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Healthy Eating Tips

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With millions of fad diets and 'miracle cures' making the rounds, many people are more confused than ever. Our Registered Dietitian can help you start eating your way to good health.
"When it comes to something as important as your and your family's health, it is important to seek advice that is science-based and verifiable," says Jessalyn O'Donnell, Thrifty Foods Registered Dietitian and Manager, Nutrition Services. "Your body is a unique and beautiful machine. Keeping it healthy starts with feeding it the right foods. That's why we've compiled a whole library of proven evidence-based recommendations for all kinds of special diets. We're here to help!"

Bone Health

One in four Canadian women and one in eight Canadian men have osteoporosis (weakening of the bones). Nutrition plays a huge role in slowing or preventing this disease. What you eat and drink today could make a huge difference to your long-term bone health.  

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  • Eating with Bone Health In Mind

    We can't talk about calcium without first talking about osteoporosis. In fact, at least one in three women and one in five men will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture during their lifetime. Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones become weak and brittle, making them more likely to fracture. The greatest risk factor for osteoporosis is family history. Other risk factors for osteoporosis include:

    > inactivity
    > underweight
    > smoking
    > life stage (post-menopause)
    > low calcium and vitamin D intake
    > excessive intake of caffeine (<4 cups per day)
    > excessive intake of alcohol (>3 drinks per day)

    Bone Density
    Bone density speaks to the strength of bone. By the time we reach our late 20's, maximum bone density is already reached. This means that after this age we can no longer make our bones any stronger, however, regardless of age we can work to maintain bone strength, or at least to slow bone loss associated with aging.

    What can you do?
    1. Bone up on your bone health knowledge - read on!
    2. Speak to your doctor if you have questions or concerns and take action against osteoporosis in the way that is right for you. For more information visit the Osteoporosis Society of Canada website at

    The Bone Health Triad - Calcium, Vitamin D and Weight-Bearing Activity


    Calcium is an essential mineral and is best known for its role in strong bones and teeth. What is less well known is that calcium plays an important role in nerve transmission and muscle function as well.

    Calcium is found in varying amounts in a variety of foods. The most commonly consumed and readily absorbed source of calcium is found in dairy products including milk, cheese, and yogurt. Calcium is also found in non-dairy foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, and canned fish with bones. Some foods and beverages that are fortified with calcium include tofu, some brands of orange juice, and fortified soy and rice beverages.

    Although dairy foods have the highest amounts of calcium and are better absorbed than their non-dairy counterparts, non-dairy sources play an important role in ensuring we get enough calcium.

    For a list of Sources of Calcium visit the Dietitians of Canada website.

    How much is enough?
    For adults 19-50 years of age the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) as outlined by the National Academy of Sciences, sets the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium at 1000 milligrams (mg) per day. For women over the age of 50 and men over the age of 70 the RDA is 1200mg/day. Adolescents, due to rapid growth and development need the greatest amount of calcium at 1300mg/day.

    Careful planning can ensure that we get enough calcium each day: 

     2 slices whole wheat toast 
       2 slices whole wheat toast
     2 tsp jam
       2 Tbsp almond butter
     Coffee with 2 Tbsp milk
    40mg     1 medium orange
    55 mg 
       Soy Latte (on the way to work)
    Ham sandwich
      Canned salmon sandwich
    Soup made with water
    0mg    Soup made with milk  300mg
    50MG    CALCIUM COUNT:  550MG 
    4 ounces roast chicken
      1 ounce roast chicken
    1 medium baked potato
      1 medium baked potato
    3/4 cup broccoli
       3/4 cup broccoli
    3/4 cup carrots
      3/4 cup carrots
    1/2 cup ice cream
      1/2 cup frozen yogurt
    Granola bar  0mg    3/4 cup yogurt  300mg 
      1/4 cup almonds (12)

    I am lactose intolerant. Is Dairy the Only Source of Calcium?

    Examples of lactose free foods include soy milk, tofu, salmon, bok choy, rapini, chickpeas, white beans, and almonds. Foods that are lower in lactose such as yogurt and aged cheeses such as Cheddar, Edam, and mozzarella may be tolerable for some people.

    What about supplements?
    Always try to get the nutrients you need from foods first. No supplement can make up for a poor diet. However, if you avoid dairy foods for any reason or are inconsistent in your intake of calcium, talk to a registered dietitian, pharmacist or physician for the supplement that is right for you.

    What about Vitamin D?
    Vitamin D plays an important role in absorbing calcium and preventing bone loss. The three sources of Vitamin D are sunlight, food and supplements/ medication.

    Your skin makes vitamin D from the ultra-violet light (UVB rays) in sunlight. Vitamin D is naturally available in only a few foods, making it difficult to get all the vitamin D you need from food. Foods that have vitamin D include fatty fish (mackerel, salmon and tuna), egg yolks and liver. Vitamin D is also added to milk and to some brands of orange juice, soymilk and cereals. Your doctor or pharmacist can determine the necessity and recommend the proper supplement for you, depending on your health and medication profile.

    Our Thrifty Foods pharmacists can provide you with more information to better your bone health profile.

    See Dietitians of Canada's website on Vitamin D for more information.

    Weight bearing exercise
    Weight bearing exercise is the third element in the bone health triad. Weight bearing exercise such as lifting weights, walking, jogging, dancing, and yoga helps to "lay down" or "set" bone. In terms of activity pretty much anything except swimming counts. Weight bearing activity does this by stimulating bone tissue, which in turn causes it to strengthen.

