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Roasted Brussels Sprouts Recipe

Big white bowl filled with roasted Brussels sprouts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Husband: I think we’ve OD’d on Brussels sprouts these past few months.

Me: No such thing! And I proceed to serve up a 15″ x 21″ tray of roasted Brussels sprouts! Haha!

Ok, to be honest, we HAVE been eating A LOT of Brussels sprouts, pretty much since Thanksgiving in October. Because I make a big batch all at once, we’re eating them a few times each week.

But can you blame me?

These little green gems are nutrition powerhouses – packed with fibre, beta-carotene, vitamin C, folate, potassium and even vitamin K!

Plus they’re sooo easy to make! Try it and let me know what you think!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Recipe

1. Cut Brussels sprouts in half or quarters.

2. In a large bowl, toss Brussels sprouts with olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

3. Place Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet. Bake at 400F for about  30 minutes or until lightly charred around the edges. (I bake them just a bit longer because I like the loose leaves to get crispy.) Enjoy!

[Image: Canva]

 

4 trends that will change what we eat in 2021

White cloth grocery bag filled with items including baguette, lettuce, red pepper and carrot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome 2021! With the COVID-19 pandemic still looming, our eating habits will continue to be shaped by a focus on comfort foods and a desire to keep our immune systems strong. The United Nations’ declaration of International Year of Fruits and Vegetables, along with a passion for planetary health are also driving what we put in our grocery bags.

1. Comfort Foods 

The winter is typically a time when we crave comfort foods because the days are shorter and there’s less sunlight. With the added stress of lockdown and quarantine, comfort foods will be here to stay for a while.

Comfort foods can be anything that makes you feel good and gives you a sense of safety during these times of uncertainty. Comfort foods can be nostalgic and bring back good memories.

Often, comfort foods contain carbs because eating carbs triggers the production of serotonin which is the neurotransmitter that helps us feel happy and calm.

Expect to see more comfort food offerings in grocery stores, meal kits and take-out menus.

Sue’s tips: Be kind to yourself. Comfort foods are called comfort for a reason. Think of other activities and hobbies that can also provide comfort and wellbeing – like walking the dog, yoga, meditation, and getting enough sleep.

2. Foods to Support Our Immunity

 COVID-19 reminds us of just how important it is to take care of ourselves to prevent illness and keep our immune system strong. In addition to good hygiene and physical distancing, getting the right nutrition can help.

What’s really important to remember is that there isn’t one miracle food or one special nutrient that can “boost” your immunity. Instead, think of your immune system as a team with different players. The players are the nutrients that work together to keep your immune system strong and healthy.

Some important nutrients for immunity are:

Vitamin A & Beta-carotene – (beta-carotene gets converted into vitamin A) – beta-carotene is found in dark green and orange veggies like broccoli, spinach, carrots, butternut squash and sweet potatoes.

Vitamin C – found in foods like oranges, peppers, strawberries, broccoli, kiwi

Vitamin D – found in foods like eggs, milk, some yogurt, salmon, mushrooms

Zinc – found in foods like beans, nuts, seeds, meat, fish

Selenium – found in foods like Brazil nuts, oysters, canned fish, wheat germ

Protein – found in foods like eggs, beans, chickpeas, tofu, fish, meat, dairy –protein helps make antibodies to fight off foreign invaders in our body

Sue’s tips: Eat a variety of foods every day to get a good mix of nutrients. Talk to a dietitian or your health care professional if you’re thinking about taking supplements.

3. Fruits and Veggies

 2021 is the International Year of Fruits and Veggies, declared by the United Nations. We know that fruits and veggies are Mother Nature’s superheroes, playing an important role in preventing chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Fruits and veggies are also great sources of beta-carotene and vitamin C – two important nutrients for our immune system.

The World Health Organization recommends that we eat at least 400 grams of fruit and veggies every day – that’s about 5 servings a day. Canada’s food guide recommends that fruit and veggies make up half our plate.

