Tip of the Month: Stay hydrated

A person holding a glass of water In the colder months, we don’t always remember to stay hydrated. Sweat evaporates quickly in the cold, so you may not feel like you’re sweating a lot. What’s more, we don’t sense our thirst very well in the cold. The fact is, dehydration can occur in the winter and it can have a negative effect on your mood and energy.

Here are 6 tips to help you stay hydrated:

  1. Drink water throughout the day – when you wake up, during/after exercise, with meals and snacks, and even when you’re active outdoors.
  2. Fill up a water bottle or mug with water. If you need a little extra flavour, add sliced cucumbers or citrus. Bring the water bottle to your work station or keep it in your purse/backpack so that it’s visible and readily available.
  3. Drink warm fluids. Sometimes it’s easier to consume warm fluids during the winter. Try a latté, hot chocolate, hot tea or bowl of hot soup. They can be so comforting on a cold, chilly day.
  4. Enjoy a variety of fruits and veggies which have a high water content. Some great options are apples, pears, berries, melons, broccoli, tomatoes, zucchini and lettuce.
  5. Set a timer to drink water. Or plan to drink 1/2 cup to 1 cup of fluids for every hour that you’re awake. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty. The amount of water that you need daily can range between 11-15 cups, and varies depending on your activities and sweat levels. This can include drinking water as well as the fluids from food and other beverages.
  6. Check your urine. If you’re well hydrated, your urine should be clear or light yellow.

 

Written by Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc, FDC, award-winning dietitian, Nutrition Solutions Inc.

 

Foods to add to your plate for the winter

Sue is talking to TV host Kelsey McKewan with a table full of foodDuring the winter, we often face a dip in temperatures, wind chill and a lack of sunshine. To stay healthy and happy, try adding these nutrients and foods to your plate.

Click here to watch my national TV interview on this topic.

 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D benefits our bone health, immune function and mood.  Research shows that low vitamin D status is associated with depression. Often called the “sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D can be made when our skin is exposed to ultraviolet B rays from sunlight. However, during our Canadian winters with shorter days, there isn’t enough sunlight for this to happen. And even if we are outdoors, we’re usually all bundled up to stay warm. In fact, the risk of vitamin D inadequacy can double during the winter, compared to the summer.

From October to March, it’s advisable to take a vitamin D supplement, especially if you’re over the age of 50. Health Canada suggests 400 IU of vitamin D per day while other organizations such as Osteoporosis Canada recommend a higher supplement dose if you’re at high risk for osteoporosis.

What you can do: In addition to taking a vitamin D supplement in the winter, add these vitamin D-containing foods to your plate: fatty fish (e.g. salmon, artic char, canned sardines), eggs, mushrooms, milk and fortified plant-based beverage.

Whole grains

During the dark, cold wintry days, it’s easy to feel a little blah. You probably already know that eating whole grains can lower your chances of developing heart disease. But did you know that whole grains can boost your mood too?

Carbohydrate foods – like whole grains as well as legumes, fruits and vegetables – triggers our body’s production of serotonin which is a hormone that helps us feel calm, relaxed and happy. The key is to enjoy carbohydrates WITH protein. In protein foods, there’s a specific amino acid called tryptophan which is needed to make serotonin.

What you can do: Pair whole grains with protein to make delicious meals. Try a sandwich made with whole grain bread and grilled chicken or egg. How about a bowl of oatmeal with nuts and seeds? For pasta salad lovers, stir in a can of beans. My favourite pairing is quinoa with salmon – not only does salmon provide vitamin D, but it also is a fantastic source of  heart healthy and mood-boosting omega-3 fats.

(Learn more about tryptophan in my blog: Does eating turkey make you sleepy?)

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is just one of the many nutrients needed for a strong immune system, especially during cold and flu season. Research shows that getting enough vitamin C can reduce the duration of a cold by 8%. A single orange offers your daily quota for vitamin C, and so does 1 cup of fresh/frozen strawberries, 1 cup of broccoli, 1/2 red pepper or 1-2 kiwis. Vitamin C also plays a role in producing collagen to support skin health.

What you can do: Think beyond oranges for vitamin C. For variety, also try grapefruit, tomatoes, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and potatoes.

