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Eat well and stay healthy by setting nutrition goals for 2021

You are what you eat. There’s a reason that saying is so common – because it’s true. What we take in affects every aspect of our lives. Good nutrition gives you energy, staves off diseases and improves your well-being. A bad diet can lead to numerous health issues and shorten your life.
 
Proper nutrition also helps you manage stresses in life. Military members and their families have unique stressors – military life is rigorous and requires peak physical and mental fitness. And, with the COVID-19 pandemic still a threat, keeping your immune system working at its best is especially important. Giving your body the right fuel will help you meet these challenges.
 
A healthy diet consists of a few basic elements: lots of vegetables and fruit, whole grains and high-protein foods, and reducing junk foods.
 
Here are a few tips to get you started.
 
Healthy swaps
 
Processed and refined foods often include unhealthy levels of added sugar, sodium, fat and preservatives. Try to stick to whole or unprocessed foods as much as possible.
 
Choose whole grains over refined, and have plenty of fruits and vegetables on hand, says Victoria Stead, Registered Dietitian and PSP Health Promotion Manager at Canadian Forces Morale & Welfare Services. If you do want to indulge in a sweet or savoury baked treat, limit yourself to smaller portions.
 
“Enjoy your food. This may seem easy, but we often forget to truly taste our food,” says Stead. Focusing on your feelings of hunger and fullness, paying attention to your food choices and focusing while eating can go a long way to a healthy diet.
 
Create a food plan
 
Creating and following a food plan is an important step in ensuring you’re eating a balanced diet, and it’s a great way to keep motivated and stay on track.
 
“Planning your meals will help to hold you accountable in minimizing snacking” or reaching for fast foods, says Stead.
 
Keeping your plan flexible, however, is just as important. If you skip a day, or don’t follow as planned, it’s okay, says Stead. “It’s important to consume a balanced diet, which has room for sweets and treats.”
 
Canada’s food guide has great tips for meal planning as well, from the grocery list right to starting cooking. Meal planning can also save you money and time while shopping and cut down on food waste.
 
Swap the alcohol and pop for carbonated water
 
We often pair food with drinks like wine or soda and, while there’s nothing wrong with such drinks in moderation, consuming them regularly can add unwanted sugars, sodium and empty calories.
 
“Try switching out the alcohol for carbonated water with added flavour from fruit,” says Stead. She advises to make water your drink of choice, something Canada’s Food Guide agrees with.
 
Hungry, or coping?
 
“In difficult times, we may choose food as a way to cope with negative emotions,” says Stead. “Becoming aware of your hunger cues is a way to recognize your eating patterns and if you are truly hungry or are eating as a coping mechanism.”
 
She suggests discovering other ways to manage complex emotions that the pandemic or your work may elicit, such as exercising, meditating or deep breathing.
 
Cut yourself some slack
 
If you find you sometimes indulge more than you intended, or strayed further from your food plan than you realized, don’t be hard on yourself, says Stead. Instead, keep working on creating “a positive relationship with food and reflect on what you can do to increase your success moving forward,” she says.