The Porcupine Health Unit (PHU) is launching a Nutrition Month campaign this March focussing on the social aspects of food. Every day, dietitians in our communities help us unlock the potential of food to improve our lives and health, give us energy, motivate children and bring people together. This year’s campaign focuses on food’s potential to bring people together by enjoying meals with others.

According to the dietitians at the PHU, there are many benefits to eating with family and friends. For example, eating with others promotes healthy patterns, including eating more nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables as well as foods with more fibre, vitamins and minerals. People are then less likely to skip meals and eat unhealthy foods (like fried foods, sodas and foods high in saturated and trans fats).

“Eating with others encourages people to make connections, and strengthen relationships,” says Amy Boucher, a dietetic intern at the Porcupine Health Unit. She adds that this applies to families, the elderly and individuals living alone. “We encourage families to eat together regularly, and those who live alone to share mealtime with friends and participate in meal programs available to them.”

“Foods prepared outside of the home are typically higher in fats, salt and sugar,” says Victoria Hall, a Registered Dietitian at the Porcupine Health Unit. She notes that consuming these foods often raises the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Hall adds, “Healthy eating habits are more likely to be established through meal planning and cooking at home more often,” and that families can involve children in these activities to help them gain confidence in the kitchen, increase their knowledge about food and develop cooking skills to benefit them in the future.

Screen time during meals should be limited because of how it can affect our food preferences and choices. Watching television or playing on our phones at meal time is associated with distracted and mindless eating. Boucher explains that when we eat mindlessly, we don’t pay attention to what and how much of what we eat and tend to over eat unhealthy foods.

Canada’s new food guide, released earlier this year, also highlights the importance of eating with others, meal planning, cooking more often and limiting screen time during family meals.

The Porcupine Health Unit dietitians encourage you to have meals with family and friends more often, involve your children in food planning and preparation, plan for healthy meals and limit screen time during meals. To participate in this year’s Nutrition Month, visit the Porcupine Health Unit Facebook pages: PHU Connection and PHU Parents. Throughout the month of March, you can expect weekly posts with healthy recipes, information and tips on eating together for all ages.

The Porcupine Health Unit is located in Northeastern Ontario, serving the entire Cochrane District and Hornepayne, in Algoma District. The main office is located in Timmins, Ontario, with branch offices in Cochrane, Hearst, Hornepayne, Iroquois Falls, Kapuskasing, Matheson, Moosonee and Smooth Rock Falls.

Filed under: Local News