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Summertime Eating Tips – from a Dietitian who LOVES dessert!

Collage of fresh summer produce including peaches, lettuce, cherries and red peppers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helloooo Summer!

Who’s ready to fire up the BBQ and enjoy all the glorious seasonal produce? As an award-winning dietitian and daughter of a chef, I’m first in line for delicious, wholesome food – and yes, that includes dessert!

Here are my 4 tips for guilt-free summertime eating, with inspiring recipe ideas from my friends Nik and Carol over at Weekend at the Cottage!

1. Colour it up!

Think of fruits and veggies as Mother Nature’s superheroes – not only are they rich in vitamins and minerals, but they’re also filled with different disease-fighting plant-nutrients also called ‘phyto-nutrients’.

Tomatoes and watermelon for example, are packed with lycopene – it’s what gives these foods a red pigment. Lycopene may help lower your risk for heart disease and prostate cancer. Orange coloured produce such as carrots, cantaloupe, peaches and apricots contain carotenoids like beta-carotene to support your vision and reduces your risk for heart disease and some types of cancer.

Love blueberries? Me too! They contain a special plant nutrient called anthocyanins that are linked to healthy aging and brain health. And what about spinach, kale and Swiss chard? Well, all those leafy greens are packed with lutein, a special antioxidant that lowers your chances of developing age-related macular degeneration.

Dietitian Sue’s tip: At every meal, fill half your plate or bowl with colourful fruits and veggies. Salads are an easy way to get in those colours. Try this Tomato Avocado Salad or Chopped Kale Salad.

 2. Pick your protein

What’s calling your name? Burgers, ribs, poultry, tofu, shrimp?

Pick a protein at every meal. Protein helps you feel alert and full for longer. As part of a meal, protein also slows down the digestion of carbohydrates. This gives you a slow, steady rise in blood sugar levels which is beneficial for anyone with prediabetes or diabetes.

Dietitian Sue’s Tip: Choose lean proteins more often. One of my family faves are Mediterranean Chicken Kebabs and you could swap out the chicken for pork or cubes of firm tofu. For a smart protein choice that’s packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fats, aim for two fish meals a week – like Nik’s Grilled Salmon Burgers and Barbecued Salmon.

3. Find the fibre

We need 25-38 grams of fibre a day. But guess what? Most of us are only getting half that amount. Soluble fibre, found in strawberries, oatmeal and apples play a role in keeping our blood cholesterol levels healthy. Insoluble fibre, found in beans, bran and broccoli, help to keep us regular.

Dietitian Sue’s Tip: If you’re filling half your plate or bowl with fruit and veggies, then you’re already off to a great start! Try Granola or a high fibre breakfast cereal that contains at least 4 grams of fibre per serving. Check out my TV interview ‘Simple Ways to Boost Your Fibre’ for easy ways to pump up the fibre in a day’s worth of meals.

4. Make room for dessert

 I love dessert…as in, I eat dessert every night! For me, it’s really the best part of the meal! Sometimes, dessert is a bowl of fresh fruit salad or a few slices of ice cold watermelon. And sometimes, it’s Peach Cobbler or French vanilla ice cream on a waffle cone or a slice of gluten-free Chickpea Chocolate Cake. Whatever you choose for dessert, dig in and enjoy!

Dietitian Sue’s Tip: Let go of the ‘good food’ versus ‘bad food’ thinking. Give yourself permission to enjoy all foods in moderation without any guilt. Food is joy, and eating together with family / friends is always a celebration!

What recipes are you most excited to try? Let me know in the comments. Happy summer, everyone!

 

What to Eat Before & After the COVID-19 Vaccine

Medical professional wearing blue gloves and about to give a needle to a patient in the armAre you ready to get your jab? You don’t need a special diet before getting your COVID-19 vaccine. But there are a few extra food considerations at this time. Here’s what you can do to get ready and manage potential side effects.

BEFORE getting the COVID vaccine:

  • Take your regular medications as usual. Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Have a snack or light meal depending on the time of your vaccine. The goal is to avoid going for your vaccine on an empty stomach, especially if you have a fear of needles or a history of feeling lightheaded / faint with needles.
  • Eat familiar foods. As a former sports dietitian, I always advised athletes to avoid eating any new foods on “game day.” Consider vaccine day as your “game day” and stick to foods you know so that you don’t trigger any stomach upset.
  • Make some meals made in advance in case you’re too tired or unwell to cook dinner for the next few days after getting the vaccine.

AFTER getting the COVID vaccine:

  • Stay hydrated. You might have a mild fever after getting the vaccine. Keep your mug or water bottle nearby to remind you to get enough fluids throughout the day.
  • Take in some comfort food. Some common symptoms after the vaccine are like chills, fatigue and muscle aches. Try a bowl of chicken noodle soup or your favourite soup to offer some comfort. And cuddle up with a cozy blanket.
  • Hold off on the alcohol. It can dehydrate you even more. Chances are you may not be in the mood for a drink anyway, and less so if you’re feeling headache, chills or the aches.
  • Continue eating a wholesome diet to keep your immune system strong. Think of your immune system as a team with different players. Each player has a role to play. Nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, protein and zinc are just some of the key players on Team Immune System. Fill half your plate or bowl with a variety of colourful veggies and fruit. Get vitamin D from eggs, fatty fish, milk, mushrooms, fortified beverages and supplements if needed. Look for whole grains, lean meats / fish / poultry and plant-based foods like tofu, nuts and seeds.

 Keep well everyone!

 

5 Things You Can Do Today to Reduce Food Waste

A canvas grocery bag filled with bananas, oil and cucumbersFood waste is a growing concern now more than ever!

Research from the National Zero Waste Council found that 63% of the food that we throw away – mostly veggies and fruit – is avoidable and could have been eaten. The edible food that we toss into our compost or green bins adds up to $1,100 per year for the average household! Across Canada, all of this household food waste amounts to about 2.2 million tonnes of edible food that’s thrown out each year. To put that into perspective, picture this – EVERY DAY in Canada, we waste*:

  • 4 million potatoes
  • 2 million tomatoes
  • 2 million apples
  • 555 thousand bananas
  • 470 thousand heads of lettuce
  • 1 million cups of milk
  • 750 thousand loaves of bread AND
  • 450 thousand eggs

(*Reference: https://lovefoodhatewaste.ca/about/food-waste/)

WHOA!! OK, let’s just take a moment to “digest” that info!

