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Nutrition & You

Check out these articles written and compiled by our Registered Dietitian, Jessalyn O'Donnell. They're full of expert tips and advice to help you and your family live your life to the fullest!
Life speeds by at a crazy pace - one minute we are in diapers, next we are taking the training wheels off our bike, and before you know it we have grandchildren! Nourishing your body with proper nutrition is important to support you throughout your life.

You, Me and Everyone Else

  • Healthy minds - it's all in your head!

    You carry around a three-pound structure that controls everything you do-from enabling you to think, learn, and experience emotions, to controlling every breath, blink and heartbeat - this control system is your brain. 

    Unfortunately, more people (old and young) are losing control of these critical functions. An example of this is dementia, a cognitive disorder that can include symptoms such as a gradual and continuing decline of memory, changes in judgment or reasoning, mood and behavior, and an inability to perform familiar tasks. Currently, 14.9% of Canadians, 65 years or older live with a cognitive impairment, including dementia. If changes aren't made, the number of Canadians living with Alzheimers disease or a related dementia will more than double within a generation.

    Here are some suggestions on what you can do now to help keep your brain healthy as you get older:

    Belly Boundaries
    Studies show that carrying excess weight around your waist can triple your risk of dementia. Keep your weight under control by limiting your intake of sweets, alcohol and fatty foods, and exercising 30-60 minutes a day.

    Train your Brain and Your Body
    Exercise may help to decrease memory loss and preserve other cognitive skills, such as planning, scheduling, and multitasking. Getting in 30-60 minutes of exercise each day that gets your heart rate up could do wonders for your brain wiring.

    B12 and the Brain
    Decreased vitamin B12 absorption seems to occur as people get older. Severe vitamin B12 deficiency can cause irreversible neurological damage. Keep your B12 in check by eating meat, milk products and fortified foods. Wondering if you should add a supplement to your diet? Discuss the need with your physician.

    Control your Blood Pressure
    High blood pressure in mid-life may be a risk factor for dementia by causing strokes, including mini-strokes-ones that you may not feel. Do your brain a favor and limit food that's high in sodium, cholesterol, saturated and trans fats.

    Coffee Break
    Those who are middle aged, regular coffee drinkers could have a lower risk of Alzheimer's and other dementias. Be careful java junkies! Exceeding more than a couple cups of coffee a day could prevent absorption of essential nutrients.

    Brain Food
    It is thought that lower levels of vitamin D may affect memory. As well, eating tuna or dark fish meat (salmon, sardines, herring) at least once per week could protect the brain as well as help verbal memory and eating 1-2 servings of berries a week could slow memory decline. Further studies need to be done to strengthen the relationship between these two nutrients and brain function.

    Use it or lose it
    Keep learning, whether it be attending a class, playing jig-saw puzzles or playing a board game and you could be helping to protect against dementia.  

    Get your zzz’s
    Getting enough sleep could play a role in prevention of dementia by allowing disposal of toxic products in the brain.  Stay tuned for more research on this theory!

  • Healthy Muscles

    Thanks to our evolutionary patterns, many of us gain a little extra chub during the winter months. While focusing on shedding our cocoons and losing the "jiggle" gained during hibernation, it is also important to strengthen your muscles for a stronger, more defined you.

    Muscle Proof Your Life

    Are you...
    > Wanting to lose weight?
    > Wanting to carve some edges in your muscles?
    > Wanting to gain the strength you need to perform everyday activities?
    > At risk of developing osteoporosis?
    > Someone who needs to improve their posture?

    Everyone should be concerned with at least maintaining muscle strength. Not only will strengthening your muscles prepare you for bathing suit season but, more importantly, you will be prepared for the rigor of everyday life. Put up some resistance and start pushing for a stronger you!

    Time and Money Savers
    Strengthening your muscles doesn't necessarily need to be done in a gym. Mowing your lawn with a push mower, golfing (minus the ride-on cart), and taking the stairs all count. You can also perform a strength workout at home with exercises such as push-ups, dips, superman's, squats, lunges and lying side leg lifts.***

    Muscle Matters
    Consider strengthening muscles that simulate the movements you perform in daily living. Whether you are playing sports, working, or lifting your children, it is important to strengthen your body to be able to do these things safely and with minimal risk of injury. Do you sit at a desk all day? Perhaps you should focus on strengthening your core - lower back and postural muscles - to prevent slouching. Likewise, working your gluteus maximus (buttocks) will help with walking up stairs.***

    Don't Forget Your Balance Helpers
    Strengthening your small muscles is just as important as strengthening the big ones. The most important thing you can do to lower your odds of falling is to improve your balance. Try balancing exercises such as standing on one foot while brushing your teeth.

    Work Opposing Muscles
    Muscles often work in pairs so that they can pull in different or opposite directions, such as chest/back or quadriceps/hamstrings. Working opposing muscle groups is important for muscle balance and overall strength.

    Keep FITT
    For building strength, follow the "FITT" principle. FITT stands for frequency, intensity, time and type.

    Keep FITT 

    Don't Forget to Stretch
    Stretching your muscles helps you move easily and keeps your muscles relaxed and your joints mobile.

    Prevent Muscle Boredom
    As your body adjusts to your routine, your muscles can get bored and, thus, gains slow down.

    Ways to Un-bore Your Muscles
    Decrease the number of reps and increase the number of weight sets, or perform each rep slower. Try different exercises for the same muscle. For example, instead of lat pull downs, challenge the same muscles with pull ups.

    *** Seek expert advice from a professionally trained strength coach.

    Muscle Paradigm
    Strength is only one component of muscle maintenance. Keep the momentum going by incorporating aerobic exercise into your routine as well. Not only does aerobic activity help you define your abdominals, but it also helps your heart, lungs and circulatory system stay healthy and gives you more energy.

    "I don't want to lift weights because I don't want to "bulk up."
    Lifting weights on a regular basis can help you maintain or lose weight. Resistance activities can help you build muscle, and muscle burns more calories than body fat. So if you have more muscle, you burn more calories. You will not "bulk up" from performing strength activities 2 or 3 days a week. Only intense strength training combined with a sufficient calorie intake builds muscle.

