November 21st, 2019

From Our Table: The potential to prevent, heal and bring us together

By Medicine Hat News on March 26, 2019.

Submitted Photo
A quick and easy hummus dish can bring people together around any table.

With the Nutrition Month theme in mind let’s take a look at more ways to Unlock the Potential of Food.

Food has the Potential to Prevent with a nutritious diet potentially preventing both chronic and acute illness. One-third of cancers can be linked to poor diet, obesity and lack of exercise. Almost 80 per cent of premature stroke and heart disease can be prevented through healthy lifestyle behaviours including healthy eating.

By building a balanced diet you can enjoy good health, feel great and be at a healthy weight. The most researched eating patterns that have shown the healthiest results are the Mediterranean, DASH and MIND diets. Here are the foods common to all three that can be enjoyed in a healthy diet: Vegetables and fruit; whole grains, legumes like beans and lentils; nuts and seeds; milk, cheese and yogurt; fish, seafood and poultry; healthy oils like canola and olive.

I just have to mention once again that one of the most important aspects of building a balanced diet is finding one that brings enjoyment to your life and that you can stick with. Quick fixes with rapid weight loss don’t work permanently and end up causing even more weight gain in the big picture. You didn’t gain all the extra weight in 60 days, for example, it’s unrealistic to try losing it that fast.

Food also has the Potential to Heal. Dietitians are passionate about the potential of food to enhance lives and improve health. They can teach people how to use foods to help get the nutrients needed for the growth and repair of your body. This includes help with what to eat for diabetes; celiac disease and gluten sensitivity; cancer; weight management; swallowing problems; high blood pressure and other health issues. With help from health professionals like dietitians food definitely has the potential to heal.

Food also has the Potential to Bring Us Together. Many people say that sharing meals is a favourite time of their day. It’s an opportunity to interact with family and it allows time to connect, share traditions, learn, communicate and listen.

It’s an enriching experience for people of all ages to share meals.

Children who eat with their family have more nutritious diets, better academic performance, a lower risk of being overweight and lower risk of eating disorders. They also eat more vegetables and fruit, and fewer sugar-sweetened beverages.

Teens who share family meals get better grades, and are less likely to smoke, use drugs or alcohol, or to participate in serious fights.

Adults who eat with friends and family tend to eat more vegetables and fruits, drink less pop, eat less fast food and have better weight control.

Older adults who eat as part of a group eat more nutrient rich foods, eat more food in general and have lower rates of malnutrition.

People who come together in communities can eat together at community kitchens, where they learn to cook, share meals, try new foods, have fun and learn about nutrition.

If your schedule at supper time is crazy no worries, have breakfast together or have brunch on weekends. Most studies done on the benefits of family meals start with sharing at least four meals together per week. They all count and are well worth the effort.

With the close of Nutrition Month, on a personal note, I’d just like to say that choosing to become a dietitian is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Although it was not an easy path to pursue, the challenges to achieve academically were well worth it. It’s allowed me the privilege of working in diverse areas of health from clinical to community. Most importantly it has allowed me the professional flexibility to raise my four amazing boys who are by far my greatest achievement and highest calling. I’ve said it since I started my first job as a public health nutritionist in Prince Albert and have said it many times since, I can’t believe I get paid to help people in a profession I love so much.

Happy Nutrition Month!

Joanne Smith is a registered dietitian.

Quick and Easy Hummus


Makes 2 cups

1 – 19 oz can chickpeas drained and rinsed

1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)

1 tsp cumin

1/4 cup sodium reduced vegetable broth

1/2 tsp lemon rind

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp water ( more if desired)

1 clove garlic, minced

In a food processor combine chickpeas, tahini and cumin. Pulse until coarse. Add broth, lemon rind, lemon juice and water, adding more if necessary to make a smooth texture. Whirl until very smooth then stir in garlic.

Serve with a variety of fresh veggies.

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