Sue’s tip: Eat colourful fruit and veggies at every meal. Try them in different ways – raw, steamed, roasted, in soups, stir-frys or stews. Grow your own, buy local and buy in season.

4. Climatarian

A climatarian describes a person who is trying to fight climate change and stop global warming. The overall idea is to reduce your carbon footprint and reduce food waste.

According to research by the University of Guelph, families throw out over 3 kg of edible food each week which adds up to over $1,000 per year. Fruits, vegetables and leftovers are the most common types of foods that are wasted.

Generally speaking, a climatarian considers:

  • reducing food waste by using all parts of the plant or all parts of the animal when eating meat (e.g. use beet leaves in a stir-fry; use carrot leaves and veggie scraps to make a soup or broth; use citrus peel for zest)
  • choosing locally produced food (to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation)
  • choosing foods with minimal packaging, and reducing the use of plastics
  • choosing a sustainable method of transportation such as walking or cycling to get groceries

Sue’s tips: Reduce food waste and food packaging. Keep an inventory of the foods you have in the pantry and fridge. Use up what you have and buy only what you need.

[Image: Canva]

 

Understanding the Most Confusing Words at the Grocery Store

Person pushing a grocery cart with overlay text of title

 

Natural versus organic. Free run versus free range. Made in Canada versus Product of Canada. These terms can be oh-so confusing! We decipher these terms so that they all make sense!

Watch my TV interview on this topic (and see a few food examples) or read the details below.

Dietitian Sue Mah speaking to TV host Lindsey Deluce

Whole grain versus Multi-grain

Whole grain means that you’re getting all three parts of the grain kernel or grain seed. The three parts are:

  • Bran – this is the outside layer of the grain and contains most of the fibre as well as B vitamins and some protein
  • Endosperm – this is the middle layer and it’s the bigger part of the whole grain. It’s mostly carbohydrates with some protein
  • Germ – this is the smallest part of the grain kernel and is rich in B vitamins, vitamin E and minerals

On the other hand, multi-grain simply means that the product contains more than one type of grains, and they may or may not be whole grains.

Choose whole grains when you can for extra fibre and nutrition. Some examples of whole grains are oats, barley, corn, rye, brown rice and quinoa.

Grass fed versus Grain fed

These are terms that are sometimes used to describe the beef you can buy. All cattle eat grasses and forages which includes grasses, clover and alfalfa.

Grass fed beef means that the cattle was only fed grass or forages their entire life.

Grain fed beef means that the cattle were raised on grass or forages for most of their life and then grain finished. This means is that about 3-4 months before going to market, the cattle are fed a diet that is mostly grains like corn or barley. The grain helps to produce a more marbled quality grade of beef

When it comes to nutrition, both grass fed and grain fed beef are excellent sources of protein, iron and vitamin B12. Grass fed beef is leaner than grain fed beef, and may have slightly higher amounts of omega-3 fat and vitamin K. Some say that grass fed beef has a slightly different taste too.

Free range versus Free run

These are terms that are used to describe the eggs you buy.

Free run eggs come from hens that roam the entire barn floor, and some of these barns may have multi-tiered aviaries.

Free range eggs come from hens that also roam the entire barn floor. And when the weather permits, the hens go outside to pasture. So in the winter when it’s cold, access to outside may be limited.

From a nutrition point of view, there are no differences in the nutritional content of these eggs compared to regular eggs. All eggs are a super source of protein, iron, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.

Made in Canada versus Product of Canada

Made in Canada means that a Canadian company was involved in some of the food preparation.

Product of Canada means that all or nearly all of the food and processing used to make the food is Canadian. In other words, “Product of Canada” foods were grown or raised by Canadian farmers, and prepared / packed by Canadian food companies.

Natural versus Organic

Natural means that nothing has been added or removed. The food does not contain any added vitamins or minerals or artificial flavours or food additives. The food also has not had anything removed or significantly changed.

