Diet Improved Nutrition Program: Leafy Green Challenge

Diet Improved Nutrition Program: Leafy Green Challenge

Katherine Mattox, RDN

Today is my first day of following the Diet Improved Nutrition Program. This first week could easily be renamed the “leafy green challenge” week or “green vegetable challenge” week. Also known as “week 1” to anyone who has done the program before, this first week of clean eating is designed to quickly reduce inflammation, reset your taste buds to reduce sugar cravings, and support healthy weight loss. The secret weapon for this first week is to eat an abundant amount of leafy greens. Ideally include leafy green vegetables with all meals (or at a minimum 2 meals per day).

The bigger goal of following the steps in the Diet Improved Nutrition Education program is to improve eating behavior and build lasting healthy habits. Mindfully eating large amounts of leafy green vegetables for the first 3 days of the nutrition plan is designed to reinforce the high priority of consuming green plant foods, encourage patients to get creative with the numerous ways to prepare and serve greens, and establish the daily habit of adding green vegetables to their diets.

In the past I recommended patients focus on only eating leafy greens as their vegetable choice for the first 3 days but as the program has evolved so have the recommendations. The focus of the updated program is to consume leafy greens (spinach, kale, romaine, any  salad greens etc.) as well as add in any other green vegetable desired such as broccoli, asparagus, bok choy, cabbage and cucumbers in the first week starting with the first day of the eating plan. 

I’m committing to following the nutrition program for a few weeks to reestablish healthier everyday food habits (to be honest- it’s to allow the healthy habits to replace some unhealthy choices that have started to become habits over the last few months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic). First priority is to eat green vegetables every day for many health benefits:

  1. Leafy greens are energizing due to their abundance of chlorophyll and alkalinizing properties in the body. 
  2. Leafy greens are a rich source of both B vitamins and vitamin C to support immune health during this pandemic as well as support my stress response to all the change that is happening around me. 
  3. Leafy greens have been studied to help support mood and according to a 2018 literature review of antidepressant nutrients related to the prevention and treatment of depressive disorders, leafy greens rank as the top food for mood. Leafy greens are a rich source of Folate, a B-vitamin that is associated with a reduced risk of depression.   

When speaking with friends, coworkers and patients about how they are feeling about themselves and their food choices right now, the feedback is that stress is changing how we feel in our bodies (both our moods and physical body type), and driving less favorable food and drink decisions. My body may always feel a little different after this year independent of how cleanly I eat or how much I exercise, but what I want the most right now is the peace I feel within myself when I know I’m taking good care of myself mentally and physically. Bring on the green vegetables.

If you want to join the Diet Improved Nutrition Program we are hosting virtual group meetings Wednesday evenings starting September 30th. The cost of the program is $250 and includes five cumulative virtual group classes that follow the outline of the nutrition education program as well as two virtual or in person 30-minute dietitian appointments. Use your dietitian appointments in October or November to customize your program, troubleshoot problems and for accountability and support. To reserve your space call Alliance Integrative Medicine at 513-791-5521. 


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