New research suggests just one simple dietary change may be all that is needed to transform health.
I recently had the honor of attending the 2018 Healthy Kitchens Healthy Lives conference at the Culinary Institute of America on behalf of my role as an ambassador for Sunsweet Growers. The conference is an incredible blend of nutrition science and culinary arts presented to healthcare professionals across many different disciplines. Top nutrition and health researches from universities such as Harvard and Stanford were on hand to present the latest findings on nutrition’s impact on disease and obesity. But learning about new research wasn’t the only goal of this conference. Instead of just providing statistics and data, the program focused on crossing the bridge between science and practical application with ‘Teaching Kitchens.’ These kitchens would help healthcare professionals like myself better educate not just on nutrition information, but on how to actually create quick & healthy meals for busy families.
So why are teaching kitchens important? Studies have found that as cooking at home decreases, body weight and the risk of chronic health conditions increase. Think about the meals you often eat away from home. Are they rich in fruits and vegetables? Probably not. Meals that we eat out tend to be higher in saturated fat and refined carbohydrates (like white four, added sugar, etc) and low in fiber since they often contain little to no added fruits and vegetables. It drives me crazy that even ‘kid menus’ offer a variety of fried food options with practically no fruits or veggies in sight. I actually pack my bag filled with a variety of dried fruit like prunes, nuts, and raw veggies (I keep these in a cooler bag) to take with us when we eat out so I know my kids will have a few options. Cooking at home can seem time-consuming or intimidating if you haven’t been exposed to it. I know I can even find myself feeling intimidated and overwhelmed at times. But that’s what I loved about this conference. It highlighted how dietary improvement really just needs to focus on adding one simple thing to your plate: more fiber. Adding in foods like whole grains, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits, like prunes, can be a simple way to boost your daily fiber intake which can promote a healthy body weight as well as a reduction in disease risk. And if you think high fiber recipes are complicated to make or may not taste great, think again! Just check out this muffin recipe made by using prunes that was shared at the conference:
On average, Americans take in only about 15 grams of fiber per day. The recommendation for fiber is a minimum of 25 to 38 grams per day. Research on individuals in other parts of the world who consume high fiber diets has shown that these populations have an entirely different gut microbiome (or gut bacteria) profile than individuals who live in a Western society. Since more and more evidence points to the gut biome having a profound impact on overall health, this is an area of the diet we should all be focusing. Diets rich in fiber are associated with a lower body weight along with a lower risk of most major chronic illness. By increasing dietary fiber on a regular basis from plant-based foods, we may be able to help address health crises such as the growing pediatric obesity epidemic (it is now estimated that 59% of all 2 year olds today will be obese by age 35) as well as help to prevent or slow midlife weight gain.
In order to boost fiber, the ‘One Rule Diet’ strategy was presented. In this plan, the sole focus is on increasing your fiber intake daily without concern for any other part of the diet. Although that may sound like it would still allow for consuming excessive amounts of added sugars or saturated fat, this simple strategy may be all you need to improve health and prevent weight gain. In order to increase the fiber intake of your diet, you must increase your intake of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, and plant-based proteins like nuts and seeds. By adding in these high volumes, low calories foods, you often find yourself more satisfied and eating smaller quantities of more calories-dense, nutrient-poor food options. You can also substitute plant based foods for foods rich in added sugars and saturated fat. For instance, you can use pureed prunes in a recipe as a replacement for added sugars like I did when creating my Chocolate Chip Prune Cookie recipe. Or you can replace a saturated fat like butter with mashed avocado. These small swaps can make a huge impact on increasing your overall fiber intake.
Adding in more fiber to the diet from plant-based foods may feel overwhelming at first, but the Healthy Kitchens Healthy Lives conference highlighted many incredibly delicious plant-based recipes that could be made easily in just minutes.
In order to improve health, we need to make lifestyle changes we can stick with for life. Focusing on just one small change, such as the ‘One Rule Diet’ to boost fiber may be all that is needed to see significant, long-term health improvements. Learning simple meal preparation techniques and quick and easy recipes can help you to feel more confident preparing high fiber, plant-based foods for your whole family without having to add in more time to your day.
For more delicious, high fiber recipes that can also benefit your bones, visit Sunsweet.com
If you are interested in learning more about the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives conference, click here.