March is Nutrition Month, a good time to rethink your menu and possibly make some changes to add more nutritional value, and maybe even consider social responsibility, in your daily food choices.
This is a chance to take a closer look at what you eat and set priorities to aim for more fresh, locally sourced ingredients. It’s also a good opportunity to try some new recipes and foods, and maybe look at ways to moderate your intake of refined sugars, red meat and trans fats, and instead choose more whole grain, fresh and plant-based options.
Here are some guidelines to spring clean your nutrition choices.
Organize your kitchen
An organized kitchen and pantry area will make it easier to see what food you have, and to choose healthy options when you’re craving a snack. Prepare raw veggies, nuts and chia or oat puddings and store them at the front of your cupboard or fridge. Organize spices and cooking supplies so they’re easy to use and to see when you want to prepare a new recipe. Sort through your recipes and pick out some new ones to try.
Strive for more variety
Variety is the golden rule of healthy eating. But often we fall into a pattern of eating the same things over and over. When preparing a meal try to include multiple food groups and lots of color. Lean toward veggies and whole grain foods. As you consider what you’ll eat during the day, and the week, find ways to mix it up.
Know where your food comes from
It improves your relationship with food and helps you understand what you’re putting in your body will have a better understanding of how your produce was grown, harvested and processed. This reinforces mindful eating and improves your relationship with food by turning it into an experience rather than a mindless distraction.
Buying local also means fewer carbon emissions since the food doesn’t have to be transported so far and less waste because the food doesn’t need all the packaging that’s required to protect it during shipping.
Choose fresh over processed
Highly processed foods are usually loaded with sodium for shelf stabilization, sugar for taste or added fats, including saturated and trans fats, for mouth feel. Research has linked all of these ingredients to chronic health problems, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and some types of cancer. The key is to reduce your consumption of highly processed foods but substituting in fresher and less processed items. Instead of chips and salty crackers, try raw almonds, whole grain crackers and raw veggies. Instead of cookies and pastries, grab an apple, or some dried cranberries, dates or figs. Substitute in some flavoured sparkling water or kombucha instead of sugary carbonated drinks.
Organic foods have more beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants, than their conventionally-grown counterparts and people with allergies to foods, chemicals, or preservatives may find their symptoms lessen or go away when they eat only organic foods. Organic produce contains fewer pesticides no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives are allowed in organic food.
Favour real foods over supplements
More people are taking vitamin and mineral supplements such as vitamin D and calcium for health and wellness. The use of herbals and botanicals, especially turmeric, is also more popular. While it’s a good thing to supplement the vitamins and minerals your body needs, real food remains the healthiest choice because you get more nutritional value, fibre and protective substances like “phytochemicals” that occur naturally and can help prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes and others. Many natural foods are also high in antioxidants.
A slight tweak to your nutritional outlook can make a world of difference. Why not use this month to try a new approach to food and chances are you’ll feel the positive effects.