Is Caffeine Healthy? Does Caffeine Have Health Risks?

Is Caffeine Healthy? Does Caffeine Have Health Risks?

Victoria BC Dietitian (Dietician Nutritionist) Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD Shares the Science Evidence to Answer Is Caffeine Healthy? Does Caffeine Have Health Risks (Adults, Teens and Kids)

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How to Make Beans and Lentils Less Gassy

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OK, so you’ve heard me (and others) talking about how beans and lentils are super healthy. And you’d love to eat them more often. There’s only one thing holding you back – the aftereffects. Gas. Bloating. Beans ‘musicality” if you will. You’re not alone. Read on to get how to make beans and lentils less gassy.

Adding lentils and beans to your diet is a great way to provide your body with protein, fibre, and micronutrients such as iron, folate, and other B vitamins, all at a minimal cost. They are versatile ingredients, fitting into many different dishes, are gluten-free, and have a low glycemic index to boot.

What’s not so great is later in the day when that hearty chili turns into uncomfortable gas or bloating. While an undesirable consequence of a delicious meal, it’s important to keep in mind that this is actually a sign that your digestive tract is healthy and functioning as it should!

The gas is caused by the good bacteria found in our gut. Beans and lentils contain specific types of carbohydrates, and particularly fibre, that our body doesn’t have the ability to digest. As a result, it passes through our digestive tract until it reaches the bacteria in our large intestine, which happily eat up what our bodies couldn’t, and in doing so produce gases. These gases build up until our body has to deal with it and, well, you know the rest. So while passing wind is a good indication of healthy gut bacteria, it’s not so good when Aunt Ruth is sitting beside you at the dinner table.

So to help you continue to cook without worry:

Tips to Make Beans and Lentils Less Gassy:

  1. Rinse before cooking. Rinsing canned beans and lentils helps reduce the amount of those indigestible carbohydrates, which are released into the water. As an added bonus, it also helps remove any excess sodium. Rinse your beans and lentils under cold water for at least 1 minute to reap these benefits.
  2. Even better, soak them overnight. If you’re using dried beans or lentils, soaking them in cold water does the same thing that rinsing does, but because they are dry and uncooked, it takes a little longer to get the same effect. Aim to soak your beans or lentils for at least 4 hours, and preferably overnight. Dump the soaking water (i.e. don’t use it to cook the beans). Then be sure to give your beans/lentils a good rinse before cooking to wash away those gas-producing carbohydrates.
  3. Introduce them slowly. This can be particularly helpful if you’re introducing beans or lentils to your kiddos, but it’s also helpful if you find they tend to make you particularly gassy. By using beans and lentils in small amounts first, it gives your gut bacteria time to adjust to their increase in food supply, instead of overwhelming them with the feast of their lives. Then slowly increase your consumption and you’ll find your body has a better time dealing with it, which means less flatulence for you!
  4. Call in the reinforcements. If all else seems to fail and you’re still struggling with an uncomfortable amount of gas, digestive enzymes can be called in to help. Sold over-the-counter, look for supplements that contain the enzyme alpha-galactosidase, which breaks up the indigestible carbohydrates and helps ease the digestive process. One brand name is Beano. All of us can use a little extra help from time to time.

Try these tips the next time you’re cooking with beans or lentils and see how they work for you. Happy bean and lentil eating!

Ready to give beans and lentils a try? Check out my recipes.

A BIG THANK YOU to guest co-author (and student) Tanya Ruscheinski!

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

What's The Healthiest Vegetable?

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I’m often asked my opinion about what vegetable is the healthiest. I also hear the “best-Mommy” contest that happens on the playground where each parent tries to one-up each other bragging about what weird & healthy veggie their child loves. It goes something like this:

“My Johnny loves carrots.”

“MY Suzie loves broccoli.”

“WELL, MY Nicolas loves kale.”

“Guess what. MY Olivia loves Brussels sprouts. Eats them like candy. Can’t get enough of them.”

You get the picture.

I understand why people ask me about veggies. And why parents feel pressured. The amazing powers of specific vegetables often are the subjects of headlines. It makes a great sound-bite. It’s a great way to sell newspapers & magazines.

But as is often the case, that which makes a great sound-bite isn’t always what’s true. Because it’s been pulled out of context, the sound-bite ends up being only partly-true.

Science’s understanding of exactly what it is in veggies that’s so good for us is crude. We’re constantly learning of new healthy nutrients. For example, when I was studying human nutrition as an undergraduate in the late 1990’s, I was taught that white veggies didn’t have any healthful substances. They may provide flavor and crunch, but they were nutritional zeros. However, we now know that onions, garlic, and their other cousins such as leeks, have healthful nutrients like antioxidants.

While science is constantly discovering new nutrients, what’s found again and again (and again) is that the people who eat the most veggies are the healthiest. Period.

I also like to balance current science with the tried-and-true. And, when I look at traditional diets around the world, I see that human beings have survived and thrived eating all sorts of plant foods.

