Blog / Recipes

My Chat with Canada’s Minister of Health

Sue + Minister of Health Ginette Jan 23 2019 - 1

I had a serendipitous meeting with the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Canada’s Minister of Health! She was entering the TV studio green room just as I was about to leave. We were both being interviewed (separately) about the new Canada’s Food Guide.

Here’s a note from our conversation.

Canada’s Food Guide is about the food experience – cooking and eating together, and enjoying food. “When I think about food, I think about family,” said the Minister. As the youngest of 9 kids, she remembers waking up to the smell of fresh bread baked by her mom.

I shared my own experiences. As a daughter of a chef, I grew up eating together with my family. We used our prized Chinese bowls and celebratory red chopsticks every day. We ate everything from apples and bok choy to ice cream and lobster. Food was delicious, wholesome and enjoyed without guilt.

Food unites us! The new Canada’s Food Guide reminds us to enjoy food, eat mindfully and eat with others. I like that message!

Written by: Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc

The NEW Canada’s Food Guide is here!

Plate

Today, Federal Minister of Health, Ginette Petitapas Taylor launched the new Canada’s Food Guide. The new Food Guide takes a modern approach to communicating guidance to consumers, health professionals and policy makers. This first suite of resources includes a document Canada’s Dietary Guidelines for Health Professionals and Policy Makers, as well as a Food Guide Snapshot.

Here’s just a sampling of what’s new in the Food Guide:

1. Positive key messages for Canadians in a modern format. Key messages are: Eat well. Live well. Eat a variety of healthy foods each day. The new Food Guide delivers healthy eating information in a mobile-friendly web application.

2. Beyond food. Healthy eating is more than the foods you eat. The new Food Guide offers advice on what to eat, what not to eat, and how to eat. Tips include cooking more often, eating meals with others, being mindful of your eating habits, enjoying your food, limiting foods high in sodium, sugars or saturated fat, using food labels, and being aware of food marketing.

3. Food groupings instead of food groups. Bye bye rainbow and the four food groups. A healthy meal is comprised of a variety of foods from three key food groupings: vegetables and fruit; whole grains; and protein foods. These foods should be consumed regularly.

4. Proportions not portions. There are no recommended servings to eat or serving sizes of food. A plate snapshot of the Food Guide gives at-a-glance information on what to eat. In the plate snapshot, 1/2 the plate is filled with vegetables and fruits; ¼ of the plate is comprised of whole grains; and ¼ of the plate is made up of protein foods.

5. Water is the beverage of choice. To help Canadians stay hydrated without adding calories to the diet, water is recommended. Alcoholic beverages are also flagged as potentially adding calories with little to no nutritive value.

The suite of online resources replaces the old “all-in-one” version of the previous Food Guides. More information and recipes are available from Health Canada. Additional consumer resources are expected to be released later this year.

Read about my chat with Canada’s Minister of Health, Ginette Petitpas Taylor about the new Food Guide.

Sue + Minister of Health Ginette Jan 23 2019 - 1

Dietitians are experts in translating the science of nutrition into practical healthy living messages for Canadians. Contact me for more a presentation or workshop about the new Canada’s Food Guide.

Written by: Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc – Founder & President, Nutrition Solutions Inc.

The new Canada’s Food Guide is coming soon – Here’s what you can expect

There’s been quite a buzz lately about the new Canada’s Food Guide, which should be released soon this year!

I recently shared my expert insights and answered consumer questions on CBC Morning Live national news. Check out my two interviews to get the full scoop!

Watch Interview Part 1

Watch Interview Part 2

Here are just a few expected highlights of the new Canada’s Food Guide:
– Recommendations on HOW to eat, not just what to eat or what not to eat.
– Recommendations to limit the 3 “S” – sugars, saturated fat and sodium.
– A focus on plant-based foods such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit.
– A new “protein” group which includes a variety of protein-rich foods such as beans, nuts, seeds, soy products, tofu, eggs, fish / seafood, lean red meats, lower fat milk and yogurt, and cheeses lower in sodium and fat.
– Consideration of other factors that affect our food choices such as food accessibility, food affordability and cultural diversity.