Dark Leafy Greens

Canada’s Dietary Guidelines actually recommend eating one dark green vegetable every day. Fibre, folate and magnesium are a few of the notable nutrients found in leafy greens. Magnesium is actually important for stress management. When we’re stressed, levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) rise. Magnesium works to reduce cortisol levels. Some magnesium superstars are spinach, kale, bok choy, romaine lettuce and Brussels sprouts.

What you can do: Add leafy greens to soups, smoothies, stews, salads and casseroles. Magnesium is also found in other foods like nuts, seeds, whole grains and DARK CHOCOLATE! A 40 gram portion (1.5 ounces or 3 squares) of dark chocolate contains about 25% of your daily requirement for magnesium. Enjoy!

 

Written by Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc, FDC, award-winning dietitian, Nutrition Solutions Inc.

 

 

Beef Barley Soup

 

A bowl of beef barley soup, served with a green spoon.

Beef and Barley Soup

This hearty soup is a meal in a bowl! It's the perfect way to warm up on a chilly day.
Course Soup
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 1½ -2 lbs beef (I usually use sirloin)
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 large carrots, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • ⅔ to ¾ cup pearl barley (Use less if you prefer a "soupier" soup; use more if you prefer a "stew" like soup)
  • 8 cups reduced sodium broth (I use 4 cups beef broth plus 4 cups chicken broth)
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions
 

  • Season beef with salt and pepper.
  • In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for a few minutes until soft.
  • Add beef and cook, stirring occasionally until beef is slightly brown on all sides.
  • Add carrots and celery. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables have softened.
  • Stir in barley and thyme. Pour in the broth.
  • Cover and bring soup to boil. Keep covered and reduce to simmer for about 40-45 minutes until barley is tender.

Notes

Keyword Barley, Beef, Beef and Barley Soup, Soup

If you’re overwhelmed by New Year’s resolutions, try this instead

A pad of paper on a desk. The words "New year resolution" are written on the pad of paper.

Happy New Year! For many, the start of a new year can be motivation to kick start some lifestyle changes.

But resolutions can be overwhelming. I actually don’t make resolutions because honestly, it just puts too much pressure on achieving a specific outcome for the entire year. Imagine the stress and self-guilt if you can’t stick to your resolution. Let’s face it – life happens. Things get in the way – time, interest, family issues or other unexpected distractions. In fact, a recent survey by Forbes Health found that most resolutions last only two to three months. Only one percent of those surveyed stated that their resolutions lasted either 11 or 12 months. (1)

So as a registered dietitian, what do I suggest instead? Make a “SMART” goal for the month. The goal should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

For January, here’s my Nutrition Tip of the Month: Eat one green vegetable every day. Here are few ideas to get you started:

  • Add spinach to a smoothie or omelet
  • Serve a salad with lunch or dinner using kale, romaine or arugula
  • Snack on green peppers with your favourite dip
  • Toss broccoli or green peas into a stir-fry or pasta salad or fried rice
  • Roast Brussels sprouts or asparagus

A bowl of fresh greens

The key is to find things which are doable and sustainable for YOU! Over time, this will become a habit and next month, you can set another “smart” goal.

Let me know in the comments how you like to eat your green veggies!

 

References: (1)  2024 New Year’s Resolutions: Nearly Half Cite Fitness As Their Top Priority.  https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/new-year-resolutions-survey-2024/

Written by: Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc, FDC – Award-wining dietitian

How to Ditch the Diet Talk During the Holidays

Table with holiday decorations and wine glasses

The holidays are coming and you may find yourself or others saying things that signal diet culture. Diet culture is a system of beliefs which value body thinness over our physical health, mental health and overall well-being. Decades ago, diet culture was very popular. However today, we know that diet culture can lead to disordered eating and a poor relationship with food.

If you find yourself saying any of these statements, take a moment to reflect and consider what you can say instead.

Instead of saying this: You look great! Have you lost weight?

Say this: It’s so great to see you!

While you may think you’re giving a compliment, you’re actually reinforcing diet culture and the idea that thin bodies are better than others. Not only can diet culture lead to disordered eating, but it can also oppress those who do not match up to this image of thinness. The best plan is to avoid talking about your weight or anybody else’s weight.

Instead of saying this: I’m going to be bad and have a piece of dessert.

Say this: I feel like eating a piece of cake. I’m going to take my time eating it and really enjoy it!

