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8 Ways to Get Through the Holiday Eating Fest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the best for a happy and healthy holiday season!

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

Top 5 Food & Nutrition Trends from FNCE 2018

Sue FNCE expo

One of the best things about my job as a food and nutrition expert is going to conferences to learn about new trends and share our learnings with YOU! This year’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) in Washington DC did not disappoint! It’s the world’s largest food and nutrition event, attracting well over 10,000 delegates with hundreds of speakers and exhibitors. Here are my top takeaways from the event.

1. FODMAP Friendly. This was by far, the biggest trend at the show. FODMAP is an acronym for “Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyphenols”. These are different types of carbohydrates found naturally in everyday foods such as fruit, veggies, grains, beans and milk product. For some people, eating foods containing high amounts of these FODMAP carbohydrates may cause gas, bloating and other digestive symptoms. Dozens of products at FNCE sported a “FODMAP Friendly” logo, including Prego’s Sensitive Recipe pasta sauce (made without onions or garlic) and Lo-Fo flours.

fodmap friendly logo

Prego fodmap friendly

fodmap friendly foods

2. Protein Power. I’ve been emphasizing the importance of getting enough protein at every meal for a while now. Protein continues to be a strong nutrition buzzword. This year’s FNCE show featured several protein packed products such as a peanut-based protein shake and a protein enriched pancake mix.

Peanut protein shake

Pancake protein

3. Probiotics. At last year’s FNCE event, exhibitors flaunted countess probiotic products. This year, there were even more innovations ranging from infused probiotic beverages to a combination protein/probiotic hot oatmeal.

probiotic drink

probiotic oatmeal with protein

4. Plant-based. Following this trend were plant-based beverages such as “sesame milk”, “banana milk” and yes, even plant-based maple water. When it comes to calcium, vitamin D and protein though, not all of these products are equivalent to cow’s milk or fortified soy beverage

Sesame milk

banana milk

maple water

5. Snacking. Among the countless numbers of protein bars, I found snacks such as barley bars, flavoured chickpea snacks as well as single serve, shelf stable bean dips for on-the-go energy.

barley bars

chickpea snacks

Black bean portable dip snack

Which one of these trends are you most excited about? Leave a comment and let me know.

Canadian Researchers Invent a New Way to Detect Food Spoilage

Food spoilage patch

This tiny patch can tell you if your food has gone bad. Engineering Research Assistant Hanie Yousefi (left) and Tohid Didar, Assistant Professor Mechanical Engineering at McMaster University show off the “Sentinel Wrap” patch. Photo credit: McMaster University

Trying to figure out if a food has gone bad? For food safety, simply looking at the food or doing a little “sniff test” isn’t a reliable or accurate way of determining food spoilage. But what if there was something on the food package itself that indicated whether a food has gone bad. Now there is!

A team of mechanical and chemical engineer researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario have developed a thin, plastic transparent patch – about the size of two postage stamps – called the “Sentinel Wrap” to detect harmful bacteria and pathogens on food. The patch has tiny droplets of DNA molecules printed on one side that act as sensors to signal the presence of E. Coli, a type of types of bacterium that can cause food poisoning.

In Canada, about 4 million (1 in 8) Canadians are affected by a foodborne illness every year. Because it doesn’t affect the food at all, the Sentinel Wrap patch could be installed on the inside of a food package such as raw meat or raw poultry. If harmful bacteria are present on the food, the DNA molecules on the patch would light up under ultraviolet light. Shoppers could use a handheld device such as a smart phone, to scan the patch and immediately know whether there are any harmful bacteria present in the food.

The invention can still take two years before it comes to market. Until then, prevent food poisoning by following the four principles of food safety: clean, separate, cook and chill…and ditch the “sniff test”!

Broccoli Coffee – Do or Ditch?

latte 2

The other day, a colleague of mine asked on Twitter whether I was nay or yay for the latest trend – broccoli coffee!

In an effort to help Australians eat more fruit and veggies, researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) created a broccoli powder made from both the florets and stems. Turns out that every two tablespoons of this powder contains about one serving of broccoli. While the broccoli powder could be used in smoothies, soups and baked goods, a café in Melbourne started adding it to coffee. The marketing pitch is that you’d get your first serving of veggies even before breakfast.