    Tips to optimize bone health

    1. Shop for foods that will help you to follow Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating.
    2. Include calcium containing beverages and foods as part of your diet.
    3. Consume foods and fortified beverages containing vitamin D such as fish, non-hydrogenated margarine, eggs and fortified milk and soy beverages.
    4. Ensure you receive enough vitamin D and calcium in your diet each day. Talk to a health professional before taking a supplement if you are not meeting your nutrient requirements from food alone.
    5. Enjoy doing something active everyday!

    Have questions?
    Dietitians are a trusted source for nutrition information. For answers to nutrition questions contact a HealthLink BC Dietitian at 8-1-1. 

  • The Bare Bone Facts About Osteoporosis

    What is Osteoporosis?
    Osteoporosis literally means 'porous bones'. Our bones are made up of a thick outer shell and a strong inner honeycomb mesh of tiny struts of bone. Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. If not prevented or if left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly and undetected until a bone breaks; typically in the hip, spine, and wrist.

    Am I at Risk?
    Bone health is largely determined by the genes we inherit from our parents. Several lifestyle behaviors, conditions and medications can also increase our risk of osteoporosis.

    How Can I Prevent Osteoporosis?
    The best defenses against Osteoporosis are building strong bones, especially before the age of 30. Prevention is very important because, while there are treatments for osteoporosis, there is yet no cure. There are five steps to prevent osteoporosis. No one step alone is enough to prevent osteoporosis but all five may.

    National Osteoporosis Foundation's Recommendations to Protect Your Bones:
    > Get enough calcium and vitamin D and eat a well balanced diet.
    Engage in regular exercise.
    Eat foods that are good for bone health, such as fruits and vegetables.
    Avoid smoking and limit alcohol to 2-3 drinks per day.

    Osteoporosis Canada
    National Osteoporosis Foundation
    National Osteoporosis Society

Blood Sugar, Diabetes, and You

Over ten million Canadians live with diabetes or prediabetes, and more than 20 Canadians are newly diagnosed with the disease every hour of every day. Given these statistics, the chances are very good that diabetes affects you or someone you know. Whether you have diabetes or not, managing your blood glucose levels can make a big difference to your energy and health.

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  • What is Low Blood Sugar?

    Anytime we eat grains, vegetables and fruit or dairy, the carbohydrates within these foods are broken down into sugar (e.g. glucose, fructose, etc.) in order for our body to be able to absorb them into our blood stream. Once in our blood, the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin that allows the sugar to be taken up by our cells, giving our body energy. Normally this process happens meal after meal without us even having to think about it! However, if our body doesn't produce enough insulin or our body doesn't respond to it very well (as is the case with diabetes) or when our body produces too much insulin in response to what we eat (as is the case with reactive hypoglycemia) we run into trouble.

    Hypoglycemia in a nutshell
    Hypoglycemia (or low blood sugar) occurs wherever there is too much insulin circulating in the blood for the amount of sugar ingested and absorbed. The body operates at it's best when blood sugar concentration stays in a specific range (4.0 - 6.0 mmol/L). Hypoglycemia results when too much sugar is driven into the cells causing the concentration of blood sugar to drop below 4.0 mmol/L. A person with low blood sugar may have any of the following symptoms: sweating, shakiness, elevated heart rate, hunger, nervousness, sweating, and possibly confusion and blurred vision.

    What happens in reactive hypoglycemia?
    In people with reactive hypoglycemia, low blood sugar happens within 2-5 hours after they eat. People with reactive hypoglycemia need to manage their diet similarly to those with diabetes to avoid symptoms.

    Nutrition Recommendations
    1. Timing is everything!
    Timing of meals and snacks alone can be enough to control symptoms.
    Eat small, frequent meals. Six small meals a day (i.e. every 2-3 hours) is the best way to avoid symptoms as it spreads out the amount of carbohydrate (sugar) in your bloodstream.

    Skipping meals or not eating for long periods of time can make symptoms worse.

    2. The combination for success - mixed meals
    Eating mixed meals - that is, having carbohydrate, protein and fat is the combination for success. Follow recommendations outlined in Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating for a proven way to eat a balanced diet!

    For those who like math this combination can be calculated in order to distribute the calories between carbohydrate, protein and fat appropriately. The best combination to control reactive hypoglycemia is to aim to have 50% of total calories coming from carbohydrates, 20% of total calories coming from protein, and 30% of total calories coming from fat. For example, if consuming a 2000-calorie diet, carbohydrates would account for 1000 calories (or 250 grams), protein would account for 400 calories (or 100 grams) and fat would account for 600 calories (or 100 grams). This percentage breakdown fits well into the most recent recommendations.

    More about mixed meals, specifically:

    Don't cut the carbs! Even though it seems like sugar is the culprit - not all carbohydrates are created equal.just choose wisely. In fact, carbohydrate is our body's best and most sustainable source of energy. Choosing carbohydrates with high quality and keeping portion sizes in check is key.  Read on!

    Choose high fibre (>4 grams), complex carbohydrates (whole grains breads and cereals, pasta, brown rice, beans, lentils and split peas, fruits and vegetables). Complex carbohydrates take about 2 hours to digest and be absorbed into the bloodstream. High fibre, complex carbohydrates allow for a slow release of sugar into the bloodstream.

