March is Nutrition month: More than Food!
March 2, 2020 - Defence Stories
Author: Julie Riopel-Meunier
Strengthening the Forces (STF) and the Health Promotion Delivery team provide advice to the military community on more than just food. We love food, yes, and we believe in its potential to enhance lives and improve health, but we take a broad view of the factors that impact healthy eating – including how we eat.
What’s new in Canada’s Food Guide
In 2019, Health Canada released the new Canada’s Food Guide. During the revision process, the Dietitians of Canada advocated strongly that Health Canada should include in the new guide considerations beyond nutrients, and talk about how we eat, not just what we eat. This included consideration of food literacy, food culture and traditions, food availability and sustainability. The 2020 Nutrition Month campaign recognizes the healthy eating habits that are part of the new Canada’s Food Guide.
Like most of us, you've probably eaten something in the past few hours and, like many of us, you may not be able to recall everything that you ate, let alone enjoy the sensation of eating your food. Although mindful-eating ideally includes foods in the Mediterranean diet (such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils), the technique of taking time to enjoy your meal can be applied to other foods, even a cheeseburger and fries.
By truly paying attention to the food you eat, you can indulge in these types of foods less often but without feeling deprived. In essence, mindful eating means being fully attentive to your food—as you buy, prepare, serve, and consume it. Adopting this practice may take more than a few adjustments in the way you approach meals and snacks. With mindful eating, you will gradually learn to put deprivation aside, to give food its rightful place in your life, whether it is more or less nutritious. Without guilt, pleasurable foods become less attractive and it is then easier to eat them on a more occasional basis. Feeling trapped by food can make your life difficult when you eat an average of three times a day. If you do the math, you are likely to eat an average of 82,000 meals over your lifetime.
When we talk about eating mindfully there is a reference about paying attention to how and why we eat – not just what we eat. Learn simple strategies for listening to what your body is telling you and how to make healthier choices every day.
Listening to your body
When you feel yourself running out of steam or your stomach is growling, it is time to eat. So, allow yourself a nutritious snack or meal such as granola and yogurt, fruits and nuts, or cut up vegetables with a hummus dip.
When your hunger eases, you’ll sense your energy level rising and you will feel satisfied, but not too full. This means that you’ve eaten just the right amount of food. If you ignore this signal, you might eat more food than your body needs and experience discomfort (or even stomach pain) after your meal.
Take your time when eating. The brain doesn't register fullness automatically and needs about 20 minutes to understand that you are not hungry anymore. Savour every bite and relax.
Simple ways to eat more mindfully
Whether you are at home, at work, or even on the go, try putting these mindful eating strategies into practice to gradually reconnect with the signals your body is sending you.
- Before grabbing a snack or sitting down to eat, ask yourself if you are truly hungry. If you are not sure, wait to see if you feel that sensation of emptiness or gurgling in your stomach.
- Make every meal a time to relax. Sit at the table and just enjoy your meal.
- Eliminate distractions. Keep the TV off, don’t sit in front of your computer, and put your smartphone down while eating.
- Eat slowly, take time to enjoy every bite, and appreciate each different taste and texture.
- Set your utensils down between bites.
- Ask yourself if you’re still hungry throughout a meal. Stop when you feel satisfied and not overly full.
- Use smaller plates and bowls. Sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. If you are still hungry afterwards, it is OK to take a second helping. Some days, we just need more food.
- Don't force yourself to finish what's on your plate if you start to feel full. Keep the rest for later. If you are at a restaurant, take the leftovers home.
- Cook more often rather than eating out or buying processed foods.
- Plan what you eat and enjoy your food.
- Involve others in planning and preparing meals and eat meals with others.
- Don’t forget that culture and food traditions can be a part of healthy eating.
Getting in touch with your hunger and satiety signals takes time and lots of practice. Be patient – people don’t become mindful eaters overnight.
Snack the smart way
Snacking is a great way to keep your appetite in check and prevent overeating later on. However, keep in mind that reaching for nutrient-poor snacks can leave you famished an hour later or ready to snooze at your desk.
If you are on the go, try planning ahead and pack a healthy snack to put in your purse or backpack such as nuts, dried fruits or a homemade granola bar. That way, if you find yourself getting hungry while running errands, you have something healthy on hand which will be better for you than buying a donut to go with your coffee or tea.
For staying power, choose nutrient-rich snacks containing protein and fibre. They can help you stay energized and satisfied until your next meal.
For ideas on healthy snacks here’s what some of our STF team members like to munch on:
- National manager: Greek vanilla yogurt, granola and fresh fruit
- Addictions cell: Veggies and hummus / Hummus and pears
- Social Wellness cell: Apple cut with old cheese
- Communications and Training Coordinator: Handful of walnuts and piece of fruit, homemade energy balls
- STF Epidemiologist: Cheese with crackers that are high in fibre
- Nutrition wellness cell: Apples and nut butter / Cottage cheese and pieces of fruit
If you want to have more information about cooking and healthy eating, we recommend that you contact your local health promotion office and take advantage of what they have to offer.
Strengthening the Forces is the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) healthy lifestyles promotion program providing expert information, skills and tools for promoting and improving CAF members’ health and well-being. Contact your local health promotion office for more information.
Julie Riopel-Meunier is a registered dietitian. As part of the Strengthening the Forces team, she is the Acting Nutrition Wellness Educator, and focuses on nutrition programming for the CAF.
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