Tue. Jan 28th, 2020

Making healthy food choices at UTM

3 min read

Most of us have heard of the Wellness Hub in passing, but what we don’t realize is just how accessible it is. Enter Davis, and instead of turning right towards the new food court, turn left and the first door to your left is Room 2077A: The Wellness Hub!

True to its name, it’s a charmingly cozy room, perfect for modestly sized gatherings and intimate conversations. I happened to have the pleasure of experiencing one such meeting myself, having signed up for the Wellness Hub’s Wellness 101 Wednesday session last week, one of a series of workshops that takes place every Wednesday. The focus of this particular workshop was making healthy food choices on- and off-campus.

Leading this week’s session was UTM’s registered dietitian, Kimberly Green. Immediately, Green was warm and approachable, and the close-knit group at the Hub contributed to a relaxed session where we got to have a genuine conversation with her on how to be our healthiest, happiest selves.

The session started off with an introduction to the bedrock of healthy eating: Canada’s Food Guide. The food guide is essentially a graphic representation of how we should portion our daily food intake according to the three major food groups, with half the intake being devoted to fruits and vegetables, and a quarter each to proteins and whole grain foods.

There’s also a corner dedicated to reminding us to make water our ‘drink of choice.’ By no means is the guide the whole story in choosing our diet, but it is a fairly reliable reference point to begin with. In fact, Canada’s Food Guide is a readily available online resource that provides not only the above-mentioned graphic, but also delicious recipes, tips and tricks that make transitioning into a healthier lifestyle all the more fun and easy. You can check it out at canada.ca/foodguide, whether you’re a beginner or just looking for cool new recipes.

The conversation continued with a series of questions from the workshop participants. For example, how much water should an individual drink? Green’s tip of the day was to focus on your body’s signals, so if you’re thirsty, don’t ignore it. We also talked about the quantity of sugar, and the recommended daily amount. Ideally, individuals should have between 20-50 grams of sugar. This led to a related and heavily debated topic: the merits and demerits of artificial sweeteners. The consensus reached was that people should avoid certain products like Splenda and Sucralose, which have been observed to spike blood sugar, and choose more natural sweeteners like Stevia are safe alternatives. 

Green also gave us a rundown of our on-campus options. The newly renovated Food Court in Davis is a prime example of UTM’s efforts to accommodate people with dietary restrictions and allergies. Colour-coded food icons indicate vegetarian, vegan, halal, and gluten-free, among other dietary options. She was quick to emphasize the need for vegetarians and vegans to incorporate meat-alternative proteins such as lentils as well, rather than leaving proteins out entirely.

On another note, the department behind our dining experience, UTM Hospitality, is constantly looking for new ways to improve and expand. They are looking for feedback from students, and can be reached at hospitality.utm@utoronto.ca. After all, as Green said, we usually “vote with our dollars,” so if we keep paying for unhealthy foods, those are the kinds of options UTM will invest in.

 At the end of the day, university life is demanding, and self-care may inadvertently take the backseat. But it’s never too late. Green said one thing that really resonated with me: “Our body is resilient. Our body is forgiving.”

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