With the month of March comes the start of spring, plus the annual National Nutrition Month, supported by Dietitians Of Canada.
Healthy eating begins at the point of food purchase, which generally means the supermarket for most people.
Taking a grocery list with you helps to keep your weekly meals on track and on budget. First, it makes sense to plan some of the meals and snacks that can be prepared for the family by taking inventory of what’s in the kitchen, plus scanning flyers for weekly specials.
Many times this important step is skipped due to lack of planning, which can lead to impulse buying of convenient, processed food items that are generally higher in added salt, fat and sugars.
Being prepared beforehand helps to improve the chance of purchasing more healthy foods.
Shopping the perimeter of the store will help to keep your food/fluid purchases more healthy. You will find most of the basic food staples of the four food groups around the outside aisles. Start at the produce section for a wide variety of fresh veggies and fruits. Next, move to milk and milk products (such as low fat yogurt, cheese, soy milk, etc.) for bone building food and fluids.
Around the corner, stop by the meat and alternative foods (to offer some lean protein choices) in the deli section. Lastly, the bakery section provides many whole grain options. The aisles generally have more packaged and processed foods.
Mindlessly heading down the candy/pop and chip aisle (especially with kids in tow) is just asking for trouble and unnecessary purchases.
Reading labels on packages also helps to offer more information about what the food contains.
Nutrition Facts Table: The “% Daily Value” tells you if the food has a little or a lot of a particular nutrient. Five per cent DV means a food has a little; 15% DV means a food has a lot. For example, a can of soup with 35% DV of sodium has a lot of salt. On the contrary, a bag of frozen broccoli with one per cent DV is a little.
Always be sure to read the serving size first to see what the numbers are based on.
Making homemade meals more often can provide good healthy nutrition for your family and long-term health. Nutritious, convenience foods include frozen fruit and vegetables, ready-to-go salads and pre-chopped vegetables for example. These foods offer simple methods for quick, easy meal preparation for those time-strapped individuals and busy families.
To learn more about healthy ways to cook, look to local recreation centres and/or educational facilities for cooking classes and community kitchen programs. For example, in Port Alberni, cooking classes can be located through the Parks/Recreation guide, Literacy Alberni and the Salvation Army.
Taking a walk or riding to the Farmer’s Market at the Harbour Quay (open weekly on Saturday mornings) can offer a refreshing way to discover the bounty of local foods grown in the Alberni Valley. Also, this will help to improve your variety of in-season vegetables and other locally grown food.
For more information and additional reliable food and nutrition ideas, refer to www.dietitians.ca.
Sandra Gentleman is a registered dietitian who is passionate about health and wellness. She is co-owner of Canal Beach.