Joanne SmithI’m often asked by my clients, what’s the best diet to follow? My immediate answer is not to follow diets because they don’t work. What does work, however, is establishing healthy, life-long eating habits. And consistent, healthy eating patterns are even more critical for people with mobility impairments who are at high risk of developing obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Studies demonstrate one of the healthiest approaches to eating for both those with and without disabilities is the Mediterranean diet. The diet is built on eating lots of fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains and healthy fats, and less dairy, sweets and meat. Processed foods, refined sugars and bleached flour are out, while fresh produce, natural sugars and whole grains are in.

Because of all this, Mediterranean cuisine is high in fiber and healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats, and low in refined sugar. The healthy fats help prevent high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, the fiber balances blood sugar levels to help maintain a healthy weight and the absence of refined sugar reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Mediterranean eating habits can also reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, ease osteoarthritis pain and help prevent and/or decrease healing time of pressure sores.

On a recent trip to the beautiful island of Sicily, whose cuisine falls under the Mediterranean diets, I learned that Sicilians have an increased life expectancy compared to their Italian mainland counterparts.