One Step at a Time

For many people, cravings (and sometimes addictions – both mental and physical) for sweet, salty, high-fat foods are what hinders them from their progress and goals.
As I will reiterate over and over, making lifestyle changes can be difficult. Some people try to take on too many changes at once, and that can become overwhelming so they give up (and unfortunately feel like a failure). Instead of letting a ‘failure’ stop you from achieving your goals, learn from it instead!
If making changes is hard for you – try it one step at a time. Find your most challenging negative habits or addictions and slowly cut them out/replace with healthy behaviours. For example: someone barely ever drinks water, craves and snacks on high-fat sweet snacks at night, eats fast food several times per week, and does not get get much exercise. They could still snack at night, but instead of always choosing chocolate and other high-fat sweets, they could replace some snacks with something that is nutritious, still tasty, and has significantly lower calories (see example below). They could also try slowly increasing their daily water intake (adding in 1-2 cups per week). Once they are comfortable with making these changes (and they become habits), other changes such as adding in more exercise that suits their schedule and cutting down on fast food can be made. This is just one example, and would be different for every person, but hopefully you get the point!
If you have trouble with craving sweets, try this yummy, healthy, nutrient-dense snack to satisfy your sweet tooth!
– Layer (low sugar) regular or Greek yogurt in a glass pan or comparable, add your favourite fruits, nuts, and/or a bit of dark chocolate, freeze for a few hours and enjoy!

Felicia Newell, BScAHN, MScAHN(c), RD(c)

Official NEM Nutritionist

For the past several years, Felicia has been working at a university research centre with a focus on food security (Food Action Research Centre), and has taught university level nutrition courses. Her passion lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways.

 

Healthy Cooking Tips!

Let’s face it – it’s a new era where some of us have basic cooking skills, and some of us don’t. It’s not our fault really – it depends on how we were raised and other factors (We all have strengths and weaknesses right?).
 
 
Try these ideas to make some of your favorite recipes a little healthier. 

  • Blend a handful of spinach or kale into a fruit smoothie
  • Mash cooked cauliflower together with potatoes
  • Add puréed butternut squash to homemade macaroni and cheese
  • Shred carrots, zucchini or onions into spaghetti sauce
  • Stir canned puréed pumpkin into whole grain pancake or muffin batter
  • Sprinkle berries onto breakfast cereal or yogurt

Balance your baking with simple swaps.

There are lots of tasty ways to make your baking a little bit healthier. Experiment by using these simple substitutions in your favourite baked goods:

  • Replace at least half of the enriched white flour (if you normally use white flour) with a healhier type of flour (e.g., whole grain, coconut, brown rice, millet, buckwheat, oat, etc.)
  • Replace a quarter or more of the sugar with a healthier alternative (e.g., stevia, truvia, agave nectar, honey, skim milk powder)
  • Replace half of the fat in muffins, quick breads and cookies with mashed fruit or vegetables, such as unsweetened applesauce or puréed sweet potato
  • Use milk (regular, almond, coconut, etc.) instead of water

Get delicious results with good-for-you ingredients. 

Cooking at home lets you control the taste, nutrition and cost of your meals. Try these simple swaps to fill homemade food with flavour:

  • Use whole milk (or another milk alternative) and cream cheese instead of cream and butter for a luscious pasta Alfredo
  • Substitute greek yogurt for mayonnaise to make a creamy salad dressing
  • Sweeten whole grain hot cereal/oatmeal with fruit, such as bananas, apples or peaches, instead of sugar
  • Use lemon juice, garlic, herbs and spices instead of salt to flavour savoury dishes

Add some zing!

Think healthy cooking is bland? Healthy cooking is all about good taste. Add some zing with these mouth-watering flavor boosters:

  • Garlic is perfect for pasta, potatoes and peas, and it makes a tofu-and-veggie stir-fry’s much more flavorful
  • Fresh lime juice is a tangy addition to fish, avocado or fresh tomato salsa
  • Red pepper flakes deliver delicious heat to lightly sautéed greens
  • Ginger spices up butternut squash soup and adds depth to beef and pork dishes
  • Cinnamon pairs sweetly with apples, squash and sweet potatoes

*Notes:

  • There are many more ‘cooking basics’, these are just a few tips.
  •  Please keep in mind that people have varied skills and habits when it comes to food. As a nutritionist I meet people with all different levels of cooking skills, and many use white flour, sugar, etc. all of the time, so for many people cutting out half of what they use would be a step in the right direction.