Diet culture can make us feel guilty for eating certain types of foods. The truth is that food has no moral value – food is not good or bad, it’s just food. Please don’t feel guilty, ashamed or badly for eating any type of food. Instead, remember that all foods can fit into a balanced eating pattern. To nurture a positive relationship with food, think about your typical pattern of eating (which could include plenty of wholesome foods) rather than the foods you decide to eat at one meal or in one day.

Instead of saying this: I worked out today so I can eat this now.

Say this: I feel my best when I’m active and eat for fuel and nourishment.

Food should not be used as a reward, especially not for children. Know that we eat food for so many different reasons – fuel, nutrition, comfort, connection and celebration. Build habits for a healthy lifestyle which include joyful activity, wholesome eating, sufficient sleep and self care.

Are there any other phrases you would add ? Let me know in the comments.

Written by: Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc, FDC – Award-winning dietitian and Founder, Nutrition Solutions

 

 

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Arugula

 

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Arugula

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Arugula

This colourful salad combines so many different flavours and textures - sweet beets, creamy goat cheese, crunchy walnuts and peppery arugula! Enjoy!
Course Salad, Side Dish
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

Salad

  • 6-8 cups arugula
  • 6-8 cooked beets, diced See note below to roast or boil beets. Or buy prepackaged cooked beets.
  • 1/2 to 1 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • 3/4 cup toasted walnuts

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Place arugula in a large bowl or serving platter.
  • Top arugula with beets, goat cheese and walnuts.
  • Place dressing ingredients in a jar, add lid and shake well. Or, whisk together dressing ingredients in a cup.
  • Toss salad gently with dressing just before serving.

Notes

To roast beets: For best flavour, roast beets. Trim the beet roots and stems, leaving about 2 inches of stem on each beet. Scrub beets clean under cold water and pat dry. Wrap each beet completely in aluminum foil. Place beets on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet and roast in oven at 400 F for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the beets are fork tender. Remove foil and allow beets to cool, about 10-15 minutes. When beets are still warm but cool enough to touch, peel off the skins. If beets are completely cooled, it will be more difficult to remove the skins. (Note that the beets will stain your fingers. You may choose to wear plastic gloves or use paper towels. )
To boil beets:  Trim the beet roots and stems, leaving about 2 inches of stem on each beet. Scrub beets clean under cold water. Place beets in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes (for small beets) or 45 minutes to 1 hour (for large beets) or until the beets are fork tender. Drain beets and rinse under cold water. Remove the skins while the beets are still warm. If beets are completely cooled, it will be more difficult to remove the skins. (Note that the beets will stain your fingers. You may choose to wear plastic gloves or use paper towels.)
 
Keyword Beet Salad, Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Arugula, Goat Cheese

Can you name this veggie?

A bowl of kalettes

 

Did you guess kalettes? If so, you’re correct!

Kalettes are a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts. They are about the same size as a Brussels sprout and look like a small bundle of purplish-green curly leaves with short stems. I saw them at my recent trip to Costco and love that they’re a product of Canada!

Both kalettes and Brussels sprouts are Cruciferous veggies which contain many wonderful nutrients including fibre, beta-carotene, folate, lutein, zeaxanthin – important for cancer prevention, heart health and eye health. Specifically, cruciferous veggies contain a group of natural, beneficial compounds called glucosinolates – these are responsible not only for the slightly bitter flavour but also for some of the cancer prevention properties.

The whole kalette is edible. Compared to Brussels sprouts, kalettes have a milder, slightly nutty flavour. You can roast kalettes (my favourite way to eat them!), sauté them or slice them thinly and eat them raw in a salad.

Here’s how to roast kalettes: Preheat oven to 475F. In a medium-sized bowl, toss about about 3 cups of raw kalettes and drizzle with 1-2 Tbsp olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour onto a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the leaves are tender and browned. If you prefer the kalettes crispier, bake them a little longer. It makes a great veggie side dish! Enjoy!

