Nov. 15, 2016

March is Nutrition Month!

Health & Nutrition

We all know that nutrition is the cornerstone of health and studies consistently show that when it comes to increasing both lifespan and healthspan, diet comes out on top; good nutrition can not only add years to your life, but life to your years too. The key is to make lasting changes that you can maintain in the long run.

March is nutrition month and this year’s theme, “Take a 100 Meal Journey”, is all about making small changes instead of trying to make a sweeping comprehensive dietary overhaul and with good reason, research shows that people do better with small, incremental changes.  Since we eat about 100 meals in a month, give or take, making small tweaks to the everyday meals you consume can add really add up; like entries in a ledger, your nutritional bottom line will improve painlessly.

Although March is wrapping up, it’s never too late to make a pledge to eat better and this year’s nutrition month offers 5 tips to help you get in the right frame of mind and on track without resorting to any gimmicks.

Step 1 – Get Ready!

Committing to make a healthy change is the first step, take some time, maybe a week or so, to get prepared mentally, set some goals, and to consider some of the suggestions to support your 100 meal journey. Think about some of the changes you want to make; you’ll have great success with the changes you’re most confident about and that are the easiest to do.

For example:

• Add more vegetables to your plate

• Think about your pantry and cupboards; do they need a nutritional upgrade?

• Serve smaller portions

• Have a piece of fruit and yogurt instead of a coffee shop muffin

Post your healthy eating goals where you can see them to help keep them top of mind like in the kitchen or at your desk. Enlist a friend to take the journey with you, someone who will support, not sabotage, your efforts.

Step 2 – Quality Counts!

For years the focus has been on calories, calories, calories. While it’s true that calories count, they don’t say anything about quality; a lower calorie food doesn’t necessarily mean it’s nutrient-dense. Nourishing foods promote health. Take small steps to bump up the quality of your food choices and the rest will fall into place:

• A smoothie made with yogurt, berries, ground flax, and baby spinach packs more nutrition than a pastry and coffee with cream and sugar does.

• Add cooked lentils to your ground meat mixtures for extra minerals, vitamins and fiber

• Add sliced hard-boiled eggs to your salad

Step 3 – Prioritize Portion Size!

No one will deny that portions are out of control; it’s estimated that we are eating between 300 to 400 more calories today than we did about 30 years ago. Distraction is another reason why we over consume; eating in front of the TV, computer or on the run. Controlling how much you eat can start with:

• Skipping appetizers at the restaurant

• Split an entrée or save half for leftovers

• Enjoy quality family dining time, turn off the screens during meals; it will help you to not eat mindlessly

• Slow down and savour the meal; stop when you’re comfortably full

Step 4 – Try Something New!

Variety is the spice of life. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be bland; keep it interesting and be creative with meal prep and cooking. Try the following for a new twist:

• Sautee apples and chopped walnuts in a little butter, dust with cinnamon. Pour the mixture on some plain yogurt

• Add pasteurized egg whites and chickpeas to your smoothie for extra protein, fiber, and minerals

• Grainy mustard and lemon pairs well and adds tanginess to fish, like cod

Step 5 – Make It Stick!

You will encounter barriers like a lack of time, holidays, and stress; we all have challenges that can tug at and derail us. Tips to stay on track include revisiting and reviewing your goals, as well as, making it easy for healthy eating to fit into your schedule. As the saying goes, the best offense is a good defense:

• Stock you kitchen with easy-to-include foods like pre-cut veggies, canned fish and pulses (chickpeas, lentils, dried peas & beans), nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and single-serve yogurt

• Keep some hard-boiled eggs on hand for a quick snack or nutritious ‘add-on’ to any meal

• Cook in batches on the weekend and freeze in single serve portions

• Cook once. Eat twice. Make more food than you need for one meal and have the leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.

Thanks to our Guest Blogger

Doug Cook, RD MHSc

Doug Cook, RD MHSc is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Diabetes Educator working both in hospital and private practice in Toronto. He uses an integrative and holistic approach to nutritional counselling providing science-based guidance on food and diet along with judicious use of nutritional supplements where appropriate. He also co-authored “Nutrition for Canadians for Dummies” (Wiley 2008).