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Canadians are known for their history of food traditions and their love of comfort food. Unfortunately, many of our favorite dishes, such as bannock, poutine, and Nanaimo bars, lack nutritional value because they are full of unhealthy ingredients like salt, fat, and sugar. While these foods are delicious, they are not particularly good for us. By learning the principles of making healthier choices, and by finding ways to swap ingredients with more nutritional ones, we can still enjoy Canadian comfort food, but in a much healthier way!
Reasons to Eat Healthier
There are many reasons why eating healthier foods is crucial. Unhealthy foods can contribute to weight gain, leading to health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Additionally, unhealthy foods can also lead to poor nutrition. Not getting enough nutrients in your diet can cause health problems like fatigue, hair loss, and decreased immunity. Finally, eating unhealthy foods can also impact your mental health. Studies have shown that people who eat a lot of junk food are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.
How to Make Canadian Comfort Food Healthier
When thinking about cooking up some Canadian comfort food, you could consider some simple ingredient swaps that help cut down on sugar, salt, and fat consumption, for example:
- Choose leaner protein sources to reduce fat
- Add vegetables to boost the nutritional value
- Swap sugar for low-calorie sugar substitutes
- Replace butter with low-fat Greek yogurt or olive oil
Here are some examples of 3 traditional Canadian foods that could be made healthier and more nutritious with a few simple ingredient swaps:
Traditional poutine is made using deep-fried French fries. A healthier version of this popular Canadian comfort food could be made by using roasted potato wedges with just a spray of oil, or even oil-free for less fat. The cheese sauce could be made dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, low in fat, and lower in calories compared to “real” cheese. Add in a few vegetables for good measure, and you have a healthier option with possibly more flavor as well.
Bannock is a delicious form of bread that served as a staple in the diets of fur traders and early settlers. Bannock is often deep-fried and made with lard, so it isn't exactly the most healthy comfort food. Bannock could be made more nutritious by incorporating whole wheat flour into the recipe to add fiber. You could use plant-based fat, like vegetable oil, instead of lard to make it more nutritious. Add oats, berries, or dried fruit for additional nutrients. But remember portion control!
Canadians love the Nanaimo Bar as a comforting and indulgent dessert named after the city of Nanaimo in British Columbia. It is wickedly high in calories and is made from high-fat ingredients like butter, heavy cream, and chocolate. Some easy ways to make healthier Nanaimo Bars without sacrificing taste are to replace the butter with healthier fats from nuts and coconut oil, and to replace the sugar with naturally sweetened dates.
- Healthy Nanaimo Bar Recipe - Live Simply Healthy
A healthier and vegan version of the Canadian classic Nanaimo Bar! These Healthy Vegan Nanaimo Bars are gluten-free, refined sugar-free, and vegan.
10 More Smart Choices for Healthier Canadians
In conjunction with making some nutritious ingredient swaps, following these ten tips can help you enjoy Canadian comfort food while making healthier choices:
- Cook at home more often. Homemade meals are typically healthier than restaurant meals, as you can control the ingredients and cooking methods.
- Eat less processed food. Processed foods are often high in unhealthy additives like salt, fat, and sugar. Choose fresh or minimally processed foods instead.
- Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Aim to consume at least five servings per day.
- Choose leaner protein sources. Salmon, chicken breast, and tofu are all excellent sources of protein that are relatively low in fat.
- Reduce your intake of saturated and trans fats. Saturated and trans fats can increase your risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions. Limit your intake of these types of fats by avoiding processed meats and full-fat dairy products.
- Cut down on added sugar. Added sugar is a major contributor to weight gain and can lead to health problems like diabetes and heart disease if consumed in excess. When choosing packaged foods, opt for those with no added sugar or sweeteners.
- Drink plenty of water. Water is essential for good health, yet many people don't drink enough each day. Make a point to drink eight glasses of water daily, or more if you are active or live in a hot climate.
- Get active for 30 minutes every day. Regular physical activity has numerous health benefits, including reducing your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
- Make sure you're getting enough sleep. Getting enough sleep is critical for overall health and well-being. It can be helpful to eat the correct foods in the evenings to prepare your body for sleep. Here are eight foods you can eat before bed to help you sleep.
- Manage stress. Managing stress can be difficult, but it's essential for both physical and mental health. Try yoga or meditation, journaling, or spending time in nature to help reduce stress levels.
Comfort food is a staple in Canadian cuisine, and while there are many unhealthy options, it's possible to make healthier choices without sacrificing taste. By making small changes to traditional recipes, adding more fruits and vegetables, and choosing leaner protein sources, you can enjoy Canadian comfort food while making healthier decisions. Follow these tips and tricks to create your own delicious and nutritious menu.
Sources and Further Reading
- Canadian Cuisine - Wikipedia
Canadian cuisine consists of the cooking traditions and practices of Canada, with regional variances around the country.
- 10 Quintessentially Canadian Foods - Sobeys Inc.
10 Quintessentially Canadian Foods · 1. Bannock · 2. Nanaimo Bars · 3. Maple Syrup · 4. Saskatoon Berries · 5. Caesars · 6. Ketchup Chips · 7. Montreal Smoked Meat · 8. Lobster · 9. Donairs · 10.Poutine
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Louise