Long time Lifeovereasy fans know that we’re big on food around here. We’re often not an easy crowd – the food has to be delicious, easy enough to prepare, and these days it has to be healthy, too. It’s a lot for a busy mom to figure out.
And don’t you find the health criteria is getting more and more complicated? We don’t have major allergies or health issues in my family, but over the years we have found ourselves adopting some alternative eating habits by both necessity and choice. I’ve written about the “gluten-free challenge” that lasted many months around here and created permanent changes in our diet. My athlete daughter has often had to eat differently, for performance or energy or healing an injury, and we all tend to join her. My oldest is currently avoiding all dairy, gluten, and sugar, which changes all of our family meals. And personally, I find eating cleaner and better has become more and more important to me as I age. Figuring all this out takes a lot of energy!
It’s not just me, either. Dietary restrictions are common these days. If you’re feeding a crowd, it’s not unusual to have to consider alternative diets. Recently we hosted a dinner party for 10 of my daughter’s friends to celebrate her 18th birthday. It was a fancy night, and Nads created a superb 7 course meal for them. In this group of 10 girls, we had various girls who avoided pork, red meat, dairy and eggs, and all animal products. If Nadia hadn’t taken charge, I would have probably just given up and ordered take out.
My sis is incredibly gifted at successfully balancing A LOT of food criteria. Most people are not as talented, including myself. I rely on finding tips, tricks, and shortcuts that help make all this work while keeping me sane. That’s where a grocer like Loblaws can make a big difference.
I’ve been a long time shopper at Loblaws, and over the years their No Name, President’s Choice, and PC Organics product lines have changed the way I shop. I thought of myself as fairly informed, but I didn’t realize how much support Loblaws offers these days for shoppers like myself who are focusing on health and wellness goals for their families. I jumped at their recent invitation to meet with an in-store Registered Dietitian to find out more.
I have to say that I didn’t expect to learn all that much that was new. By now, I figured I knew my way around a grocery store. Umm….no. The lovely Loblaws Dietitian, Nema, took me out for a personal tour of the store and had my head spinning in no time. In a good way. Basically, I told her my problems and she gave me solutions!
We started off by heading straight for the fruit and veggie section, because many people (including my family) find it challenging to get the recommended 7-8 servings per day. Nema recommended filling half your plate with veggies, and she gave me some helpful tips to make this easier. Here are some highlights:
1. Don’t be intimidated by the number of servings of fruits and vegetable you need per day. A single serving size is not as big as you think. For example, 1 peach is one serving. A larger fruit like a big apple or pear would be 2 servings.
2. For bone health, try for 5-6 servings of leafy greens (that provide calcium and vitamin K). Aim for dark greens like spinach, kale, bok choy, rapini, dandelion greens, and Swiss chard.
3. Loblaws’ prepared salads each provide 5-6 servings of vegetables! That’s an easy (and delicious) win. When buying prepared salads, turn the bowl over to make sure the salad contains dark leafy greens throughout, without hidden iceberg lettuce at the bottom!
4. Salad kits are perfect for quick meal. These often contain chopped stems which are packed with nutrition. Did you know you can ask for a bowl at the store takeout counter and mix up your salad for a quick and nutritious meal on the go?
5. Look for packs of multi coloured shredded carrots to jazz up your salads. Or shredded cabbage. These are quick and easy ways to boost the taste and nutrition of your meals.
6. Looking for added energy? Add avocado, hemp, nuts, seeds, or even wheat germ to your salads. And add some healthy fat to help your body absorb phytonutrients.
7. Baby greens are easy to sneak into smoothies!
The easiest way to get more veggies is to become a pro at making salads. Here’s an infographic that makes it super easy.
If half of your plate is filled with vegetables, what happens to the other half? Nema recommended that you divide that evenly between protein and starches such as grains. And starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, potatoes, corn, beets, parsnips, and squash belong in the starch portion – not the veggie portion! This was an eye opener for me.
