A question that I am often asked is, “Every time I go to the doctor, I am told I need to eat healthier. What does this exactly mean? What kinds of food should I be eating?”
Certainly, there is not an easy answer to this dilemma because what may be healthy for one person may not suit another’s medical profile. In fact, the entire science of nutrition is constantly evolving as we learn more about the human body, genetics, food production, and a host of other factors. Complicating this are a number of popdiet terms: Atkins, Paleo, Mediterranean, DASH, etc: something new in the news each week.
In the current obesity “epidemic” plaguing our nation and many parts of the world, there are some general principles about diet that I would like to share with the readers. This may help you and your physician plan a healthy diet for you:
• Log your diet. There are several diet logging applications (e.g. myfitnesspal, LoseIt!, etc), or even good, old-fashioned pen and paper will do the trick. Make sure your write down both what you ate and how much. After you have a couple of weeks of logging complete, bring your log in to your next doctor’s appointment. Keeping a dietary log helps us calculate calories, micronutrients, your dietary preferences, and various other data that can help customize a healthy diet for you.
• Eliminate high-calorie beverages. Sugary beverages (e.g. soda, juice, sweet tea, etc) are quickly-consumed calories with relatively low satiety and nutrition value. Eliminating such beverages and substituting them with water is a quick way to cut out unnecessary calories.
• Substitute fresh, whole foods for processed ones. One of my professors in medical school would tell her patients to spend the majority of their time around the perimeter of the grocery store rather than the aisles. Basically, what she was saying is load up on whole fruits, vegetables, and recipes requiring whole, fresh ingredients instead of highly processed foods like soda, chips, and cookies. This is not to say that there are only unhealthy foods in the aisles: you just have to know what to look for, which brings us to our next point:
• Learn to read nutrition labels. Here’s a good starting point: http://tiny.cc/DocsBoxEatRight
• Portion control. This is probably the hardest one for most of us, and where we can make an exception to point three above. Frozen, prepackaged healthy meals can help set a calorie limit of 250-350 kcal in a sitting and re-train our brains for smaller portion sizes.
• Focus on whole-grain and fiber-rich foods over processed grains. Not only will such foods will help you stay full longer, they can also have beneficial effects on fatty acid levels.
As mentioned above, what may be right for one person may not suit another. Therefore, before making drastic changes to your diet, run it by your physician first to ensure your medical profile is compatible with what’s for dinner.
Be Well, Friends,
Doc’s Box is a weekly column written by Shiv Agarwal, MD with Global Family PracticeSM, pLLC as well as other colleagues. Any medical opinions in this column are general and should not be adopted without first visiting and discussing with your Family Physician. To protect your privacy and personal health information, please direct your health questions to your personal physician during a scheduled office visit in lieu of writing in to the column. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Agarwal, reach his scheduling team at 940-567-5528.