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Best food choices for a new decade

The beginning of a new decade sounds like a good time to reflect about our little planet... While we slowly try to get out of the economic recession and President Obama works at putting together a health insurance program for his fellow citizens, our world leaders are trying to agree on a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, we, as paddlers can use this special time in the calendar to think about how we can start this somewhat exciting period on the right edge.

Food is at the heart of everything

Food is certainly a good way to try to improve one’s well-being as well as the planet’s; because by reassessing our diet and taking better care of our health through food we also reduce our health problems and, at the same time, the burden on our health care systems, no matter where we live in the world. By buying local, not only do we encourage the economic growth of our communities, but we also contribute to reduce a fair percentage of pollution linked to food transportation around the globe. By using organic and less transformed ingredients that are pesticide free, we help protect our soils and our biodiversity and we absorb more nutrients. And by choosing to eat less red meat and more plant based proteins, we help our arteries stay young and strong while also decreasing significantly the pollution that is linked to the livestock industry. So here are a few food choices that, as members of the ever growing paddling community worldwide, we can make to start this new decade under the best possible skies.

10 good food resolutions

  1. Eat less red meat and more plant-based proteins These years, sustainability is one of the most often-used words among food professionals and chefs. Simple individual choices can have a big impact: consider switching two days a week for a diet that’s rich in plant-based proteins such as legumes, whole grains, nuts, organic soy (tofu, edamame beans, soy milk). This will substantially reduce the amount of saturated fats in your diet (linked to heart disease and certain cancers). Believe it or not, it will also save the equivalent of driving your car from New York to San Francisco in greenhouse gas emissions! Among good quality proteins from animal sources, eggs are also a good choice, as is lean poultry, certain fish and seafood and no fat or low fat cheese.
  2. Chose fat wisely It's not the amount of fat that we eat that is most important to monitor, but rather the type of fat. Trans fat made with hydrogenated vegetable oil still found in many industrially made cookies and pastries and vegetable or lard shortening are to be avoided at all cost because they rapidly clog your arteries. Saturated fats (from animal sources other than fish and the ones made with palm or coconut oil) should also be strictly monitored in order to maintain good health. On the other hand, good quality fat rich in mono and poly-unsaturated fats are essential for optimal health. Best choices are extra-virgin olive oil, organic canola oil, avocado, unsalted nuts and seeds, all natural peanut butter, and oil found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, herring or tuna.
  3. Eat whole grains Because they are rich in fibers (and help regulate blood sugar and limit cravings), minerals and other important nutrients such as proteins, whole grains are a good choice over refined cereals for your health. It’s also wise for the environment since whole foods are always less polluting than processed ones. Not to mention that the choice is so wide! Try cracked wheat in your salad or as a breakfast cereal, oatmeal, quinoa, whole barley, brown rice and organic wild rice, whole wheat, spelt or buckwheat flour, etc. Buy bread made with 100 % whole grains too.
  4. Love your fruits and veggies A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is a must to keep your energy level high and to help prevent cravings. 5 to 10 portions a day is a number that’s easier to achieve than one might think. Add a banana in your morning cereals, a handful of dry fruits for snack during your morning kayak session, an apple with your lunch and you’ve got your fruit ratio for the day. Fix yourself a big salad with a variety of greens, carrots, cucumbers and green onions for lunch, add a glass of tomato juice with some nuts for the afternoon snack, and complete with sauteed mushrooms and steamed green beans for dinner and voilà! Homemade vegetable soup is another easy way to achieve this goal. Or simply fix yourself a marinara sauce by sauteing onions, carrots, celery and broccoli in a bit of olive oil, add bottled tomato sauce and shrimps and serve over whole wheat spaghetti for a satisfying meal that’s loaded with veggies. Make sure to go for variety and different colors because each one is linked to specific nutrients that all play a major role in maintaining good health.
  5. Chose fish and seafood wisely Not only do we have to be careful about the type of fish we eat in order not to consume too much mercury, but we also need to learn which ones are acceptable options from an eco-friendly point of view. Small wild fish and seafood such as sardines, herring, mackerel, cold water shrimps, mussels, bay scallops are usually good choices. Tuna, swordfish, marlin are endangered species and, as predators at the top of the food chain, they are loaded with mercury. Wild salmon is better than farmed, which is true for most fish we consume. To learn more about the best options for our health and the ocean’s, check the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list: www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch
  6. Go easy on salt Although a bit of salt is important to maintain some vital functions, most of us tend to consume twice the 2300 mg of sodium daily (equivalent of one teaspoon of salt) that’s considered the safest requirement for good health. Too much sodium is linked to the hardening of blood vessels which, over time, may lead to hypertension and strokes. Avoid prepared foods (canned soups, fast food, chips, etc.) and read labels carefully. You’ll be amazed to discover that one large pickle amounts for your daily requirement for sodium... To give food flavour, use herbs, spices, lemon juice or garlic instead of salt. And the good news is that according to some studies, it takes no more than 3 weeks to lessen our dependency on salt.
  7. Make a rule of portion control It's a fact: larger portions served in restaurants as well as ready-to-eat food lead to overeating, which leads to weight gain. By practicing portion control you give yourself the best tool to stay slim and fit. To learn more about the size of a real portion, take the time to read labels.
  8. Plan for more small meals throughout the day When you go paddling it’s very important to eat on a regular basis in order to avoid fatigue, cramps and cravings. Food is fuel and fuel keeps you going as long as you fill your body on a regular basis (every two to three hours). Small meals are also easier to digest, which will help your performances to remain steady and on the right track.
  9. Buy local, less transformed food Because we care for our communities and for our planet it’s a sound, sensible choice to opt for as many ingredients from local suppliers. Of course, if you live in a northern region instead of California, your supply of produce might be limited during the cold season. Nevertheless, it’s easy to make a conscious decision to buy local by reading labels: apples, root vegetables, squash, whole grains, legumes, cheese, eggs, meat and fish are available throughout the year locally in most communities.
  10. Don't skip breakfast! Did you know that by skipping breakfast you are four times more likely to develop obesity? Not to mention cravings, fatigue and type-2 diabetes. Breakfast should provide at least 25 % of your daily caloric intake. A banana, a choice of granola bar or whole grain cereals with soy, cow milk or yogurt or two whole wheat toasts with low fat cheese or peanut butter and an orange are a good start. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of the first meal of the day to add a good dose of calcium, which strengthens bones, teeth and help fight obesity as well. But make sure you avoid sugary candy-type cereals or commercially made muffins (loaded with bad fats and sugar).

In 2010, let's eat healthy and paddle often!

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