5 Ways to Improve Your Diet…That Have Nothing to do with Food

diet lifestyle nutrition Jul 12, 2021

Guest blog post by: Katherine Prior, B.A. (Hons) Kinesiology, Co-Instructor of Nutritional Counselling for Kinesiologists at First Line Education 

As the dietary supplement industry continues to see steady growth and diet fads become more and more pervasive in social media, it’s easy to assume that achieving the most optimal diet simply requires choosing the most nutritious foods and eliminating “bad” foods. 

As fitness and healthcare professionals, we often look at nutrition strictly as a tool for improving our physiological health, and therefore it has become common practice to measure a healthy diet based on macro- and micro-nutritional intake alone. 

However, if we look at food from a more holistic perspective, we can understand that what we eat affects not only our physiological health and fitness, but our emotional and psychological wellbeing. 

The food we eat plays a fundamental role in connecting with others, memory formation, and our emotional health. As well, food has a critical role in preserving traditions and culture; two key pillars of a prosperous society. Each of these areas factor in to developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, these social and behavioural considerations in nutrition are rarely mentioned when we talk about diet. 

So how can we improve our emotional, psychological, and sociological health through diet? Here are five healthy mealtime habits to get you started…

1. Eat with others 

Eating with others supports deep connections with our family and friends and helps us to create a positive experience with eating. Family mealtime is also an opportunity to model healthy eating habits to children and youth, and this plays a critical role in predicting nutrition later in life. In fact, studies have shown that youth raised in a household that engages in regular family mealtime has a positive effect on their vocabulary, academic success, ability to make healthy food selections later in life, and their ability to avoid risky behaviours (Fruh et al., 2011). 

2. Employ the ‘all foods fit' model 

There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to nutrition! Being able to eat your favourite treats and desserts guilt-free on occasion is important in creating a long-lasting, healthy, and balanced lifestyle. By removing “good” or “bad” food labels and instead focusing on what foods we should consume more or less of to nourish our bodies, we take treats off of a pedestal, lowering the appeal for unhealthy foods and removing shame and guilt.

3. Cook at home 

There are a number of reasons why cooking at home can improve your diet, wellbeing and relationship with food. Not only does cooking at home tend to reduce excess sodium and saturated fats in our food, but it also helps us learn to be more mindful about what we are putting into our bodies. A systematic review on the effects of home cooking interventions on adults found that cooking at home was associated with improved health effects (Reicks, 2018). The review showed benefits including weight loss, increased fruit and vegetable intake, as well as positive dietary behaviour changes, such as greater cooking confidence and more knowledge and interest in nutrition. 

4. Cook traditionally 

When we approach healthy eating and dietary changes, preserving traditional cooking methods is extremely beneficial for creating long-lasting healthy habits. Preparing food in traditional ways is an important part of passing on family history and culture. Rather than starting a whole new meal plan, try incorporating healthier alternatives or increasing the nutrition density in your favourite family recipes or cultural dishes. You can also try adding traditional spices and flavour to new, healthy dishes. 

5. Avoid diet language 

Our language affects our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviours. In order to create a healthy relationship with food and get the most out of our diets, it is important to avoid language that frames what we eat as a tool for reaching a certain esthetic standard. Terms in diet culture like "clean" eating, "skinny-" latté, "cheat" days/meals, or phrases like "I'll work off this meal" triggers destructive thoughts and feelings of guilt, shame and regret. Instead, let’s learn to speak and think about food as a way to nourish our body and soul.   

Interested in learning more about social and behavioural factors involved in nutrition? Check out our new course: Nutrition Counselling for Kinesiologists

This two-day course is being offered live online on July 24 & 25 from 10 AM to 1 PM EST. We’ll show kinesiologists how to stay within their huge scope of practice outlined by the College of Kinesiologists of Ontario. 

Not a kinesiologist? You’re most welcome too! 

We’ll discuss a wide range of advice that you can provide for your clients while understanding when referrals to other nutrition professionals is best. We’re sure you’ll pick up some great tips for your clients - and quite possibly for yourself too!

References

Fruh, S.M., Fulkerson, J.A., Mulekar, M.S., Kendrick, L.J., Clanton, C., (January 2011). The Surprising Benefits of the Family Meal. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners. Volume 7, Issue 1, Pages 18-22. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1555415510002503

Reicks, M., Kocher, M., Reeder, J., (2018). Impact of Cooking and Home Food Preparation Interventions Among Adults: A Systematic Review. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. Vol. 50, Issue 2, Pages 148-172. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S149940461730828X

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