By Miranda Massie on March 4, 2019
Nourishment goes beyond nutrition, beyond food labels, calories and superfoods. Nourishment is a mental, physical and even spiritual state where we feel fulfilled, satiated and whole. Our modern lives often have us running to and from commitments, engaging with fast-paced technology and navigating personal and professional demands. This leaves little time to think of food as anything but the fuel to help get us there. In the spirit of Nutrition Month, I’m providing a little ‘food for thought’ (pun-intended), some simple steps to support feeling nourished.
1. Practice gratitude
At the start of a meal, take a quick moment to consider where your food came from. Picture who had to work in order for the food to land on your plate. In that moment, pause and say thank you.
Why: Gratitude supports mental health and wellbeing, and slowing down supports healthy digestion.
2. Don’t forget your liquids
The body needs food to function, but it needs hydration to survive. To ensure that you are hydrated throughout the day, try water tracking and reminder apps, incorporating beverages into your daily routine (before breakfast, before bed, with all meals), and using a favourite water bottle.
Why: 60% of our bodies are made up of water, which needs to be replenished in order to support many important health functions.
3. Prioritize sleep
Set up a sleep routine and do your best to keep it consistent. Try setting a reminder to go to bed at the same time each day, invest in comfortable sheets, limit caffeine consumption and avoid technology before bed.
Why: Sleep and nutrition go hand in hand. Our diet can positively or negatively impact our quality of sleep, and our sleep patterns can result in irregular or overindulgent eating habits.
4. Identify what brings you comfort
For me, comfort food includes cheesy pasta, salt and vinegar potato chips and wine. We all deserve to indulge once in a while: it’s important. However, we should also be aware that we define these foods as ‘comfort’. We often use these foods as a way to avoid dealing with challenging people, situations or emotions. By identifying the foods that you crave the most, it brings awareness to the emotions driving the eating.
Why: Being more mindful of why and when we reach for certain foods can interrupt habits and enable portion control and increased self-awareness.
5. Listen to your body
Pay attention to subtle signs your body might be telling you about your diet. Consider writing them down or tracking them over time. Have a headache? Your body might need more water or perhaps you’ve been drinking sugary beverages. Experiencing a gastro-intestinal issue? This could indicate an allergy or a need for more fibre-rich foods. Skin inflammation? This might indicate a food intolerance.
Why: Getting to know your body’s rhythms can help catch an issue, challenge or allergy early, leading to increased physical comfort and piece of mind.
This month, I encourage you to look beyond nutrition and reflect on what helps you feel nourished. This may mean eating meals with friends, establishing a new bedtime routine or even indulging in your favourite comfort foods (just to make sure they’re still as delicious as you remember).
You can also read more about strategies to help you feel nourished.
All my best,
Posted in Editorial, Miranda Massie, Nutrition | Tagged comfort, editorial, gratitude, mental health, nourishment, Nutrition, nutrition month, physical health, sleep, tips, tricks, UBC, water | 2 Responses
By Melissa Lafrance on March 4, 2019
March is Nutrition Month in Canada, a public awareness campaign on the importance of healthy eating. This month, we delve into the newly-released Canada Food Guide and highlight healthy recipes, tips and practices to support overall health and wellbeing.
Week 1: Welcome to Canada’s new and improved food guide
It’s a simple idea: that eating should be a simple pleasure. The new Canada Food Guide embraces more of a holistic approach to food and nutrition. It focuses on the context of eating, including what, when and how we eat, and less on food groups and servings. The guide has also evolved to emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grain foods and protein.
In our Recipes & Tips column, we’ve long been promoting information that is evidence-based and aligned with the new food guide. We, along with the Government of Canada, encourage you to:
- Explore the new features of Canada’s food guide
- Learn how to adopt and maintain a healthy eating pattern
- Make it a habit to eat a variety of healthy foods each day
- Discover three ways to practice healthy snacking and why healthy snacks are good for you
Week 2: Sharpen your food skills
Because food preparation skills don’t come naturally, it can be challenging to prepare healthy foods. But like any other skill, it just takes practice and guidance. Developing your food prep skills can be the key to creating meals from fresh ingredients.
