Celebrate National Nutrition Month with healthy eating habits

Seeking “nutrition truths” can be confusing and even frustrating at times. New information from recent studies or media reports can be conflicting and leave us doubting what we previously thought to be true. 

Have changing nutrition facts ever made you question what foods to buy for yourself and your family? Have you ever wondered if you should be eating organic fruits and vegetables, choosing butter or margarine, or if the extra effort to prepare meals from scratch is even worth it?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then keep reading to find out the facts.

Are organic fruits and vegetables a healthier choice?

Both organic and non-organic produce are equally healthy options for you and your family. Canada’s Food Guide recommends consuming an abundance of colourful fruits and vegetables each day. It recommends consuming one orange and one dark green vegetable to help maintain health. However, many factors affect a food’s nutritional value including: where and how it was grown, how long it has been stored, how long it has taken to arrive in your grocery store. Even how you cook and prepare it can change a food’s nutritional composition. Both organic and non-organic foods are grown and produced under strict regulations to make sure they are healthy and safe for you and your family to eat.

What is the difference between good fats and bad fats?

Saturated fats and trans fats are referred to as ‘bad fats’ because they can raise bad/LDL cholesterol levels. High cholesterol puts you and your family at a greater risk for developing heart disease. Saturated and trans fats are found in butter, hard margarine, lard, and shortening. Unsaturated fats (known as the ‘good fats’) come in two varieties – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats helps lower cholesterol. Traditionally when we think of foods that contain good fats, we think of avocados, salmon, nuts and seeds. You can also find unsaturated fats in soft, non-hydrogenated margarine. Canada’s Food Guide recommends including a small amount (2-3 tablespoons) of unsaturated fat each day.

How is margarine a good fat?

Plant-based diets are linked to an overall healthy lifestyle. A soft non-hydrogenated margarine, such as Becel, is made from a blend of plant-based vegetable oils like canola help provide the polyunsaturated fats our bodies need.

Is it really worth the extra time to make homemade meals?

Preparing a healthy, home-cooked meal for your family doesn’t have to take as much time as you may think. Simple, nutritious foods can make tasty meals. A little advance planning can go a long way. Create a grocery list to purchase the ingredients for double batches of your favourite recipes such as soups, stews, chili, or lasagna. This way half can be frozen and used for another meal, saving you a lot of time. Think of the concept as cook once and eat twice.

Why do healthy foods cost more than less healthy choices?

The price of food is an important issue for many of us. However, by making wise choices, you can create affordable, healthy, and delicious meals that cost you less than processed, lower nutrient food. Try purchasing non-perishable staples in bulk or buy large “club packs” of items such as lean meat and poultry. If you do not have room to store larger quantities of food, find a neighbor, friend, or relative you can share your purchase with. Many healthy staple foods can be lower-cost items, including bulk flours and whole grains, in-season fresh produce, eggs, legumes (dried lentils, split peas and beans), powdered milk, and sale-priced frozen or canned vegetables, fruits, and fish. Scouring weekly flyers for sales can also be a great guide for helping you to plan your meals.

Gina Sunderland is a Winnipeg-based registered dietitian and a specialist in nutrition education and assessment. She has worked across Canada and specializes in translating scientific nutrition information into easy to understand messages for Canadians. Her goal is to make nutrition and eating healthy, fun, understandable and easy! Gina developed this Nutrition Month article on behalf of Becel. Visit Becel.ca for more nutrition and healthy eating tips.

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