Grain bowls are a great way to get your recommended servings of grains. Or try changing it up with quinoa, teff, and even oats served in a savoury side dish. Surprisingly, brown rice was not a great source of fibre, and Nema recommended wild rice instead. Bulgur, whole wheat couscous, and barley are economical choices. And if you don’t eat a lot of grains, make sure to focus on getting fibre elsewhere. Lentils are a great source, and you can add them to rice or even sneak them into baked goods.
Protein is another important part of your meal. Most people don’t get enough in the morning and too much at night, which affects absorption since you can only absorb about 30 grams at once. How to add more protein to your breakfast? Try eggs including the yolk, Greek yogurt, smoked salmon, or tofu which can be scrambled or added to your smoothie. Nema also suggested adding pasteurized egg whites to your smoothie for a protein boost, or even sneaking them into your oatmeal (beat in while cooking so they don’t curdle). Nut and seed butters are another healthy trend. Here’s some great info she gave me that can help you incorporate more nuts into your diet:
Another pro tip from Nema? Look for Skyr, and Icelandic yogurt similar to Greek but made with skim milk. It’s strained like Greek yogurt (which reduces the lactose) but it has less sugar and more protein per serving. Boom!
Don’t forget fatty fish, another important source of protein. Nema recommended eating it 2-3 times per week. Fresh, canned, or frozen – it’s all good!
Nema also suggested I think about snacks a little differently. I should use them to help maximize my intake of fruits and veggies, instead of reaching for grains which is typical. Snacks are supposed to help you meet your nutrient needs and stay satiated until the next meal. She recommended 1 grain snack, 1 fruit snack, and 1 vegetable snack each day to help keep things balanced. Trail mix is a great standby to keep on hand, and is available in new and interesting mixes. And don’t overlook kids’ snacks, which often are cleaner and more portable, and can be enjoyed by adults, too.
Heading over to the frozen foods section, Nema shared some great tips. Frozen fruits are just as nutritious as fresh, and a huge variety is available. Dark sweet cherries and fruit blends are great to keep on hand, and you can stock up when they’re on sale. And you can also get frozen healthy side dishes, like quinoa and bulgur. Nema introduced me to an amazing program called the Guiding Star Program, an easy way to make healthier choices. Just look for the blue label with 1, 2, or 3 stars, which rates the nutrient density of the food. All you have to do is pick foods with the most stars. This way, I could see at a glance which food choices made the most sense.
Other helpful tips? Look for fermented foods like miso, kefir, kimchi, and buttermilk, which have numerous health benefits. Miso is available in tetra packs, which can be added to soups. If you avoid dairy, note that most dairy substitutes are lower in protein and contain less calcium than milk. And be sure to shake them well, since the beneficial components can settle to the bottom. And on and on – Nema provided a wealth of information.
The best part? You can meet with a Registered Dietitian like Nema, too! Loblaw dietitians are available in-store to help you meet your health and wellness goals. Even better news? This service is FREE! All you have to do is make an appointment. Here’s what the dietitian can do for you:
– Provide nutrition check-ups that can assess dietary habits
– Offer tailored health and wellness workshops or lunch and learn sessions for groups
– Develop custom meal plans based on dietary needs
– Offer tips to encourage your children to try new foods
– Offer interactive cooking classes and demos if you like hands-on learning
– Provide grocery store tours to identify healthier choices
My favourite choice is the last one – the guided tour. I’m telling everyone I know about it! Honestly, Nema provided so much more information than I could possibly share here. Huge, huge value! Basically you get a personal tour of the store hosted by a nutritional expert who can make recommendations based on your needs. FOR FREE. What’s not to love?
Visit Loblaws to learn more about the dietitian services and find out where they are available.
I am happy to have had the opportunity to meet with a Loblaw dietitian and share my experience with you. I was compensated for this post, but all ideas and opinions are my own.Save