Every day we make choices about the food we eat. These choices make a big difference in our health and how we feel - now and in the future.
Eating well is a big part of being healthy. Learning more about healthy eating will help you and your family know how much food you need, what types of foods are better for you and the importance of eating a variety of both country and store-bought foods.
What is healthy eating?
Healthy eating can include country foods and store-bought foods. When eating store foods, the best way to eat healthy is to choose foods from each of the four food groups: Vegetables and Fruit, Grain Products, Milk and Alternatives, and Meat and Alternatives. Foods that are not a part of the four food groups like pop, chips, and candy are not healthy.
Unlike store food, all country foods are healthy and the traditional way of eating is balanced.
Country food does not really fit with the "four food group idea". When all the parts of different animals are eaten, our bodies can get everything they need.
The amount of food you need depends on your age, size, activity level, whether you are a man or a woman and if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. If your family includes babies, children, or elders it takes planning to make sure that everyone has enough different types of foods every day to be healthy.
When you and your family eat healthy, you will have more energy, feel better, and reduce your risk of getting many diseases. Eating well reduces the risk of:
· Heart disease
· Type 2 diabetes
· Some cancers
· High blood pressure
· Brittle bones
Here are some of things you can do to eat healthy:
· Use the Nunavut Food Guide to help you make good food choices every day.
· Eat country foods as often as you can.
· Eat fresh, frozen or canned vegetables and fruits every day.
· For energy, eat grains like oatmeal, brown bread, and unsweetened cereal
· Make water your main drink.
· Unhealthy drinks made with lots of sugar, like pop, energy drinks, iced tea, slush, and juice cocktails or juices made from crystals should be limited.
· Having low fat milk, yogurt, cheese or soy milk every day will help keep bones strong.
· Canned seafood like tuna, salmon, oysters, and clams are much healthier than canned meats like, corned beef and Klik.
· Eggs, peanut butter and canned beans are healthy, easy to make, and cost less than other convenience foods.
A healthy and balanced diet includes food from each of the four food groups every day.
Vegetables and Fruit
We need to eat more from this group than the other groups over the course of a day. The foods in this group are healthy because:
- They are high in fibre. Fibre can help with good digestion, keep cholesterol down and prevent some type of cancer .
- They are high in vitamins and minerals which help our bodies heal and keep our eyes and skin healthy. The other food groups do not have very much of these.
- Choose vegetables and fruit prepared with little or no added fat, sugar or salt.
- Fresh, frozen and canned vegetables and fruit are all good options. When using canned fruit, choose those that are canned in water or juice, instead of syrup.
- Whole fruit should be eaten more often than 100% fruit juices.
Vegetables can be added to many meals:
- Try adding bell peppers, corn, mushrooms or cooked potatoes to scrambled eggs .
- Serve celery stuffed with peanut butter as a snack.
- Instead of French fries, use a microwave to bake potatoes.
- Toss chopped vegetables with a small amount of oil and bake them in the oven.
Grain products are the main way we get energy.
- The healthiest grains are “whole grains” like whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, large flake oats and brown rice.
- Whole grains have lots of fibre, which has many health benefits, like preventing some cancers.
- You can find out if a product is made with whole grain by looking at the ingredient list. Whole grain foods will have the words “whole” or “whole grain” followed by the name of the grain (like oats or wheat).
- Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal, whole-wheat bannock, whole grain toast, or whole grain cold cereals (not sugar coated).
- Cereal bars and plain granola bars are handy, but they usually contain more sugar and less fibre than non-sugary cereals.
- Bake with whole wheat flour. In most recipes, you can substitute half of the white flour with whole wheat flour.
Milk and Alternatives
Milk and milk alternatives provide calcium, vitamins, minerals and protein. These nutrients are important for overall health and for developing strong teeth and bones.
- The best choices in this groups are the ones that are lower in fat like 1% and 2% milk.
- A cup of milk is less expensive than a cup of pop.
- Powdered milk or UHT milk are less expensive than fresh milk and just as healthy.
- Skim milk powder can be added when making bannock and breads.
- Yogurt and cheese are popular and are easier to digest than milk.
- Chocolate milk and other flavoured milks have added sugar, so should be offered less often.
- Create smoothies by blending low fat milk or yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit and ice.
Meat and Alternatives
Meat and meat alternatives (beans, eggs, tofu, nuts) provide important nutrients like iron and protein. Protein helps our bodies to build and maintain muscle and iron is needed for strong blood.
- Unlike the fat in country food meats, the fat in store bought meat is unhealthy so we only should only have a small amount at a time.
- To get good nutrition from meat, it is important to choose fresh or frozen natural meat that looks like real animal muscle. Meats like bacon, hot dogs, bologna and canned meat have a lot of salt and unhealthy fats, and are low in protein and iron.
- Breaded meats like fish sticks or chicken fingers have a lot of salt and unhealthy fats.
- Choose fresh or frozen meat that looks like real animal muscle.
- Eggs, canned tuna and salmon, and peanut butter are healthy, popular and low-cost.
- Beans are healthy and can be added to soups and stews.
Tips for choosing fats
Fats from fish and sea animals are very healthy. They contain vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for healthy hearts.
Not all fats from the store are healthy:
- Choose vegetable oil or soft margarine.
- Avoid using lard, shortening and hard margarine in sticks.
Unhealthy foods to avoid
It is best not to have foods that are high in fat or sugar and low in nutrients. Here are some examples of foods to limit:
- High fat foods, such as doughnuts, toaster pastries, croissants, Danish pastries and deep-fried bannock.
- Sugary foods, such as sweetened cereals, icing, jam, syrups, chocolate-covered bars and chocolate-flavoured spreads.
- Very salty foods, like soya sauce and canned or dry soup mixes.
- Fruit drinks, beverages and cocktails. These fake fruit drinks contain mostly sugar, water, and artificial flavours and colours. Only choose juices that are labeled “100% fruit juice”.