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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

Which New Nutrition Symbol Would YOU Like to See on Food Packages? Send Your Vote to Health Canada Now!

Couple in a supermarket shopping groceries and other stuff, they are looking for what they need

Eating too much sodium, sugars and saturated fat is linked to health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Health Canada is proposing a new nutrition symbol that would appear on the front of food packages to identify foods that are high in sodium and / or high in sugars and / or high in saturated fat. This new Front-of-Package labelling will help Canadians more quickly compare different products and make healthier choices.

Under the proposed new labelling regulations, pre-packaged foods which contain 15% DV (15% Daily Value) or more for either sodium, sugars or saturated fat will need to display a special nutrition symbol. Pre-packaged meals or dinners which contain 30% DV or more for either sodium, sugars or saturated fat will also need to display the symbol. Foods such as plain milk, most vegetable oils, and fruits and vegetables without added saturated fat will all be exempt from this new labelling rule.

In 2016, Chile implemented a similar front-of-package labelling program. Evaluation results found that almost all (92%) of Chilean consumers said that the label influenced their purchase in some way. And 18% of food products in Chile have been reformulated to contain less sodium, sugars or saturated fat. The proposed front-of-package labelling regulations may be an important catalyst for new and reformulated products here in Canada.

Health Canada has proposed the following four symbol options and now wants to hear which one would be the most useful for YOU. Have your say in shaping this important national nutrition policy. Vote now by completing this short online consumer consultation here by April 26, 2018.

Front of Pack symbol - all 4

California Fig and Coconut Overnight Oats

Overnight Oats figs - 1

With my on-the-go lifestyle, I’m always looking for wholesome, nutritious meals especially for breakfast. I’m a fan of overnight oats because it’s a no-cook, easy to make, grab-and-go kind of recipe. I first had a taste test of this delicious recipe at a media event hosted by California Figs. Available all year round, California dried figs are either Dried Black Mission figs which have a deep earthy flavour, or Dried Golden Figs which taste a bit sweeter. You can use either type of dried fig in this recipe for a natural sweetness as well as fibre, calcium and magnesium.

California fresh figs are available from May to December. Can’t wait! Nearly 50% of California fresh figs are exported to Canada. Since 2013, 75 new products containing figs were introduced into the market. Expect to see even more product and recipe innovations as fig has been named the flavour of the year for 2018 by Firmenich, a Swiss fragrance and flavour company.

California Fig and Coconut Overnight Oats

Ingredients
½ cup rolled oats
½ cup milk
1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 T chia seeds
2 tsp pure maple syrup
¼ cup (3-5) California Dried Golden or Black Mission figs, stemmed and chopped
1 T unsweetened shredded coconut
Optional garnish: ½ dried fig, 1 tsp unsweetened shredded coconut

Directions
Put the oats, milk, yogurt, chia seeds, maple syrup, figs and coconut into a 12-ounce jar or bowl. Stir well. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight. Stir again just before serving and top with optional garnish.

Makes 1 serving. (Recipe source: California Figs)

8 Food & Nutrition Trends to Watch in 2018

Trends 2018

I’ve been keeping up with trends reports from around the world! Here’s what food and nutrition experts are predicting for 2018.

1. Fermented Foods. In a recent survey of 2,500 dietitians fermented foods are predicted to be one of the top trends for 2018. A source of the good, probiotic bacteria, fermented foods include yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, miso and natto. (Today’s Dietitian)

2. New and Improved Canada’s Food Guide.
It’s been a decade since the last national food guide. With the much anticipated launch of the new Food Guide this year, we can expect to see messaging around not just what to eat, but also how to eat. (Dietitians Sue Mah & Lucia Weiler)

3. Hello Leftovers, Goodbye Food Waste. Canadians will continue to think about how their food choices can reduce food waste. Consumer strategies include a revival in the use of leftovers, right-size portioning and GIY (Grow It Yourself). (Loblaw Food Council)

4. Mindful Choices. Today’s consumers are thoughtful, mindful and conscious about making responsible food choices. They want to understand what is in their food and how it was produced in order to make informed decisions for their health, sustainability and ethical issues. (Innova Market Insights)

5. Rising Food Prices. The price of vegetables and the price of food purchased at restaurants will each rise 4-6% this year. Climate patterns are driving vegetable prices up. The average family of four in Canada will pay $348 more this year on food to a total of $11,948, and 59% of that budget will be spent on dining out. (Canada’s Food Price Report 2018)

6. Micro-markets for Food. As consumers are learning more about food, they are looking for more specialized, individualized choices that align with their personal values whether it be nutritional profile (fat, sugar, sodium, calories), location of production or antibiotic use. This is driving the development of micro-markets for specialized products. (Food Focus 2018)

7. Technofoodology. By the year 2020, there will be 24 billion internet-connected devices installed globally – that’s about 3 devices for every human on earth! This IoT (Internet of Things) revolution is changing the way we purchase, receive and interact with our food. There will be continued expansion of resources including Alexa, Google Home, “click and collect” online grocery shopping, as well as delivery of restaurant meals and meal kits. (Business Insider, Supermarket Guru)

8. Food Blockchain Revolution. Thanks to the Bitcoin, blockchain technology is taking off as a novel way for the agri-food business to record and disclose transactions in an open virtual space across the entire supply chain. From farmer to processor to packer to distributor to packaged goods maker to retailer to food service operator to exporter, blockchain technology brings a new level of transparency and information sharing. For example, in the event of a food safety recall, specific products can be traced easily and quickly. (Ketchum Food Forecast)

Choline – The Forgotten Nutrient

Egg cracked

There’s a growing buzz about choline and for good reason. Choline is essential for a healthy pregnancy and healthy brain development at all ages. And while choline was officially recognized as an essential nutrient in 1998, it’s only recently been added to the list of nutrients which can be voluntarily disclosed on Nutrition Facts Tables in both Canada and the USA.

Health Benefits of Choline
One of the main roles of choline is to produce a specific neurotransmitter called acetylcholine which plays a crucial role in sending messages from your brain to your muscles. During pregnancy, choline helps prevent the development of neural tube defects in the growing baby. Choline also helps to move fat out of your liver, which can prevent nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. According to the National Institutes of Health, there may be a link between choline and better cognitive function and memory as we age. Ongoing research is exploring the connection between choline and heart health too.

How Much Choline Do You Need
The amount of choline needed depends on your age. High intakes of choline from supplements can cause a fishy body odour, vomiting, excessive sweating and salivation, low blood pressure as well as potential heart and liver problems.

choline DRI chart


Food Sources of Choline

Our bodies produce small amounts of choline, but not enough to meet our daily needs. Liver, eggs (more specifically, egg yolks), meat and tofu are among the best food sources of choline.

choline food sources 3

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