Celebrating Nutrition Month is more than talking about good-for-you food; it’s the spark that ignites us to remember the impact nutrition education plays on the health of everyone around us, including those we love. Nutrition education can save lives: experts agree that dietary intervention has proven to be successful in the prevention and management of lifestyle-related diseases, such as type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Yet, what’s on our forks isn’t healthy, and we don’t know it. It is time to serve up helpful, effective nutrition education – and, you can be part of the solution.
Sometimes knowing what to eat is confusing. Even the most knowledgeable food guru will admit that claims made on food packaging, advertisements, and on social media can make it very hard to decide what foods are “healthy”. Are avocados healthy? What about smoothies? The answer is both yes, and no. Avocados contain more potassium than a banana and contain filling monounsaturated fats. But, as avocados are calorie-dense, there is the potential for avocados to slip from the healthy list if a person’s health goal is weight loss. As for smoothies, some smoothies are packed with leafy greens, nutritious healthy fats, and plant-based proteins, which are healthy, while some smoothies are sneaky vessels for sugar (when made with fruit juices, syrups, or flavoured dairy products) which is unhealthy for someone trying to control their blood sugar levels. You see, the problem lies in that everyone’s body needs different foods, and thus what is healthy to one person, may not be to another. You’re unique, and so are your nutritional needs.
About 40% of Canadians report watching what they eat, with 28% saying they have been on a diet in the past year, according to an Ipsos survey. While one in four Canadians claim they eat a well-balanced diet, of mainly healthy foods with some gaps, it’s clear we are not. Only 17% of Canadians eat the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. With growing research linking the consumption of low amounts of vegetables and fruit with higher rates of chronic diseases (osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, hypercholesterolemia, mental health problems) it’s important that helpful nutrition education reaches more Canadians. Data suggests encouraging less consumption of red meats and meat products, and more vegetables and fruits in nutritional education amongst Canadians. Evidence supports the importance of educating Canadians on these nutritional changes: a study found eating plant protein was associated with lower rates of all-cause mortality, and research studies show eating vegetables is linked to low rates of death and heart disease. Of note, researchers point towards delivering nutrition education information in small doses over time for better outcomes.
Knowing what to eat can have a major impact on your health. There’s a positive impact in getting good nutrition advice: studies have shown that even short medical nutrition education interventions, such as a 2-day nutrition course for medical students in the UK, can have a significant impact on the competencies of medical students, benefiting their patients’ wellbeing. Yet, cardiologists reported that 90% of them felt they lack adequate nutrition education. Nutrition education is important – you can be part of the solution.
Be a part of the nutrition solution! Stick your fork into more deliciously satisfying information about food and how it improves your health. The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition offers resources including an e-newsletter, blogs, and courses you can take from anywhere. Share that knowledge and love of good food with your kids and their playmates: research shows that more than school education programs are needed. Big kids could use a bit of help navigating where to stick their fork, too! Teenagers can be hard to relate to; however, researchers found teenagers respond positively to online nutrition education interventions outside of school (80% had significant positive effects on their nutrition).
Adults benefit from nutrition education. Take your passion for nutrition to work with you – worksite nutrition and physical education interventions have been found by experts to help employees achieve improvements, including weight loss. Simple changes can improve workplace health, such as what’s offered to eat at meetings or in the cafeteria. Step it up a notch by starting a lunch-time step challenge to help create a more physically active office culture. Be a part of a healthy change by sharing your passion for nutrition education with those you love and work with.
You are unique, and your eating plan should be too. A successful nutrition education plan should address the unique needs of a person. Gathering and synthesizing information about a person’s nutritional situation (e.g. eating patterns, nutritional deficits, allergies, or intolerances) is just the start of how to create a nutrition education program. A person’s health goals, lifestyle patterns, family situation, and income are factors that need to be considered. This is what sets apart a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. A personalized eating plan, designed by a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, results in greater success and sustained results. A good holistic eating plan not only educates you on what foods can address the prevention of symptoms but what foods and healthy lifestyle habits help your body recuperate.
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Contributed by Allison Tannis
Known for her deliciously geeky words, Allison’s articles and books are read around the world by those curious about where to find the most delicious (and nutritious) places to stick their forks. More at allisontannis.com. Follow @deliciouslygeeky.