6 Tricks for Following Canada’s Food Guide When You’re Super Busy

Get your fill of whole grains, protein, fruits and veggies—even when your schedule is crammed.

Photo Credit: General Mills Canada
Photo Credit: General Mills Canada

Say goodbye to the traditional food groups and recommended daily servings of your childhood. When Health Canada unveiled Canada’s new Food Guide in early 2019, it focused on one image instead: a plate filled with simple, healthy foods. The message? About half your diet (or half of each meal) should be fruits and veggies, a quarter should be protein sources, and a quarter should be whole grains.

While these “rules” are straightforward, following them in an overbooked week can be a challenge. “I recommend spending an hour or two on your day off meal prepping a few staple components that you can easily throw together in a pinch,” notes celebrity food blogger and registered dietitian, Abbey Sharp. Use these six planning and prep tricks to maintain a nutritious diet in between meetings, errands and after-school activities.

1. Can it: Whether you’re unable to make it to the grocery store to buy fresh meat and produce as often as you’d like, or you frequently leave items rotting in the fridge, buying canned fish, fruit and veggies may help you to improve your eating habits without wasting money. Look for fish and vegetables with low sodium and fruit with no added sugar, then read the labels for nutrients like protein, fibre, calcium, iron and vitamins A through E.

2. Freeze it: Buying frozen fruits and vegetables is another way to increase your intake. Add them to smoothies, soups or chili for a healthy, simple meal. Thawing certain vegetables in the microwave, like edamame, and sprinkling with lime juice or chili flakes is another option and a nutrient-rich alternative to potato chips. As with canned foods, avoid added sugar and sodium.

3. Dip it: If you are able to have fresh fruits and veggies on hand, but simply can’t entice yourself to eat them (or your kids think broccoli is, like, super gross), bring an array of dips into the mix. Low-fat yogurt is perfect for cut-up fruit, nut butters are a versatile option for both fruit and vegetables, and guacamole and hummus make tasty dips for celery, carrots, peppers, tomatoes and cauliflower.

4. Bag it: If you’re looking for a snack that you can take on the go, whole-grain cereals are your new best friend. They’re an important source of whole grains, which help to “promote heart health, regularity, satiety and better blood sugar management,” notes Abbey Sharp. And there are plenty of low-sugar options “Cereal contributes more than 60 percent of Canadians’ whole grain intake, and among cereal eaters it contributes 20 percent of their fibre intake and 25 percent of their calcium when paired with a fortified milk product.” Look for cereals like Original, Honey Nut and Multi-Grain Cheerios that have whole-grain oats, wheat, rice, bulgur or sorghum listed as the first ingredient.

And if you ever have to buy from a vending machine, look for a protein source such as sunflower seeds, dry-roasted nuts or oven-roasted chickpeas. Often, a handful will be enough to satisfy you.

5. Top it: Keep plenty of whole-grain pitas, whole-grain bread and rice cakes in the cupboard or freezer for when you need an easy meal base. Top them with your favourite ingredients that are rich in protein, healthy fat and nutrients. Try:

  • Nut butter with sliced apples or bananas.
  • Canned tuna or salmon with sliced tomatoes.
  • Avocado with poached or hardboiled eggs.

6. Infuse it: Water is the drink of choice for Canada’s Food Guide. If you can make it a habit to bring a refillable water bottle wherever you go—and sip it throughout the day—your body will be hydrated and happy. But if drinking plain H2O gives you (or your little ones) a case of the blahs, mix in crushed fresh or frozen blackberries, raspberries or strawberries for natural sweetness.

These simple tricks will help you get a healthy dose of protein, whole grains, fruits, veggies and water. Now to find the time to grocery shop so you have a well-stocked cupboard and freezer.

Disclaimer: This post was developed in paid partnership with Cheerios and Abbey Sharp.

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