If you’re fairly new to cooking, start small and simple to boost your abilities and confidence. Even seasoned home cooks may learn a thing or two from the following resources:
- How-to kitchen technique videos (safefoodTV)
- Simple and fun cooking videos (Everyday Food with Sarah Carey)
- Quick and easy recipe videos (Jamie Oliver’s FoodTube)
- Minimalist Baker recipes require 10 ingredients or less and can be done within 30 minutes or less. Best of all, they are healthy and straightforward. Try their perfect bowl of oats to kick-start your day or their comforting one-pot everyday lentil soup.
- Veggie and tofu stir fry (My Recipes)
Week 3: Feed your food knowledge
Purchasing minimally processed foods and prepping your own meals and snacks are the best ways to keep your nutritional health in check. Here are some Nutrition Month recipes and resources to help you in the kitchen:
- How to cook more often (Government of Canada)
- Learn how to limit highly processed foods (Government of Canada)
- Nutrition Month’s feature recipes (Dietitians of Canada)
- Unlock the potential of food (5 Nutrition Month Factsheets)
Week 4: Eat more plant proteins, drink more water
The new food guide also incorporates a greater variety of protein sources and emphasizes mindful eating, drinking water and awareness of food marketing and food labels. It’s not about portion but about proportion. Here are some healthy tips:
- Water is the drink of choice to quench thirst. UBC recommends tap water.
- Discover protein foods (Government of Canada)
- Be mindful of your eating habits (Government of Canada)
Tell us what recipes you’ll try during Nutrition Month. Will you be making some changes based on the new Canada Food Guide?
By Miranda Massie on March 7, 2018
I love breakfast. Besides being one of those people who MUST eat something within an hour of waking up, I also just love breakfast food. Sweet, savoury, hot, cold, liquid, solid – it’s one of the most versatile meals around.
How many of you have heard that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”? Particularly in North America, this common social understanding dates back to childhood, and despite evidence to support it, many people still don’t eat breakfast. 
Now, I’m not here to get all parental and tell you what to do. Instead, in honour of National Nutrition Month, I’d like to share my love of breakfast. Here are my four reasons to feed your brain the most delicious meal of the day!
If you’re someone who needs variety, eating the same breakfast day after day may not sound very appetizing. Below is a go-to recipe that uses seasonally available ingredients and can be customized to your tastes. You can also find more oatmeal-topping ideas here.
Miranda’s Custom Make-ahead Oatmeal:
|5 cups||Quick oats|
|1 cup||Nut of your choice
(almond slices, toasted pecans, walnuts
|1 cup||Seed of your choice
(sunflower, pumpkin, chia, hemp)
|1 cup||Dried fruit of your choice
(cranberries, apricots, pineapple, banana)
|1 cup||Dried shredded coconut|
|Optional||Sliced fresh fruit (apples, banana, berries)|
- Prep ingredients in advance.
- Scoop 1/4 to 1/3 cup of your oatmeal into a bowl or Tupperware container. Add water.
- Microwave for 2 minutes. Enjoy!
Time can be a big barrier, but it doesn’t have to take ages to prepare breakfast. Here is a list of time-tested meal ideas to keep you moving in the morning:
- Miranda’s Custom Make-ahead Oatmeal (see above)
- Total time: 2 minutes, 30 seconds (30 seconds to scoop + 2 minutes to microwave)
- Toasted English muffin with melted cheese
- Total time: 1 minute, 30 seconds (1 minute in toaster + 30 seconds to melt cheese)
- Night-before yogurt parfait
- Total time: 2 minutes night before, no time in the morning (45 seconds to scoop yogurt + 45 seconds to add frozen fruit + 30 seconds to pack granola)
- Nut butter Eggo
- Total time: 1 minute, 30 seconds (1 minute to toast frozen Eggo waffle + 30 seconds to spread nut butter of choice)
- Make-ahead breakfast egg cups 
- Total time: 31 minutes (30 minutes to make head of time + 45 seconds to microwave on the go)
It makes you smarter
Food fuels our bodies. The same way that wood fuels a fire, we can’t function optimally or survive without it. When we sleep, we fast for six to eight hours, which means the longer we put off eating, the longer our bodies have to try and function without fuel. Breakfast can help support our brains to do great things and be productive. It also prevents us from being distracted by rumbling tummies. Read more about the effects of nutrients on brain function. 
