The Basics of Batch Cooking

Even with a great routine in place, who wouldn’t like to save time, money and energy and still eat healthy?

Batch cooking refers to the process of preparing recipes in a large enough quantity to have several portions left-over. These extra portions are saved for future meals. Cooking this way speeds up meal planning and preparation, making it easier to follow healthy eating habits. Some examples of recipes that are good for batch cooking include chili, soups, pasta sauces and casseroles.

Batch cooking is a great way to simplify your meal planning, save time and money by shopping and cooking less and help the environment! Weekends are a great time to cook up a big batch of one of your favourite recipes so you will save so much time during the week.

With the holidays coming, which are all about cooking great meals–often in large quantities – it’s a great time to use these strategies to learn and apply to save your leftovers to reduce food waste.

To make this work, it is important to know how to store your leftover food properly. Before storing leftovers make sure you allow food to cool slightly (do not leave out of the refrigerator for more than two hours) but once cooled you can package and store it. Store leftovers in clean, airtight containers for a 2-3 days after cooking or freeze for up to 2-3 months (i.e. make your own “frozen dinners”–minus the added calories, fat and salt). Defrost leftovers in the refrigerator the night before you want to eat them to make reheating them easier.

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Worried about getting bored? It’s understandable. Everyone is different in their food comfort and preferences. Some of us are fine with eating the same thing over and over again, day after day and that is fine.  It does take a lot of the thinking out of what we will eat. Others may need more variety and shaking things up their meals. With batch cooking you can meet both needs! The secret is to pick a basic recipe that can be easily reinvented into something else. For example, make a basic chili recipe which you can have chili one day, a taco salad the next day, use as a pasta sauce the day after… Eat roasted vegetables on their own. Add the leftovers to cooked quinoa to make a vegetable pilaf or layer them in a salad with a handful of fresh greens. Keep it simple and you will not only save yourself time and energy but can have some great, empowering meal combinations!

 

Vegetarian Diets Explained – What Are the Advantages and What You Need to Know to Make It Work for You

The trend for following a plant-based diet has boomed recently. Just look at all the options for plant-based burgers on menus these day. What does this trend mean and why is this significant? No matter the type of vegetarian diet you follow, or even if you are a veterinarian or not, we can all enjoy and benefit from incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables into our diets. Plants are powerful and they provide many known and as yet to be fully discovered and understood benefits for our health. Some of these known benefits include the high fibre content, which is important for digestive health and function. There are many studies on the effects of vegetarian diets and decreased risk for various types of cancer. Part of this is that Fruits and vegetables are natural sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants are important for many reasons in the maintenance of good health and prevention of many chronic diseases. Fruits and vegetables are also lower in calories and fat than other foods. Part of this is because of their high water content which means they will also help with keeping you hydrated which is so important for health, well-being and feeling your best.

Besides health, there are many other reasons individuals choose a vegetarian diet. Some of these include food preferences, religious beliefs and environmental concerns. Plant-based diets are being promoted for how they can support and reduce the effects of climate change, as the energy requirements for growing and supporting animals is much higher than it is for plants, and eating more plants can help us with sustainability measures.

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Something that is not very well or often known is that there are different types of vegetarian diets. When most people say they are vegetarian they are following a “lacto-ovo” vegetarian diet so they do not eat any animal meat, but they still eat dairy products and eggs. A semi-vegetarian or “flexitarian” will eat dairy, eggs and sometimes eat meat, poultry and fish. A “pescatarian” is a vegetarian who eats eggs, dairy and fish but no other meats. And a “vegan” is a vegetarian who does not eat any kind of animal foods (i.e. no eggs, dairy and honey). There are lots of options and approaches to following a vegetarian lifestyle to make it work.

Regardless of the reason or motivation, fruits and vegetables are an essential part of every diet and learning to incorporate a balanced variety of them into your meals will do much to support your overall health, vitality and longevity.

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There are some important considerations if you follow a vegetarian diet include. Otherwise, there is a potential for nutrient deficiencies. With the proper planning, however, these concerns can be addressed.

Protein is often a concern for people following a vegetarian diet, especially those who are physically active and looking to improve strength and stamina. What you need to know about is called protein complimentation. While meat offers the advantage of having all the essential amino acids in one food, it is not  impossible to achieve this with plants. With plant-based foods, which don’t often have all the essential amino acids in the same food, you just  have to make sure you eat a variety of different foods which combined together make a complete protein. For instance, grains have an amino acid that beans and legumes are lacking. A misconception is that the two foods have to be eaten at the same time in the same meal. Provided we eat them within the same day your body will break down the proteins into their amino acids and properly use them in your body. Some plan-based foods already come with all the essential amino acids. These special foods include quinoa and edamame or soy products.

