8 Free Nutrition Resources for Cardiac Rehab Patients

By Jenifer Bowman, M.S., RD on 08/20/2018

Tags: Nutrition, Milk Alternatives, Diet, Heart Health

I’m a dietitian who specializes in cardiac rehab. Most of my patients, like many consumers, have a multitude of questions about their food choices – and rightfully so after experiencing a cardiac event. Do I have to eat organic? Low-fat? GMO-free? Does it mean I have to give up my favorite foods? I strive to educate them on the best choices and have them make meaningful changes. Many times that means addressing their food fear questions – even surprising questions about milk and dairy foods. 

It used to be that patients would ask about calories, proteins, fats and sugar. Today, they ask about how food is grown, whether or not hormones or antibiotics are added and if it was minimally processed. We have to be the nutrition experts, but we also have to be the food system experts. Collaboration with Jenna Allen, M.S., RDN, has led to inspiration, and I spent the month of June highlighting some of Dairy MAX’s top resources to break down the food fear and share the food facts:

Top Six Dairy Nutrition Resources 

From a bulletin board I put up in one of my cardiac rehab gyms addressing dairy’s nutrient contributions to sampling real cow's milk versus milk alternatives to busting dairy nutrition myths with my patients, I’m tackling tough topics head-on. When my patients enter the clinic they learn more about the nutrient content of their milk and dairy foods and the beneficial role dairy foods play in the diets of cardiac rehab patients. 

Two More Answers from Your Dairy Council

Where I make the most impact is when I counsel patients one-on-one. When it comes to cardiac rehab, many of my patients for the first time are really thinking about what they are eating and what it means to eat healthy. 

Of course, getting “healthy” can mean different things to different patients. For some, it is giving up something they love. For others, it may be striving for what they see as a superfood. Here are two common questions I see and the answers I’m able to provide:

If I choose a milk that is lower in fat (such as skim milk), does that also mean that it is lower in protein, calcium and vitamin D?
Whether you choose whole milk or a lower fat variety, you can rest assured that each has the same amount of protein, calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients. Skim milk is simply skimmed of fat, not of nutrients. Thus, low-fat milk has less fat and calories, while providing the same nutritional profile as whole milk. It’s a great swap to be making in the journey back to health.

Is almond milk healthier than cow’s milk?
My secret weapon is to compare the nutrients in cow’s milk to the alternative beverages and to look at protein, the number of ingredients (or the ingredient list) as well as the price point. To help patients, I created a handout showing the nutritional comparisons of a variety of different milks (including whole milk, skim milk and lactose-free milk) and milk alternatives. Many of them are surprised to see how little protein milk alternatives provide. Faced with the comparisons, patients are able to confidently ditch the alternative and embrace the nutrition of real cow’s milk. 

Dairy MAX is a great science-based resource, with a wonderful team of dietitians ready to support you. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to check out DairyMAX.org for handouts, science summaries and practical solutions for your clients and consumers. Have patients put all that advice into practice with a few delicious recipes.