Unlock the Potential of Food

March is Nutrition Month! This month I want to inspire some excitement and celebrate all things food. For most of us, food and meals are a big part of our daily routines— providing the nutrients we need to function at our best. But food has the potential to be so much more than that, food can inspire creativity and bring people together. In this post I’ll be sharing some easy ways you can think a little differently about the potential of food.

Here are 4 easy ways you can unlock the potential of food every day:

  1. Plan to Fuel
  2. Be Adventurous 
  3. Choose Consciously
  4. Eat with Others

unlock potential of food image with fruits and vegetables

Plan to Fuel:

The number one reason for skipping meals, choosing less energizing options (like fast food), or falling into a low energy slump is lack of planning. When we are busy, making time for meals often falls off the priority list.

Spending just 15 minutes the evening before your school or work week begins can help prevent those slumps. Try these quick tips to save yourself from hangry moments during your busy weeks:

Tip 1: Pick a few non-perishable snacks to keep in your school or work bag, things like protein bars, dried seeds, fruit or nuts, or a fruit cup. By always having a snack in your bag, you’re sure to be ready to tackle those stomach grumbles during a noon hour lecture or late afternoon class. Don’t forget to replace the snacks after you’ve eaten them!

Tip 2: Take a look at your schedule for the week and note the days you’ll be doing something during a meal period (classes, meetings, events, etc.).

On each of these days ask yourself:

  • When can I eat? Before, after, or during the scheduled task.
  • Where can I eat? What locations are nearby? Can I grab something on route or bring something with me?
  • What’s on the menu? Choose a meal or snack that will keep you energized, look for fibre (fruits, vegetables or whole grains) and protein (beans, tofu, meat, nuts, or dairy) for optimal satisfaction!

With these two simple steps, you’ll be ready to stay nourished and energized throughout your busy week. 

Be Adventurous

Try a new food! …or an old food that you’re convinced you don’t like but haven’t taste-tested in a while. Aim to include new foods at least a few times a year, or at every opportunity you can if you’re up for the culinary challenge! By being open minded when it comes to new foods we open the door to a whole new world of flavour. You may discover your new favourite food, a quick meal option, or new seasonings to add to your favourite dishes. Our taste buds are constantly changing and evolving, so you might be pleasantly surprised if you give an old food that you ‘don’t like’ another chance. Foods can taste very different depending on how we season and prepare them. Give those less enticing foods a facelift by cooking them a different way, or adding to mixed dishes like soups and casseroles. It’s never too late to fall in love with Brussel sprouts!

Eat right!

Choose Consciously

Be more in tune with your body, and be present in your eating experiences. Before choosing a meal or snack ask yourself what fuel your body needs.  On a scale of 1 to 10 how hungry are you? Is there something your body is craving? Honour your body’s needs, and recognize that hunger and nutrition needs will change from day to day. Sometimes it’s important to choose to fuel for our bodies even if our appetite is low. For example, If you have class all day with very few breaks and wake up not too hungry for breakfast, it is still important to get something to eat (even if it’s just a fruit and a carton of milk). Make sure to pack an extra snack in your bag for the day ahead too! Being more present at meals helps us slow down, take a break, and better honour our body’s needs. Try to set aside distractions like your phone or laptop, sit down at a table and make eating the primary focus. This can be challenging, especially if you’re pressed for time or need to multitask at some of our meals. When this happens, try to take a few moments to enjoy the meal you are having wherever that may be—in a class, at your desk, on the way to school.

Eat With Others

Too often we don’t make time to connect with family or friends and share a meal, but it is SO important that we do! Sharing meals integrates all the other strategies for discovering the potential of food. When we eat with others we are taking time to fuel, we are inspired by others to try new foods, and it encourages us to be present, enjoying the company of others rather than being distracted by phones or laptops. When meals are a social gathering, it supports both our mental and physical wellness. Studies have shown that adults who eat meals together are more likely to choose nourishing foods and honour their hunger and fullness cues. Eating together also offers the opportunity to de-stress, communicate, and support our friends and family. Make a plan to meet up with friends or share a family meal at least a few times a week; you might learn a few new things about your group and have some fun while you munch away.

Have questions about food trends, eating well or nutrition on campus? Our UW Dietitian has answers! Email Nicole at nicole.pin@uwaterloo.ca.