    Can Eating a High-Protein Diet Help Build my Muscles?
    Protein can help provide the raw material to build muscle, but the protein has to be drawn into your muscles through exercise. In most cases, a high-energy diet that provides 1.2 to 1.6g of protein per kilogram of body weight will ensure that protein needs are being met. 

    Consuming more than this will not build muscle. Just like the gasoline you put into your car, there's only so much you can put in without over-fueling. The rest is spillover and is either expelled or stored. Very high protein diets can also displace other important nutrients and can become a source of saturated fat.

  • Healthy Digestion

    Symptoms like heartburn, gas, diarrhea and constipation can be your body's way of telling you that something you are eating has not been well accepted. Improve your digestion by watching what you put in your mouth and following these tips. 

    Like a drain cleaner, fibre may keep everything moving smoothly, preventing back-up. 
    Specifically, insoluble fibre found in wheat bran, nuts and the skin of fruits and root vegetables rates the best for aiding regularity

    Water Down
    Along with fibre, consuming fluids could be important for moving things through your system.

    Train Your Trunk
    Prevent heartburn with regular aerobic exercise to strengthen the diaphragm and prevent acid reflux. Along with fluid and fibre, exercise can also have a positive effect on regularity.

    Employ Germ Warfare
    Friendly bacteria, as found in fermented products and probiotics may defend against bacterial invasion and regulate your digestive health. Food rich in probiotics include kefir, yoghurt and sauerkraut should be part of your every day diet as it is thought they could play a role in “regulating gut responses to microbial communities.”

    Limit Diet Foods
    Low calorie foods, such as diet pop, sugar-free chewing gum and candy, may decrease the guilt factor brought on by other indulgences; however, the artificial sweeteners typically found in these foods may not react well with your stomach or give you the nourishment your body requires.

    Chew Foods Well
    Getting the most nutrients from your food is tricky if you eat too quickly. Maximize the absorption of nutrients by taking the time to slow down, chew properly, and enjoy your meals.

    Put out the Fire
    Feasting on too much fatty food can cause heartburn as well as elicit other heart problems. Fats cause the lower part of the esophagus to relax, making it easier for the stomach to reflux.

    Balance Acid
    Consuming copious amounts of coffee and chocolate, or regularly taking ibuprofen and aspirin, can lead you to fall prey to the bacteria H Pylori which can wipe out mucus and allow acid to create ulcers.

    Monitor Red & Processed Meat
    Eating too much red and processed meat could put you at risk of colon cancer. Mix up your diet with other protein sources such as chicken, fish, seafood, beans, nuts and seeds.

    Is it gluten?
    For those who are celiac or gluten sensitive, gluten can cause digestive issues and/or a diverse slew of symptoms.  However, before you break up with gluten, it is essential to get tested by your doctor to get a proper diagnosis. After you take gluten out of your diet, the test will not work.  If you and your health practitioner decide the gluten-free is for you, check out our gluten free store tours, events and products for help! 

    Is it lactose found in milk products? 
    It could be.  Many adults don’t have the enzyme, lactase which breaks lactose down into glucose and galactose, causing gas and/or diarrhea.  However, eliminating lactose altogether is probably not necessary.  Eating/drinking milk products with meals slow down digestion which decreases the likeliness of symptoms. Also lower lactose foods like cheese and yogurt might be more tolerable.

  • Healthy Skin - Protecting Your Paint Job

    Your skin is the largest organ in your body and the protective barrier from the outside world. Just as your car is at risk of scratches, dings and rust, your skin is also at risk of the wear and tear of environmental stresses. Although Canadians spend millions on skin products, you may be missing the boat on some powerful protective strategies. Prevent your skin from being weathered by becoming skin savvy. 

    A Wrinkle in Time - Is Age to Blame?
    Compare the skin on your face to the skin on your legs. Skin looks a little more wrinkled and loose as we age, but the impact of aging on skin appearance is modest compared to the effects of the sun. A tan is actually the response to injury caused by ultraviolet light - natural or from a tanning booth. Aside from wrinkles, more of a concern is skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Canada. 

    Because of our sun-loving culture, more people are being diagnosed with the disease. Even golfers are starting to overtake farmers on the list of those most likely to develop skin cancer. UVA rays - the "wrinkle" rays emitted from the sun and tanning beds - penetrate deep into the skin, affecting collagen and skin elasticity. UVB rays help our bodies make vitamin D, but are more damaging than UVA rays and are believed to be the cause of skin aging, sunburns, and skin cancer.

    Defending Against Skin Cancer

    > Use sunscreen properly. Not applying sunscreen correctly can lower the SPF (Sun Protection Factor). Apply at least half of a teaspoon each to your neck, face, including scalp, and both arms and at least one teaspoon each to your back, chest, and both legs. 

    > Protect your skin with a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher, clothing, and a wide brimmed hat.

    > SPF only applies to UVB radiation. Choose a sunscreen that protects against UVA as well.

    Skin Fare

    > Omega 3 fats from fish oil may delay skin aging. Green tea, pomegranate, and resveratrol can also help protect your skin. 

    > Rather than relying on the sun for vitamin D, experts recommend eating foods fortified with vitamin D or vitamin D supplements. Your body absorbs Vitamin D from the sun's UVB rays, but be sure to monitor your exposure as UVB rays can potentially damage your skin and eventually lead to skin cancer if you're not careful. 

  • Caffeine Truths

    Thanks to super size coffees and colas, we live in an over-caffeinated society.

    Think doubling up on the caffeine to get you through the day is a good idea? Think again. Although caffeine has been shown to improve cognitive function and exercise performance, it's important to know that there are also downsides with your caffeine fix. 

    Sure, a cuppa java may provide you with a temporary high, but it can also bring rollercoaster energy; confuse your body's hunger cues and bring on undesirable moodiness. Additionally, extras as found in specialty coffee drinks like cream, chocolate, sugar and eggnog provide sneaky calories. At approximately 540 calories a pop for a medium peppermint, white chocolate mocha, you might as well eat 2 or 3 Nanaimo bars! A definite red flag for the waistline!   

