March is always an exciting time of year. The snow is starting to melt, days are longer, and fresh garden produce is just around the corner. And it’s Nutrition Month, that special part of the year where dietitians like me put a little extra effort into sharing what we love about food, why eating well is worth it, and how to do it while living your busy life. This year, the theme is Unlock the Potential of Food. Dietitians help Canadians realize the potential of food to fuel, discover, prevent, heal, and bring us together.
And we recognize that there are barriers to eating well. On a national scale, one of the biggest barriers is a lack of food skills. Compared to 80 years ago, when industrial food production barely existed and families had little choice but to cook every day, Canadians have diminished food skills, skip meals more often, rely on snacks, and struggle to fit healthy eating into their work-life balance.
It’s tough to make it all work. But if you practice your food skills, eating well gets to be easy, even automatic. Read on for a few thoughts, tips, and take-away messages for each of this year’s themes.
Potential to Fuel: Choose Healthy Snacks
The truth is, snacking can be a part of a healthy diet so long as we choose ordinary foods and drinks rather than always reaching for less-healthy and highly-processed options. Here’s some examples of healthy snacks from Dietitians of Canada.
Potential to Discover: Learn to Cook
Whether you are working on developing your own cooking skills, or have kids at home that haven’t yet taken over cooking dinner for you, it’s great to get together in the kitchen and practice some basic food skills.
- Find an easy recipe that features fresh, whole ingredients (Here’s some!)
- Read the recipe, looking up any food or cooking terms that aren’t familiar.
- Pick out the ingredients, finding good quality and value for your food dollars.
- Wash, chop, and organize food in your kitchen. If it’s easy to see and use, you’re more likely to eat it.
- Cook! Try to relax, have fun, and take it step-by-step. You’ll appreciate what you’ve made so much more. (Though shortcuts like buying readymade bread or sauces can be totally worthwhile, too.)
Potential to Prevent: Understand how to design a lifestyle to stay well
Whether you’re concerned about developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or dementia, a healthy eating pattern can help. And the key foods and principles are about the same. Yes, eat vegetables, fruit, whole grains, plant-based protein, nuts and more.
Potential to Heal: The right food enhances lives and improves health.
By collaborating with the rest of the health care team, and using our specific expertise with food and nutrition, dietitians like me get to help clients in a wide range of situations improve their health.
- Have prediabetes? Lifestyle interventions can reduce your risk of progressing to Type 2 diabetes by up to 70%.
- Have cholesterol or blood pressure concerns? Up to 30% of your values are influenced by food choices.
- Suffering with Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Symptoms are significantly reduced or eliminated in 70-80% of people following dietitian-designed digestive programs.
I find it fun and exciting to help people with health challenges to understand food, embrace it, and enjoy eating well.
Potential to Bring Us Together: Enjoy the benefits of bringing families and friends together with food.
Are you missing the skills needed to make a meal everyone will like? Or are you worried that what you can make won’t live up to Pinterest standards? The truth is, when we get together over a meal, it’s about so much more than the food. Eating a meal together has the potential to open dialogue, connect people, and happens to support healthier eating, too.
So make something simple, and eat it together.
Need some help getting started? I provide meal planning support for singles, couples and families, with recipes that are healthy, tasty, and good for everyone. Learn more here.
Wishing you health & happiness,
Nicole Pulvermacher, Registered Dietitian