One thing I especially remember from my childhood is my mom’s intense faith and her love of preparing food for family and friends. She passed those values on to me, and today a good part of my day is spent sharing those values with patients in my practice.
When I speak of faith, I’m referring to a respect for self and others who surround us. A faithful person spreads optimism, not gloom. A faithful person takes responsibility for children, spouses, and friends. That faithful responsibility my mother commanded in the kitchen I grew up in has great merit in today’s society.
A large part of that responsibility is thinking about what we feed our loved ones. When planning, preparing, and sitting down for the family meal this holiday season, remember that taking care of others includes a concern about their health. That starts with good nutrition.
The family meal is a powerful way to demonstrate what I mean by faith, or responsibility for each other. A family that gets together regularly over a nutritious meal builds closer, lifetime bonds. That gathering can be a springboard for healthier habits, closer relationships, and better overall health and happiness.
We are still facing an epidemic of obesity in this country. Nearly 40 percent of adults—more than 93 million people—are overweight or obese. The complications of obesity include everything from heart disease to diabetes to nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL), the latter of which is my area of expertise. And it’s costing more than a billion dollars a year to care for these diseases—obese people have more than $1,400 in annual medical costs than normal-weight individuals. And an estimated 30.3 million people have diabetes, but more than 7 million don’t even know it. Yet, half of the total U.S. population eats less than one cup of fruit and less than 1.5 cups of vegetables in a day.
It’s time we start making healthier eating choices. What better way to build good memories than during a meal prep session in the kitchen, and then by gathering around a table of flavorful, yet healthier foods?
And while you’re being thankful, consider starting the meal with a family prayer or a round of blessings—what is each person at the table blessed with?
For me and my family, those blessings are something we count every day. Among what I count as blessings is the knowledge and skill that I am able to share every day with patients who are on the path to life-threatening illness. I want them to know what my mother instilled in me—that a lifestyle focused on food, faith, and family can make them healthier and happier for life.