Lentil Crust Flatbread (Pizza) Recipe

lentil_crust_flatbread_pizza_recipe

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!)

Pumpkin Mousse

healthy-pumpkin-mousse-recipe

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!)

Do I Need to Soak Nuts and Grains (Anti-Nutrients)?

Do-I-need-to-Soak-Nuts-and-Grains-Anti-Nutrients

My favourite topics to write about are the topics that you, community members, ask me to address. Today’s topic comes from a community member. She asked: “Is there any truth to the idea that we should be soaking our nuts and grains to make these foods more digestible, more nutritious or to avoid so called ‘anti-nutrients’?”

Ah, the internet, such a double-edged sword. I love it – after all, it’s how I’m communicating with you today. And, I hate it. In my 23 years of experience in nutrition, I’ve never seen so many people so confused about nutrition.

This question is yet another example of how people are confused about nutrition. Both because of the powerful nutrition fear-mongering that unscrupulous people use to make money. And, because of well-intentioned people taking a fact so out of context that it no longer makes any sense.

In a nutshell (pun intended): no, you don’t need to soak nuts and grains.

Let’s get down into the details – because I know that’s what you like to get from me – the detailed story.

Anti-Nutrients

Anti-nutrients sure are a hot topic in the media (on-line and off-line). People are making a mountain out of a mole-hill. While the community member didn’t mention beans/ lentils in her question, I’m going to add them to the conversation because others of you have been asking me about the “poison” they’ve heard about in beans/ lentils.

Yes, it’s true that nuts, seeds, whole grains, bean and lentils have molecules called phytates in them. Phytates bind to nutrients, such as iron, making us humans less able to absorb the nutrients. Hence the term “anti-nutrients”. Note that the phytates make us absorb less of the nutrients – not zero. So their presence doesn’t render the foods devoid of nutrition. Also, these phytates aren’t poisonous – they don’t harm us.

Quite the opposite of being bad for us, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils are a key part of the foundation for a healthy diet. Combine these with vegetables and fruit and you’ve got a gold star in the eating habits department.

Whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils have been eaten by human beings for generations. If they were poisonous, we would have stopped eating them a long, long time ago. Humans have figured out many ways to reduce the phytates in these foods:

  • Roasting nuts
  • Leavening bread made from whole grains
  • Soaking beans before cooking
  • Fermenting foods (e.g. making miso from soybeans)
  • Sprouting of grains, seeds, beans

So while you don’t need to soak these foods before eating them. Soaking, roasting, sprouting, fermenting is a great idea because it frees up more of the nutrients for us to absorb. In other words, it’s the concept of “need” with which I take issue.

Great choices to increase your nutrient-absorption:

  • Try new recipes that involve soaking, roasting, sprouting, and fermenting.
  • If you have a choice of sprouted whole grain bread or un-sprouted, choose the sprouted bread. But if un-sprouted is your only choice, it’s still a healthy choice.
  • Soak beans before you cook them (and throw away the soaking water) because it makes them less “musical”.
  • Many of the nuts that you find in the store are roasted, e.g. cashews, macadamia nuts.
  • If you find that you have a hard time digesting some of these foods in their un-processed state, give them a try soaked/ sprouted/ fermented and see if your digestion improves.

Note: Raw sprouts aren’t recommended for children under 5 years due to the risk of microbes (e.g. salmonella, e. coli) causing food-poisoning.

Looking for 1:1 help from me in sorting through all the nutrition myths? Check out my adult nutrition services and kids nutrition services.

Photo credit: chuttersnap on Unsplash

Banana Lentil Muffins

lentil-banana-muffins

Banana lentil muffins. Yes, you read that right - banana LENTIL muffins. Lentils can be used in baking.

Including lentils in baking is a fantastic way to reduce the amount of refined flour we eat and get more iron, fibre, and protein. Take note parents of picky eater kiddos who don't like most protein or iron-rich foods. Tip: Serve the muffins with a source of vitamin C (such as berries) to maximize absorption of that iron.

We made this recipe for mini muffins, so that they're a good size for little hands (and tummies). Us big kids can choose to eat 2 - 3 of them in the place of a regular-size muffin. Or bake yours in a regular-size muffin tray and adjust the baking time. We didn't test the baking time for regular-size muffins so I don't have a time to give you (sorry). Keep a close eye on them and use the ever-trusty toothpick-in-the-centre test.

Enjoy!


Banana Lentil Muffins Ingredients

  • 1 cup of ripe bananas (or 2 ripe medium bananas)
  • 1 cup red or green lentil puree (1 cup of lentils boiled in water for 40-45 minutes, drained then pureed)
  • 1 Egg
  • ¼ cup of maple syrup
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of oat flour (blended old fashioned oats)
  • 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup oil (vegetable, avocado, canola or olive)
  • 1/2 cup of chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of crushed walnuts (optional)

Banana Lentil Muffins Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
  2. In a bowl, combine all wet ingredients (egg, oil, maple syrup, bananas, lentil purée and vanilla. Mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together (flour, oat flour, baking soda, baking powder, walnuts and chocolate chips).
  4. Stir into the egg mixture until mixed.
  5. Grease the muffin tins with oil.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  7. ENJOY!