Aside from the financial costs of food waste, food that sits in landfills creates methane, a greenhouse gas contributing to the climate crisis. With Earth Day approaching on April 22, it’s a reminder that we can and must reduce food waste. Here are a few ideas to get started along with links to more tips and cookbooks.

Store your fruits, veggies and herbs to help them last longer

Did you know that wrapping banana stems slows down the ripening? Check out my national TV interview for these and other tips on how to store celery, lettuce, avocado and freeze your leftover herbs.

TV host Ann-Marie Mediwake talking to Sue in a virtual TV interview For more food storage tips, go to https://lovefoodhatewaste.ca/keep-it-fresh/ or https://www.halfyourplate.ca/fruits-and-veggies/store-fruits-veggies/

Plan your meals

Look for recipes that use the same ingredients enjoyed in different ways. Take a bunch of carrots for example – eat them raw with a dip; chop them for a soup or chili; grate them for a salad or muffins; cut them into matchsticks for roasting; or slice them for a stir-fry. What about yogurt? Make a yogurt parfait for breakfast or dessert; mix a big scoop of yogurt into your muffin or loaf batter; and add a swirl of yogurt into your carrot soup!

Use what you have on hand

Be creative. What foods and ingredients do you already have on hand? How can you turn those foods and ingredients into a yummy meal? In a recent study of over 1,000 Canadian families by Hellmann’s and BEworks (a consulting firm studying behaviour economics and insights), food waste was reduced by 33% when participants planned a “Use-up day” each week by making a meal with soon-to-expire ingredients.

Try recipes like Sweet Potato Enchiladas, Veggie Fritters or Tomato Risotto with Grilled Romaine lettuce – all from the Rock what You’ve Got free e-cookbook by the Guelph Family Health Study. Even IKEA has launched their The Scraps Book free downloadable cookbook with recipes using food scraps from featured chefs across North America.

Practice first in, first out (FIFO)

Anyone else have hidden cans of tuna at the back of their cupboard? When putting the groceries away in your fridge, freezer or pantry, use the FIFO rule. Rotate the canned goods, eggs, yogurt, juice and other items so that the ones with the closest best-before dates are moved to the front to be eaten first. I also label my leftovers with the date written on a piece of masking tape so I know which ones to eat first.

Know the difference between the “best-before date” and the “expiry date”

Only packaged foods with a shelf-life of 90 days or less must have a best-before date. Foods that will last longer than 90 days (such as canned food, rice, pasta, dried beans, nuts and frozen food) don’t need a best-before date, but many food companies choose to put one on anyway.

Best-before dates are based on the food’s freshness and quality, rather than the safety of the food. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, you can buy and eat an unopened food AFTER the best-before date has passed. However, keep in mind that after the best-before date, the food may lose some of its freshness, flavour and nutritional value, and /or its texture may change.

The expiry date is not the same as the best-before date. Only certain foods like meal replacements / drinks and infant formulas must have an expiry date. After the expiry date, the nutritional value of these foods will be different than what is listed on the label. Don’t eat these foods if they are past their expiry date.

What’s your “fridge clean-out” recipe? Take a photo and tag me on Instagram or Twitter @SueMahRD – I want to see your recipes!

Want more? Read my other blogs: 

Put the Freeze on Food Waste

10 Ways to Eat Better for the Planet

Find Your Healthy with Traditional Cuisines – Week 5

Birds eye view of a platter of chicken paprikas served with Hungarian nokedli dumplings

*To celebrate National Nutrition Month, we have a 5-week series of guest posts written by Deepanshi Salwan, MPH candidate and a dietetic graduate student at the University of Toronto.**

Welcome back to week 5 of the Nutrition Month 2021 blog series! It is the last post of the series. Thank you all for following along!

This year Nutrition Month centres on the idea that healthy eating looks different for everyone. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and your healthy eating will look different from someone else’s healthy eating based on culture, food traditions, personal circumstances, and nutritional needs.

To honour  Nutrition Month, I have teamed up with Registered Dietitians and Dietetic Graduate Students from diverse cultural backgrounds to put together a Nutrition Month 2021 blog series! Each week for the month of March, different dietitians and dietetic students will share their food traditions, cultural recipes, and the importance of culture in healthy eating.

Embrace your heritage through cultural foods!

In Week 1, we talked about how cultural foods should be a part of your healthy meals. Read the post here.

In Week 2, we talked about the importance of forming social connections through cultural food. You can find the post here. 

In week 3, we talked about the importance of instilling cultural food heritage in your children. You can find the post here

In week 4, we talked about building a community that appreciates everyone’s food cultures. Read the post here.

Today we will succinctly summarize the valuable lessons from previous weeks and provide an action plan to help you embrace your cultural foods. To wrap up this series, we have my colleagues Lucia Weiler and Lalitha Taylor with us.

 

Headshot of Lucia Weiler

Lucia Weiler, RD, PHEc

Lucia Weiler, RD, PHEc

www.weilernutrition.com  

Instagram: @LuciaWeilerRD

Twitter: @LuciaWeilerRD

  1. What’s your cultural background?

I am Hungarian.

  1. What is the meaning of food in your culture? / How is food used in celebrations or traditions?

Food is family – and food is love. Hungarians know how to cook everything – snout to tail, farm to table. Many like my grandmother and sister are excellent bakers too though that’s not my forte.

  1. What is your favourite cultural ingredient or food or recipe?

Hungarian Cuisine in short! Paprika is the heart of Hungarian cuisine and the traditions go all the way back to the first Hungarians, and some of the dishes have been cooked the same way for hundreds of years. Here is the resource that lists our traditional dishes.

Chicken Paprikas with Hungarian Nokedli dumplings on a platter

Hungarian Chicken Paprikás with Nokedli (Image: Canva)

Chicken Paprikás is a classic simple and good recipe. I make it regularly! Here is the recipe.