Interested in learning more? Contact me to book a Lunch and Learn presentation or seminar.

8 Ways to Get Through the Holiday Eating Fest

Take a deep breath, it’s December! The countdown is on for the holiday parties, cheery celebrations and food fest overload. So what can you do to enjoy the joyous season yet not overindulge? Here are my top eight tips.

1. Give yourself permission to enjoy. First of all, let go of the guilt. Follow the 80-20 rule: 80% of the time, choose the healthy fare; 20% of the time, enjoy your favourite indulgences – in moderation.

2. Be a picky eater. Do a once over of all the choices. In your head, rate each dish as either “I must try this!” or as “I can pass on this today.” Then, take a small portion of your top five “must try” foods, including at least one veggie dish. Go back for seconds only if the food was WOW!

3. Tell a story. You’ve heard that saying, “No talking with your mouth full”? Put it into practice now. Set your fork down, chat with others and tell a story. This slows down your eating and allows time for your brain to register that you’re getting full.

4. Chew your food. Research shows that chewing food up to 40 times before swallowing may actually help you feel fuller and eat less. Alright, this may not apply to that tiny shrimp appetizer, but the point here is to pace yourself and savour every bite rather than wolf down your food.

5. Power on with protein. Eat protein at each meal. You’ll feel full for longer and have sustained energy to keep up with the holiday hustle and bustle. Remember that milk and milk products provide high-quality protein too and can be easily included at brekkie, lunch, dinner, snacks and yes, even desserts! If you’re looking for festive-coloured, protein-packed recipes, try a hearty Lentil Kale and Feta Salad, or this refreshing Lemon Yogurt Cheesecake with Raspberries – both from www.dairygoodness.ca.

6. Eat until you’re 80% full. This is a practice in mindful eating. At 80% full, you don’t feel stuffed and in fact, you could probably eat a few more bites. But you’re no longer hungry and you don’t have to loosen your belt. Over time, you’ll get accustomed to eating to the 80% mark which can be a bonus if you’re watching your waistline.

7. Hold your drink / cocktail in your dominant hand.
This makes it trickier (and messier) to eat with your non-dominant hand while you’re socializing. Stick to Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines: no more than 3 drinks for women and 4 drinks for men on any single occasion. For each alcoholic drink, have a non-alcoholic one.

8. Use smaller plates and glasses. The bigger the plate, the more food we’ll pile on it. Research also shows that we drink more from short, wide glasses rather than tall ones. So use the short glasses for water and save the tall glasses for cocktails and sweetened beverages.

All the best for a happy and healthy holiday season!

(This story, written by Sue Mah, originally appeared in the Toronto Sun, Dec 8, 2017.)

Beware of Free Food in the Workplace!

Happy business colleagues having lunch on table at office cafeteria

Does your workplace offer free food at meetings,events or in the common area? Turns out that all of this free food can be adding about 1,300 empty calories to your week!

A one of a kind study in the USA analyzed the food and beverage choices of over 5,000 employees who either purchased food from on-site vending machines or the cafeteria, or obtained food for free in common areas, at meetings or at workplace social events. The preliminary results, presented at last month’s meeting of the American Society of Nutrition, found that nearly 25% of the employees obtained food from work at least once a week which added up to almost 1,300 calories by the end of the week. The bad news is that the food and beverages tended to be high in empty calories which contain little to no nutrition. Even worse news is that over 70% of the calories consumed came from free food that was offered in the workplace such as pizza, soda, cookies, brownies, cake and candy.

Bottom line:
About 87% of Canadian employees have personal goals to eat healthier foods. Workplaces can play a huge role in helping employees eat better and improve their food habits. Start by creating a workplace healthy eating policy to ensure access and availability of healthy options in foodservice, vending machines and at workplace meetings / events. We can assess your current offerings and help you build and implement a winning workplace healthy eating policy that will boost productivity and performance! Contact me for more details and / or to book an inspiring workplace wellness presentation for your team.

What’s the Latest Update on the Canada’s Food Guide?

canada's food guide better resolution

I was happy to attend the annual Dietitians of Canada conference in beautiful Vancouver last week and listened to a presentation by Ann Ellis – Manager of Dietary Guidance Manager at Health Canada – who shared the latest update on the revisions to Canada’s Food Guide.