2017 Food Trends I Love

2017-Food-Trends-I-Love

It’s a new year and so it’s time for my annual post on 2017 food trends I love. I really am lucky that my work is my passion. I honestly don’t know if I’m working or ‘off the clock’ when I’m reading food magazines, browsing food blogs, shopping at farmers markets and grocery stores, and watching cooking shows. Regardless of whether I’m working or spending leisure time, being immersed in the nutrition and food-geek world, I see many, many a food trend. Lots of which make me cringe and I can’t wait until they pass. But others get me excited. Here’s the 2017 food trends I love. Enjoy!

Hot Produce: Fennel, Radish, Persimmons, Watermelon, Dragon Fruit

Now I don’t know if any of these trends will be strong enough to knock kale out of the King of Produce spot that it’s held on to for the last many years. But perhaps they’ll be strong enough to move Brussels Sprouts and cauliflower out of the spotlight (not that there’s anything wrong with Brussels sprouts and cauliflower).

I include these veggies and fruit trends on the list of food trends that I love because I hope that their trendiness will inspire you to break out of eating the same few veggies and fruit and try new things. And, overall, eat more veggies and fruit. Each vegetable and each fruit has a slightly different nutrient profile. Meaning that each one has a unique blend of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, phytochemicals, fibre, fruit, and more that’s good for us that science hasn’t yet discovered. Every fruit and every vegetable is a healthy choice. And, the more variety you get, the better.

The dark shadow of the food trend is that people can get caught up in eating one particular food. Or, get worked up if their child doesn’t like one particular vegetable or fruit. But there’s nothing to get worked up about. Our bodies are amazing. We don’t need any one particular food in order to be healthy. We can meet our nutrition needs by eating a wide variety of foods. In fact, the wider the variety, the better. So use the food trend for good – as inspiration to try new foods. Or, to try new recipes for vegetables and fruit that are already familiar to you.

Looking for recipe inspiration? Check out my recipe ideas on Pinterest. So far, I have healthy recipe ideas for fennel and healthy recipe ideas for dragon fruit. Radish, persimmon, and watermelon will be coming later this year so stay tuned.

Ugly Produce

While I’m on the topic of vegetables and fruit, there’s another trend that has been gaining steam – ugly produce. This one is a win-win-win in my eyes – it encourages eating veggies and fruit (a nutrition win), encourages less food waste (environment win) and creates a new market for farmers (economic win). So what’s ‘ugly’ produce? It’s produce that is perfectly nutritious, but just doesn’t look perfect – in other words it’s ‘ugly’. For the last few generations who have done their grocery shopping at major grocery chains, the only produce that they’ve been exposed to are perfect-looking specimens. The hidden side of this fact is that a huge proportion of perfectly good vegetables and fruit are thrown out just because they don’t look perfect. But no more! Now, some major grocery chains are starting to carry ‘ugly’ produce. Farmers markets and farm-gate sales have long been where ugly produce is revered.

Buying ugly produce does require you to shift your perspective. You need to no longer judge a book by its cover (or a carrot by how straight it is). You need to be more tuned in to what’s in season, how food smells, how heavy it is, and firm/soft it is, to determine whether something is ‘good’ or not. But once you gain these new skills, it’s super easy. And, considering the win-win-win of ugly produce, you’ll likely see just how beautiful it really is. As they say, true beauty lies beneath the surface.

No Food Waste

How about a food trend that is good for the environment and saves you money? Sound too good to be true? Well that’s just what the ‘no food waste’ trend offers.

I’ve heard estimates that 40% of all food in North America is thrown in the garbage. What a huge negative environmental impact! We know that fresh water and agriculture land is under stress. Now think that almost half of what’s being grown is going to waste. It’s a tragedy.

The good news is that taking steps to solve this problem is really easy. And, it’ll save you money. One part of the solution is what I’ve described above – buying ugly produce. No longer demanding that every single piece of your produce be the equivalent of a supermodel.

The next part of the solution will save you money – buying less that you’ll throw away. This means meal planning. I’ve talked about the benefits of meal planning before. But another benefit is that you’ll buy less food that will go bad and end up in your green bin.

Got the first two solutions under your belt and now you’re ready to up your ‘no food waste’ game? The last solution also could technically fit under the meal planning title. It’s applying the nose-to-tail philosophy from meat eating to produce. In other words, including more creative recipes that use parts of the veggies/fruit that we usually throw away. Keep your eyes tuned because I’ll be sharing some recipes that I’ve been working on.

No Alcohol

Many people get a lot of pleasure out of their weekly glass of wine or an occasional cocktail. But the reality is that alcohol does have significant calories in it. Any calories that you drink, your body doesn’t recognize, and so you still eat the same number of calories as if you hadn’t drank anything. This can contribute to creeping weight gain over time. We also know that alcohol lowers inhibitions and so while sober you may not have ordered the extra large, fully loaded nachos, after a few drinks, you’re happily elbow-deep in a platter.

It is for these reasons that I love the ‘no alcohol’ trend. The trend includes people who choose to not drink any more. And, people choosing to take a temporary break from alcohol (e.g. dry January).

What’s a non-drinker to do? More and more restaurants are now including interesting, low sugar, alcohol-free drinks on their lists. Love it! As a non-drinker myself, I really appreciate this. Whether you’re choosing to not drink for a while, or you’re the designated driver, you’re no longer relegated to choosing between plain water or a sugar-laden (or artificial sugar-laden) pop. Kombucha is showing up in more and more grocery stores and on-tap at restaurants and pubs. I’m also seeing an explosion of low sugar, no artificial-sugar, sparkling waters/pops.

