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Knowing our food and eating well

Knowing our food and eating well

Dr. Constance Chiremba PhD | Department of Food and Bioproduct Sciences, University of Saskatchewan

How do we know we are eating well? It is true that many people, especially teenagers and young adults are very conscious of their weight while some others care less. Self-awareness in respect to body weight has led many into making several rather unhealthy choices, including abstinence from food. However, depriving oneself of food, or eating less than the body needs is undesirable just as is eating more than one should, as both of these habits are associated with several health complications.

In respect to child and youth health, it is estimated that 1 in 3 children and youth in Canada are overweight or obese. Children and youth who are obese suffer from physical and mental health problems, among others. It is important that we understand what we eat and the impact different kinds of food have on our bodies. Unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity are the key factors contributing to obesity.

How do we make the proper food choices throughout the day?                                                                        Health Canada has set out clear guidelines (Eating well with Canada’s Food Guide) to meet our energy and nutrient needs. The Food Guide is simple and easy to use with information on what we should eat and how much should we consume. There are four main food groups namely vegetables and fruits, grain products, milk and alternatives and meat and alternatives. [Find Table 1 below]

Too little or too much of food is consequential! Most food labels show what is called a serving size, which is the approximate portion that is deemed appropriate in relation to daily energy and dietary requirements. The Canadian Food Guide uses Food Guide Servings to determine the amount of food to eat from each food group with respect to age. For more information about these food groups and serving size, visit

Did you know that the 68th UN General Assembly declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses? Do you know your pulses?                                                                                                                                     Pulses are dried seeds such as peas, edible beans, chickpeas and lentils. Pulses are a special part of our diet because they are rich in fibre, proteins and essential amino acids, and have high levels of minerals such as iron, zinc, and phosphorous as well as folate and other B-vitamins.

Pulses definitely have a high nutritional value and should be eaten as part of a healthy diet! Pulses can be eaten to address obesity, as well as to prevent and help manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary conditions and cancer. The Pulse Canada website ( shares information about the different types of pulses, where to buy pulses, how to cook them, and some of the most exciting recipes you can try at home. Visit these websites to gain more insight about pulses because Canada is a world leader in pulse production.

There are adequate resources and information on food and nutrition to assist everyone in making informed choices about balanced diets and healthy eating habits for good health and wellness!

Table 1. Four main food groups and examples of food items

Vegetables and Fruits Grain Products Milk and Alternatives Meat and Alternatives

Broccoli, romaine lettuce, carrots, kale, spinach and other green leafy vegetables, peas, pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes,



Oranges, apples, berries, bananas, mangos, watermelon, grapes, cantaloupe, peaches, pears

Bread and other baked goods, pasta, rice, quinoa, flat breads, cereal, couscous, oats, etc Milk, powdered milk, yoghurt, kefir, cheese




Soy and almond beverages

Meat, poultry, fish,





Lentils and other pulses, shelled nuts, eggs, tofu