Five tips to help you stick to a healthy diet

Healthy diet of vegetables on a plate
By Adam Hunter

If you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet so your body gets the nutrients it needs. But that can be hard to accomplish when life gets busy or when your disease leaves you feeling fatigued. But with a little planning, you can stay well-nourished. We spoke to two inspiring individuals living with inflammatory bowel disease, Gabriel Tobias and Andrea Bosco, to find out what they do to maintain a healthy diet.

Gabriel is a 2015 AbbVie IBD Scholarship recipient, a medical student, a personal trainer, and a former forest firefighter. Andrea is a full-time yoga instructor and the owner of Gateway Yoga. The new year is an opportune time to get your dietary house in order, and if eating better is one of your resolutions for 2017, here are some tips.

Cook a week’s worth of meals on the weekend. It can be a hassle to come home from an exhausting day at work or school and then have to make dinner. If you do most of your cooking for the week ahead of time, you’ll have no need to drop by the drive-thru.
Since you likely have more time and are better rested on weekends, you can use that extra time and energy for meal prep. After you’ve made your meals, put them into microwave-safe containers and pop them in the freezer. When you get home, you’ll just have to heat them up.

“Typically, I’ll make a big batch of spaghetti sauce or a stew and freeze half of it so I don’t have to eat the same meal for weeks on end,” says Gabriel. 

Make produce readily available. Having to wash, cut, and skin fruits and vegetables can deter you from eating them, but you can get around this by stocking up on frozen produce. Frozen produce is pre-rinsed, pre-chopped, and can potentially contain more nutrients than fresh fruit and veggies, according to studies done at Leatherhead Food Research and the University of Chester. You can thaw fruit in the fridge and cook vegetables right from frozen if you can’t eat them raw.  

If you still prefer fresh produce, you can chop it all at once and store it in containers or opt for pre-washed salad mixes. You can also purchase fruits and vegetables that require less prep work, like apples or baby carrots.

“Filling your fridge and pantry with healthy foods, like produce, prevents you from going for the quick, easy, unhealthy items,” says Andrea. 

Get groceries delivered to your door. There are companies and grocery stores out there that will deliver fresh food straight to your home. Although it can be an added expense, you won’t have to worry about spending time grocery shopping, or venturing out if you’re feeling tired. 

Some services will deliver whatever produce is in season, introducing items you may never have tried before. If you know what foods aggravate your symptoms, you can tailor a specific grocery list that you know works well with your gut.

“You can even order groceries online at large supermarkets and then pick them up,” says Andrea. 

Use a slow cooker. Despite its name, a slow cooker can actually save you time. Before heading off to work or school in the morning, throw the ingredients of your desired dish in the pot, turn it on, and leave it be. Decide what you’re going to make the night before and have the recipe out and ingredients ready. When you come home in the evening, you’ll be greeted by the aroma of a home-cooked meal you just have to serve and enjoy.

“With my slow cooker, I’ll make stews, soups, and roasts because they’re easier on my GI tract. They’re a good way to get your veggies in if you can’t eat them raw,” says Gabriel.

Treat yourself 20% of the time. “I stick to the 80:20 rule, which means I eat healthy 80% of the time and eat what I want the other 20%,” says Gabriel. “That way, I don’t get constantly stressed about what I eat. It’s important to go easy on yourself once in a while.” 

Next time you find yourself in a situation where you're short on time but still want to eat well, keep all or some of the above tips in mind. You’ll be amazed at how simple it can be to stick to your dietary resolutions.

  • Canada has among the highest incidence rates of Crohn's and colitis in the world.
  • 1 in 140 Canadians lives with Crohn’s or colitis.
  • Families new to Canada are developing these diseases for the first time.
  • Incidence of Crohn’s in Canadian kids under 10 has doubled since 1995.
  • People are most commonly diagnosed before age 30.

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