    Limit simple sugars - candy, honey, jams, jellies, sugar, syrup, sweetened drinks, fruit juice, and sweets (desserts). Simple carbohydrates, such as table sugar, fruit and lactose (milk sugar) can be absorbed into the blood within 15 minutes (fast release = increased risk of symptoms). In fact, simple sugars can make symptoms worse, especially if eaten on an empty stomach. If eating simple sugars, eat them in moderation and with other foods. (see the combination to success)

    Eat protein at each meal and snack as it helps to stabilize blood sugar. Good choices include lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, lentils and split peas, tofu, soymilk, peanut butter, low fat milk and milk products.

    Fat slows digestion, which in turns slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream.
    Choose healthy fats such as canola, olive, flaxseed or soybean oils, and non-hydrogenated margarines made with these oils. Fish, nuts, seed and avocado are also good choices.

    3. Other things to consider
    Limit caffeine as it can make symptoms worse. Alcohol can also cause low blood sugar. It's best to talk to your doctor about alcohol.Exercise after a meal or after a high carbohydrate snack to avoid symptoms. Consider carbohydrate counting as a way to regulate total carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrate counting is typically used in the management of diabetes - visit, or talk to your doctor or dietitian for more information.

    4. A caution about ketones
    If too little carbohydrates are consumed and blood sugar is in short supply, the body breaks down fat and produces ketones as a by-product. When ketones build up in the blood they cause people to feel unwell - decreased alertness, fatigue, nausea, etc. Moreover, the kidneys have to work hard to remove these ketones from the body. To avoid ketones building up in the blood it is recommended that a minimum of 130 grams of carbohydrate be consumed each day. This allows for proper brain and nervous system function, where sugar is the preferred fuel.

    The bottom line
    Following the above tips may be helpful in avoiding symptoms of hypoglycemia. However, it is important to remember that everyone is different in regards to their tolerance of carbohydrates and their body's blood sugar/insulin response. Ask your Doctor or Registered Dietitian for more information.

  • Building a Menu for your Diabetic Guest

    Those with Diabetes aren't the only ones who are affected by meal timing and the quality of their food. Everyone is affected by the quality and timing of their meals and corresponding blood sugar levels to some extent. Loading up on sweets may lead to an "energy rollercoaster", mood swings and/or unwanted weight gain. Fine tune your menu and adopt some of the following tips that will benefit your diabetic guest as well as everyone else at the table. 

    Keep in mind the following points:

    > Forbidden foods?? Almost all foods can fit into a well-planned diabetic diet. There are no 'forbidden' foods. Be sure to focus on balancing your meals with plenty of whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meat & alternatives and lower fat milk and alternatives. 

    > Give your favorite foods a healthy makeover.  Steam vegetables instead of sautéing in butter. When baking, use less sugar in a recipe and increase the use of other sweet-tasting spices and flavourings such as cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla.

    > De - super size your feast and keep your portion sizes in check. Set smaller plates at the munchie table instead of dinner plates to prevent overeating. Even better: pre portion everything and offer bite size nibbles. Click here for more information on portion sizes.

    > Finger food ideas? Make popcorn sprinkled with melted cheese and pepper or paprika; baked fruit topped with Greek yogurt and nuts; fresh vegetables with guacamole; bean dip or our very own Thrifty Kitchen’s Greek Tzatziki Yogourt Dip or baked sweet potato wedges topped with spices and low fat cheese. 

    Is it true that people with diabetes have to eliminate sugar?
    In the past couple years, sugar, a carbohydrate has gotten a bad reputation. Especially with diabetes, there seems to be a misconception that sugar and solely sugar affects your blood glucose. Sure, sugar and sweets do raise your blood sugar but it is important to take into account that your blood sugar is also affected by other factors, such as the fiber, protein and fats you have in a meal, as well as the amount of food. With sugary foods, the rule is moderation. Talk to a Registered Dietitian about working out a meal plan for times when you want to have higher sugar

  • Sweet Nothins' - The Story on Sugar

    Oh chocolate chip cookies, cream cheese cupcake and jellybeans - why do you keep luring me across the room?? You think, "OK, tomorrow I will start eating healthy." With your conscious consoled, you delve into the "sugar calling galley". After all, what are a few good men really going to do over the long-term?

    Sure, the odd treat once in a while is fine. Cause for concern is when delving into sugar laden treats becomes more of a routine, rather than a treat. Monitoring your sugar intake is all part of obtaining (and maintaining) a healthy weight; sound blood sugar levels; and decreasing risk of health problems such as heart disease, dental problems and gout.

    A major problem is that sugary foods are often empty calories, which could replace the more wholesome foods in your diet, creating a deficiency of important nutrients. In other cases, sugar is consumed in addition to what is required for a healthy diet. The extra calories certainly aren't in favor of controlling our worldwide pandemic of obesity.

    Now experts are encouraging people to slash their "added sugar" intake to 100 calories a day for woman (6.5 tsp or 25 grams) and 150 calories a day for men (9.5 teaspoons or 38 grams). When cutting back on sugars, they advise to first look at what you are drinking. During the holiday season this means sugary drinks, such as eggnog and sugary cocktails.

    Be aware that it is not just table sugar (sucrose) that is the culprit. "Added sugars" are added sugars. It doesn't' matter if it is glucose-fructose, agave syrup, honey, cane or beet sugar, corn syrup, raw sugar, molasses, cane juice or brown rice syrup.

    This is why label reading is especially important. Be aware that the amount of sugar listed on the label includes "added", as well as natural occurring sugars such as those found in fruit and milk. You can distinguish "natural" from "added" by inspecting the ingredient list. Choose foods with ingredients that have little added sugars, while still including fruit and milk products which offer nutrients important for a healthy balanced diet.

