I live and practice in the Pacific Northwest across the water from Victoria, British Columbia. Victoria is a beautiful city and I can see Vancouver Island easily on a clear day. I mention Canada because the government released an updated food guide this month that I think we can all benefit from, no matter our nationality. I wanted to highlight a few points in their guide because many of them are similar to recommendations those of us in the naturopathic community make in daily practice.
Eat More Vegetables
I like this image of the plate because it gives a good visual of how much of each group to eat. The recommendation to fill up half your plate is a good way to get more into your diet. Vegetables provide more than just nutrients; they provide fiber to keep our digestion running smoothly, cholesterol down and beneficial bacteria in our guts happy. Try filling up half your plate the next time you eat.
Dairy is not Featured as a Food Group
You may notice that dairy isn't a prominent feature on this plate. There is no glass of milk or chunks of cheese. Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese can be a good source of calcium, but they're not the only ones. Other calcium sources to include in your diet are sardines with bones, kale, collards, beans, lentils, tofu, edamame, dried fruit, chia and sesame seeds and almonds. Something to note is that many of the patients I work with feel better when they reduce or cut out dairy entirely. They report improved energy and less allergies, sinus congestion, and abdominal discomfort. If that is something you struggle with you might want to consider reducing your dairy intake at least temporarily.
Drink More Water
Water is featured as the beverage of choice. The recommendation for water intake is different for everyone depending on your activity level, whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding and other health conditions. Shooting for "8 cups per day" is a good goal or you can go by weight. Aim for about 2/3 of your body weight in fluid ounces. For example, a 150 lb person would need about 100 fluid ounces of water per day or 12.5 cups. Water content in foods also counts towards your daily goal. Vegetables have a high water content, providing another reason to eat more of them. Choosing water is a smart move because it means you're not drinking other beverages like sugary soda or juice or caffeinated beverages that can dehydrate you.
Mindfullness during mealtimes means that your attention is on what you're eating, who you're eating with, how your food tastes, adequate chewing, and how full you're feeling. Things that can divert our attention include playing on our phones, watching tv, eating on the run, and eating while we're driving. Good digestion begins before we even put that first bite in our mouths. It starts with the thought of eating, the preparation, the smell of the food cooking and the anticipation of eating the meal. Your mouth salivates and your stomach rumbles when you're looking forward to a meal. Your digestive system is getting ready to do its job. As you're eating your meal it can take some time for your stomach to signal to your brain that it's full and if you're not paying attention it's easy to overeat. This can lead to weight gain, indigestion or bouts of reflux. So the next time you eat try paying attention to your meal and how you're feeling as you eat it.
Limit Sodium, Sugar and Saturated Fat
Reading food labels can be a good way to see what's really in your food and make you aware of how much sugar, sodium and fat they contain. You might be surprised by how many foods contain added sugar like ketchup, spaghetti sauce and yogurt. Cooking your meals at home can be a good way to reduce your intake of these ingredients and cut down on prepared foods, which can be high in sodium, sugar and saturated fat. Other foods like animal products and dairy are especially high in saturated fat, which is another reason to limit meat and dairy as protein sources as noted on the plate above.
The new dietary guidelines out of Canada this month are similar to what many of us in the naturopathic community recommend to our patients regarding diet. No matter where you live, I think we can all benefit from this guide as a way to improve our daily diets. These guidelines encourage us to eat a wide variety of plant-based foods, choose water as a healthy beverage, pay attention to our eating habits, and reduce unhealthy sugar, salt and saturated fat. I hope you'll try a few of these recommendations in your diet. Let me know how it goes!
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This website is not intended for the purpose of providing medical advice. All information, content, and material of this website is for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider.
Government of Canada. (Jan 21, 2019). Eat a variety of healthy foods each day. Retrieved from https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/
Jennings, K. (July 27, 2018). Top 15 calcium-rich foods (many are non-dairy). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/15-calcium-rich-foods#section16