Another barrier to breakfast is cost. We often assume that it’s easier to make a quick stop at a coffee shop, but this routine can end up being more expensive over time. For example, a yogurt parfait and a banana loaf from Starbucks costs $6.63 including tax, but you can get the equivalent items — all homemade by UBC nutrition students – at the Agora Café for $4. It also pays (pun intended) to be prepared. Prepping your meals in advance (as per the time saving tips above) is another way to cut costs.
This month, I invite you to rise and shine with breakfast, and if that’s not for you, find a way to incorporate an early morning snack into your routine a few days a week. Turning meals into social events (a potluck brunch perhaps?) is a great way to start.
All my best,
Photo credit: UBC Communications & Marketing
By Melissa Lafrance on March 7, 2018
In honour of National Nutrition Month, this third installment of our annual series takes a critical look at three popular myths. Read on for the real facts on fruits, veggies, and turmeric.
Disclaimer: The information in this feature is intended to encourage you to think critically about the information we are bombarded with. It is not meant to cause worry or make you revamp your diet completely. At the end of the day, we all need to make the food choices that make the most sense to us at the time.
Fruits and vegetables are healthy, so I can eat as much as I want, right?
It’s true that the majority of Canadians do not consume a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables; however, some people do and may even eat too much. There is no set maximum, but keep in mind that you can only eat so much in a day, and you need to leave room for other food groups. Eating only fruits and vegetables may result in you getting insufficient essential nutrients — not to mention the discomfort that can result from eating too much fiber-rich foods. Think moderation and variety. According to Canada’s Food Guide, adults between the ages of 19-50 should aim to consume:
- 7-8 servings of fruit and vegetables per day for females
- 8-10 servings of fruit and vegetables per day for males
- At least one dark green and one orange vegetable per day 
Cooking destroys all nutrients in vegetables.
This is not entirely accurate. It is true that exposing vegetables to high heat or boiling water for extended periods of time diminishes some nutrients, but some nutrients are actually enhanced. Take lycopene for example, the main carotenoid in tomatoes. Cooking tomatoes breaks down the cell matrix, thereby making the lycopene more available . Cooking vegetables breaks down the plants’ cell walls, making them easier to digest and absorb.
Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and B, are the most vulnerable because they leach out into the cooking water. For foods high in water-soluble nutrients, steaming (even using a microwave) and dry cooking like grilling, roasting and stir-frying retain a greater amount of nutrients than boiling . If you tend to boil your vegetables, don’t be alarmed: just eat a variety of cooked and raw veggies (even frozen) and you’ll be good.
Here are some additional resources:
- Tips to maximize nutrient retention by Thinking Nutrition
- Guide to avoid overcooking vegetables by the kitchn
Turmeric has superpower curing abilities.
First there was kale, then coconut oil, and now turmeric has made it into the mainstream superfood consciousness. Not only is it readily available as a common spice, but it now can also be found in concentrated supplement form. Curcumin, the principal compound in turmeric, has been studied for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, but there still lacks clear and significant results. Some preclinical studies suggest that curcumin may help prevent and treat certain types of cancers and type 2 diabetes, however larger randomized controlled trials are needed to determine its efficacy. Also, curcumin taken orally is poorly absorbed and rapidly metabolized and eliminated in humans.
Bottom line: there isn’t sufficient evidence to suggest that it can prevent disease or cure illnesses . Long before it found its way into your latte, fresh turmeric root or ground turmeric spice was known for being flavourful and commonly used in many dishes. It can continue to be safely enjoyed in that way in small doses. You can find out more about how curcumin is metabolized, its bioavailability, as well as adverse effects and drug interactions here.
Interested in learning more about nutrition, detoxes, superfoods and hormones? Check out our Debunking the Diet Workshop Series.
For other nutritional myths we’ve debunked, see the previous articles written by Melissa:
Photo credit: UBC Communications & Marketing
By Melissa Lafrance on March 7, 2018
It’s March and we’re celebrating nutrition month! Let’s get cooking by focusing on the little things you can do to improve your nutritional health that will result in big-picture gains. Read on to learn the basics to a healthy diet, as well as healthier ingredient swaps and easy sheet pan meals.
