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March is Nutrition Month

March is a month to celebrate Nutrition! This year’s theme is “Best food forward: plan, shop, cook, enjoy!” Healthy eating begins at the grocery store and research has shown that Canadians may not make the healthiest choices. Many of us have cupboards full of packaged, processed convenience foods and empty calorie drinks, like pop. Can we blame ourselves or do we need help making healthier choices? Dietitians of Canada performed a poll in 2012, which revealed that 63% of Canadians struggle with making healthier food choices in the grocery store. Here are seven tips from Dietitians of Canada to help you put your best food forward:

  1. Take a little time to plan before you hit the grocery store aisles!
    A meal plan and a grocery list help simplify shopping and can save you money! Check store flyers and online coupon sites for specials. It’s also a good idea to see what foods you already have on hand.
  2. Get stocked! A smartly chosen pantry makes cooking delicious, nutritious meals easy!
    Look for nutrient-rich packaged foods with more vitamins, minerals, and fibre, and contain less sodium, fat, and sugar. Look for “no added salt” on the label.
    Top five foods to stock:
    a) Legumes: canned or dried peas, beans, and lentils. Add these protein-rich plant foods to soups, stews, and chilies!
    b) Tomatoes: whole, diced, or crushed. Use them for a base for pasta sauce, soup, or casserole!
    c) Fruit: dried, jarred, or canned.  Look for “unsweetened” or “packed in water”.  Add to salads, muffins, or smoothies.
    d) Fish: canned salmon and light tuna packed in water. A healthy addition to salads, casseroles, and pasta dishes. Not to mention protein-packed sandwiches!
    e) Whole grains: quinoa, parboiled brown rice, or oats to name a few. These can make a nutrient-rich side dish or main meal!
  3. Get Frozen! Pack your freezer with nutrient-rich frozen foods to make healthy meals in a flash! Look for plain frozen foods that you can season yourself
    a) Vegetables – just as nutritious as fresh!
    b) Fruit – add to breakfast for a burst of flavour and nutrients!
    c) Fish – look for plain, un-breaded versions to make it easy to enjoy twice a week!
  4. Make healthy eating easy. Organize your fridge so healthy foods are the first ones you see!
    Studies show that people are more likely to choose healthy foods, such as vegetables and fruit, if they’re easily available.
    Keep fresh snacks in plain sight in clear containers so they’re easy to grab.
    Keep the less healthy snacks in containers you can’t see through and push them to the back.
  5. Looking to save cash and calories? These tips will help with both!
    Pay with cash, not plastic. This way you are forced to stick to your budget and your list!
    Think small. The jumbo packs of snacks aren’t a bargain if you end up throwing some away, plus having bigger packages at home means you’ll eat more.
    Shop during non-peak times. You’ll spend less time in the checkout line, where you might be tempted to buy expensive magazines and candy.
    Shop wise. Beware of the hidden costs of buy-one-get-one-free offers. Sure, you get more food for less money, but will you waste it or eat it even though you didn’t really need to?
  6.  Make grocery shopping a family affair. It’s the perfect time to teach kids about healthy food choices.
    Get kids involved in the planning, shopping, and cooking! Talk about how much food costs, where it comes from, and how to make healthy choices.
  7. Check the percentages! Nutrition labels work best when you use them to compare products.
    Make sure to check the serving size first to make sure it’s how much food you actually eat.
    The % daily value (% DV) on the Nutrition Facts table shows you if a food has “a little” or “a lot” of a nutrient.  For example, 5% DV or less is a little, and 15% DV or more is a lot for any nutrient.

Check out our resources from Dietitians of Canada for more information and tips to help you put your best food forward.

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