    Drink too much coffee (> 4 cups per day) and the caffeine may prevent the absorption of important nutrients. Not good!


    > Decrease your caffeine intake gradually by drinking from smaller cups.

    > Watch the extras. For a healthier jolt, opt for a latte made with low fat milk. The added bonus is you get plenty of other good things such as protein, calcium and vitamin D

    > Try green tea. Green tea is rich in antioxidants and won't give you the jittery effects of caffeine. 

  • Tackling Snacking with Food Intolerances, Sensitivities and Allergies

    Does your child have an allergy or intolerance to certain foods? No problem! Check out our ideas for healthy snacks that suit the needs and taste of everyone. Living Gluten Free? Check our resources for gluten-free shopping here

    Snack Idea

    Gluten Free 
    Wheat Free Dairy Free Nut Free Soy Free  Egg Free
    Rice cakes with nut butter & sliced apple

      X   X
    Substitute guacamole and sliced peppers for nut butter & apple

    Trail mix with dried fruit & nuts

      X   X
    Substitute nut free cereal for nuts

    Smoothie made with milk, yogurt, banana, berries & fish oil

      X   X
    Substitute soy or almond milk & tofu for cows milk & yogurt   X
    Hummus & veggie slices

    Leave out tahini

    Hard-boiled egg & apple

    Substitute handful of almonds for egg

    Edamame beans

    Substitute fruit & nut bar

    Popcorn with cheese sprinkled on top

    Try nutritional yeast instead of cheese   X
    Fruit kabobs dipped in yogurt

    Substitute soy yogurt for yogurt   X
    Yogurt parfait Sundae with fruit, granola & yogurt 

    Substitute gluten free cereal for granola

    Substitute wheat free cereal for granola

    Substitute soy yogurt for yogurt Substitute nut free granola for cereal


    Products vary, brand to brand. Always check the ingredients or contact the manufacturer to ensure items are made or served in an allergen-free facility. We also publish a full list of products we stock that are gluten free.

  • Reviving Family Meals

    From family meals to drive thru: How extinction of the family meal could be affecting children's eating attitudes and behaviors.

    Remember watching classic sitcoms such as "Leave it to Beaver" or "Wonder Years?" Ever noticed that despite the drama going on in each episode, the family always managed to re-convene around the table for meals?

    What has happened? Where have these meals gone? Obviously yesterday's world was not about working shift work, drive thru windows and living supersonic lives like we do today. However, subtracting regular family pow-wows may be impacting you and your kids more than you think.

    Sure, you can have a friendly conversation with the guy at the drive thru; however, eating meals together could have a major influence on children's long-term attitudes and behaviors towards food. Children learn to associate meals with connectedness and family. Furthermore, studies show that children who are raised in families that eat together tend to do better in school and have less high risk teen behaviors. They also tend to eat a higher quality diet, maintain a healthy body weight and have less disordered eating behaviors.

    Meal Etiquette

    > Shut off the TV. Watching the latest Burger King commercial certainly is not conducive to encouraging your child to being in tune with eating. Create a quiet environment favorable to the awareness of enjoying foods. If we do this, it is easier for our children (and ourselves) to know how much to eat and when to stop and feel satisfied.

    > Offer a variety of foods (including "not so healthy" options) during structured meals and snack times to allow your child to learn to like a range of foods. Offering only the foods children like, even if they are healthy choices does not help the child learn to appreciate new foods. Allowing children to eat a limited number of foods may also limit their nutrient intake.

    > Tears, screaming and maybe even catapulted peas in the eye may have been the result of your motive to get your kids to eat their greens. Avoid pressuring your child so they can develop their own internal self-regulation for eating. Remember children are learning about eating and thus can be very erratic and unpredictable about the foods they'll eat, and how much. It is important to respect our children's hunger and satiety.

    > Avoid rewards, bribes or threats. Dessert is just part of the meal - not a reward for eating the meal. Putting a food hurdle in front of the dessert may lead to a child who devours dessert whenever given the opportunity to do so. By forcing children to eat a food they don't want, they're not learning to like that food; they're learning to like the dessert.

  • Arm Your Immune System

    You know how to catch a cold. Now learn how to punch one out!

    It is the third week of January and you actually are on track with your new year's resolution; your no carb diet is in full force and the pounds are melting off. Despite pulling some long hours at work at the cost of a little shuteye, your boss is impressed with your work and wants to present your project to the CEO later this week. 

    No time for breakfast, you pop a handful of supplements; grab a third cup of coffee and your proud fiancé sees you off with a peck on the lips. Welcomed by a sunny brisk morning - a hop & a skip and off to work you go. The birds are singing and life is good! 

    Then everything hits the fan…

    Little did you know, the day before, your fiancé had shared a smoothie with a friend who had just come from the gym. That friend had taken a sip from the gym water fountain and accidentally let her mouth brush the spout. Little did she know that minutes earlier, the "human sweat gland" who was recovering from the flu had slobbered all over the same fountain… 

    Sound familiar? Why do we seem to religiously be walloped by illness each year? Are we as a society really getting any better? You would think in a world with sanitation units placed at every door handle, air purifiers, a smorgasbord of supplement (and not too mention our over compulsive behavior of over dis-infecting everything), that our sterile society would be able to free ourselves from annual maladies? 

    Want to learn more on what you can do to prime your immunity and discover the truth on so called, "immune enhancing" supplements? Read on for ways to prevent your immune system from self-destructing. 

    Scrub a Dub Dub!
    I know you have heard it again and again, but seriously good hand washing is the first line of defense against the spread of everything from the common cold to more serious sicknesses such as influenza and hepatitis A. Help yourself (and others) and scrub your paws with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds (equivalent to singing Happy Birthday twice).

    Fluff up your Pillows
    We know you love Saturday Night Live, but call it a night! 

    Research reveals that quality and length of sleep seems to play a role in immunity. Those participants with less than 7 hours of sleep were 3 times more likely to develop a cold than those with 8 hours or more. Additionally, quality also counts. Participants with restless nights were 5.5 times more likely to develop a cold than those with better sleeps.

    Whenever you exercise, you temporarily increase your immune cells. Armed and ready, these immune soldiers stand guard to throw punches against unwelcome guests such as bacteria and viruses. 

