COMMENTARY

Is Avoiding Grains a Mistake?

Neal D. Barnard, MD

Disclosures

February 26, 2014

In This Article

How to Do It in Your Practice

But how do we encourage our patients to change?

Here's how we do it with diabetic patients, but it works just as well with other conditions: When you see patients in your practice, invite them to attend an evening group session, which you schedule at a convenient time. Just as your office staff is turning out the lights at 5 PM, one staffer -- a nurse, dietitian, physician, or health coach -- turns the lights back on, puts the waiting room chairs in a circle, and welcomes 15-20 patients for a lecture. The staffer presents a simple class, or even easier, hits "play" on a DVD player, showing a short video. Twenty minutes later, the patients have learned how a plant-based diet works and the potential benefits it offers.

Now that patients are intrigued, everyone is asked to jot down ideas for plant-based foods that they would like to try. Common breakfast choices are oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins, a half-cantaloupe, whole-grain cereal with soy milk, rye or pumpernickel toast, veggie sausage, or tofu scramble. Lunch might be lentil soup, split-pea soup, or white bean chili with crusty bread and steamed vegetables. Or maybe pizza without cheese, but with extra sauce and veggie toppings. Dinner could be a green salad and a bowl of minestrone, followed by angel-hair pasta with artichoke hearts, seared oyster mushrooms, and chunky tomatoes, along with spinach lightly sautéed in garlic. Over the next week or so, participants are asked simply to test out these foods to see which ones they like.

One week later, everyone comes back to the office to compare notes. By now, they have a good feel for plant-based foods they enjoy. The next step is a 3-week test drive. For 21 days, everyone sets aside animal products and keeps oils to a minimum, with weekly meetings for support.

After 3 weeks, many choose to make the plant-based diet a permanent lifestyle change. They recognize how simple it is and like the feeling of taking control of their health, and they want to continue eating the foods that promote optimal health. They also notice that their tastes are changing so as to embrace new, healthy foods. We have codified this program into a simple curriculum that we make available to clinicians anywhere.

It's time to give that whipping boy a reprieve. Healthy grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits have power that no other regimen can match.

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