Nutrition Month- Unlock the potential of food to bring us together

It’s that time of year again- Dietitians of Canada Nutrition Month. This year’s theme of Unlock the Potential of Food shows that food is not just about nutrients. While many people may have the impression that when it comes to dietitians and healthy eating, nutrients are all we consider, that concept would be very far off base.

Food has much more potential – something we, as dietitians, have long known. It’s one of the reasons that many of us cheered when we saw the release of the new food guide from Health Canada. For the first time, it talked about enjoying your food and sharing meals with others.

Real nourishment includes so much more. The key topics of Nutrition Month deal with the potential of food. They include:

Potential to fuel: Stay energized by planning nutritious snacks and meals into your day.

Potential to discover: Foster healthy eating habits in children by teaching them to shop and cook.

Potential to prevent: Understand how food can help prevent chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Potential to heal: Learn how food can promote healing and how dietitians work in health care teams to make a difference.

Potential to bring us together: Enjoy the benefits of bringing families and friends together with food.

As dietitians, we recognize how powerful food can be, especially when it comes to breaking bread with others. That saying breaking bread is an age old one that has particular meaning nowadays. For some people, it’s the last thing they want to do. While there are those who have dietary restrictions, such as food allergies or intolerances,  eating all the same offerings as their friends and families is simply out of the question. But when it comes to dietary goals such as weight loss, eating patterns should not result in social isolation.

Many weight loss programs can accommodate a decadent delight now and then without leading to going off the rails completely. In fact, enjoying treats on a regular basis can help to stop the binging that can happen following having something special.

Deprivation does the opposite. This brings up the keto diet. The keto diet involves eating a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet for long enough for the individual to produce ketone bodies (ketosis) which their bodies use for fuel. Sharing meals with others, unless they’re keto too, is pretty much impossible. While keto meals may be quite restrictive, consider that just having a piece of cake (or even some pasta or bread) would be enough to put them out of ketosis and back to square one. It can take days to then get back into ketosis. Knowing this is enough to make some keto dieters get their money’s worth when they have gone off the program. They may essentially eat all different kinds of carb-laden foods (and in large amounts) before they aim to get back into ketosis.

It seems like a perfect recipe to become a binge eater. Consider then that the research shows that while those on the keto diet may lose more weight initially, after a period of time, low carb diets yield similar results in terms of weight loss as higher carb plans.

I know that my colleagues counsel individuals about enjoying special occasions and not feeling deprived. This is part of nourishing your body and your soul. But not all health professionals feel this way.   For example, here;s some advice I was sent to post on my website by a physician who deals with weight loss. But I want to point out that I am not painting all physicians with this brush. There are plenty that would be as appalled as I was by the suggestions made by this so-called expert. He apparently thought I would be happy to offer it as a guest post.

Among the tips for social situations were: * A simple way to decrease temptation is to arrive late, leave early… and stay away from snacks and tasty dips. * Bring your own vegetables. * Look for the fresh fruit at parties or bring it to gatherings to give yourself a great alternative to pies, cakes and cookies! * Stand and eat: After you get your plate of food stand and eat. Most likely you will eat less if you can’t plant yourself and focus solely on the food.

I’m not saying that all these suggestions are all ridiculous. I do suggest that bringing a vegetable try and dip can be part of a gift for your host. Fresh fruit is also a super choice (not if you’re on a keto diet, though). But when you put all the tips together, it’s clear that enjoying social gatherings is not compatible to weight control for this physician.

The bottom line here is that food can bring us together and that’s a good thing. Avoid any so-called experts who say otherwise.

I’ll have more on Nutrition Month in the coming weeks.

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Categories: Nutrition Month

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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