For 2019 the theme for World Food Day is “making healthy and sustainable diets affordable and accessible to everyone” (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). World Food Day has been annually observed since 1981 and is aimed at tackling global hunger (World Food Day Canada). In developed countries, such as Canada, diets have moved to highly processed, sugar-filled, and refined products sourced from fast food vendors and supermarket prepared meals. In spite of these options being easy and accessible for our busy lives, they are not providing essential nutrients that our bodies need to develop and age gracefully.
The result of these unhealthy diets and habits is an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers. For this reason, we put together these strategies that aging adults can consciously apply to have healthy and sustainable diets be a part of their daily routine.
Make Food Choices that Support Healthy and Sustainable Diets
While it may be tempting to just order a pizza and 2L of pop right to your door for dinner, it is not the healthiest choice you can make. Especially if you do it frequently. These pre-prepared options often contain ingredients that aren’t the most nutritious. And, they tend to contain preservatives and processed components. Using Canada’s Food Guide is a great way to refresh yourself on what a healthy meal should look like.
To make healthier food choices, keep these things in mind when you choose your meals.
Eat Vegetables and Fruits
It’s easy to skip vegetables and fruit in your meals. However, each time you choose a meal, think about having half your plate contain vegetables and fruits. This doesn’t mean you have to always have fresh produce available. Alternately, canned or frozen options can be just as good for you without the prep work. Just make sure you read the labels and choose options without added sugars, sodium, or breading.
TIP: Drain and rinse canned produce before using it to lower the sodium content even more.
Choose Whole Grains
Although that white dinner bun may be what you’re used to grabbing, try choosing a whole or brown grain option instead, you might be pleasantly surprised.
TIP: Brown bread isn’t a tasteless hockey puck anymore. Whole grain loafs can contain healthy spices and herbs that will tickle your tastebuds and make healthy fibre an easy choice.
Change up your Proteins
Don’t worry, we aren’t saying give up the Alberta Beef! However, switch it up to give yourself more variety and experiment with something new. Try to choose plant-based proteins more often. In fact, these proteins can give your body more fibre and less saturated fats which helps your heart be healthy.
TIP: Try beans, peas or lentils for a filling and satisfying change to a standard meal to have a new flavour without having to learn a new recipe.
Choose Healthy Fats
Older adults are at risk of heart disease. In fact, 1 in 6 Canadian older adults 65+ are diagnosed with chronic heart disease. Choosing the right kinds of fat in your food over time matters to your health as you age. Specifically, saturated fats are not good for you. However, not all fats are bad.
TIP: Choose to use fatty fish like salmon, nuts like peanuts or almonds, and seeds like pumpkin or flaxseed in your meals as they all contain healthy fats.
How to Identify Sustainable Food Choices in Calgary
“A sustainable food system is a collaborative network that integrates several components in order to enhance a community’s environmental, economic and social well-being.”
Maintaining healthy and sustainable diets requires mindful food choices. Sustainable food is defined as food that is safe and healthy or that has a lower environmental impact.
While there are many factors that play into defining sustainable food, here are three things to keep in mind:
Secure and Reliable Production
Food that is not reliant on climate, energy prices or other societal or environmental factors.
Environmentally Friendly Processing
Uses energy efficient methods and reclamation and conservation strategies.
Accessibility and Affordability
Making sustainable food available regardless of societal constraints.
In Calgary there are a couple ways to commit to healthy and sustainable diets:
Look at Labels
Look for labels on fresh food products at grocery stores that identifies them as from sustainable programs. For example, Ocean Wise labels on seafood.
Shop at markets and stores that use local sources. Farmer’s markets contain locally grown food choices. For a more accessible option, choose grocery stores that have programs like the Localize Program at Co-op that help identify sustainably sourced food within the store.
Participate in a Community Garden
For seniors this is a wonderful way to not only have a sustainable source of food, but also get involved in your community. Click here for a list of community gardens in Calgary.
Question Your Food
Question the source of your food. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Diet Secrets from Michael Pollan (and your great-grandma).