Fall Back to Food Basics

Fall is such a vibrant season where we can take the most time to appreciate, connect with and embrace nature. It’s a beautiful season but also a very busy time of year and a season that seems to fly by just like the leaves falling from the trees. September, the start of Fall, is when new schedules commence can be one of the most hectic times of the year and then October comes and goes before we realize it! When life becomes more demanding and overwhelming it can become harder to make good decisions, especially when it comes to our food choices.

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Are you trying to keep up to the craziness of the modern lifestyle? Getting back to basics with your food choices can help diminish some of the stress you might be feeling in your life. Furthermore, simplifying your nutrition can make it easier to achieve and maintain healthy eating habits.

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Here are some tips to help you get back to basics with your nutrition:

Wherever possible choose fresh, whole, un-processed or minimally-processed foods. How close does what you are eating compare to what is found in nature? For instance, compare a whole apple to apple sauce to apple juice. There are more nutritional advantages to be found with foods that are more basic than those that have gone through a series of processing steps, as nutrients are lost with the more processing that occurs.
While grocery shopping, remember to read the nutrition facts panel and ingredient list before buying a product. The fewer the ingredients and more basic the ingredients are the better!

Cooking from scratch is one of the best ways to get back to basics. It’s also a great way to enjoy all the amazing produce of the harvest season. You don’t have to be fancy with what you make. Sometimes the simplest dishes can be the most delicious! And the fewer the ingredients the easier it is to prepare. Find a couple of go to recipes that you are confident in their nutrition quality and you are confident in making in no time at all. Keep them simple and always have the staple ingredients on hand. That way when life gets super-busy or overwhelming you have a fall-back plan to keep you on track with your healthy habits.

Batch cooking is the process of making a recipe in a large quantity so that you have several portions left-over, which can be saved for subsequent meals. Cooking this way accelerates meal planning and preparation making it easier to follow healthy eating habits. Many great Fall recipes like chili, soups and casseroles can easily be doubled for batch cooking. Freeze leftovers whenever possible so you have some meals on hand you can defrost and reheat as quick healthy meals for busy times.

So, how are you fueling your Fall?

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Meal Planning 101

September is one of the busiest times of the year. An energizing feeling build all month because it’s time to get back on track, back to school, back to routine, back to healthy exercise and nutrition practices, etc.

Meal-Planning

The proper nutrition can make such a difference to all elements of health and performance for oneself, in what one has to offer the world and is able to accomplish in a day. This is what meal planning is all about and why it is so important. It’s like you are literally creating a blueprint or road map. Having a good sense of direction towards where you want to end up is so important. This creates self-efficacy and fosters the belief that you can and will succeed. Truly, it is through setting intentions, taking responsibility and control that we realize we have and can make an impact and create change.

With the right planning and preparation nutritious eating can be easy and fun. Mastering the art of meal planning is a great tool to have. I love flipping through cookbooks or scrolling through blogs. The sources for inspiration are endless!

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Here are some tips to help you with your meal planning, whether this is all very new to you or you’ve been doing it for years, there’s always something we can learn to make our methods better!

Download this simple meal planning template or create your own to get started!

This checklist offers some simple tips to save time and make meal planning a breeze:

  • Keep meals simple to prepare with as few ingredients as possible, especially for busy weekdays
  • See what you have on hand already and what will expire soon and use these items as the foundation to build your meal plan.
  • Get organized. Make copies of your meal plan to post where you can easily see it (i.e. fridge door). Have a place where you can save meal plans that worked well or recipes you really like a binder.
  • Plan ahead and prepare what you can the night before or on weekends to save time during the week.
  • Convenience products like pre-cut stir-fry vegetables and ready-bagged salad can save cooking and prep time.
  • Try batch cooking: cook enough food for 2-3 meals and save leftovers for meals later in the week. Or freeze for longer
  • Shop smarter by keeping an ongoing grocery list of items you regularly need and add items as soon as they run out. Organize your list with headings for faster shopping trips.
  • This meal planner checklist can help you stay on track to meal planning a success!
  • Share the journey and learning process by getting everyone in your household involved in some way from shopping, prepping, cooking to yes even cleaning up!
  • Check out all the cool meal planning apps like Meal Planner Pro or FoodPlanner which you can use to have more fun and creating and keeping track of your meal plan! Check out 5 other meal planning apps here.

Meal-Planning 6As with developing any system, there will be bugs that you will have to figure out. Finding the system that fits your schedule can take some trial and error. Don’t give up! Regardless of what you start with, your plan or system is NOT locked in stone, so don’t be afraid when you get off track or something is not working and needs to change. Just keep experimenting and having fun with what you are doing and by the end of this month see if you can have a system in place that will carry you to the end of this year and into the next one!

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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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!

 

Feature Food of the Week – Asparagus

There’s always a sigh of relief when the first crop of Asparagus comes in because that means spring really is here!

Asparagus is certainly a unique looking vegetable with it’s long thin stalks and fgreen-asparagus-1331460_1920unny spiky leaves. it’s been called the “aristocrat of the vegetable” for it’s regal appearance as well as its popularity with the nobility, from Roman emperors to King Louis XIV to name a few.

Asparagus is available in three colours: green, purple and white. The season for asparagus is brilliant and brief – it’s only available May and June – so make sure you try some while it’s here!

Nutritionally, asparagus is low in calories and offers high amount of fibre, iron, vitamin C, vitamin A and B vitamins. Folate in particular is a very important B vitamin found in asparagus.

When buying asparagus, look for stalks that are straight and crisp with tips that are tight and green/purple.

