Blog / Recipes

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

Sweet Potato & Ginger Soup

Sweet potato soup in a white bowl, garnished with fresh coriander and sliced almonds

This soup is so easy to make, you won’t believe it! It uses ingredients that I always have in my kitchen.

Ingredients

6 cups (1.5 L) sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 3 large)

3 1/2 cups (875 ml) chicken broth

1 tbsp (15 ml) fresh ginger root minced or grated

3/4 cup (180 ml) whole milk

1/4 cup (60 ml) lime juice

1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt

1/4 tsp (1 ml) pepper

1/4 cup (60 ml) toasted sliced almonds

1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped fresh coriander

Instructions

1. In a large saucepan, bring potatoes, chicken broth and ginger to a boil.

2. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

3. Transfer to food processor. Purée until smooth.

4. Return to saucepan over low heat. Whisk in milk, lime juice, salt and pepper and heat through.

5. Ladle in bowls. Sprinkle with almonds and coriander.

Makes 4-6 servings

[Recipe source: Dairy Farmers of Canada]

Test Your Sodium IQ

Split screen image of TV host Anne Marie Mediwake and dietitian Sue Mah

Cardiovascular disease is still the number one cause of death globally (1). Eating too much sodium is linked to high blood pressure which is a major risk factor for heart disease. Here are 5 questions to test your sodium IQ!

Watch Sue’s national TV interview on YouTube or click on the image below.

 

 

 

 

1. True or False: We need sodium to stay healthy.

True!  We do need some sodium to maintain our blood pressure and fluid levels in our body. Sodium is also needed to keep our muscles and nerves running smoothly. The problem is that most of us are getting too much sodium, which can lead to health problems such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and cardiovascular disease.

On average, we should stick to less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day, but we’re eating about 1½ times that amount (2). In fact, 3 out of 5 Canadians eat too much sodium (2). A report by Health Canada found that 72% of kids between the ages of 4 to 13 are eating too much sodium. And over 95% of males aged 19-30 are eating too much sodium (2).

Eating too much sodium today can lead to high blood pressure later in life. According to a report by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, about 20% of Canadians have high blood pressure or hypertension, and another 20% of Canadians have pre-hypertension (where their blood pressure is above normal but not quite diagnosed as high yet) (3).

2. True or False: Sodium is the same thing as salt.

False!  Salt and sodium are often used interchangeably, but they’re not exactly the same thing. Sodium is a mineral that’s found naturally in foods and / or added to foods. Salt or table salt is a combination of sodium plus chloride. Salt is the main source of sodium. Other sources of sodium include sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), sodium benzoate (a preservative) and monosodium glutamate (a seasoning).

3. True or False? Sea salt is healthier for you than table salt.

False!  The main differences between sea salt and table salt are the taste, texture and how they’re made.

Sea salt is made by evaporating sea water and can taste differently depending on where it’s from. There are some trace minerals in sea salt such as calcium and iron, but the amounts are very low. The sea salt crystals can be large.

Table salt is made from fine crystals mined from ancient dried up salt lakes, and then ground to give it a finer texture. You may find iodine in table salt – it’s a nutrient that’s added to lower the chances of developing an iodine deficiency.

Kosher salt is the same as table salt, but has larger crystals and no iodine. And Pink Himalayan salt is actually mined in Pakistan. The pink color is from the iron in the salt.

By weight, all of these types of salt have about the same amount of sodium as table salt.

By volume however, (i.e. if you’re measuring it with a teaspoon), sea salt, Kosher salt and Pink Himalayan salt will have slightly less sodium because they have larger crystals.

Whichever type of salt you prefer, use less to cut down on your overall sodium intake. Boost the flavour of food with sodium-free ingredients like herbs, spices, garlic, lemon juice or citrus zest.

4. True or False? You can tell which foods are high in sodium because they taste salty.

False!  Some foods such as bread and cereal don’t really taste salty, but they do contain sodium. Sodium can also be hidden in salad dressings, soups, pasta sauces, different condiments and baked goods like cookies and muffins. Read food labels and look for foods that generally contain less than 15% of the Daily Value (%DV) for sodium. Or look for foods that are specifically labelled “low sodium”.

