Help Patients Ditch Diets for a Healthy Eating Pattern
We’re well into the new year, and without fail, that means resolutions for losing weight and getting healthy (or some combination of the two). A recent survey predicting the top 10 resolutions of 2020 included “lose weight/diet,” “go to the gym” and “be more healthy.” But a surprising one that stood out was “eat more of my favorite foods.”
Is that a contradiction? Can you get healthy while still eating more of your favorite foods?
Many Americans are tempted to turn to fad diets, such as ketogenic or Whole 30, to reach health goals because they often promise quick results with seemingly little work. But really these diets are full of severe food restrictions and strict rules. Often patients end up feeling guilty rather than healthy because they can’t stick to the diet. Research shows these diets are not sustainable long-term, and any weight loss is often short-lived. It’s also hard to meet micronutrient recommendations with any diet that eliminates whole food groups.
A better recommendation for patients or clients seeking a healthier lifestyle is to try one of the healthy eating patterns that fall within the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Two prime examples are the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. In fact, these diets were ranked the No. 1 and No. 2 best diets, respectively, by the U.S. News & World Report in their 2020 Best Diets Overall review.
As the name suggests, the Mediterranean diet is based on eating patterns of the Mediterranean region ̶ Italy, Greece, Spain and Morocco. It is marked by a high consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, herbs and spices. It also touts moderate consumption of fish, poultry, dairy foods and red wine. Research shows the Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced inflammation; blood pressure, blood glucose and lipids; oxidative stress; cardiovascular disease risk; and total mortality. While the Mediterranean diet isn’t specifically designed for weight loss, if your patients are following correct portion sizes and getting regular moderate exercise, there is a good chance weight loss will follow. Just make sure your patients are still getting three servings of dairy a day to meet the U.S. recommendations for 1000-1300 milligrams of calcium daily.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet has been proven to reduce blood pressure and improve overall heart health. It is characterized by an emphasis on foods that are high in potassium, calcium, magnesium and fiber – such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy. The DASH diet does recommend limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, sodium and added sugars; however, it does not call for the elimination of any one food group, making it a well-rounded diet. The most widely recognized benefit of the DASH diet is its role in lowering blood pressure, but similar to the Mediterranean diet, research has shown that weight loss can occur as well.
One of the biggest critiques of these two diets is that adding more fruits, vegetables and fish to your plate can be expensive. This doesn’t have to be the case. Don’t forget that frozen fruits and vegetables (without sauces, syrups or added sugar) are just as healthy as fresh selections for a fraction of the price. Frozen produce also lasts longer, which cuts down on food waste. And while canned produce may not be the best choice, if that’s what your patients/clients can afford, you can suggest they simply rinse the produce off in a colander before cooking or consuming. It’s a better option than eating no produce at all.
The Bottom Line
Your patients and clients can eat more of their favorite foods and get healthy by following healthy eating patterns such as DASH or the Mediterranean diet. Healthy patterns emphasize foods your patients are already eating. There is no need for strong restrictions or eliminating entire food groups. These widely studied healthy eating patterns are sustainable tools to help your patients reach their health goals.