If you’ve been following along with us on social media, you know that March is Nutrition Month! Every year, Dietitians of Canada put together a month long campaign for Nutrition Month that focuses on how we can all work to eat a little better and become more aware of our nutrition and food choices.
This year, the Nutrition Month theme is “A 100-Meal Journey”. What does that mean? It encourages us to pick a small change we think we can maintain and stick to that change for every meal this month. The great thing is that this is something you can continue to do, even after nutrition month is over! Choose at least one small change to work on each month to continue to improve your overall nutrition, health and lifestyle.
Set Achievable Goals
When you want to make a change, think about your current eating habits. Is there something you already know you don’t need in your daily routine, or something you’ve been hoping to add for a while? Think about small changes you can make now to work towards improving your eating habits – Taking changes 1-3 at a time in small, gradual steps is the best way to make them stick. Making SMART goals is one of the best ways to help you achieve what you set out to do!
In order to set yourself up for success, it’s also important to set up your environment. The more barriers there are to making a choice, the less likely we are to do it. That means that the less available “treat” snacks are (i.e., hidden in the back of a cupboard or not in the home at all), the less likely we are to choose them. Similarly, the more available healthy snacks are (i.e., fresh fruit on the counter, pre-cut veggies, yogurt, nuts at eye level) the more likely we are to choose them as a snack.
Do a pantry clean out, take stock of good-for-you foods you have on hand, and identify what you need more of:
- Whole grains: crackers, bread products, pasta, oats, barley, quinoa
- Nuts and seeds (dry roasted, unsalted), nut and seed butters (natural), beans and legumes (dried or canned)
- Vegetables and fruit: Fresh produce or frozen/canned (without added salt/sugar)
- Milk and dairy products
- Lean protein: Eggs, fish, meat & poultry – fresh, frozen or canned
Sometimes people get swept up in “calorie content” and pay less attention to “quality content” of their foods. It’s important to remember that quality counts and nutrient density is important to help us get all of our required nutrients while staying within the right amount of calories our body needs each day. The quality of nutrients in our foods can also help us stay fuller longer and prevent cravings later in the day!
Find ways at each meal and throughout the day to make higher-quality swaps:
- Choose a whole grain, like oats or whole wheat toast, at breakfast
- Swap dry roasted nuts with dried fruit & yogurt for a granola bar as a morning snack
- Use canned salmon as an alternative to deli meat in a lunch wrap or sandwich
- Try sparkling water with fresh fruit instead of pop or juice
- Snack on fresh fruit & whole grain crackers instead of chips or candy in the afternoon
- Try a plant-based protein like chickpeas or tofu for a meatless meal at dinner!
- Swap a sweet or salty evening snack for 3 cups of lightly salted air-popped popcorn with a square of dark chocolate. Did you know air-popped popcorn is a whole grain?
It’s easy to forget that how much you eat can be just as important as what you eat! Just because something is good for us, doesn’t mean it comes without calories. It’s important to make sure we get the right amount of calories and nutrients from healthy foods, but remember everything in moderation!
Increase your portion awareness by comparing what you normally serve yourself to one serving size of each food – this can be especially eye-opening for grains and proteins! Try measuring out your servings for about a week so you can get an idea of what one serving looks like. You can also use a quick comparison to your own hand:
- 1 fist = ¾ to 1 cup. Use for:
- Raw leafy greens, whole fruit
- Pulses (lentils, black beans, chickpeas)
- Yogurt & milk
- ½ fist = ½ cup. Use for:
- Fresh, frozen & canned vegetables
- Cooked leafy greens
- Pureed fruit
- Palm of hand = 1 serving of lean protein
- Meat, poultry, fish
- 1 slice of bread or ½ bagel = 1 hand
- 50g cheese = 2 thumbs
Another simple switch for managing portion sizes is changing the size of your containers. Even though we’d like to think we’re smarter than our food containers, the size of cups, plates, bowls, food packaging all influence how much we’ll eat and when we think we’re full.
- Enjoy dinner on smaller plates, and have vegetables for seconds if you’re still hungry
- Buy smaller bowls that hold less than 1 cup to help manage portions for things like yogurt and cereal
- Divide bulk size packages into individual portions
Did you take the Nutrition Month pledge? What changes do you think you can make to your eating habits?
Blog & Social Media Posts Adapted from The Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month Campaign Materials. Find more information about Nutrition Month at: www.nutritionmonth2016.ca