Organic refers to the way foods and ingredients have been grown and processed. For example, organic chicken means that the chickens were raised with a certified organic feed that contains no animal by-products or antibiotics. Organic also means that there are no artificial colours or flavours, no preservatives or sweeteners. The “organic” logo, shown below, can be used only on products that have 95% or more organic content.

logo for organic products; logo is top half of a red maple leaf above a green field

What to Look for in a Probiotic Supplement

Probiotics can have a number of health benefits ranging from reducing the symptoms of digestive disorders to supporting your immune system. Choosing a probiotic supplement though can be sooo confusing! Here are four dietitian-approved tips to help you find the best product.

Tip #1 – Look for a probiotic that is enteric-coated

The acid in our stomach can destroy probiotics. Enteric-coated probiotic capsules, like New Roots Herbal probiotics, are completely sealed allowing them to survive the acid in our stomach and make it all the way down to our large intestine / colon where probiotics do their beneficial work. Some other probiotics are “delayed release”, meaning that the capsules will open up slowly to release their contents. However, the delayed release may only last about 30 minutes. In this case, the probiotics can still be destroyed by the stomach acid and may not reach the small intestine to deliver full benefits. Another benefit of enteric-coated probiotics is that you can take them anytime, with or without food.

Tip #2 – Look for the bacteria count at the time of EXPIRY

Probiotics will list the bacteria count in Colony Forming Units (CFUs). The key is to make sure that the CFU count is guaranteed at the time of expiry, not just when they’re manufactured. Look for the phrase “Potency guaranteed at date of expiry” on the bottle or package.

Tip #3 – Look for probiotics in the refrigerated section

Probiotics by definition are living micro-organisms. Keeping probiotics in the fridge helps to preserve the lifespan of the bacteria. That’s why you’ll find New Roots Herbal probiotics in the refrigerated section at the natural products store. When you get home, remember to keep your probiotics in the fridge too!

Tip #4 – Talk to a dietitian or your health care professional

Probiotic supplements can contain billions of probiotics! The two most common groups of probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium – and there are different species and strains within these groups. Talk to a dietitian or your health care provider to figure out the best ones for you and your health concerns.

Watch my TV interview about Prebiotics and Probiotics  

TV host Annette Hamm speaking to dietitian Sue Mah

Disclosure: I have participated in a paid partnership with New Roots Herbal. Opinions in this post are my own. 

 

Peach & Tomato Summer Salad

white bowl with salad made from diced peaches and diced tomatoes, garnished with basil leaves

Celebrate Food Day Canada on August 1st with delicious, local peaches and nectarines! Prep time: 5 minutes

Peach & Tomato Summer Salad

Ingredients

2 peaches or nectarines (leave the skins on)

10 cherry / grape tomatoes or 1 small tomato

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp olive oil

Salt / pepper to taste

Fresh basil leaves for garnish

Directions

Dice the peaches and have the cherry tomatoes. Toss gently with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Add salt / pepper if desired. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Makes 2 small servings

5 Smart Snacks

5 snack ideas with images of each snack combination

Want to stay fueled and alert? My dietitian tip is to combine protein with produce at every snack! Protein foods give you staying power, satiety and alertness. Produce offers a medley of antioxidants to boost your health and wellness. That’s a powerful combo, right?

Try these snacks the next time you’re heading out on the trails, camping or even studying for exams. Which snack combo is your favourite?

 

 

 

Inside a Dietitian’s Fridge

TV host Dina Pugliese chatting with dietitian Sue Mah who is in her kitchen

The Chief Public Officer Theresa Tam is concerned that Canadians are reaching for “junk food and sweets” during the COVID pandemic. To help Canadians eat well and manage some of their stress, I shared a few of my key fridge staples on Breakfast TV Toronto.

Watch the interview by clicking either of the images below.

 

Dietitian Sue Mah talking about foods in her fridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: While this TV segment was sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, the information represents my own opinions and advice.

