The snow is melting, the birds are chirping–it’s starting to smell like spring is in the air! It’s the month of March and we start cogitating thoughts of the annual spring cleaning in our lives. Time to clean the windows, freshen up the blinds, go through the closets, put away the winter wardrobe, plan a yard sale. Just the thought can be energizing!

Have you ever considered doing a spring cleaning for your health? Yes, your health!  Perhaps it’s time to take inventory of what you and your family consume on a daily basis and what changes you would like to make this year for better health.

All across Canada, the month of March is a time to celebrate and reflect on nutrition and its role in our lives. The Dietitians of Canada are challenging all Canadians this year to take the “100 Meal Journey Pledge” to make small changes one meal at a time. Maybe it’s time to “spring clean” the pantry and get rid of grain choices, such as cookies and crackers, that are high in fat and sugar and low in fibre or other essential nutrients. What about those sugar-laden drinks in the refrigerator? Did you know that the average can of cola or juice beverage packs about 10 to 11 teaspoons of sugar?

Fruit and Vegetables_grocery store

Consider spending a little extra time in the produce aisle of your favourite grocery store or a trip to the local farmer’s market and stock up on vegetables and fruit. Feeling brave? Try something new!

In need of some fresh ideas on how to use more fruits and vegetables and healthy grains in your weekly meal planning? Check out the Cookspiration tab on the Dietitians of Canada website for great recipes and ideas to suit every palate and every work week schedule.  The Brant County Health Unit offers reliable nutrition information and is a great resource for what matters to you and your family.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation also share some great tips and ideas for healthy eating made easy to help spring cleaning your health.

The push is on to get Canadians to increase their consumption of vegetables and fruit. Half Your was a website developed with families in mind who want to increase their consumption of vegetables and fruit yet are not quite sure where to begin.  The Canadian Produce Marketing Association, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Public Health Association and the Canadian Cancer Society have teamed up with a network of Public Health practitioners and other food industry specialists to spread the word to all Canadians about the role that veggies and fruits play in a achieving a healthier lifestyle. This website is brimming with healthy recipes and tips to help you do just that.

Start making small nutrition-related changes toward a healthier you and stick with it. According to the Dietitians of Canada, making too many changes at a time can be overwhelming and hard to maintain momentum. It’s better to make one nourishing change, one meal at a time, that will actually stick with you.

First, think about where you can make easy, positive changes to your eating habits. Here are some tips and ideas from their website that can make a big difference:
• Fill more of your plate with vegetables.
• Choose whole grain instead of white bread.
• Serve smaller portions.
• Enjoy fruit for snacks instead of sweet or salty treats.
• Drink water in place of sugary beverages, like pop or juice cocktails.

Check out these five facts sheets from the Dietitians of Canada website and gage your progress during the month of March.

Modelling healthy food choices in front of our children is a crucial part of ensuring that they have the tools to make healthy choices now and in the future. One of the key messages adopted by Brant Food For Thought is that student nutrition programs provide a supportive environment for modelling sound nutritional choices to children and youth in our school communities. Our volunteer driven programs expose students to a variety of foods, and in particular, to vegetables and fruit. Children can be persuaded to try new foods, even fruits and vegetables, when they see their peers at school trying them.

Children will come home asking their parents to buy a certain fruit or vegetable that they tried for the first time at their breakfast or healthy snack program at school. Cheryl Hewitson, Secretary and Student Nutrition Program Coordinator at St. Theresa School has observed this very thing first hand at their 5-day a week breakfast program at the school. “In order to get students to try new foods, we came up with ‘Try It Tuesdays'” says Hewitson. “We give students different foods for them to try, like kiwi, cauliflower, broccoli and hummus. I even had a parent call to find out what ‘green’ fruit we served at school since her son enjoyed it and wanted some for home. It turned out to be kiwi.” One parent observed, that their “son attends a school with a healthy snack program and has come home asking his parent to pack things like cherry tomatoes and hummus in his lunch.”

Planning meals to please the entire family can also be challenging at times. For your next meal planning, try some of these healthy and kid-friendly recipes from Eating Well.

Consistent healthy changes now will help to shape the future of your family’s health. Let’s get back to the basics with Canada’s Food Guide  for great food shopping tips, meal planning ideas and smart snacking advice. Start spring cleaning–for your health, and the health of your children, and feel the big difference small changes can make.