I was recently contacted by Choices Markets and asked to share their new “New Year, New You” feature with my readers. They have a full 10 week nutrition makeover available, but for the purposes of this blog I chose to share the “10 Simple Changes” feature. It’s got some great info and you can check out www.choicesmarket.com/nutrition for more resources. The best part is, it’s FREE!

Hope you enjoy their tips, and please let me know what you think!

New Year, New You 2011 Feature

Top 10 Simple Changes to Instantly Improve your Diet

Desiree Nielsen RD, The Choices Dietitian

It’s resolution time again…whether your goal for the New Year is to lose weight, learn to sail or finally get that promotion, your body is the vehicle for all of your ambitions. So how are you fueling that body? Busy lives can leave nutrition on the back burner, as we mistakenly think that any food that fills our belly will help us get to the finish line. If you find yourself constantly relying on takeout and “instant” meals, soon you’ll be running on empty. Good food is the foundation of good health and a healthy body has the energy to help you achieve all that you want out of life.

Desiree Nielsen RD, the Choices Dietitian, has created this list of 10 simple changes you can make to improve your diet instantly, without restrictive diets or complex menus. Try making one change at a time and stick with it until it becomes an effortless part of your life. Or join us in our 10 week nutrition makeover, starting January 3rd, using the changes described below.

Choices Nutrition Team will be offering informative seminars throughout the month of January and personalized nutrition consultations by donation in Vancouver, White Rock and Kelowna to help you get a jump start on the New Year. Look for more helpful resources in store and detailed tips to help you make the changes at www.choicesmarket.com/nutrition.

1. Eat a better breakfast

Why make the change? Remember that old adage, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”? Now we have research to prove it: research presented by Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz and her team in 2008 showed that eating a large 600 calorie breakfast every morning helped dieters lose more weight than the typical light diet fare. The ideal breakfast should contain a balance of protein, fibre and slowly digested carbohydrates to keep you going all morning long. What makes this breakfast so special? A hefty dose of protein, combined with quality carbohydrates, helps to control blood sugar rise so you feel energized all morning long. While more research is needed to confirm the findings, big breakfast eaters in the study reported feeling less hunger and fewer cravings throughout the day even when on a low calorie eating plan. Find breakfast ideas at www.choicesmarkets.com/nutrition.

2. Eat ¾ cup plain probiotic yogurt daily

Why make the change? Plain probiotic yogurt contains live bacterial cultures that help to promote a healthy intestinal flora. Billions of bacteria live in our colons; healthy ones promote a healthy gut barrier and produce beneficial compounds like vitamin K. Unhealthy critters, often the result of a highly processed diet and stress filled lifestyle, can wreak inflammatory havoc and cause GI upset. Good old fashioned plain yogurt contains beneficial probiotic cultures in addition to calcium, magnesium and protein…more of what we need everyday! Don’t like the taste of plain yogurt? Sweeten yourself with a little fruit or honey.

3. Don’t drink your calories

Why make the change? Never before in our history have we designed so many ways to drink ourselves fatter. Consumption of sweetened beverages has increased dramatically since the 1970’s: according to data published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the percentage of calories consumed from drinks increased by more than 50% while calories from soft drinks and fruit drinks alone increased 135%. All of those calories can lead to weight gain over time as research shows that we do not compensate for the calories we drink by eating less later on. Instead of cutting back on meal portions, cut calories the smart way by eliminating them from your drinks. You will likely save yourself a great deal of sugar in the process: a large Double Double will set you back 230 calories and 6 tsp of sugar (making the occasional cookie seem like less of a splurge!). Your best hydration choices? Plain water, coffee and tea with milk or soda with a splash of juice.

4. Eat a piece of fruit with each meal

Why make the change? Many of us are still not reaching the recommended goal of 7-10 servings of fruits and veggies each day, even though the evidence on the health benefits of produce consumption is overwhelming. So instead of radically changing the meals you make, why not try something simple? Finish each of your three meals a day with a piece of fruit. Fruit is quick to prepare…just rinse and eat, no chopping required! Here’s the key to success this week: if you don’t put it in your cart…it won’t end up in your stomach! 3 pieces of fruit a day means buying 21 pieces of fruit per person during your weekly shopping trip. So stock up and enjoy…

5. Keep an instant salad in the fridge

Why make the change? Sometimes, you just really want macaroni and cheese…no problem! Just don’t forget to fit in some veggies! Add a container of baby spinach and a container of cherry tomatoes to your weekly shopping list and make sure that you use them…at least a couple of times a week! With just these two items, you can add a side salad to any meal in 60 seconds flat. Spinach boasts the most nutrition of all the salad greens: antioxidant rich, spinach also contains the most iron of the greens with fewer phytates to block absorption. Spinach also contains folate for DNA repair and lutein to protect your eyes. Toss on a handful of cherry tomatoes for vitamin C to help boost iron absorption and provide chlorogenic acid, a compound which helps prime your body’s natural detox system.