Overall, this ‘no alcohol’ trend is one that I’m hoping has staying power.

NGC*: Meal Planning

nutrition game changer meal planning

When working with women who want to eat better, one of the least popular recommendations that I make is creating a meal plan. When I suggest creating a meal plan, I’m usually met with a response along the lines of:

“I’m already crazy-busy. How am I supposed to add one more thing to my life?!”

I understand this knee-jerk resistance. At first it does seem like making a meal plan is adding more to your already overly full schedule. But, in reality it actually saves time and stress. I grew up watching ‘80s cartoons. One show had a saying that they’d repeat:

“Knowing is half the battle”

This phrase is true when it comes to meal planning. While it does take time to sit down and create a meal plan, doing so will save you hours of stressful time each week. From your meal plan you can prepare a grocery list. Think about how much more time you have if you’re only going to the grocery store once or twice a week (I’ve had lots of clients tell me they end up grocery shopping every day because they don’t have a plan). Think of how much time you’ll save if you have what you need in the fridge to turn tonight’s leftovers into tomorrow’s dinner. You could even do Thursday’s lunch and dinner meal prep on Wednesday while you’re in the kitchen waiting for dinner to cook. Efficiency – what?!

Having a meal plan will also save you money and stress. Imagine no more: • Last-minute trips to the grocery store when you’re hungry. • Staring blankly into your fridge. • Garbage bins full of veggies, bought with the best of intentions, but now gone bad.

While the knee-jerk resistance to meal planning is the time it takes, I suspect that there’s a deeper source to the resistance. For many of us, the only experience that we’ve had with meal plans is when on strict diets. We subconsciously associate meal planning with deprivation, forced structure, and failure. No wonder we don’t want to meal plan. Take a moment to check in with yourself. Does the structure of a meal plan make you feel constrained? If so, let’s take this opportunity to re-frame meal plans. It’s your life. It’s your meal plan. Plan what you want to eat. This is a tool to serve you – not the other way around.

Lastly, and very importantly, it’s your plan – change it whenever you want! Did you plan to make a complicated, new recipe tonight but you had an awful day and all you want to do is order pizza? Order the pizza! Savour the pizza! And, revise your plan so that the ingredients that you bought for that new dish are used up before they go bad.

Not convinced? Give it a try, just for this month. It’s only 4 weeks. Summer is fleeting. If meal planning can save you time, this is the perfect month to try it!

*A Nutrition Game Changer (NGC) is a food or habit that has made a big impact on the nutritional health of clients I’ve worked with. And, in my life too. Some may call these nutrition hacks. But I'm not a fan of that phrase. I share one NGC each month.

Join Me in Trying Something New

bamboo

Today’s post is inspired by my experience with a dietetic intern last week. A little background: to become a dietitian, you get an undergraduate degree in dietetics and do a 1-year internship where you shadow dietitians in the many places that we work. I’m always excited when interns ask if they can spend time with me. I’m happy to share my perspective with them, and I always learn something from them in return. The intern who shadowed me last week is from Saskatchewan. She has only visited the coast briefly before but she wants to move here. So, in addition to sharing my perspective on our profession, I was sharing aspects of our west coast culture with her. Including food.

The fantastic news is that she jumped right in to the experience and tried all sorts of new foods. Foods that I take for granted but were new to her. What did she try? Oysters, candied salmon, tempeh, deep fried pickles, and several dishes at a raw food restaurant. Okay, maybe the deep fried pickles aren’t a part of my repertoire. But the rest are my regular fare.

Her enthusiasm made me look in my own fridge and cupboards. When was the last time that I tried a new food? I honestly can’t remember. Oops, looks like I’ve been stuck in a rut.

Now, it’s your turn. When was the last time that you tried a new food?

Why do I care? Because variety is more than the spice of life. It’s a key to healthy eating. We human beings aren’t pandas – existing solely on bamboo shoots. No single food provides all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that we need. We need a wide variety of foods. The wider the better.

This month I’m going to try new things. Maybe new foods. Maybe new dishes whose ingredients are familiar to me. It’s time to get out of my rut.

Are you with me?

P.S. Would you like a little inspiration? Each week on Facebook I do “What’s This Wednesday” where I post a veggie or fruit and start a conversation on favourite ways to prepare/ eat it. I also post a recipe board on Pinterest with all sorts of ideas.

Roasted Chickpeas - 4 Ways

roasted-chickpeas-4-ways

It's official - 2016 is the year of the pulse! Pulses, such as chickpeas, are high in vegan-source protein, high in fibre, low-glyemic carbs, and contain lot of other nutrients. Did you know that we grow lots of them in Canada? Roasted chickpeas are a delicious way to eat more pulses. My friend Margie Barnard, a fantastic cook (we're talking Four Seasons Hotel), and I developed these recipes. We each had our favourites, so I’m sharing all four. The steps are the same for all of them.

Whole chickpeas are a choking hazard for little ones, so this is a good snack idea for kids 3 years and up (and us kids at heart).