Felicia Newell, BScAHN, MScAHN(c), RD(c)
Official NEM Nutritionist
For the past several years, Felicia has been working at a university research centre with a focus on food security (Food Action Research Centre), and has taught university level nutrition courses. Her passion lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways.

Making Behavior and Lifestyle Changes

Food for thought: Does simply telling someone to do something, or judging someone for not doing what you think is right, actually help that person change their behavior?
As an Official NEM Nutritionist, I wanted to take a moment to bring what may be a different perspective to the table. Some may be familiar with these concepts; some may think I am way out in left field. Life is a lot about perspective, so even if I can give a new perspective to a few people I am okay with that. Here are two concepts that are just food for thought! They are usually very detailed and complex, but for the sake of this post I want to be as straightforward as possible.
1)   Behavior change. Our group is based a lot around the changing of lifestyles and behaviors. Behaviors are psychological, and deeply engrained. They are habits, and a lot of times when it comes to food-related behaviors they are even addictions. They are very difficult to change, which is why many different theories and models in the scientific field that are used to explain behavior change. I don’t want to go into detail of course because you are all busy moms and don’t have all day to read a post that sounds like a lecture. The key message I want to bring here is changing behaviors is HARD. It involves many different steps and factors to change a behavior (e.g., motivation, education, support, confidence, etc.). If you think  ‘clean eating’ and living a healthy lifestyle is hard and you are alone because everyone else is making progress or some people make it look easy – think again! We all have difficulties at some point or another (we just don’t always show it, especially on social media), and with the right support and motivation (and accepting that we will have set-backs and no success comes without failure), we can overcome them.
2)   Social Determinants of Health.  This is another concept I don’t want to bore you all with and go into detail, but I just want to introduce for those of you who may not have heard of it. This is a premise that lifestyle choices are largely shaped by many different factors, including: income and income distribution, education, unemployment and job security, employment and working conditions, early childhood development/experiences, food insecurity, housing, social exclusion, social safety network, health services, aboriginal status, gender, race, and disability. Each and every one of these factors influences the choices that we make, and we don’t always have control over a lot of these factors (a lot of these factors are set by society, and individuals have no control over this). Just one example (there are many other examples, but again for the sake of us busy moms): people in various family situations (from low to middle income; single to two parent households), cannot afford a healthy diet. This is by no means their fault for many reasons, one being the cost of living (has risen significantly, and increase in wages have not kept up with the many costs of living (food, shelter, transportation, childcare, etc.). This means many families cannot afford to eat healthy, but it is not their fault. Now there may be many other factors that influence say a low-income families’ ability to purchase a healthy diet – e.g., knowledge, skills, childhood experiences, stress, etc. So as you can see, a person’s decisions around food can be very complex!
We are all human. For the most part we have good intentions and want to support and help each other by giving advice and what works for us, and we do an incredible job! Some days we might have a bad day and post something in the wrong way. Misunderstandings can happen. I get it and I think for the most part we all do. We are all busy, and most times trying to post something in between other daily responsibilities. BUT, I do know there are moms in here who feel overwhelmed at times with conflicting advice, and/or they feel ashamed because certain things that they perceive as the ‘right thing to do’ doesn’t fit their lifestyle. These feelings can really hinder someone’s progress. Telling someone to do something is one thing, but again, we all have different factors that affect why we do what we do.
My 2 takeaway messages are: 1) try to be a little more understanding of just how many factors influence a person and the decisions that they make. If we all try to be a little more understanding of this, we may be able to support each other even more than we already do; and 2) if someone gives you advice and it works for them and not you – that is okay! We are all human, different things work for different people. It doesn’t make us any less of women or mothers. We are already doing so much and are hard enough on ourselves (but shouldn’t be) – so let’s not be hard on each other!