About ½ of US citizens are taking at least 1 prescription drug, with over 10% using 5 or more! (1) There’s no doubt that if you (1st) win the battle of getting yourself or a loved one to the doctor, there’s a general cycle to the diagnosis and prescription process.
- High blood pressure = PILL
- High blood glucose = PILL
- High Cholesterol = PILL
- High Triglycerides = PILL
And in a lot of cases, this is absolutely warranted, but what is so interesting is the lack of lifestyle (or dietary) prescriptions accompanying the meds that are being handed out like candy.
When someone is diagnosed with a disease, the idea of being prescribed a pill to “fix” it is such a common occurrence that it’s become common place. We want the quick fix. We want the “take one of these a day and you don’t have to worry about it” convenience that modern medicine has provided. As a dietitian, I obviously think about the dietary implications to any disease process first. And with ‘convenience’ being at the top of the American’s priority list, the goal is to make a dietary prescription as easy as a medication prescription.
Can it be done? Let’s look at an example of how it would work. Patient A has high triglycerides. It has been shown that an increase in Omega-3 intake can help decrease triglyceride levels in the blood (2). So, as a first line of defense, patient A is “prescribed” 3 servings of fish/week. They are sent to the grocery store, not the pharmacy, to retrieve their prescription for the week. Easy enough?
People need point-blank information. It needs to be in black and white. “You need to lose weight.” “You need to eat more fruits and vegetables.” “You need to increase your fiber intake.” These general health statements are not tangible for the public. “Lose weight” is elusive. There’s no directions, numbers, or specifics.
What if we tried…
- Eat 1/3 cup of berries daily
- Eat 25g fiber/day
- Have a meatless dinner twice/week
- Eat 1 cup of spinach 3 times/week
- Drink 8 8oz servings of water/day
- Eliminate fried foods from your diet
These specifics can help make healthier eating more tangible for folks. It wouldn’t make things perfect, but improved! My dream conversation…
“Hey, Sally, what are you on for your high cholesterol?”
“Well, I’m on Crestor, 30g of fiber/day, and 3 red meat free days/week.”
So, how can “nutrition prescriptions” help you? Setting small, obtainable goals that focus on nutritional struggles you have (for example: not eating enough fiber) can lead to a healthier diet becoming more natural for you. Let’s say you set the goal of eating 30g of fiber/day. So, this week you switch to a higher fiber bread and start eating an apple every day with your lunch. Then, after a while it becomes natural for you to reach for the higher fiber bread at the grocery and you naturally start grabbing for an apple a few times/week.
This is not a new concept, but it’s yet to become a general cycle, a common occurrence, common place. Post your #nutritionprescriptions this week, and work your way to a naturally healthier diet.