    FACT: Research shows that unfit, sedentary people who walk briskly for 45 minutes most days of the week, will decrease the number of days they are sick by about half!

    No Yo-Yo Dieting 
    First and foremost, it takes calories to make your immune cells -your prime defense when germs invade. When your calorie intake dwindles, your body's main concern is keeping your heart beating -while operation of the immune system is put on the back burner.

    Calorie patrol - Your body weight shouldn't move more than a pound or two in either direction in a given week. 

    Probiotic Therapy - "In with the good, out with the bad"
    It is thought that the "good" bacteria found in probiotics compete in the gut for nourishment with the nasty microbes, capable of causing sickness and disease. The theory is, the nasties will starve, their numbers will wane and as a consequence we will reap health benefits such as enhanced immunity.

    Choosing a probiotic formula:
    Choose products that contain at least 100 million active cells per serving. Select products with well-studied types of bacteria such as lactobacillus or bifidobacterium. Check the expiry date, as probiotic numbers dwindle as time goes on.

    Vitamin C
    The evidence for a specific role for vitamin C supplementation is mostly lacking.
    At this point, the best that can be said is that supplementing with around 200mg to 2000mg daily might cut a few hours off the length of a cold, as well as the severity but only if you start before the first sniffle. 

    Your best bet is to load up on food sources of vitamin C such as: oranges, strawberries, potatoes, tomatoes, and melons. 

    Vitamin D
    Vitamin D is thought to increase the body's production of immune fighting cells that tackle viruses, including influenza. Moreover, researchers are currently investigating vitamin D for swine flu protection. Given that Vitamin D is synthesized in our skin on exposure to sunlight, inadequate levels in the winter months may make us more susceptible to getting sick. 

    In cases when sunshine is lacking, such as in winter or when vitamin D food sources are inadequate, some experts recommend 1000IU vitamin D supplementation, daily. 

    Other immune supermodels such as vitamin E, vitamin A and zinc play a role in immunity. Research suggests that providing these extra nutrients may help those with sub-optimal immune systems. For example, a daily Vitamin E supplement of 200 IU may help prevent colds among the elderly living in nursing homes. However for those with normal dietary intake and adequate immune status, evidence is lacking that supports additional supplementation offers benefit. Furthermore, excessive intake can be toxic and have been associated with suppression of immune function. 

    Play it safe and stick to food:

     Food Source
     Vitamin A
     Milk, liver, eggs, and orange & yellow vegetables & fruits
     Vitamin E
     Leafy green vegetables, nuts, oil and whole grains
     Seafood, meats, soy foods, whole grains, oysters & beans

    Bottom line: 

    An infomercial may try to persuade you that they have the cure-all-end-all pill for jeopardized immunity. Don't be fooled. Popping pills is no substitution for eating a healthy diet. Sure, certain vitamins and minerals have a role to play in immunity, but really it is what you collectively do each day that counts. In a nutshell, practice good hygiene, get enough zzz's, exercise and always eat a varied diet to provide a bevy of nutrients (minus the yo-yo diets!). 

  • Decoding Food Labels

    Are you overwhelmed every time you try to read food labels? Do you feel more like a cryptographer interpreting some kind of 'hieroglyphics' than someone trying to eat healthy?

    The more informed you are of what is in the food that you are putting into your body, the easier it will be to manage allergies and chronic diseases like cardiovascular or diabetes

    So grab a packaged item with a food label, and follow along as we dig into our nutrition-label decoder!

    Diet Related Health Claims
    Health related claims are permitted if items contain a sufficient level of nutrients. Examples of allowable relationships include those between calcium & osteoporosis, saturated fat & heart disease and sodium & hypertension.

    Nutrient Content Claims
    Although helpful, make sure you understand what the manufacturer is implying. See below for nutrition content claims that are sometimes misinterpreted:

    "Source of Energy"
    This means it's high in calories, not that it has special properties that that will invigorate you.

    Cholesterol only comes from animal fats.

    Don't be fooled. Some products, such as vegetable oil claim to be 'cholesterol-free' but don't contain animal fats.

    "Whole grain"
    A whole grain is the entire edible part of any grain including the bran, endosperm and germ.  Don't be fooled: "multi-grain", "whole grain" and even "whole wheat" doesn't necessarily mean 100% whole grain. Your safest bet is to scan the ingredients list and look for the word "whole" (name of the grain) - such as "whole oats" or "whole rye."

    "No added sugar"
    Means just that - they didn't add any. It doesn't necessarily mean that the product is void of sugar. It could still contain natural sugars, such as in dried fruit, milk products or juices.

    The Nutrition Facts Table

    Use the ingredient list in tandem with the nutrient facts. One without the other doesn't tell the full tale.

    Serving Size
    For something that seems so simple, this part of the label is commonly overlooked. What you consider to be one serving may be two or more.

    The measure of energy a food provides. Don't be fooled: By itself, this number means little. Judging a product by just its calorie information is like judging a book by its cover. Keep reading below to find out more to find out where the calories come from.

    % Daily Value
    Based on a 2000 calorie per day diet, the daily value tells you if in a serving the nutrients and vitamins & minerals contribute a lot or a little of the recommended daily intake. Don't be fooled: These numbers are based on recommendations to meet the needs of ALL ages and gender. Therefore, one should use these numbers as a ball park figure only as we all have different nutrition needs.

    Total Fat
    The combined total of saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and trans fats

    Don't be fooled: Saturated Fat and Trans fat are both notorious for their ability to clog arteries, and increase risk of heart disease. Both should be kept at a minimum level. Look further for Monounsaturated and Omega 3 & 6 Fats. We need a small amount of these fats to keep our cells healthy, to help regulate important metabolic processes and to transport certain vitamins throughout the body.

    A fat-like substance from animal sources. Don't be fooled - if you're interested in lowering your blood cholesterol levels, you should limit your cholesterol to 300 milligrams or less per day. However, more importantly you should keep your intake of saturated and Trans fat to a bare minimum.