Sports Nutrition

Whether you’ve just started exercising or you are already an elite athlete, eating well is priority one for athletic results. Combine good nutrition and hydration with proper training and adequate rest to enjoy optimal and injury-free athletic performance. 

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  • Fuel for the Long Run

    You thought last year would be the year. With your new training program, flashy runners, heart-rate monitor and COOLMAX® swag; you thought for sure you would finally break 50 minutes in the 10km. Yet despite all the latest bling, somehow on race-day that 50 minute pace bunny seemed to effortlessly bound by you to beat you to the finish line. And (once again) you were unable to run your goal time of 50 minutes.

    What if I offered you an edge that allowed you to improve your performance to train longer and more effectively, increase your energy and motivation; decrease your risk of illness and injury and enhance your recovery?

    Ready to spin your tires? Fasten your seat belts as I have a strategy for you that will earn you the nickname "speedy", and get you to the finish line faster then you ever have before.

    Running on Fuel, Rather than Fumes.
    Traditionally runners get serious about nutrition only a couple days before the race. However, it is important to fuel yourself properly throughout your whole training program to give you the energy to run harder in workouts. This in turn will create a domino effect that will make you run faster on race day.

    Proper fueling also means eating small meals every 3-4 hours for increased energy, decreased cravings, greater satiety and improved recovery. Those that skip meals are more apt to get hit hard by hunger later on. This generally means powerful cravings for cookies, chips and other less healthy choices. Despite a raging consciousness, this could also mean finding oneself at the drive-thru window ordering a Double Ham Slam garnished with a cargo of fries and a jug of pop.

    Trading in your Lemon for a Lamborghini
    Think of your body like a car. Similarly, food provide the fuel to our body's engine. The main nutrient, carbohydrates are like premium fuel, also providing B vitamins which are required for body functions, such as energy metabolism. High quality sources include: whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes.

    Eating protein regularly is essential for repairing muscle as well as building healthy blood cells that serve to deliver nutrients and oxygen to working muscles. Good sources include: eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, nuts or lean meat.

    Like the importance of oil in a car, a small amount of high quality fats is essential to keep everything running smoothly, preventing breakdown and protecting immunity. Some good sources include nuts, avocado and fatty fish.

    Fluids prevent our engines from overheating similar to coolant in a car. It isn't unusual for people to lose about a pound of water during exercise. Even if you're not sweating alot, you're losing fluids through breathing. As little as a >2% loss in body water can cause a 6% reduction in speed! Translated to runner jargon, that could mean the difference of a sixty minute- 10km time or a 56:30 finish (when in fine hydrated form). On the flip-side, drinking so much while running so that you gain weight can bring on serious side-effects as well.

    36 hour Count-Down to Gun Time
    Despite popular belief, pigging out the night before won't get you any faster to the finish line. It takes 24-48 hours for muscle fuel to store and become available to burn. Therefore; during your run you are burning what you ate and stored 1-2 days earlier, not what you ate the night before.

    > Having a small, balanced meal 3-4 hours before your run prevents blood sugar from dropping, provides a short term energy boost and fuel to the brain.
    > As the time before your run decreases so should the size of your meal with your choices primarily coming from carbohydrate with minimal fat, fiber, sugar and protein. Eating the wrong thing and/or on a full stomach may cause cramps, bloating and indigestion. Furthermore; blood circulating to your stomach could take away from the blood you need for your muscles, lungs and heart to run your best.
    > Top off your coolant. As a general rule of thumb, 2 hours before your run drink 2 cups of water and drink again 1-2 cups, 15 minutes before your run.
    > Trying new foods on race day could spell disaster including a regular trip to the port-a-potty (not to mention a bad race.)

    Examples of pre-race bites (Remember everyone is different so it is best to find what is best for you before race day):

    3-4 hours before: 
    French toast with fruit and yogurt
    chicken/ veggie stir-fry on rice
    2-3 hours before:
    cheese &crackers, sports bar or fruit with cottage cheese
    1 hour before:

    1/2 bagel with a scraping of peanut butter
      granola bar with juice 

    Bites on the Run

    Usually, plain water is fine for runs less than 1 hour. To determine how much fluid you should be taking during your run, weigh yourself before and after to see how much water is lost. For every 0.5 kg of weight loss, drink 2-3 cups of fluid by taking small sips throughout your run.

    For longer runs of 2 hours or more, risk of bonking is increased - an unpleasant experience when you are physically unable to continue running. To avoid calling the tow-truck, consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour to refuel your muscles and brain. Choices should be low in protein, fiber and fat such as sports drinks, and gels. Be sure to sip fluid with any solid food you choose. For those running longer than 3 hours, a source of sodium through food and/or drink should be considered to replace sodium losses and 60-90 grams of carbohydrate should be ingested to maximize performance

    Replenish & Rejoice
    Absorbing the runner's high post-race is important. Likewise, your muscles need some "absorbing" of their own - time for you to fuel up!

    You have a window of up to an hour when your body and muscles are like sponges and are most receptive to refueling and repair. It is especially important to take advantage of this recovery window if you run every day. For optimal recovery, a small snack that includes carbohydrate and a source of protein (20-25 grams) should be eaten. Fluids should also be consumed to replenish fluids and electrolytes lost in sweating. You may not feel hungry as exercise is an appetite suppressant but you have to train your body to accept food.