Roasted Chickpeas Directions

  1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas.
  2. Pat dry the chickpeas until well dried (otherwise they’ll be mushy).
  3. Combine all the other ingredients in a medium-size bowl.
  4. Toss the chickpeas into the mixture. Coating the chickpeas well.
  5. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spread the coated chickpeas onto the parchment paper-lined sheet.
  6. We played around with the oven temperatures while they were cooking so I’m afraid that I don’t have exact temperatures and times for you. We started at 400 degrees for the first while, then stirred the chickpeas and reduced the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Keep a close eye on them while they bake. You’re looking for them to turn a golden brown colour. And, when you taste them, they have a crunchy shell and are soft in the middle. The recipes containing honey turned the darkest colour, the fastest.
  7. Allow to cool, then ENJOY!

Savoury Roasted Chickpeas

15oz can chickpeas

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 Tbsp olive oil

Garam Masala Roasted Chickpeas

15oz can chickpeas

1 tsp garam masala

1/4 tsp salt

2 Tbsp olive oil

Honey Roasted Chickpeas

15oz can chickpeas

2 Tbsp honey

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Sweet & Salty Roasted Chickpeas

15oz can chickpeas

2 Tbsp honey

1 tsp canola oil

1/4 tsp salt

See more healthy, delicious recipes.

Another Reason to Plan Your Meals

Another Reason to Plan Your Meals

It’s been unavoidable this past week. Every newscast seems to be talking about how the low Canadian dollar is going to mean increasing food costs. Ugh. Not exactly the news that we want to hear after the expensive holiday season. But, in looking for the silver lining, I’m choosing to see this as one more reason for you to plan your meals. Why? Because when you plan your meals and shop for the food that you’ll need to make those meals, you end up wasting less food. Less food in the garbage means more money in your pocket. Period.

Not convinced yet? When I suggest creating a meal plan, often people respond something like:

I’m already crazy-busy. How am I supposed to add one more thing to my life?!”

I agree that at first it seems like making a meal plan is adding more to your already overly full schedule.

But, in reality it actually saves time and stress.

A good portion of the stress of making dinner each night is figuring out what the heck you’ll make. Many parents admit that this thought (and it’s stress/ worry/ fear) starts creeping into their minds at about 4pm.

Not having a plan leaves you multi-tasking to come up with some idea while you’re finishing up your work day, rushing to pick the kids up from daycare, and fighting the traffic to get home and/or to extra-curricular activities. Not having a plan likely means creating an extra task of running in to the grocery store, with kids in tow, when the store is at it’s busiest. Not fun.

While it does take time to sit down and create a meal plan, doing so will save you hours of stress each week.

Does the structure of a meal plan make you feel constrained? Remember that it’s your plan – change it whenever you want! Did you plan to make a complicated, new recipe tonight but you had an awful day and all you want to do is order pizza? Order the pizza! And revise your plan so that the ingredients that you bought for that new dish are used up before they go bad.

Not convinced? Give it a try, just for this month. What do you have to lose?

Nutrition Game Changer: Cook The Night Before

cook-the-night-before

Last month I introduced the concept of nutrition game changers. Nutrition game changers are foods or simple habits that can make a big impact in your health. Some might use the term ‘nutrition hacks’. Today, I had planned to share with you a different habit. But I noticed that, with the nights cooling off again, I’ve been using this habit again. I do it a lot myself. And, it’s helped a number of clients too. I realized that this one simple habit can have a big impact on your health because it makes it easy to eat a lot of healthy foods that you might not otherwise eat. So, what’s this simple habit? Cook the night before.

Cook the Night Before

It’s a nutrition game changer for two huge reasons:

  1. It lessens the stress of getting dinner on the table.
  2. It makes it possible to eat healthy foods like whole grains, beans cooked from scratch, and longer-cooking veggies.

I’ve heard it called the witching hour. You know, that window of time between finishing work, commuting through traffic, picking the kids up from daycare, and making (and eating) dinner. For many people, it’s the most stressful time of the day. No one I know has an hour (or more) to cook dinner. Most people have somewhere from 20 – 30 minutes. Our modern lives have squished this time so much that it’s no wonder that take-out, drive-throughs, and pre-prepared food sales are through the roof. They’re survival techniques. You always ask me for help to get from survival to thriving. Cooking the night before can be a huge help.

No, I’m not talking about spending hours in the kitchen in the middle of the night! I’m talking about multi-tasking. You are likely home for several hours in the evening, after dinner but before you go to bed. Use this time to cook.

There are lots of healthy foods that take almost no work, but they take a long time to cook. Take a few minutes for prep, get the food cooking, set a timer, and then set off with your other evening activities. I personally do the prep while I’m already in the kitchen cooking my dinner for this evening. I don’t have kids so that works. If doing anything else besides preparing tonight’s dinner will take you over the edge, then do the prep later.

When the food is cooked, simply allow them to cool at room temperature and then store them in the fridge. They’ll store for several days in the fridge. On the day that you want to eat them for dinner, simply re-heat them in the microwave or steam them. (Place at least 1 inch of water in the bottom of a double boiler. Bring to a boil over high heat. Place your food in a bowl inside the double boiler. Steam until heated).

What Healthy Foods Can You Cook the Night Before?