Ingredients:

2 ½ -3 lb chicken thighs or drumsticks, 2 onions, chopped, 2 garlic cloves, minced, 2 tbsp vegetable oil, 2 tbsp Hungarian ground paprika, ½ tsp ground black pepper, 2 bell peppers, chopped, 2 tomatoes, chopped, 2 cups water or low sodium chicken broth, ½ cup sour cream, 1 tbsp flour

Instructions: In a large skillet, heat oil and brown chicken on all sides – remove chicken to a plate. Next, add onion to the skillet and cook till golden brown. Add garlic, pepper and tomatoes and cook for another 3 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in the paprika and ground black pepper. Return chicken to the skillet and mix well. Add water or chicken broth until chicken is mostly covered. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. In a small bowl, mix sour cream and flour until the mixture is smooth. Add the sour cream mixture to the chicken paprikas and simmer for 5 minutes until sauce is thickened. Serve with Hungarian nokedli (small dumplings) or penne or rotini. [For a vegetarian version, replace chicken with tofu cubes and reduce cooking time to 10 minutes].

Dietitian’s tip: Serve some veggies on the side such as steamed broccoli or green beans. A fresh cucumber or tomato salad is also fitting. Enjoy! Jó étvágyat!

4. What would you like to say to Canadians during National Nutrition Month?

Enjoy and explore how your culture, food traditions, personal circumstances & nutritional needs all contribute to what healthy looks like for you. Reach out to a registered dietitian to support your healthy eating journey.

 

Headshot of Lalitha Taylor

Lalitha Taylor, RD

Lalitha Taylor, RD

www.taylornutrition.ca

Instagram:  @lalithataylor_rd

Twitter: @lalithataylor

1. What’s your cultural background?

I am half South Indian and the other half is a mixture of Guyanese, Dutch and Bajan.

  1. What is the meaning of food in your culture? / How is food used in celebrations or traditions?

Food in many ways means love to me in my culture. After I left my parent’s home and moved away, every time I returned to see them the first thing my Dad would say is, “Are you hungry? What do you want to eat?” Food has always been a means for my parents to show their care, warmth and love.

To this day, mom will spend days meticulously preparing Indian dishes for special events to ensure we always have enough plus some to share with others. Given my diverse background—celebrations usually include a food combination of Indian, Guyanese, Ukrainian and more. Food is the centre of stories, laughter, crying and celebration. In our culture, food is what draws us together and is always offered to family and friends no matter what time of day.

Birds eye view of a platter of Indian Dahl served over basmati rice

Indian Dahl served with Basmati Rice (Image: Canva)

3. What is your favourite cultural ingredient or food or recipe?

Dahl is an Indian stew and my favourite recipe. It’s comfort food and reminds me of my parents. I now make dahl for my daughter and one day, I suspect she will make dahl for her family. It warms my heart to know that these foods will be passed down from generation to generation along with the positive nostalgic memories. You can find a Dahl recipe here.

4. What would you like to say to Canadians during National Nutrition Month?

There is no “cookie-cutter” approach to our eating—especially when we put into context the uniqueness of everyone’s background which includes honouring people’s culture, food preferences and traditions.

Bottom Line

Your cultural foods and traditions are an expression of your identity! They give you comfort, remind you of favourite memories, and help you bond with loved ones. They also give your child a sense of belonging. Cultural foods are fulfilling and they nourish your body and soul. They make you happy! This is why cultural foods and traditions are so important for your health and wellbeing.

Takeaways

1. Make cultural foods a part of your healthy eating

  • Registered Dietitians can provide you with personalized nutrition advice. They can work with you to incorporate cultural foods in ways that are balanced and satisfying. Click here to find a dietitian near you.

 2. Connect with your loved ones through your cultural foods and traditions

  • Grow, harvest, fish, hunt, and prepare foods in traditional ways with loved ones
  • Celebrate occasions and special holidays with cultural foods and practices
  • Eat the same cultural dish together with your family, in-person or virtually

3. Foster your children’s connection to your cultural heritage through food

  • Cook together a new dish from your culture
  • Ask them to notice aromas and flavours during cooking and eating
  • Talk to them about cultural ingredients, how they are produced and used in recipes
  • Add a cultural ingredient to foods they currently enjoy eating
  • Explore grocery stores, bakeries and restaurants that offer your cultural foods
  • Share your stories and memories with foods from your culture

4. Build a community that appreciates everyone’s food cultures

  • Host a potluck where everyone brings a traditional dish and spend time sharing the meaning of these foods (of course, post COVID!)
  • Try a recipe from a different culture – find them online or ask someone you know
  • Explore the International Aisle in grocery stores
  • Dine-in or order take out from different ethnic restaurants
  • Be curious and ask questions or read about other cultures’ food traditions
  • Attend cultural food festivals like Pan Asian Food Festival and Taste of Danforth

 5. Embrace and flaunt your cultural food traditions

    • Connect with community members or Elders to learn more about your food traditions
    • Talk to others about the significance of your cultural dishes
    • Post photos of your cultural foods on social media. It is a great conversation starter

I thank Lucia and Lalitha for their time and contribution to this post.

headshot of Deepanshi Salwan

Deepanshi Salwan

Written by: Deepanshi Salwan, MPH candidate – Deepanshi is a dietetic graduate student at the University of Toronto. Her nutrition philosophy embraces moderation without deprivation. She believes that healthy eating does not have to be complicated and hopes to inspire her audience to live more happy and healthy lives! You can find her on Instagram @deeconstructing_nutrition.

 

Find Your Healthy with Traditional Cuisines – Week 4

Middle Easter Dolma - grape leaves stuffed with rice and meat - arranged in a white bowl with sliced lemons in the background*To celebrate National Nutrition Month, we have a 5-week series of guest posts written by Deepanshi Salwan, MPH candidate and a dietetic graduate student at the University of Toronto.**

Welcome back to the Nutrition Month 2021 blog series!

This year Nutrition Month centres on the idea that healthy eating looks different for everyone. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and your healthy eating will look different from someone else’s healthy eating based on culture, food traditions, personal circumstances, and nutritional needs.

To honour  Nutrition Month, I have teamed up with Registered Dietitians and Dietetic Graduate Students from diverse cultural backgrounds to put together a Nutrition Month 2021 blog series! Each week for the month of March, different dietitians and dietetic students will share their food traditions, cultural recipes, and the importance of culture in healthy eating.

