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Welcome to the third and final article in this series on how to discover your inner veggie-lover.
Tip # 3: TOSS ‘EM!
With spring officially upon us, nothing beats a freshly tossed salad. The wonderful thing about salads is the fact that countless delicious variations are possible!
When choosing greens, keep in mind that a darker color signals a greater nutritional value. Instead of nutrient poor iceberg lettuce, opt for dark leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, arugula or red/green leaf romaine. While raw kale can be bitter in taste and coarse in texture, massaging rinsed leaves with a bit of olive oil and salt until the leaves soften and darken transforms this nutritional hero into a tasty salad green.
· Add fresh herbs like parsley, basil, dill or cilantro.
· Toss in roasted vegetables, such as bell peppers, beets or asparagus.
· Throw in some fruit. Apples, pears, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries all make nutritious additions.
· Make it a meal by including a whole grain, such as cooked quinoa, and a protein source, such as chicken, hardboiled eggs, chickpeas or kidney beans.
· A sprinkle of feta, goat’s cheese, freshly shaved Parmesan or Gorgonzola can take your salad from mediocre to irresistible.
· Mix up your own fresh vinaigrette dressing using healthy oils like olive oil, hemp or flaxseed oil paired with lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar. Add mashed garlic, grainy mustard or chopped fresh herbs for extra flavour. This simple option beats most store-bought dressings, which tend to be high in sugar and unhealthy fats.
Guaranteed crowd pleaser salad
This salad has become my go-to option for large gatherings and is always one of the most popular dishes. Simply toss the following ingredients and enjoy!
· Organic spinach or mixed baby greens
· Chunks of feta or goat’s cheese
· Fresh berries: blueberries, blackberries, strawberries or raspberries
· Chopped avocado
· Vinaigrette dressing made with 1 part balsamic vinegar to 3 parts extra virgin olive oil
· Salt and pepper
In the second part of this series focusing on transforming vegetables from boring to mouth watering, we explore yet another way to awaken your inner veggie-lover!
Tip # 2: DIP ‘EM!
Pairing fresh vegetables with a tasty dip is a great way to trick yourself into eating more veggies!
Store bought products often contain many unnatural and unnecessary ingredients. Creamy dips can be particularly high in fat and calories. Fortunately, whipping up your own dips is easier than you might think! Read on for two base recipes that can be modified in numerous ways to satisfy your taste buds.
1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Using a small food processor or immersion blender, puree until smooth. If the mixture is too dry, add water, olive oil or plain yogurt in small amounts until the desired consistency is reached.
Hummus can be made in countless variations:
· For extra flavour, add 1-2 cloves minced garlic, roasted red peppers, ground cumin or fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro or rosemary.
· Try other types of beans, such as kidney or navy, or use a can of mixed beans.
1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
2 tsp dry herbs or 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs
1 tbsp finely chopped green onion
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
Experiment with different variations of this versatile dip:
· Make it spicy with a few drops of hot sauce, or a sprinkle of paprika or cayenne, added in small amounts to taste.
· Add a pureed avocado for extra creaminess.
· Substitute the green onion for chives, garlic or red onion.
· Try different herbs, like parsley, oregano dill, cilantro, rosemary or basil.
These two tasty dips provide a great excuse to eat plenty of raw vegetables, such as mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, zucchini sticks, radishes, carrots, bell peppers, cauliflower and broccoli. Encourage yourself eat more of this healthy indulgence by following these three recommendations:
· Keep a large portion of washed and cut vegetables handy in the fridge for a ready-to-eat snack.
· Try swapping out the side salad at dinnertime once in a while for a platter of crispy veggies and a homemade dip.
· For a healthy and filling portable lunch, pack a serving of dip, along with a selection of vegetables and a handful of whole grain crackers.
Check out my blog next month to see the third and final tip for boosting vegetable intake. Until then, happy dipping!
You probably already know that one of the most effective ways to boost energy and mood is to consume a nutritious diet. Increasing your vegetable intake is a great place to start, as veggies are generally low in calories and rich in health-boosting ingredients like fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
Unfortunately, many of us stumble right out of the starting blocks, as vegetables seldom rank amongst our favourite foods. Consequently, the first step towards healthier eating is to discover just how tasty vegetables can be with a few simple preparation tips and new recipe ideas.
Tip #1: ROAST ‘EM!
Oven roasting vegetables is an easy technique for unlocking and intensifying their hidden flavours. Even bitter tasting vegetables, such as cauliflower, take on an deliciously sweet taste with roasting, as the natural sugars caramelize on the surface.