  • Whole grains. E.g. pot barley, brown rice, wild rice, farro. They all take 45 – 60 minutes to cook. But the prep is easy. Just add them to a pot with water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, set your timer and you’re done.
  • Winter squash. E.g. spaghetti squash, butternut, acorn squash. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. For all but spaghetti, cut the squash in half lengthways, scoop out the seeds. Pour a splash of water in the seed cavity. Place in a baking dish. Cover with tin foil. Bake for 45min-1 hour (until the flesh is soft when you test it with a fork). For spaghetti squash: leave the squash whole, pierce all over with a fork. Cover with tin foil. Bake for 1 hour or longer (until the squash gives easily to your touch).
  • Root veggies. E.g. beets, yams. There are lots of ways to bake these veggies. Techniques vary by veggie. But unless you take a long time to prep them by cutting them into small pieces, they’re going to take 45min – 1 hour to bake. Here’s one minimal prep time technique each for beets and yams: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Wash but don’t peel the beets. Remove any stems or skinny roots. Rub with olive oil. Wrap in tin foil and place in a baking dish. Roast until soft to the touch. The time will vary based on the size of your beets. Yams can be cooked at the same temperature. Wash but don’t peel the yams. Pierce all over with a fork. Wrap in tin foil. Bake for 45min- 1 hour.
  • Dried beans. Cooking beans from dry is not only cheaper, but it avoids the exposure to BPA in the liner of most cans. Beans take 2 simple prep steps – one the morning before and one the night before. In the morning, measure out your beans, place in a bowl, cover with water (at least 1 inch above the beans), and sit at room temperature all day. At night, drain the beans,  place them in a large pot, add fresh water to cover at least 1 inch above the beans, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, set your timer and you’re done.

Extra Tip: All of these foods make fantastic whole-meal salad ingredients. Cook extra the night before and enjoy them both (cold) as a whole meal salad for your lunch and warm as a part of dinner.

Looking for new recipe ideas? Find lots of great healthy recipes here.

Baked Avocado Eggs

Baked avocado egg

I'm a long-time lover of avocados and so I'm excited to see that many others have realized how delicious they are. And, that their healthy fat is not something of which to be afraid. Browsing around Pinterest for some cooking inspiration (I love Pinterest), I found this recipe. I like to give credit where credit is due, so here's the original recipe: http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Baked-Eggs-Avocado-Recipe-30787252 This baked avocado egg recipe has all the creamy deliciousness of an eggs benny - without all the work of Hollandaise sauce. In other words, it's a perfect recipe for Easter breakfast. Finger Food Version: Cook a few minutes longer until both the whites and yolk are set (it's recommended that babies under 12 months don't have runny egg yolks). Cut the egg and avocado into finger-food size pieces. Or, spread on long, skinny pieces of toast.

Baked Avocado Egg Ingredients:

1 avocado

2 eggs

salt & pepper

Optional: toast

Baked Avocado Egg Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Slice the avocados in half. Remove the pit. Scoop out enough flesh from the avocado,  so the egg will fit in the centre. Reserve this flesh for another recipe/snack.
  3. Slice a small piece off the back of the avocado halves so that they will sit flat without rolling around. Place the avocados in a small baking dish, making sure they fit tightly. If your dish is too big, scrunch up a piece of tin foil to fill the space.
  4. Season the avocado halves with salt and pepper. Crack an egg into each avocado half.
  5. Place in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the size of your eggs and avocados. And, how you like our eggs cooked.
  6. Enjoy scooped directly out of the avocados. Or, spread on top of toast.

Check out more healthy, delicious recipes here.

Golden Milk

Turmeric-golden-milk

I created this recipe for two reasons. The first is that I love a warm mug of hot chocolate on cold evenings. But I wasn't crazy about the amount of sugar in it. Second, I've been reading about the positive health attributes of turmeric and wanting to include it more often. While I do love curries, I don't eat them multiple times a week. Also, I know that many kids don't like curries. So I was looking for another way to incorporate turmeric into their eating habits. I came across the idea for warm turmeric milk and I was inspired.

Personally I didn't care for it plain. But by adding some orange blossom water and just a touch of sugar, it came together as a delicious way to end my day!

Orange blossom water is available in any store that carries a decent selection of mediterranean or middle eastern foods.

Feel free to adjust the ingredients here to suit your taste. Be warned - both turmeric and orange blossom water are very strong flavours. Adjust them by very small amounts (I mean minuscule) to find the perfect balance for you!

Turmeric Golden Milk Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk (cow's or an alternative of your choice)
  •  less than 1/8 teaspoon ground tumeric
  • 3 drops orange blossom water
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

Turmeric Golden Milk Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Over medium heat warm the milk, stirring frequently.
  2. Enjoy!

Looking for other recipe ideas? Check out my healthy recipes here.

Make Weekday Evenings Easier: A (Not So) Secret Way

If you’re like most of the Moms and Dads whom I’ve worked with over the years, then you find the dinner-bath-bedtime routine of weekday evenings to be a stressful, rushed time. One way to make these evenings easier is to plan your meals. When I suggest creating a meal plan, often people respond something like:

I’m already crazy-busy. How am I supposed to add one more thing to my life?!”

I agree that at first it seems like making a meal plan is adding more to your already overly full schedule.

But, in reality it actually saves time and stress.

I grew up watching ‘80s cartoons. One show had a saying that they’d repeat:

Knowing is half the battle

This phrase is true when it comes to meal planning.