My take – I LOVE the idea of using all parts of the plant and reducing food waste, I’m not so sure coffee fans will perk up to the flavour (or smell?) of this new concoction. Personally, I like my coffee double-double (I only drink coffee about once a week) and I love my broccoli lightly steamed.

What do you think? Would you try broccoli coffee?

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!

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

New Product Spotlight – PC Lentil & Bean Bites

Sue and Executive Chef Michelle Pennock

Sue and Executive Chef Michelle Pennock

Last month, I had the fantastic opportunity to taste test some of the new PC (President’s Choice) Blue Menu products in their test kitchen. And wow, was I ever impressed!

PC Blue Menu is known for their innovative, easy and convenient products. One of my favourites was Lentil & Bean Bites – delicious vegetarian meatballs! They’re made with brown rice, lentils, red beans, black beans, part-skim Mozzarella cheese, quinoa and shawarma seasoning. Looking at the nutrition information, these Lentil & Bean Bites are a source of both fibre and omega-3 fats. Plus a serving of 3 bites contains 140 calorie, 6 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein and no sugar. Pop them in the oven at 400°F for 12 minutes and they’re ready!

Executive Chef Michelle Pennock served the Lentil & Bean Bites in a Middle Eastern Mezze Platter with a colourful array of vegetables, herbed tahini and warm naan bread. Sure to be a crowd pleaser, this can be served as an appetizer or super-easy supper!

Middle Eastern Mezze Platter

Middle Eastern Mezze Platter

Middle Eastern Mezze Platter

Ingredients
6 carrots
5 tsp (25 mL) olive oil
2 tsp (10 mL) PC Black Label Harissa Spice Blend
4 cups (1 L) shredded red cabbage (about ¼ of a head)
3 tbsp (45 mL) fresh lemon juice
½ tsp (2 mL) freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp (25 mL) tahini
1 tbsp (15 mL) each chopped fresh cilantro, fresh mint and fresh parsley
1 pkg (400 g) frozen PC Blue Menu Lentil & Bean Bites
1 pkg (250 g) PC Blue Menu Naan Flatbreads (2 flatbreads)
1 pkg (227 g) PC Hummus Chickpea Dip and Spread
1 vine-ripened tomato, chopped
½ English cucumber, thinly sliced

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Arrange 1 oven rack in centre and 1 oven rack in lower third of oven.
2. Peel and trim carrots; halve crosswise. Cut larger pieces lengthwise in quarters and smaller pieces lengthwise in half. Toss together carrots, 1 tbsp oil and harissa in large bowl. Arrange in single layer on parchment paper-lined large baking sheet. Bake in lower third of oven, flipping carrots once, until tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, toss together cabbage, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 tsp pepper and remaining 2 tsp oil in separate large bowl. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
4. Whisk together tahini, cilantro, mint, parsley, remaining 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 tsp pepper and 2 tbsp water in small bowl until smooth. Set aside.
5. Arrange frozen bites in single layer on greased separate large baking sheet. Bake in centre of oven 5 to 6 minutes. Flip bites; bake in centre of oven 3 minutes. Push bites to 1 side of baking sheet. Arrange flatbreads in single layer on opposite side of sheet; sprinkle flatbreads lightly with water. Bake in centre of oven until bites and flatbreads are hot, 2 to 3 minutes.
6. Stack flatbreads on cutting board; cut into 6 wedges to make 12 pieces total. Arrange flatbreads, lentil bites, carrots, cabbage mixture, hummus, tomatoes and cucumber on large serving platter. Drizzle with tahini mixture.

Serves 6.
Recipe created by Executive Chef Michelle Pennock and reprinted with
permission.

PC Lentil and Bean Bites

Food and Nutrition Trends from FNCE 2017

Sue FNCE sign 1 CROP

We were thrilled to attend the centennial Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) – the world’s largest annual nutrition meeting hosted in Chicago by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics! With over 13,000 attendees, FNCE did not disappoint! The Expo trade show featured hundreds of food and nutrition products. Here are the ones that caught our eye!

PREBIOTICS and PROBIOTICS

Gut health is a growing trend! Prebiotics and probiotics work together to keep the gut healthy. Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that actually act as food for probiotics. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that live in our colon where they help to maintain a balance between the “good” and “bad” bacteria. From crackers to drinks to powders, these innovative products are designed to keep your gut healthy.