    Within 1 hour:  granola bar & sports drink 
      cereal, milk & fruit
      chocolate milk & banana
    Within 2-3 hours: 
    A meal with all the food groups 

    Beer Victory or Bust?
    Think celebrating with a bevy will help with recovery? Wishful thinking. Although, celebrating your race is well deserved, drinking alcohol may leave you dehydrated, interfere with optimal muscle recovery, and is more likely get you "loaded" rather than carbo-loaded. If you decide to raise a glass, ensure to double fist with water; consume carbohydrates and most importantly drink responsibly.

    Whether you're a budding beginner or a cheetah trying to shave seconds off your time, what you put past your lips may buy you seconds over the long run and leave that rabbit in the dust!

  • Liquid Assets

    What is 65-75% water? You are!  In terms of performance enhancing capacity, this means a lot. Water is perhaps the most underestimated nutrient when it comes to proven performance benefits. As little as a 3% loss in body water can cause a 6% reduction in speed! Translated to runner jargon, that could mean the difference of a sixty minute- 10km time or a 56:30 finish (when in fine hydrated form).

    How do we become dehydrated?
    The human body loses fluids through sweating, breathing, and urination. The more miles you log, the more your water stores become depleted , and the less your body is able to sweat and regulate body temperature. Much like a low coolant level in a car - you risk overheating which could lead to heat illness if you don't drink enough fluids.

    Sweat rates can vary from 0.5L/hour to 2.5L/hour. Environmental conditions, genetics, body size, fitness and exercise intensity all influence fluid balance. Every runner is unique in their fluid requirements and thus, determining your personal hydration needs is crucial for optimal health and performance.

    Lavatory laboratory: Match fluid intake with sweat losses
    Weigh yourself before and after a workout (before drinking, eating and urinating), and subtract the weight of any fluids ingested while exercising:
    SWEAT RATE (Liters) = *weight before workout (in Kg) - *weight after workout (kg) + volume of fluids consumed (kg) (2 cups or 500ml = 0.5kg)  
    *To convert pounds to kilograms, multiply by 0.45

    From field to practice: During runs strive to keep weight loss to less than 2% by drinking at a rate that is close to sweat rate. For every 0.5 kg of weight loss, drink 2-3 cups of fluid by taking small sips throughout your run. In most cases, plain water is fine for runs less than 1 hour. For runs over 2 hours, 60-90 grams of carbohydrate per hour and replacement of  sodium may be needed.

    Fluid overdose?
    Attention water guzzlers: more is not better! Over-occupying the port-a-potties is not the only implication of pounding back fluids. Of greater concern is that excessive drinking could pose serious health risks. Stick to drinking at a rate that matches sweat losses and hence limits body weight loss.
    Whether seeking a spot on the podium, or running just for fun, avoid leaving yourself high and dry by ensuring your fluid needs are met for optimal performance, and possibly even a faster finishing time!

  • Gaining Muscle

    I hate to break it to you but this could be one circumstance where you are NOT necessarily what you eat! Eating copious amount of protein doesn't translate to the circumference of your bicep!

    Adequate protein is important for building and repairing your muscles, regulating metabolic processes, as well as keeping your skin, hair and nails healthy. However, eating excessive amounts do not enhance gains in muscle or muscle strength.

    Firstly realize that only a small proportion of muscle is composed of protein stores. In fact, 75% of muscle is actually water! Secondly, there is no real mechanism for storing any protein consumed in excess of immediate requirements. Therefore, carnivores be fore-warned: eating extra protein will not build bigger muscles, but will instead be used as an energy source and possibly contribute to body fat. Furthermore, eating lots of protein can not only be hard on the bank account, it may also leave you deficient in fiber, B-vitamins and antioxidants if it replaces other essential nutrients in your diet.

    A common error for those who want to gain bulk simply eat too few calories. The body follows the laws of thermodynamics and thus cannot construct muscle without enough calories to build it with. In most cases, a diet that provides 0.5 to 0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day (1.2 to 1.6 g/kg) will be plenty for someone who strength trains often and wanting to maximize muscle gains. As you can see from table 1, it should be fairly simple to meet these requirements. For example, someone who is 154lbs would need ~98grams of protein per day and could get this amount from their smoothie at breakfast (made with milk and protein powder), tuna sandwich at lunch, cottage cheese for their snack and turkey at dinner.

    Bottom line: muscle is derived from a well designed resistance program and a sufficient calorie intake from a balanced diet to support muscle gains.

    Protein Sources:

    Food    Protein (grams) 
    Chicken, turkey, fish or shellfish, 100g    29g 
    Edamame, shelled, 1 cup   17g 
    Cottage Cheese, 30g   7g 
    Milk, 1 cup    8g 
    Cheese, 30g    7g 
    Egg    6g 
    Beans, 1 cup cooked    16g
    Soy nuts, ¼ cup    17g 
    Peanut butter, 1 tablespoon   4g 
    Nuts, 50g    9g 
    Bread, whole grain   11g 
    Pasta, 1½ cups    12g 

    *Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture. Values are approximate

  • Runners Digest

    Prevent digestive woes from slowing you down!

    50 minutes. This was it. I was ready to run my fastest 10km ever! It then hit. Standing at the start line, my stomach started to growl like an irritated dog! I tried to convince myself it was the runner beside me. However, once I hit the 3km mark, I realized I was only fooling myself. I needed a washroom stat! I frantically sprinted to the porta-potty, which in this time of serious desperation glowed like a beacon of glory! Two more lavatory detours and 18 additional minutes' later, I staggered across the finish. Time= 63 minutes.

