Eating & Nutrition 101
Eating a wide variety of foods, and being mindful of your relationship with food and eating are part of maintaining your well-being. This section has information about finding balance in how you view food and choose what to eat.
Eating & Nutrition 101
Eating is a big part of life. It’s not only one of the ways that we nourish our bodies, but it’s also something we connect with others over and that can bring us joy. Eating can bring up other emotions as well, so sometimes it’s tough to know what foods to eat. We will start by looking at how food and eating are a part of maintaining your well-being before digging into some information to support you in eating well.
What are nutrients?
Food provides your body with nutrients. The biggest types of nutrients are called “macronutrients”, which provide your body with energy. The three types of macronutrient are carbohydrates (carbs), proteins, and fats. Despite what some fad diets may suggest, all three are essential for your overall health and well-being.
- Carbs are our main source of energy and the fuel our brain prefers.
- Proteins also provide us with energy. They have other important jobs as the building blocks to help us grow, repair and replace tissue, and support other essential functions.
- Fats also provide us with energy and have many other important jobs in the body such as protecting our organs and absorbing important vitamins. Vitamins and minerals are another type of nutrient our bodies need called “micronutrients”.
Your body needs these different nutrients to do all sorts of things, including:
- Develop and grow
- Have energy
- Move around
- Handle stress
- Maintain focus and learn
- Build a stronger immune system and improve your overall health
Often foods are broken down into food categories, such as fruits and vegetables, grains/starchy foods, meats and alternatives, milk and alternatives, and added fats. Working to include foods from each of these different food categories can help increase your overall nutrition.
In addition, eating a wide variety of foods within these categories gives your body the best chance of getting the nutrients and energy it needs. However, for some people this may be challenging, due to things like money, lack of access, food preferences, or allergies/intolerances.
If you want to make some changes to your eating habits, don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes time to make changes, form lasting habits, and feel differently. One way to make changes is to start with small, realistic goals. For example, eat one extra serving of vegetables a day, or try a new recipe each week. Try to have fun with it! Check out tips for eating on a budget for more ideas.
When foods are labeled as “healthy” or “unhealthy”, “bad” or “good”, you may feel that you are “bad” or “good” for eating them, even though this is not true. Looking at food this way can impact the relationship you have with food, eating and your body. When you see something labelled as “healthy” or “good” all that usually means is that it may have more of certain nutrients. However, it is important to remember all foods can be enjoyed as part of a balanced, enjoyable diet.
When we think of the word “diet”, we often think of dieting, which is when you restrict what you eat to lose weight, achieve a certain body shape, or attain a specific outcome. But your diet is a word that can also mean all the kinds of food that you regularly eat. Some people may have restrictions in their diet such as not eating meat (vegetarian diet), having celiac disease (gluten-free diet) or various cultural restrictions. This is not the same as dieting to control how much food you eat. People with these types of diets can still get all the nutrients their body needs, enjoy food, and eat well – though it may take a bit more planning and effort.
People with medical conditions that require specific dietary restrictions should consult with a dietitian before making any big changes to their diet. No matter what your diet is, focus on choosing a variety of nutrient-packed foods to support your well-being long term.
The Influence of Food Marketing
It’s also important to be aware of food marketing and how it can influence your food choices. Food marketing is advertising (for example: through celebrities, social media, commercials, product placement) that promotes the sale of certain food products. This type of marketing can be aimed at youth to make certain foods look desirable, delicious, and even cool. When buying food, be aware of how food marketing may be influencing your food choices by asking yourself a few questions:
- Why do I want to buy this food or drink? (for example: Will it make me feel good? Is it nutrient-packed? Is it cool?)
- Where did I get these ideas from? (for example: social media, commercial, from reading this page, etc.)
- How could I learn more about this food before making my decision? ( for example: talk to health professional, research online, talk to friend or family)
Take a look at what you’re choosing to eat, how much you’re eating, how often, and your overall way (or pattern) of eating. Try to focus on how you feel, eating enough and eating a variety of foods that you enjoy.
What about water?
Did you know our bodies are well over 50% water? Staying hydrated is important for your health. Drinking fluids helps replace the water that is lost in our bodies through sweating, breathing, and going to the bathroom.
All non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages will help increase your fluid intake. However, some are more expensive, or may contain salt, sugar and other ingredients that can impact how you feel and your overall well-being. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drink them, but be aware how much you drink them and how often you turn to these drinks over water when you’re thirsty. Water is a great way to quench your thirst, improve your mood and mental clarity, and maintain your overall well-being.
A common recommendation is to drink six to eight 250 mL (8 fl oz) glasses of water every day. But this can vary based on many factors, including your health, how much you exercise, and how hot and dry it is where you live.
Tips to help you drink water during your day:
- Drinks can be hot or cold
- Decaf tea & decaf coffee count
- Carry a reusable water bottle
- Drink water with your meals
- Drink carbonated water (plain or with natural flavours)
- Drink water before, during and after physical activity
- Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge or on the table for easy access
- Add some natural flavor to your water such as lemon juice or berries and mint
Learning more about food and nutrition can support you in eating well and maintaining your well-being. Being mindful of your food and drink intake can help you make choices that feel good for you and your body. Remember, don’t be too hard on yourself. It takes time to learn, make changes that are important to you and form lasting habits.
Information about body image, disordered eating and eating disorders and how to find support and resources is available here.
Want to explore and learn more? Here are a couple options that will help you.