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Nutrition

Tips for planning a Healthy Diet

Healthy eating is not about strict nutrition philosophies, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. It’s about feeling great, having more energy, stabilizing your mood, and living an optimal life. Here are some nutrition basics and tips to help expand your range of healthy food choices and assist in planning ahead to eat tasty and healthy foods.

Keep a food diary for the next seven days

What kind of foods do you eat every day? Take a step back and look at your food choices by recording what you eat in a personal food diary. This will help you become more aware of your food choices - what do you need to eat more of and areas to cut back. Is there a good mix of fruit and vegetables? Are you consuming a lot of fast food/processed foods? Are portion sizes too small or too large?


Use this information to adjust your food choices. But remember, these habits have formed over years so have patience and be kind to yourself.

  • Start slow and make changes to your eating habits over time. Make small steps, like adding a salad (full of different coloured vegetables) to your meals once a day or choosing whole grain breads. Over time, your small changes will become habit.
  • Every change you make to improve your habits matter. Remember, the long term goal is to feel good, have more energy, and reduce the risk of cancer and disease. Every healthy food choice you make counts. Don’t berate yourself over small missteps in food choices.

Stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking water

Drinking water before each meal helps you feel full and, as a result, can help prevent you from overeating. Water helps flush our systems of waste products and toxins, yet many people go through life dehydrated—causing tiredness, low energy, and headaches. It’s common to mistake thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated will also help you make healthier food choices.
 
A simple healthy change in your diet is as easy as choosing water over sweetened soft drinks or diet drinks.

Moderation is key

Everyone needs a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to sustain a healthy body. So don’t think about eliminating foods, but balancing your diet.

Boost fibre intake

It’s estimated that Canadians get only half the fibre they need each day. Adequate intake of fibre will help with digestion, and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Fill up on colorful fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are key to preventing disease. They are low in calories and high in nutrients – packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Try to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day and with every meal—the brighter the better. Colourful, deeply coloured fruits and vegetables contain higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants—and different colours provide different benefits, so eat a variety. Aim for a minimum of five portions each day.

Eat Healthier Carbs

Choose healthy carbohydrates and fiber sources, for long lasting energy. To name a few: brown rice, sweet potatoes, fruits.

Choose healthy fats and avoid unhealthy fats

Good sources of healthy fat are needed to nourish your brain, heart, and cells, as well as your hair, skin, and nails. Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA are particularly important and can reduce cardiovascular disease, improve your mood, and help prevent dementia.

Put protein in perspective

Protein gives us the energy to get up and go—and keep going. Protein in food is broken down into the 20 amino acids that are the body’s basic building blocks for growth and energy, and essential for maintaining cells, tissues, and organs. A lack of protein in our diet can slow growth, reduce muscle mass, lower immunity, and weaken the heart and respiratory system. Protein is particularly important for children, whose bodies are growing and changing daily.

Here are some guidelines for including protein in your healthy diet:

Try different types of protein. Whether or not you are a vegetarian, trying different protein sources—such as beans, nuts, seeds, meat, and fish—will open up new options for healthy mealtimes.

  • Beans: Black beans, navy beans, garbanzos, and lentils
  • Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and pecans
  • Fish: Salmon, tilapia, shrimp
  • Avoid salted or sugary nuts and refried beans

Add calcium for strong bones

Calcium is one of the key nutrients that your body needs in order to stay strong and healthy. It is an essential building block for lifelong bone health in both men and women, as well as many other important functions. Bones benefit from eating plenty of calcium-rich foods, limiting foods that deplete your body’s calcium stores, and getting your daily dose of magnesium and vitamins D and K—nutrients that help calcium do its job. Vitamin D and calcium supplements are available if you don’t get enough of these nutrients from your diet.

Limit sugar and salt

If you succeed in planning your diet around fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and good fats, you may find yourself naturally cutting back on foods that can get in the way of your healthy diet like sugar and salt.

Sugar

Sugar causes energy ups and downs and can add to health and weight problems. Unfortunately, reducing the amount of candy, cakes, and desserts we eat is only part of the solution.  Large amounts of added sugar can be hidden in foods such as bread, canned soups and vegetables, pasta sauce, margarine, instant mashed potatoes, frozen dinners, fast food, soy sauce, and ketchup.

  • Avoid sugary drinks. One 12-oz soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar in it. Try sparkling water with slices of lemon or oranges. Or simply choose water.
  • Eat naturally sweet food such as fruit, peppers, or natural peanut butter 

Salt

Eating too much salt can cause high blood pressure and lead to other health problems. Try to limit your sodium intake.

  • Avoid processed or pre-packaged foods. Processed foods like canned soups or frozen dinners contain hidden sodium that quickly surpasses the recommended limit.
  • Be careful when eating out. Most restaurant and fast food meals are loaded with sodium.
  • Opt for fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned vegetables.
  • Cut back on salty snacks such as potato chips, nuts, and pretzels.
  • Choose low-salt or reduced-sodium products.
  • Try slowly reducing the salt in your diet to give your taste buds time to adjust.

 These are only recommended guidelines. Be sure to consult with your doctor or a healthcare consultant to plan a healthy diet to suit your individual needs.

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