Build a community that appreciates everyone’s food cultures

In Week 1, we talked about how cultural foods should be a part of your healthy meals. Read the post here. In Week 2, we talked about the importance of forming social connections through cultural food. You can find the post here.  In week 3, we talked about the importance of instilling cultural food heritage in your children. You can find the post here.

Today we transition a bit from focusing on our culture to exploring food options from other cultures. I believe we grow a little more when we step out of our comfort zone and appreciate something from a different culture. Similarly, rejecting foods from a different culture before tasting them would be a missed opportunity to grow. In Canada, we do not just tolerate other cultures, we celebrate them, and it should be no different when it comes to food. 

How do you build a community that appreciates everyone’s food cultures? Let’s hear from my colleagues Atour Odisho and Aleeya Zack-Coneybeare!

head shot of Atour Odisho

Atour Odisho, Dietetic Graduate Studen

Atour Odisho, Dietetic Graduate Student

Instagram: @atour.in.nutrition

  1. What’s your cultural background?

I am Middle Eastern

  1. What is the meaning of food in your culture? / How is food used in celebrations or traditions?

In my culture, food is medicine, and in my upbringing food is emphasized in the role of nutrition and healing. It is also a way to celebrate with family and friends. There is never too much food!

  1. What is your favourite cultural ingredient or food or recipe?

My favourite cultural food is dolma, which is wrapped grape leaves. I love this because every Middle Eastern has a different twist to it.  Here is my recipe.

Dolma arranged on a white plate with cut lemons in the backgound

Dolma [Image: Canva]

Ingredients: 4 cups white basmati rice, 8 tomatoes, chopped, 2 bunches of flat parsley, chopped, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 can of tomato paste (or salsa), 1/3 cup pomegranate molasses (or to taste), about 3/4 cup lemon juice, 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp dill (or to taste), 1 tbsp of sumac, salt & pepper to taste, and 18 oz of grape leaves. You can also mix in 1 pound ground beef or lamb.

Instructions: Mix everything together, except the grape leaves. Once everything is mixed, stuff each grape leaf with the mixture. Make sure all sides are closed, so the rice doesn’t escape when cooking. Next, assort the wrapped grapes leaves in a big pot. Add water and some more lemon juice to cover all grape leaves. Add in an appetizer plate and press down to secure the grape leaves together. Set on high-medium heat until water boils, then let it simmer for 30 minutes. ENJOY!

4. What would you like to say to Canadians during National Nutrition Month?

I hope that Canadians continue to explore other cuisines and dishes to diversify their palates. Cook traditional dishes from other cultures, dine-in restaurants from various cultures, explore International food aisles, or just be curious and ask questions!

head shot: a grad photo of leeya Zack-Coneybeare

Aleeya Zack-Coneybeare
Dietetic Graduate Student

Aleeya Zack-Coneybeare, Dietetic Graduate Student

 

  1. What’s your cultural background?

I am Ojibway which is an Indigenous group here in Canada.

  1. What is the meaning of food in your culture? / How is food used in celebrations or traditions?

Food is ingrained within every aspect of our culture; it represents our way of life. Food connects our people to our traditions, our spirit, and our ancestors. Food plays an important role in our traditional ceremonies, as most usually end in a feast. We also use food to honour our spirits, ancestors, and mother earth by offering a spirit plate before beginning a feast. A spirit plate is filled with samples of all the food items at the feast, we set it outside and offer a prayer.

  1. What is your favourite cultural ingredient or food or recipe?

My favourite cultural ingredient is wild rice, due to its rich nutrients and the variety of recipes and meals it could be added to.

My family makes Turkey and Wild Rice soup very often! Here is the recipe.

Turkey and Wild Rice Soup in a white bowl with a spoon, taken at a birds eye view

Turkey & Wild Rice Soup [Image: Canva]

Ingredients:

Turkey Stock -Turkey carcass (from a roasted bird), 1 carton chicken broth, 1 carton chicken broth, 1 onion, 2 celery sticks, 2 carrots, basil leaf, 1tsp thyme, water to cover

Soup – chicken or vegetable stock, ¾ wild rice, 2 carrots, bite-size, 2 celery sticks, bite-size, 1 tsp chicken bouillon, half yam, chopped, ½ cup corn, 2 cups shredded/chopped turkey meat

Instructions: 

Turkey Stock – In a large pot add carcass, chicken broth, onion, celery and carrots. Add enough water. Add salt, pepper, thyme and basil leaf. Bring to boil and simmer on low for 12 hours. Strain and put the stock back into the pot.

Soup – Add a carton of chicken/vegetable broth to the stock (Taste and add chicken bouillon if needed). Bring to a boil and add wild rice (cook for 30 minutes on a low boil). Add freshly chopped celery and carrots (cook for 10-15 minutes). Add chopped yam (cook for 10-15 minutes). Add corn (cook for 5-10 minutes). Add shredded/chopped turkey meat (cook for 10 minutes). Turn off heat and ready to serve!

4. What would you like to say to Canadians during National Nutrition Month?

I would like to say to Canadians, the Indigenous cuisine is beautiful and that I highly recommend exploring our foods and culture and all the other diverse cuisines Canada has to offer!

Bottom Line

Being accepting and wholeheartedly celebrating other traditional cuisines will allow Canadians of colour to enjoy their cultural foods with pride. There will be no guilt around carrying their cultural foods with them to school, work, or anywhere else they go. As we have discussed through this series, enjoying cultural foods is an important aspect of healthy eating. So, help your fellow Canadians to find their healthy by appreciating their cultural foods and practices!

Come back next week to learn more about traditional cuisines and healthy eating in our final post of the Nutrition Month 2021 blog series. Click here to learn more about the Nutrition Month 2021 campaign.

Let’s Talk

Have you ever tried a dish from a different culture and instantly fell in love with it? Let us know in the comments below!

headshot of Deepanshi Salwan

Deepanshi Salwan

Written by: Deepanshi Salwan, MPH candidate – Deepanshi is a dietetic graduate student at the University of Toronto. Her nutrition philosophy embraces moderation without deprivation. She believes that healthy eating does not have to be complicated and hopes to inspire her audience to live more happy and healthy lives! You can find her on Instagram @deeconstructing_nutrition.

