COLUMN: A Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Eating This Spring

Whether you’re packing lunch for a picnic at Couchiching Beach Park or packing dinner for the family, a local Registered Dietitian has some helpful tips.

The following article was contributed by Brittany McMullan, Registered Dietitian at Zehrs Orillia.
As members of the Orillia community prepare for spring, Nutrition Month is a great time to think about the foods that fuel our bodies. There is a plethora of nutritional information out there, so it can be hard to know where to start.

Whether you’re packing lunch for a day trip to Couchiching Beach Park or packing dinner for the family, here are my 101 nutrition tips for making informed food choices.

Read food labels before buying

By law in Canada, all prepackaged foods must include a label indicating the nutrient content. The labels are there to help you make informed choices, and the packaging provides information on serving sizes, calories, certain nutrients, and percent daily values ​​(%DV). Five percent DV or less is a little, while 15% DV is a lot. Try to get more fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and calcium. Aim for less fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and cholesterol.

Adopt the “healthy plate” approach

Canada’s Food Guide emphasizes eating a variety of healthy foods daily. To do this, your “healthy plate” should be half vegetables and fruits, one quarter protein-rich foods, including an emphasis on plant-based protein in addition to traditional protein sources, and the remaining quarter must consist of whole grain foods. You should also make water your drink of choice, but feel free to get creative by adding fruits and vegetables to boost the flavor.

Prepare more meals at home

Including more home-cooked meals in your diet helps you understand what ingredients and nutrients are used in your meals. This will help you reduce the number of added sugars and salts often found in prepared foods. Another bonus? It can be a huge money saver to cook your own food.

I’m here to help if you’re looking for additional support in understanding nutrition and developing your nutrition goals. As your local dietitian at Zehrs Orillia, I can work with you one-on-one to develop a unique, easy-to-follow plan. To book a virtual appointment with me, go to

Here is a healthy recipe to try:

Quinoa Porridge with Ginger Maple Syrup and Pumpkin Cranberry Topping


1 package (225g) quinoa

2 cinnamon sticks

2 thin slices root ginger, peeled (pieces about 1/8-inch/3 mm thick)

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups of milk of your choice

1/4 cup pure maple syrup (for the porridge)

1 cup pure maple syrup (for garnish)

1/4 cup coarsely chopped peeled ginger root

1/4 pumpkin seeds, toasted

1/4 dried cranberries


Make porridge: In a large saucepan, combine quinoa, cinnamon, ginger, salt, milk, maple syrup and 2 cups water; bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until quinoa is very tender.

Meanwhile, prepare the maple syrup with ginger: In a small saucepan, combine the maple syrup, ginger, salt and 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small pitcher. Discard the ginger.

Prepare toppings: In a small, dry skillet, cook pumpkin seeds over medium-high heat for 5-8 minutes, stirring constantly, or until puffy and golden brown. Costs. In a small bowl, combine seeds and cranberries.

Discard the cinnamon sticks and ginger and pour the porridge into six bowls. Serve with ginger maple syrup and pumpkin seed mixture.

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