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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.)

Beware of Free Food in the Workplace!

Happy business colleagues having lunch on table at office cafeteria

Does your workplace offer free food at meetings,events or in the common area? Turns out that all of this free food can be adding about 1,300 empty calories to your week!

A one of a kind study in the USA analyzed the food and beverage choices of over 5,000 employees who either purchased food from on-site vending machines or the cafeteria, or obtained food for free in common areas, at meetings or at workplace social events. The preliminary results, presented at last month’s meeting of the American Society of Nutrition, found that nearly 25% of the employees obtained food from work at least once a week which added up to almost 1,300 calories by the end of the week. The bad news is that the food and beverages tended to be high in empty calories which contain little to no nutrition. Even worse news is that over 70% of the calories consumed came from free food that was offered in the workplace such as pizza, soda, cookies, brownies, cake and candy.

Bottom line:
About 87% of Canadian employees have personal goals to eat healthier foods. Workplaces can play a huge role in helping employees eat better and improve their food habits. Start by creating a workplace healthy eating policy to ensure access and availability of healthy options in foodservice, vending machines and at workplace meetings / events. We can assess your current offerings and help you build and implement a winning workplace healthy eating policy that will boost productivity and performance! Contact me for more details and / or to book an inspiring workplace wellness presentation for your team.

What’s the Latest Update on the Canada’s Food Guide?

canada's food guide better resolution

I was happy to attend the annual Dietitians of Canada conference in beautiful Vancouver last week and listened to a presentation by Ann Ellis – Manager of Dietary Guidance Manager at Health Canada – who shared the latest update on the revisions to Canada’s Food Guide.

Originally, the new Food Guide was supposed to be out by now, but Health Canada is waiting for additional data about Canadian’s eating habits, so the timelines have shifted.

Later this fall, Health Canada plans to launch a “Suite of Resources:

Canada’s Dietary Guidelines for Health Professionals and Policy Makers – A report providing Health Canada’s policy on healthy eating. This report will form the foundation for Canada’s Food Guide tools and resources.
Canada’s Food Guide Healthy Eating Principles – Communicating Canada’s Dietary Guidelines in plain language.
Canada’s Food Guide Graphic – Expressing the Healthy Eating Principles through visuals and words.
Canada’s Food Guide Interactive Tool – An interactive online tool providing custom information for different life stages, in different settings.
Canada’s Food Guide Web Resources – Mobile-responsive healthy eating information (factsheets, videos, recipes) to help Canadians apply Canada’s Dietary Guidelines.

In Spring 2019, Health Canada plans to release:
Canada’s Healthy Eating Pattern for Health Professionals and Policy Makers – A report providing guidance on amounts and types of foods as well as life stage guidance.
Enhancements to Canada’s Food Guide – Interactive Tool and Canada’s Food Guide – Web Resources – Enhancements and additional content to Canada’s web application on an ongoing basis.

Some other insights that I learned:
– Health Canada is hoping to get back to an overall pattern of eating and highlight nutrients of public health concern. The new Canada’s Food Guide will also have a heavy focus on food skills and determinants to health.
– There is no intent to advise consumers to avoid meat in the new Food Guide.
– The new Food Guide will focus more on the proportionality and frequency of meals, rather than numbers of servings to consume. In other word, information about number of servings may be more “behind the scenes” info for health professionals rather than front-facing info for consumers
Sign for my free nutrition e-newsletter if you haven’t done so already. And stay tuned – once the new Canada’s Food Guide it out, I’ll let you know all about it!

The MIND Diet for Brain Health

Render illustration of "MIND DIET" title on head silhouette with cloudy sky as a background.

It’s never too early or too late to start taking care of your brain health. In fact, diet is an important predictor of how well our brain ages.

The MIND diet stands for “Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay” and its goal is to prevent dementia and loss of brain function as we age. The MIND diet is a blend of the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet.

