The Future of Medically Tailored Foods
The future of medically tailored foods is looking very bright and that is a good thing for people suffering from chronic health conditions. Multiple clinical studies have shown the benefit of medically tailored foods for combatting chronic health conditions and we are now on the precipice of seeing medically tailored foods and meals used by healthcare providers, employers, and insurance plans (payors) to proactively treat these conditions.
Recent Developments in Medically Tailored Foods and Food as Medicine
Over the last decade, the concept of food as medicine has gained a lot of momentum with multiple studies supporting the benefits of food as medicine along with great work done by organizations such as the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and the Food as Medicine Coalition.
As a result, in the last several years, multiple organizations have approved food as medicine initiatives for their employees or health plan members suffering from chronic conditions while other groundbreaking initiatives are pending. These include:
- California’s Medicaid (Medi-Cal) health plans will offer and cover medically tailored meals for its members starting in 2022. California’s Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) developed the CalAIM (California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal) initiative to improve the quality of life and health outcomes of Medi-Cal’s members. Under CalAIM, there are 14 approved In Lieu of Services (ILOS) components, including meals/medically tailored meals.
- In addition to California, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Oregon, currently provide medically-supportive food to eligible Medicaid recipients.
- There is an active bill in Congress, H.R.5370 - Medically Tailored Home-Delivered Meals Demonstration Pilot Act of 2021, that seeks to create a Medicare pilot program to proactively address the critical link between diet, chronic illness, and senior health.
Adding to the momentum, in May 2022, the Biden Administration announced that for the first time in over 50 years, the White House will host a conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health this September. The Conference, and the preparatory work leading up to it, will accelerate progress and drive significant change to end hunger, improve nutrition and physical activity, reduce diet-related disease, and close the disparities around them. Medically tailored meals will play an important role in this discussion.
There are many companies that are now starting to offer medically tailored meals, groceries, and even produce prescriptions. This is a huge step in the right direction for those who are looking for healthier options when it comes to their food. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of medically tailored foods and why they are important to our societies' future.
Diet-Related Chronic Diseases and Health Conditions
Did you know that half of American adults have diabetes or prediabetes? Did you know that more than half of Americans have cardiovascular disease which causes 841,000 deaths per year or 2,300 deaths per day? Both diseases are directly attributed to poor nutrition and lack of exercise. Diet-related diseases produce crushing health and economic burdens, but the majority can be prevented if we can change what healthy eating looks like in the eyes of Americans.
Healthcare costs have skyrocketed for the federal government, state government, and businesses due to chronic diseases caused by poor diet and lack of exercise. People are dying way too early and it is all because of the processed and unhealthy foods that make up most of our diets in America. To decrease the number of Americans with cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes, we must make a change in the diet of most Americans.
Typical American Diet and Nutrition
If you go to the grocery store, you will see shelves full of chips, snacks, ready-to-eat meals, desserts, sauces, and every other type of packaged food good you can think of. In the corner you might find a small section labelled "natural foods" or "whole foods", but most people will not even dare to step foot in that aisle because of the price and lack of options.
Unfortunately, major companies have marketed their foods are healthy, convenient, and cheap but, in reality, they are only convenient and cheap. They use processed ingredients, additives, and chemical preservatives to ensure that the food is cheap and convenient, but it is anything but healthy. A poor diet full of processed foods and fast food is a leading cause of chronic disease and potentially early death.
A focus on single nutrients, fats, and calories has led many to believe they are eating healthy, but in reality, the ingredients are what matter most. Low calories and low fats do not mean "healthy' because many foods that are low in calories or fats might have excessive amounts of sugar, sodium, or chemical preservatives. Therefore, we must focus on whole foods. Too many people focus on obesity when food affects every biological pathway. Combatting obesity is important, but it does not determine overall health. Metabolic health is the most important measure of health.
Lack of Accessibility, Affordability, and Acceptability
In America, we prioritize quickness, convenience, and cheapness over everything else when it comes to food. The problem is that these processed foods might be quick and easy, but they will also lead you to chronic disease as well. Due to food insecurity, these unhealthy, processed foods are a major reason millions of Americans die every single year from heart disease and type II diabetes. A diet that focuses on whole and natural foods consisting of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins are what is missing in most Americans' lives. This diet of whole natural foods will lead to life longevity and zero chronic conditions or diseases.
Affordability is one of the biggest hurdles for families to afford whole foods. Accessibility is another one of the biggest hurdles because nutritious foods and beverages are not distributed in all places. Acceptability is another hurdle that must be addressed where whole, natural foods are advertised as delicious instead of solely unhealthy foods.
Food As Medicine
Diet-health-related deaths are more common among low-income Americans, but still affect 1/3rd of high-income Americans as well. Restaurants and grocery store food consumed by low-income American children is of poor quality, but low-income American children received high-quality nutrition in schools starting in 2010 due to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which shows the role policy can play in the improved diet.