Long gone are the days before you had kids when you could leisurely stop in to the market to wander the aisles and decide what you feel like eating tonight. Then taking your time cooking dinner. Or, perhaps you were more likely to eat out most nights – catching up with your partner and/or friends over an hour-long (or longer) meal.

A good portion of the stress of making dinner each night is figuring out what the heck you’ll make. Many parents admit that this thought (and it’s stress/ worry/ fear) starts creeping into their minds at about 4pm.

Not having a plan leaves you multi-tasking to come up with some idea while you’re finishing up your work day, rushing to pick the kids up from daycare, and fighting the traffic to get home and/or to extra-curricular activities.

Not having a plan likely means creating an extra task of running in to the grocery store, with kids in tow, when the store is at it’s busiest. Not fun.

While it does take time to sit down and create a meal plan, doing so will save you hours of stress each week.

It’ll also save you time and money. Imagine no more:

  • Last-minute trips to the grocery store.
  • Staring blankly into your fridge.
  • Garbage bins full of veggies, bought with the best of intentions, but now gone bad.

Does the structure of a meal plan make you feel constrained? Remember that it’s your plan – change it whenever you want! Did you plan to make a complicated, new recipe tonight but you had an awful day and all you want to do is order pizza? Order the pizza! And revise your plan so that the ingredients that you bought for that new dish are used up before they go bad.

Not convinced? Give it a try, just for this month. It’s only 4 weeks. December is an extra busy month, if meal planning can save you time, this is the perfect month to try it!

I’d love to hear how meal planning is going for you – the good and the bad! Share your experience in the Comments section below…

Healthy Home-Made Ice-Pops for Kids

Healthy Home-Made Ice-Pops

Recently my friends and I were having a nostalgic laugh about the rising trend of home-made ice pops – also known as paletas. The dietitian in me loves that parents are choosing to make tasty snacks for their kids that beat the heat that include real fruits (even veggies) instead of frozen, colored, sugar water. What made my friends and I giggle was remembering how we too had homemade ice pops when we were kids. However, we were raised in the suburbs in the early 80’s. Our ice pops consisted of frozen OJ concentrate, re-constituted with water, and then frozen again in the ice-pop molds. Not exactly gourmet!

Now pint-sized foodies are enjoying paletas (even the new name is fancy) made with on-trend, healthy ingredients like coconut, avocado, Greek yogurt, almond milk, even kale. And, while we were absorbing all sorts of plastic by-products, you can now buy BPA-free plastic molds and stainless steel molds. It’s amazing how far we’ve come!

Interested in making some yourself? A Google or Pinterest browse will supply you with a summer full of healthy frozen kids snack ideas. Here are two ideas to get you started. For the recipes, all the steps are the same:

  1. Combine ingredients in a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Pour into the paleta molds.
  4. Freeze.
  5. ENJOY!

Blueberry-Kale Home-Made Ice Pops

You really need to blend this recipe well, otherwise the kale pieces are quite big which I found unpleasant (and I love kale). The kale is never truly hidden in these, but when well-blended, it’s an enjoyable part of their texture.

1 cup frozen blueberries 1 cup kale leaves, stems removed (ideally baby kale leaves) 2 cups coconut water

Raspberry-Almond-Coconut Home-Made Ice Pops

A luscious, dairy-free recipe!

1.5 cups almond milk 1/2 cup coconut milk 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries 2 teaspoons honey pinch of salt

Combine your favorite fruits with other healthy ingredients for a delicious and refreshing summertime paleta treat!

Get more home-made ice pop recipes here.

Why it Hurts so Much when Your Child Refuses to Eat

child refuses to eat{Guest post for Modern Mama} Why does it hurt so much when your child refuses to eat? Several reasons. You don’t have to be dietitian like me to be inundated with nutrition information. Every day we hear about how important it is to get enough of this vitamin and that mineral. We hear about the next super food. And, we hear about the latest food to avoid. When you become a parent this news comes at an even more rapid pace, because now you’re not just responsible for feeding yourself but you’re responsible for feeding your children too. But food is so much more than just fuel for our bodies.

Food is an expression of culture.

Each culture identifies themselves with what they do and don’t eat. Have you ever experienced culture shock when travelling? I bet you craved a food from home. Expats do too. For example, a (Canadian) friend of mine searched out and paid an exorbitant price for peanut butter when living overseas for 5 years – and she was living in Paris where there certainly isn’t a shortage of delicious food! Now that she’s back in Canada she spends her time searching for a decent croissant – go figure!

Food is also an expression of love.

I know that my Grannie’s applesauce was the best that I’ve ever tasted because hers had the extra ingredient of her love. I bet that you have similar memories. Each culture around the world shares food with family and friends. In fact, in most cultures it’s considered rude not to offer food and drink to a visitor to your home.

So it’s no wonder that it hurts so much when your child refuses to eat something that you’ve prepared. All of these layers of meaning come into play. You worry that they won’t get the nutrition that they need. You feel that they’ve rejected your love. And if it’s a cultural food, you feel that they’re rejecting not just you but your culture too.

Ouch!

When your child is a picky eater and he/she is constantly rejecting food these painful experiences can easily compound into guilt and shame. I’m a long-time fan of Brené Brown’s work. She describes so clearly how powerful shame can be. And how huge of a barrier it can be to creating positive change.

