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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.

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

The new Canada’s Food Guide is coming soon – Here’s what you can expect

There’s been quite a buzz lately about the new Canada’s Food Guide, which should be released soon this year!

I recently shared my expert insights and answered consumer questions on CBC Morning Live national news. Check out my two interviews to get the full scoop!

Watch Interview Part 1

Watch Interview Part 2

Here are just a few expected highlights of the new Canada’s Food Guide:
– Recommendations on HOW to eat, not just what to eat or what not to eat.
– Recommendations to limit the 3 “S” – sugars, saturated fat and sodium.
– A focus on plant-based foods such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit.
– A new “protein” group which includes a variety of protein-rich foods such as beans, nuts, seeds, soy products, tofu, eggs, fish / seafood, lean red meats, lower fat milk and yogurt, and cheeses lower in sodium and fat.
– Consideration of other factors that affect our food choices such as food accessibility, food affordability and cultural diversity.

Interested in learning more? Contact me to book a Lunch and Learn presentation or seminar.

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

What A Dietitian Eats

Sue Kelsey

As one of my monthly segments on CTV Your Morning, I thought it would be fun to do a little show and tell of my meals in a day. So here we go…this is what a dietitian eats!

Watch the interview here!

Breakfast – Veggie and cheese omelet

breakfast omelet

For breakfast, I try to make sure that I’m getting protein and veggies, so an omelet is perfect! Eggs are a great source of protein and the egg yolk is filled with nutrients such as lutein, omega-3 fat and choline. I add a slice of whole wheat toast for wholesome carbs and fibre. If I know my morning will be super busy, then I’ll make the omelet the night before and just heat it up in the morning for a quick breakfast.

Lunch – Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

lunch lentil shep pie

I love lentils! This is a fantastic vegetarian, plant-based lunch and a lighter version of your typical Shepherd’s Pie. Find the recipe here. Again, I’m looking for protein and veggies in my meal – lentils provide the protein and iron; carrots and stewed tomatoes count towards my veggies. The mashed potato topping is actually mixed with some cottage cheese to boost the calcium count. I pair this meal with some fresh fruit such as strawberries and kiwi – the vitamin C in the fruit improves the iron absorption from the lentils. My plan is to make this recipe on the weekend and re-heat it for a fast and nutrition packed lunch.

Afternoon Snack – Coffee, peanuts and fresh fruit

coffee snack

My mornings start at 6 am, so by mid afternoon, I’m feeling like I need an energy boost. A little bit of caffeine and some protein help me stay alert. Coffee is a treat for me – with double cream and double sugar! I aim to eat at least one green veggie and at least one orange veggie or fruit every day – I’m choosing a peach which is in season now. Peanuts are great for protein and they also contain magnesium which helps to fight stress.

Dinner – Baked salmon with quinoa arugula salad

Dinner salmon

I try to eat fish at least twice a week. Salmon is my go-to for heart healthy omega-3 fats, and it’s super easy to cook in the toaster oven. This is an Asian inspired recipe with a soy sauce and sesame oil marinade. I make a batch of quinoa ahead of time and use it in different ways throughout the week. Here, I’ve tossed some quinoa with arugula and added in some roasted beets and corn kernels. I set a goal to include at least 2 types of veggies at dinner time and make half my plate veggies.


Dessert – Fresh fruit salad with a small piece of dark chocolate

I usually have fresh fruit for dessert. Sometimes I’ll pair the fruit with a piece of dark chocolate. I love to bake, and never turn down a homemade cookie or slice of apple pie with ice cream!

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