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Various fruits, vegetables, and nuts
Figure 17.1 Proper nutrition, which includes a balanced diet, is linked to improved health and bodily functioning. (credit: “Fresh cut fruits and vegetables.jpg” by Peggy Greb, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Public Domain)

Good nutrition is essential to healthy living and disease prevention. Nutritious meals provide nutrients to power all the cells of the body and enable biochemical processes that humans need to engage in an active, satisfying life. While nutritional needs across a person’s life span vary, the need for quality, nutrient-rich food never changes. Regardless of their cultural, religious, or economic background, everyone benefits from healthy lifestyle choices and dietary patterns.

Unfortunately, unhealthy dietary patterns not only risk immediate health needs but are also associated with the development of chronic disease. In the United States, 60 percent of the population has been diagnosed with at least one chronic medical condition due to unhealthy dietary practices (USDA, 2020). Whether it is diabetes, heart disease, obesity, or eating disorders, no one is immune from the consequences of poor nutrition. Nurses are on the forefront of health promotion; thus, it is essential for nurses to have a clear understanding of the relationship between food and health. Nurses must teach the importance of good nutrition and understand how specialized diets are used to promote optimal health. Most importantly, nurses must be competent in the skill of nutrition assessment and evaluation across a person’s life span.

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