March is Nutrition Month: Healthy eating tips from a registered dietician

MANITOULIN—The Dietitians of Canada have named March Nutrition Month, with this year’s theme ‘Simply Cook and Enjoy.’

Cooking is important because it often means that meals are more nutritious and less processed. Luckily, healthy cooking can be simple. Use cooking as a fun family event, while passing on important skills to children.

To get started, stock some healthy convenience foods to make healthy eating easy. A few ideas include: light canned tuna or canned salmon; pre-cut butternut squash; drained and rinsed canned legumes such as chickpeas or lentils; canned diced tomatoes; shredded cheese; eggs or cartons of egg whites; plain frozen fish filets; frozen vegetables and fruit; fresh or frozen whole wheat tortellini; whole grain pizza crusts, whole wheat pitas or whole wheat naan bread.

Cooking great meals can be quicker than getting take-out. Try quesadillas filled with lean meat and vegetables, whole grain pita pizzas topped with left over chicken and vegetables, stir fry shrimp and frozen vegetables with your favourite herbs and spices or a quick salmon burger on whole wheat bun with salad. Add a little zing with red pepper flakes, limejuice, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cheese, pesto or vinegar.

Cook once, eat twice

Make many portions and eat leftovers on busier days or package individually and freeze for a quick meal on hockey night. Breakfasts that can be made in large batches are, whole grain pancakes, long-cooking (large flake) oats or vegetable frittata.

While making one meal, grill extra chicken for a sandwich or burger for another meal. If roasting vegetables, make plenty to toss into tomorrow’s pasta dish or to top your pizza. Chili for supper? Cook a large pot and use leftovers for enchiladas. Salad with supper? Make a large container and put in the fridge for lunch tomorrow or top with your extra chicken for supper later this week.

One-pot meals make dinner and clean up simple. Go quick with simple skillet fajitas or slow with hardy slow-cooker stew full of different colours of vegetables.

Some tools to simplify cooking are good pots and pans, a crock-pot, a silicone steamer, sharp knives, a box grater, a steamer basket and an instant-read thermometer.

Eating on a budget and need a few ideas?

Try eating vegetable proteins instead of meat. Add cooked orange lentils to spaghetti instead of (or with) ground beef or stir black beans and chickpeas into soup.

Make meal preparation fun

Give kids tasks such as stirring. Choose easy recipes with tasks that kids can do. Prepare some ingredients ahead (eg. leftover chicken or vegetables). Have a cooking challenge with older children or allow them to blend their own frosty using frozen fruit, bananas, yogurt and milk. Encourage them to be adventurous by adding spinach or carrots.

Invite friends and family over for a cooking party. Cook a large amount of a few different meals so everyone has food for days. Bulk cooking can save money while cooking with friends will share the workload and fun. Relax and enjoy a meal together afterwards.

For nutrition information, recipe or meal ideas check out or speak with one of your local dietitians. Dietitians in your area are available to help with all of your nutrition needs. Who are local dietitians? Natalie Hastings, Crystal Morra, Julie Rochefort and Sabrina Legault at Noojmowin Teg provide nutrition services to all of the First Nation communities on Manitoulin and Whitefish River First Nation; Laurel LeConte provides diabetes services and care to those in hospital; and Brooke Noble provides nutrition services to the Northeast Town, Assiginack, Central Manitoulin and Espanola Family Health Teams and Western Manitoulin Medical Centre.

Brooke Noble, registered dietician