The other day, a client asked me “what do I do to keep healthy, fit and trim?”

Without delay, I told her what my typical habits were all about. I realized that this was something others might benefit from learning as well.  

But before I tell you, I’m not you, and you aren’t me. We don’t share the same genes. We don’t have the same upbringing and we probably don’t have the same goals – although ultimately all of my clients want to achieve ultimate health. They don’t feel their best – and know that they need help with diet and lifestyle. They want to be the healthiest they can be. Live without pain. Be there for their family. Feel good about themselves. Feel confident. Feel energized…

Here are my top 5 tips for keeping healthy.

1.       Include a vegetable or fruit with each meal. Ok – so this isn’t difficult if you like vegetables and fruit and WANT to include them in your meals. This is how I look at it. Learn to like them. Learn to include them. Develop a taste for them. Have them different ways – in smoothies, in stir fries, in cold soups or hot soups. Have them roasted or raw in salads.  I used to eat much more fruit – and now I gravitate to more vegetables – so much so that I actually notice when on vacation when they aren’t there.

Here are some recipes to try:

Cool Cucumber Soup

Watermelon Soup

Ratatouille    

2.       Plan meals. I must say that planning meals helps you to not only eat better, cut down on waste – but save time and money too.

So many of my clients get into a rut – and more often than not, they simply get out of the routine of meal planning. They know they eat better, but it somehow gets shoved out of the way when things get busy.

For those with small kids – and 2 working parents – having a plan is essential to learning good eating habits. I know that it’s very easy to get out of a routine when life brings us obstacles – like a child or parent gets sick, holiday, life event, move, stress at work or a pandemic!  

In addition someone in the household needs to take ownership of the plan.

What do I do? I use a combination of planning methods from planning a few days at a time, to one meal at a time, to on the spur of the moment to a one week plan. Planning meals for me has changed a lot since my kids left home, and now that I’m home more due to the pandemic. Having a few good sources for healthy recipes makes a difference.

Here are a few of my favourite cookbooks:  Great Food Fast- B. Callaghan and L. Roblin – both Dietitians, Simply great Food – Dietitians of Canada, and Lighthearted Everyday Cooking by Anne Lindsay. I find though I often don’t use a cookbook anymore. If I do need something different, I will search online.

Here are a few of my favourite recipe websites/apps: Cookspiration  for a variety of healthy recipes, pulses.org to provide my clients with ideas for learning how to incorporate more beans, peas and lentils into their diets and cooking light

I will use google searches as well, but the problem is – how do my clients know if the recipe is healthy? Just because they found a recipe online doesn’t mean it meets their needs.

Here is where I help them out even more: My favourite meal planning program is Eatlove . I use this program to set up a customized meal plan for my clients and their families.  This is a great way to access healthy recipes and learn how to plan as well! Learn more here.

Tip: Start to commit to including a vegetable or fruit with each meal as in tip #1 – and now commit to it in your plan!  Add to it a protein choice, and healthy grain or starch and healthy fat and you’re almost there!

3.       Keep health a priority.  Some of my clients certainly struggle with this one. For me, this is a no-brainer and has always been on the top of my list.  

So what does that mean to me? Having access to healthy food choices, having vegetables and fruit well stocked in my fridge, including regular exercise throughout the year. Those have all been very important to me.

I am lucky in that I grew up in the outskirts of North Bay on Trout Lake. We didn’t have a convenience store handy. We didn’t have access to pizza, ’Ubereats’, ‘Skip the Dishes’, or fast food around the corner. Sitting down at the table with the family was normal for me growing up. It was also important to me as a parent with own my family.

I see that with my clients, prioritizing health is often a struggle.  Different dietary needs, likes, habits and priorities.  Many parents have given up. But they realize they need to find a way to make it more of a priority – otherwise they wouldn’t show up in my office for help! My clients didn’t have the same upbringing as I did. They might not have had health/ and wholesome meals as a family growing up. Or maybe they did, but they resented it or it was forced on them. Or for some reason or other, they decided it wasn’t for them. So they have to learn or relearn some new habits in order to keep health a priority for a lifetime, not just for the period of time they need to “lose weight”.  

4.       Keep healthy choices easily accessible.  What does your fridge, pantry, countertop, or freezer look like? Or your workspace or bedroom? Is there food or perhaps dishes or wrappers visible?  

Making healthy food easy-to-get makes a difference and makes it easier for you to eat well.  I keep my tomatoes, and some fresh fruit on the counter especially when I first purchase. This helps them to ripen at room temperature.

Right now I see peaches, and avocadoes on my counter. The brownies my daughter made on the weekend have been portioned and put in the downstairs freezer.  

In my household, I’m generally the meal planner. This also means that I make healthier foods accessible and easy to choose. If I don’t make an effort to “cut” up the watermelon or use it in a recipe, it won’t get eaten and inevitably will go bad.  It’s not easily accessible until it is “ready to go”!  

If there aren’t healthy food choices in your fridge, freezer or pantry –what happens? Do you eat as well or end up ordering in? I’m thinking you probably aren’t eating well.    

On the flip side, with lots of healthy choices available – without good planning –produce will simply spoil before it gets eaten. We have all been there. Refer back to tip #2!  

5.       Keep active.    What does this mean to me? I guess this one is easy for me during the summer as I love being outdoors and busy. My favourite sports are tennis and golf now – but I’ve recently added cycling to the list! I make it a priority to get in some type of activity daily if I can.

To me, this is a no-brainer. Activity and being outdoors was always an important part of my life as a child. I know this upbringing has helped make it easy for me to prioritize. But even so, when life gets busy, it becomes harder for me to fit it in too.  

What if you didn’t have the same upbringing – and physical activity wasn’t encouraged or valued. You can learn new things, but you need to develop a strong desire to make this a priority. Some individuals will need to remind themselves why it is so important to be active. You need to enjoy what it is you are doing or learning. And it might be hard at first. But oooohhh, it is SO worth it.  

What’s the best exercise? – To quote Dr. Mike Evans – it is one that you enjoy. Think about it, exercise for one person doesn’t have to be the same as for another! If you don’t get some sort of enjoyment – you will find it extremely hard to continue to do it.  

If you need some motivation: Check out Dr. Mike Evans You Tube videos - 23 ½ hours and The importance of intensity in physical activity as a start. Google ‘health benefits of exercise’ – and then add your OWN benefits to the list – of why you want to do something active! The benefits need to be meaningful for you in your life right now to make a difference.    

So how are you doing with your journey to better health?

If you need help with better health, consider nutrition coaching with a Registered Dietitian in Markham. Contact me to find out more.