There are a few general guidelines to follow when roasting vegetables:
· Choose a shallow metal baking sheet.
· Cut the vegetable into equally sized pieces.
· Drizzle with olive oil and mix, ensuring the oil is evenly distributed in a thin layer.
· Most veggies roast well at 400F.
· Cooking time will vary, based on the density of the vegetable and the size of the chunks. Denser vegetables like yams take longer to roast, but chopping the vegetable into smaller pieces reduces cooking time.
A few irresistible suggestions:
Cauliflower: Chop the cauliflower into florets, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown on the edges, about 15-20 min. For added flavour, season with ground curry, cumin or turmeric before roasting.
Portobello mushrooms: Wash and dry well. Place smooth side down on baking sheet and top with sliced bell peppers and cheese. Roast for approx. 12-15 minutes. Makes a great burger!
Eggplant: Cut lengthwise into slices ½ inch thick and brush with olive oil. Roast for about 15 min, until soft and fragrant. Serve as a delicious side dish, topped with a drizzle of plain yogurt and liquid honey.
Cherry tomatoes: Cut in half, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and dried oregano or basil. Roast for approx. 20 min. Wonderful with roasted garlic cloves as a pasta sauce.
Kale: See recipe for kale chips.
Check out my recipe for warm roasted vegetable salad, which features several of these tasty veggies!
Other great roasting vegetables include yams, squash, zucchini, asparagus, onions, garlic, broccoli and beets.
Continue to follow my blog for more preparation tips that just might revolutionize your taste buds’ opinion of vegetables!
If you made any New Year’s resolutions for 2013, chances are that weight loss and healthier living were somewhere on your list of goals for the year ahead. Good for you! As you are well aware, consuming a nutritious diet is key to shedding unwanted pounds. What you probably aren’t aware of is the multitude of unconscious daily habits that control your food-related decisions and threaten to thwart your well-intentioned plans.
All weight loss plans benefit from one simple ingredient: mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being consciously aware of what you’re eating and why. In our modern day age of ready-made and on-the-run meals, the act of eating is often carried out on autopilot. Without mindfulness, we don’t know when our body needs nourishment, nor do we know when to put down our fork, as we aren’t tuned in to the body’s signals of hunger and fullness. Without mindfulness, we’re unable to distinguish between true hunger for a midafternoon snack and a cookie craving triggered by boredom. In reality, most of our eating-related actions are responses to our environment or emotions, rather actual physiological hunger or fullness. Watching TV, attending a party, feeling lonely – these are just a few of the daily situations that can have a strong influence on our decisions involving food.
So how do you harness the power of mindful eating and incorporate it into your weight loss strategy?
Here are three simple ways to start:
1) Ask yourself this question and answer it honestly: Am I truly hungry right now? Pose the question before you choose to eat and repeat it often as you eat, until you determine that you’re comfortably satisfied and no longer hungry.
2) Take your time and savour your food! Eat slowly, chew thoroughly and enjoy your food with all of your senses.
3) Whenever possible, enjoy your meals sitting down and in a comfortable environment that is free of distractions – no, this does not include the car!
Interested in learning more about mindful eating and how it can assist you in your health and weight loss goals? I’ll be hosting free seminars on this topic at a variety of Calgary Public Library locations in the winter of 2013.
Looking for tips on how to avoid packing on unwanted pounds this holiday season?
You may have seen my tips for smart holiday eating in the December edition of your local community newsletter.
If you missed it, check out this link to The Calgarian, where my tips appear on page 9.
My articles will be appearing regularly in several community newsletters in 2013 - so keep an eye out for them and let me know what you think!
Stop by your local sports and recreation facility and pick up a free copy of the November/December 2012 issue of IMPACT magazine. Dana's article, entitled Revamping Family Favourites, showcases healthy twists on popular treats, such as mac and cheese, pizza and chocolate ice cream. Enjoy!
We’ve all been told to drink lots of milk to keep our bones healthy and strong. But what if I told you that a number of studies have found that neither milk nor a high calcium intake reduces the risk of fractures due to osteoporosis?