 

 

Find Your Healthy with Traditional Cuisines – Week 3

A pre-teen girl from an African cultural background learning to cook from her mother and grandmother

A pre-teen girl from an African cultural background, learning to cook from her mother and grandmother

 

**To celebrate National Nutrition Month, we have a 5-week series of guest posts written by Deepanshi Salwan, MPH candidate and a dietetic graduate student at the University of Toronto.**

Welcome back to the Nutrition Month 2021 blog series!

This year Nutrition Month centres on the idea that healthy eating looks different for everyone. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and your healthy eating will look different from someone else’s healthy eating based on culture, food traditions, personal circumstances, and nutritional needs.

To honour  Nutrition Month, I have teamed up with Registered Dietitians and Dietetic Graduate Students from diverse cultural backgrounds to put together a Nutrition Month 2021 blog series! Each week for the month of March, different dietitians and dietetic students will share their food traditions, cultural recipes, and the importance of culture in healthy eating.

Fostering our children’s cultural connection to food

In Week 1, we talked about how cultural foods should be a part of your healthy meals. Read the post here. And in Week 2, we talked about the importance of forming social connections through cultural food. You can find the post here.

Today we are touching on the significance of passing down your cultural traditions and recipes to future generations. Helping your kiddos develop a relationship with their culture is a priceless gift. Your culture is a part of your identity and your children’s identity. There is evidence that kids exposed to their cultural heritage have a better sense of self and are emotionally healthier (1,2).

Traditional foods are a great way to transfer and preserve our culture! My colleague Suhani Darji and I will share with you our culture and the importance of instilling our food heritage in our children.

headshot of Deepanshi Salwal

Deepanshi Salwal, dietetic grad student

Deepanshi Salwan, Dietetic Graduate Student

Instagram @deeconstructing_nutrition

1. What’s your cultural background?

I am a South Asian. I was born in Punjab, India, and I moved to Canada at the age of 14.

2. What is the meaning of food in your culture? / How is food used in celebrations or traditions?

Food is an intrinsic part of Indian culture. One of the most defining characteristics of Indian culture is hospitality. In Sanskrit, we say “Atithi Devo Bhava” meaning the guest is god. Whether we invite somebody over or they show up uninvited to our house, we treat our guests with the utmost respect. We never let a guest go away unfed or unhappy from our homes. Indians are also great cooks and can scurry up a meal in no time!

Our festivities also center around food – mithai (Indian sweets), pakoras (fritters) and samosas are always present at all our celebrations. Each festival also has a distinct set of delicacies. For me, Indian food represents the bond I have with my sibling and cousins. As kids, every month, we would dine in an Indian restaurant and always order the same dishes – dal makhani, shahi paneer, and naan. While this changed when I moved to Canada, my cousins and I still uphold our little tradition when I visit back home. Being a Punjabi, weekend breakfast always includes stuffed parathas – haha!

3. What is your favourite cultural ingredient or food or recipe?

Coming from the land of spices, my must-have ingredient is Garam Masala, which is an Indian spice blend added to curries and stews near the end of the cooking process. The fragrance and flavour of it bring even the simplest dishes to life! I have seen my mother and aunts make it fresh from toasted ground spices, and it is how I make it now! You can find a recipe for Garam Masala here.

Punjabi Onion Tomato Masala

Punjabi Onion Tomato Masala

4. What would you like to say to Canadians during National Nutrition Month?

Children mirror what they see in their parents. So, embrace your culture and infuse your cultural food traditions in your children. Share stories and memories associated with your favourite cultural foods, designate days where you enjoy your cultural foods as a family and make a favourite family recipe together! Take time to reflect on your cultural recipes and traditions and focus on the values you want to pass along. Your kids will cherish these food traditions for life!

headshot of Suhani Darji

Suhani Darji, dietetic intern

Suhani Darji, Dietetic Intern

Instagram @womanofmeals

1. What’s your cultural background?

I am a South Asian. Specifically, I am from Gujarat, India.

2. What is the meaning of food in your culture? / How is food used in celebrations or traditions?

My culture emphasizes preparing the meal from scratch, highlighting the importance of using fresh ingredients. I see my family invest their time to put together a meal each day with love and patience. I value this cultural practice and will bring it forward to my children.

Our celebrations also center around food. One of my favourite festivals is Uttarayan, which in the Indian calendar marks the end of winter. Uttarayan is also associated with the kite festival. My family celebrates this festival by eating Chikki, an Indian sweet made from puffed rice and jaggery, flying kites, and just bonding with each other! In the Indian culture, eating dahi-cheeni (yogurt and sugar mixture) is a must before stepping out of home for an auspicious event! So, my mother offers me a spoonful of dahi-cheeni before I leave the house for an exam or an interview – haha. Finally, I would say that food is everywhere in India and if you ever visit India know that you will never go hungry.

3. What is your favourite cultural ingredient or food or recipe?

My favourite recipe is Khichdi, a one-pot rice and lentil dish. It is comfort food for most Indians, including myself! As a child, my grandma made it for me, and I have fond memories of my childhood through this recipe. On coming to Canada, my mother started making this dish. Now that I moved away from home for my dietetic internship, Khichdi remains my go-to food after a long tiring day! The recipe helps me feel closer to my family despite living in a different city. You can find a recipe for Khichdi here.

A pot of Indian Khichdi

Indian Khichdi

4. What would you like to say to Canadians during National Nutrition Month?

Children learn about their family’s food traditions from their parents. Take the opportunity to explain the significance of the ingredients and dedicated days for cultural meals. My parents added the Indian spices and flavours to Western dishes that helped me as a child, get familiar with my cultural food flavours.

Try to add your cultural flavours or ingredients to recipes your kids currently enjoy. Involving your children in cooking cultural foods will also make them more likely to try them. I remember making meals with my mother at a young age and it gave me a sense of accomplishment. I always wanted to try what I had helped make!