Week 1: Back to Basics
Instead of focusing on calorie-counting, restrictive diets or “superfoods”, let’s think about the foundations of a healthy diet. Eating within your caloric needs and consuming nutrient-dense foods are beneficial to your health, but focusing on the small details can be confusing, stressful and frustrating. How about nourishing your body, heart and mind instead? Renowned American author, journalist and activist Michael Pollan said it best: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Check out these resources to get you back to the basics of healthy eating:
- Healthy eating basics by the Heart and Stroke Foundation
- Healthy plate and healthy bowl guidelines by Vancouver Coastal Health
- Food Rules book and Cooked documentary series (on Netflix) by Michael Pollan
Week 2: Basic Recipes
Take out the guess work and try these plant-astic, wholesome and satisfying meals:
- One-pot everyday lentil soup by Minimalist Baker
- Veggie and tofu stir fry by My Recipes
- Sweet potato and white bean chilli by Jamie Oliver
Week 3: Healthier Ingredient Swaps
One of the greatest things about home cooking is that you can make almost any dish healthier with simple substitutions. Don’t be scared to swap ingredients, modify recipes to make them healthier or use ingredients you have on hand.
- 67 healthy recipe substitutions by Greatist
- Blueberry muffin breakfast cookies by Minimalist Baker
- Lentil and sweet potato shepherd’s pie by Minimalist Baker
Week 4: Speedy Sheet Pan Meals
Sheet pan meals are great and here’s why: fewer dirty dishes, roasting produces more flavour, huge batches = leftovers (yay!), simple to prepare as most of the work is in the prep, and once it’s in the oven you can forget about it for a while.
Try these easy tips and healthy sheet pan recipes:
By Miranda Massie on March 2, 2017
A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with celiac disease. Although she was not experiencing any symptoms, she was tested based on the diagnosis of a close relative. The results came back positive – and from that point on she has had to make significant changes to her life.
Even if someone is not experiencing physical symptoms, celiac disease can damage the intestinal lining, which increases the risk of future health problems. According to the Canadian Celiac Association, treating the disease requires a “strict adherence to a GLUTEN FREE DIET FOR LIFE.” Their website literally spells it out in ALL CAPS.
Before my friend’s diagnosis, I had an idea of what a gluten free diet looked like: avoid bread and pasta, order bun-less burgers and use a substitute for wheat-based flour when baking. I was very wrong. Over the last few months, I have learned so much about the challenges of living with a food allergy or intolerance. It is not simply choosing the “GF” menu item at a restaurant.
Living gluten-free means:
- having to check ingredient labels on everything from salad dressing to Tylenol,
- needing a separate cutting board, knife and cooking equipment when sharing a kitchen with gluten eaters,
- bringing your own pre-prepared food to parties and dinners with friends, and
- being the only person with nothing but water in front of them when out at a restaurant.
It requires a complete lifestyle overhaul that, sadly, those who don’t have food allergies will have a hard time understanding. Eating and meal preparation are communal events in many cultures, and a diagnosis like this can lead to both physical and social isolation.
Research shows that rates of depression are more common in adults diagnosed with celiac disease and that these rates are similar to those of people living with other chronic physical illnesses. Food sensitivities or allergies in general are associated with higher levels of psychological distress (including depression and anxiety) in both children and adults.
Through my friend’s diagnosis, I have learned to be more tolerant, and I have learned to be more patient and empathetic. I have a greater understanding of just how tough it is to maintain a specialized diet – it’s a lifestyle commitment that requires tremendous dedication, strength and vigilance. One I doubt that I would have the strength for.
In honour of Nutrition Month, and in a spirit of humanity and understanding, I invite you to be kind to those around you living with food allergies. We exist in a world that is not typically designed to make their lives easy. And since we require food for survival, these folks could probably use some thoughtful support and understanding.
For more information about food allergies and how to provide support, visit the Newly Diagnosed Support Centre created by Food Allergy Canada.