There’s nothing wrong with ensuring we get enough calcium each day, but it may not be enough. Calcium balance in the body is affected by a number of other factors besides intake. These factors include the amount absorbed from food, which depends on the food source, as well as the amount excreted, largely affected by the diet. In addition, several lifestyle factors play an important role in bone health.
foods: fruits and vegetables
When ingested and metabolized, some foods produce an acidic residue. Others leave alkaline products. The typical North American diet includes many acid-forming foods (like boxed breakfast cereals, refined wheat flour, pasta, animal protein, white rice and sugar) and falls short on alkaline-forming foods like fruits and vegetables. The body is highly skilled at keeping the pH locked at 7.4, as small fluctuations of only 0.5 can be fatal. When a diet high in acid-forming foods is consumed, the body responds by activating buffering systems that keep the pH at a normal level. These systems require calcium and other minerals. And where do we have large stores of calcium in the body? Our bones. This means that consuming acid-forming foods can lead to valuable calcium being leached from the bones. Once its buffering role is over, this calcium is then excreted in the urine.
Consuming ample amounts of alkaline-forming fruits and vegetables offsets the effects of acid-forming foods in the diet by providing adequate amounts of buffering minerals through ingested foods - thus sparing the calcium stores in bones. So here’s another great reason to snack on fresh fruits and fill at least half of your plate with vegetables at each meal. Don’t be fooled by the acidity of citrus fruits – these are also great choices, as they are alkaline once digested. Some whole grains, like brown and white rice, wheat and oats, are acid-forming, while quinoa, wild rice and millet are alkaline-forming. Although animal proteins are highly acid-forming, their role in bone metabolism appears to be more complex, as the urinary calcium loss they cause may be offset by a beneficial effect on calcium absorption during digestion and other bone-strengthening effects.
whole foods diet
Although often overlooked, many other dietary nutrients besides calcium are crucial for maintaining bone health. We need adequate amounts of vitamins A, C and K, as well as magnesium to maintain optimal bone health. Ensure that your servings of fresh vegetables and fruits include vitamin C superstars like citrus fruits, red and green peppers and strawberries. Look to the dark leafy greens such as kale and bright orange vegetables like carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato for your daily dose of vitamin A. You’ll find magnesium in legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, dark green vegetables and dark chocolate (yes!). By consuming a natural, whole foods diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, you’ll not only reduce your acid load, but also ensure adequate intake of other nutrients essential for bone health.
sources of calcium
The following vegetarian foods are rich in easily absorbable calcium:
- Leafy greens low in calcium-binding oxalates: collard, mustard and turnip greens, kale, bok choy
- Tofu (set in calcium), tempeh
- Almonds, sesame seeds and tahini (sesame paste)
In fact, studies have shown that calcium absorption from most of these foods is as good as or better than milk! Ensure regular servings of the above foods to boost your calcium intake.
In order to maintain bone health, calcium requires its trusty partner, vitamin D. Sun exposure, mushrooms, salmon, eggs and fortified milk all provide vitamin D. However, an adequate dietary intake of vitamin D is difficult to achieve. The proper level of vitamin D supplementation is a highly debated topic. Research has shown that daily supplementation with 800 IU confers bone-protecting effects. On the other hand, the Vitamin D Council recommends 5000 IU for healthy adults and adolescents, in the absence of sun exposure. The only way to truly be sure whether or not you are getting adequate amounts is to have your vitamin D levels tested.
High-impact exercise such as jogging or skipping carries the greatest bone strengthening benefits. However, low to medium impact activities like step aerobics or mixed walking and jogging may be more appropriate to those over the age of 50 and/or those not used to exercising. As frailty increases risk of bone fracture, exercise programs should also include regular muscle-strengthening exercises alongside of weight bearing aerobic activity.
Maintaining a healthy weight with a Body Mass Index within normal range promotes bone health. Both low and high BMI values are associated with a greater risk of bone fracture.
Excessive caffeine intake has a negative effect on bone health, as it reduces calcium absorption in the small intestine.
Alcohol hinders bone health by suppressing the osteoblast cells that build bone. Limit intake to no more than one drink daily for women and two per day for men.
The free radicals in cigarette smoke damage cells and cause a weakening of bones, reducing bone mineral density. It is estimated that one out of every eight hip fractures is attributable to smoking!
Dietary sodium also causes a loss of calcium from the bone, as it increases the amount excreted in the urine. High levels of sodium are often present in processed and packaged foods. Be sure to read labels and choose low-sodium or whole food options when possible.
Although some phosphorous is required for bone health, the common scenario in the North American diet is an excessive intake of phosphorous relative to calcium. This imbalance leads to a removal of both calcium and phosphorous from the bones. To counteract this imbalance and keep bones strong, strive for a better phosphorous-calcium balance in the diet by avoiding excessive intake of phosphorous-rich foods like colas and other foods with phosphate additives, while increasing consumption of vegetarian sources of calcium.
