Healthy Eating for Your Active Lifestyle

With the approach of the New Year and thoughts of resolutions and diet overhauls, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by marketing schemes promoting the latest nutrition cure-all. By paying attention to some of the trendy nutrition buzzwords, you can avoid getting caught up in the hype, and instead focus on sustainable, evidence-based nutrition tips.


From acai to spirulina to goji berries, the wellness industry loves promoting “superfoods” for health. While it’s true that many of these foods are packed with nutrients, they’re often much more expensive than their less-exotic, grocery store counterparts. Instead of focusing on the latest superfood to make headlines, focus on adding “everyday superfoods” – such as oats, spinach and pulses – to your diet. You’ll save money while reaping the benefits of nutrient-packed choices.


Both organic and conventionally-produced foods provide the nutrients needed for a healthful, balanced diet. Testing has shown that 99% of food samples have pesticide residues well below acceptable levels (i.e. levels that are safe for human consumption). If you can afford to buy organic foods, there’s no harm in doing so. But know that if you’re buying conventionally-grown foods, you’re getting the same nutrients and benefits as you would with organic foods.

Eliminating food groups

Unless you have a medical reason for eliminating certain foods (e.g., if you have Celiac disease or severe food intolerances and allergies), there is no scientific evidence to show that excluding entire food groups improves health. In fact, restrictive diets are often associated with eating disorders, and can lead to inadequate consumption of nutrients. Plus, many people find that restrictive diets simply aren’t sustainable. The recent DIETFITS study studied the effects of a low-fat diet vs. a low-carbohydrate diet on weight. The study showed that after 12 months, both study groups lost similar amounts of weight.  The study also showed that although both diets produced similar weight loss, the people who achieved the most success were those who could stick with an eating pattern. In other words, for any way of eating to improve health, it needs to be something you can see yourself doing long term.


Detox diets and cleanses are often promoted to help with weight loss. However, our bodies don’t ever need to cleanse – our liver, kidneys, skin, lungs and digestive tract take care of that for us. Plus, the longer the cleanse, the more risk of nutrient and vitamin deficiencies. In addition, the naturally-occurring sugar in the juices often used with cleanses can lead to blood sugar spikes and subsequent crashes. While it’s true that going on a “cleanse” may lead to short-term weight loss, this is mostly due to water loss. Instead of shelling out hard-earned cash for a short-term fix, focus on drinking enough water, getting enough sleep and letting your body do the detoxing for you – for free!

Immune boosting

While eating a diet rich in vitamins, minerals and probiotics can help support immune health, no single food can be considered “immune boosting” on its own. Although it’s tempting to rely on single foods or supplements to help keep your immune system strong, there’s little evidence to suggest that this has any real benefit to immune health. Instead, aim to include a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, dairy, whole grains, pulses and meats to ensure your body is getting all the nutrients and energy it needs to fight off those winter colds.


Being labeled “natural” makes a food sound healthy without necessarily telling you about the food itself. But, what is natural? This term is not heavily regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). However, the CFIA does provide guidelines for minimum and maximum processing of foods labelled as natural. These processes are typically used to ensure the food is safe and to extend shelf-life without significantly changing the food from its original state. 

Processed foods, such as canned tuna or frozen vegetables and fruit, can be an important part of a balanced diet, especially for people who may not be able to afford or access fresh foods or those labeled natural.

If you’re looking for less processed foods, look at the ingredient list on the label. Typically, a shorter ingredient list means less added sugar, salt and preservatives.

The bottom line

Nutrition buzzwords are often marketing tools that encourage you to buy a company’s products. However, these foods may not provide extra benefit over regular grocery store foods. While science might not sound as attractive as sensationalized media headlines, the simplest advice for healthful eating is grounded in current peer-reviewed evidence.


Are you looking for practical nutrition tools for your clients? Log in to the AFLCA/YMCA and members section of the website and order free resources today!


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Sarah Morland, RD

Registered Dietitian

Sarah (BSc, RD) is an Edmonton-based registered dietitian and blogger for Nourish Move Thrive. She believes that food should nourish both the body and soul, and that physical activity should be fun. She enjoys debunking nutrition myths and translating scientific evidence into practical advice.

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