Farmhouse Culture Gut Shots – probiotic beverages and foods made with fermented veggies. Slogan: We’re here to ferment a food revolution!

Farmhouse Culture Gut Shots – probiotic beverages and foods made with fermented veggies. Slogan: We’re here to ferment a food revolution!

Go Live Probiotic & Prebiotic Beverages – the probiotic is housed in a foil-blister cap which can be added to the beverage when you’re ready to drink. Slogan: Think outside the bottle, look inside the cap!

Go Live Probiotic & Prebiotic Beverages – the probiotic is housed in a foil-blister cap which can be added to the beverage when you’re ready to drink. Slogan: Think outside the bottle, look inside the cap!

Regular Girl – prebiotic fibre and probiotics for the women whose life is anything but regular. Can be sprinkled on food or in beverages. Slogans: Eat, drink and be regular! You go girl! Déjà poo!

Regular Girl – prebiotic fibre and probiotics for the women whose life is anything but regular. Can be sprinkled on food or in beverages. Slogans: Eat, drink and be regular! You go girl! Déjà poo!

PROTEIN

We’ve been watching the protein trend grow for the past decade now. Featured at the FNCE show were protein packed pancake mixes and protein enhanced beauty products.

FlapJacked Protein Pancake & Baking Mix – boasting 19 grams of protein per 60 g serving from whey protein isolate and pea protein.

FlapJacked Protein Pancake & Baking Mix – boasting 19 grams of protein per 60 g serving from whey protein isolate and pea protein.

Vital Proteins – from free range bone broth collagen to wild caught marine collagen to collagen beauty water…with the belief that collagen will support bone health, joint health, gut health and a glowing skin, nails and hair.

Vital Proteins – from free range bone broth collagen to wild caught marine collagen to collagen beauty water…with the belief that collagen will support bone health, joint health, gut health and a glowing skin, nails and hair.

PLANT-BASED BEVERAGES

Move over soy, almond and rice. Make way for new plant-based beverages made from nuts and pea protein.

Elmhurst Milked Peanuts – 2 new beverage options: straight up peanuts (made with 21 peanuts) or peanuts plus Dutch cocoa. Contains 8 g of protein per cup however not fortified with either calcium, vitamin D or vitamin B12.

Elmhurst Milked Peanuts – 2 new beverage options: straight up peanuts (made with 31 peanuts) or peanuts plus Dutch cocoa. Contains 8 g of protein per cup however not fortified with either calcium, vitamin D or vitamin B12.

Bolthouse Plant Protein Milk -  made with pea protein, contains 10 g protein per cup and fortified with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12.

Bolthouse Plant Protein Milk – made with pea protein, contains 10 g protein per cup and fortified with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12.

Veggemo – veggie-based  non-dairy beverage made from pea protein. Fortified with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12, but only 3-4 g protein per cup.

Veggemo – veggie-based non-dairy beverage made from pea protein. Fortified with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12, but only 3-4 g protein per cup.

Health Canada Bans Main Source of Trans Fats in Foods

Trans-Fats

Trans fats. They’re the worse type of fat because they pose a double whammy to your heart health – not only do they increase the bad “LDL” (Low Density Lipoprotein” cholesterol, but they also decrease the good “HDL” (High Density Lipoprotein” cholesterol. Eating trans fats increases the risk of heart disease.

While some foods contain small amounts of naturally occurring trans fats, the real concern is with foods containing “artificial” or “industrially produced” trans fat. The main source of this type of trans fat is partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) which are oils that have been created during a process called hydrogenation. This process changes the structure of liquid oils into a solid at room temperature. PHOs extend the shelf life of foods and are typically found in commercially baked goods (e.g. pastries, donuts, muffins), deep fried foods, French fries, hard margarine, lard, shortening, frosting, coffee whiteners, some crackers and microwave popcorn. When you see the words “partially hydrogenated oils” in the ingredients list, you know that the food contains trans fats.

While the food industry has been voluntarily removing trans fats from products over the years, many foods still contain trans fats. On September 15, 2017, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor announced a ban on PHOs from all foods sold in Canada, including foods prepared in restaurants, “Eliminating the main source of industrially produced trans fats from the food supply is a major accomplishment and a strong new measure that will help to protect the health of Canadians.”

The ban will come into effect on September 15, 2018.

[Photo credit: NewHealthAdvisor.com]

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