Nutrition Make-over: Stop dieting and start eating!

If there is one thing the scales have shown Canadians, it’s that we don’t know how to eat. We starve, we binge, we fret and we complain. There are 101 different ways to shed pounds, be healthy and get energy, but in the end, most of them leave us feeling tired, overweight and frustrated. When did it all get so complicated? For many of us, we need to take a moment and honestly assess our eating habits. We need a nutrition make-over.

Instead of being extreme, eating should be intentional and balanced. Finding the “right foods” and right amounts of food is as simple as consulting the Canadian Food Guide (CFG), a great source that has often been forgotten and misunderstood. It’s time for the revival.

There are three components to a nutrition make-over: What you eat, how much you eat and when you eat it.

The What…
Carbohydrates are an obvious Canadian favourite. We wrap it around our meat (burgers and sandwiches), our fruit (fruit-filled pastries), and make whole meals out of it (pasta), while ignoring the other three food groups.

But equally unhealthy and harmful is the trend to not eat any carbohydrates at all. These extreme, high-protein, no-carb diets are deceitful. They alter a person’s metabolism, deplete energy and confuse the body. Initially dieters will lose weight, but they will be missing critical nutrients and their body’s essential fuel. Within six months of being 'off the diet', they are guaranteed to gain back the weight-and likely more.

The How Much…
If you can’t recall what eating is supposed to be like, here is your refresher course. According to the CFG, we should be eating five to twelve servings of grains products, five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables, two to four serving of dairy products, and two to three servings of meat and poultry daily, unfortunately, chocolate’s not on the guide.

This may sound like a lot of food, until you understand what a 'serving' is. A cup of spaghetti, a glass of orange juice and a bagel all equal two servings, which isn’t all that much. Yet many restaurants serve four or more cups of spaghetti on one plate, which according to the CGP, is eight servings. Do you really need this? Of course not!

Carbohydrates are absolutely essential for energy, so removing them completely from our diet is extremely unhealthy. May I suggest adjusting proportions and balancing them with the rest of your food groups. How big is a serving? You can usually measure serving sizes by using your hands; one fist equals one serving size. A well-balanced meal will keep your metabolism up, while fighting the hunger pains.

The When…
Just as what and how much you eat is important for your nutrition-makeover, when you eat is equally vital. Canadians should be eating every four to five hours, starting with the cardinal rule: always eat breakfast. When you wake up, your body is out of ready-to-use fuel. Without fuel, our body will obtain its energy from muscle, not from fat stores. This is neither a healthy nor a successful way to lose weight.

May I suggest making breakfast a habit? Start your morning with Orange Juice (1 cup= 2 servings fruit) a bowl of cereal (100 g = 3 servings) with milk (1 cup = 1 serving) Perfectly Balances Meal, that will give you energy to start the day If in three hours your stomach is growling, smile. This means your metabolism is working in high gear and you’re training your body to use up what you’ve put in it. It’s important then to eat lunch and another four to five hours after that, dinner. This will keep you satisfied while your metabolism works at peak levels. So simple, yet so forgotten.

Here are some simple and practical steps for starting your nutrition make-over:
1. Eat three balanced meals spaced throughout the day
2. Limit sweet foods (sugar, regular pop, desserts, candies, jam, honey)
3. Limit high fat foods (fried foods, snack foods, pastries)
4. Eat high-fibre foods (whole-grain breads and cereals, lentils, dried beans and peas, brown rice, fresh fruits and vegetables
5. Drink water when thirsty
6. Enjoy physical activity every day

If skepticism is getting the best of you, or if you’re just ready for a change, here is your challenge: for the next three weeks, stop dieting and start eating. Eat according to the Canadian Food Guide, three meals a day, four to five hours apart, starting with breakfast when you wake up. By eating the right foods at the right times and staying active, you will not gain weight. You will, however, feel energized, lose excess weight and you may even get excited about eating again. If it works, make it a lifestyle.

Article contributed by Rita Lowen, RN; editorial support contributed by Keela Keeping. Rita Lowen is the campus nurse for TWU’s Wellness Centre. The Wellness Centre offers a number of services to promote and assist students in making balanced lifestyle choices.

Last Updated: 2015-07-13
Author: Keela Keeping