What is Healthy Eating?
Healthy eating is about making dietary choices based on the quality of the food, with the goal of supporting normal growth and development, and maintaining and maximizing your health today for vibrant health in the future.
Healthy eating means choosing high-quality foods. These are natural and whole foods that supply all our vital nutrients: fibre, protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, and phytonutrients – plant chemicals that impart their vital energy and array of immune-boosting and health-promoting actions within our body.
Healthy eating means enjoying nourishing foods and beverages 85% of the time, leaving room and flexibility for dining out with friends and family, or celebrating special occasions!
Tip #1: Understand Nutrition Facts Labelling on Packaged Foods
Understanding and reading food labels helps you make an informed selection when comparing products on store shelves. It will help you achieve your health goals by informing you of what you want and don’t want in your food choices. Whether you are shopping for yourself, for two, or a family, understanding food labels is an important step in helping to maintain long-term health.
There are a few keys parts on a nutrition label that help us determine the nutritional value of the packaged food, assisting us in making informed food choices that contribute to a healthy diet. The easiest way to read a nutrition label is to start from the top, and work your way down:
- Serving size: The size of the serving on the package influences the number of calories and all the nutrient amounts listed on the label.
- Calories: This provides a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of this food.
- % Daily Value (% DV): The % DV helps you see if a specific amount of food has a little or a lot of a nutrient per serving. 5% DV or less is a little; 15% DV or more is a lot.
- Nutrients: This section shows some key nutrients that have an impact on your health, and is typically broken down into two sections. The total fat, cholesterol, and sodium should be limited as most people tend to get enough of these on a daily basis. Dietary fibre, vitamins, and minerals tend to be limited in most diets, and can help improve your health.
- The ingredients list: Ingredients are always listed in descending order by weight, with the item in the greatest amount listed first. The ingredient list will also show if the food contains added sugars that we otherwise may not be aware of. If you are concerned about your intake of sugars, make sure the added sugars are not listed as one of the first few ingredients.
For more information on nutrition labelling, the Government of Canada has a Ready-to-Use Presentation on Nutrition Labelling.
Tip #2: Snack Healthy
Most of us enjoy one or two snacks during the day, and anyone with higher energy demands such as children, heavy labour workers, or athletes find they need snacks every 2–3 hours. Snacking throughout the day can play a crucial role in obtaining some of the key nutrients that may get left out of regular meals. Below are snacking “categories” for ideas to choose from that not only help fill any nutritional gaps in the diet, but may even make snack time more meaningful and enjoyable!
- Brain booster snacks: Walnuts, hemp seeds, blueberries, whole grains (try pita bread, crackers, or flatbread and low-glycemic-index cereals), oranges as well as other tropical fruits, green drinks, avocado, dark chocolate, water, green tea.
- Heart-healthy snacks: Three bean salad with homemade olive oil and herb dressing, high-fibre pasta salad, raw apples, pears, berries, and stone fruits, fresh and raw almonds, sunflower seeds and walnuts, organic celery sticks, baked cubed tofu, citrus fruit such as oranges, oatmeal topped with fresh or dried fruit and non-dairy milk.
- Energy-boosting snacks: (Especially for those feeling the effects of stress: green drinks, whey protein or vegan protein shakes or smoothies, raw veggie slices (sweet red peppers, carrots, zucchini strips, cucumber rounds) with bean dips, lean turkey breast and cubed cheese such as Swiss or gouda, hard-boiled egg. Drink water or herbal teas.
- Digestive health: Organic probiotic yogurts and probiotic supplements, chia seeds, ground flaxseed (added to moist foods) or fibre supplement drink mix such as The Right Fibre 4®, pumpkin seeds, raw nut and dried fruit mix, sprouted grain or gluten-free breads or crackers, raw pineapple slices, any fruit or natural fruit sauce, water or herbal teas such as peppermint, chamomile, or ginger.
Tip #3: Stock Pantry with Staples, Shop Regularly for Fresh Produce
Meals can come together quickly when you know there are dry goods and other staples at home. If time permits shop a few times per week, buying only what you need, to maximize the nutrient value in your fresh produce – nobody wants to eat limp lettuce, broccoli, or overripe fruit!
Examples of dry goods to stock up on:
- Grains, lentils, and beans: Red lentils, dried or canned beans, barley, various types of rice (short grain brown, long grain, wild rice blend, and basmati), high-fibre pastas and quinoa
- Whole grain cereal: oatmeal, buckwheat, high-fibre gluten-free cereal blends
- Raw nuts and seeds: pumpkin, sunflower, almond, walnut, pecan, pistachio, sesame, chia, flaxseed
- Dried herbs: oregano and thyme, dill, rosemary, chili powder, basil, sage, parsley, tarragon, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg
- Gluten-free or whole grain crackers
- Veggie chips or organic low-sodium tortilla chips (adds a nice crunch to a salad or soup topper)
- Cold-pressed olive oil and apple cider vinegar for making salad dressings
- Canned or jarred tomatoes for soups, stews, and sauces
Picking healthy foods or eating to promote health doesn’t have to be tricky or stressful. With a few helpful tips, and knowledge about what to look for while food shopping, healthy eating becomes easier and more of a habit than a chore.
If you have a routine or habit that encourages healthy eating, please feel free to share it with us!