Topic 2 Lifestyle Nutrition and Medicine

  • Lifestyle Medicine is the use of evidence-based lifestyle therapeutic intervention—including a whole-food, plant-predominant eating pattern, regular physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances and positive social connection—as a primary modality, delivered by clinicians trained and certified in this specialty, to prevent, treat and often reverse chronic disease.
  • Lifestyle medicine is not conventional medicine but the foundation of conventional medicine. Clinical practice guidelines for the top lifestyle-related chronic diseases support lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications. Lifestyle Medicine is essential to sustainable health and healthcare since it addresses root causes of the disease by focusing on the lifestyle choices that give rise to diseases and chronic illnesses. When implemented lifestyle medicine can prevent, treat and perhaps reverse to a degree certain health conditions.

The Importance and Urgency of Lifestyle Medicine

  • Chronic disease is the leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. Rates of chronic disease have never been higher, with the cost of chronic conditions eating up 86% of all health care dollars spent. Chronic disease is so common that more than half of U.S. adults have at least one condition, accounting for 90% of health care spending.
  • According to the World Health Organization, 80% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes and 40% of cancer could be prevented, primarily with improvements to diet and lifestyle.
  • Lifestyle medicine as an evidence-based approach is shown to teat the underlying causes of disease rather than the symptoms that are addressed with medication, prescriptions, pills and procedures.
  • Most medical students and physicians do not receive adequate training in even the basics of lifestyle medicine, such as nutrition and physical activity. Lifestyle Medicine is crucial to a health professional since most of chronic disease today is caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices in these and other areas.

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Helping Others Move Toward a Healthier Diet (Tips)

  • When counseling on dietary behavior change, it is often helpful for people to begin by highlighting what should be included in the diet.
  • For some, simply increasing healthy foods will help to crowd out a substantial portion of unhealthy foods, without any feelings of deprivation. It is essential to address which foods detract from health and may be contributing to current health issues or future health risks.
  • Tailoring counseling with patients based on whether a patient places more value on accomplishing a goal or avoiding a negative outcome as evidence suggests patients receiving appropriately tailored messages lead to more positive feelings about healthy behavior changes. Additionally, adapting a person-centered approach free of blame, such as motivational interviewing, can help a health care provider elicit motivations for, and facilitators of, change. It allows the provider to empathize with patients, while also helping them to work through barriers, ambivalence, or resistance to change.
  • Most people’s diets can be improved by incorporating more plant foods and cutting out highly-processed foods— start with these topics if you can’t find common ground with regard to type of diet.
  • Most evidence-based healthy diets have the following in common:
    • Fresh produce every day.
    • Focus on plant foods
    • Cutting  out highly processed foods
    • Limit or cut out red and processed meat and focus on healthier protein options.
    • Eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages and juices—makings water the drink of choice.
  • Portion size: Portion size is relevant for families with high energy dense diets in order to maintain or lose weight. For families following a plant based diet portion size can be unregulated since the diet is lower in calorie density and can be provided in bigger portions. For families and children the idea of not limiting the portion size is favourable, especially families that have tried diets that left them feeling hungry.
  • For people trying to lose weight, manage blood sugar, or maintain energy throughout the day, make sure meals and snacks include foods that contain fiber, healthy proteins (ideally plant-based), and healthy fats (ideally from whole, plant foods).

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  • Know that healthy food can be delicious and present it as such. If families aren’t finding healthy food to be delicious, work with them to figure out what the specific issues are or refer them to someone who can. Generally, altering cooking techniques, seasonings, or substituting other food options can address this issue.
  • Practice mindful eating; avoid mindless eating.
  • Cooking together as a family: Learn to cook and eat together as a family. Incorporate all family members in shopping and meal planning processes. Discuss healthy lifestyle and set goals together


NOVA Classification

  • A classification in 4 groups to highlight the degree of processing of foods
  • System of grades from 1 to 4 to allow to simply compare the degree of processing of products
  • The NOVA classification assigns a group to food products based on how much processing they have been through

  • Group 1 – Unprocessed or minimally processed foods
  • Group 2 – Processed culinary ingredients
  • Group 3 – Processed foods
  • Group 4 – Ultra-processed food and drink products

More information and examples of the NOVA classification can be found here