March is Nutrition Month: Four simple ways to keep you and your family healthy

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This years’ Nutrition Month 2013 campaign by the Dietitians of Canada is focusing on healthy eating. Their campaign slogan is Best Food Forward: Plan, Shop, Cook, Enjoy!

And the best way to focus on healthy eating is to start at the grocery store. It’s where most consumers buy much of their food. Yet this is also where consumers face a multitude of choices.

Why is healthy eating more important than ever? According to Ashley Grachnik, RD, CDE, a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator,  obesity and Type 2 Diabetes are on the rise.   And it’s not just a US issue, it’s happening in Canada too. It is estimated that almost three million Canadians have Type 2 Diabetes and the numbers are rising[1].

Type 2 Diabetes is a condition in which your pancreas does not produce enough insulin to move sugar out of the blood and into the cells for  Or your cells are resistant to the amount of insulin your pancreas does produce.  Sugar builds up in the blood and, if left uncontrolled, Type 2 Diabetes can lead to blindness, heart disease and kidney failure among other health issues impacting quality of life and longevity.  Type 2 Diabetes used to develop after the age of 40, but with the increase of our waistlines and decrease in our activity level we’re seeing diabetes at a younger age[2].  Unfortunately we’re seeing more children diagnosed with this disease.

Start today

However with healthy eating and a few simple tips to keep you and your family healthy, you can prevent Type 2 Diabetes. You don’t need a lot of time.  You don’t need a lot of money.  You can start to make these changes today.

Here are Ashley Grachnik’s Top Tips help you make these changes today.

1.     Make fibre your friend!

What is fibre, anyway? Fibre is part of plant-based foods that we can’t easily digest or absorb into our blood stream.  Fibre keeps us feeling full and satisfied and when you fill up on fibre it is easier to cut back on less healthy things like fat and sugar.

One easy way to boost your fibre is to cut out fruit juice, which has no fibre, and eat whole fruit instead to get a few grams of fibre per serving.  Have you ever squeezed your own orange juice? It takes about 3-4 oranges to get the amount of juice you’d drink in a medium-sized glass.  And after that medium-sized glass of juice when you’re still hungry, you’d probably eat a meal or snack to fill up.  When is the last time you sat down and ate 3-4 oranges in a sitting? You’d be full and satisfied long before you finished all 3-4 oranges because of the fibre.  And you’d stay feeling full for longer than if you drank that glass of juice.  Instead of packing a juice box with your child’s lunch, try a bottle of water and a piece of fruit instead.  Need some flavor with your water? Try adding some lemon or lime wedges instead.

Choose whole grains. Switch your breads and pastas to whole grain.  If your children are picky try mixing whole wheat and white until they get used to the flavor.

2.     Avoid portion distortion!

I’m sure you’ve heard about portion control before, but most of us find it difficult without the right tools.  It’s easy to do if you know how to balance your plate.

Here’s the trick, put your knife across the middle of your plate separating your plate into 2 equal halves.  Fill one half up with vegetables.  Veggies are loaded with fibre so they help fill you up, they don’t raise blood sugars because they are low in starch and they’re also low in fat.  Now take your fork and separate the other half of your plate into quarters.  One quarter is for your starch (1 cup of whole grain pasta or 1 small baked potato) and the other quarter is for your protein (4-5 oz meat, fish or poultry).

Still hungry?  Wait about 10 mins then go back for seconds of your veggies…you likely won’t still be hungry after that!

3.     Get Cooking!

Make healthier versions of your favourite take-out or restaurant choices at home.  Do you have the local pizza place on your speed dial?  Delivery pizza and even frozen pizzas are high in fat and sodium and often lack fibre.

A healthier and portion controlled version is pita pizza.  Take a 6-inch whole grain pita as your crust.  Use a low sodium pizza sauce.  Lightly sprinkle low-fat mozzarella and top it off with your favourite veggies.  Pop it in the oven or toaster until the cheese melts and you’re done!  You can control the portion by having 1 small pita and you can limit the fat by watching the amount of cheese.  Everyone in the family can help with the food prep and can personalize their pizza with their favourite veggies.  The best part about this meal is how quick it is to make – the cook time is fast since there is no dough to cook.  Save even more time by buying pre-cut and washed veggies.

4.     Get moving!

So exercise is not everyone’s idea of a good time but he reality is we need to get  active to stay healthy.

The next time you take your kids to soccer practice don’t just sit on the side lines until practice is over, walk the perimeter of the field as many times as you can until you work up a sweat.  When it’s time to take your kids to a play date, walk instead of drive and you both will benefit.  Or the next time your kids want to play video games, take out the Wii Fit or XBOX KINECT and challenge them to an active game that keeps you moving.  Being active can be a fun family activity all it takes is a bit of creativity!

These 4 simple tips will help you get your family on track to eating and living healthy!

Written by Ashley Grachnik, RD, CDE  -Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. I work with adults and families to prevent and manage diabetes t


[2] Children and Type 2 Diabetes, Canadian Diabetes Association http://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/youth/type2/