Some prescription drugs may affect calcium absorption and bone metabolism. Examples include prolonged therapy with: corticosteroids, SSRI anti-depressants, tetracycline antibiotics, as well as the anti-diabetic thiazolidinedione drugs. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure your medications do not put you at an increased risk of osteoporosis.
BONE FRIENDLY LIVING
The bottom line: getting in 3 daily servings of dairy or remembering to take your calcium supplements is not enough to ensure bone health. A healthy diet and lifestyle, as outlined above, is needed to ensure the calcium you consume is able to perform its bone-building task.
Recently, I was visiting a family member who has worked in home renovations. He made a thought provoking comment that I’ve been reflecting on since. He had made the observation that in old kitchens from the 1960’s, today’s dinner plates couldn’t even fit in the cupboard. A-ha! Measurable proof that our portion sizes have been increasing over the decades – along with our waistlines!
It turns out that a standard size dinner plate measured only 9 inches in diameter back in the 1960’s. This size fit about an 800 calorie serving of food. By the 1980’s, plate size had grown to 10 inches, making room for an additional 200 calories. The new millennium brought with it the 11-inch plate, carrying 1,600 calories. Today, we’re up to 12-inch plates, which we’re able to load up with a whopping 1,900 calories! At buffets, plates are often bigger – up to 14 inches in And just how often do you go to a buffet and limit yourself to just one trip?! To put those 1,900 calories in perspective, Health Canada’s estimated daily caloric requirements for sedentary males and females aged 31-50 is 2,350 and 1,800, respectively.
Using plate, bowl and glass size to your advantage
Bigger plates and their associated larger portion sizes lead to greater consumption, because they suggest larger consumption norms. It seems our eyes are telling us what the appropriate amount of food to eat is! If you’re looking to slim down, choose smaller plates. Find some good old-fashioned 9-inch plates at an antique store or flea market. Practice filling a 9-inch plate with food and transferring to a 10 or 12-inch plate, so you know what your plate should look like when you’re eating off bigger plates at dinner parties or restaurants. If you feel the need to fill up the empty space on the super-sized plates, choose fresh fibre and water-rich vegetables like a tossed green salad to occupy the space. When adding foods to “fill in the blanks,” stay away from the more caloric starchy vegetables like potatoes and squash.
While you’re out finding smaller plates, revamp your collection of bowls and glasses as well. That occasional treat of a scoop of ice cream will look a whole lot more impressive to your eyes as it nicely fills up a smaller bowl. In fact, research shows that people who were given a bigger bowl helped themselves to 31% more ice cream than those who were given a smaller bowl. For juices and other beverages that are best consumed in smaller portions, choose to fill a “juice glass”. Juice glasses are much smaller than regular glasses and hold about 150 – 210 ml (5-7 oz.). This makes me think of the cute little glasses in my grandmother’s cabinet – these were obviously meant for juice. With glasses in general, choose the tall and thin style, rather than short and wide glasses. Research shows that we have a greater tendency to underestimate just how much we’re pouring when using the shorter glasses. This is due to an optical illusion that makes the short and wide glasses appear much smaller, tricking us into thinking we need to pour more.
Other visual cues to tinker with
Visual cues affect our consumption in a multitude of ways, besides the size of our plate, bowl or glass. For example, watching food disappear from our plate contributes to signals of fullness. You’ve probably all heard about the refillable soup bowl experiment. Subjects ate either from a regular bowl or, unknowingly, from one that was slowly and continually refilled. Those eating from the bottomless bowls ate 73% more. But the really amazing finding was that these subjects did not believe they had eaten more, nor did they feel more full than those who had eaten less from the regular bowls!
Being presented with a greater variety of foods will also trick you into eating more. Remember the buffet? You can use this visual cue to your advantage with vegetables. Instead of serving just one veggie with dinner tonight, put three different kinds on your plate and you’ll automatically eat more vegetables.
Visibility and proximity of food also lead to greater consumption, especially for men. Ever sit down to a table overflowing with enough food to feed a small village and end up stuffing yourself to the point of extreme discomfort? We all have. The question is: why do we do it? Your eyes register the ample amount of food in front of you and the fact that it is easily accessible. In this situation, it’s easy to lose awareness of internal cues of satiety and consume way more than our bodies require. The easy solution is to dish up in the kitchen and take your (9-inch!) plate to the table to eat. If you prepared a gigantic portion, remove what you want to save for the freezer or tomorrow’s meal before you begin dishing up. These tips can also be used in the opposite manner to increase consumption of fruit. Place a big bowl of a delicious assortment of fruit in a highly visible location where you’ll likely be tempted to pick up a piece for a healthy snack.
