Nutrition Month 2022 is centered on the key ingredients for a healthier tomorrow, which includes building your health literacy. This Nutrition month, we’ve partnered with of Vitality Nutrition‘s Registered Dietitian Courtney Berg to build your food literacy skills. Click here to meet Courtney.
Want to eat healthier, but don’t know where to start? Consider these 5 tips from a Registered Dietitian to balance your diet and improve your health.
1. Build in protein
Most people easily consume enough protein to prevent deficiency, however, many individuals feel their best when intentionally building high protein choices into meals and snacks. Some key benefits of protein-rich meals and snacks include:
- Sustained energy: Including protein in a meal or snack helps to blunt the release of carbohydrate (ie. glucose) from the meal for longer lasting energy. By including a protein at your meals you’re more likely to experience stable, long-lasting energy and avoid detrimental symptoms of blood sugar irregularities like cravings, headaches, or dizziness.
- Increased satisfaction: Studies show that protein is the most filling of the macronutrients – partly because a high protein diet decreases levels of hunger hormones (eg. ghrelin). For those looking to lose or manage body weight, building protein into meals can naturally decrease caloric intake due to decreased cravings and reduced appetite.
- Increase in metabolism: A high protein intake can boost metabolism because of the extra effort required from the body to breakdown and digest the nutrients in a protein-rich food. Furthermore, a high protein diet helps to build and maintain muscle mass. Higher amounts of muscle mass is associated with higher metabolism!
Protein can be found in a variety of sources including lean meats, poultry, and fish, eggs, Greek or Skyr yogurt, and plant-based sources like beans and lentils, tofu, and tempeh.
Dietitian Tip: Start your day with a high protein breakfast for sustained energy through the morning and increased satisfaction throughout the day. For example, a high-protein yogurt like Greek yogurt with granola, seeds, and berries or eggs with avocado toast and tomatoes!
2. Fill up on fibre
Fibre is similar to protein in that a high fibre diet stabilizes blood sugars to improve energy and increases feelings of fullness through the day. However, fibre also has a powerful role in healthy digestion by supporting regular bowel movements and providing a fuel source to the ‘good bacteria’ that reside in the gut.
You can find fibre in plant-based foods like whole grains, starches, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, avocado, and even dark chocolate.
Dietitian Tip: Read Nutrition Facts tables at the grocery store to compare products and identify ingredients that contain more fibre. Examples of exceptionally high fibre foods include chia seeds, ground flaxseed, sweet potatoes, berries, apples, pears, oats, avocado, multigrain bread, air-popped popcorn, and beans or lentils.
3. Eat a rainbow of vegetables & fruit
Fruits and vegetables provide fibre, which as we previously discussed can support energy levels, increase satisfaction, and aid in healthy digestion. Furthermore, plant foods contain antioxidants that help to combat chronic disease! Each color of vegetable and fruit contain unique nutrition properties that aid in good health. For example, red foods like tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene. By enjoying a range of colors of vegetables and/or fruit throughout the day you will nourish your body with a variety of nutrients that exert health-promoting properties.
4. You eat what you see
Your food environment is the invisible hand that shapes your food choices. Many people believe that healthy eating is a product of motivation, discipline, and willpower. While these characteristics may be helpful in establishing a healthy eating pattern, it is more impactful to curate your environment in a way that makes healthy eating easy!
Instead of relying on motivation and willpower to eat healthy, try building your environment in a way that makes the healthy choice the easy choice. If you know you’d benefit from eating more protein, fibre, vegetables and fruit then structure your environment in a way that makes these foods readily available. For example:
- Leave a bowl of fruit on the counter. Simply seeing the fruit serves as a reminder to enjoy colorful and high fibre fruit as a snack!
- Wash and chop raw vegetables to enjoy as a snack or incorporate into meals. Instead of storing vegetables and fruit in the produce drawer, try placing the prepared vegetables in a clear container at eye level in the fridge so you are more likely to see and eat them!
- Keep a portable, protein-rich snack in your purse, desk drawer, or car as an accessible option when you are on-the-go. For example, a protein bar, almonds, or a can of tuna.
You might even use the concept in reverse by placing the food choices you’d like to eat less often in a hard-to-reach or less visible place. For example, storing snack foods on the top shelf of the pantry.
5. Ditch the all-or-nothing mindset
Many people get stuck believing that healthy eating is an all-or-nothing game. For example, framing a less-nutritious meal as a ‘cheat meal’ or concluding that they’ve ‘fallen off the wagon’.
An alternative to all-or-nothing thinking is to reframe healthy eating as a habit we repeat consistently rather than a behaviour we repeat perfectly. This small idea—that consistency does not require perfection—is important. “Never miss twice” is a mantra that many find helpful when overcoming all-or-nothing thought patterns. This principle is not intended to imply that one ‘less nutritious’ meal is a mistake but rather to focus on building consistency by returning to healthy food choices at the next available opportunity.
Instead of writing the day off as a failure or waiting to ‘start again Monday’, remind yourself that supportive habits and food choices are available to you in the next moment. The mindset of returning to supportive food choices as soon as possible is an essential skill when building a consistent, healthy pattern of eating.
When it comes to making healthy changes it can be hard to know where to start. Instead of eliminating entire food groups or cutting out your favorite foods, you can instead focus on adding in nutritious foods and building a supportive environment and mindset. Adding even just one of these habits can help to improve your diet in a non-restrictive and sustainable way.
Meet Courtney Berg, RD, B.Sc. Nutrition
About Courtney | Courtney Berg is a Registered Dietitian and completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition from the University of Saskatchewan in 2016. Her approach to nutrition continues to evolve as she learns and grows with her clients at Vitality Nutrition. However, a holistic approach remains the base of her philosophy with an emphasis on understanding how nutrition as well as sleep, mindset, exercise, and the environment work together to influence whole body health.
About Vitality Nutrition | Vitality Nutrition is a collective of Registered Dietitians and Nutritionists supporting clients in Saskatchewan and across Canada! We incorporate a unique and meaningful approach to food, fitness, and performance that empowers clients to build life-long habits and see lasting results.