Good food, better health

Christina Seely behind the mask

“You are what you eat,” says Christina Seely, Registered Dietitian at Parkwood Institute. “I often tell patients that our bodies don’t plug into the wall—they rely on the essential nutrients we consume to function.”

Working in the Mental Health Care Program for 14 years, Christina is the dedicated dietitian for eight inpatient units at Parkwood Institute. She has witnessed first-hand what good nutrition can do for the mind, body and soul. Research continues to show a strong linkage between the food we eat and our physical and mental health.

“I review with patients that their food choices are an important piece of the puzzle in taking care of their physical and mental health. There are many interesting areas such as nutrition and the role in reducing the severity of depressive symptoms, helping to delay or prevent the onset of some types of dementia, and the relationship between the gut microbiome and mental health.”

Patients often tell Christina how much they appreciate having three nutritious and delicious meals served every day. Providing food that is comforting, familiar and enjoyable helps enable people to focus on their recovery and rehabilitation while they’re in hospital. 

“I have had patients with major depressive disorder tell me that looking forward to a meal gets them out of bed each day. Some of our patients experience a high level of food insecurity, and adequate nutritious food can significantly improve their overall wellbeing. I assist patients in customizing their diet to suit their physical health conditions and preferences.”

Christina has been answering a lot of questions about food during the pandemic, providing reassurance that Canadians still have access to a safe and high-quality food supply.   She has increasingly been offering information to patients transitioning into the community about grocery delivery services for those looking for alternatives to in-person grocery shopping or taking transit. Patients are strong peer-supports for each other, especially those who may have faced increased isolation due to the pandemic.

Christina is known for her big friendly smile, and while wearing a mask she misses being able to smile when speaking with patients. “Patients will still experience warm friendly support from their health care team, we just have to be a bit more creative how we show it with our masks on.  It has been my privilege to work with our patients as part of the team at Parkwood Mental Health Care.”

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