    Can you relate to this experience? Don't be ashamed. While some runners have cast-iron tummies, research shows another 30-83% of runners experience stomach upset. The tricky element is that foods problematic for some may be tolerated well by others. The bottom line is that it is critical you experiment with your diet BEFORE race day.

    Sidestep digestion issues with these strategies to avoid falling victim to the porta-potty mayhem!

    1) Scenario: Gas, bloating & burping
    Suspect: Pre-race jitters; fizzy drinks; cruciferous veggies (like broccoli and cabbage); high fiber foods such as fruits & vegetables, beans, bran cereals & bars; dried fruit; spices like garlic & onion and chewing gum can cause swallowing air bubbles triggering gas and bloating
    Remedy: 3-4 hours prior to racing, stick to easy-to-digest foods high in carbohydrate, low in fiber, protein & fat. Eat slowly to avoid swallowing air. To calm pre-race nerves, take slow, relaxed breaths

    2) Scenario: Sharp stomach pain
    Suspect: Regularly taking anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as acetylsalicylic acid & ibuprofen can bother the stomach, and in severe circumstances cause intestinal bleeding
    Remedy: Instead of "band-aiding" your aches and pains, talk to your doc about safer solutions

    3) Scenario: Heartburn
    Suspect: Heartburn occurs when stomach acid touches the throat
    Remedy: Eat more often and slim down your portions. Eat slowly. Wait 3 hours after eating to run. Don't lie down after a meal. Avoid heartburn aggravators: fried foods, chocolate, high-fat & spicy meals, alcohol, caffeine, and acidic foods (e.g. tomatoes & citrus)

    4) Scenario: Gnarly sharp pain under your ribs
    Suspect: "Side stitches" may be caused by cramping of the diaphragm
    Remedy: Remember to breathe deeply while running and avoid heavy drinking/eating 30 minutes prior

    5) Scenario: Diarrhea
    Suspect: Increased sensitivity to food & drink while running could prompt "runner's trots" due to reduced digestive function while running
    Pass on caffeinated sources like coffee & tea, especially in large amounts. Check other drinks, foods, and medications for caffeine content
    High concentrations of simple sugars like fructose can cause tummy trouble (as in juice, gels and energy drinks). So can sugar alcohols (sorbitol, mannitol, etc.)
    Avoid high doses of vitamin C and "green" drinks
    > Sip fluids every 15 minutes during your run. Dehydration can prompt diarrhea
    > Avoid high-fiber foods (>4grams fiber) 24 hours before running
    > Go easy on dairy pre-run if you have trouble stomaching milk. Instead 
    save the chocolate milk for post-run recovery

    Halt digestive woes so you can motor past porta-potty mayhem and arrive at the finishing line in a beacon of glory and your best time ever!

Additional Healthy Eating Help

Your body is incredibly and beautifully complex. The food choices you make affect all of your organs and systems, your moods and energy, and your immediate and long-term health. We’ve got the information you need on diet and wellness topics from digestive issues, to how to slash sodium intake, to weight management. 

Related Articles:

  • Love your Heart!

    In an average lifetime, the heart continuously beats more than two and a half billion times. The heart provides the body with the power needed for life including delivering oxygen and nutrients to the body and carrying away waste.

    Cardiovascular disease including heart disease is Canada’s leading cause of death. Nine out of ten Canadians have at least one of the following risk factors for heart disease including the following:

    • > Tobacco use
    • > Physical Inactivity
    • > Overweight or obese
    • > High Blood Pressure
    • > Diabetes
    • > Low intake of vegetables and fruit
    • > Stress

    Fortunately, most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by making simple lifestyle choices. Just as you care for your family, friends and pets, your heart deserves some loving too! Set simple goals to meet the tips below, get support and monitor your progress to keep the rhythm strong.

    > Achieve or maintain a healthy body weight. Enjoy practical portions of a variety of food every day, and fill half your plate with vegetables and snack on fruit.  Plan, prepare and share your meals with others.

    > Choose water, the best beverage for our bodies!  

    Prepare meals with plant proteins and fat more often. Enjoy meatless meals using legumes like soybeans, nuts, lentils, peas and beans. Choose unsaturated vegetable oils, such as olive, canola, flax and soybean oil.

    Eat fish twice a week. Oily fish like salmon, herring, sardines and trout are great sources of heart healthy omega- 3 fats.

    Fill up on fibre! Incorporate whole grains, vegetables, fruit and legumes into your meals and snacks.

    Season without salt. Use herbs and spices to flavor foods and limit processed foods which tend to be high in sodium.

    Work it out! Adults aged 18-64 years should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity every week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.  Incorporate muscle and bone strengthening activities a couple times per week.  

    Grocery shop the heart healthy way!

    1. Prepare your own meals more often, and use packaged products less.

    2. When using packaged goods, read the Nutrition Facts Table. Look for foods that have more than 15% Daily Value (%DV) for fibre, and less than 5% Daily Value (DV) for total fat, saturated and trans fat, and sodium.

    Have questions? Dietitians are a trusted source for nutrition information. For answers to nutrition questions contact a HealthLink BC Dietitian at 8-1-1.
  • Shake the Sodium

    Thrifty Foods shakes the salt!

    Salt has had a long and influential role in world history, including being a key factor in economic, religious, social and political development. It was even used as currency at one point in time! Adding salt to foods was originally a preservation technique. Today it is also used to enhance the moisture and flavour of foods.

