“We are what we eat.” It’s a statement we’ve all heard, but as nurses we need to understand what it really means for us and for our patients. Simply, we eat what we believe is good for us and what we think tastes good–attitudes that are primarily shaped by our family upbringing, our culture and our personal preferences. And if we are people who practice a particular religious faith, we eat what is most in agreement with our beliefs.

Many religions forbid certain food items, have strict requirements about how food should be prepared and have special dietary practices that must be observed. Adhering to these guidelines helps followers of these religions feel assured that they are eating what is best for their physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Therefore, when caring for a multicultural patient population, nurses need to be aware that some patients’ special dietary needs play a major role in their healing process. For the patient who is a strict observer of his or her religion, any violation of their dietary requirements can be perceived as an actual challenge to the utmost supreme authority–whether it be God, Buddha or Allah–and can impact negatively on their recovery and their level of satisfaction with the health care facility.

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