Blog / Recipes

Banana Berry Smoothie

 

A cup of smoothie decorated with a slice of strawberry, banana and blue straw

Banana Berry Smoothie

PREbiotics in bananas work with PRObiotics in yogurt to make this a power smoothie! Use a slightly green banana instead of a ripe / frozen one for more prebiotics.
Course Breakfast, Drinks
Servings 2

Ingredients
  

  • 1 banana (slightly green), sliced
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt (or plain yogurt)
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen sliced strawberries

Instructions
 

  • Mix all ingredients in a blender. Enjoy!

Notes

A cup of smoothie decorated with a slice of strawberry, banana and blue straw
Keyword banana berry smoothie, bananas, green bananas, prebiotics, probiotics, smoothie

After school snack ideas!

Looking for some snacks to feed the hungry kids?

Pair PROTEIN with PRODUCE for a healthy and nutritious snack! Protein gives us sustained energy and helps us feel full. Produce (fruits and veggies) provide essential nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, folate and fibre. And let’s face it, most kids (and adults) just aren’t getting enough fruits, vegetables or fibre.

Watch my TV interview here.

Sue in her kitchen talking to TV host

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are my 4 go-to after school snacks that combine protein and produce.

Cheese biscuits with fresh fruit

Make a big batch of these garlicky Cheese Biscuits and pop them in the freezer. They take less than 25 minutes to make. Grab one whenever you need a snack and pair with fresh fruit.

2 cheese biscuits with apple slices and grapes on a blue cloth napkin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Energy balls

These no-bake snacks taste like a treat! Packed with protein from peanut butter, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds, these little gems are made with oats, cocoa, chocolate chips and dried cranberries.  Find the recipe here.

Energy balls on a small pink dish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Wrap

Open faced tortilla with Tzatziki sauce, diced chicken, lettuce, carrots and cucumbers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start with a tortilla. Make a slit about halfway up the tortilla to create 4 quadrants or sections. Fill the first section with Tzatziki sauce (or hummus or mashed avocado); the second section with your choice of protein; and the last two sections with produce. Fold each section onto itself to make a triangular shaped wrap. Enjoy as is or grill it on a sandwich press.

Tortilla wrap filled with veggies; first quarter section of the wrap is folded up.

 

 

 

 

Tortilla wrap showing cucumbers

Tortilla wrap folded into a triangle

 

 

 

Naan Pizza

I used to make pizza on bagels but didn’t like how the cheese would ooze out of the hole.  Naan fits perfectly in the toaster oven. Kids can make their own pizza and customize with protein (cheese, chicken, ham, etc,) and their favourite produce toppings (red peppers, green peppers, mushrooms, onions, olives, tomatoes, pineapple).

Pizza made on naan and sliced into sections on a white plate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Chicken & Vegetable Empanadas

Triangular shaped empanadas stacked on a white plate with a garnish of green parsley on the side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Canadian Agriculture Day!

Thank you to the Canadian farmers who produce safe, nutritious and quality food for us!

To celebrate, I baked these Chicken & Vegetable Empanadas – made with delicious Canadian ingredients like chicken, cheese, mushrooms, eggs, corn, butter and canola oil. The phyllo pastry gives them a light and flaky crust. Enjoy!

Chicken and Vegetable Empanadas

Ingredients

2 T canola oil

1 onion chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

2 boneless chicken breast, diced into ¼” pieces

1 cup corn, fresh or frozen

1 cup finely diced mushrooms

2 T lime juice

1 – 1½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground coriander

pinch salt

pinch pepper

1½ cups shredded cheese (e.g. Old Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or a mix of your favourite cheese)

1 egg, lightly beaten

8 large sheets of phyllo pastry, defrosted and sliced into thirds lengthwise

½ cup butter, melted

Directions

  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Cook the onions until soft and slightly brown (a few minutes). Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
  2. Add diced chicken and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  3. Add corn, mushrooms and lime juice. Cook for a few more minutes.
  4. Mix and sprinkle in cumin, coriander, salt and pepper.
  5. Remove from stove and allow to cool.
  6. Pre-heat oven to 350F.
  7. Lay out the phyllo pastry sheets and cover with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out.
  8. Once the chicken mixture has cooled, mix in the cheese and egg.
  9. Take one phyllo sheet at a time and brush with melted butter.
  10. Place 1 T of the chicken filling in the bottom left corner of the phyllo sheet.
  11. Make a triangle by folding up the bottom right edge of the phyllo sheet. Continue folding this way all the way along the phyllo pastry. Don’t worry if the pastry tears, just keep rolling.
  12. Brush the top of the triangle shaped empanada with a bit more butter. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the chicken filling.
  13. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the empanadas are a lovely golden brown colour.

