Food fuels us – it gives our body the energy it needs to function each and every day. But healthy eating is about so much more than just what we eat – it’s about how we eat too!
As registered dietitians we of course encourage everyone to include more healthy foods into their diet, but healthy eating reaches far beyond the foods we choose to eat. Our relationship with food is also important, and it can be influenced by the habits we have around healthy eating.
Canada’s new Food Guide gives some great tips on Healthy Eating Habits that can help foster a healthy relationship with food. These habits include:
Being mindful of your eating habits
Now more than ever it is important to stay informed, but it’s also important to give yourself some time to simply focus on your meals and check in with your body. Stress and uncertainty can affect everyone differently – some of us may forget to sit down and eat, while others may turn to food for comfort. Show yourself kindness and compassion – focus on nourishing your body at mealtimes and check in with your feelings of hunger and fullness throughout the day.
Cooking more often
Deciding what to have for dinner when you get home after a long day at work can be hard – you’re tired, you’re hungry, and you’re trying to decide what you want to eat amid a variety of choices. Take the pressure off and try setting aside time at the start of each week to plan out your meals. You can of course prepare some of your meals ahead of time if you’d like, but even having a plan of what you’re going to make each night can make mealtimes less stressful.
Enjoying your food
Eating can quickly become just another thing to do throughout the day – we may rush to have a few bites of a sandwich at lunch or grab a quick handful of crackers or nuts before running out the door. Slowing down and actually experiencing the different flavours and textures of a food can make mealtimes much more enjoyable. While slowing down may not always be an option, finding ways to prioritize meals and take time for yourself can be so beneficial. Perhaps plan a sit-down meal once or even a few times a week or set aside just 5-10 minutes during your break to take a breath and have a few mindful bites. For a guided mindful eating exercise, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeuDxlJgtj4
Eating meals with others
For many of us food plays an integral role in family gatherings and events; enjoying meals with others provides us with opportunities to connect, to spend quality time together, and to share our food traditions. Unfortunately, life during a global pandemic looks very different from how it used to. In order to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, we can no longer gather to celebrate the way that we once did. However, there are still ways to incorporate a social aspect to our meals, despite being in a pandemic:
- Try preparing a new meal or cuisine together with those you live with, or perhaps assign each person to prepare one dinner each week that you can then enjoy together.
- You don’t need to go out to a restaurant to get dressed up or have a special meal – meals at home can be special too! Put on your favourite outfit (it could even be pajamas!) and either sit together with those you live with or plan a virtual meal with friends or family.
- Calling friends or family during a meal is a great option as well if you aren’t able to do video calls. Calling to chat with a loved one while you prepare a meal, while you eat, or even while you tidy up afterwards are all great options.
- Stay informed with the restrictions that are currently in place to ensure you are following current public health measures. For individuals who live alone, see about joining another household if permitted in your area.
We also recognize that the current restrictions and stay-at-home orders can be very challenging for many individuals. If you are struggling, we encourage you to reach out for help and support. You can find a list of community support resources for Kingston, Frontenac, Lenox & Addington here: https://www.kflaph.ca/en/healthy-living/mental-health-and-covid-19.aspx. If you live outside of these regions, we would encourage you to contact your local public health unit for local resources.
If you are interested in incorporating these and other healthy eating habits into your life, you may wish to speak with a Registered Dietitian. Nutrition Assessment Clinic can help you explore ways to improve your relationship with food.
Written by Mikaela Horton, BASc, MHSc, RD for nutritionassessment.com
Canada’s food guide. (2019). Healthy eating habits. Retrieved from https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/healthy-eating-habits/