    A mineral (salt, basically) usually added for flavor and to help preserve foods. Don't be fooled - sodium is added to many foods - even foods you might least expect! Unless you have high blood pressure or are sodium sensitive, use 2300 mg as a reasonable target for total daily sodium intake

    Total Carbohydrate
    Sum of sugar, starch, and fiber. Don't be fooled: Keep reading. Like total fat and carbohydrate, it's what inside that count!

    The roughage that serves as a "broom" for your digestive and circulatory systems, as well as helps you feel full. Use it: Women need at least 25 grams of fibre per day. Any food with 4 g of fibre per serving is considered a high source.

    The sweet stuff. Don't be fooled: This number includes added sugars such as high fructose corn syrup, sucrose and honey, as well as natural occurring sugars such as fructose found in fruit and lactose found in milk. Added sugars can be found by looking at the ingredients list. If you are watching your blood sugar, you should consider both natural and added sugars.

    Source of amino acid that builds and maintain your entire body. To help you feeling satisfied, include protein at all snacks and meals.

    Ingredients are listed in order of greatest to least amounts. This means that you should look for products with sugar, fat or salt intake closer to the end of the ingredients list if you want to limit your consumption of these nutrients. Moreover, if you cannot pronounce or recognize ingredients…you probably should continue with your product search.

    Bottom line:
    In our quest to eat right, we need to be able to understand the makeup of our food first. Although, phrases and words on food labels do not always connote what you may think they mean, we need to take the responsibility to educate ourselves and understand the terminology. Becoming conscious of what we put in our mouth, by reading labels will help you in your journey to a healthier lifestyle!

    For more information on nutrition labelling, go to Health Canada's website, or the Canada Food Inspection Agency's website.

    For more information on how to shop for healthier items in each department of the grocery store, check out Healthy Families Virtual Grocery Tour: Healthy Families BC's website.

Healthy Infants

  • Early Life Nutrition - The Beginning of Life

    Developing good dietary habits early on in life is essential for your child's development and growth and for a lifetime of good eating behaviors and health. When should you introduce solids to your baby? A good rule of thumb is to "Watch the Baby - Not the Calendar!" Your little one will let you know when he or she is ready to eat. Before you offer solid food your baby should be able to sit and hold their head up, as well as be able to open their mouth and not push food out of his/her mouth.  By 6 months of age your baby needs more nutrients and is ready to try solid food.

    During the transition to solid foods, it is recommended that infants continue to ingest breast milk or formula. Offer your baby iron-rich foods first, such as iron-fortified infant cereal, finely minced meat or fish, mashed cooked egg, mashed beans, or tofu.  Other foods may then be introduced by adding one new food at a time, and waiting a few days before offering another new food.  Try cooked mashed vegetables and soft peeled fruit like sweet potato, peas, carrots, bananas, or diced pear or banana. Once your baby has tolerated a variety of foods try mashing an avocado and mixing with applesauce or yogurt to make a wonderful meal or snack? Or what about mixing applesauce, cottage cheese with a sprinkle of cinnamon and wheat germ?

    Keep in mind that your baby can eat soft foods, including minced, mashed, ground, lumpy, pureed, and tender-cooked foods, and finger foods such as small pieces of cooked vegetables and soft fruits without the skin, strips of toast and cooked pasta before they have teeth.

    By 1 year of age, the ingestion of a variety of foods from the different food groups of Canada's Food Guide is desirable*

    *You should always consult your baby's pediatrician before introducing new foods to your baby.

    How much will baby eat at his first meal?

    Don't worry if your baby does not "clean their plate" when initially offering solids. Your baby may only manage to eat 1/2 of a tablespoon for the very first meal. Remember this is a new experience for your baby. As your baby becomes accustomed to eating solids, he/she will be ready for greater portions. Remember, in this stage of life, breast milk and/or infant formula are the primary nutrition source!

Healthy Kids

  • Fuelling Kids

    During this exciting phase of life children are exploring and learning continuously, all while gaining independence. Although your child is becoming his own person, he/she will still depend on you for direction and support in how to behave.

    Ellyn Satter, Registered Dietitian explains that at this point in time parents are responsible for the what, when and where of feeding. The child is responsible for how much and whether of eating. As a parent or role model it may be helpful to keep these key developmental principles in mind as you help your child establish a life-long healthy relationship with food.

    Here are a few simple suggestions to enhance your family's health and well-being:

    > Serve regular well-balanced meals and snacks that offer a wide variety of tastes and textures. Fill your plate with vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean meat and alternatives and low fat dairy products and alternatives.

    > Encourage your child to try new food. New food rejected? Try again at another time. Pressuring kids to eat may make them more adamant about never trying new foods. As new foods become more familiar, children become more adventurous.

    > Educate children about food. The more they know about a food, such as where it grows and how to prepare it, the more they will enjoy eating it.

    > Get children involved with food. Get your little one to assist in the vegetable garden or to help set the table. How about getting them involved in shopping by asking them to choose a new fruit or vegetable to try in the produce department?

    > Make meals fun. How about creating a face out of vegetables, complete with peas for eyes, a carrot for the nose, and sprouts for hair?

    > Avoid pressuring your child to "clean their plate." Children have the intuition to be able to know how much they need to eat in order to mature and develop properly

    > Be a role model for children. If they see adults enjoying nutritious foods, they are more likely to try them too

    Did you know: Family meals may have a greater impact on children than you may think. Children given the advantage of sharing family meals seem to eat healthier foods than those that don't, have higher academic scores, and have fewer behavioural problems.


  • Think Outside the Lunch Box

    From cooler bags to school lunch bags, learning a few tricks for what defines a healthy lunch or snack could benefit your child's physical health and mental attitude. 

    Why are healthy lunches and snacks at school important? The benefits for kids who eat a balanced lunch are many, including healthy growth and development and reduced risk of adult health problems. It is generally known that children who eat well have greater self-esteem, decreased anxiety, better brain development, superior cognitive skills, and less depression and hyperactivity.

    The "Meat and Potatoes"
    A balanced meal should include all four food groups to help sustain energy and alertness throughout the day. Lunch should include a drink for hydration, whole grains for energy, vegetables and fruit for nutrients, and fibre and protein for meal satiety.

