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Nutrition Tips

NUTRITION TIPS BY KATEY DAVIDSON, MSCFN, RD

Katey Davidson, MScFN, RD is a registered dietitian and founder of Taste of Nutrition. She believes in the power of food and its ability to transform lives. Her interests include nutrition for beauty (skin, hair, eye health), fitness, and overall wellness. Katey has a food first philosophy: “If you can get it through food, try that first. Then, incorporate supplements as needed and directed by your health care professional.”

 
 
Katey Davidson, MScFN, RD

Nutrition Tips

by Katey Davidson, MScFN, RD

Katey Davidson, MScFN, RD is a registered dietitian and founder of Taste of Nutrition. She believes in the power of food and its ability to transform lives. Her interests include nutrition for beauty (skin, hair, eye health), fitness, and overall wellness. Katey has a food first philosophy: “If you can get it through food, try that first. Then, incorporate supplements as needed and directed by your health care professional.” 

For more information about Katey and her business, please visit https://tasteofnutrition.com or follow her on Instagram @thetasteofnutrition.


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Nutrition Tip #9: Nutrients for Immune Health

As the cold weather joins us, so does flu season. While a healthy lifestyle can help prevent the flu to an extent, getting the flu vaccine and washing your hands are two of the most effective ways to prevent the flu. In addition to this, incorporating a healthy diet can strengthen your immune system to help you fight off colds and flu. Here are 5 nutrients that can support immune health:

Vitamin C

Most people associate vitamin C with cold prevention and treatment. Interestingly, vitamin C is found in our immune cells and it decreases when we are sick. This is one of the main reasons for this theory. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest that vitamin C will get rid of a cold. This includes vitamin C supplements. Vitamin C may help to decrease the length of a cold and does contribute to overall immune health. Therefore, it is recommended to eat a diet rich in vitamin C throughout the year. 

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Food sources of vitamin C include: bell peppers, kiwi, strawberries, oranges, and guava. 

Add sautéed red peppers to an omelette, sliced strawberries to a salad, or enjoy a fresh orange for a high source of vitamin C! 

Zinc

Zinc is important for immune health and can be key in preventing sickness. Similar to vitamin C, it is a potent antioxidant that can help fight inflammation in the body and stimulate healing. 

You can find zinc in foods such as oysters, fish, poultry, kidney beans, and peanut butter.  

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Selenium and Vitamin E

Selenium is a mineral found in seafood, whole grains, and nuts. Selenium and vitamin E work together as strong antioxidants to promote immune health. Fortunately, vitamin E is also found in foods high in selenium. 

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Vitamin D

Research has shown that vitamin D plays an important role in regulating our immune system. Unfortunately, Canadians get less vitamin D in the winter since we get it mainly from the sun. Therefore, our vitamin D levels tend to be low during the winter months and this can contribute to a weakened immune system. There are some foods that contain vitamin D such as milk, eggs, mushrooms, and fortified orange juice. However, speak to your dietitian about taking a vitamin D supplement to ensure you are getting enough. 

 Along with a healthy diet, try to exercise regularly and get enough sleep. Both are also important for creative a strong, healthy immune system. 


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Nutrition Tip #8: Three tips to prevent overeating at a holiday party

To complement the previous tip on holiday treats, I thought it would be useful to give you three tips to prevent overeating, especially if this is an issue for you.

1.     Drink water

Sometimes we think we are hungry, when in reality we are thirsty. Drinking water before eating can help you figure out if you just needed to quench your thirst or if you really do need to eat something. Furthermore, water fills our stomach. Therefore, if you drink water throughout the party, your stomach will feel fuller, preventing you from scorching down a whole cheese platter. 

2.     Use the small plates

Usually at parties you will see a large plate for meals and a small plate for little desserts and appetizers. I encourage you to use the small plate for everything. The reason I suggest this is because we all tend to have appetizers, main courses, desserts, and cocktails. Whether we have a small or large plate, we want to fill it. By filling a smaller plate, you can still enjoy the food but control the portion sizes. Plus, if you want more, you can re-fill the plate and still be in control of your food intake. 

3.     Choose wisely

Do you really need to have every single appetizer and dessert on the table? Or are there a few items that you really want to have? A lot of the time, we take more than we actually want because we are provided with so many options. Before filling your plate, walk around the table to see all your options. Pick a few items that you must have (like the rare occurrence of your grandmother’s holiday dessert) and leave the items that you can have throughout the year. This will control your intake and help you stay on track with your eating goals. 

The holiday season goes from October to January for a lot of us. Every week or so, there is an occasion to celebrate a holiday. By using these tips, you can stay on track with your health goals without missing out on the holiday fun!

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Nutrition Tip #7: Don’t feel guilty about enjoying the holidays

With Thanksgiving ending, there is no stopping when it comes to holiday celebrations. From Halloween to Christmas to New Year’s, we have many occasions and reasons to eat food. 

However, many people fear the holidays because they worry they will overindulge. As a dietitian, I am sure you think I will tell you all the ways to avoid the “bad stuff”. But I won’t. Instead, I actually encourage you to eat and enjoy the food you want.