Colour contrast also appears to affect how much we consume. One study gave subjects either a red or white plate. Some were allowed to help themselves to pasta with white Alfredo sauce, while others took red tomato sauce. Results showed that those who had a plate and sauce combination of the same colour (e.g. Alfredo sauce on a white plate) consumed 22% more than those who had plates and meals of contrasting color. The colour blue is said to be the least visually appealing with food (and certainly doesn’t match many foods!), so eating from a blue plate or bowl may also help you limit portion size. Ensure you have a variety of colours to choose from in your plate and bowl collection, so you can choose a colour that contrasts with your meal and aids in portion control.
Another consumption limiting strategy is to repackage bulk foods into smaller portions, especially for treats. It’s difficult for the eyes to define what an appropriate serving is from a jumbo bag of nachos the size of a pillowcase (for those of you who shop at Costco)! Clearly defining a portion as a handful packed into a small ziplock bag makes it easier for you to register when you’ve had enough.
Staying in tune with your tummy
Learning to listen to your stomach, rather than your eyes for signals of hunger and satiety is one of the most effective ways to avoid overeating and weight gain. Now that you’re aware of the ways in which visual cues can influence how much you eat, use this understanding to your advantage by changing the appearance of your portions, so that you eat until your stomach, not your eyes, are comfortably satiated.
On Wednesday, June 20, from 7:30 - 8:30 pm at the Oakridge Community Centre, I'll be hosting a seminar entitled: Simple Ways to Improve Your Metabolism & Promote Weight Loss.
At the seminar, you'll gain new insights into how you can increase the calories you burn each day and sample some of the tasty foods highlighted in the presentation. I look forward to seeing you there!
We hear a lot about whole grains these days. Marketers have also caught on - Quaker is promoting its Chocolately Mint Chewy granola bars by highlighting the fact that they contain 10 grams of whole grains. Attempting to appeal to health-conscious consumers, they neglect to mention that the bars consist of 25% sugar, contain artificial flavour and colour and provide a measly 1 gram of fibre and 1 gram of protein. Maybe not so nutritious after all!
Our modern diet is composed largely of refined and processed grain products like bread, cereals and crackers. The problem with the refining is that it strips the grains of their most nutritious components. Ever notice how the first ingredient in many breads is "enriched" flour? Because they've robbed the whole grains of their nutritional goodness during refining, producers are then adding the vitamins they've removed back into the product! Seems kind of backwards, doesn't it? I hear you asking, "Why don't we just keep all of the vitamins and minerals in the grain?" Well, that's exactly what you are doing when you choose to swap out refined products for the real deal - whole grains.
Whole grains defined
What is a whole grain, exactly? Whole grains consist of three parts. The outer layer is the bran. The bran contains most of the fibre in the grain, as well as B vitamins, minerals and some protein. The largest part of the grain is the endosperm, providing carbohydrate and protein and a smaller amount of vitamins and minerals. The smallest part of the grain is the germ. The germ is packed with B vitamins, vitamin E and minerals. During the refining process, the most nutrient dense parts of the grain – the bran and germ – are removed, leaving the endosperm. Examples of refined grains include white rice, white flour and whole wheat flour.
Whole grains at the supermarket
Choosing whole grain products can be tricky. One common misconception is that whole wheat bread is whole grain. Whole wheat flour is missing most of the germ and some of the bran, so it’s no longer a whole grain. When reading labels, look for words like “whole grain whole wheat flour” or “whole oats”. Labels that claim the product is “made with” whole grains require closer inspection – it may be made mostly of refined flours, with a tiny amount of whole grains added. The same goes for “multigrain”, which may just indicate that several different kinds of refined, not whole, grains are used.
Health benefits of whole grains
Research has shown there is good reason to add whole grains to your plate. Consumption of whole grains may play a role in the prevention of a host of diseases, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and some types of cancer. Those who regularly consume whole grains report added benefits of superior taste, improved satiety and elevated energy levels.
Introducing more whole grains into your diet offers you the opportunity to experiment with new foods. Try brown rice, whole wheat pasta, millet, amaranth, buckwheat or quinoa. Revamp your baking recipes by swapping some or all of the white flour for whole grain flour. The most nutritious breads are the organic sprouted whole grain varieties (I love Silver Hills).
To get you started, try out the delicious recipe for Moroccan Millet.