    Think Outside the (Lunch) Box
    Mix and match options from the columns below to get a variety of different lunches. Save time by cooking in large batches. Leftovers not only taste good, but also save you time.

    Lunch Ideas

    Lunches that make the grade:

    Breakfast for lunch: hot cereal in a thermos with berries, nuts, and milk

    > Vegetarian chili with a nectarine, water, and yogurt

    Cheese and fruit kabob, whole grain pita wedges, salsa and refried beans for dipping, with a fortified soy beverage

    > Homemade fries with a chicken thigh, coleslaw, wedge of cantaloupe, and milk

    What about snacks?

    Think of snacks as "mini meals" that include two of the four food groups. Snack ideas include:

    > Fresh fruit with yogurt dip

    > Trail mix (dried fruit, nuts, and cereal)

    > Ants on a log (celery lathered with nut butter and sprinkled with raisins)

    How do I handle picky eaters?
    Mix it up - provide foods in different combinations to inspire that discerning diner, and be patient… they may say "no" the first time, only to switch gears at the next offer.

    > Opt for "dippers" - pack chopped veggies with dip such as cottage cheese, hummus, or guacamole.

    > Offer lunches that include a variety of shapes, colors, and textures. For example, cut sandwiches into triangles or use cookie cutters.

    > Involve your kids in preparation, have fun, and let them call the shots once in a while - it will empower them to make good choices in the long run!

    Be a Role Model
    Children are natural mimics. Demonstrating healthy eating habits will increase the likelihood that your child will follow your lead and choose a balanced diet and lifestyle for themselves. 

    More resources for healthy eating at school can be found at: 

    The Brand Name Food List

    The BC Education Food Guidelines 

  • Snacks for Kids - Making the Grade

    The importance of snacks should not be underestimated. Young ones seek out snacks at regular intervals and older children seem to eat nothing but snacks. Children have small stomachs but high energy needs, so snacks are necessary for extra nutrition and maintaining energy between meals. Preparing fun and nutritious snacks on such a demanding schedule can be difficult for parents. 

    Getting children to eat them can be even more challenging, especially in a world of commercially processed, high sugar and brightly coloured foods. See below for some snackin' facts, tips and ideas. 

    1) Fuel often: Snacks are important for both children (and adults) to maintain blood sugar. Eating something nutritious every few hours keeps blood sugar from dipping - a key factor for weight maintenance and sustaining mental and emotional stability. Regular snacks will result not only in healthier snackers, but less grumpy and tired one ones too! 

    2) Siphon quality fuel: Children need good quality fats, found in nuts, seeds, fish and plant oils for cell growth, metabolism and brain development. They also need good quality protein such as fish, meat, milk and alternatives and nuts and beans for growth and immunity. Carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, sweet potatoes and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa and millet are needed for the fiber, antioxidants and energy they provide. Try to offer a medley of carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats at each snack for even blood sugar, satiety…and of course tastiness! 

    3) Decrease the snore factor: Broaden your horizons and try something different such as lightly salted edamame beans or funky looking lychees or dragon fruits. 

    4) Easy on juicy calories: Next time your child "supersizes" or goes for a Big Gulp, consider this: According to a 2008 Statistics Canada survey, the average Canadian child or teen gets an estimated 20% of their calories from drinks. Recent research found that increased soft drink consumption during childhood correlated directly with obesity. Soft drinks, energy drinks, and other "fruit" drinks, provide empty calories, added sugars, and sometimes more caffeine then a child should be drinking in a day. A child could easily sip 150 calories, still feel hungry and then eat 150 calories more at dinner. Excess calories could translate into extra weight gain over the year. And while 100% fruit juices are a better option, they can also be linked with weight gain if consumed in excess. 

    So what's left? Your best bet is still water. Too boring? Add a splash of cranberry or blueberry juice, or try club soda or carbonated spring water for something different. Milk, soy and almond milk are also good choices and loaded with protein, calcium and vitamin D.

    5) Strapped for time? Cook in bulk and use the same ingredients for multi meals. For example- make a couple extra eggs at breakfast and use them as a filling for sandwiches. Or make extra potatoes at dinner, and use them for hash browns in the morning

    6) Keep it real: Feel like you need a translator to make sense of an ingredients label? Processed foods can bear labels with unrecognizable ingredients that act to preserve or enhance the foods flavour, texture or appearance. Unfortunately some of these additives may be carcinogenic or have other side effects. Play it safe and stick to ingredients you can understand

  • Multivitamin Multiconfusion - Should Your Child be Taking a Multivitamin?

    First and foremost, it's important to know that vitamins should never replace a healthy diet. Generally speaking, the research shows that if your children are healthy and eat a variety of nutritious foods, they probably do not need additional vitamins. 

    However, according to research, many kids are not up to snuff when it comes to following Canada's Food Guide. Almost 3/4 of kids are not getting the suggested daily minimum five servings of vegetables and fruit -- a habit that's likely to rob them of essentials such as vitamins C and A, folate and fiber. 

    Findings also suggest children get failing grades when it comes to getting enough calcium and vitamin D, key nutrients for strong bones and teeth. More than one-third of kids aged four to nine don't get the daily suggested two servings of milk products. It doesn't get any better as kids age, either. 61% of boys, ages 10 to 16 and 83%of girls don't get the minimum of three servings of milk a day. 

    Furthermore, those that restrict food groups such as meat, shellfish and alternatives and enriched grain products may also put themselves at risk of a health deficiency. For example those that restrict meat and alternatives may not be meeting targets for iron, B12 and zinc.

    Taking into account all the barriers that can prevent kids from getting enough nutrients: fussy eaters, allergies, special diets, and demanding schedules - one may argue adding a multivitamin and perhaps other nutrients, such as calcium and iron, is necessary. 

    On the other side of the spoon, some kids may be exceeding their nutrient quota. Many foods are fortified with vitamins and minerals, such as cereals, juices and bars. It thus is important to consider these sources before opting for vitamins. 

    If you feel your children doesn't (or cannot) eat a balanced diet, talk to a Dietitian about alternative food sources or the possible need for a supplement. Our Thrifty Foods Pharmacists are experts when it comes to supplementation and would happy to answer questions you may have.

