5 Things to do for the biggest impact on health
September is the new January. The start of a new school year, getting back to routine, starting new habits and organizing your life. Now that you are settled into activities and schedules, it can be time to look at your diet. Half of Canadians find it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle and 73% wish they were healthier. What are the small things you can do that will have the biggest impact on your health?
1. Eat Snacks
Eating on a schedule alternating meals and snacks helps maintain stable blood sugar levels, prevents overeating at meals, improves mood and energy, and is an opportunity to get nutrients missed at meals. Keep ready-to-eat snacks on hand for when you get hungry. Being prepared helps you avoid less healthy treats.
- watch portions (don’t snack from the bag)
- snack when you are truly hungry not tired, stressed or bored
- avoid distracted snacking (in front of the TV or while on your phone)
Healthy snacks include: almonds and dried apricots, yogurt and berries, apple slices spread with PB and sprinkled with all bran buds, peppers and carrots with hummus, hard-boiled egg, black bean spread on toast or crackers with sliced tomato.
2. Eat more Fruits & Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, energy and fibre. They fill you up but not out. They can help reduce your risk for cancer and heart disease and help lower blood pressure. Keep a container full of cut veg and fruit for easy snacks and meal preparation. Aim to have a fruit or veg every time you eat. Use the plate model (1/2 veg, ¼ whole grains, ¼ meat/alt) a balanced meal provides a source of protein and fibre.
- Add salsa to your eggs
- Have vegetable soup with your sandwich
- Add mushrooms to ground beef
- Add zucchini and carrot to your muffins
4. Reduce your sugar
Excess sugar intake is linked to increased risk for diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol and cancer. WHO recommends reducing sugar in take to <10% of total calories. Assess your coffee drinks, can you make them no sugar added? Choose plain yogurt and add fruit instead. Eat cooked cereal with raisins instead of dry packaged cereals, skip energy bars and chocolate covered granola bars and eat whole grain muffins instead, limit cookies and choose more whole grains.
Take only what you need. Taking supplements can be confusing. Jamieson has tried to make it a little easier for you by identifying the supplements that would benefit most Canadians, Essentials. Ideally, talk with a health professional about what you need based on what you eat and do.
- If you are on a calorie restricted diet, eliminating whole food groups or if you are an athlete, pregnant or elderly or if you just don’t tend to eat well consistently, you could benefit from a multivitamin.
- In the winter, I recommend all Canadians take vitamin D, 600-2000 IU. Vitamin D is essential for building and maintaining our bones and teeth. 1 in 3 Canadians are vitamin D deficient.
- Our diets tend to be too high in Omega 6 and too low in Omega 3. Omega 3 fats help reduce inflammation and platelet aggregation improving blood flow to the brain and heart which in turn reduces risk for heart disease and Alzheimer’s. You get Omega 3’s from fish, oils, nuts and seeds, but some people may not eat enough so a supplement can help.
- Finally, maintaining good gut health is important. With increased stress, antibiotic use, travel etc our bacterial microflora can get disrupted and a probiotic can help put you back in balance.
6. Cook & Eat Together
Improving your child’s cooking and food skills can lead to healthier eating and decreases intake of processed foods. Your children and grandchildren need to learn from you (and YouTube). Plan meals with your kids, take them shopping sometimes, involve them in food prep. Teach them to make an entire meal as they get older. Families that eat together have better diets, eat more fruit and veg and kids tend to have better academic performance.