On a vegetarian diet there are more than enough ways to meet your body’s requirements for protein. Ensuring that there is variety in protein sources with foods that collectively cover all the essential amino acids is the key.

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Some vitamins and minerals that are more easily available to the body from animal products. They are important for the health and functioning of the body, so it is important to know what they are and make sure you are incorporating them into your diet from plant-based sources as much as possible.

Iron is a particularly important mineral. We need iron for production of haemoglobin and the transportation of oxygen in our blood. Heme iron is the iron available from animal products while non-heme iron is the iron available from plant sources. Heme iron is naturally easier for the body to utilize. A quick tip is to combine the food containing iron with a food containing vitamin C because Vitamin C helps with iron absorption. Another tip is not to eat a food containing iron with a food containing calcium or with coffee or tea. Give a few hours between the two as calcium and coffee/tea interfere with iron absorption. Plant-based sources of iron include; fortified breakfast cereals, soy-based foods, dried prunes and apricots, beans and legumes, pumpkin seeds, eggs and fortified whole-grain breads.

Another important nutrient that it’s challenging to get enough of on a vegetarian diet is Vitamin B12, which is naturally found in animal products. A deficiency in Vitamin B12 can lead to anemia and muscle weakness. There are some fortified cereals, soy beverages or some fortified veggie mats or you may require a supplement to ensure adequate Vitamin B12.

Calcium is a mineral found mainly in milk and dairy products. Some vegetarians who consume dairy products may not need to worry about the amount of calcium in their diets. Vegan vegetarians will want to look for plant-based sources of calcium such as edamame, almonds, calcium-fortified non-dairy beverages (i.e. Almond Milk), spinach, collar greens, and more.

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Awareness is key to developing healthy eating habits and eating to empower you. Whether you feel like following a vegetarian diet or maybe having vegetarian meals more often there is tremendous power in plants to nourish and sustain us. Following a vegetarian diet definitely does not have to be blah! Vegetables are versatile and the options and combinations of foods is infinite.

How will you harness the power of plants?

 

Summer Squash Salad Recipe

Summer may be almost over, but summer squash is available well into September so I took advantage of that fact to create this recipe. This is a simple but tasty and easy to prepare salad. It is rich in a variety of different vegetables and features quinoa, a well-known super-food and plant protein powerhouse.

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Summer squash and quinoa are the stand-out ingredients I find in this recipe.

The benefits of summer squash are that, like many fruits and vegetables, it is low in calories and provides a good amount of fibre, vitamin C, and potassium. Zucchini is a specific summer squash and a great source of the carotenoid pigments lutein and zeaxathin which can protect our eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration. Did you also know zucchini is the most popular type of summer squash available?

Quinoa is an incredible source of high-quality plant protein. It is one of the few plants that is a complete protein source (i.e. contains all the essential amino acids). It also offers riboflavin, vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and fibre.

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This recipe can make a stand-alone meal on its own or try serving it as a side dish with a grilled chicken breast. What’s even better is how quick to serve and portable it is. It is a great option for packed lunches. Because the recipe yields a good number of portions you can make it at the start of the week and enjoy for several days. Perfect for meal planning!

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Power Fruit Popsicle Recipe

Popsicles are a fun and refreshing summer treat. I created this recipe to upgrade the traditional versions, which are mostly just a lot of sugar in water, by using wholesome, real food ingredients.

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Berries are a nutritional superstar and one of nature’s richest sources of antioxidants. Like many other fruits and vegetables, berries are a good source of Vitamin C and because of their small size and large surface area they are an excellent source of fibre.

The four berries I used in my recipe were blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries.

Blueberries are probably the most researched berries and are renown for their antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, which can protect the body from cell damage which may lead to aging and certain diseases. Pectin, a type of fibre found in blueberries, may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and is good for the functioning of the digestive system.

Raspberries contain pectin and quercetin, the latter may slow cancer growth.

Blackberries may have the highest antioxidant content of any berries!

Strawberries are the berry with the highest Vitamin C content!

Using coconut milk and coconut yogurt (or another type of yogurt) gives these popsicles a little more substance and additional nutritional benefits. If using a dairy-based yogurt, you will add calcium to your diet. Calcium is important for bone health.