  • The Green Party - Kid Friendly Veggie Ideas

    Like a resonating alarm clock, we hear it again and again, "eat your fruits and veggies". Often, easier said then done. Many of us find it challenging getting in the recommended 4-8 servings of vegetables and fruit for ourselves - never mind for our kids. However, eating your greens is important and lacking. A recent study revealed 70% of children ages 4-8 don't eat the suggested daily minimum five servings of vegetables and fruit. 

    Well, fruits seem easier to slip on kids' plates, Mr. Broccoli and (other veggie cousins) often gets shut down. Win against the veggie battle with these tips and turn your family into green eating machines! 

    Ways to Glorify Veggies 

    Add the "cool" factor. What about:

    > Veggie kebabs: thread cut veggies such as peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms and throw on the barbeque

    > Sweet potato or carrot fries - Slice in strips and throw in oven 

    > Super sandwich spirals - stuff a colourful wrap with cheese and veggies and cut lengthwise

    > "Ants on a Log:" spread peanut butter onto celery sticks and top with raisins 

    Think outside of the box:

    > Don't be a stranger in the produce section. Serve unique veggies such jicama sticks, steamed fennel or swiss chard 

    > Prepare a vegetable differently. Try raw versus cooked.

    > Serve veggies shredded, coined or julienned 

    Dippity-do-dah, dippity day:

    Who doesn't like to dip? Pair veggie sticks with nutritious dips such as bean, baba ghanouj, salsa and spinach dips. Turn Hummus bright pink by adding half a steamed beet, or bright green by adding steamed spinach or kale. Dippin' doesn't stop at the veggie patch, try these dips with chicken fingers, sweet potato fries or as sandwich spreads. 

    Hide and no seek:

    > Stuff veggies in enchiladas, fajitas and omelettes. Include in baking - such as zucchini bread, or real corn in corn bread 

    > Throw pureed vegetables into casseroles, soups, spaghetti and pizza sauces

    > For younger kids, try a vegetable puree, such as carrots or peas, as-is or mixed in with their favourite fare 

    > Juice it! Juicing is a great way to disguise veggies- especially the ones kids are less likely to eat 

    Raise helpers: 

    Involving kids in the operation of preparing foods may give them the extra push to taste some of there own brew or grub!

    Veg out: 

    A child may need to be exposed to a food 15 times before actually eating it. As caretakers, we should strive to be role models, as well as patient. If children are frequently served a variety of vegetables, while observing their parents enjoying them too, they are more likely to enjoy vegetables as they grow older.

Healthy Youth

  • The Fountain of Youth

    Adolescence is a time for rapid growth and development. Not only that, it is a time when kids focus on peers and begin to form a picture of who they will be as adults. All these significant changes may not make healthy eating a top priority for some. So how can we encourage kids to make healthy choices to fuel their growing bodies and minds, without invading their personal space?

    > Find the middle ground between being controlling on the one hand and throwing away all controls on the other. Researchers at the University of Minnesota have found that young adults who prepare their own meals tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and have an overall better diet than those who are not involved in the their meal preparations.

    > Give privileges and independence as your child becomes experienced and responsible about healthy eating. Teach about shopping, cooking and preparing healthy meals for themselves.

    > Have ingredients on hand that are nutritious as well as fit the "cool" bill so kids can practise healthy eating. Stock your kitchen with foods such as milk, yogurt and fruit for smoothies; energy or granola bars that are high fiber and have no artificial ingredients, air popped popcorn or whole grain waffles.

    > Teach youth about how to respond to their body's signs of hunger. Help them to learn the difference between eating to satisfy their hunger and eating because food is available. Encourage eating when hungry and stopping when full.

    > Keep scheduling those family meals! Children may be gaining independence, they will still benefit from family guidance with food selection.

    > Eating habits and food preferences are established early in life. Eating meals together as a family promotes healthy eating through positive role modeling and learning about healthy foods. Family meals are a healthy routine which provide children with comfort and security about food. Shared meals are an opportunity to pass along family traditions and help keep families connected and communicating.

    > Continue to be a positive role model.



  • The Best Bites for a Healthy Pregnancy

    Are you really eating for two? 

    It has often been said that a pregnant woman is "eating for two."  The reality is: you are only eating for about one and an eighth. Your basal metabolic rate increases during pregnancy to support fetal development, however, your baby's caloric needs are not the same as yours. Energy requirement varies among individuals. Generally, it is recommended that during the second and third trimesters, pregnant women eat an additional 2 to 3 food guide servings each day. Additional calories could be in the form of an extra snack such as a smoothie made with milk and fruit or a slice of whole grain bread with almond butter and a sliced banana.

    Variety is the spice of life 

    Eating a variety of foods each day will ensure you and your baby get the right amount of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. A variety of fresh, real foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, meats and alternatives, and milk and alternatives are the best choices.

    Key nutrients for a healthy pregnancy: 

    Prenatal Vitamins
    During pregnancy, women have an increased need for folic acid, iron, and calcium. It is recommended that expectant women take a prenatal vitamin to supplement a balanced diet. However, too much of certain vitamins and minerals can be harmful to your baby. Talk with your physician, a registered dietitian or one of our pharmacists about appropriate supplementation.

    Folate (Folic Acid) 
    Folic acid is a B vitamin that aids in the rapid growth and repair of new cells, particularly those that will develop into the baby's brain stem and spinal cord very early on in a pregnancy. Recent studies have also linked folic acid to the prevention of common congenital heart defects, urinary tract disorders, facial clefts, limb abnormalities and some early childhood cancers.

    Food sources of folic acid include fortified grains, spinach, lentils, chick peas, asparagus, broccoli, peas, Brussels sprouts, corn and oranges. In addition to eating foods that are high in folate, it is recommended that women of childbearing age should start taking folic acid (400mcg) at least three months before and throughout their pregnancy.

    Calcium and Vitamin D
    Your baby depends on you for the calcium and vitamin D it needs for healthy bones and teeth. Depending on your age, it is recommended that you include at least 2 servings of milk and alternatives each day. To absorb calcium, choose products that are fortified with vitamin D such as milk, soy beverages, and yogurts. See our section on bone health for more information on calcium requirements.