All my best,
Canadian Celiac Association: http://www.celiac.ca/
Cummings, A. J., Knibb, R. C., King, R. M. and Lucas, J. S. (2010). The psychosocial impact of food allergy and food hypersensitivity in children, adolescents and their families: a review. Allergy 65: 933–945. doi:10.1111/j.1398-9995.2010.02342.x
Lieberman, J. A. & Sicherer, S. H. (2011). Quality of life in food allergy. Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology 11(3): 236–242. doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e3283464cf0
Smith, D. F. and Gerdes, L. U. (2012). Meta-analysis on anxiety and depression in adult celiac disease. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 125: 189–193. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0447.2011.01795.x
Posted in Editorial, Miranda Massie, Nutrition | Tagged allergies, compassion, Diet, eating, editorial, education, food, food intolerance, gluten, gluten-free, health, Miranda Massie, nutrition month | 7 Responses
By Melissa Lafrance on March 2, 2017
We’ve all read the articles or heard from a friend about the transformational powers of choosing certain foods over others. With all the hype, it can be hard to determine what’s true and what’s not.
This article, written in honour of Nutrition Month, takes a critical look at seven popular myths. Read on for the real facts on everything from whether you should avoid fats entirely to whether white sugar really is worse than alternative sweeteners.
Disclaimer – The information in this feature is meant to encourage you to think critically about the information we are bombarded with. It is not meant to cause worry or make you revamp your diet. At the end of the day, we all need to make the food choices that make the most sense to us at the time.
Food for thought: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. – Michael Pollan
Myth 1: Avoid all fats for overall health.
Fat, often villainized, is a necessary macronutrient that each of us needs to consume. It’s true that not all fats are equal and that some are important for overall health while others should be limited.
There are four different types of fats: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated and trans fats.
Unsaturated fats (both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) are liquid at room temperature and are considered “healthy” fats because they improve blood cholesterol levels, offer cardiovascular health benefits and play other positive roles. They are mainly found in foods from plants, such as vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. Foods with high concentrations of monounsaturated fats include olive, peanut, and canola oils; avocados; nuts like almonds, hazelnuts and pecans; and seeds (such as pumpkin and sesame). Foods with high concentrations of polyunsaturated fats include sunflower, corn, soybean, canola and flaxseed oils; walnuts; flax seeds; and fish.
Saturated fat is mainly found in foods from animals (such as fatty cuts of meat and poultry) and full-fat dairy products. However, a few plant foods are also high in saturated fats, such as coconut, coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil.
Trans fats are made from liquid oil that is transformed into a solid fat, adding texture and flavour to food. They are found in commercially baked goods, fried foods and processed foods. Some meats, milk and butter naturally contain small amounts of trans fat.
To lower your risk of heart disease, it is best to limit saturated fats and aim to have no manufactured trans fats in your diet.
Myth 2: It’s impossible to make sense of the nutrition facts table on packaged foods.
Actually, it is possible to make an informed decision on the foods you should limit, based on the nutrition facts table included on all packaged foot. Don’t let the nutrition claims on the front of packages sway your decision: head to the back of the package and get the facts.
Start by finding out the serving size right under the header “Nutrition Facts”. For a quick check, use the % Daily Value on the right side to determine if there is a little or a lot of a particular nutrient. If it says “5% Daily Value” or less, that’s considered a little, and 15% or higher is a lot.
You may want to look for low amounts of nutrients like saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and sugar. You may want a lot of fibre, vitamin A, calcium and iron. To take it one step further, look at the weight of each nutrient and make an informed decision based on your preference, nutritional status and health goals.
Myth 3: You need to stick to the perimeter of the grocery store to get healthy foods and avoid the not-so-healthy options in the middle aisles.
While each grocery store is designed differently, in general, most of the fresh items that are minimally processed (like produce and meat) are placed on the perimeter of the store. But you’ll also find many highly processed and less nutritional foods, such as those in the bakery and deli meat sections.
Don’t ignore the inner aisles, as that’s where you’ll often find dried items (nuts, seeds, legumes), grains (rice, barley, farro, quinoa), oils, vinegars, and frozen fruits and vegetables. Avoiding these sections may limit your purchase of healthy items.
Did you ever notice that the common food staples like produce, meat, dairy and bread are at completely opposite ends of the store? Store designers do this on purpose to make us spend more time in the grocery store and perhaps add a few more unplanned items to our shopping baskets. Developing a meal plan ahead of time and preparing a grocery list can help you limit your purchases to what you actually need.
Myth 4: Alternative or other forms of sugar are better for you than refined white sugar.
Nutritionally speaking, all sugars are pretty much the same. While some people consider brown sugar, honey or agave syrup to be more natural, they are still sugars. All are concentrated sources of calories with very few other nutrients. Your body can’t tell the difference between white sugar and any other type of sugar.