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If the natural sweetness is not enough for you, consider adding a natural sweetener like a tablespoon of honey to the recipe.

For a slightly different taste and a more interesting version add a teaspoon of cinnamon.

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What is the Mediterranean Diet and What Can You Learn from It?

Many things influence the way we eat; where we live, our cultural norms and values, our personal experiences, history and preferences. There is no one “right” way to eat but we can learn from styles of eating and food preparation so that we can fashion for ourselves a balance, healthy, enjoyable eating habits.

The Mediterranean Diet refers to a way of eating that fosters healthy eating practices in combination with the traditional foods and flavours of countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Lebanon and Turkey, to name a few. You may have heard of it before but may wonder what it means, read on!

Rather than a hard and fast “diet” the Mediterranean Diet offers suggestions on what to eat and how to live an active and healthy lifestyle. It has gained a lot of prominence for the evidence that supports it as a “heart-healthy” way of eating. There is evidence that those living in Mediterranean have lower incidences of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.

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What does the Mediterranean Diet look like and how can you incorporate strategies and recommendations it brings into your way of eating?

Eat lots of fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are the foundation of any good meal plan and nutritional practices for a reason. Fruits and vegetables are a high source of antioxidants, important for not just your heart health, but your overall health and well-being as well! Try this recipe for a Traditional Greek Salad also on Empowering Eats for a dish with lots of veggies and Mediterranean flavours!

Have Whole Grains

Whole grains are a much more nutritious choice than white and refined grains which is why they are a better choice for a healthy diet. They contain many more nutrients and fibre. Not all of grain choices need to be whole grains but try to have whole grain products most often.

Eat fish twice a week

As many of the Mediterranean countries boards the Mediterranean Sea, it is no surprise that fish is a menu choice! Fish like salmon, tuna and sardines have many healthy fats like Omega-3 which are important for heart health.

Reduce the amount of Red Meat You Eat

Red meat, which is higher in Omega-6 fatty acids can increase levels of inflammation in the body. Red meat is also higher in saturated fats than other leaner protein source and too much saturated fat can accumulate in the body leading to health problems such as excess weight gain and coronary heart disease. Therefore, you can still have red meat (like this delicious recipe for Greek Stuffed Eggplant!), just not every day.

Opt-in for olive oil!

Olive oil is one of the most well-recognized staple in Mediterranean cooking methods. Olives and olive oil have monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), found to decrease levels of total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol. Nuts and seeds are another source of MUFAs and they also recommend these as part of the Mediterranean Diet.

Wait … did someone say Wine?

Yes, according to the Mediterranean Diet allows red wine in moderation. In fact, red wine contains resveratrol which is an antioxidant that may act to protect you from heart-disease and some cancers. Moderate consumption of alcohol means. Remember to be responsible when you indulge because if over consumed alcohol can easily add excess calories to your diet and affect liver function and health.

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Notice how the Mediterranean Diet is not restrictive. It offers flexibility and guidance to encourage developing healthy habits.

Which habits do you already follow? Which one (s) do you want to try?

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The Almighty Olive – Historical Significance, Nutritional Benefits and Top 10 Tips to Enjoy Olives

I was on a tour of the Acropolis when I heard the story of how Athens got its name. My tour guide Alexia told us this story at a specific point at the foot of an olive tree. According to legend both the Goddess Athena and God Poseidon both desired to be the patron of the city and named the deity of the city. So, they had a contest to see who should have control of Athens and its surrounding area and gave the people of Athens the choice of who they wanted as their patron by choosing based on the gift that Poseidon and Athena had to give them. Legend has it the contest happened on Acropolis Hill. Poseidon threw his trident at the earth and from it sprouted a stream of water. However, as Poseidon was the god of the sea, it was saltwater, which was not judge particularly useful. Athena stuck the ground with her spear and from the spot grew an olive tree.

Which do you think the people chose? It was the olive that won favour, since they judged it much more useful, and chose Athena as their patron and deity. In the first place it was a versatile food more useful and which provided a good source of energy and nutrients. Besides olive oil was a valuable commodity for cooking and for other uses. The olive trees also provided wood with many uses for building or firewood. The olive was fundamental to the Athenian economy and still is to Greek culture.

This story shows just how powerful and important food can be.