 

 

Goat Cheese Tarts with Sautéed Mushrooms

 

Goat Cheese Tarts with Sautéed Mushrooms

The sautéed mushrooms pair wonderfully with creamy goat cheese for a wonderful appetizer!
Course Appetizer

Ingredients
  

Crust

  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar

Filling

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup fresh goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (light or regular)
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup 10% cream

Mushrooms

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive or canola oil
  • 2 cups sliced, fresh mushrooms (white, cremini or blend of mushrooms)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh, chopped rosemary
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • In a bowl, combine melted butter, breadcrumbs and sugar. Press mixture evenly into three mini (4-inch) cheesecake tins.
  • Add eggs, goat cheese, sour cream, maple syrup and cream into a food processor. Mix until smooth. Pour over the crusts into each cheesecake tin. Place cheesecake tins onto a cookie sheet and bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is set.
  • In a frying pan, heat oil and sauté the mushrooms for about 4 minutes. Season with chopped rosemary and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Spread mushrooms over each tart and serve with crackers.
  • I prefer serving the tart cold. Prepare the cheese tart and mushrooms in advance and keep them both refrigerated. At serving time, heat up the mushrooms and spread over each tart. Serve with crackers such as Rosemary Triscuits (shown in photo).

Notes

Recipe is adapted from: Maple from Canada.
Keyword Goat Cheese, Mushrooms

What do you think about juice shots?

A tray with 3 small juice shots (green, orange, dark orange) in a glass.

With cold and flu season approaching, you’ve probably seen juice shots popping up in grocery stores and shops. Juice shots are intended to boost your immune system and promote wellness. Are they worth it? Here are some things to consider.

What are juice shots?

Juice shots are also called “wellness shots.” They’re small, concentrated drinks (on average 60-70 mL), usually made with ingredients such as wheat grass, ginger, lemon, turmeric, cayenne pepper and beets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pros

Juice shots can be a convenient way to get an extra burst of vitamins, especially if you’re not getting enough fruits or vegetables every day. Some of the common ingredients used in juice shots do have health benefits.

The cons

Juice shots don’t contain fibre which is important for gut health and overall wellness. One dose of a juice shot probably isn’t going to make a big difference to your health. For long term benefits, you likely need to take juice shots regularly, and at over $4 for a 60 mL shot, the cost can really add up over time.

The bottom line

Juice shots likely won’t do much harm, but because the amounts are so small, you’d need to consume them on a regular basis to see an effect. Think of how you could incorporate some of these unique ingredients into your everyday meals. Try adding wheat grass powder to a shake or smoothie. Add sliced fresh ginger to stir-fry dishes or fried rice (my personal favourite!). And mix turmeric and cayenne to a spice rub for meat / poultry. Could you even make your own wellness shot at home with juiced fruits or veggies, ginger and lemon juice? What other ideas do you have? Let me know in the comments.

Do you have a food / nutrition questions? Ask me in the comments below and I’ll answer it in a future post.

 

 

 

Does eating turkey make you sleepy?

Dinner table set with cooked turkey, pumpkin pie, green beans, and gravy

Feeling sleepy after your Thanksgiving meal? Don’t blame it all on the turkey. The many components of the meal may work together to trigger that lull to nap land. 

Here’s a simple science lesson.

Turkey, as well as foods like chicken, cheese and milk contains an amino acid called tryptophan. 

Tryptophan is a component of serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that helps us feel calm and relaxed. Serotonin is then also used to make the sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin.

As we digest foods containing protein, the amino acids enter the bloodstream and make their way over to the brain. The problem is that tryptophan is a big, bulky amino acid. So it has to compete with other amino acids to get into the brain. Imagine this as a long lineup of people waiting to get into a concert.

Enter carbs. The carbs you eat from the delicious stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and other typical Thanksgiving fare triggers the release of insulin. This action removes most of the amino acids from our bloodstream, but not the tryptophan. It’s as if all of the people in line for that concert have been pushed away, except for tryptophan. This of course makes it easier for tryptophan to enter the brain and start its effect on serotonin and melatonin to create that calm, sleepy feeling. 

Another possible explanation for the sleepiness is that there’s more blood flow to your stomach to digest the meal, meaning less blood flow to your brain. And let’s not forget that a glass or two of alcohol may play a role. 

So what should you do if you’d like to avoid the ZZZ’s after your Thanksgiving meal? Well, you could try to enjoy smaller portions of carbohydrate-containing foods. Maybe have a coffee with dessert. But if you’re like me, you’ll simply enjoy the wonderful, hearty meal with family and cozy up with a pillow afterwards!