Makes about 24 appetizer sized empanadas

 

9 Traditional Treats to Enjoy During the Lunar New Year 

Tray of Togetherness - a red tin filled with symbolic sweets to celebrate the Lunar New Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chinese Tray of Togetherness – a round tin box with dried fruits, roasted watermelon seeds and other treats for the Lunar New Year celebration. 

The Spring Festival, also known as the Lunar New Year, is the most celebrated holiday in Chinese communities worldwide. This year, the first day of the two-week celebration falls on February 12. Many activities are part of the celebration, such as putting up decorations, having a reunion dinner with family, and giving “lucky money” red envelopes.

Aside from these primary activities, assembling the Tray of Togetherness is also an important ritual. The Tray of Togetherness is a red or a black box comprised of six or eight compartments.

Traditionally, sweets are part of the box to bless one to have a sweet life. Like many celebratory foods eaten during this time, each food included in the box bears a homophonic pun with a specific good omen.

The box is presented to guests when they visit the host’s home as a way for the host to pass on luck and blessings. While the pandemic prohibits people from visiting one another, the box is still put together because it also implies luck and fortune will come to the home the year ahead.

 

What’s inside the Tray of Togetherness

To assemble the box, families generally choose treats related to fortune, family ties and health. Some examples are:

Red watermelon seeds – Red symbolizes happiness, and the word ‘seed’ in Chinese stands for fertility.

Red melon seeds

 

 

 

 

Dried candied lotus seed – Also related to fertility, the white lotus seeds carry an additional symbolic meaning: to have many descendants.

Dried candied lotus seeds

 

 

 

 

 

Dried candied coconut – Come in the forms of strips and chunks; these imply togetherness, where a family of generations are bonded together.

Dried candied coconut

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dried candied lotus root – The homonym for lotus root is abundance year after year.

Dried candied lotus root

 

 

 

 

Dried candied winter melon – The dried candied winter melon pieces are rectangular strips as if they represent an individual from head to toe. They are a symbol of good growth for children and good health for all.

Dried candied winter melon

 

 

 

 

Dried kumquats – In Chinese, the word kumquat is translated as “gold orange,” which symbolizes luck and wealth.

Dried kumquats

 

 

 

 

 

Other Lunar New Year Foods 

Along with the sweets eaten in the Tray of Togetherness, other traditional snacks are part of the celebration, including:

Year Cake (Nian Gao or Chinese Glutinous Rice Cake) – The year cake implies prosperity year after year. It can be enjoyed as a sweet or a savoury item, as a New Year dish, or as an all-year-round food, depending on regional culture.

Nian Gao or Chinese glutinous rice cake

 

In Cantonese cuisine, the year cake is enjoyed explicitly during the New Year. Comprised of glutinous rice flour and brown sugar, the year cake is sliced into pieces before serving. Generally, the slices are steamed or pan-fried.

For the pan-fried method, specifically, the year cake slices are dipped into an egg wash before cooking for a crispy exterior and a chewy interior.

Crispy triangles – Like the year cake, crispy triangles can be savoury or sweet, depending on the fillings typically used in the regional culture. From the umami-flavoured filling with Chinese sausages, pork and shitake mushrooms to the sweetness offered by the peanut, sesame and sugar filling, these fillings are wrapped inside a glutinous rice dough before they are deep-fried in a wok.

Crispy Triangle pastries

 

The crispy triangles resemble the gold-coloured, boat-shaped ingots, a currency used in ancient China. Eating these symbolizes wealth will come generously to one.

 

Sesame doughnuts – Finally, sesame doughnuts, also known as “laughing dates,” are deep-fried, wheat flour-based crunchy balls. When one takes a bite, the balls look like a laughing mouth, depicting bringing happiness and laughter to the family.