6. Eat your Beans

Why make the change? Oft neglected, beans are the healthiest food you aren’t currently eating. Very high in fibre, beans contain an average of 10 grams of fibre per ¾ cup serving. That is a quarter of a man’s daily recommended fibre intake and more than a third for a woman. This fibre not only helps you to feel full and satisfied as you eat; in combination with the slowly digested carbohydrates found in beans, fibre also helps slow down the rate at which blood sugars rise, reducing your urge to snack and helping you to maintain a healthy weight naturally. Beans are also a great source of vegetarian protein, good for you and the environment. As if that weren’t enough, beans offer a variety of important nutrients such as iron, magnesium, potassium and folate. Try to eat beans 3 times a week; see www.choicesmarket.com/nutrition for meal and snack ideas with beans.

7. Try an Oil Change

Why make this change? The fats we eat directly influence our health by altering our blood cholesterol, influencing inflammation and nourishing our skin and other tissues. Saturated and trans fats from animal foods and processed snack foods directly promote chronic inflammation, which can accelerate premature aging and increase risk of chronic disease. In addition, data published from the Omni Heart Study revealed that eating a moderate amount of healthy monounsaturated fat in place of more processed carbohydrate choices can lower our risk for heart disease over time. This week, clear out your pantry of less healthy oils and stock up on healthy sources of fats to enjoy: use extra virgin olive oil as your primary cooking oil. Consider taking fish oils daily for their EPA and DHA, two anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats and enjoy healthy food sources of fats such as raw nuts, seeds and avocado regularly.

8. Go Nuts

Why make this change? Nuts are a great daily addition to any diet and a smart replacement to more carbohydrate based snacks like granola bars and crackers. Nuts provide monounsaturated fats, protein, fibre and plenty of trace minerals. Looking for heart healthy foods? Nuts are rich in magnesium, potassium and B vitamins to protect your ticker. Need a little iron boost? Cashews and Almonds stand out. Almonds are superstars for their vitamin E, fibre and protein; just 2 Brazil nuts will supply a cancer fighting dose of antioxidant selenium and walnuts deliver anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats. Nuts are energy rich, so portion control is key: choose your favourites and enjoy a ¼ cup daily.

9. Swap your Bread for Sprouted Grain

Why make this change? By far, switching to sprouted grain bread and tortillas is one of the easiest ways to boost your fibre intake and help control blood sugars. Many people are familiar with 100% whole grain breads, but all are not created equal! When you see the term “sprouted grain”, it means that the wheat was not ground into a fine flour before making the bread; instead, the grains are sprouted and crushed. The main advantage of this technique is an average of 5 grams of fibre and 5 grams of protein per slice, versus 1.5 – 2 grams of fibre in most whole wheat breads. Have a sandwich for lunch every day? You now just more than doubled your fibre intake simply by swapping your bread! Sprouted grain breads are more filling, will produce a slower rise in blood sugar and help you control your weight.

10. Cook Something New

Why make this change? We are becoming a nation of take out dialers and instant food assemblers. But if you can boil water, you can make yourself a simple, healthy meal in less time than it takes to stand in line for pizza. As an added bonus, you will save money and may even trim your waistline! The average restaurant or quick service meal contains more salt, fat and calories than the same food made at home. March is National Nutrition Month® and our mission is to get Canadian families cooking. This week, try one new recipe from a cookbook, magazine or the internet…that’s all there is to it! If you enjoy the process, why not make it a weekly event?

Desiree Nielsen RD – The Choices Dietitian

Desiree Nielsen, BSc RD received her degree in Food Nutrition and Health (Dietetics major) with honours from the University of British Columbia and completed her dietetic internship with Capital Health in Edmonton, Alberta. Registered with the BC College of Dietitians, Desiree is also a proud member of Dietitians of Canada.

Desiree advocates that good food is the cornerstone of a lifestyle that prevents chronic disease and promotes energy, vitality and overall wellbeing. Maintaining a commitment to evidence-based nutrition, Desiree’s practice also respects traditional knowledge and beliefs. To her, food is more than the nutrition it provides it is a vital part of our culture, our celebrations and our lives.

Desiree is a sought after speaker on a wide range of topics: from eating for a healthier body and planet to fighting chronic disease, Desiree’s positive “real world” approach to healthy eating is informative, motivating and practical. She delivers regular seminars to public and corporate groups on behalf of Choices Markets. Desiree is a member of the professional advisory board for the Vancouver Chapter of the Canadian Celiac Association. Desiree is currently featured on Dietitians of Canada’s website at www.dietitians.ca as a leader in nutrition and business. Recent media appearances include CTV Your Health, Breakfast Television, CBC Radio and CKNW Radio. Desiree’s love of food extends well beyond her work: she enjoys strolling through farmer’s markets, hoarding cookbooks and one day hopes to become an expert patio gardener. Working with Choices provides Desiree with the opportunity to do what she loves most: sharing her passion for food and living well with the community.