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Nutritional Benefits of Olives

What makes olives an empowering eat? Olives are a signature part of a Mediterranean Diet. One of the olive or olive oils claims to fame is the mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). Fats and oils are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. MUFAs are a healthy fat and it is encouraged that you try within the balance of fats to replace saturated fats and trans fats with MUFAs wherever possible. MUFAs are a healthy fat and have improved blood cholesterol levels. Olives and olive oil are sources of Vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin with powerful antioxidant properties. Olives are low in carbohydrates, making them a good food choice for anyone following a Keto Diet. Though they come with many nutrient benefits olives should be enjoyed in moderation given their high fat content and that they are relatively high in sodium.

Olive oil contains phytochemicals with antioxidant properties which may help protect against breast cancer, clogged arteries and high blood pressure.

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Consumer Tip:

Olives have many nutritional benefits, but they do have a high sodium content. Before using olives try to rinse and drain them to wash away the salty brine, they are preserved in. This will decrease their sodium content.

Did you Know?

The colour of an olive is because of it’s ripeness? Green olives are just less ripe than black olives which are fully ripe?

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Top 10 Ways to Use Olives and Olive Oil

  1. Eat an olive all on its own as a snack.
  2. Sliced olives are a great addition to salads (Greek Salad of course!), sandwiches and wraps.
  3. Include olives as part of an antipasto tray.
  4. Add olives into a pasta dish to give it a Mediterranean flavour.
  5. Use olive oil as your main cooking oil – provided you do not cook at high temperatures.
  6. Choose olive oil as the oil in salad dressings and marinades.
  7. Have you ever tried olive bread? There are many different types of breads where olives are actually baked into the bread itself i.e. Focaccia.
  8. Incorporate olives into pilafs with rice or quinoa as a base and variety of vegetables.
  9. Try olive tapenade. Top fish or meat with an olive tapenade. An olive tapenade also makes a great spread for bread and you can serve this as an appetizer.
  10. Have some hummus! Olive oil is one of the staple ingredients in hummus and you can double it up by adding actual olives into your hummus and as a topping. They are a great ingredient to add a unique and distinctive flavour variation.

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Traditional Greek Salad Recipe

Greek Salad has to be one of the most iconic dishes known to the culture both within Greece and around the world. I really looked forward to having this dish when I was in Greece. In all seriousness, almost every meal I had while there featured a version of it! In Greek the word for Greek Salad is “horiatiki” which means “village salad”.

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Cool, crisp and refreshing this dish is super simple to make but there is something so satisfying in it. It is also full of healthy and empowering food combinations that taste good and are good for you too! With only some basic ingredients (no lettuce is not one of them!) you can have a substantial side dish perfect to accompany many main dish options (check out my recipe for Greek Stuffed Eggplant or chicken souvlaki). It’s always best to pick the freshest ingredients for flavour and nutritional benefit.

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Here are some key ingredients that make this salad health and nutritious and tastes amazing.

Cucumbers are one of the lowest calorie vegetables because of their high water content. This also makes them a great hydrating food.

Tomatoes are a popular vegetable for a variety of different cultures and cuisines. One of their greatest claims to fame is that they are a great source of the plan pigment “lycopene” which possibly helps prevent heart disease. Like many other fruits and vegetables, they are a great source of vitamin C and potassium. They are also a good source of fibre.

Red Onions are low in calories and like other types of onions provide a variety of nutrients such as fibre, vitamin C, potassium and some phytochemical which may raise levels of a protective enzyme which in activates and eliminates cancer causing agents.

Green Pepper provide vitamin C and are a good source of fibre.

Olives & Olive Oil are signatures for many Greek dish. These are ingredients embedded not only in the cuisine but in the very history and culture of Greece. Olives and olive oil are a source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) which are healthy fats found in our diets that may lower the risk of heart disease and reduce levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. They also contain vitamin E which is an especially powerful antioxidant.

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What I love especially is how easy it is to make this salad. The vegetables are roughly chopped so they can be thrown together quickly.

It’s recommended to serve the salad in a shallow dish and don’t mix the dressing into the salad before you serve it. Put all the vegetables in the bowl, drizzle with the olive oil and vinegar and layer with the feta cheese.

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Spring-Cleaning for Your Nutrition with 5 “Detox” Strategies

Spring is a great time to refresh and renew. Are you feeling the need for some “Spring Cleaning” inside as well as outside? Why not clean-up your nutrition so as to start fresh for the summer?

While detox diets and juice cleanses are still questionable for their benefits, and not meant for everyone, there are other, less intimidating and drastic ways to improve your nutrition and health habits.