The reason is quite simple. When we restrict our eating, we end up eating more food than if we allowed ourselves a treat. This is because we do not allow ourselves the satisfaction that certain foods will give us. As a result, we wait and wait until one day, we finally “cave” and then go overboard. If you had allowed yourself a piece of pie, or a cookie, you probably would have stopped shortly after one or two servings. You would be satisfied! Gnawing on a carrot instead of a shortbread cookie just isn’t the same. Plus, these treats that come once a year are things we look forward to. They become a part of our holiday traditions. While there are many things you can do to prevent overeating, and I do encourage them, please allow yourself to enjoy the holidays like you truly want to!

Nutrition Tip #6: Portion out your meals

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Portion control. It’s one of the most common nutrition recommendations for people and for a good reason, we simply eat more than we need. While it may sound simple to control your portions, many people struggle with it. 

First, we usually have an array of options at the dinner table and therefore try to enjoy everything available. This can lead to over stacking your plate. 

Second, as children we were told to “finish your plate”. While the intention of this was good, it actually reinstates that we must clear our plates even if we are full. This teaches us to ignore our hunger and fullness cues. 

Third, if you haven’t noticed, the size of bowls and plates has increased over recent decades. Not only are portion sizes bigger at restaurants, but the dishes we purchase for home have also increased in size. So, we tend to fill up the dish which can really add more portions than a recommended serving. 

But fear not, there are some simple changes you can make to improve your portion sizes:

  • Instead of eating out of a bag of chips, pour it into a small bowl. At the end of the bowl, you will either realize you are full or want more. This ability to decide can significantly reduce the amount you eat.

  • Use a dessert plate to eat your meals. Dessert plates are much smaller than dinner plates but still can hold quite a bit of food. For one meal, try using a dessert plate and see how hungry you are after it. You may realize that you have fallen victim to the “finish your plate” mentality and are full when you finish whatever size plate is in front of you.

  • Limit your options at the dinner table. Do you really need to serve multiple side dishes? Or would one or two be just fine? When we have fewer options, we can still eat everything available but not overdo it.

  • Ask for a to-go box when at a restaurant. Right away, place half of your meal in the to-go box. Chances are, the meal you ordered is probably the size of two meals. This allows you to “finish your plate” and also have an extra meal for the next day!

Simple changes can really go a long way with weight management efforts. These are just a few suggestions that can get you on the right track to eating well!

Nutrition Tip #5: Avoid distractions while eating

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In today’s busy world, it can be tempting to try to multi-task while eating. Unfortunately, research has found that distracted eating (e.g., watching TV, working at your desk) actually leads to overeating. The reason is quite simple: We are not fully focused on eating. 

Think about it this way, have you ever sat down to watch a movie at the theatre and somehow you have finished the bag of popcorn shortly after it started? You are so focused on the movie that eating the popcorn becomes a secondary task. 

If you took that same bag of popcorn and sat at your kitchen table to eat it, you probably would not eat nearly as much and it would take you a lot longer to finish it. Our brains take approximately 20 minutes to receive signals from our stomach telling us we are full. When we actually take the time to notice each bite of food and appreciate the flavour, we end up taking longer to finish and eventually realize we are full. 

So, what is the ideal environment to eat in? One that is designed for eating such as your dining room or lunchroom at work. Sit upright in a chair and try your best to limit other tasks. Even playing on your phone is distracting. With each bite, try to enjoy the aroma, flavour, and texture of the food. Make sure you are chewing the food well. Perhaps take a sip of water between bites. These simple changes can really help you experience eating in a new light and prevent you from overeating!

Nutrition Tip #4: Create SMART goals

Have you every tried to set goals and see them go nowhere? There may be a reason for that. Research has found that people are the most successful with their goals when they are SMART. Follow this acronym to increase your chances of reaching your goals:

S = Specific

Decide what goal you’re trying to accomplish. The more specific you are, the better. For example, “I want to increase my water consumption at work”

M = Measurable

How are you going to tell if you’re making progress? By picking a quantifiable outcome, it will help you know if you’re close to reaching your goal. So, your goal will now be “I want to drink a 1 litre water bottle during my work day” 

A = Achievable

While it would be great to make a positive change right away, that may not be realistic for you. Instead, try to create a goal that you know you can accomplish. Perhaps you can start with adding an extra cup of water during your work day and build up from there. 

R = Relevant

Is your goal something similar to your other life goals? If we have too many goals going on, we may not be able to stay focused on it long-term. You want to set a goal that you know you want to succeed with. If it seems more of a chore, perhaps you should try tweaking it a bit. 

T = Timebound

When are you going to check in with yourself to see if you’ve accomplished your goal? Set a due date. This will keep you accountable and help you see if you are making the progress you wanted. If not, then you can revisit and change your goal. 

Using all of these, a SMART goal would read something like this: “I will drink a cup of water at work every day for the next week”. After a week, if you succeeded, then you can change it to “I will drink 2 cups of water at work every day for the next week”. Again, once you’ve accomplished this, you can increase it again until you finally reach your end-goal of 1 litre. 