There are many reasons that contribute to a child not wanting to eat a particular food, and/or being a picky eater. Most of which have nothing related to rejection of you, your love, or your culture.

When your little refuses to eat a dish, acknowledge your feelings, recognize why it elicits such a strong reaction in you, and choose to take the high road and not engage in a battle. It’s not easy to do, but the right thing often isn’t the easy choice.

 

Click here to get tips on how to get your child to eat sent directly to your inbox.

My Position on Gluten-Free

my position on gluten-free About a month ago I was interviewed by a blogger about my position on the gluten-free trend. As is always the case, the blogger used some of what we talked about. A reporter can never use everything that an interviewee says – there just isn’t enough space in a post/story. I didn’t feel that my quotes used in her piece fully covered my position. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I was misquoted. I just thought that I would take the opportunity to write an article sharing (and explaining) my full position.

Perhaps you can call me old and jaded but I studied nutrition at university for 8 years and I’ve practiced as a dietitian for over 10 years. I’ve seen many trends come and go, like the low cholesterol trend, the low fat trend, Atkins, soy being an all powerful super food, soy being evil, and more. Gluten-free is the current trend.

First, as you’ve already realized, I do believe that it’s a trend. As such, it will have its time and then pass on (and another trend will come along).

However, saying that it’s trend doesn’t mean that I think it’s all junk.

Quite the opposite, celiac disease is real and it’s serious. The medical community is finding more people who have celiac disease. What’s not clear is whether it’s truly on the rise or whether they’re just doing a better job of finding people who have celiac disease through better diagnostic tests and a better understanding of the disease.

In addition, there are also people who have gluten sensitivities. In fact I’m one of them. If I eat more than a serving or two of a gluten-containing grain then I get hives.

I don’t, however, think that everyone needs to avoid gluten. Or that’s it’s inherently unhealthy. Or, that it’s the cause of the gazillion things of which it’s been accused.

If you’ve been wondering if your family should go gluten-free, or if your family should be eating more gluten-free foods, here’s the positives to take advantage of and the traps to avoid.

 

Gluten-Free Positives:

  • Inspiration to Try New Grains: Human beings are omnivores. We thrive on eating a variety of foods. Often people think that they’re eating a variety of grains, but eating wheat-based cereal, toast, flour tortillas, crackers and pasta are all just different shapes of wheat. Wheat was out of balance in many people’s eating habits. I like that the gluten-free trend is inspiring people to try new grains. After all there’s a huge variety out there: rice, wild rice, quinoa, barley, oats, teff, millet, amaranth, corn, buckwheat, and more.
  • Better Gluten-Free Products: In the past, gluten-free products were difficult to find and many tasted awful. With the trend creating a market, more companies are creating delicious gluten-free products which is awesome for people with celiac disease!

 

Gluten-Free Traps to Avoid:

  • Gluten-free = Healthy: There’s a marketing term called the “health halo”. It means that the public will mistakenly think that an unhealthy food a food is healthy by a false association. Right now, people are equating “gluten-free” with “healthy”, when in fact it’s not necessarily true. A gluten-free brownie is still not a health food. Hey, if you want to eat a brownie, go ahead. Just don’t be tricked into thinking that it’s a health food. I know that I’m being obtuse with this brownie example. But I see intelligent people falling for the health halo all the time. Food products made with highly processed (gluten-free) flours, lots of sugar, high in salt, and/or few nutrients such as cakes, cookies, breads, cereals, crackers, candy, chocolate, and chips are not a healthy choice.  Recognize and enjoy them for the treats that they are.
  • Include Sources of Iron and Folic Acid: Wheat flour is fortified with folic acid in Canada and many common foods, e,g, bread and cereal, are fortified with iron in Canada. Most gluten-free substitutions are not fortified. If you eat a lot of wheat-based grain products and are thinking about including more non-wheat grains, be sure that you’re eating other sources of iron and folic acid. Iron-rich foods include beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and nut butters, meat, poultry, seafood, egg yolks, black strap molasses, iron-fortified baby cereals, (and cooked spinach has some iron). Folic acid is found in dark, leafy greens, beans, lentils, corn and oranges. Note: it’s recommended that all girls and women from their first period through menopause take 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid from a supplement. Most multivitamins for women contain this.

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More Super Smoothies (for Picky Eater Kids)!

smoothies picky eater kids It happened again yesterday. I was leading a workshop and a parent asked me: “Is it wrong to give my child smoothies with veggies in them? Is this considered hiding veggies?” Rarely a workshop goes by without a parent asking me about smoothies for their picky eater kids. They’re such a popular trend these days. While I touched on this in last week’s blog post; it’s such a common question that I get about healthy snacks for kids that I thought that it was worthwhile to expand on it today. And, share some ideas for smoothie ingredients.

I think that smoothies are a great way to provide vegetables, fruit, protein, and healthy fats for kids. BUT there are a couple of key points to follow to be using them to role model healthy eating and support your child to try new foods on their own:

  1. Don’t lie about the ingredients. This is when you start veering into the “hiding” territory. If you’re waking up at 2am to puree foods so that your child doesn’t know that they’re in a smoothie, then you’ve strayed in the wrong direction. This doesn’t mean that you have to read out to your child a list every last ingredient in a smoothie. But don’t deny a food’s existence. Having your child help make the smoothie (like I suggested last week) is a great way for them to know what’s in it.
  2. Continue to serve “obvious” vegetables (and eat them yourself). Yes, even if your child doesn’t eat them, you’re role modeling choosing to eat vegetables. You’re teaching an important life lesson that I promise is sinking in (even if the vegetables aren’t getting eaten currently).

