By Andrea Holwegner, Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. January 6, 2011 CBC news
One of my favourite expressions is that bite-sized changes have supersized results. While there are hundreds of nutrition resolutions you could make this year, below you will find a collection of five nutrition habits I believe will make a difference for your long-term health.
As you read the suggestions below, I would encourage you to cut yourself some slack. I am not suggesting you read the list and do nothing. I am suggesting that you take action and be committed to establishing one habit at a time.
What I have noticed about the people who are the most successful at making health changes and sustaining them is that they start small and add one thing at a time. You don’t need to try to juggle dozens of nutrition and lifestyle changes all at once. Start small. Start with the easiest change for you. Once you get the ball rolling and experience some success with your initial changes, you can continue to add from there. An ongoing commitment to small goals absolutely leads to big results over the year.
Little changes that have big impact
Make sure that the bread you choose is whole grain: Whole grains contain all three parts of the kernel (the bran, the endosperm and the germ) and are therefore the best source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. You might be surprised to know that 100 per cent whole wheat bread or multigrain bread may not be considered whole grain. Under the Food and Drug Regulations, up to five per cent of the kernel can be removed to help reduce rancidity and prolong the shelf life of whole wheat flour.
The portion of the kernel that is removed for this purpose contains much of the germ and some of the bran. The best way to know if you are getting whole grains in your bread is to look at the ingredient list and buy breads with “whole” in front of the grain in the ingredient list such as whole rye flour instead of rye flour or whole wheat flour instead of wheat flour.
Participate in a produce challenge: Each week when you visit the grocery store challenge yourself to buy one produce item that you normally don’t buy or haven’t bought in a long time. For example, if you have never tried a spaghetti squash, pomegranate or kohlrabi buy it and then search for a recipe on the internet on how to prepare it.
Each fruit and vegetable has a unique profile of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals which protect your health. Don’t only buy the same few items at the store this week. If you have heard that blueberries or broccoli are best and have stopped eating other fruits and vegetables I would encourage you to think about adding more variety. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables each day is the best way to maximize your health. Think about fresh fruit, frozen berries, dried fruit, canned unsweetened fruit, fresh veggies, salad, frozen veggies and unsweetened juices.
Have a supper plan: Supper is often the most stressful meal of the day for busy families. Ask yourself each morning the simple but essential question “what’s for supper tonight?” Alternatively if you are not a morning person or are too rushed in the morning then consider the night before asking “what’s for supper tomorrow night?” Chances are if you have an answer to this question your family’s nutrition is off to a good start.
At the end of the day energy levels are often at their lowest and decision making can be poor. Often things in the freezer seem like they will take too long to thaw or you might skip important parts of the meal like veggies since it might sound like too much work.
Most of my clients find that if they can at least determine the protein source for the meal, the rest of the meal comes together quickly. For example, if you decide pork tenderloin will be for dinner and pull it from the freezer to thaw, when you get home it’s easy to add other components to balance the meal (such as rice, steamed veggies and a salad).
Support the organic industry: While some research suggests that organic food has more vitamins and minerals than conventionally grown food, other research has shown just the opposite. While the nutritional benefit of organic food may be up for debate, when you buy organic food you are supporting an industry that is trying to do the right thing for our future food supply, the environment and all living organisms.
Organic farming is a method of growing food without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, antibiotics or growth hormones. Instead, organic producers rely on crop rotation, recycling plant and animal wastes, and natural pesticides.
Visit your local farmers’ market, specialty food store and watch for more organic products showing up in your local grocery store. If everyone in Canada who could afford to buy some organic items chose to add a few to their grocery cart each week, demand and availability for these products would continue to grow. The Environmental Working Group has put together a shopper’s guide of produce it suggests you buy organically. The guide also includes items lowest in pesticides.
Take a multivitamin daily and review your supplements: Although supplements will never replace a balanced diet, taking an age-appropriate multivitamin each day is a good idea. In the many years I have been reviewing food records and doing computer analysis of food intakes of my clients it is rare that people achieve 100 per cent of all of the vitamins and minerals ideal for long-term health each day, especially since food intake will change day to day and you likely have seasonal variances.
A multivitamin will top up your intake of key nutrients needed for long-term health. When it comes to other supplements that may benefit you and to review what you are currently taking, consider booking an appointment with a registered dietitian.
Many people are taking expensive heavily marketed supplements that have little impact on health. On the other hand there are also people falling short in some areas who could benefit from extra calcium and vitamin D for bone health or additional omega 3 fish oils for heart health. You might also consider doing some of your own research on supplements you are taking but use caution if you are getting advice from the same people that are selling you products.
The above five nutrition habits are just a few of the many things you can do to support a healthy 2011 and future. Start with one change and build from there. These little changes can have big impact.
Andrea Holwegner, the Chocoholic Dietitian , is president of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. She’s also a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers and a media expert for the Dietitians of Canada. Her monthly newsletter is available by subscription from her website. She lives in Calgary.