In fact, your body handles naturally occurring sugar in food or processed sugars and syrups in the same way. If you are looking for the least-processed options, then yes, stick to small amounts of honey and maple syrup.
Myth 5: Organic foods are better than non-organic foods.
Bottom line: there is not enough scientific evidence to conclude that organic food is more nutritious than non-organic food. Regardless of being organic or non-organic, foods usually have a similar amount of nutrients. Some studies have found slight differences in nutrient content, although the results have not been significant. The factors that do affect the nutritional content of food are soil quality, growing conditions, harvesting methods and timing, and the species of the animal and what it ate.
The real difference between organic and non-organic foods is in the farming practices. Organic foods are grown under strict regulations and requirements laid out by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Organic foods must be produced without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms. Organic farmers also use crop rotation, plant compost and composted manure to enrich the soil. Animals raised organically are fed only organic feed that is free of antibiotics, growth hormones and insecticides.
In Canada, both organic and non-organic foods follow strict guidelines and are safe to eat. As with any purchase, it’s a personal choice and often comes down to financial realities.
Myth 6: Sea salt is better than table salt.
Sea salt, just like kosher and gourmet salt, has about the same amount of sodium as table salt. One is not necessarily healthier than the other, and too much sodium can be harmful to your health. The differences between sea salt and table salt are taste, texture and processing.
Table salt is mined from dried-up ancient salt lakes. Some table salts include iodine, a nutrient that helps prevent thyroid disease. Sea salt is made by evaporating seawater and usually involves less processing. Depending on the water source and the trace minerals, different sea salts can have varying flavours and colours.
Myth 7: A raw food diet provides enzymes that are essential to healthy digestion.
The major claim made to promote the raw food diet is that heating food destroys its nutrients and natural enzymes and that enzymes are needed to boost digestion and fight chronic disease.
It is true that cooking inactivates plant enzymes since they are proteins and proteins denature with heat. However, the acids in our stomachs denature those proteins, even when eaten raw. A completely raw food diet is often difficult to follow and can lead to inadequate intake of many essential nutrients, such as protein, iron, calcium and vitamin B12.
Uncooked and unpasteurized foods have been linked to foodborne illness and when foods are cooked, this risk is significantly decreased. Cooking also allows for the transformation of foods and is often needed to allow for proper digestion and nutrient absorption.
If you have questions or concerns about your diet, consider getting nutritional support – see the March 2017 article in the Healthy UBC Newsletter for information on using UBC’s Extended Health Benefits and EFAP services.
By Melissa Lafrance on March 1, 2016
Spring is in the air! This time of year brings warmer weather, longer days, and perhaps less cloudiness and rain and more delightful sunshine. Spring is the season of new beginnings, fresh buds blooms and the earth seems to come to life again. There’s also a common activity that many take part in – spring cleaning. March is also Nutrition Month (aka my favourite initiative), given my passion for nutrition and health. And on that note, let’s take the opportunity to debunk eight nutrition myths and learn the real facts!
Disclaimer – The information is this feature is meant to make you think about being critical about the information we are bombarded with in the media. It is not meant to cause worry or make you revamp your diet. At the end of the day, we all need to make the choices that makes most sense to us at the time. If you have concerns about your diet, consider consulting a dietitian – see the December, 2014, article in Benefits FYI for information on using your UBC Extended Health Benefits for dietitian services.
Avoid carbs if you want to lose weight.
Restricting carbohydrates (carbs) typically involves lowering or eliminating carbohydrate-containing foods like grain products, some fruits, starchy vegetables, some dairy products, as well as high sugar-containing foods. While this can help one lose weight in the short-term due to a lower caloric intake, restrictive diets are not sustainable on a long-term basis. Our bodies need carbohydrates for energy and optimal brain function. Regardless of the diet approach, long-term lifestyle changes in eating habits and physical activity are required to prevent weight loss and maintenance. Complex carbohydrates are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals and fibre.
- Learn more about low carbohydrate diets.
- Learn more about smart choices to include carbohydrates in your diet.
Late-night snacking causes weight gain.