Another trick, which my parents unknowingly might have done, was seat me beside my grandfather during mealtimes. He ate various foods from my culture and just watching him enjoy the food made my mouth water. Thinking about it now, that was genius! If your child sits beside a certain family member who enjoys and tries all foods like my grandfather, that might just do the trick. To this day, I enjoy eating a variety of food and love trying new ones.

Bottom Line

Sharing your cultural food practices with your children not only keeps your culture alive but provides a foundation to your child’s identity and sense of belonging. Incorporating traditional foods in your family meals definitely plays a role in raising healthy eaters. So, pull out the family recipe binder and help your child find their healthy!

Come back next week to learn more about traditional cuisines and healthy eating in our Nutrition Month 2021 blog series.

Click here to learn more about the Nutrition Month 2021 campaign.

I thank Suhani for her time and contribution to this post.

Let’s Talk

What is a cultural recipe that you would like to pass on to your children?

headshot of Deepanshi Salwan

Deepanshi Salwan

 

Written by:

Deepanshi Salwan, MPH candidate – Deepanshi is a dietetic graduate student at the University of Toronto. Her nutrition philosophy embraces moderation without deprivation. She believes that healthy eating does not have to be complicated and hopes to inspire her audience to live more happy and healthy lives! You can find her on Instagram @deeconstructing_nutrition.

References:

  1. Kaiser, B., Rasminsky, J.S. Valuing diversity: developing a deeper understanding of all young children’s behavior. Teaching Young Children. 2019. 13(2). Available from: https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/tyc/dec2019/valuing-diversity-developing-understanding-behavior
  2. CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). Culture influences young people’s self-esteem: Fulfillment of value priorities of other individuals important to youth. ScienceDaily [Internet]. 2014 Dec 24 [cited 2021 Feb 26]. [about 3 screens]. Available from: sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140224081027.htm

 

 

Shrimp & Pork Dumplings

Golden browned dumplings on a plate with red wooden chopsticks beside them

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll love these delicious dumplings made with ground pork and shrimp. Feel free to substitute the ground pork with any other meat and / or swap the shrimp for meat. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

3/4 lb ground pork (or any other ground meat)

8-10 raw, peeled shrimp, diced finely

2 cups spinach or other leafy green veggie, minced

3 Tbsp minced fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbsp sesame oil

3 Tbsp soy sauce

1/4 tsp pepper

30-40 dumpling wrappers

oil for cooking

hoisin sauce, soy sauce, chili sauce, or other dipping sauce

Directions:

  1. Mix all of the ingredients (except the dumpling wrappers, oil and dipping sauce) into a big bowl to make the dumpling filling.
  2. Keep dumpling wrappers covered with a damp towel to prevent the edges from drying out.
  3. Place about 1 Tbsp of the filling in the centre of a dumpling wrapper. (Don’t overfill the dumplings.)
  4. Dampen the edges of the wrapper with water.
  5. Fold the wrapper in half. Start at the middle and pleat half the dumpling. Turn the wrapper around and repeat the pleating. (See video below for the pleating technique.)
  6. Heat oil in a large pan on medium to high heat. Fry dumplings for a few minutes until they golden brown on the bottom. Flip the dumplings over and fry for another minute.
  7. Pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup of water into the pan. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce heat to medium-low. Steam the dumplings this way until almost all of the water has evaporated.
  8. Remove the lid and allow the dumplings to continue cooking until all of the water has evaporated, and the dumplings are dry and crispy on the bottom.
  9. Serve with your favourite dipping sauce – hoisin sauce, soy sauce or chili sauce.

Makes 30-40 dumplings

 

 

Find Your Healthy with Traditional Cuisines – Week 2

Colourful plate of Biryani Rice dish

 

 

 

 

 

 

**To celebrate National Nutrition Month, we have a 5-week series of guest posts written by Deepanshi Salwan, MPH candidate and a dietetic graduate student at the University of Toronto.**

It’s March and we are celebrating Nutrition Month! Every year dietitians, dietetic interns, and nutrition students across Canada celebrate Nutrition month to raise awareness about nutrition and the positive impact it has on our health and wellbeing.

This year Nutrition Month centres on the idea that healthy eating looks different for everyone. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and your healthy eating will look different from someone else’s healthy eating based on culture, food traditions, personal circumstances, and nutritional needs.

To honour Nutrition Month, I have teamed up with Registered Dietitians and Dietetic Graduate Students from diverse cultural backgrounds to put together a Nutrition Month 2021 blog series! Each week for the month of March, different dietitians and dietetic students will share their food traditions, cultural recipes, and the importance of culture in healthy eating.

A South Asian family smiling and enjoying their cultural meal together

A South Asian family enjoying a meal together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

         Cultural foods and traditions foster connections and encourage a sense of belonging

In week 1, we talked about incorporating traditional dishes and ancestral ways of cooking and eating in a healthy eating regime. You can find the post here.

This week, we touch on one of the most important aspects of health that is having strong social connections. When most people think about living a healthy life, food and fitness are the first things that come to mind. Certainly, food and fitness are important, but they are not the only pieces of the puzzle. The social connections you form are also vital to your well-being.

I introduce my colleagues Rosie Schwartz and Bhavin Mistry, who will share their cultural food traditions and highlight the importance of connecting with loved ones through cultural foods.

Headshot of dietitian Rosie Schwartz

Registered Dietitian Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz, RD, FDC

rosieschwartz.com

Instagram: @rosieschwartz

Facebook:  EnlightenedEater

 1. What’s your cultural background? 

I am Jewish

2. What is the meaning of food in your culture? / How is food used in celebrations or traditions?

Food is central to family traditions in the Jewish culture. Our holidays and celebrations often center around food – sweet honey cake at Rosh Hashanah, noodle and cheese dishes for Shavuot, hamantaschen for Purim, and many more.

For instance, for Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year, sweet foods are eaten to symbolize our hope for a “sweet new year”. We enjoy a new fruit that has recently come into season. We have two apple trees in our backyard, and I with my two granddaughters pick the very first apples of the season on Rosh Hashanah. We begin our celebrations with cut-up apples dipped in honey.