The Science of Comfort Foods

aerial image of kitchen counter filled with baking supplies like flour, eggs, and measuring spoons

[Image: Piktochart]

Can you believe that we’re into week 11 of quarantine now? We’ve been seeing plenty of homemade comfort food pics posted on Instagram lately. In fact, the hashtag #QuarantineBaking has over 208 THOUSAND posts and the hashtag #ComfortFood has over 7.1 MILLLION posts.

There has been so much about comfort food lately in the news too:

  • In Toronto, Bradley Harder started the #PandemicPieProject – he’s baked over 200 pies and given them away to members in his community;
  • In Halifax, Amy Munch who owns Cake Babes, a wedding cake shop, has now baked over 2000 cupcakes and delivered them to front line workers; and
  • In Italy, an 84-year-old Grandma is on lighting up YouTube, demonstrating her recipe for Lockdown Lasagna.

Here are 4 reasons why you might be reaching for those comfort foods right now.

Watch my 1 minute video below about The Science of Comfort Foods

 

1 – Comfort foods trigger dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that sends messages between the brain cells. Dopamine is all about motivation, reward and pleasure. It gives us a feel-good sensation. So when you eat a comfort food that tastes good and is rewarding, you get a rush of dopamine. Your brain remembers this connection between your behaviour (the comfort food you ate) and the reward (the positive feeling). You may be more motivated to continue that behaviour i.e. eat a comfort food because it gives you that feel-good reward. Some psychology researchers think that even ANTICIPATING eating certain foods generates dopamine. So just THINKING about eating a cinnamon bun or chocolate cake can trigger dopamine!

2 – Comfort foods gives us social connection

As a dietitian, I always say that food unites us. My dad is a chef and to me, food is an expression of love. I remember when Jamie Oliver was here in Toronto in 2015, promoting his new cookbook. When he stood up on stage, he said “Food can be a hug”.  Wow, don’t you agree – food can be as comforting as a hug. Some interesting research from the Universities of Tennessee and New York State in 2015 found that comfort foods remind us of our social relationships / and helps us feel less lonesome especially when we are isolated. Comfort foods offer a sense of belonging. So it makes sense that we’re turning to comfort foods during these times of quarantine and physical isolation. On top of that, baking and cooking together offers psychosocial benefits. Think of those virtual dinner parties or virtual cooking classes we’ve been taking – they keep us feeling connected even when we’re not physically together.

3 – Comfort foods are associated with positive memories and nostalgia

Very often, comfort foods remind us of our childhood or home or friends and family. Comfort foods may also be linked to special person like your mom, dad, Nona, Bubbe or Grandma. When we eat comfort foods, it brings pack happy memories from our past. Sometimes even the SMELL of comfort foods can trigger these positive memories. Psychological research shows that smells are powerfully linked to areas in the brain that are associated with memory and emotional experiences 

4 – Comfort foods can give us a little more certainty and routine.

In these times of uncertainty, making and eating comfort foods can offer a sense of structure and control. We have control over the foods we are making and eating, and we also have a little more control over how we feel. Our brain tells us that eating that piece of homemade bread or pasta will make us feel good.

 

If you’re eating for comfort, that’s completely OK. Be mindful of how often and how much. Practice other healthy lifestyle habits to beat stress – try yoga, meditation, a walk with the dog, listening to music or calling a friend. Stay safe and stay well!

 

Foods to Manage Stress

icons of bread, leafy greens, fish and cup of tea to accompany bulleted text

Can you believe that we’re into week 7 of physical distancing and the COVID quarantine? If you’re feeling stressed, you’re not alone.

In fact, a recent poll by Angus Reid found that 50% of Canadians say their mental health has worsened, feeling worried and anxious.

First of all, please know that there are many support resources available online to help you manage stress and anxiety during these tough times. Regular exercise, meditation and other healthy stress busting behaviours can help. Talk to a health care professional if you need some support.

As a dietitian, here are 5 key nutrients and foods to add to your plate which can help you manage stress.

Watch my TV interview here!

TV host Lindsey Deluce speaking to Dietitian Sue Mah, shown on a split sceren

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OR watch my 1-minute video clip below.

