May 25th, 2020

From Our Table: Dietitians can help you unlock the potential of food

By Medicine Hat News on March 12, 2019.

March is Nutrition Month and the theme Unlock the Potential of Food is a continuation from last year’s theme so some of the simple yet key messages can be emphasized.

The focus is on looking at the many benefits food has to offer in so many areas of our lives. It’s also an opportunity to recognize dietitians as food experts with science-based backgrounds and a minimum of five years university training. With so much nutrition information floating around through a variety of sources a registered or professional dietitian is the reliable source.

Dietitians can help you unlock the potential in food.

Food has many valuable aspects but one very important one is nourishment. Food plays a very import role in nourishing bodies from babies to older adults. It nourishes growth in children, it keeps us healthy throughout our lives and improves physical activity. It nourishes us as we work and increases productivity. Food is also about enjoyment and fun and family/friend connections.

Studies show that almost half of Canadians find it challenging to eat healthy when they are busy. Meals are often skipped and snacks take their place which are quick but not always so nutrient rich. A little planning can go a long way to help have healthy snacks on hand. It’s easy to keep whole grain crackers and a couple packages of nut butter on hand. Or what about fresh or dried fruit and nuts. Granola, veggies with hummus or a hard boiled egg are also healthy snack options to unlock the potential of healthy snack foods.

Food not only has the potential to nourish it also has the potential to discover. A really great way to teach your kids healthy food habits is by modelling healthy habits, introducing them to a wide variety of healthy food choices and get them involved in the kitchen.

While 68 per cent of Canadians say they often prepare meals and snacks only 16 per cent say they get their children involved in the kitchen. That makes it very difficult for kids to learn how to cook. Teaching kids about food fosters lifelong healthy habits and will help with picky eating. It also ties into many educational opportunities they have in school such as math, science, social studies, reading, media literacy and health.

It’s often said it takes a village to raise a child. The same goes for food. It’s not just parents that have the opportunity to influence children’s healthy habits it’s grandparents, caregivers, teachers, coaches and more.

Even the youngest child can help by washing fruit and veggies, mix up scrambled eggs, stir batter or make a sandwich. Kids are much more likely to try new foods if they help with the preparation. It’s also key that parents, etc, not pass on their food prejudice to kids. Just because you don’t like a certain food give them the opportunity to form their own opinions.

Babies, toddlers, children and teenagers learn what they live.

Another great way to encourage not just kids but everyone in your home to eat healthy is to have lots of healthy options on hand. Wash fruit and put it in a bowl so it’s quick and easy to grab. Wash and cut up a variety of veggies and have them ready to eat in the fridge. Keep whole grain crackers and nut butter on hand. High-fibre, low-sugar granola bars are also a quick and healthy choice. Homemade high-fibre muffins and cheese are a yummy snack.

Here is a delicious muffin recipe from the “Dietitians of Canada Cook!” Cookbook you can whip up, with the help of your kids of course, that the whole family is sure to enjoy.

Joanne Smith is a registered dietitian.

Pumpkin Walnut Bran Muffins by Marla McKerracher, RD

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup wheat bran

1/4 cup wheat germ

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup canola oil

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup chopped walnuts.

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, combine flour, bran, wheat germ, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, egg, oil and vanilla until blended. Stir in pumpkin. Pour over flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in walnuts.

3. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin tins. Bake in 400 F oven for 16-18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then transfer each to a rack to cool completely.

Tip: You can use mashed banana, applesauce or pureed butternut squash in place of pumpkin.

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