Dishing up good advice: tips for eating healthy at home

Cooking meals at home is one of the best ways to ensure healthy eating, says PSP Health Promotion nutritionist Laurie Barker Jackman, pictured here cooking with her son Max.
By Joanie Veitch,
Trident Staff

As the omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to push the number of cases in the region, it’s easy to feel discouraged and slip into unhealthy eating habits — especially as we enter the third year of the pandemic during the cold winter months. 

(We’re looking at you, storm chips!)

While we can’t change the situation with omicron, or how it’s affecting so much of our lives, we can take action and aim to eat healthier, says Laurie Barker Jackman, a health promotion specialist with PSP Health Promotion Services.

Barker Jackman is a registered dietitian who joined the PSP (Personnel Support Programs) division of Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services in October 2021. Having worked as a dietitian for more than 20 years, and a regular on-air columnist with CTV Morning Live Atlantic, Barker Jackman has lots of tips to help promote healthy eating. 

“Plan your meals, that’s the first thing to do. You will always eat better with a plan,” said Barker Jackman.

Planning has the added benefit of making grocery shopping easier and more efficient, as you know exactly what you need to buy and can make sure you have fresh ingredients on hand to repurpose any leftovers, she added.

“I recommend when making a meal that you double or triple-batch and freeze the extras — or freeze components of what you make — for later. This really takes the stress out of making meals, especially on the busier days, and it saves you money,” said Barker Jackman. 

The second thing to keep in mind is a visual of a dinner plate with various food groups on it; a simple strategy but a “game changer” for many people, according to Barker Jackman.

“A healthy plate is half fruits and vegetables, a quarter whole grains and a quarter protein foods. This balances out the macro nutrients — the carbohydrates, proteins and fibres — helping us feel full for longer,” she said. 

Eating at regular times is another top tip to keep in mind, said Barker Jackman, especially now with so many people working from home. “It’s easy to end up grazing all day long but having set meal times makes a huge difference — every three to five hours or so, but everyone is different.”

For snacks, she suggests fruit and vegetables and a source of protein, such as a handful of nuts.

Another key ingredient to healthy eating is making sure to stay hydrated, said Barker Jackman, noting that water is the best choice for hydration.

“Drinking water is so important. It helps keep every part of our body working. It helps flush waste and keeps us at the right temperature. When we get dehydrated we can feel tired and get a headache,” she said.

How much to drink varies, depending on things such as age and activity levels. A general guideline for most people is between nine to 12 cups.

And finally, while what you put into your body is obviously a large part of healthy eating, how you eat is equally important, she said.

“Be mindful about how you eat. Slow down, savour your food. Turn off the distractions and eat with your family or friends. It really makes a difference. You will feel more satisfied.