    Iron is essential to maintaining a sufficient level of blood supply to your growing baby and the placenta. Because many women are unable to meet the increased requirements during pregnancy, a daily low dose iron supplement (at least 16 - 20 mg) is often recommended during the second and third trimesters. Check your multivitamin/ mineral or prenatal supplement to see how much it contains. You can help prevent iron deficiency anemia by eating more iron-rich foods like lean red meat, fish, poultry, dried fruits, whole-grain breads, and iron-fortified cereals.

    Vitamin B12
    Vitamin B12 is essential for growth of new tissue, nerve function and formation of red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in foods and beverages from animal sources, however, nutritional yeast, many soy products and some rice beverages are now fortified with this vitamin. Moms who follow a vegan diet (avoid all animal products) need to be especially careful to ensure they get enough of this vitamin each day.

    Essential fatty acids
    Healthy fats such as omega 3 are necessary for a baby's brain and eye development. Sources include: fatty fish, soybeans, tofu, nuts and seeds, non-hydrogenated margarine and canola, flaxseed or soybean oil. Additional info is available on Health Canada's website. 


    Illicit drugs, inhalants, prescription and over-the-counter medications, and even certain herbal products can affect the unborn baby. Check with your doctor before using any medications and herbal products.

    Adequate Fluid/Hydration

    Drinking 8-12 cups of fluid each day will help your body to:
    > Carry nutrients to baby
    > Eliminate wastes from yours and baby's growing body
    > Alleviate constipation

    Weight Gain and Pregnancy

    First and foremost, weight gain during pregnancy should be monitored closely by a doctor or registered midwife. The recommended amount of weight for women to gain during pregnancy directly relates to pre-pregnancy weight.  

    Pickles and Ice Cream Anyone? Where do cravings fit in?

    If you have a craving for ice cream, cookies, popsicles, candy or any other food considered safe for pregnancy - enjoy some. Just make sure that the foods consumed as a result of cravings don't push other foods (and their associated nutrients) out of the diet. Be sure to eat the recommended minimum servings as outlined in the chart above.

    Proceed with caution:

    > Herbal products (and teas): Some herbal teas are safe to drink during pregnancy (2-3 cups per day). These include ginger, bitter orange/orange peel, Echinacea, peppermint, red raspberry leaf, rose hip, and rosemary. Avoid chamomile tea.
    > Limit caffeine to 300mg a day, roughly the equivalent of less than 2½ cups of coffee or less than 3 cups of tea.
    > Avoid alcoholic beverages.
    > Avoid sugar substitutes: Although evidence does suggest that consumption of some sugar substitutes is safe and does not pose a health threat, choose real nutrient and energy dense foods that serve to benefit you and the health of your baby.
    > Limit high-mercury fish and seafood such as shark, fresh or frozen tuna, marlin, swordfish, escolar and orange roughy, to 150 grams per month.
    > Do choose fish such as salmon, sole, rainbow trout and prawns
    > Avoid unpasteurized dairy products and juices, raw sprouts, undercooked meat, poultry and fish, as well as ready to eat meats and salads as they may contain harmful bacteria and parasites that could potentially cause serious food poisoning during pregnancy.


Healthy Adults

  • Nourishing Your Adult Body - Like a Kid!

    Ever watch a child eat? When children decide to eat, it is because their body has signalled to them that it is time for them to top off their fuel stores. Some days they will eat 3 meals, some days they will eat 6. It all depends on when their body…. Eating for kids involves exploring their foods, as well as taking the time to smell and taste their meals. When kids feel their bodies are nourished, they will stop eating until the next time their fuel stores are low.

    Often as we age we become blind and or unresponsive to the act of eating. How can children teach us to become more in touch with our eating?

    > Pay attention to eating….and only eating! Turn off the television, stop searching the internet while chowing down, and please use the car for driving only! Eliminating distracting extrinsic influences will allow your body to react to the food you are providing it. Paying attention to eating will allow you to get in touch with the smell, taste and texture of your food, and overall enhance the enjoyment of eating.

    Stop eating when you are satisfied, and not when your plate is clean! Kids eat when then eat, and stop when they are full regardless if there is still food left on their plate. Tune out the amount of food on your plate and instead tune in to your hunger signals.

    > Don't be afraid of eating! Restricting your favourite foods or under-eating, strips all the fun out of eating. Furthermore, depriving yourself may cause you to become preoccupied with food and hence lead to overeating later on. Although you should be conscious of what you eat in order to get the nutrition you need, cut yourself some slack and enjoy your favourite foods from time to time. Eating, just like sleeping is necessary for life and should be an enjoyable experience.

    Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.

Healthy Golden Years

  • Healthy Aging - The Golden Years

    As we age, we tend to gain inner strength, knowledge, and experience. The golden years are also associated with physical changes which can affect our health and nutritional needs. As we age the need for calories decrease while the need for certain nutrients often increase. Wholesome meals and snacks are important for staying healthy and independent in these later years.

    Often aging is accompanied by modifying one's lifestyle. Adapting to these changes can be challenging sometimes. For example, cooking smaller meals can be tricky, especially for those that are accustomed to cooking for bigger households. See below for Meal tips and ideas for one or two that promote optimal nutrition and health.

    Make food in bulk, divide into smaller portions and throw in the freezer. Homemade frozen meals lack the fat, salt, sugar and additives that is often found in convenience foods, such as frozen dinners.

    Shop in the bulk foods section. The advantage of bulk is that you can choose exactly how much you want.

    Get creative with leftovers! Use leftover rice for rice pudding; Make croutons out of leftover bread; Add leftover vegetables to pasta sauces, omelette or soup.

    > Buy three pieces of fruit at a time, so you don't waste any. One ripe, one medium ripe and one unripe.

    Don't feel like cooking up a storm? Try something simple, yet balanced such as vegetables and hummus on pita; cottage cheese, fruit and whole grain crackers; or toasted cheese on whole grain bread served with low fat, low sodium vegetable soup.


Want to learn more? Start eating your way to good health with these tips.