Going over the basics of nutrition is a good starting point for us.  There are a lot of exciting ideas in my head for future posts like omega-3 fatty acids and how to get your kids to eat everything like French kids do.  But for now, I will offer you some basics of nutrition on how to choose well from each of the food groups.

Vegetables and Fruit

Did you know that you should try to choose one green vegetable and one orange vegetable/fruit every day?  It is recommended for adults to eat between 7 and 10 servings (roughly 3.5-5 cups) of vegetables and fruit each day which should includes one green and one orange vegetable.  Green vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, bok choy, brussels sprouts, salad greens, asparagus and others get an honorable mention because they tend to be rich in nutrients like folate, iron, calcium and fibre.  All good things.

What if you don't like green things?  I have heard many people say, “my child won't eat anything green.”  To them I say, “try this kale salad.”   I haven't met a human being (little or big) who doesn't like this salad.

Why orange?  Orange vegetables and some orange fruit are high in beta carotene which may reduce your risk of eye disease, certain cancers and heart disease.  This includes carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash and some fruit (excluding oranges ironically) such as mango, cantaloupe, and apricots.  If you are looking for ideas, here is a recipe for baked sweet potato fries.  In a hurry?  Costco sells sweet potatoes already washed and cut.  Bake them on parchment paper so they don't stick and to save time cleaning up.

Grain Products

Is there a difference between 100% whole wheat and 100% whole grain? Yes!  Look for grain products that are labelled “100% whole grain.” Labels like “multigrain,” “made with whole grains,” even “100% whole wheat” means the product has been refined and stripped of its nutritious parts: fiber, B vitamins, and iron.  Try to aim for at least half of your grain products to be 100% whole grain.

Other highly nutritious grain products are quinoa, chia, steel-cut oats, flax, whole wheat pasta, wild rice etc.  Quinoa has become popular lately.  Not only is it 100% whole grain, it is also a complete protein which means it has all of the amino acids our body needs.  365 Days of Quinoa is an excellent recipe book if you are looking.  The quinoa chocolate cake is delicious.

Milk and Alternatives

How do non-dairy beverages like soy, rice and almond compare to cow's milk?  Most beverages like soy, rice and almond milk have a similar vitamin and mineral profile to milk.  Generally speaking, if they have been fortified, they are fortified to the same level as milk.  To be sure, check the label for the calcium and vitamin D content.  In terms of fat and protein, there are two glaring differences.  Cow's milk is much higher in saturated fat and also much higher in protein.

How many cups of low fat milk or other fortified non-dairy beverage should I drink each day?  Everyone over the age of two should aim for two cups a day.  This ensures that you are getting adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D.  If you are between 9 and 18, or over 50, you can have more from this food group, but for the rest of us, just two servings is enough.

Meat and Alternatives

Should I limit red meat?  Yes.  You should limit red meat to less than 16 oz (500g) per week.  Red meat is a good source of iron, protein, vitamin B12 and zinc, but it is linked to higher rates of colorectal and colon cancer.  With whatever meat you choose, it is a good practice to choose lean meat and trim the visible fat.

How often should I eat fish?   Twice a week is ideal.  Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, arctic char, and trout are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are known to protect your heart.

Are there health benefits to eating vegetarian?  Yes.  Going without meat doesn't mean depriving yourself.  Having a meatless meal once a week is a good thing for you and the environment.  Vegetarians have a reputation of out-living the carnivores.  I have enjoyed more than a few recipes from this blog, which is marketed as a carnivore friendly vegan blog.  Did you ever think that carnivore and vegan could be used in the same sentence?

Those are all of my basics of nutrition tips for today.  As always, please let me know if there is something specific you would like me to blog about or if you have any burning nutrition questions for me.

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About Audrey Inouye

Audrey Inouye is a Registered Dietitian and mother of 3 young boys. She has spent the last 10 years working with and traveling to the First Nation Communities in Alberta to promote health and well-being. She is presently on an extended family leave to stay home and raise the kids. Some of Audrey's favourite things are yoga, family travel, playing with her kids and cooking.

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