Luckily, there is a new movement known as "Food as medicine" to help combat and prevent these deadly chronic diet-related conditions and diseases. This movement focuses on adopting a healthy diet of whole foods to ensure chronic disease prevention. Chronic disease prevention using whole nutritious foods has been proven in many studies. Using a healthy diet is also cheaper than expensive medical bills and medications that come along with diet-related chronic conditions and diseases.
Medically Tailored Foods
Medically tailored foods are foods that are used as a medical treatment for diet-related chronic disease management or prevention. The two main diseases that medically tailored foods have traditionally been used for are cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. Medically tailored foods are prescribed by doctors and dietitians to help support patient dietary and lifestyle changes. There are many types of medically tailored foods that your healthcare provider might recommend.
We will be discussing the different options of medically tailored foods that health professionals might prescribe or recommend. Unfortunately, accessibility, price, and food insecurity are one of the main reasons why low-income families in America must rely on processed foods. SNAP programs do not do enough to reduce diet-health-related deaths. Our healthcare system has never had a great relationship with nutrition, but new medically tailored meal programs have started to show some promise over the last few years.
Medically Tailored Meals
Medically tailored meals are healthy food prescriptions that are fully prepared and can be prescribed by a health professional. These meals are typically built around a certain diet to address a diet-related chronic condition. Some popular diets that a medically tailored meal might be built around are the following:
- Low FODMAP Diet
- Mediterranean Diet
- DASH Diet
- Low Sodium Diet
- Gluten-free Diet
These diets all have their own goals and diseases they are supposed to treat or prevent. For example, the DASH, Low Sodium, and Mediterranean Diet are all supposed to treat heart disease and hypertension. The Low FODMAP diet is focused on digestive conditions and diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The Gluten-free diet is focused on gluten intolerances and Celiac disease.
It can be difficult to follow these diets on your own, but luckily there are programs being developed to make it easier for people to follow these diets. There are also new companies that partner with healthcare providers, employers, and health plans to deliver medically tailored foods right to your front door. There are tons of health benefits from using medically tailored meals besides combatting chronic health conditions.
Produce prescriptions are a type of medically tailored food that is becoming more popular. Produce prescriptions are a program where people with diet-related chronic conditions or diseases can get free or discounted fruits and vegetables. These produce prescriptions are usually given out by farmer's markets, food banks, and other organizations. The goal of these produce prescriptions is to help low-income individuals have access to healthier food options at a cheaper price. Produce prescriptions have recently been developed and introduced nationwide thanks to the "food as medicine" movement.
Medically Tailored Food Packages
Medically tailored food packages are a type of medically tailored food that is becoming more popular. Medically tailored food packages are a program where people with diet-related chronic conditions or diseases can get free or discounted packaged foods. These medically tailored food packages are usually given out by grocery stores, food banks, and other organizations. They are usually designed by an RDN and provide basic healthy ingredients for cooking healthy meals. The goal of these medically tailored food packages is to help low-income families to have access to all-natural, whole foods that they can prepare at home.
Nutritious Food Referrals
Nutritious food referrals are a type of medically tailored food that is becoming more popular. Nutritious food referrals are a program where people with diet-related chronic conditions or diseases can get funds to help them buy discounted nutritious foods. These nutritious food referrals are usually given out by grocery stores, farmer's markets, and other non-profit organizations. The goal of these nutritious food referrals is to help low-Population-Level Healthy Food Programs provide nutritious foods to low-income families.
SNAP, WIC, HIP, & Emergency Food Programs
There are government-based food programs to address the food insecurities of low-income families, but these programs lack in many ways. The families receive the assistance and immediately go to the grocery store and buy highly processed foods that are unhealthy and full of saturated and trans fats as well as refined sugars and preservatives. They do fill a needed gap in low-income assistance for families in need, but they often lead to diet-related disease, weak immune health, and obesity.
Medically Tailored Meal Companies
Luckily, there are medically tailored meal companies that offer a quick and convenient way for people to address their diet-related health conditions.
While there aren’t many companies actively promoting medically tailored meals, here is a sampling of companies that sell MTMs and the locations they service:
ModifyHealth (United States)
Mom’s Meals (United States)
Field Doctor (United Kingdom)
Sunbasket (United States)
BistroMD (United States)
ILS Meals (United States)
Performance Kitchen (United States)
Nutrition For Longevity (United States)
Are you looking to start a Medically Tailored Meal Service?
If you are an individual, health provider, employer, or health insurance plan looking for a way to incorporate medically tailored meals into your life or make them available for your patients, employees, or members, you’ve come to the right place. Medically tailored meals are the future of combatting and preventing chronic diseases. If you need a service that works directly with health providers, employers, and health insurance plans to deliver fully prepared medically tailored meals to your home, then you should speak with the experts at ModifyHealth.
ModifyHealth delivers fully prepared medically tailored meals along with dietitian coaching support, remote patient monitoring, and data tracking to all 50 states with free shipping. If you are interested in learning more about our turnkey food as medicine program, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to view our menu of medically tailored meals, then click the button below.
ModifyHealth is the #1 doctor and dietitian-recommended medically tailored meal service in the US and leading the way into the future of food as medicine. We’re here to help!