Healthy snacking is a smart way to help ensure adequate nutrient intake for energy and wellbeing. Snacking in between meals can help keep blood glucose levels stable throughout the day. Remember to snack wisely, measure portion sizes, and listen to hunger cues. Visit Healthy Snacks for Adults for great ideas and snack foods to bring to work that will keep you satisfied in between meals or after a workout. It’s more about the type and the amount of food you consume and less about the timing.
You need to take vitamin and mineral supplements to be healthy.
Food first! Most healthy individuals can meet their vitamin and mineral needs with a well-balanced diet. There are certain population groups that require some extra nutrients in the form of supplements including, but not limited to, older individuals, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and those with restricted diets.
Everyone should eat a gluten-free diet.
A gluten-free diet is a necessity for individuals with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested, or with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Gluten is a protein found most commonly in wheat, barley and rye. Unless you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, you don’t need to avoid gluten. Whole grains, among other high-fibre foods, are a healthy choice and offer dietary fibre needed for proper digestion. A gluten-free diet, when not planned properly, can lack vitamins, minerals and fibre. Consult a doctor if you think you may have a gluten allergy or sensitivity.
Superfoods will keep you super healthy.
Goji berries, kale, chia seeds, and quinoa: the list of “superfoods” grows every year. Just as there is no super pill to make you healthy, there isn’t one food that can make you lose weight or cure cancer. Superfoods are simply trends. There is no clear definition of what constitutes a superfood. While these foods can be beneficial to have in our diets due to their nutrient density, so are apples and carrots. Superfoods are often portrayed in the media that one only has to consume them to achieve health and wellbeing. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and you want to keep moderation and variety in mind to achieve health benefits.
Home cooking takes too much time.
Home cooking doesn’t take as much time as you might think! I urge you to get in the kitchen and be involved in the preparation of the foods that nourish you. It does not have to be complicated. It really doesn’t take that much time to grill a piece of fresh salmon and arrange a tossed vegetable salad with oil and vinegar. If you are not experienced in the kitchen, start with simple straightforward meals. Great local and fresh ingredients don’t need much tampering to construct a delicious and nutritious meal. Planning meals in advance let you use your time wisely and make extra for lunches the next day.
- Check out these 5 best time-saving cooking tips.
- If you need inspiration to get in the kitchen, please watch Michael Pollan’s Cooked Series (now on Netflix) based on his book Cooked.
- Need healthy recipes? Try Cookspiration.
Only people with hypertension need to limit their sodium intake.
Sodium is a mineral found in salt and is needed to control blood pressure and to help with muscle and nerve function. The recommended daily intake of sodium is less than 1,500 milligrams, or 2/3 teaspoon of table salt. Most Canadians consume double the amount of sodium needed largely due to the fact that the sodium we consume is hidden in prepared foods. Excess sodium can increase the risk of hypertension and the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Find out the sodium content of common foods.
- For information on lowering your sodium intake, check out the DASH Diet.
A detox diet is needed to clear the toxins from your body.
There’s been a recent obsession with “detox” diets, as if our bodies aren’t equipped to rid of “toxins”. Toxicity is the degree to which a substance can damage an organism. An abundance of numerous substances can eventually cause toxicity, which is why moderation is so important. There are substances that can cause acute or chronic toxicity in high amounts and it’s best to avoid these. Detox diets make big promises but don’t deliver the science to back up their claims. It is true that a couple of days free from processed foods and high in fibrous foods such as vegetables and fruits will do a digestive system some good and will in turn make you feel better. Our bodies are quite spectacular and our liver, kidneys, intestines, and lungs eliminate unwanted waste. Our insides are not dirty and don’t need to be cleansed with juices, pills or potions. Some detox diets include intestine-clearing supplements that might actually be harmful (try prune juice instead!). The gut microbiota play a crucial role in our health, immune function and digestion.
There are no “bad” or “good” foods. What is beneficial for one person, may cause another person extreme discomfort, indigestion, and even allergic reaction. We are all unique and have differing nutrient requirements. Be critical of what you hear and read as it is difficult to sift through the overwhelming amount of health information and unsupported claims.
Keep in mind that stressing about 10 calories or beating yourself up for eating the occasional treat can be more harmful than the actual food you eat. If you want advice, consult a credible and trusted health professional and seek assistance through our many benefits at UBC such as EFAP and Extended Health Benefit coverage. Do what makes most sense to you at the time and take advice from trusted sources.