From heart health to stronger bones, better digestion and staying energized, what we eat either helps or hinders us. Get back on track by eating real food that nourishes your body.
If you want to have energy throughout the day for all the activities you do, it is important to eat every five to six hours. This is an opportunity to eat healthy foods more often! Choose a meal or a snack you prefer, but focus on foods that nourish your body and provide energy. If you wonder about what foods to choose and how much, turn to Canada’s Food Guide (visit www.healthcanada.gc.ca/foodguide).
Try to keep snacks within about 200 calories. Include a glass of milk or fortified soy beverage with grain or fruit to boost both energy and calcium.
Although no meal is more important than another, nearly 30 per cent of our population still skips breakfast. Kick-start your day! Try yogurt and a banana, an egg on toast, a cheese string and apple, or cereal and milk.
By focusing on reducing fat in your diet, you shave off calories. Make sure you have a small amount of healthy unsaturated fat (30 to 45 millilitres or two to three tablespoons) each day. This includes oil used for cooking, salad dressings and mayonnaise. You do not need highly processed fried foods and baked goods.
Protein-rich foods delay the rate at which food empties from your stomach. This helps you feel full longer. High-protein snack choices include nuts, soy nuts, edamame, hard-boiled eggs, part-skim cheese, yogurt and soy milk. Individual portion packs of tuna, cottage cheese and dessert tofu are great options too.
Choose low glycemic index (GI) rather than processed foods. The GI indicates how carbohydrate-rich foods affect blood glucose (sugar) levels after eating. Most highly processed grain products, such as white bread, white rice, cereal bars and sweets, have a high GI that spikes blood glucose. Replace calories from refined (white) starchy food with minimally processed grains like brown rice, whole wheat pasta, steel-cut or large flake oats, and whole-grain bread. Legumes, vegetables and whole fruits also have a low GI. These foods lead to a slower rise in blood glucose after they are eaten.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. If you want circles, slice the baguette in quarter-inch slices. For a rectangle shape, slice off both sides of the crust, leaving only the top and bottom crust. Slice quarter-inch slices lengthwise through the top and down the side of the baguette. Brush one side with oil if desired and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the top with cheese. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. These freeze well.
Make sure you are serving yourself a healthy amount of food. If you think you might be slipping, bring out the measuring cups and food scales for a few weeks to get back in line.
Are you getting seven to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day? This food group provides an amazing amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals plus fibre. It’s an easy way to protect and strengthen your immune (defence) system, digestive system, heart health and eyesight. Plus, vegetables and fruit are low in calories. What’s not to love?
Milk and milk alternatives are wonderfully healthy, full of protein, calcium and vitamin D. Consuming milk and milk alternatives not only helps your bones stay strong, it keeps blood pressure under control and reduces your risk of heart disease.
Minimize sugar, candy, jam, and sugary beverages like pop. Keep desserts as a once-in-a-while treat.
Look at your eating behaviour. Be mindful about what and when you eat. Has eating in front of the TV or in the movie theatre become a habit?
Although many people still count calories and grams of fat, there is a definite trend towards eating healthy whole foods:
If your cooking skills have become a little rusty, take a deep breath and get back to it. When you make something for yourself, you know what is in it. Home-style cooking is back in fashion. Even restaurants are advertising menu items based on traditional home cooking, offering mac and cheese, meatloaf, old-fashioned Italian pasta dishes, country mashed potatoes, and fruit cobblers.
If you want to cut down on salt, avoid processed foods, fast foods, and most restaurant meals. The salt you use at home is the least of it.
Some convenience foods are certainly okay, but choose ones that help make a healthy meal. Frozen vegetables, such as frozen cubed butternut squash, can save you time. Different ethnic sauces can make a dish with lots of vegetables and lean meat come alive. Vegetarian and meatless meals are everywhere and can be embraced, whether you are vegetarian or not. Legumes, whole grains, tofu, cheese and eggs are the trendy choice – at least once in a while.
Ancient grains like quinoa, millet, spelt and kamut, oatmeal, and barley flakes have gone mainstream. Many new cookbooks feature easy delicious ways to cook these healthy grains.
When you are a thoughtful shopper and cook from scratch, it is easy to eat in a healthier way. Shopping for healthy food goes beyond label reading. The nutrition facts panel is a starting point. Next, look at the ingredient list. If it is really long, think twice about getting the item.
More and more, grocery stores are selling locally produced foods. Next time you are at the store, ask about Canadian-produced foods, especially produce, meat, fish and chicken. The number of community farmers’ markets has increased our awareness of where and how our food is produced. It is a win-win solution – you eat better while supporting the local economy and farmers.
Replace processed packaged foods with a healthy Canadian-grown diet. Think canola oil, pulses (lentils, dried beans, chick peas), honey, kale, barley, flax, oats, blueberries, beef, bison, wild salmon, yogurt and cheese. Don’t forget the variety of vegetables and fruits available in the summer and fall.
Eating healthy foods is challenging. Focusing on ‘real’ whole foods makes the job easier. Reality check, yes!