If you’re feeling the urge to take action and are looking for some ideas check out these 5 easy tips that don’t require massive changes or restrictions to your diet.

Try one action a day for a week for a quick “5 Day Challenge”.

 

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1.Hit up your hydration. Water is a pure and natural detoxifier. Important to overall health and well-being, water helps flush your body and your cells of toxins. Water makes up over 60% of our body’s ass. You can survive for weeks without food but only a few days without water. At minimum, women 19 years and older need around 2.2 L of water and men 19 years and older need around 3.0 L of water per day (Dietitians of Canada). However, in hot and humid environments or when exercising vigorously fluid needs can drastically increase so as to replace what is lost by sweating. Are you hitting your target? Set a goal and go for it! Try to drink consistently throughout the day to spread out your water intake. A reminder set every hour to take a sip or two can help.

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2. Give technology a break at the dinner table. How often do you scroll on your phone or watch TV while eating? Tune out distractions and tune into your food by turning off your phone and leaving it in another room and switching off any other screens before you sit down. You will be more present and enjoy your meal even more.

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3.Ditch the negative food talk. We all have a choice in what we eat. No food is inherently “good” or “bad” but some foods are definitely more nutrient dense than others. Instead of blaming yourself and saying “I shouldn’t eat that” and feeding yourself negativity, be grateful for the food and whatever nutrients and energy it provides your body and make a commitment to make healthier choices for your next meal or two.

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4.Cut down on caffeine. When craving an energy boost it is tempting to reach for coffee or energy drinks which contain caffeine. However, caffeine is a stimulant and thus a synthetic energy boost. It is recommended that we limit caffeine consumption to 400mg/day. That’s about three 8-oz cups of coffee (Dietitians of Canada). If you are in the habit of downing a lot of caffeinated products try to decrease your usual consumption by 1 drink a day.

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5.Clean out your pantry and fridge. When was the last time you did a good cleaning of your cupboards? Do you know everything you have on hand? Has anything expired? Doing a thorough cleaning of where you keep your food is not only important for food safety but also immensely satisfying emotionally. With a better organized food space you will be able to find what you need more quickly and it will be easier, more inviting and motivating to cook and eat healthy.

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Here’s an interesting and exotic side-dish. I was inspired to create this recipe from my trip to Morocco.  This dish is bright with the sweet tang of of lemon and earthy from the rich dark tones of cumin. The sweetness of the carrots nicely balances the tartness of the lemon juice. It’s like lying in the grass on a summer day. This definitely makes for a great summer side dish!

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Carrots are a vegetable and the leading source of beta-carotene in the North American diet. Beta-carotene is a carotenoid which is converted after it is eaten into Vitamin A in your body. This adds to your body’s daily Vitamin A requirements. Vitamin A is essential for the function of the retina and therefore effects the health of your vision. Carrots are also a god source of fibre which is important for the functioning of your digestive system as well as lowering unhealthy cholesterol levels. In addition, carrots, like many fruits and vegetables, contain potassium, an electrolyte that helps regulate acid-base balance in the body, is involved in normal muscle contraction and nerve impulses as well as proper functioning of the heart and kidneys. Potassium may also help with lowering blood pressure thus preventing hypertension and the risk for heart attack and stroke.

Cumin is a spice. Spices have been valued for their ability to add flavour to food for centuries. Cumin’s earthy notes give this dish a distinctive and exotic flavour. Not only do spices like cumin add flavour to dishes (without unnecessary calories, fat or salt) but they also may be the source of antioxidants which are important for the maintenance of healthy cells with the reduction of free-radical damage.

Garlic is a member of the allium family with a host of reputed health benefits. It has been used medicinally for many centuries. Alicin is a compound found in garlic which is responsible for its strong taste and aroma. Alicin may function as an antioxidant which could possibly be one of the reasons garlic has been credited with so many medicinal properties.

Onions are also a member of the allium family of vegetables and a rich source of phytochemical which may reduce the risk of some cancers.

Lemons are a spectacular source of Vitamin C, which is a water-soluble vitamin and may reduce the risk of cancer as well as act as a cold-fighter and immunity booster. Vitamin C enhances iron absorption and is crucial to collagen production, which stabilizes connective tissue. Lemons also contain limonene, a phytochemical which could possibly block abnormal cell-growth which suggests anti-cancer benefits.