The Mediterranean Diet is based on the traditional foods enjoyed by those living in Mediterranean countries including Italy and Greece. Researchers found that these people actually had a lower risk of diseases such as heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes and premature death. This diet focuses on eating vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil.

The DASH Diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Research shows that this diet is helpful in lowering high blood pressure. This diet also emphasizes vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes as well as low fat dairy products and lean protein.

When followed rigorously, the MIND Diet results in a 53% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. When the MIND Diet is followed modestly (i.e. not perfectly), it still results in a 35% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

According to the MIND Diet, here are the 10 foods to eat for brain health:
– green leafy vegetables – at least 1 dark green salad every day
– other vegetables – at least 1 other vegetable every day
– whole grains – at least 3 servings every day
– nuts – at least 1 ounce (30 g) every day
– beans or legumes – at least every other day
– berries – at least twice a week
– fish – at least once a week
– poultry – at least twice a week
– olive oil – this is the oil of choice
– wine. If you don’t drink alcohol, purple grape juice provides many of the same benefits.

And here are the 5 foods to avoid/limit:
– red meat
– butter/margarine
– cheese
– pastries/sweets and
– fried fast food.

Unlock the Potential of Food – here’s what FOOD can do for YOU!

Unlock potential of food

As dietitians, we are passionate about the potential of food and its connection to health! For March – Nutrition Month, and all year long, celebrate these benefits of delicious, wholesome, nourishing food.

Food can FUEL your body and mind. According to the Dietitians of Canada, almost half of Canadians say that eating a balanced diet is challenging for them because they are so busy, and nearly 30% turn to snacks to stay fuelled. The right food choices will not only energize you but also maximize your creativity and productivity! For a healthy snack, we love combining produce with protein – try egg and avocado toast, peanut butter on apple slices, or tuna with veggie sticks. Work with me to create wellness foodservice menus or to build a positive nutrition workplace environment.

Food can help kids DISCOVER healthy eating. Did you know that 38% of parents rarely or never let their child prepare a meal or snack? Let’s get kids in the kitchen! Kids are more likely to eat what they’ve made, so take the opportunity to help kids discover and be adventurous with food. Find a recipe that you can make together. Try new foods and flavours. Shop for groceries together too.

Food can PREVENT health problems. Healthy eating, being active and living smoke-free together can prevent about 80% of premature stroke and heart disease. There are many different “diets” or “eating patterns” such as the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH diet and the MIND diet. Find out more about these diets at my upcoming 11th annual Nutrition for NON-Nutritionists course on April 18th. We’ll look beyond the fad diets and gimmicks to deliver reliable, life-changing advice.

Food can HEAL. Dietitians believe in and understand the potential of food to help you heal and feel your best. Work with a dietitian to heal during illness and enhance your health. As the trusted food and nutrition experts, dietitians can help you: manage your blood sugar levels, lower your blood pressure, lower your blood cholesterol, manage the side effects of cancer care treatments, navigate a gluten-free diet, reach / maintain a healthy weight, and stay nourished when eating/swallowing is a challenge.

Food can BRING US TOGETHER. Eating together has benefits for everyone! Children who eat with their families tend to eat more veggies and fruit, consume fewer less sugar-sweetened drinks, have better academic performance, are at a lower risk for being overweight and have a lower chance of developing eating disorders. Teens who eat with their families get better grades and are less likely to smoke, use drugs or alcohol, or engage in serious fights. Adults who eat with friends and family eat more vegetables and fruit, drink less pop and have a healthier weight. Older adults who eat as part of a group setting have better overall nutrient intakes and lower rates of malnutrition. Whether it’s breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, snack or yes, even dessert – take time to sit down and enjoy food in the company of others!

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

Should You Be Worried About Lectins?

Beans_

I love eating different grains and beans. In fact, one of my favourite meals is lentils and rice. But there’s a growing buzz about lectins in these foods. Are lectins the new gluten? Here are 5 things you need to know.