Sesame doughnut pastries

 

 

 

 

Wishing you and your families a happy and prosperous New Year!

headshot of dietitian Novella LuiGuest blog written by Novella Lui, RD, MHSc – Novella is a registered dietitian and a nutrition communications strategist who is passionate about creating engaging content for a wide array of audiences.  You can find her at www.novellard.com or on Instagram @LiveToNourishRD.

 

Image sources: Adobe Stock, 699pic.com, gotrip.hk, pixtastock.com

Diabetes-friendly Tacos

tacos filled with meat and beans on a plate with tomatoes and red / green peppers

 

To celebrate World Diabetes Day (Nov 14 of each year), I’ve teamed up with my colleague Karen Graham who’s a dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator and author of three diabetes cookbooks to share some easy and delicious diabetes-friendly recipes.

These tacos are so easy to make and fun to eat! For a change, you can make burritos by using a soft flour tortilla shell instead of a hard taco shell.

Here’s the recipe!

Bean and Meat Filling

Makes 5 cups (1.25 L) (enough for 20 tacos)

1 lb (500 g) lean ground beef

1 cup (250 mL) warm water

1 tsp (5 mL) each: cumin, oregano, paprika and garlic powder

2 tsp (10 mL) chili powder

1/2 tsp (2 mL) black pepper

28 oz (796 mL) can kidney beans or white beans, drained and rinsed

  1. In a medium pot, brown ground beef. Drain off as much fat as you can.
  2. Stir in the water and spice mix. Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the beans and cook for another 5 minutes. Add extra water if needed to keep moist.

Tacos

To make each taco, you will need:

1 taco shell

1/4 cup (60 mL) Bean and Meat Filling (see above)

1 1/2 Tbsp (22 mL) shredded cheese

Lots of vegetables

  1. Heat the taco shells in the oven at 350F (180C) for 5 minutes.
  2. Into each hot taco shell, put the meat and bean mixture, cheese and vegetables.

Enjoy!

Recipe printed with permission from Karen Graham, RD, CDE – Diabetes Meals for Good Health Cookbook

 

Check Your Attitude towards Weight & Obesity

Fork surrounded by a stretched out measuring tape

 

Our attitudes towards weight and obesity may be unknowingly biased. This needs to change – not just by primary care health professionals, but also by us.

In a presentation about the new Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines, one of the lead authors Dr. Sean Wharton emphasized the importance of recognizing our internal biases against people who are overweight or living with obesity. Wharton challenges health professionals to check their attitude. I think this exercise is valuable for all of us.

Take a look at the three questions below and answer them honestly. The first step in reframing our attitudes is recognizing our own biases.

  1. Do you assume a person’s health characteristics, behaviours and abilities are based on their body size, weight or shape?
  • Reframe your attitude: People come in different sizes and shapes. Body size, weight and shape are not directly associated with a person’s health, work ethic, willpower, intelligence or skills.
  1. Do you think that everyone with a larger body size or a higher Body Mass Index has obesity and needs to lose weight?
  • Reframe your attitude: Obesity is a chronic disease where abnormal or excess body fat impairs health. Body Mass Index (BMI) is an indicator of body size and not an indicator of health. Not everyone with a large body size or high BMI has obesity.
  1. Do you believe people with obesity are personally responsible for their condition?
  • Reframe your attitude: Obesity management isn’t just about eating healthier and being more active. There are many factors beyond a person’s control – such genetics and environmental factors – that can contribute to obesity.

Let’s work to let go of our attitudes. These new Guidelines are just the beginning.

What to Look for in a Probiotic Supplement

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #3 – Look for probiotics in the refrigerated section

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

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

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

Watch my TV interview about Prebiotics and Probiotics  

TV host Annette Hamm speaking to dietitian Sue Mah

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

 

The Science of Comfort Foods

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

[Image: Piktochart]

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

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

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

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

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

 

1 – Comfort foods trigger dopamine

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

2 – Comfort foods gives us social connection

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

3 – Comfort foods are associated with positive memories and nostalgia

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

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

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

 

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

 

Foods to Manage Stress

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

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

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

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

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

Watch my TV interview here!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OR watch my 1-minute video clip below.

 

 

Carbs, especially whole grain carbs

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

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

Some good whole grain carb choices are:

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

Vitamin B6

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

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

Magnesium

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

Some of the best foods for magnesium are:

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

Omega-3 fats

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

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

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

Tea

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

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

 

 

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