 

 

Carbs, especially whole grain carbs

Carbs help trigger the production of serotonin. This is the feel good chemical in the brain (a neurotransmitter). Serotonin is made in brain from the amino acid tryptophan. This is a small amino acid and has a tough time getting into the brain.

When you eat a meal that’s mostly carbs, it triggers the insulin to clear the bigger amino acids from your bloodstream, allowing tryptophan to get into the brain and make serotonin. Overall, serotonin helps you to feel calm.

Some good whole grain carb choices are:

  • brown rice
  • whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta
  • quinoa

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 also helps our body make serotonin. This vitamin is found in a wide range of foods, so it’s important to eat a variety of foods. Some of the best foods for vitamin B6 are:

  • chicken, turkey, meat, fish like salmon
  • chickpeas, pistachio nuts, sunflower seeds
  • potatoes, bananas, avocados

Magnesium

When we are stressed, our body (adrenal glands) releases cortisol which is a stress hormone. Cortisol actually depletes the body of magnesium. So we need to make sure we’re getting enough magnesium when you’re feeling stressed.

Some of the best foods for magnesium are:

  • leafy greens like spinach, kale and Swiss chard
  • nuts and seeds like almonds, pine nuts and sunflower seeds
  • whole grains like whole wheat bread (Fun fact: whole wheat bread contains 4x more Mg than white bread)
  • dark chocolate (a 30 g serving offers 15-20% of your daily requirements for magnesium!)

Omega-3 fats

You may already know that omega-3 fats are good for our heart health. But did you know that the animal sources of omega-3 fats also help to boost our mood!

Some of the best sources of omega-3 fats are:

  • fatty fish like salmon, trout, arctic char, sardines. Try to eat fatty fish at least twice a week.
  • omega-3 enriched eggs

Tea

Tea contains a special amino acid called L– theanine. This actually triggers the release of another neurotransmitter in the brain (called GABA or gamma-amino-butyric-acid) which gives you a relaxed feeling. Black tea, green tea, white tea and oolong tea all contain this special amino acid.

Stay well and stay safe. We are all in this together to get through the COVID-19 crisis.

 

 

Put the FREEZE on Food Waste!

tomato, onion, lemon and banana icons to accompany bulleted text

🌎 Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day!

One way to protect the planet is to reduce food waste by freezing leftover ingredients. It helps you save money too.

Here are some ingredients that I’ve been freezing a lot these days.

🍅 Tomato paste – Most recipes call for about 1 T of tomato paste. Freeze in ice cube trays or in 1 T portions. Ready for a tomato sauce or stew. Lasts 2-3 months in the freezer.

👍 Onions & Green onions – How many times have your green onions wilted in the fridge? Slice them or chop / dice onions and freeze them. Perfect for an omelet, casserole and fried rice. Lasts 10-12 months in the freezer.

🍋 Lemon juice and Lemon zest – Why toss out flavour? Freeze these and add to salad dressings, pasta or baked items. Lasts 12 months in the freezer.

🌿 Herbs – Cut them and freeze in ice cube trays water, stock or even oil. Simply toss into soups or defrost for a salad dressing when needed. Lasts 2-3 months in the freezer.

🍌 Bananas – I love making banana bread, so any leftover bananas go straight into the freezer. You can freeze them whole with the peels on (the peels will turn black). Or you can peel the banana first and freeze slices. Thaw and add to baked goods or use frozen in a smoothie. Lasts 2-3 months in the freezer.

🍓 Berries – Freeze them in a single layer first and then place them in a container or bag. (If you freeze them all at once, they may clump together.) Perfect for smoothies or baking! Lasts 12 months in the freezer.

🍞 Bread – I slice it first and then freeze about 6-8 slices in a freezer bag. Same thing with bagels. This makes is so much easier to use or toast. Lasts 2-3 months in the freezer.

🍎 You can freeze so many other foods too! What’s your favourite item to freeze?

Happy Earth Day 2020!

 

[Freezer storage times – sourced from https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep-food-safe/foodkeeper-app]

 

 

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