For several years now, the Wright Center for Community Health has been promoting healthier eating habits through our lifestyle medicine initiative.
With March serving as National Nutrition Month, now is a great opportunity to promote and promote the many virtues and benefits of incorporating lifestyle medicine into your primary care.
Created 50 years ago by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, National Nutrition Month promotes ways people can make better dietary and fitness choices in the name of long-term good health. This year’s theme, “Fuel for the Future”, is geared towards making smart food choices that are also kind to the environment.
When we think about good nutrition, the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans serve as a good road map. They are:
• Follow a healthy dietary pattern at each stage of life;
• Customize and enjoy nutrient-dense food and beverage options to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budget considerations;
• Focus on meeting the needs of the food groups with nutrient-dense foods and beverages and stay within calorie limits;
• Limit foods and beverages high in added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium, and limit alcoholic beverages.
These tips make for a great common-sense framework, and better yet, they align perfectly with the mission of lifestyle medicine, which The Wright Center launched in 2020 in our primary and preventive care practices throughout Northeast Pennsylvania.
There’s no question that medications, surgeries, and other medical procedures are crucial to improving and prolonging our lives, but it’s also very important that we take a more proactive, rather than reactive, approach to our health and well-being.
Lifestyle Medicine adheres to this philosophy by focusing on what we would call the six pillars of health: nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, relationships, and avoiding dangerous substances. It is not alternative medicine, but rather an evidence-based approach that could have lasting positive effects on healthcare.
Data shows that lifestyle medicine can prevent, treat, or even reverse many chronic conditions. One way to do this is through better nutrition, specifically by adopting a whole plant-based diet that is high in fiber, phytonutrients, essential fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals, and low in saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. .
A vegetarian diet can also achieve your healthy diet goal. Today, vegetarian diets come in many forms. Some incorporate eggs and/or dairy products. There are hybrid vegetarian diets such as the flexitarian diet that allows small amounts of animal products, the pescatarian diet that allows some seafood, and the vegan diet that excludes all animal products.
These diets are plant-based and provide the benefits of a plant-based nutritional profile, while providing the flexibility to accommodate a person’s cultural and personal preferences.
If a vegetarian diet isn’t for you, consider using the Mediterranean Diet, which emphasizes plant-based foods, moderate amounts of fish, poultry, dairy, and eggs, and limited red meat and sweets. This diet still ranks as one of the best overall healthy diets and allows for a wide variety of foods.
Use this National Nutrition Month to reexamine your diet and exercise patterns and start making healthy changes to your own diet and routine. If you stick with it, it will most likely pay big dividends for your overall health and well-being in the long run.
Walter Wanas, LDN, RD, a registered and licensed dietitian and nutritionist, is the director of lifestyle modification and preventive medicine at The Wright Center for Community Health. He collaborates with primary care teams to offer hands-on lifestyle medicine in Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wayne counties. Visit TheWrightCenter.org or call 570-230-0019 for more information on the lifestyle medicine program.