 

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Braising is a healthy cooking method. It is a moist-heat slow-cooking method. You start with browning the food you are cooking and then adding a small amount of liquid and simmering or steaming the food, covered, until it is coked. You can braise meats, chicken or vegetables. It is a very versatile cooking method. One of the reasons it is such a good way to cook food is that all of the cooking liquid is reabsorbed back into the food while it is braising. This means that any nutrients that were lost into the cooking liquid are reabsorbed back into the food so you still get all of the nutritional benefits of the food!

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Cumin Carrots

This is a great side dish. It goes really well with roast chicken!

How to Eat Healthy and Still Be Happy Over the Holidays

The holidays are here! How does that make you feel? Excited? Anxious? Overwhelmed? The holidays full of stresses in one shape of another for all of us. Especially when it comes to holiday eating and festivities. The anticipated holiday weight-gain from eating too much or eating the wrong foods is probably one of the biggest stresses there is.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. With just a few shifts in attitude you can make a whole lot of difference to how you feel coming out of this holiday season. These how-to’s, habits and hacks are here to help make your holidays healthier, less stressful and a whole lot happier so you can start the New Year feeling empowered and ready for action!

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Listen to your body. Stop eating when you are no longer hungry vs. when you are full. If you have choices make switches and substitute healthier options. Try and fill your plate with as many vegetables as you can and look for preparation methods such as baking, steaming, and braising. Meats that are baked and grilled are better than fried. Avoid heavy cream based sauces which add extra fat and unwanted calories.

It’s important to have a healthy breakfast every day and eat regularly throughout the day to curb hunger and keep your blood sugar stable so you can function optimally. This will keep your energy level steady throughout the day, making you feel better and decrease the likelihood that you will overeat at any specific meal. Have snacks that have a good source of protein to promote satiety levels.

Out of sight and out of mind is what they say. And it’s a good way to control temptation and practice moderation to put extra holiday treats out of sight in a cupboard or pantry. This way you will have to go to more effort to get to them and it will give you more time to consider if you really are hungry and really want to have that treat or not.

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Remember to stay hydrated! This means drinking water throughout the day as well as when you are at social functions. If at a party try alternating alcoholic drinks with water. Alcohol is a diuretic so can lead to a dehydrated state. This is also a great strategy to keep you from drinking excess calories. Dehydration can lead to overeating because we are looking to fulfill a physiological need, but go about it the wrong way. Also, staying hydrated reduces bloating which is another effect that often comes on from holiday eating – which is a contributing factor to perceived holiday weight-gain.

Stay active! Just 30 minutes a day is all you need. Physical activity helps decrease stress and increases your metabolism so you are burning more calories throughout the day. Make physical activities a part of your celebrations and time together. There are many great winter out-door activities like going for a walk, tobogganing, skiing and snowball fights! This takes some focus off the food and gives you a chance to enjoy time with family and friends.

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You can best buffets with a few simple strategies. Choose a seat on the other side of the room from the food table and sit with your back to the food. The more food we see the more likely we are to eat. Use a smaller plate so you will have less room to fill . Be a picky eater – you don’t have to eat everything that is offered. Pick and choose those few things that you think you will really enjoy.

If you are going to a party or potluck bring your own food – this gives you some control about what options you have to eat and you can make sure you have something that you will enjoy eating.

When eating at a restaurant look for menu items that are prepared using healthy cooking methods – i.e. baking, braising, steaming – and minimal sauces. You can always take half of your entrée home as leftovers. Ask if you can get a take-out container brought to the table with your meal so that you can package up your meal as soon as you have eaten enough.

At parties it’s easy to munch away on little appetizers and hors d’ouevres, not realizing how much you have eaten. Limit mindless eating by holding a drink in your dominant hand so that you are less likely to unconsciously pick up food (it takes more concentration and effort to use your non-dominant hand). Get into a good and engaging conversation. When you are talking you can’t be eating and a good conversation will make the time go by much more quickly with less time to eat.

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Remember healthy eating is not about total denial. That is no fun and definitely not empowering! Food is an important part of our existence and something that has been intrinsic to celebration and festivities since the beginning of time. It’s part of our culture and who we are. You can still eat things you enjoy. If you have a favourite holiday meal or treat, go for it! But maybe you could have a smaller portion size or try and make the same recipe but with healthier ingredients and less fat and sugar? Or why not change up your traditions? Look for ways to make your family favourite recipes using healthier cooking methods or try incorporating some new healthy recipes.

Happy Holidays!