Originally, the new Food Guide was supposed to be out by now, but Health Canada is waiting for additional data about Canadian’s eating habits, so the timelines have shifted.

Later this fall, Health Canada plans to launch a “Suite of Resources:

Canada’s Dietary Guidelines for Health Professionals and Policy Makers – A report providing Health Canada’s policy on healthy eating. This report will form the foundation for Canada’s Food Guide tools and resources.
Canada’s Food Guide Healthy Eating Principles – Communicating Canada’s Dietary Guidelines in plain language.
Canada’s Food Guide Graphic – Expressing the Healthy Eating Principles through visuals and words.
Canada’s Food Guide Interactive Tool – An interactive online tool providing custom information for different life stages, in different settings.
Canada’s Food Guide Web Resources – Mobile-responsive healthy eating information (factsheets, videos, recipes) to help Canadians apply Canada’s Dietary Guidelines.

In Spring 2019, Health Canada plans to release:
Canada’s Healthy Eating Pattern for Health Professionals and Policy Makers – A report providing guidance on amounts and types of foods as well as life stage guidance.
Enhancements to Canada’s Food Guide – Interactive Tool and Canada’s Food Guide – Web Resources – Enhancements and additional content to Canada’s web application on an ongoing basis.

Some other insights that I learned:
– Health Canada is hoping to get back to an overall pattern of eating and highlight nutrients of public health concern. The new Canada’s Food Guide will also have a heavy focus on food skills and determinants to health.
– There is no intent to advise consumers to avoid meat in the new Food Guide.
– The new Food Guide will focus more on the proportionality and frequency of meals, rather than numbers of servings to consume. In other word, information about number of servings may be more “behind the scenes” info for health professionals rather than front-facing info for consumers
Sign for my free nutrition e-newsletter if you haven’t done so already. And stay tuned – once the new Canada’s Food Guide it out, I’ll let you know all about it!

The MIND Diet for Brain Health

Render illustration of "MIND DIET" title on head silhouette with cloudy sky as a background.

It’s never too early or too late to start taking care of your brain health. In fact, diet is an important predictor of how well our brain ages.

The MIND diet stands for “Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay” and its goal is to prevent dementia and loss of brain function as we age. The MIND diet is a blend of the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet.

The Mediterranean Diet is based on the traditional foods enjoyed by those living in Mediterranean countries including Italy and Greece. Researchers found that these people actually had a lower risk of diseases such as heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes and premature death. This diet focuses on eating vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil.

The DASH Diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Research shows that this diet is helpful in lowering high blood pressure. This diet also emphasizes vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes as well as low fat dairy products and lean protein.

When followed rigorously, the MIND Diet results in a 53% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. When the MIND Diet is followed modestly (i.e. not perfectly), it still results in a 35% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

According to the MIND Diet, here are the 10 foods to eat for brain health:
– green leafy vegetables – at least 1 dark green salad every day
– other vegetables – at least 1 other vegetable every day
– whole grains – at least 3 servings every day
– nuts – at least 1 ounce (30 g) every day
– beans or legumes – at least every other day
– berries – at least twice a week
– fish – at least once a week
– poultry – at least twice a week
– olive oil – this is the oil of choice
– wine. If you don’t drink alcohol, purple grape juice provides many of the same benefits.

And here are the 5 foods to avoid/limit:
– red meat
– butter/margarine
– cheese
– pastries/sweets and
– fried fast food.

Unlock the Potential of Food – here’s what FOOD can do for YOU!

Unlock potential of food

As dietitians, we are passionate about the potential of food and its connection to health! For March – Nutrition Month, and all year long, celebrate these benefits of delicious, wholesome, nourishing food.

Food can FUEL your body and mind. According to the Dietitians of Canada, almost half of Canadians say that eating a balanced diet is challenging for them because they are so busy, and nearly 30% turn to snacks to stay fuelled. The right food choices will not only energize you but also maximize your creativity and productivity! For a healthy snack, we love combining produce with protein – try egg and avocado toast, peanut butter on apple slices, or tuna with veggie sticks. Work with me to create wellness foodservice menus or to build a positive nutrition workplace environment.