Let me be clear. I’m not denying that dark green veggies (like kale) and brightly-coloured veggies (like carrots and purple cabbage) are really healthy. They’re fantastic choices! What I’m saying is to not consider veggies such as cucumber and celery as empty junk. While they’re today’s zeros, who knows if they will be tomorrow’s super-stars. And, they’re healthier than most processed foods which kids typically eat if they’re not eating veggies.

So don’t stress if your picky eater doesn’t like today’s super-star veggies.

When it comes to veggies, it’s about quantity. And, variety.

Instead of relying on the magic of any one vegetable (and trying to force your picky eater to eat it), enjoy a wide variety of veggies. Introduce your little one to many different veggies (and repeat those introductions, and repeat, and repeat…). Be a veggie variety role model yourself. Encourage your little one to enjoy the wide, wide world of veggies in all colours of the rainbow. Together explore all the different tastes and textures.

And celebrate when your little one eats ANY veggies - whether it’s kale chips or that French Breakfast radish that the Farmer convinced him to try at Saturday’s Farmers Market, or…

So, what’s my answer when I’m asked what’s the healthiest vegetable? Answer: The one that you’ll eat (because it doesn’t matter how healthy any veggie is – if you won’t eat it – it can’t do you any good).

Get more successful picky eater tips. Sign-up for my e-newsletter today HERE.

Photo credit: Keenan Loo on Unsplash

Lentil Crust Flatbread (Pizza) Recipe

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This is a delicious way to include lentils in your diet. I mean, who doesn't like pizza?!

Note that if you have picky kids, don't call this pizza. Because while the crust is delicious, it does taste different than regular pizza crust. So, use a different term than "pizza". Such as "flatbreads". This way picky kiddos won't expect pizza and they'll be open to this new dish that's called "flatbread".

Also, note that you need to soak the lentils the night before you plan to make this dish.


Lentil Crust Flatbread (Pizza) - Crust Ingredients

2 cups of soaked red lentils (24hr then pureed)

1/2 cup water

1-3 garlic cloves (as per your taste preference)

1 TBSP dried basil

1 TBSP dried oregano

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 TBSP olive oil


Lentil Crust Flatbread (Pizza) - Toppings

1 can of tomato puree/sauce

1/2 cup of shredded white mozzarella cheese or feta

Vegetables/protein of your choice


Lentil Crust Flatbread (Pizza) - Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Rinse and drain lentils and transfer into the food processor.
  3. Add 3 garlic cloves, dried basil, dried oregano, sea salt, baking powder and ½ cup of water for consistency.
  4. Puree all the ingredients until smooth.
  5. Heat a heavy-bottom frying pan over medium heat. Use ~1 tbsp of olive oil to grease the pre-heated pan and pour in the batter. Smooth the batter out with a spoon, it will look like a mini pancake. Make sure the batter is THIN.
  6. Repeat this step (should make about 8 mini crusts)
  7. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side. Then, transfer your flatbreads to a baking tray covered with parchment paper.
  8. Add your tomato sauce, cheese and toppings.
  9. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until cheese is bubbling and brown.
  10. Enjoy!

Get more recipes on my recipe page HERE.

Photo and recipe credit: Amazing student Hanna Kim (Thanks Hanna!)

5 Super Simple Digestion Solutions

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Do you have problems with your digestion?

  • Gas?
  • Bloating?
  • Constipation?

These days it seems like everyone has digestion problems. And, most people jump to the assumption that they must have a sensitivity to a food. So, they start eliminating this food and that food to try to get to the bottom of it. Usually eliminating favourite foods and driving yourself crazy as you try to figure it out.

If this is you, I have some actions that I want you to take before you go investigating food sensitivities. They are super easy things that I want you to do first. Because sometimes I have really, really good news. Some people don’t actually have food sensitivities. Yes – you can continue eating all of your favourite foods, without causing gut distress. Even if you do end up having food sensitivities, you want to rule out these simple steps first. They help your digestion of all foods. And, they are healthy habits for everyone.

5 Super Simple Digestion Solutions:

  1. Chew Your Food. It seems ridiculous that I need to tell you to chew your food. But if you gulp your food down, you’re missing an important first step in digestion. In chewing, you break down food into smaller pieces so that your digestive enzymes can have lots of surface area to work on to digest the food, and then absorb it. There’s also digestive enzymes in your saliva that start breaking food down. With less chewing there’s more undigested food moving through your intestines. The result is that your gut bacteria has more food to ferment, creating gas. If gas and bloating is your problem, this tip is for you.
  2. Don’t Chew Gum. When you chew gum, you swallow a lot of air. That air has to come out in one direction or the other. Let me speak plainly for a moment: burping or farting. When all that air is stuck in the middle before finding it’s way out – that’s bloating. So, if you get bloated or gassy, stop chewing gum. I can speak to this one personally. I used to be a big gum-chewer. And, I frequently had gas and bloating. Removed the gum. Removed the gas. Amazing!
  3. Eat Mindfully. Really, this tip is a method to prevent the poor digestion causes I’ve already mentioned above. When we eat mindlessly, we don’t take the time to really chew our food. We also are more likely to swallow a lot of air. Eating mindfully will slow you down, help you chew your food well, and swallow less air. The result – better digestion, less bloating, less gas.
  4. Drink Water. Water helps lubricate everything – including your digestive tract. We all know what lubrication does – it helps things glide. If constipation is your digestion problem, make sure that you’re drinking those 9 glasses of fluids (for women) and 12 glasses of fluids (for men).
  5. Things move along your digestive tract through the actions of muscles. Being physically active helps get muscles moving – including in yout gut. If constipation is your digestion issue, be sure to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day (or more).

