Live Well, Do Good

Healthy Eating – 15 Tips

Ann McConkey, R.D.

Healthy eating involves nourishing your mind, body, and spirit. It is eating in a calm, attentive manner; feeling good about yourself and the food you choose to eat. It is positive and life-giving.

As opposed to dieting, which involves restriction and denial, healthy normal eating is about adding to your life. Eating to keep you healthy, alert, and energized.

Go for success

Move slowly in the direction you want to go. Choose a step that is small, easy, specific, and doable. Always make the goal something you will do, not something you won’t do.

Examples of a small step might be:
    • “I’ll have one glass of milk each day,”  or
    • “I’ll eat an afternoon snack every day.”

Feel good about achieving your goal. If you are unable to do what you planned, then make the step smaller and easier so that you can accomplish it.

Gradually build on the small steps you are taking. In a few months you may find yourself eating and feeling much better. And you did it one step at a time!

As the Chinese proverb says: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Enjoy the journey. This is the road to health and wellness.

Healthy Eating – 15 Tips

1. Start the day with breakfast.

This kick-starts your metabolism, gives you energy, improves focus and memory, decreases evening eating, and helps your body find your unique healthy weight.

Try whole grain cereal with fruit and milk, homemade muffins with cheese, whole wheat toast with peanut butter, porridge with ground flax, nuts or seeds and dried fruit, French toast, whole grain pancakes, a fruit smoothie, pita stuffed with scrambled egg and salsa, or branch out and have pizza, leftovers, or a sandwich.

2. Power up with whole grains.

These carbohydrates provide fuel for your body and brain. Eating carbs is like putting gas in your car – they give you energy to run on. Whole grains supply energy plus vitamins, minerals, fibre, and hundreds of phytonutrients (powerful disease-fighting substances found in plants). They are low on the glycemic index – i.e. help keep your blood sugar on an even keel.

Research shows that eating whole grains helps reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.   

3. Load up on vegetables and fruit.

Crunchy, flavourful, sweet, juicy, tangy – there’s a taste and texture to suit everyone. Take every opportunity to add these Delicious, nutritious foods to your life and in doing so, improve your health.

4. Fill up with fibre.

Fibre helps your body know when you’ve eaten enough, keeps you regular, and reduces the risk of chronic disease. One type of fibre (soluble) also helps lower cholesterol and levels out blood sugar.

Fibre sources: whole grains such as whole wheat bread and pasta, whole grain cereals, wheat germ, wheat bran, bran cereals, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, fruit and vegetables.

Soluble fibre sources: oats, oat bran, psyllium (found in Kellogg’s All-Bran Buds and Metamucil), ground flaxseed, pulses (such as lentils, soybeans, chickpeas, black beans, etc.), barley, brown rice, buckwheat (kasha), fruit, and vegetables.

5. Choose healthy fats more often.

Fat gives food flavour and helps you to feel more satisfied after eating.  Fat enables your body to absorb phytonutrients and the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E). Monounsaturated and omega-3 fats are healthy choices but all different types of fats can fit into a healthy way of eating.

Monounsaturated fats are found in canola, olive, and peanut oils; nuts, peanuts, regular peanut butter, margarines made with canola or olive oil.

Omega-3 fats are good for your brain and your heart. The best sources are: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring, trout, tuna, ground flaxseed, omega-3 eggs, walnuts, and canola oil.  Another way of obtaining omega-3 fats, is to buy products that have had omega-3 fats added to them.

6. Fuel regularly.

Eating enough food regularly keeps up energy, levels our moods, improves focus and concentration, and decreases evening snacking. This helps us better handle stress and keeps our body healthy.

Eat at least three satisfying meals a day. If meals are more than 3-5 hours apart, you will likely need snacks to keep up your energy.

Snacks could be: yogurt, fruit, trail mix, peanuts, nuts, granola bars, half a sandwich, whole grain crackers with cheese or hummus, soy nuts, homemade muffins, hard boiled eggs, etc.

7. Have enough fluids.

Keep your brain and body hydrated. All fluids count – milk, soup, juice, soy beverage, smoothies, coffee, and tea. Remember that food also contains fluid. Drinking to thirst (i.e. when you’re thirsty) is usually fine;  an exception could be when exercising in the heat.