Quinoa Salad

Rosie’s Passover Citrus Quinoa Salad

3. What is your favourite cultural ingredient or food or recipe? 

As we approach spring, Jewish around the world will be celebrating Passover to commemorate the freedom of the Jews from slavery in ancient Egypt. Matzo, unleavened bread is an integral part of Passover that reminds us of our ancestors eating unleavened bread in the haste of fleeing Egypt. For Passover traditions, we abstain from leavened grains, rice, and pulses (Sephardi Jews can include beans, corn, and rice).

My favourite ingredient for Passover is quinoa. It is not one of the prohibited grains and is a great addition to the Passover celebrations with health benefits! Citrus Quinoa salad has become a Passover staple in our house. You can find Rosie’s recipe here.

4. What would you like to say to Canadians during National Nutrition Month? 

Our traditional foods can tie us together. Amid pandemic, so many of us are separated from our families. Make a dish, drop them off to your loved ones and eat together via Zoom or Facetime. If you don’t live in the same geographical area, figure out the menu together and make the same meal, and enjoy the meal virtually. Share a meal with your loved ones, whether it is special or not. We need more of this now than ever before!

Head shot of dietetic grad student Bhavin Mistry

Dietetic graduate student Bhavin Mistry

Bhavin Mistry, Dietetic Graduate Student

Instagram: @breadbhavandbeyond

1. What’s your cultural background?

I am South Asian—but more specifically Indian (Indo-Canadian) and our mother language at home is Gujarati.

 

2. What is the meaning of food in your culture? / How is food used in celebrations or traditions? 

Food holds the central foundation of Indian culture. It connects family, caste, religion, and language. Food is an integral part of Indian culture because it has been influenced by various civilizations and reflects the perfect blend of diversity and uniqueness. For as long as I can remember, food has always been a form of a gift. It is often exchanged between family members and shared amongst others.

Celebrations are always massive in Indian culture. Food is typically the “centre of attention” at celebrations, with immense spreads of various dishes, family recipes, and traditional eats. For many celebrations, the preparation of food is usually a full group effort. All members of the family will spend hours upon hours preparing traditional dishes for the big day. It’s a form of social bonding, connection, and socialization. Food is the glue that holds and brings individuals together, the highlight of the event, and the main reason why you will never leave an Indian event hungry!

A plate of Chicken Biryani on a bright blue napkin, surrounded by fresh herbs, spices and a wooden spoon.3. What is your favourite cultural ingredient or food or recipe? 

My favourite Indian food has to be biryani. Biryani is a super versatile rice dish made up of a variety of ingredients. It could be vegetarian and only consist of vegetables or can incorporate meat as well. I love it because it is so unique, flavourful, and can consist of several different combinations of ingredients. It is usually garnished with fried onions, nuts, and coriander. You can find a Chicken Biryani recipe here.

4. What would you like to say to Canadians during National Nutrition Month?

Food is more than nourishment. It provides our bodies with fuel and energy to sustain life. But it also contributes and links to our social, cultural, and societal heritage, values and norms. Food can be nostalgic and can provide important connections to our families and country. It can act as a bridge for immigrants/newcomers when they arrive in a new country. It brings people together and is important in building relationships with others. The next time you take a bite to eat, think about what that specifically means to you, the emotions that surface from it and how it relates to your way of living.

Bottom Line

Sharing a meal with your family fills a primary need for community and connection on so many levels! Promoting social connections through our cultural foods is a part of healthy eating. So, find your healthy by putting together and enjoying a family favorite cultural recipe.

Come back next week to learn more about traditional cuisines and healthy eating in our Nutrition Month 2021 blog series.

Click here to learn more about the Nutrition Month 2021 campaign.

 I thank Rosie and Bhavin for their time and contribution to this post.

Let’s Talk

What is your family food tradition? Let me know in the comments.

headshot of Deepanshi Salwan

Written by:

Deepanshi Salwan, MPH candidate – Deepanshi is a dietetic graduate student at the University of Toronto. Her nutrition philosophy embraces moderation without deprivation. She believes that healthy eating does not have to be complicated and hopes to inspire her audience to live more happy and healthy lives! You can find her on Instagram @deeconstructing_nutrition.

Spicy Red Lentil & Havarti Soup

Red lentil soup in a white bowl, with grated cheese and coriander garnish

The hint of curry powders adds a wonderful warmth to this delicious soup!

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ tablespoon (25 ml) of local Ontario butter
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of curry powder
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups (500 ml) of diced carrots
  • 1 cup (250 ml) of diced celery
  • 1 cup (250 ml) of diced peeled potatoes
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) of dried red or orange lentils
  • 1 cup (250 ml) of chicken broth
  • 3 cups (750 ml) of local Ontario milk
  • 5 oz (150 g) of Ontario-made jalapeno-flavoured Havarti cubed
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of chopped cilantro

Instructions

1. In a large pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Sauté curry, carrots, potatoes, celery and onions, until onions are softened.

2. Add lentils, broth and milk. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered until lentils are soft, 30-40 minutes.

3. Purée soup in a blender until smooth. Adjust seasoning. Serve garnished with the Havarti cheese and cilantro. Enjoy!

Makes 6 servings

Recipe source: Dietitians of Canada, Cookspiration

Find your Healthy with Traditional Cuisines – Week 1

A variety of colourful ethnic meals beautifully arranged on a plate

**To celebrate National Nutrition Month, we have a 5-week series of guest posts written by Deepanshi Salwan, MPH candidate and a dietetic graduate student at the University of Toronto.**

It’s March and we are celebrating Nutrition Month! Every year dietitians, dietetic interns, and nutrition students across Canada celebrate Nutrition month to raise awareness about nutrition and the positive impact it has on our health and wellbeing.

This year Nutrition Month centres on the idea that healthy eating looks different for everyone. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and your healthy eating will look different from someone else’s healthy eating based on culture, food traditions, personal circumstances, and nutritional needs.

To honour Nutrition Month, I have teamed up with Registered Dietitians and Dietetic Graduate Students from diverse cultural backgrounds to put together a Nutrition Month 2021 blog series! Each week for the month of March, different dietitians and dietetic students will share their food traditions, cultural recipes, and the importance of culture in healthy eating.

Without further ado, let’s get started with Nutrition Month 2021 series – Week 1.

