to bulk up calories and protein whenever possible. See below for a few tips.
- Add powdered milk to yogurt, mashed potatoes, soups, or baked goods.
- Spread nut butter on toast, pancakes, waffles, biscuits, or in oatmeal.
- Replace sour cream with plain Greek yogurt for extra protein.
- Substitute oral nutrition supplements for milk or water when baking.
Importance of Food Safety
Although food safety is an important concept for all, food-borne illnesses pose a heightened risk for those dealing with HIV/AIDS because their immune systems are compromised. All of the traditional food safety rules apply, including preventing cross contamination, cleaning and sanitizing equipment, safe thawing and storage, and measuring internal temperatures to check “doneness.” You may wish to consider these additional precautions:
- Wash produce thoroughly under running water with a scrub brush. Use caution with foods like berries, grapes, or sprouts that may be difficult to clean well.
- Avoid raw meats or fish and undercooked eggs.
- Avoid unpasteurized dairy products.
During Times of Illness
During an acute bout of illness, it may be difficult to eat or drink, especially when the appetite is poor. As with all individuals, it’s important to stay hydrated, even when eating seems impossible. Try drinking calories with high-calorie smoothies or fortified soups. Customize meal plans according to individual needs.
Addressing Food Insecurity
If food insecurity is a concern, discuss it openly with your client. Find out what resources might be best to meet his/her needs, and try to facilitate this assistance. Get creative with your ideas, and meet the individual halfway. Discover realistic solutions that, above all else, are acceptable to the client.
This article is intended for educational purposes only and should not replace tailored nutritional advice from a registered dietitian.
Sara Glanz, MS, RD, LD, CNSC worked as a traveling dietitian for Dietitians On Demand for two years before joining the team as the corporate dietitian. In this role, she has championed the continuing education program to empower dietitians everywhere to achieve their professional goals.
HIV/AIDS: What should I know about food safety? U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs website. https://www.hiv.va.gov/patient/daily/diet/food-safety.asp. Updated February 8, 2018. Accessed November 13, 2018.