By Sonja Smiljanic, BA, NNCP, Holistic Nutritionist
As a Nutritionist I often get asked about what people should avoid or restrict in order to feel better. I do think there is an important and necessary place for restriction, but I believe that to implement sustainable change when it comes to nutrition and to feel positive about the changes the lens has to be shifted to what can and should be incorporated, more so than what needs to be restricted. Language plays an integral role in how we think about food, our nutrition goals, and our health in general, and thus I believe it’s important to use positive language as much as possible when talking about our relationship with food. This approach is sustainable, positive, and empowering and supports a sense of trust between a person and their body.
- I will eat more vegetables
Whatever your base line, try and add a little more. Vegetables nurture our bodies so nicely with an abundance of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and complex carbohydrates that energize us. Whether it’s adding a cup more of frozen veggies to your stir-fry, a handful of spinach to your smoothie in the morning or opting for a salad at lunch time these are little ways to incorporate more vegetables into your personal menu!
- I will drink more water
When I was in nutrition school I learned fascinating information about water and its core role in health. The takeaway that I got was that most folks don’t get enough and that drinking more water can help with more ailments than we can imagine. Staying hydrated can aid with energy, cravings, bloating, slow digestion, headaches, inflamed skin, and more! That’s a pretty long list for simple, humble water! An easy way to ensure you’re getting enough is to keep a little tally by your desk at work and tick it off every time you have a glass. You can also attach rubber bands to your water bottle and take one off every time you consume a glass or bottle until you have none left (meaning you’ve consumed your desired amount). The popular recommendation is 8 glasses per day but I always urge people to aim for 10, as even if you don’t reach that amount you’re still likely to be properly hydrated.
- I will chew my food more
Chewing food is the second step to digestion (second only to looking at your food and allowing your mouth to start salivating!) and so many of us swallow our food without properly breaking it down. Chewing our food adequately ensures that as the food passes through our mouth, down the pharynx and esophagus and to the stomach it is in appropriate sizes for the stomach’s hydrochloric acid to further break down for the intestines. What does this mean for us? Less bloating, less heartburn, more comfort, better nutrient absorption, and better bowel movements. Yes please to all of those!
- I will eat 1-2 more home cooked meals per week than I usually do
This can be such an easy switch and the benefits it will bring you will be priceless! When we eat in and home cook our meals from scratch we tend to consume less preservatives and sodium, which in excess amounts can promote an inflammatory response in our bodies. Plus, we can add those extra veggies and further customize meals to personal taste, accommodate any allergies, and save money to boot! To make it easier, simply make extra of one meal and take leftovers for lunch the following day…that’s one less meal you have to buy and one more you can enjoy that much more.
- When buying processed foods, I will only buy a product if I can pronounce all of the ingredients listed
This is the simplest resolution, and it’s personally a guideline I follow myself. There are so many preservatives and additives out there that it’s hard to know which ones support and which ones hinder health. Best to stick with the ones you can pronounce!
- I will create an eating environment where I can peacefully enjoy my food
Life is busy for so many of us. Work, spouses, kids, hobbies, workouts…it can be a lot and we can easily forget one of the greatest joys of life…eating! The link between poor and uncomfortable digestion and stress has been proven, so creating an eating environment where you can peacefully enjoy your food can do great things for not only your happiness and senses, but also your digestion. The better supported the digestive process, the better your body is able to benefit from the delicious food you eat!
- I will switch to glass food containers for packed meals
Yes, they’re heavier and breakable but switching from plastic containers is better for the environment and can be much better for you too. Most people have heard of bisphenol-A (BPA) and the wide-spread marketing of “BPA free” products. BPA is added to plastics to aid with moulding and flexibility but has been found to have the ability to imitate the body’s hormones – particularly estrogen – and interfere with the body’s natural functions. While BPA is not in all plastics, it is just one example of some of the scarier sides of plastics. Acidic foods such as citrus juices, vinegars, and tomatoes, as well as hot foods can promote the leeching of chemicals, so it might be good to consider glass containers. Glass containers don’t leech like plastics, can tolerate heat, don’t stain like plastic food containers, and last for years. You can score a good set online or at your local grocery or health food store.
- I will make my own salad dressings
I’m continuously shocked by the long list of ingredients I see on salad dressing bottles. Salad dressing just doesn’t need that many ingredients! Keep it simple with extra virgin olive oil, raw apple cider vinegar, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper – and if you’re feeling fancy add some lemon juice, mustard or ground flaxseeds. Yum!
- I will incorporate 1-2 snacks of whole fruits per day
Similar to adding more veggies, this can be an easy add to your personal menu. Apples and pears offer an accessible, easy-to-travel-with option for workdays, and berries boast low sugar and high antioxidants that are great paired with nuts and seeds. Whole fruits are a healthy way to keep your blood sugar stable between meals and support your energy throughout your days.
- I will eat more of the foods that bring me joy and make my body feel energetic and strong
It’s simple, adding more joy to your life is always a good thing! Enjoy food! Have a great time shopping for it, get to know the people that provide you with your food if you can, enjoy the colours and the tastes, and show your body and mind some love by eating foods that bring you joy and make you feel great!
Let’s and see if we can take a more positive approach to nutrition by being intentional about the language we use, the resolutions we choose to work on, and the expectations we set for ourselves. These positive approaches can do wonders for supporting optimal health, and I hope that by choosing just one of the resolutions above you find more vivacious energy, natural balance, and happiness in your daily life. And remember: it’s okay if you set resolutions and it’s okay if you don’t. It’s also okay if you sometimes do what you intended to do, and it’s okay if you don’t. Little steps add up quicker than we realize and lead us down the path of positive change!