Vegetables and fruit are an important part of healthy eating, according to Canada's updated food guide. Photo credit: Tanner Reil

Kerry Meyer, a first-year occupational therapist assistant/physiotherapist assistant student, is helping her parents though health struggles, raising two children and battling shoulder and knee injuries. The pandemic added another level of stress as she was already attempting to revive her healthy lifestyle.

“It’s just hard for me to get back on track with eating properly,” Mayer said. Now I find the cost of groceries has just skyrocketed, I think it went up about 300 per cent.”

Canada’s Food Price Report has forecasted Canadian families will pay up to an extra $695 for food in 2021, as pandemic grocery prices rise.

Living a nutritious lifestyle can be a struggle for Algonquin students and faculty alike, especially during pandemic times. Which is why the lessons and events from Algonquin College’s month-long efforts to promote heathy eating during March’s National Nutrition Month were especially important this year.

The month’s theme this year was “Healthy Eating Looks Different for Everyone.”

Health services and the health promotion team wanted to help the college community make mindful decisions when it comes to eating habits, taking into consideration cultural food preferences and budget-friendly choices.

“Healthy eating isn’t a perfect formula, you aren’t a robot,” said Ethan Brown, a level-four fitness and health promotion student. “My advice is to follow the 80/20 rule: 80 per cent of the time choosing things that are highly nutritious.”

The month kicked off with an Instagram video, followed by a social media campaign. Three events, one for students in residence and two online, also took place to inspire and educate participants.

The residence-exclusive event occurred on Monday, March 22, which taught students how to make easy but nutritious food swaps and make wine glass terrariums in the process.

“If you want to choose something more nutritious than mayonnaise for example, you look at the card and it says avocado,” said Rawan Dallasheh, the health promotion and education coordinator with health services.

On Wednesday, March 24, Algonquin presented an Indigenous-inspired cooking demonstration hosted by registered dietitian Tatiana Hunt. The recipes included a bannock burger, side salad and oatmeal chocolate lentil bites.

Finally, on Thursday, March 25, participants created spinning wheels representing complete nutritious recipes and ingredients alike, customizing their wheels to their tastes and diets.

“The idea is to have the spinning wheel, and target for example macaroni,” said Dallasheh. “Then you will pick a recipe related to macaroni to show what you can do from one nutritious ingredient.”

For people who may be struggling with remaining healthy and consuming enough nutrients throughout the day, an excellent practice to try is meal prepping ahead of time, suggests Dallasheh.

“I’ll go to the fridge, the possibility of picking anything which is considered not nutritious is really high,” said Dallasheh, who has begun meal prepping. “If I have some cooked and ready meals, I just pick them up and eat them.”

Dallasheh also suggests alternative snacking as an easy way to increase nutrient intake. Instead of chips, try vegetables and hummus. Many alternatives are also budget-friendly for students and easy to grab.

“You hear the saying ‘you are what you eat’ and it’s so true. It is your fuel,” said Brown. “But food isn’t just fuel, it also has a social and psychological aspect, you can celebrate with it and it can have nostalgia tied to it. Don’t be hard on yourself, understand there is more to food than just fuel.”