One healthy beverage is regular tea (black, green, white, or oolong). It may decrease the risk of cancer and heart disease.

8. Eat protein for staying power.

Carbohydrates give you the fuel, protein helps it last longer. Have some 2-3 times per day. Proteins are good sources of minerals and vitamins. Protein foods include meat, fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, pulses (lentils, chick peas, kidney beans, split peas, etc.), nuts, seeds, peanut butter, bean dips (such as hummus), or soy products – wieners, burgers, tofu, etc.

9. Build bones with calcium.

Calcium and other minerals help prevent osteoporosis (weak, fragile bones). Calcium also helps lower blood pressure and can ease PMS symptoms.

Have 3-4 servings each day of a good calcium source (300 mg): 8 oz. milk, ¾ cup yogurt, 1½ oz. cheese, 8 oz. fortified soy beverage, 8 oz. orange juice with calcium added, ½ can salmon or 1 can of sardines (with the bones).

Try adding skim milk powder when baking and cooking, for example, to cream soups, macaroni and cheese, hot cereal, pancakes, smoothies, meatloaf, etc. (1 Tbsp = 50 mg of Calcium)

The calcium requirement is 1200-1500 mg each day. If you can’t consume enough, take a supplement. Take 500-600 mg of calcium 1-2 times per day to total 1500 mg maximum from food and supplements combined.

10. Be supplement savvy.

A daily supplement of 1000 IU of Vitamin D is recommended for everyone, especially those midlife and older, as it is almost impossible to obtain enough from food or the sun.

In addition to healthy eating, a multi-vitamin/mineral is also a good idea to supply many vitamins and minerals that we may be lacking. Buy one that has 25 or more different nutrients. Men and  post-menopausal women should choose one with 9 mg or less of iron.  

11. Appreciate your body.

Appreciate all that your body does for you. Remember that healthy people come in all shapes and sizes. Health is about how we live our lives – eating nourishing food, doing pleasurable activities, managing stress, finding balance, having fun, etc. Health is not the size of our clothing or a number on the scale.

12. Get physical.

Being active increases immunity, helps with moods, protects against heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis and is necessary for your body to function well.

Find activities you enjoy (or like well enough to do) such as walking, gardening, dancing, biking, cross-country skiing, yoga, tai chi or whatever fits for you. Then create ways to put activity into your life. Try to accumulate 30-60 minutes per day. Every bit counts!

13. Relax and enjoy.

Give yourself permission to eat the amount and types of food your body needs and wants. Then  breathe, relax, savour, and truly taste your food.

Food is one of life’s pleasures, take time to appreciate it!

14. Tune into your body.

The body has evolved an amazingly complex system that lets us know when we’re hungry and when we’ve eaten enough.

All of the following help our body know that we’ve eaten:
    • amount we chew,
    • bulkiness of food in our stomachs,
    • taste of food,
    • levels of blood sugar,
    • many brain neurotransmitters
    • sensors in our intestines

Our body needs time for these to register so it is important to slow down and tune in so we receive signals telling us we’re satisfied (as opposed to when we’re overfull).

Some foods such as fast foods, chips, pop, and candy can bypass our sensors. Since these foods require little chewing, are low in fibre and are eaten quickly, our body doesn’t fully register that we’ve eaten so we tend to eat more than we need.  Also, if we eat when we aren’t hungry, our signals can’t work properly and we’re more likely to eat beyond being full.

When we eat  healthy foods that need chewing, are high in fibre, and have a balance of nutrients, then our bodies can tell us when we’ve eaten the right amount of food for us. This helps our bodies find our own unique healthy weight.

15. Eat with awareness.

In our society, companies spend billions of dollars each year advertising not-so-healthy foods such as pop, candy, chocolate bars, fast food, chips, etc. Food and food ads surround us. Be aware of these attempts to make you buy foods you may not really want or need.

Don’t be at the mercy of corporate advertising. Decide to care for yourself with mostly healthy foods. Make wise food choices. Do it for you.

* * * 

Ann McConkey is a Registered Dietitian living in Winnipeg, Manitoba

See also:

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