Cultural foods should be a part of your healthy meals

Canada is a country that prides itself on multiculturalism. Yet, the mainstream diet trends tend to ‘steal’ cultural foods’ thunder. With the recent craze around healthy eating, many of you may be are bombarded with the latest trendy diets that do not adequately incorporate your cultural foods. With everyone else embarking on the next food trend, you may feel that you are doing something wrong by not jumping on board. You begin to question the health benefits of your traditional foods.

I introduce my colleagues Novella Lui, Robena Amalraj and Aja Gyimah who will share their insights on making cultural foods a part of your healthy eating.

 

headshot of dietitian Novella Lui

Novella Lui, RD

www.novellard.com  Instagram @livetonourishrd

  1. What’s your cultural background?

I am a Chinese Canadian, born in Hong Kong and raised in Vancouver.

2. What is the meaning of food in your culture? / How is food used in celebrations or traditions? 

Food plays a vital role in Chinese culture, where food is always a part of celebrations. Many of the traditional foods served during celebrations bear symbolic meanings, from togetherness to fortune and luck. For instance:

  • In Lunar New Year, we eat the ‘year cake,’ a glutinous rice cake that symbolizes rising prosperity, which has the same homophonic sound as ‘yearly increase.’
  • During Dragonboat Festival, we eat glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves as they depict the commemoration of Qu Yuan, an ancient Chinese poet.

3. What is your favourite cultural ingredient or food or recipe? 

I have a long list of favourite foods, but if I had to choose, my favourite is har gow, a steamed shrimp dumpling wrapped in a thin and translucent starch dough. My first memories of eating out as a child with my family were enjoying a dim sum lunch, and har gow was always one of the dishes shared among us. These shrimp dumplings always remind me of my fonds times with my cousins and relatives. You can find a har gow recipe here.

Har Gow (Chinese steamed shrimp dumplings)

Har Gow (Chinese steamed shrimp dumplings)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. What would you like to say to Canadians during National Nutrition Month?

All foods, including those from your own culture, fit into a healthy meal pattern. Including and embracing foods from your own culture connects you to your roots and cultural identity. At the same time, learn about other cultures by trying their foods, as food is a portal that connects and nurtures our relationships with other people.

 

Headshot of Robena Amalraj

Robena Amalraj, Dietetic Graduate Student

www.nourishwithrobena.com

Instagram @nourishwithrobena

1. What is your cultural background?

My cultural background is Indian. Specifically, I am from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

2. What is the meaning of food in your culture? / How is food used in celebrations or traditions? 

India is affectionately called the Land of Spices, and food undoubtedly plays a significant role in its culture. Every region of India has distinct and unique customs but eating with hands is a common practice; it is thought that this not only makes the food taste better, but also feeds the mind and the spirit.

Rice is of particular importance in India and is viewed as the ultimate sustenance; it is often the first solid food that a baby eats and is also eaten by older adults who have trouble eating other foods. In many parts of India, rice is used as an offering during religious rituals and is a symbol of prosperity and well-being.

3. What is your favourite cultural ingredient or food or recipe? 

My favourite South Indian food is dosa, which is a thin savoury crepe made from a fermented batter of lentils and rice. It is typically served with sambar (a lentil and vegetable stew) and chutney. My mom made it all the time when I was growing up; not only is it delicious, but it is a comforting and warm reminder of home and family. You can find a recipe here.

A plate of South India dosa with sambeer and chutney

South India Dosa served with sambar and chutney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 4. What would you like to say to Canadians during National Nutrition Month? 

In the health and wellness space, there is often a narrow perception of healthy food. There is a misconception that cultural foods that do not fit into this mainstream image are automatically “unhealthy”. However, healthy eating does not look the same for everyone. Culture and tradition are integral components of food and overall wellness, and you do not need to forgo your culture to be healthy!

 

headshot of Aja GyimahAja Gyimah, MHSc., RD

www.compete-nutrition.ca  Instagram @compete.nutrition

1. What’s your cultural background? 

I’m biracial: Jewish-Canadian and Ghanaian

2. What is the meaning of food in your culture? / How is food used in celebrations or traditions? 

In the Jewish culture, food is a large part of how we observe our holidays. For example, Friday nights are reserved for a family dinner because it kicks off the Sabbath or the day of rest. Also, depending on the holiday you’re required to eat specific foods, like during Passover we have a ceremonial dinner where each food item is symbolic.

In Ghanaian culture, food is tied to many celebrations, get-togethers or even just attending church on Sundays. Within my family, it used to be such a treat because my dad would spend the entire day making light soup. Since COVID, we have been ordering from local Ghanaian restaurants to support them during this time. Now, jollof rice is a staple in our house!

3. What is your favourite cultural ingredient or food or recipe? 

Fried plantain is a world-wide favourite, it’s a staple in almost every African, Black and Caribbean cuisine. I usually slice the plantain, rinse it in saltwater and then fry it until it’s brown and delicious! Find a recipe for fried plantain here. On the Jewish side, I’m a huge fan of Challah which is the only type of bread I grew up with. Challah is also the best bread to use for French toast!

fried plantains

Fried plantains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. What would you like to say to Canadians during National Nutrition Month?

All foods fit within a healthy diet and that includes our cultural/traditional foods. You’re not required to throw away the foods you’ve grown up with to follow a healthy diet. There’s plenty of room for fried plantain – haha!

 

Bottom Line

There is no single way to eat right and sacrificing your cultural foods is not necessary for achieving good health! No matter what your cultural foods or traditions are, they can be a part of your healthy eating regime. So, ditch the diet trends and incorporate your cultural foods to find your healthy.

Come back next week to learn more about traditional cuisines and healthy eating in our Nutrition Month 2021 blog series.

 Let’s Talk 

What is your favourite cultural recipe? Let me know in the comments. Click here to learn more about the Nutrition Month 2021 campaign.

I thank Novella, Robena, and Aja for their time and contribution to this post.

headshot of Deepanshi SalwanWritten by: Deepanshi Salwan, MPH candidate – Deepanshi is a dietetic graduate student at the University of Toronto. Her nutrition philosophy embraces moderation without deprivation. She believes that healthy eating does not have to be complicated and hopes to inspire her audience to live more happy and healthy lives! You can find her on Instagram @deeconstructing_nutrition.

 

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