The Wright Medicine: Focusing on nutrition | Community Columns
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 tout 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 the ways in which people can make better dietary and physical fitness decisions in the name of long-term good health. This year’s theme, “Fuel for the Future,” is geared around making smart eating choices that are also environmentally friendly.
When we think about good nutrition, the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans serve as a good roadmap. They are:
• Follow a healthy dietary pattern at every stage of life;
• Customize and enjoy nutrient-dense food and beverage choices in ways that reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions and budgetary considerations;
• Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages and stay within calorie limits;
• Limit foods and beverages high in added sugars, saturated fat and sodium, and limit consumption of alcoholic beverages.
These tips make for a great common-sense framework, and better still, they align perfectly with the mission of lifestyle medicine, which The Wright Center launched in 2020 at our primary and preventive care practices throughout Northeast Pennsylvania.
There’s no question that medications, surgeries and other medical procedures are crucial to bettering 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 the avoidance of risky substances. It’s not alternative medicine but rather an evidence-based approach that could have long-lasting, positive effects on health care.
The data are showing lifestyle medicine can prevent, treat or even reverse many chronic conditions. One way of doing this is through better nutrition, specifically through adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet that is high in fiber, phytonutrients, essential fatty acids and vitamins and minerals, and low in saturated fat, transfats and sodium.
A vegetarian diet can also accomplish your healthy diet goal. Today, vegetarian diets come in many formats. Some incorporate eggs and/or dairy products. There are hybrid vegetarian diets such as the flexitarian diet which allows for small amounts of animal products, the pescatarian diet which allows for some seafood products, and the vegan diet which excludes all animal products.
These diets are plant based and provide the benefits of a plant-based nutrition profile, while providing the flexibility to match a person’s cultural and personal preferences.
If a vegetarian diet is not for you, consider use of the Mediterranean Diet, which emphasizes plant-based foods, moderate amounts of fish, poultry, dairy and eggs, and limited red meat and sweets. This diet is still ranked as one of the best overall healthy diets and allows for a wide variety of foods.
Please use this National Nutrition Month to reexamine your diet and exercise patterns and begin making healthy changes to your own diet and routine. If you stick with it, chances are it will pay big dividends in the long run for your health and overall well-being.
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 lifestyle medicine at practices in Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wayne counties. Visit TheWrightCenter.org or call 570-230-0019 for more information about the lifestyle medicine program.