Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
July 23, 2018
The big switch in on.
It seems that many people want to switch to healthy. The big question is, “What is healthy?” While there are many ideas out there, it is a fact that over the course of human evolution, nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory ways of eating have served societies the best. These plant and animal sources were endemic to where these peoples thrived.
“Nutrient-dense” means that there are many nutrients per calorie of food. “Anti-inflammatory” means that these foods do not cause inflammation in the gut and into the blood system.
Talking With Patients
I discuss with all my patients the benefits of nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory food choices. But, not in overly complex terms. Actually, I explain how to switch to healthy and eliminate the not-so-healthy.
I have learned that if I want to bring up the subject for patients to switch to healthy, I need to be supportive and not condemning. Patients need to feel a need to change. They need to have an emotional “Why?” for this to happen. They need to make this “change” their own.
Most importantly, I must offer appropriate and appetizing food substitutions up front in order for patients to see better options. They need to know there are substitutes for bread and pasta that will satisfy. They need to know there are yummy snack replacements. If I can’t offer appealing choices, I could turn them off right from the beginning.
So, this is my secret to help patients. Give them tempting and delicious ideas and recipes that can replace those not-so-healthy foods they are eating every day. Sometimes we talk taking “slow, baby steps”; other times we talk jumping in “all at once”. These approaches are based on what the patient needs.
Initially, I point out the major offending foods that are inflammatory and provide little nutrition. Here are the major “food categories” that are not-so-healthy:
- Grains (especially gluten grains)
- Free sugars (sugars that are added to foods)
- Over-processed seed and vegetable oils
- Pasteurized milk products
- Processed and packaged foods, which have added preservatives, emulsifiers, and chemicals
As I just noted, it is critical for me to offer delicious substitutions for these frequently consumed foods. If I were only to say, “Stop eating these foods” without giving suitable replacement choices, I would lose my patients at the start.
To that end, I created tables that identify various unhealthy choices along with my personal suggestions of healthier options that are available locally or online. In addition, I provide resources for many recipes and foods.
Also, I give patients my original recipes, which are on my website. For example, instead of bread made from grains, I offer my recipes for almond bread and cashew bread. Instead of wheat pancakes or oatmeal for breakfast, I give them my recipes for blueberry plantain pancakes and no-oat oatmeal. Instead of conventional pudding or apple pie for dessert, I provide my recipes for chocolate avocado pudding or apple crisp with honey.
Here are PDFs that offer some healthier alternatives for grains, sugars, and over-processed oils.
3-Day Food Journal
It is important for me to learn what my patients really are eating. Although many may tell me they already eat healthy, it is amazing to see their real diet when we get down to the nitty gritty. So, I give them my 3-Day Food Journal to fill out.
In this journal of three consecutive days, they list everything they eat and drink for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all snacks. This is detailed. They also note any exercise they are doing and specifics about their bowel movements. Here is the 3-Day Food Journal I give my patients to complete.
After they complete this journal, I sit down with them and figure out what foods are in the “bad” or “unhealthy” category. I make specific suggestions to replace these foods with more “healthy” and appetizing choices. Here is a summary form I prepare that points out my recommendations for the changes they may want to make.
Last, I give my patients my 30-Day Reset, which summarizes the healthiest foods, the foods to eat in moderation, and those foods that must be totally eliminated because they have few nutrients per calorie and are inflammatory to the body. Here is my 30-Day Reset.
Follow-up is critical for success. After my patients work on their diet for at least 30 days, we get together for another appointment. They complete a new 3-Day Food Journal, which we review. They usually have many questions, which I proceed to answer. We need to tweak some food choices and figure out solutions to the problems they have encountered.
Some patients need more one-on-one coaching going forward. If they need extra help, I offer my 12-Week Total-Body Coaching Program to help them personally navigate an overall lifestyle change for a lifetime.
All this is exciting!
The switch is on!
These people are effectively making their switch to healthy!