The image below shows a Nutrition Facts table for crackers. You can see that 4 of these crackers contain 6% of the Daily Value (DV) for sodium. A %DV that is 5% or less is considered “a little” and a %DV that is 15% or higher is considered “a lot”.

Nutrition Facts table for crackers, showing 6% DV for sodium

Image source: Sue Mah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. True or False? Most of the sodium we eat comes from the salt shaker.

False!  Only about 11% of the sodium we eat comes from the salt shaker when we add salt to our cooking or to our food at the table Almost 80% of the sodium we eat comes from packaged foods. The rest is from sodium found naturally in foods.

In fact, the top 6 sources of sodium in are diet are:

  • Bakery products (e.g. bread, muffins) – salt is added to baking, and even though the food doesn’t taste very salty, but we tend to eat a lot of these foods, so the sodium adds up
  • Appetizers and entrées (e.g. pizza, frozen meals)
  • Processed meat
  • Cheese
  • Soups
  • Sauces and condiments

Fast food / restaurant meals also tend to be higher in sodium. Sodium is added to foods to act as a preservative and also to bring out the flavour of foods. To cut back on sodium, enjoy more wholesome fruits and veggies because they’re essentially sodium-free. If you’re making a recipe, try cutting down on the ingredients which contain sodium. If you’re eating out, ask for sauces, salad dressings and gravy on the side so that you can control the amount of sodium that you eat.

 

References:

1) World Heart Foundation (no date). World Heart Day is celebrated every year on 29 September. Retrieved September 20, 2020 from https://www.world-heart-federation.org/world-heart-day/about-whd/

2) Health Canada (no date). A salty situation. Retrieved Sept 20, 2020 from https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/documents/services/publications/food-nutrition/infographic-salty-situation/26-18-2058-Sodium-Infographic-eng-08.pdf

3)  Heart and Stroke Foundation (2014 August). Position statement – Dietary sodium, heart disease and stroke. Retrieved September 20, 2020 from https://www.heartandstroke.ca/-/media/pdf-files/canada/2017-position-statements/dietary-sodium-ps-eng.ashx?rev=29762d89e1e3446084fa988ac9b0c3d7&hash=6523A0B22CEB23AC5B87207DB5C00E8C

 

Understanding the Most Confusing Words at the Grocery Store

Person pushing a grocery cart with overlay text of title

 

Natural versus organic. Free run versus free range. Made in Canada versus Product of Canada. These terms can be oh-so confusing! We decipher these terms so that they all make sense!

Watch my TV interview on this topic (and see a few food examples) or read the details below.

Dietitian Sue Mah speaking to TV host Lindsey Deluce

Whole grain versus Multi-grain

Whole grain means that you’re getting all three parts of the grain kernel or grain seed. The three parts are:

  • Bran – this is the outside layer of the grain and contains most of the fibre as well as B vitamins and some protein
  • Endosperm – this is the middle layer and it’s the bigger part of the whole grain. It’s mostly carbohydrates with some protein
  • Germ – this is the smallest part of the grain kernel and is rich in B vitamins, vitamin E and minerals

On the other hand, multi-grain simply means that the product contains more than one type of grains, and they may or may not be whole grains.

Choose whole grains when you can for extra fibre and nutrition. Some examples of whole grains are oats, barley, corn, rye, brown rice and quinoa.

Grass fed versus Grain fed

These are terms that are sometimes used to describe the beef you can buy. All cattle eat grasses and forages which includes grasses, clover and alfalfa.

Grass fed beef means that the cattle was only fed grass or forages their entire life.

Grain fed beef means that the cattle were raised on grass or forages for most of their life and then grain finished. This means is that about 3-4 months before going to market, the cattle are fed a diet that is mostly grains like corn or barley. The grain helps to produce a more marbled quality grade of beef

When it comes to nutrition, both grass fed and grain fed beef are excellent sources of protein, iron and vitamin B12. Grass fed beef is leaner than grain fed beef, and may have slightly higher amounts of omega-3 fat and vitamin K. Some say that grass fed beef has a slightly different taste too.