    Unfortunately, eating too much salt has put Canadians' lives in jeopardy. Excess sodium intake is one of the major causes of high blood pressure as well as pre-hypertension. As blood pressure increases above recommended levels, so do the risks of heart attack, congestive heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease. The recommended adequate intake for sodium is 1200mg-1500mg sodium per day. It is estimated that Canadian adults consume about 3500 milligrams of sodium per day - that's over twice the level recommended for good health!

    Researchers have found that for every gram of salt cut from the diet, there would be 250,000 fewer new cases of heart disease and more than 200,000 fewer heart-related deaths in the next 10 years.

    It's never too late to change our ways, and researchers say that even a modest decrease in the amount of salt- hardly detectable in food- could have a huge impact on our overall health and disease prevention.

    Great A-salt!
    With only 15% coming from the salt shaker, 77% of our daily sodium intake comes from processed foods and eating out. According to a recent Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) - a nationally representative survey of more than 35,000 Canadians- sandwiches, submarines, and pizza are some of the leading sources of sodium in the Canadian diet.

    To help you attain healthy sodium intake, Thrifty Foods is proud to offer a variety of low sodium breads and low sodium items in the deli to help. Take action, always read food labels and look for choices that are low in sodium containing 140mg per serving or less.

    Note: a teaspoon of table salt equals 2,325 mg sodium

    To limit the amount of salt in your diet:
    Eat fewer processed foods such as cured meats, bacon, lunchmeats and frozen dinners
    > Eat more fresh, unprocessed foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, poultry, fish and unprocessed grains.
    > Choose low-sodium or reduced-sodium processed foods.
    > Don't add salt to your food. Instead, use herbs and spices to flavour foods.

    Smile corner: Looking to decrease your salt intake? A little pointer to choosing less processed foods - Skip foods that list ingredients you cannot pronounce!

    More information on how to achieve a reduced sodium diet:
    Dietitians of Canada
    > Canadian Food Inspection Agency
    > Dietary Sodium Initiative
    > Blood Pressure Canada
    > Heart & Stroke Association

  • The Soy Story

    Soybeans and their products have been part of the Asian diet for centuries. Tofu (the soybean curd) originated in China and is a key protein source in the Asian diet. However, until as recently as 40 years ago they were virtually unheard of in North America. Soybeans and their products - items that used to be sold to vegetarians only - are now widely available and accepted as part of a healthy diet.

    Nutritional value

    Unlike most vegetable proteins, soybeans are a source of high quality protein. Soybeans also contain the essential fatty acids linoleic and linolenic, B vitamins and minerals (including zinc, iron and, if processed with calcium, a source of calcium). Phytoestrogens (i.e. isoflavones) found in soybeans are weak estrogen-like substances that can exert hormone activity as well as antioxidant effects. It is these properties that make soy so interesting. Also, soybeans contain no saturated fat; the type of fat known to raise blood cholesterol levels. Soy products including soy cheese and fortified soy "milk" do not contain lactose and, providing they are fortified with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12, make an excellent alternative to cow's milk.

    Soy protein is also easy to cook with and is less expensive than other protein foods.

    Health Benefits

    Heart Health
    Including soy foods in the diet has been shown to lower blood cholesterol and to protect the blood from clotting.  However, scientific findings to support this claim has been inconsistent. On the other hand,  It is thought amongst the scientific community that eating soy based proteins in place of red meat could help lower cholesterol  and the risk of colon cancer, most likely due to eating more healthy fats from the soy.  

    Women's Health
    Because isoflavones are thought to help to preserve estrogen levels in the body, the inclusion of soy products has several implications to women's health.

    Bone Health
    A new area of research has shown that including soy products in the diet may prevent or reduce the bone loss associated with aging.

    Menopausal Health
    Some researchers have found that soy products may have the effect of reducing some of the symptoms associated with menopause, namely hot flashes and night sweats. 

    Cancer Prevention
    Soy foods, rich in isoflavones may protect against endometrial (lining of the uterus), breast and other hormone related cancers (e.g. ovarian) but the data is conflicting. Many experts agree that soy foods are health protective for all women, however, some research raises concern about isoflavone supplements (sold as soy protein isolates or isoflavones).  More research needs to be done in this area.

    Men's Health
    The isoflavones found in soy products are thought to interfere with cancer of the prostate by inhibiting testosterone from turning into a form that promotes cell growth, therefore, they may decrease the risk of prostate cancer.

    Soy Products at your Thrifty Foods
    The following soy products can be found at your local Thrifty Foods:
    > Fortified soy beverages
    > Soy cheese product
    > Soy yogurt
    > Various types of tofu (from soft or dessert to firm and extra firm)
    > Textured vegetable protein, TVP (from the bulk food section)
    > Meatless "meats" and patties such as Yves 'Veggie Ground Round' or "turkey slices"
    > Tempheh
    > Miso (soy paste)
    > Soy flour
    > Soybean oil

    If you are having trouble finding soy products, ask any customer service representative to assist you.

    Using Soy Products - The options are endless if you keep an open mind!
    When you are starting out, try to include two servings of soy products each week.

    The top 10 ways to incorporate soy foods into your diet:
    1. Blend soft tofu or soy yogurt with fruit, juice, and ice cubes in a blender for a terrific breakfast shake.
    2. Add firm tofu to a stir-fry. Just brown it in sesame oil and add to your veggies.
    3. Substitute soy beverages for milk - soy beverages come in a variety of flavors such as vanilla, strawberry, chocolate and plain.
    4. Crumble  meat alternative derived from soy into spaghetti sauce.
    5. Try a soy-based burger or veggie dog for a change.
    6. Snack on a small handful of roasted soy nuts.
    7. Use pureed tofu for dips or creamy salad dressings.
    8. Make a bean salad - use soybeans for added texture and variety.
    9. Use texturized vegetable protein to "extend" the meat in chili.
    10. Visit your local library for a vegetarian cookbook and try recipes that use soy or tofu.