1. Lectins are a family of proteins that bind to carbohydrates. Lectins are found in all foods, but are most concentrated in legumes and grains. Uncooked, raw legumes such as red and white kidney beans are one of the biggest sources of lectins. Lectins help protect plants from attacks by pests and insects.

2. Lectins aren’t easily digested, so they pass through the stomach and into the gut where they may “stick” to the gut wall. Eating high amounts of lectins may damage the lining of the gut, potentially causing digestive issues. For example, eating RAW or undercooked or improperly cooked kidney beans can lead to vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

3. Some people, such as those with Crohn’s disease or inflammatory bowel syndrome, may be more sensitive to lectins. If you have these conditions, speak to a Registered Dietitian to determine the amount of lectins that will minimize any symptoms or flare-ups.

4. Cooking eliminates almost all of the lectins in foods. Boiling legumes and grains in water for example is an easy way to get rid of lectins. Soaking beans, sprouting seeds and grains, and fermenting foods are other ways to lower the lectin content of foods. Canned beans have very low lectin levels due to the canning process.

5. Remember that many lectin-containing foods also provide important nutrients. Grains offer B vitamins, iron and fibre. Legumes offer protein, fibre, iron and zinc. So don’t worry about lectins. Instead, cook your grains and legumes, and enjoy!

Lentil Watermelon Summer Salad

Lentil Watermelon Salad

Watermelon is one of my go-to fruits for the summer! Team it up with some lentils, feta cheese and mint – and you’ve got a beautiful, refreshing, protein-packed salad!

Here’s the Lentil Watermelon Salad that I featured on my TV interview with CHCH Morning Live.

Ingredients
6 cups 1-inch cubed watermelon
1 1/2 cups cooked black lentils (puy or Beluga)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
10 fresh mint leaves, finely sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon white wine or champagne vinegar
salt and pepper

Instructions
1. In a large salad bowl, combine the watermelon, lentils, half of the feta and half of the mint.
2. In a small container, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Pour olive oil mixture over the watermelon mixture. Toss gently to combine.
4. Top with remaining feta and mint before serving.

Makes 8 servings.
Recipe source: www.pulses.org

Men’s Nutrition

Sue Ben 3

June is National Men’s Health Month! Do men need a sports or protein drink? Is it true that beer causes a beer belly? Did you know men need more fibre than women? And what foods are best to prevent prostate cancer and gout?

I met up with Ben Mulroney on CTV Your Morning to chat about these questions!

Watch the interview video and get the answers!

Sue Ben 1rev

YOU can Help Shape Canada’s Nutrition Policies!

Child apple vs hamburger

Are you concerned about marketing to kids? Do you want Canada’s Food Guide to be the best tool to help you and your families eat well? Are you interested in access to safe and healthy food as well as the relationship between agriculture, the environment and the economy?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, then please take some time to complete Health Canada’s free online consultations on these three issues. Don’t miss your chance to have your voice heard!

1. Restricting unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children

Health Canada wants to reduce how much advertising children see or hear about unhealthy food and beverages. This online consultation is the first step to more consultations coming in 2018. Your ideas and opinions will help Health Canada decide how to go about restricting advertising for unhealthy food and beverages to children.
Here is the online consultation survey. Survey closes on July 25, 2017.


2. Canada’s Food Guide

This is phase 2 of the consultations. After this consultation, Health Canada will create recommendations and develop them into consumer messages, tools, and resources. A new suite of Canada’s Food Guide resources will be rolled out beginning in early 2018.
Here is the online consultation survey. Survey closes on July 25, 2017.


3. A Food Policy for Canada

A food policy is a way to address issues related to the production, processing, distribution and consumption of food. The decisions we make as individuals and as a country about food have a direct impact on our health, environment, economy, and communities.
Here is the online survey. Survey closes on July 27, 2017.

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