As I mentioned above, smoothies are a great way to provide vegetables, fruit, protein and healthy fats in a way that many picky eaters will actually eat. Here are some ingredient ideas. Note that some of the ingredients (e.g. nuts) require a higher-powered blender. Mix and match the ingredients to find combinations that you love. And don’t’ be afraid to experiment to find new favs. My new favourite is pistachio-mint-banana, which I was introduced to while on vacation in California last month!

Smoothie Ingredients - Vegetables:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Avocado (also helps a smoothie be creamy)
  • Carrot (I find carrot that’s already grated to blend better than larger pieces)

Smoothie Ingredients - Fruit (choose fresh or frozen fruit instead of juice):

  • Banana (also helps a smoothie be creamy)
  • Berries of any kind
  • Peaches
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Orange
  • Kiwi

Smoothie Ingredients - Protein:

  • Yogurt
  • Cashews (or cashew butter)
  • Ground almonds (or almond butter)
  • Peanut butter
  • Pistachios
  • Pumpkin seeds (or pumpkin seed butter)
  • Hemp hearts

Smoothie Ingredients - Healthy Fats:

  • See all the nut and seed ideas above (including hemp hearts)
  • Avocado
  • Flax oil (or ground flax seeds)
  • Hemp oil
  • Fish oil
  • Vitamin D drops

Other tasty ingredients (that pack more of a taste punch than a nutritional punch):

  • Dates
  • Mint
  • Cocoa powder

Looking for more ideas? Check out the recipe for my Sunshine Smoothie (Orange-Pineapple-Fresh Turmeric) or these green smoothies.

A Super Way to Introduce Kids to the Kitchen: Smoothies

smoothies You’ve probably heard that it’s great to get your kids to help you in the kitchen to learn cooking skills, instill healthy eating habits, and more.

 

When I’m talking with moms and dads they often tell me one of two things about this:

  1. It sounds like a great idea. But they just can’t imagine how to make it happen when they think about the amount of work and the mess.
  2. Yes, they bake with their kids sometimes.

 

This is another great example of us health folks meaning one thing and parents hearing another.

 

Now don’t get defensive or let your mommy guilt kick in. I’m taking ownership of the miscommunication happening here.

 

When I mean “cook with your kids” I mean “get your kids involved in making healthy foods”.

 

I’m not against baking with kids. It’s fun too. Just don’t limit yourself to baking.

 

Invite your kids into the kitchen to help with simple, everyday tasks.

 

Choose one simple task for them to help with. Examples include:

  • Washing veggies
  • Measure out the dry quinoa/ rice and water
  • Spinning and tearing up the lettuce for a salad
  • Setting the table
  • Placing dirty dishes in the dishwasher
  • Smoothies

 

Smoothies are also a fantastic way to get kids in the kitchen:

  •  They’re something that they can make from start to finish.
  • They’re quick and relatively mess-free.
  • They include healthy ingredients.
  • I’ve never met a child who doesn’t LOVE to push the buttons on machines (from cell phones to elevators to blenders).

And, while sometimes parents confess to me that they “hide” foods in smoothies (e.g. kale, spinach), it’s not “hiding” when your kids are the ones putting the ingredients in the blender! They’re simply helping make a tasty dish that includes healthy ingredients!

Do you involve your kids in making smoothies? What are your favourite smoothie combinations? I'd love to hear from you (comment below)!

Get Stocked! Keep Your Kitchen Ready for Action

pantry_medmed March is Nutrition Month!

This month I've hand-picked to share with you two tips from national Nutrition Month.

I chose this Nutrition Month tip because it really is a key way to make meals happen for your family. You don't need a fancy kitchen to make meals happen. But having it well-stocked really does help.

Yes, the photo is of my shelves. What do I keep on-hand?

  • Lots of herbs and spices to make a wide veriety of dishes from simple, basic ingredients.
  • I eat a lot of beans - both from dry and canned.
  • Grains like quinoa, rice (brown, white, aborio, wild), oats, buckwheat groats, pasta, and polenta (both cornmeal that I make from scratch and the pre-made rolls).
  • Stir-fry ingredients like coconut milk
  • Basics for many recipes like canned tomatoes, several vinegars and vegetable oils
  • Quick snacks like popping corn, almonds (in the fridge), and cocoa nibs
  • Baking ingredients like canned pumpkin, cocoa powder, flour, sugar, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch.

 

Nutrition Month Tip #10: Get Stocked! Keep Your Kitchen Ready for Action

It’s easier to cook when you have basic ingredients in your kitchen. Keep staple foods on hand, such as:

  • Fresh and frozen vegetables and fruit
  • Whole grains, such as quinoa, oats, brown rice andbarley
  • Milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Canned salmon and chunk light tuna
  • Canned or dried legumes, such as chickpeas, blackbeans and lentils
  • Spices, garlic, vinegars and oils

With a well-stocked pantry, fridge and freezer, you’ll be ready to cook quick meals.

For more information: http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Plan-Shop-Cook/Shop-Smart.aspx