Applying Food Plans Within Collaborative Care Teams

A food plan is easy for patients to follow, and you can be direct and specific about what they can and cannot eat.

Nutrition counseling with patients is an effective way to manage numerous comorbid chronic illnesses.1 Having a dedicated dietician or nutritionist as part of your care team can help patients reach their personal health goals and those set forth by their primary provider. Patients report increased adherence to dietary interventions, citing more involvement in their own treatment plans and a sense of control over their health outcomes, when they work closely with dieticians or other nutrition-oriented providers.2-3

Nutrition counseling in primary care may empower patients to make positive changes to their dietary behaviors. A study of diabetic patients found that nutrition counseling significantly improved diet quality, blood glucose markers, and increased weight loss when compared to controls.4 Part of the reason for these improved outcomes may be the personalized care and patient-centered approach, both tenets of Functional Medicine.

The patient’s perception of empathy and feeling of connection toward their provider impacts the effectiveness of nutritional counseling5 and the likelihood of long-term adherence to prescribed dietary changes.6 Implementing a food plan with patients is a prime example where the therapeutic partnership can be nurtured. Customizing a dietary intervention requires the clinician to practice empathy and carefully consider the patient’s individual dietary needs and preferences.

Martha Calihan, MD, has a team of care providers at her Functional Medicine practice in Leesburg, VA, including a nutritionist and a personal trainer. Both Dr. Calihan and the nutritionist work closely with the patients to modify their prescribed food plan so that the patients find it easier to maintain the change long-term. What is the key to getting patients to adhere to a diet? As Dr. Calihan explains, keeping patients engaged is as simple as sharing recipes or meal plan tips.

In the following video, Dr. Calihan discusses her practice and how she leverages the expertise of the collaborative care team to advance the health outcomes of her patients, with an emphasis on therapeutic food plans.

2:00 Video – Martha Calihan, MD explains how she practices Functional Medicine.

Dr. Calihan is board certified in integrative and holistic medicine as well as family medicine. She specializes in the treatment of complex chronic illness, including autoimmune disease, thyroid and hormonal imbalances, biotoxin illness, chronic fatigue, and fibromyalgia. Dr. Calihan brings decades of experience to her work with patients, helping them achieve optimal health and wellness through a variety of techniques.

To learn more about collaborative care teams and the role that Functional Medicine health coaches can play in improving patient engagement, click here

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  1. Vasiloglou MF, Fletcher J, Poulia KA. Challenges and perspectives in nutritional counselling and nursing: a narrative review. J Clin Med. 2019;8(9):1489. doi:3390/jcm8091489
  2. Sladdin I, Ball L, Bull C, Chaboyer W. Patient-centred care to improve dietetic practice: an integrative review. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2017;30(4):453-470. doi:1111/jhn.12444
  3. Sladdin I, Chaboyer W, Ball L. Patients’ perceptions and experiences of patient-centred care in dietetic consultations. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2018;31(2):188-196. doi:1111/jhn.12507
  4. Mitchell LJ, Ball LE, Ross LJ, Barnes KA, Williams LT. Effectiveness of dietetic consultations in primary health care: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2017;117(12):1941-1962. doi:1016/j.jand.2017.06.364
  5. Yildiz A, Ercan A, Müftüo?lu S. An evaluation of empathic tendencies of dietitians working in Ankara. Nutr Diet. 2019;76(4):438-443. doi:at 
  6. Karlsen MC, Pollard KJ. Strategies for practitioners to support patients in plant-based eating. J Geriatr Cardiol. 2017;14(5):338-341. doi:10.11909/j.issn.1671-5411.2017.05.006

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