Spring 2017 Nutrition Matters
April 25, 2017 By Rosie Schwartz, RD

Though we often hear about the importance of healthy eating for our future health and for managing diseases such as diabetes, we sometimes forget about making good choices on a daily basis. It does take some planning, especially given how life often gets so busy.

Be prepared

“Having a meal plan in advance will save loads of time and allow you to do some of the work in advance, suchas on the weekend when you may have more time,” says Joanne Lewis, healthy eating and nutrition programming director for Diabetes Canada. She also suggests using your meal plan when shopping for groceries to save you from running to the store later in the week on the way home from work. “If you plan ahead, you can create extra servings of foods that you can then take for lunches or freeze for another day,” says Lewis.

Other tips? Double up on some of the meal prep: If your weekly plan includes chopped vegetables in a couple of different recipes, do all the chopping on one day; take what you need for that day’s meal and use the remainder within a couple of days. You might include them in a stir-fry one day and in soup on another. Extra protein, such as chicken or fish, can be used in a sandwich, wrap, or salad for the next day’s lunch or dinner.

Lewis also suggests healthy convenience foods such as canned beans (always rinse to remove extra sodium), frozen vegetables, bagged salads, and pre-cut vegetables. They can save you several hours in food preparation and cooking time, and increase your opportunity to eat vegetables more often.

The morning rush

Marie Brown, a Halifax-based registered dietitian, points to research showing that almost 40 per cent of Canadians skip breakfast. Eating a nutritious breakfast has been associated with a lower likelihood of being overweight or obese, which can affect your risk of type 2 diabetes and your ability to manage the disease. Having breakfast is also linked to choosing healthier options, and helping to control your appetite later in the day. For example, grabbing a quick option such as a bagel and cream cheese, a muffin or a fatty breakfast sandwich can negatively affect your blood sugar and energy levels not only at breakfast but throughout the entire day. You can get an energy boost by including at least three out of the four food groups in your breakfast, with one choice that is high in protein (such as cheese, an egg, fish, or Greek yogurt).

Brown says, “Planning what you are going to have for breakfast and preparing nutritious items in advance can save you time and money, and help set you up for a healthy day.”

Lunch and learn

Consider this: Fifty-eight per cent of workweek lunches are from quick-service restaurants. More often than not the portions available there are oversized, which can throw off your blood sugar levels. Just as surprising, more than one-third of Canadians skip lunch completely, which can lower their productivity throughout the afternoon and lead to unhealthy food choices at night.

If you always buy lunch, how about making a change: Bring part of your lunch from home (such as a sandwich from leftovers), and then buy a salad while you are out on your noon break. Enjoy your favourite combinations, or try these tasty ideas from Brown:

  • Southwestern wrap: leftover chicken or turkey +avocado + lower-fat cheese + baby kale + tortilla
  • Vegetarian bowl: leftover barley, rice, or quinoa + diced tomatoes + black beans + red onion + lime juice + hot sauce

Smart snacking

Snacking seems to have a bad reputation when, in fact, planned snacks in controlled portions can help to bridge the gap between meals and keep you from grabbing sugar-filled selections with little nutritional value. When making choices, think of snacking as an opportunity to help you get your daily requirement from the various food groups. Short on calcium-rich dairy products or servings from the fruit and veggie group? Have some yogurt and chopped-up fruit.

Here are a few satisfying selections:

  • Lower-fat cheese + fresh fruit
  • Nuts + dried fruit
  • Peanut butter on celery
  • Mini-can of tuna + whole-grain crackers

Here are a trio of recipes to energize you throughout the day.

Breakfast Burrito

This recipe was adapted from the Dietitians of Canada Cookspiration website. Cook the egg mixture the night before so all you need to do in the morning is warm it up in the microwave and wrap it in a tortilla.

2 eggs
1 tbsp (15 mL) milk
2 green onions, chopped
½ red or green bell pepper, seeded and diced
Pinch salt and black pepper
¼ cup (60 mL) light shredded cheddar cheese
2 small whole-wheat tortillas

In a bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Stir in onions, red or green pepper, salt, and pepper.

Spray a small nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-low heat. Pour egg mixture into skillet. As egg begins to set, use a spatula to gently push cooked portions to the centre, tilting pan to allow uncooked eggs to flow into empty spaces.

Sprinkle with cheese and cook for 1 minute or until eggs are set and cheese is melted.

Divide egg in 2 and place each halfon a tortilla. Roll up to enjoy.

Makes 2 servings

Nutritional breakdown per serving: 20 g carbohydrate, 14 g protein, 10 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 3 g fibre, 413 mg sodium, 246 calories

Roasted Honey-Mustard Salmon

Fish is fast food when you consider the cooking time. This dish is a simple yet tasty way to get your heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Whenever I prepare salmon, I always make twice as much so there will be leftovers, which are delicious cold the next day.

1 tbsp (15 mL) light mayonnaise
2 tsp (10 mL) grainy mustard
1 tbsp (15 mL) honey
4 salmon fillets (each 4-6 oz./100-150 g)

Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).

In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise and grainy mustard until well mixed. Add honey; mix well. Place salmon skin-side down in a large baking dish. Coat with mayonnaise mixture. Place in oven and roast for 15 to 20 minutes or until fish is cooked through. Serve hot or cold.

Makes 4 servings

Nutritional breakdown per serving: 5 g carbohydrate, 24 g protein, 10 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, less than 1 g fibre, 98 mg sodium, 198 calories

© Rosie Schwartz

Garden Veggie Buddha Bowl with Lentils & Tahini Sauce

You can put together this dish, adapted from lentils.ca, using frozen or leftover brown rice. The lentils can be cooked ahead as well. This dish is tasty hot or cold—whatever your preference.

TAHINI DRESSING
3 tbsp (45 mL) tahini (sesame paste)
3 tbsp (45 mL) rice vinegar
3 tbsp (45 mL) canola oil
1 tsp (5 mL) grated ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tbsp (45 mL) boiling water

BOWL BASE
2 cups (500 mL) cooked brown rice
1 cup (250 mL) cooked black (Beluga) or green lentils
3 tbsp (45 mL) chopped dill
2 cups (500 mL) thinly sliced baby spinach
1 cup (250 mL) thinly sliced red peppers
1 cup (250 mL) grated carrots
1 cup (250 mL) enoki (long thin white mushrooms) or sliced mushrooms

½ cup (125 mL) pumpkin seeds

Tahini Dressing: Whisk together tahini, vinegar, oil, ginger, and garlic until smooth. Add boiling water to thin out. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Bowl Base: In a bowl, toss hot rice and lentils with dill. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide equally among serving bowls. Add an equal amount of spinach, red peppers, carrots, mushrooms, and pumpkin seeds to each bowl. Drizzle dressing on top of veggies and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings

Nutritional breakdown per serving: 35 g carbohydrate, 13 g protein, 17 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 9 g fibre, 220 mg sodium, 340 calories

Did You Know?

When you prepare dishes at home from scratch, you can keep excess sugar or salt to a minimum, making it easier to control your blood sugar and blood pressure. But if you do eat out, learn how to make the best choices: Visit “Eating Away from Home” now.

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