The year 2021 was proclaimed by the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations General Assembly as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables . The purpose is to raise awareness on the important role of fruits and vegetables in human nutrition, food security and health, as well as in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The looming COVD-19 pandemic will continue to influence the foods we reach for in this year. Now more than ever, it’s important to fuel our bodies with good nutrition to keep us healthy and to help build our immune system.
Sue Mah is an award winning dietitian and Founder / President of Nutrition Solutions Inc., a global nutrition communications consulting agency. With a reputation for excellence, she is recognized as one of Canada’s leading media dietitians, nutrition writers and nutrition trends experts. In her role as a savvy media spokesperson, skilled nutrition communications consultant and inspiring presenter, Sue is a pro at translating nutrition science into insightful business advice and practical healthy eating advice for consumers.
In a recent article, Mah shares four trends that will change what we eat in 2021.
1. Comfort Foods
Who doesn’t crave comfort foods during the winter months? But with the added stress of lockdown, less sunlight and travel restrictions upon us, we can find ourselves reaching for more of these types of foods during this time. Mah expounds that comfort foods can be anything that makes you feel good and gives you a sense of safety during these times of uncertainty. Comfort foods could also be nostalgic and bring back good memories. Often, comfort foods contain carbs because eating carbs triggers the production of serotonin which is the neurotransmitter that helps us feel happy and calm. So go ahead, reach for those fluffly mashed potatoes or that bowl of fresh pasta!
Her advice: Be kind to yourself. Comfort foods are called comfort for a reason. Think of other activities or even hobbies that can also provide comfort and wellbeing – like walking the dog and getting a good night’s sleep.
2. Foods to Support Our Immunity
We are reminded during this time of pandemic how important it is to take care of ourselves to prevent illness and keep our immune system strong. In addition to good hygiene and physical distancing, getting the right nutrition can help.
Mah reminds us that there is no such thing as a “miracle” food or nutrient. Instead, she suggests to think of our immune system as a team of players, or in this case, a team of different nutrients working together to help us achieve good health and a strong immune system.
Some of the key players or nutrients that help build our immunity are:
- Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene – found in dark green and orange fruits and vegetables
- Vitamin C – found in citrus fruits, red peppers, strawberries, broccoli and kiwi
- Vitamin D – found in foods like eggs, milk, fortified orange juice, some yogurts and salmon
- Zinc – found in foods like beans, nuts, seeds, meat, fish
- Selenium – found in foods like Brazil nuts, oysters, canned fish, wheat germ
- Protein – found in foods like eggs, beans, chickpeas, tofu, fish, meat, dairy –protein helps make antibodies to fight off foreign invaders in our body
Her advice: Make sure you eat a variety of foods every day to get a good mix of these nutrients.
3. Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables are the superheroes of good nutrition. Evidence-based research supports that these nutrition powerhouses play an important role in the prevention of chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
The World Health Organization recommends that we eat at least 400 grams of fruit and veggies every day – that’s about 5 servings a day. Canada’s Food Guide recommends that fruit and vegetables make up half our plate.
Her advice: Eat colourful fruit and veggies at every meal. Try them in different ways – raw, steamed, roasted, in soups, stir-frys or stews. Grow your own, buy local and buy in season.
Need some recipe inspiration for adding more fruits and vegetables to your weekly menus? Look no further than the Ontario Produce & Marketing Association, Produce Made Simple! You’ll find lots of tips and mouth-watering recipes to add fruits and vegetables to boost your immune system.
4. Help Reduce The Carbon Footprint and Food Waste
A climatarian describes a person who is trying to fight climate change and stop global warming. The overall idea is to reduce your carbon footprint and reduce food waste.
According to research by the University of Guelph, families throw out over 3 kg of edible food each week which adds up to over $1,000 per year. Fruits, vegetables and leftovers are the most common types of foods that are wasted.
Generally speaking, a climatarian considers:
- reducing food waste by using all parts of the plant or all parts of the animal when eating meat (e.g. use beet leaves in a stir-fry; use carrot leaves and veggie scraps to make a soup or broth; use citrus peel for zest)
- choosing locally produced food (to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation)
- choosing foods with minimal packaging, and reducing the use of plastics
- choosing a sustainable method of transportation such as walking or cycling to get groceries
Her advice: Reduce food waste and food packaging. Keep an inventory of the foods you have in the pantry and fridge. Use up what you have and buy only what you need.
Want more information on how you can reduce your own food waste? Check out the Love Food Hate Waste Canada website for practical tips and recipes on how to do just that.
About Brant Food For Thought
Since 1998, Brant Food For Thought has been providing equitable access to whole fruits and vegetables and other healthy food choices for children and youth participating in school-based Universal Student Nutrition Programs in Brantford and the County of Brant.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the delivery of nutrition programs at this time. For the current school year 2020-2021, Brant Food For Thought has adopted a tiered-model of program service delivery to support students with healthy food options, whether they are learning in the school setting or virtually from home.
For more information on these programs and services, you can view the impact of our COVID Response Plan and how we’re reaching children and youth with our current delivery model here: Brant Food For Thought – PPT of SNP Delivery Models 2020-21.