Spring into a Healthy Lifestyle (and avoid those food fads!)

March 16, 2017

And just like that, March has arrived full of promise! We made it through the coldest and darkest months, and are absolutely ready to welcome warmer and sunnier days. March not only has the honour of heralding spring, it also holds the esteemed title of “Nutrition Month”. A new season can spark new goals, plans, activities and adventures all of which can and will include food.  As the weather gets warmer, many of us will switch up our diet to be more reflective of the season. For example, we may swap our soups for salads, our baked potatoes for pasta salads and our pot roasts for BBQ chicken. This period of change also provides us with the opportunity to reset our nutrition goals and get back (if we faltered during those chilly months) into a healthy eating pattern. In other words, it’s time to (drumroll please): nurture our nutrition!

It’s hard to miss the bajillion (definition: more than a million!) diets being advertised this time of year. Have these headings caught your eye? “Boost energy with this herbal pill”, “Cleanse your liver by eating this everyday”, “Follow this diet to get a bikini body fast” – Do NOT get me started on that last one – the only way to truly get a bikini body is to put a bikini on your body (and own it when you do!). With all of these fads coming at you, it can be extremely confusing to know the healthiest way to eat to in order to feel your best.

To simplify things, I’ve outlined a few simple rules regarding fad diets. If the diet emphasizes any of the points listed below, there is a 99% chance it is not the right diet to be following – you have been warned!

  • Offers the convenience of a pill or drink
  • Encourages the purchase of a specific product
  • Focuses solely on weight loss
  • Seems too good to be true (that’s because it is!)
  • Missing verification from trusted nutrition experts (such as a registered dietitians)

Many advertised diets tell us what we want to hear, yet these diets almost always fail, and many have negative effects such as: wasting your money, decreasing your metabolism, inducing deficiencies, taking the joy out of eating and disrupting your hunger and fullness cues; and oh the failure rate – up to 2/3 of any weight lost is likely to be regained within 1 year!

So now that you have an idea of what you should stay away from, the question remains: what is a healthy eating pattern for me? Well, a healthy eating pattern is just that – a pattern. In order to eat healthy, you don’t need to follow any hard and fast rules, but rather focus on behaviours you can incorporate into your daily/weekly routine that are known to promote better health. Don’t get me wrong, there are “diets” that have been recognized and promoted by registered dietitians, some created specifically for certain medical conditions and others for general healthy eating (ie. the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet). Something to remember is that all of these recognized “diets” emphasize very similar types of foods to increase or decrease in the diet.

Here is a glimpse of some common groups of food to include to achieve healthy eating:

  • Enjoy whole fruits and vegetables on a daily basis (aim for the number of servings outlined in Canada’s Food Guide)
  • Choose whole grains often (quinoa, oats, multigrain breads)
  • Make meat alternatives a larger part of your diet (legumes, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds)
  • Eat homemade, unprocessed foods more often
  • Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues (eat when you are experiencing true stomach hunger, and stop when you are full)
  • If you find yourself eating for non-physical hunger reasons, identify what you may be feeling (e.g. stress, boredom) or thinking (e.g. “I shouldn’t have that”). Address the root of your hunger.
  • Enjoy your food – feel satisfied with your meals by eating slowly and savouring each meal

And that is just the beginning! Healthy eating should be a lifestyle. It should be something that is realistic, and sustainable. Healthy eating allows for treats, for mistakes, and for enjoyment. It also looks a lot different for each person as we all have of our own needs, concerns and goals.

If you have questions, concerns or simply need help finding a pattern of eating that is right for you, reach out to a registered dietitian – we will be able to help asses your current “normal” and give suggestions and tips to help you reach your goals. In addition, here are some dietitian-approved resources that can help you get started:

Cookspiration – https://www.cookspiration.com/
eaTracker – http://www.eatracker.ca/
Eat Right Ontario – https://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/default.aspx
Canada’s Food Guide – http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index-eng.php

Have a beautiful spring and enjoy allowing your good health to blossom!

Robyn Nagel, RD, MHS(c)
With contributions from: Kathryn Morgan, RD, CDE

References:

Dietitians of Canada (2017). Food Fads: Ugh! How do I know which information to trust. Nutrition Month March 2017 – Take the Fight out of Food. Retrieved from http://www.dietitians.ca/getattachment/5505ebdd-d66a-4f6a-b32b-aa8ce273e771/NM2017-FactSheet-01FoodFads-EN-rev.pdf.aspx

Hamilton Family Health Team (2014). Healthy You Program. Retrieved from https://www.hamiltonfht.ca/en/groups-workshops/Healthy-You—Improve-Health-and-Wellness.aspx