It Only Takes 5 Minutes…

beautiful woman laughing and holding shopping bag with groceries, in kitchen, with a man smiling and trying to help her

As a naturopathic physician, one of the things I always stress to my patients is the importance of a healthy, clean, whole food diet. Most people know that a meal of vegetables and legumes is a healthier choice than a burger, fries, and a soda. But when hunger strikes… the temptation of a quick, easy, inexpensive meal often wins out. Herein lies the importance of a five minute conversation that was the subject of fascinating recent article.

In a new study out of the University of Michigan, researchers underscored the enormously positive impact of a five minute chat about nutrition. For their study, researchers talked to low income families in health clinic waiting rooms about their eligibility for the Double Up Food Bucks program. This program doubles the worth of food assistance funds when used to buy fruits and vegetables. The chats lasted about five minutes, and the study went on for three months.

The results, as discussed in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, were wildly successful in terms of families buying more fruits and vegetables. In fact, researchers observed a four-fold rise in how much participants used the Double Up program. It seems that many families involved in the study did not know that their food assistance dollars would go further when buying healthy produce. A simple five minute chat led to more healthy foods in their meals, in a short period of time.

On the success of the study, and its wide impact, Dr. Alicia Cohen, the lead author of the study, explained:

“Dozens of states now have incentives to encourage healthy eating, but many eligible families do not take advantage of these programs. We found that lack of awareness was a major reason for underuse. We heard over and over again, ‘If I had known about this program before, I would have used it a long time ago…’ Our work suggests providing information about healthy food incentives at the doctor’s office is a low cost, easily implemented intervention that may lead to healthier diets among communities at the highest risk of diet-related disease.”

Although this study was centered around low income families and a financial incentive to purchase fresh fruits and veggies, short chats can inspire big changes in everyone. There’s a healthy incentive for everyone to eat fresh, whole foods, and a financial incentive which comes in the form of a lower risk of medical bills for chronic disease in the future. These incentives are significant, as they can positively impact your life for years to come.

In short, it’s up to us: doctors, family, friends, and loved ones, to inspire people to improve their diets. Sometimes it just requires a bit of a reminder… five minutes can bring big results.

– Dr. Joshua Levitt