You should eat your asparagus as soon as you can but you can store for up to three days in the refrigerator if you have to. To preserve freshness, wrap the ends of the asparagus in a wet paper towel and cover with plastic warp or place stalks in a glass of water.

Quick Tip: Make sure you snap off the woody end of your asparagus before you cook it! Just hold it at the end and bend until it breaks off.

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Roasting and steaming are two great ways to cook asparagus. Steam asparagus for about 5 to 10 minutes. The time will depend on how thick the asparagus is. Roast asparagus for 12 – 15 minutes in at 425 F . I love how with roasted asparagus the tips become just a little bit crispy. Blanching is another method where you cook asparagus for 3-4 min in boiling water, then drain and run the asparagus under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Roasted asparagus goes really well as a simple side to meats such as chicken, turkey and steak. Asparagus pairs well with other vegetables in medleys. You can make it an addition to pasta dishes or in a stir-fry.

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The Story Behind the Slice Pt 2 – What You Need to Know When Choosing a Loaf of Bread

bread-933228_1920Bread, it’s been a staple forever it would seem. If you’ve read Tuesday’s post you’ll know more about all of that, where it came from and how it all came to where it is today.

Bread is part of the Grains and Starches Food Group. They are an important source of energy and nutrients to the human diets, particularly B Vitamins and Vitamin E in addition to minerals such as copper, iron and selenium. Moreover, grains are a good source of fibre which contributes to the maintenance of good health in many ways, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes, controlling blood sugar, lowering cholesterol as well as maintaining a healthy weight.

Nowadays, there are so many different kinds of bread available and they come in all different sizes, shapes and colours and even flavours. The question therefore is, with so many options on the shelves– which one do you choose?!!

 

In today’s post, I’ll give you a glossary of grains terminology to help you demystify some of the terms you might see or hear about as found on packaging and what they mean when trying to decide which loaf of bread to buy.

But first, here is a very quick overview of the anatomy of a grain. A grain is made up of 3 parts:

  1. Bran – outer layer or protective shell of the grain. This part provides fibre as well as some B-vitamins and minerals.
  2. Endosperm – middle part of the grain, and the largest component, which acts as a food source for the seed. This part provides carbohydrates (starches) and proteins.
  3. Germ – innermost and most nutrient dense part. This is where you will find the key nutrients of the grain.
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Anatomy of a Grain

Now here is the overview of what terms you might see when you go to buy a loaf of bread and what you need to know so you can make an informed choice:

Whole Grain – all three parts of the grain kernel (bran, endosperm, germ) are found in relatively the same proportions as in nature. Whole grains undergo the least amount of processing of any grains. This is the most advantageous choice from a nutrition perspective. It is recommended that at least 50% of our grains be whole grain. Look at the ingredients for the word “whole” in front of grains to make sure you are getting a whole grain product and try and choose whole grains whenever you can!

Whole Wheat –made from the entire wheat kernel.  This makes it sound like it is  a whole grain, however in Canada, whole wheat flour has a product can labeled “whole wheat” has to contain only about 95% of the wheat kernel, so some of the germ and bran may be missing so.Whole wheat flour is first processed to separate the parts of the kernel, then the parts of the grain are recombined to make the flour “whole” again. Up to 5% of the bran and germ can be left out, which is done to decrease the risk of rancidity and improve shelf life. Thus when a product is “whole wheat” it may not actually be a “whole grain”. Check the ingredient list to be sure!

White/Refined Flour – the bran and the germ are stripped from the flour and only the endosperm (the soft starchy portion) is left through processing. Why remove these important components? One reason is that it improves the shelf life of the flour. Another, refined grains provide a softer and lighter texture to baked goods; however with the bran and the germ removed you miss out on the real nutritional value to be gained from eating grains such as the vitamins, minerals and fibre. Moreover, because you are missing the fibre found in whole grains, refined grains will cause a greater and faster rise in blood sugar and do not keep you full as long. Obviously, it is not possible to use whole grains for everything (i.e. cakes and pastries) but it is encouraged to limit the amount of refined grains in the diet as much as possible.

Enriched/Fortified – refined flour that has had the nutrients that were lost when the bran and germ were removed are added back into the flour. This means that enriched flours are slightly more nutritional than straight white flour but still falls short when compared to whole grain flour.

Multigrain – made from different kinds of grains (i.e. wheat, oat, rye, corn etc.). Note that this does not mean the bread is made from whole-grains; you will have to check the ingredient list to make sure.

Sprouted Grains – the sprouting process is stimulated under controlled conditions before the grain is used to make bread. You will still get all the benefits of whole grains, because all parts of the grain must be present, but in addition, enzymes activated as the sprouting process begins break down some of the starches in the endosperm making the grains easier to digest and making the vitamins more bioavailable. Ezekiel Bread is an example of a bread made from sprouted grains which is it’s claim to fame.

Gluten-Free – bread made from grains that do not contain gluten (these are wheat, rye and barley). Usually a mix of different grains such as rice, corn, tapioca are used to create a similar quality product to those that are made using gluten containing grains (more to come on what gluten is!).

Artisan Breads – specialty breads made from a variety of different grains to create different flavours and textures. They may or may not have whole grains. Just because a bread loos “special” or is darker in colour it is not a good indicator of the true nutritional quality of the grain product.

Final Thoughts:

In the end, we all have a choice and a right to choose what we eat. The important thing is that you take the time to consider your options and take responsibility for your choices. A healthy diet is about balance and moderation so having refined grains once in a while is okay. Enjoy and be grateful for what you eat! Go out and try new types of bread and ways to have your grains. There are so many good things to be gained from grains!

Want more? For more information on whole grains and choosing grains visit: https://wholegrainscouncil.org/