Free range versus Free run

These are terms that are used to describe the eggs you buy.

Free run eggs come from hens that roam the entire barn floor, and some of these barns may have multi-tiered aviaries.

Free range eggs come from hens that also roam the entire barn floor. And when the weather permits, the hens go outside to pasture. So in the winter when it’s cold, access to outside may be limited.

From a nutrition point of view, there are no differences in the nutritional content of these eggs compared to regular eggs. All eggs are a super source of protein, iron, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.

Made in Canada versus Product of Canada

Made in Canada means that a Canadian company was involved in some of the food preparation.

Product of Canada means that all or nearly all of the food and processing used to make the food is Canadian. In other words, “Product of Canada” foods were grown or raised by Canadian farmers, and prepared / packed by Canadian food companies.

Natural versus Organic

Natural means that nothing has been added or removed. The food does not contain any added vitamins or minerals or artificial flavours or food additives. The food also has not had anything removed or significantly changed.

Organic refers to the way foods and ingredients have been grown and processed. For example, organic chicken means that the chickens were raised with a certified organic feed that contains no animal by-products or antibiotics. Organic also means that there are no artificial colours or flavours, no preservatives or sweeteners. The “organic” logo, shown below, can be used only on products that have 95% or more organic content.

logo for organic products; logo is top half of a red maple leaf above a green field

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. 

 

Inside a Dietitian’s Fridge

TV host Dina Pugliese chatting with dietitian Sue Mah who is in her kitchen

The Chief Public Officer Theresa Tam is concerned that Canadians are reaching for “junk food and sweets” during the COVID pandemic. To help Canadians eat well and manage some of their stress, I shared a few of my key fridge staples on Breakfast TV Toronto.

Watch the interview by clicking either of the images below.

 

Dietitian Sue Mah talking about foods in her fridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: While this TV segment was sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, the information represents my own opinions and advice.

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.

 

 

Simple Ways to Boost Your Fibre

Dietitian Sue Mah talking to TV host about fibre

With the start of the new year, one way to eat better is by eating more fibre!

We need 25-38 grams of fibre every day, but most of us are only getting about half of that amount! There are generally 2 main types of fibre:

  • Soluble fibre – this is the type of fibre that can help lower blood cholesterol and control your blood sugar. It’s found in foods like apples, oranges, carrots, oats, barley, beans and lentils.
  • Insoluble fibre – this is the type of fibre that helps you stay regular. It’s found in fruits, veggies, whole grains and bran.

How can you get enough? As a regular dietitian expert featured on Your Morning, I shared a few simple tips for boosting fibre at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Take a peek at the before and after meals below, and watch the TV interview here!

Send me a comment and let me know how YOU get more fibre every day!

 

original breakfast plus breakfast with fibre boost

original lunch plus lunch with fibre boost

original dinner plus dinner with fibre boost

[Images: @YourMorning]

 

Spot the Sugars

New food labels are coming and for the first time, you’ll see a Daily Value (DV) for “Sugars”. Health Canada has set a DV of 100 grams for total sugars. This includes sugars naturally found in foods such as fruits, veggies and unsweetened milk products, plus the sugars added to foods and the sugars found in foods like honey and maple syrup. Packaged foods with a Nutrition Facts table will now show the “Sugars” content as a percent of the 100 grams Daily Value (%DV).

Nutrition Facts table showing % Daily Value for sugars

But do most Canadians know where the sugars are in their foods?

Watch Sue’s fun TV Interview with Ben Mulroney (Co-host of Your Morning) to spot the sugars in different foods or find the interview here.

My Chat with Canada’s Minister of Health

Sue + Minister of Health Ginette Jan 23 2019 - 1

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

Here’s a note from our conversation.

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

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

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

Written by: Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc

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