    Serving Sizes
    Soy products fit perfectly into Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating. The following servings are equivalent to one serving as outlined by Canada's Food Guide. Aim to include 2 servings a week to start.

    1/3 cup tofu (any texture - soft to extra firm)
    1 cup fortified soy beverage
    1 1/2 ounces (50g) of soy cheese
    3/4 cup soy yogurt

    Food Safety
    Tofu and other perishable soy products should be stored in the refrigerator and used within one week of opening. Soy products can be frozen but freezing changes the texture of the final product. If you do freeze tofu, squeeze the excess water out of it after thawing then cube or crumble before using.


    The consumption of soy products in pregnancy is considered safe.

    The Bottom Line - Safety
    The heart benefits of soy are well documented and many experts agree that soy foods are health protective, however, some research raises concern about isoflavone supplements/pills (soy isolates) and women who have a family history of hormone related cancers. Since the safety of concentrated isoflavones, or soy isolates, has not been well studied more research is need in this area for a definitive recommendation to be made.

    To keep it safe:
    > If you already include soy products in your diet continue to do so
    > Avoid soy supplements if you are allergic to soy
    > If you are interested in including soy products in part of a healthy diet, consider adding up to 2 servings each day (see above for serving sizes)
    If you have breast, ovarian, cervical or other hormone related cancer and wish to start eating soy products, talk to your doctor or dietitian where you are receiving treatment.

  • Weight Management

    "D.I.E.T. Disallowing imperfections equals tribulation"

    As each New Year rolls around, many people are willing to do just about anything - if it will help reduce the numbers they're seeing on the scales. Taking full advantage of this vulnerable time, shelves and ads are filled with fad diet books, magic weight reduction pills and exercise gadgets. Although all seem unique in their very own way, many of these schemes have a beginning and an end date. They do not work for long-term weight control overall health.

    Are you ready to truly pave the way to obtain a healthy weight? Follow our tips for obtaining your healthy weight….for life!

    Set Specific Goals - Choose Your Weapons: What's the first thing most of us do to get back into shape? We join a gym, buy a $3,000 treadmill or buy the latest diet gimmick, all without any idea of what we ultimately want to accomplish. But we need goals, not gadgets. Instead of, 'I want to get fit and drop weight,'" be specific with making goals that are measurable, attainable, and realistic. Example: Goal: To lose 2 inches in 6 to 8 weeks by participating in Pilates on Monday and Wednesday and running Tuesday, Friday, Saturday.

    Eat: The truth is that if you want to lose weight, the worst thing you can do is stop eating. Reducing your caloric intake drastically low means you're not getting the nutrients that your body needs to function properly. What's more, if you eat too little, your body goes into starvation mode, slowing your metabolism down, hoarding any fuel that comes along. What happens when you start eating regularly again? The answer: weight gain. Bottom-line is the only thing you lose on dangerously restrictive diets is your health, enthusiasm and self esteem.

    The pleasure principle: So many are black or white about their eating habits. We are either angelic (very, very good), eating strictly salads. Or we are devilish (very, very bad), eating the whole container of ice-cream. The problem with eating very, very bad….well, the spare tire around the midsection could be enough a reason for some. Enough said. The problem with being very, very good is it is unrealistic, not to mention plain outright boring. It won't be long before you toss in the towel and straight for the ice-cream aisle if restrict yourself like this. Why not compromise between the black and white and play in the grey areas? Sometimes eat fruit. Sometimes eat chocolate. Not depriving yourself is a lot easier, enjoyable and kind to your waistline.

    Start your engine: Studies show that breakfast eaters are less likely to be overweight than those who skip the morning meal. Just as you need to fuel your car, you need to fuel your body. If you don't, you're putting your calorie burning furnace into time-out. It takes calories to burn calories, so be sure to fire up your metabolism by eating breakfast.

    Concentrate on portion control: 20 years ago, a muffin used to be 1.5 ounces and now is ~5 ounces. A bagel was 3 inches and now is 6. Ballooning portion sizes could have you biting off more then you can chew. 

    More meals are better than fewer: Eating five or six mini meals a day is ideal to maintain concentration, energy, mood, weight. Adding a little fiber, good fat and protein to each is a good way to maintain satiety and add nutrients. Snack ideas: crackers and cheese; apple slices and almond butter; cereal and yogurt; shake; trail mix with cereal, nuts and dried fruit…

    Choose whole, alive foods, pulling from all the food groups: lean, protein, whole grains, low fat dairy, and loads of fruit and vegetables. Your body is able to use these foods a lot more then hyper processed foods.

    Treat exercise as immunization: No secret here. Exercise keeps you healthy and well. Just as you brush your teeth daily, you need to find a way to incorporate fuel burning movement into your daily life. Why not read while on a stationary bike? Do stretches while watching TV. At work, walk over to a co-worker's phone instead of using telephone…. Still not motivated? Distract yourself by listening to music. Evidence suggests that listening to music helps people to exercise longer and stronger. Who knows you may find yourself cutting a rug along the way!!

    Say good-night: Studies show that lack of sleep may hinder one's ability to shed body fat. Experts recommend between 7-9 hours per night. Nighty night!

Hungry for more? Check out nutrition articles written and compiled by our Registered Dietitian here.