Food can help kids DISCOVER healthy eating. Did you know that 38% of parents rarely or never let their child prepare a meal or snack? Let’s get kids in the kitchen! Kids are more likely to eat what they’ve made, so take the opportunity to help kids discover and be adventurous with food. Find a recipe that you can make together. Try new foods and flavours. Shop for groceries together too.

Food can PREVENT health problems. Healthy eating, being active and living smoke-free together can prevent about 80% of premature stroke and heart disease. There are many different “diets” or “eating patterns” such as the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH diet and the MIND diet. Find out more about these diets at my upcoming 11th annual Nutrition for NON-Nutritionists course on April 18th. We’ll look beyond the fad diets and gimmicks to deliver reliable, life-changing advice.

Food can HEAL. Dietitians believe in and understand the potential of food to help you heal and feel your best. Work with a dietitian to heal during illness and enhance your health. As the trusted food and nutrition experts, dietitians can help you: manage your blood sugar levels, lower your blood pressure, lower your blood cholesterol, manage the side effects of cancer care treatments, navigate a gluten-free diet, reach / maintain a healthy weight, and stay nourished when eating/swallowing is a challenge.

Food can BRING US TOGETHER. Eating together has benefits for everyone! Children who eat with their families tend to eat more veggies and fruit, consume fewer less sugar-sweetened drinks, have better academic performance, are at a lower risk for being overweight and have a lower chance of developing eating disorders. Teens who eat with their families get better grades and are less likely to smoke, use drugs or alcohol, or engage in serious fights. Adults who eat with friends and family eat more vegetables and fruit, drink less pop and have a healthier weight. Older adults who eat as part of a group setting have better overall nutrient intakes and lower rates of malnutrition. Whether it’s breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, snack or yes, even dessert – take time to sit down and enjoy food in the company of others!

5 Heart Healthy (and Affordable) Kitchen Gadgets

February is Heart Month! So it’s a good time to get into the kitchen and cook up some healthy meals with these 5 simple and affordable kitchen gadgets. Watch my interview on CTV Your Morning!

Sue spiralizer

1. Silicon of stainless steel steamer.
Steaming your food is one of the best ways to retain its nutrients, colour and flavour. For example, when you boil broccoli, you can lose up to 50% of its vitamin C content. When you steam broccoli, you may only lose about 10% of the vitamin C content. There’s no need to buy a special steamer pot. Instead, look for a silicon or stainless steel steamer that is adjustable and can fit a pot that you already have. You can use your steamer for veggies, fish, and dim sum dumplings!

steamer crop


2. Herb scissors

Eating too much sodium / salt can lead to high blood pressure which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. One of the best ways to cut back on salt when cooking is to season your food with fresh herbs. Herb scissors are so easy to use and don’t require any special knife skills. When cutting fresh herbs, make sure the herbs are dry or semi-dry.

herb scissors

3. Zester or Microplane Grater
Using citrus is another fantastic way to add flavour without salt. A zester and microplane grater are two other kitchen gadgets that can help you make the most of your citrus. A zester gives long, thin strips of the citrus peel. A microplane grater has smaller blades than a zester, so you’ll get a smaller, finer gratings. You can also use a zester or grater for garlic, ginger, chocolate and cinnamon.

zester grater

4. Spiralizer
This has been one of the trendiest kitchen gadgets. Because the spiralizer typically has different blades, you can create a variety of different shapes with veggies like these zucchini ribbons which are a nice alternative to pasta. This is a great gadget to have on hand or those picky eaters in your family. Try it with zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, beets and sweet potatoes. It can make eating veggies a lot more fun.

spiralizer

5. Sheet pan
This is like a baking sheet or cookie sheet with a rim around all four edges so that any juices won’t spill out. The great thing about a sheet pan is that you can cook your protein and veggies all on the same pan (which means just one pan to wash!) Roasting veggies brings out their natural sweetness. The fat from the protein on the sheet pan actually adds moisture and flavour to the veggies around it.

sheet pan

Love to learn? Love to eat?

Sign up for my free nutrition news, tips, trends, recipes and fascinating food facts!