April 1, 2019

Center for Healthy Living offers education, programming focused on plant-based diets

Fruits and vegetables Center for Healthy Living on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus can assist benefits-eligible employees with plant-based diets and nutrition. (Photo provided) Download image

As we enter April, which is recognized each year as “National Garden Month,” it’s a good time to mention that the staff at the Center for Healthy Living on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus can assist benefits-eligible employees with plant-based diets and nutrition (or any type of lifestyle eating plan they follow or are interested in learning more about).

Plant-based diets

“Your diet is, by definition, the food choices that you habitually make,” says Megan Shidler, registered dietitian at the center. “When referring to a plant-based diet, it traditionally means a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes with minimal meat and dairy consumption.”

However, there are varying degrees of approach when it comes to plant-based diets from very restrictive to more flexible as outlined below:

  • Vegan approach – excludes all animal products, including eggs, dairy, honey, etc.
  • Vegetarian approach – generally excludes meat, poultry and fish, but includes eggs and dairy.
  • Pescetarian approach – excludes only meat and poultry and allows seafood, fish, etc.

Shidler, who believes that food is a powerful medicine that can cure and prevent disease, also views disease prevention, weight loss and plant-based eating among her professional interests and specializations. It makes sense, considering some benefits of plant-based diets include:

  • Preventing chronic diseases.
  • Improving mood.
  • Protecting cardiovascular health.
  • Keeping off excess weight.
  • Improving longevity and energy.
  • “Research shows that increasing plant foods in our diets can aid in weight loss, increase energy levels, help regulate blood glucose, reduce risk for heart disease and more,” Shidler says. “And I think that it’s reasonable to believe that improving your physical well-being through food and nutrition can lead to noticeable improvements in your mental well-being as well.”


Complete Health Improvement Program logo

Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP)

Throughout the year (three times in 2019), CHL (in conjunction with the Lifestyle Medicine Institute) offers the Complete Health Improvement Program -- a lifestyle intervention program that focuses on whole-person health with plant-based eating at its core.

Designed to help participants make changes to their lifestyles through education, practical experience and reinforcement with a focus on behavior change, CHIP is facilitated by Shidler and Whiney Soto, registered nurse health coach at CHL, over 18 sessions in a group setting.  

“The program integrates optimal nutrition, exercise and behavioral psychology principles and tools,” Soto says. “Participants will receive a comprehensive tool kit, resources for help with cooking, food prep, exercise, online program content and much more.” 

Feedback from previous participants reflect a unanimous “highly satisfied” rating for the program in general. Comments shared include:

“I am thankful I was able to participate in this program. Many opportunities such as this program are based on current weight, health, etc. Glad this is open to everyone. Great job, Whitney and Megan! Thank you for preparing food for us to try!”

“Really appreciated all the extra resources shared by the coaches and group. I wish it could go on longer. I am going to miss the group setting and the encouragement from everybody.”

“Really loved this class. I’ve learned a lot and I hope we can do our own support group to keep the momentum going.”

“I am so thankful that I was able to participate in this program. I learned so much! I needed something to motivate me to live a healthier lifestyle, and this was it!”

“I really enjoyed the class and learned a lot about eating and how it affects our health. It has really helped me health wise.”

According to Soto, it means a lot to hear the positive feedback from past participants and confirms the program is helping and proving to be beneficial to the health and well-being of Purdue employees.

“It’s so nice to hear that the participants are satisfied with the program,” Soto says. “We are always working to provide more resources that support the university’s initiative to improve overall health and wellness throughout the Purdue community. CHIP can help participants by significantly reducing the common risk factors for lifestyle diseases (such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and more) and also improve their health knowledge, energy, desire to exercise, resilience and life fulfilment. Our health risk reduction results from our summer 2018 class also provide evidence that the program works.”

Overall health-risk reduction results for summer 2018 participants were as follows:

  • 4 percent decrease in weight.
  • 8 percent decrease in total cholesterol.
  • 7 percent decrease in LDL levels.
  • 3 percent decrease in triglyceride levels.
  • Significant decrease in A1C also was noted.

Learn more

The next CHIP session begins April 16 and meets Tuesdays and Thursdays through June 20. There are still a few spots open and will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Those interested in learning more, registering or being added to a wait list for future program offerings, can call the CHL at 765-494-0111 to schedule with a health coach or can register to meet with a health coach on the Healthy Boiler Portal. (Registration form is located under the Engage tab, Wellness Events.) For program screening purposes, all interested participants will meet with (in person or via phone) a health coach before registration is confirmed.

Center for Healthy Living programs and workshops are free for benefits-eligible faculty and staff and for spouses covered on a Purdue medical plan. Adult dependents covered on a Purdue medical plan, as well as benefits-eligible employees who have opted out of a Purdue medical plan, also can attend free of charge.

The center is open for appointments Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Friday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Lab hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Questions can be directed to the center at 765-494-0111.

Faculty-Staff News

More News

Purdue University, 610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-4600

© 2015-20 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by Office of Strategic Communications

Trouble with this page? Disability-related accessibility issue? Please contact News Service at purduenews@purdue.edu.