Healthy eating habits for newcomers

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With the stress that comes with immigrating to a new country, nutrition often takes a back seat. Not surprisingly, poor health ensues and the “healthy immigrant effect” takes place. While there are many good resources on healthy eating, newcomers to Canada might find the types of foods available, and even shopping at supermarkets, a bewildering experience! How can you incorporate new foods to keep you and your family healthy?

Shop right and experiment

The local supermarket is full of healthy foods. We just need to know where to look for them! The bakery, dairy, meat and fresh produce sections are usually located around the perimeter of grocery stores. You will also notice that there are a lot of ‘organic foods’ available, ranging from vegetables to meats and dairy. Many people prefer these because they are grown or produced without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or growth hormones and must pass strict regulations in order to be certified. This is why they are, more often than not, more expensive than non-organic foods. However, the debate is still on whether organic is considerably better for your health or not. Read Is organic food healthier? to know the pros and cons.

If you are unfamiliar with a certain type of food, research recipes online or ask someone how they would cook it. The Immigrant Centre and Mary Jane’s Cooking School offer classes on cooking and nutrition. Don’t forget to check out the leisure guide for cooking classes offered by the City of Winnipeg. Attending cooking classes is an excellent way to learn about new types of foods, practice your English language skills, and make friends.

Manitoba is also home to many ethnic restaurants and ethnic food stores. Most of them offer foods from certain regions or cultures. But wherever you shop, it is important to stay away from pre-packaged products as much as possible. Having a good mix of healthy foods available in the local supermarkets and from your culture will go a long way in keeping you healthy. Remember to have fun experimenting!

Budgeting matters

Price is an important factor when shopping for groceries. Look for flyers and coupons in the mail or newspaper. Another way is to buy store/generic brands which offer value for your money. Read this article entitled “How to grocery shop on the cheap” for more tips on shopping wisely at the grocery store. If you are struggling with the cost of food, you can visit a food bank to support you through a difficult period. All you will need to bring is your Manitoba health card.

Nutrition for kids and shift workers

If you have young children, it can be challenging to convince them to try new foods. Getting children to help out with food preparation is a great way to get them involved in healthy eating and it also gives you a chance to pass down recipes from your culture. You can talk to your children about any new foods they’ve tried at school and try out new foods together as a family. Presenting the food in a fun way and having a positive attitude to healthy eating will help as well.

If you have shift work, it can have an impact on your overall health and well-being as it disrupts your internal clock. Shift workers tend to adopt eating habits that can be unhealthy to combat the feeling of fatigue or sleepiness while working at night. The article How to eat healthy with shift work provides great nutrition strategies. If you or a family member work shifts on the road, it would be helpful to know some nutrition tips. In all cases, being prepared with nutritious foods and snacks is a considerable factor in staying healthy.

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Community Resources

Home & Family has many resources for newcomers. Know what fruits and vegetable are in season in the prairies, where to find community gardens, nutrition programs, and other resources.

The Child Nutrition Council of Manitoba supports breakfast, snack and lunch programs for school aged children. Click on the resources section for handbooks and guidelines.

If you live in Winnipeg and would like to speak to someone about your diet, contact a community nutritionist.

The College of Dietitians of Manitoba offer many excellent resources on their website. You can also contact them if you need to speak to a dietitian.

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