Every year dietitians across North America celebrate Nutrition Month—a chance to raise awareness about the importance of eating well and the role of dietitians to support you in your journey to improved health.
This year’s theme is “more than food” and builds upon messages in the new (2019) Canada’s Food Guide that “healthy eating is more than the foods you eat. It is also about where, when, why and how you eat.”
The first suggestion is to be mindful of our eating habits. This involves taking time to eat as we can all find ourselves getting busy and eating ‘on the run’ whether in our cars, while running between meetings or standing over the kitchen sink. When we eat too quickly, we may not chew as thoroughly as we need to break down our food for proper digestion. We may also fail to notice when we are hungry and when we are full. If we eat too quickly, we do not give our bodies time to register the nutrient intake and hormonal response that tells us to stop eating. This can lead to unnecessary second helpings and excess nutrients.
The second suggestion is to cook more often by planning what to eat and involving others in planning and preparing meals, especially our children. It may not be the most fun thing to do on a Saturday, but if we make a loose meal plan and grocery list for the week, we can then shop to ensure we have all those foods in the house. It makes it so much easier to come home after a long day and know what to make. Sometimes the decision is the hardest part! Try to remember to check the fridge and freezer to see what needs to be used up as the starting point of your meal plan—this helps to prevent food waste which costs us all in so many ways.
The third suggestion is to enjoy food and that culture and food traditions can be a part of healthy eating. Our celebratory foods are often higher in sugar, salt and saturated fat. This doesn’t mean they cannot be part of a healthy diet. If we eat them in moderation, then we should not feel guilty about them. We can also develop food traditions in our families that centre around healthier foods like vegetables and fruit, plant-based proteins, fish and seafood and whole, unrefined grains (like our recipe for a Med Spread, which could easily become a weekly family staple).
The final suggestion is to eat meals with others, especially our families. Research shows that children who grow up eating family meals tend to make healthier food choices for a lifetime and have more positive mental health and family connectedness. It’s a time we can spend hearing about each other’s days and also appreciate the wonderful food we are eating together—another way to build food literacy in our children.
So in March and always, think about where, when, why and how we eat. And if these are a struggle, seek support from Registered Dietitians by phoning HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 to access live dietitians Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 for free from anywhere in the province. Or visit www.healthlinkbc.ca where hundreds of topics related to food and nutrition are available that can be trusted to provide the most accurate and reliable information.