Life Well Lived: The health and wholeness resurgence

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Trying to get healthy? Visit your local farmer's market to eat fresh and support local farmers while you're at it (File photo)
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By Mara Benner

Have you heard about the Military Diet? This diet fad encourages eating processed foods like hot dogs and saltine crackers. The only restriction is a daily intake of 1,000 calories. It made the Reader’s Digest “Top 10 Diets in 2018 that Need to Disappear.”

Diet fads and mixed messaging on healthy nutrition is confusing. Luckily, new trends are seeing a return to food basics. Resources such as the United States Department of Agriculture’s My Plate (www.choosemyplate.com) initiative are a good start. My Plate helps encourage small healthy changes and nutritious eating, while offering beneficial recipes. The website takes into consideration budgetary options and seasonal nutritional considerations.

Nutritional and healthy eating is experiencing a resurgence. Even national organizations are supporting the trend. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recently published information on fad diets encouraging their readers to be wary of any diet plans, pills and products that make claims of rapid weight loss, no limitations on food, rigid menus
and/or no need to exercise. The organization stated “The bottom line is simple: if a diet or product sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

While a quick diet may be helpful for getting into your new swimsuit this summer, growing numbers of Americans are being diagnosed with chronic illnesses tied, in part, to a lack of good nutrition. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that approximately half of all Americans, or about 117 million people, have one or more chronic health conditions that can be partly blamed on poor nutrition choices. Those conditions may include health ailments like strokes, Type 2 Diabetes and obesity, among others.

The National Institutes of Health estimates that 23.5 million Americans suffer from autoimmune illnesses and these individuals are encouraged to review their diets to support health and healing. After receiving the news that someone is now living with a chronic illness, the medical team’s first recommendation is usually to review the person’s diet and exercise routine. Improvements in both areas have shown to be instrumental in the quality of the person’s life.

The USDA’s My Plate initiative recognizes that Americans are increasingly living with long-term illnesses mostly associated with poor diets. They encourage individuals to develop healthy eating patterns, emphasizing that “everything we eat and drink matters.” The My Plate initiative helps individuals bring healthy choices back into his or her home and personal lifestyle.

As Alexandrians, we have a variety of options that empower us to make healthier choices. There are five farmer’s markets within city limits where seasonal fruits and vegetables may be purchased from area farmers.

  • Old Town Farmer’s Market, 301 King St., Saturdays, 7 a.m. to noon
  • Four Mile Run Farmer’s and Artisans Market, 4109 Mt. Vernon Ave., Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • West End Farmer’s Market, 4800 Ben Brenman Park, Sundays, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Del Ray Farmer’s Market, Corner of East Oxford & Mount Vernon Avenue, Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Old Town North Farmer’s Market, 901 North Royal St., Thursdays, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m

More and more Alexandria diners support farm-to-table restaurants, including Bon Vivant Café + Farm Market, Virtue Feed & Grain, Del Ray Café and Vermilion. Even national restaurants are offering healthier options, like Sweetgreen and Cava.

Instead of grabbing a sugary soda during an afternoon break, more locals
are heading to the juice bar. South Block Juice Bar, for example, has opened locations in Del Ray and Old Town and Grateful Kitchen Co. will open soon in North Old Town.

Healthier food options are the new trend, but it’s still a bit confusing to determine what truly is a healthy option. If you want additional support or are dealing with a food intolerance, chronic illness or other nutritional concerns, the best option is to seek a professional and qualified nutritionist for guidance. Your physician or healthcare team can offer you recommendations.

Mara Benner is the founder of Four Directions Wellness, connecting body, mind, emotions and spirit. The organization is affiliated with the G.W. Center for Integrative Medicine. Benner is also a member of the Del Ray Business Association’s Well Ray community.

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