Get more simple nutrition tips. Sign-up for my e-newsletter today.

Photo by Arnaldo Aldana on Unsplash

Eat Vegetables First

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Usually I write my blogs with tips and advice for parents. But I know that there are a lot of Early Childhood Educators, daycare providers, nannies, and other important caregivers in our community. Today’s message is for you.

The other day, I received an email from a parent who has influenced her children to be good eaters by using the techniques that I share here. Her email was simply entitled “rant”. Here’s what this frustrated mama said about her experience with her daughter’s first month in kindergarten:


“Petunia’s* old daycare would always dictate what she was allowed to eat out of her lunch kit and in what order. Fruit/veggies, then sandwich, then yogurt… don’t send cookies.

AND NOW I’M HAVING ISSUES WITH HER AT KINDERGARTEN

So of course, she’s not eating any of her multiple fruit/veggie options. Not even when I cut the peel off the apple and provide caramel (cream cheese) dip for them after she’s agreed that that is how she would like to eat them.

I asked daycare over and over again to stop dictating her lunch choices. Petunia has declared kindergarten awesome because she can eat whatever she wants.”

* Name changed for privacy.


I wish that this was an isolated incident. But it’s by far not the only time that a parent has expressed their frustration with me. I knew that I needed to share it with you, so you could see the unintended consequence of your actions.

It’s only with good intentions that early childhood caregivers ask kids to eat their veggies first. You care about kids – otherwise this wouldn’t be your profession. You want kids to get the nutrition from the veggies.

Unfortunately, you’re having the opposite effect than you intended.

Forcing kids to eat veggies first only reinforces that veggies are something awful. Something that you need to get over with so that you can get to the shiny prize of the treats. The consequence is that when kids no longer have a gatekeeper around, and they can make their own food choices, they go after the forbidden foods and ignore the forced foods.

That’s what’s happening with Petunia now. At Kindergarten there is no adult gatekeeper making her eat her veggies and fruit. So she isn’t.

I know that you’re choosing your actions because you want kids to eat their veggies. But you’re actually teaching them to NOT choose to eat veggies. Oops.

For those of you working in licenced facilities here in BC, I have another reason for you to re-consider your actions. The regulations state:

48. (4) “A licensee must ensure that children are not
(b) forced to consume any food or drink,”

By dictating in what order kids must eat their meal, you are forcing kids; therefore, you are breaking the regulations.

What to do instead?

  • Allow kids to eat whatever they want, in whatever order they want, from the foods that were packed for them.
  • Incorporate vegetables and fruit into your curriculum.
  • Organize activities that involve veggies and fruit.
  • Eat with children at meals and snacks. Role model eating your veggies.

Communicate with parent about what veggies/ fruits were eaten each day so that parents can plan meals and snacks at home to create balanced nutrition throughout the day.

Get more successful tips for teaching kids nutrition. Sign-up for my e-newsletter today.

Pumpkin Mousse

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Love the flavour of pumpkin spice and pumpkin pie? But looking for a healthy way to enjoy it? Look no further. This mousse is seriously delicious.

I admit that I'm lazy so I make it without the crust. And it's still fantastic! I find that the pumpkin mousse tastes best when refrigerated overnight.

This recipe is a great way to include some more veggies (for picky kids and us adults who can use to eat more veggies too). Pumpkin rocks the vitamin A and has good fibre too.

Baby Food Version: Make this recipe without the crust and omit the maple syrup.


Healthy Pumpkin Mousse Ingredients:

1 cup of full fat coconut milk (put in fridge overnight)

1 can of pumpkin puree

1/4 cup of black chia seeds

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

“Bottom crust”

  • 3 dates
  • 1 cup of raw nuts (e.g. walnuts and pecans)
  • 1/4 cup of oats
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Healthy Pumpkin Mousse Directions:

  1. In a food processor, mixer or blender, add all the ingredients. Start with low speed and work your way up to high speed.
  2. Once all the coconut chunks are pureed set aside in a bowl.
  3. For the “crust”, mix together dates, raw nuts, cinnamon, oats, and nutmeg in a food processor until the dates have broken down.
  4. Take a spoonful of the “crust” into a parfait cup and add the pumpkin mousse.
  5. Enjoy!

Get more recipes on my recipe page HERE.

Photo and recipe credit: Amazing student Hanna Kim (Thanks Hanna!)