Something as simple as this technique can really help you accomplish your health goals. To remind yourself of this goal, I recommend writing it down and placing it on your bathroom mirror or telling a friend. That way you keep yourself accountable and won’t forget about it. 

Nutrition Tip #3: Skip the pop

Sugar-sweetened beverages contribute largely to our obesity rates in Canada. Why? Well, a few reasons. To begin, the amount of added sugar in a typical can of pop is around 40 grams. That’s about 10 tablespoons of sugar! Considering there are 4 calories per gram of sugar, you just drank an extra 160 calories from a can of pop. Now, image if you were to have a 2 litre bottle, which actually isn’t a lot for some people. 

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Another thing to consider is that the sugar in pop can cause fluctuating blood sugar. Sugar requires very little digestion before its absorbed into our blood stream. As a result, our blood sugar spikes quickly to give our bodies a source of energy but then drops. This can do damage to our pancreas in the long-term and can eventually lead to the development of type 2 diabetes. 

Finally, if you’re trying to manage your weight, sugar-sweetened beverages may squander your efforts. Since pop can cause rapid changes in our blood sugar, it can lead to increased feelings of hunger and overeating. Once our blood sugar drops, our body sends out signals to tell us to find energy through food. Over time, you may find yourself eating more than you normally would. 

So, what should you do instead?

If possible, I would avoid it as much as you can. Try replacing it with healthier options such as fruit-infused/carbonated water, coffee, or tea. Diet pop is another option but research has suggested that artificial sweeteners may affect our body’s ability to regular our appetite, since our body senses sweetness but can’t source any calories. It may also lead to the “health halo” effect. This simply means that since we are being “good” by having a diet pop, we can reward ourselves with another treat. I would limit pop and other sugar-sweetened beverages to special occasions and try not to have it in the house. Out of sight, out of mind!


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Nutrition Tip #2: Eat at home

I know this tip sounds so obvious, but many Canadians eat out regularly. There are many reasons for why we eat out, such as busy schedules, exhaustion, and lack of confidence in the kitchen. Unfortunately, there are two major issues with eating out: 1) It’s expensive and 2) Majority of food choices aren’t healthy in restaurants and fast food outlets. 

To me, one of the biggest problems is that many people aren’t comfortable in the kitchen anymore. Food skill development has been excluded from our curriculum for some time now and yet it is something we all need to know. It can be very overwhelming for someone to plan out a week’s worth of meals, grocery shop, stay on budget, and then actually prepare the meals while trying to balance a busy schedule.

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My first suggestion would be to sit down and think about what is preventing you from eating at home. Once you have figured that out, think how it can be fixed. Some things you may be able to fix yourself, such as dedicating a slot of time in the evening to preparing meals for the next day or even week (your freezer can be your best friend). For other things, you may want to visit a registered dietitian. Dietitians are trained in food and nutritional sciences. They can take a look at your current situation and provide suggestions to help you make healthier choices that also stay within your budget.

You can also find help online. Dietitians are highly prevalent online nowadays and many have blogs and websites that provide detailed information to help you make healthy decisions for you and your family. My tip is to Google whatever topic you're looking for and adding "dietitian" at the end of it. This can direct you to credible sources of nutrition information. YouTube is also an excellent tool to use to teach you how to prepare various meals, such as a roast dinner. 

Eating out can be an enjoyable outing but try to make it an event rather than part of your daily routine. Eating at home saves money, increases social time with the family, and can really help you with your health goals. 

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Nutrition Tip #1: Add more fibre into your life

If I could only give one recommendation to the public, it would be to add more fibre. Research continues to grow and show evidence that our gut and microbiome are more important than we once thought. Fibre keeps your gut healthy and promotes regularity. Not only that, but fibre keeps you full, which can help with weight management. 

Beans and lentils are my favourite choice for adding fibre to your diet. They are plant-based and very high in protein, fibre, antioxidants, and other important vitamins and minerals. They are also extremely versatile and can be added to so many different dishes, such as a salad, stir fry, pasta dishes, soups, etc. You can get bean and lentils dried or canned. I see no problem with either, but just make sure that if you choose canned make sure that you rinse them well to get rid of any residue and excess salt. 

Other sources of fibre include vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Once again, all are high in important vitamins and minerals that promote good health. 

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Men need about 38 grams of fibre per day while women need about 25 grams per day. Most Canadians fall short of this. When adding more fibre to your diet, be sure to drink lots of water and do it slowly to give your gut time to adjust. 

You can also find help online. Dietitians are highly prevalent online nowadays and many have blogs and websites that provide detailed information to help you make healthy decisions for you and your family. My tip is to Google whatever topic you're looking for and adding "dietitian" at the end of it. This can direct you to credible sources of nutrition information. YouTube is also an excellent tool to use to teach you how to prepare various meals, such as a roast dinner. 

Eating out can be an enjoyable outing but try to make it an event rather than part of your daily routine. Eating at home saves money, increases social time with the family, and can really help you with your health goals.