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Choosing Foods we Want to Eat vs. Choosing Foods we are Told to Eat
Ask anyone about their diet and their response will usually be: "Well, I believe that _____ is very good for you because _____" They'll go on to explain their own personal experience or a friend's experience. They will be convinced of their beliefs — so strongly that it almost feels like a religion.
To some extent, we follow the lead of whatever we were told to eat when we were children — in other words, what our parents fed to us remains often our "favourite" foods. On the other side of the coin, we may have had a bad personal experience with a food that leads us to believe that we shouldn't eat it — and that may be a sign of good instincts, an allergy, or simply a strong opinion. Our religion may forbid some foods, and we may base some of our decisions on what's recommended because of a health condition we have. In the end, we tend to eat what tastes good and what we think will be good for us.
But the reality is that what we eat should not be based on "belief" or one person's experience. Nutrition is actually "a science that interprets the interaction of nutrients and other substances in food (e.g. phytonutrients, anthocyanins, tannins, etc.) in relation to maintenance, growth, reproduction, health and disease of an organism." 2
As a fitness instructor, I am sometimes asked my opinion about nutrition, dieting, and particularly about weight loss. However, I am not a nutritionist, nor even a dietitian, so I depend on Canada's Food Guide to discuss this topic. There are no simple answers and I do not ascribe to any specific diet.
So, this is NOT an article about what you SHOULD eat. Instead, this is an article about what foods we know are good for you. It is taken entirely from the government of Canada's Canada's Food Guide.
Let's Begin with how much we should Eat each Day
For men and women over 51, the Canada Food Guide recommends the following servings per day:
- Vegetables and Fruit: 7 servings (including at least one green and one orange);
- Grain Products: 6-7 servings (while avoiding jams and butter and other toppings);
- Milk and Alternatives: 3 servings; and,
- Meat and Alternatives: 2-3 servings.
If you follow these guidelines, Canada's Food Guide says it will help to:
- Meet your needs for vitamins, minerals and other nutrients;
- Reduce your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer and osteoporosis.
- Contribute to your overall health and vitality.
What the Canada Food Guide Recommends
Let's get more specific. While still adhering to the above number of servings, the Canada Food Guide recommends that you get each of these foods daily:
Dark green vegetables, at least one a day (e.g. broccoli, romaine lettuce, spinach);
Orange vegetable, at least one a day (e.g carrot, sweet potato, winter squash);
Make at least half of your grain products whole grain each day and eat a variety of whole grains (e.g. barley, brown rice, oats, quinoa, wild rice);
Drink skim, 1% or 2% milk each day (drink fortified soy beverages if you cannot drink milk);
Select low fat milk alternatives (compare the nutrition facts on yogurts or cheese to make wise choices);
Select lean meat and alternatives prepared with little or no added fat or salt. Trim the visible fat from meats and remove the skin on poultry; use cooking methods such as roasting, baking or poaching that require little or no added fat. If you eat luncheon meats, sausages or prepackaged meats, choose those lower in salt and fat.
Consider meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu often;
Eat at least two servings of fish each week (char, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout);
Satisfy your thirst by drinking water regularly. Drink more water in hot weather or when you are very active.
Diet and nutrition are only part of your goal to good health
Canada's Food Guide tells us that the benefits of eating well and being active include:
- better overall health;
- lower risk of disease;
- a healthy body weight;
- feeling and looking better;
- more energy;
- stronger muscles and bones.
The other suggestions from Canada's Food Guide for better health include:
- Be active: every day. (It is recommended that adults accumulate at least 2-3 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week.)
- Limit foods high in calories, fat, sugar, or salt.
- Read the label. Compare the nutrition facts table on food labels to choose products that contain less fat, saturated fat, transfat, sugar, and sodium.
These are just the highlights of Canada's Food Guide. For a detailed look, check out this PDF.
- Our Digestive System: How it Works
- The Bitter Gene: Something I Inherited
- Metabolism, Calorie Intake, and False Promises: Getting Through the Dieting Maze
I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.