Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Eat...somewhere special

We are pretty lucky to live in such a foodie city, filled with gorgeous dining experiences. However, sometimes you might crave something truly unique. I wanted to share a few special experiences in the Vancouver area you may have not known about! Have a "secret" spot you want to share? Let us know!

1. Granville Island Market Dinners by Edible BC

Want the market all to yourself? Edible BC hosts regular multi-course, wine paired dinners at about $100. This is for the locavore gourmand!

2. Social Bites
Think your coq au vin is divine? Make a scrumptious cassoulet? Just want to make some new foodie friends? Then give social bites a try. Apply to be a hobby chef host or buy a pass to gain access to hobby chefs' homes for a truly unique dining experience. Check them out!

3. Salt Tasting Room Cellar Events 
I adore Salt but this little jewel box reveals another gem in its tasting room events. Enjoy an intimate experience with BC's best winemakers. http://salttastingroom.com/cellar.html 

Go eat something,

Friday, March 25, 2011

UnDiet...Week 13

If you must splurge...make it worth it. Thomas Haas macarons fit the bill.
It's week number 13 UnDieters!

The number has always been a lucky one for me...so let's hope this week is good for you too. We are going to do something that might sting a bit at first but it will make you feel better before long. It's about cutting down on sugar. 

We are living truly sugar laden lives. Not only do we eat more treats than ever before but our savoury staples are also being pumped full of the sweet stuff. I have typically never been much for sweets but I have found that since having E I have been worshipping at the syrup shack a bit too often for my liking. 

This month, my lovely friend Robyn Green at Kai Event Management has been observing Sugar Free March and I wrote a blog post to help her followers steer clear of the stuff. Give it a read for in depth information on how to spot hidden sugars in foods and for some ideas for great sugar free snacks.

For you, I am asking you to choose one food or beverage that you sweeten on a daily basis and keep it unsweetened. Just one! It is an experiment in weaning yourself off the sauce. Reason being, once you get used to the taste of things in their unsweetened state, you will start to like it. And then you might want to cut the sweet out of other foods in your life. It may take a week or two for you to get accustomed to the new taste of your food but eventually you will be able to appreciate the nuances of flavour that sugar had been bulldozing over with syrupy sweetness.

So choose your current poison: will it be your first morning cup of a coffee? A GREAT place to start. Or will you swap a sweetened yogurt for a plain version with some chopped fruit? Or maybe you will drop the afternoon granola bar and pick up some raw almonds instead. If you don't typically eat sweets, go after the savoury foods in your pantry like tomato sauces or breads that may be unexpectedly sugar filled.

Don't eat anything sweetened? At all? Good for you. Take the week off but go easy on all the other cranky, sugar deprived souls. 

Good luck and remember, you are all sweet enough as it is.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

UnDiet...Week 12

Hello UnDieters!

March 21st is the first day of spring, so why not celebrate with a bit of spring cleaning? This week is your first cupboard clean up assignment: it's time for an oil change. You do it for your car...but what about your body? The days of low fat, high sugar living are over but you can't afford to overlook the quality of the oils you put into your body.

Why? Dietary fats have a multitude of influences on your health. Fats are incorporated into the membranes for all of your cells and can deliver a glow to your skin. The oils we eat can help raise or lower your cholesterol; they can deliver important fat soluble vitamins and antioxidants to help improve our health and they can cause or calm inflammation. Just as important, fats help carry flavour and provide a wonderful texture to the foods you eat. 

This week, follow my 5 step plan to cleaning up your act...

Step One: Remove all products from your cupboards that contain trans fats. Don't look for trans fats on the nutrition facts as foods that contain small amounts of trans fats can still legally be labelled as trans fat free. Look for the words "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" on all of your ingredients lists. If packages are unopened, donate food to your local food bank.

Step Two: Smell all of your cooking oils. The healthier an oil is, the quicker it turns rancid. If oils start to smell like paint thinner, it's time to toss. 

Step Three: Toss out oils that are high in omega 6 fats, such as soy and corn oils and margarines. Also ban cheap vegetable oils that are chemically processed such as canola and sunflower oils. Our North American diet is already too high in omega 6 fats, which contribute to inflammation, a contributor to chronic disease. 

Step Four: Stock the following: a small amount of butter (organic if possible) for occasional baking or as a treat on good bread. Keep it in the fridge. Buy extra virgin olive oil for everyday use (salads and sautéing) and virgin coconut or good quality peanut oil for high heat frying.
Keep your liquid oils in a dark, cool place. Not by the stove!

Step Five: Ensure you buy only what you can use in a couple of months. Use the sniff test often to ensure that your oils are fresh and healthful. If you want to buy value packs of oil, keep them in the fridge and leave only a small amount at room temperature. Note that olive oil will turn cloudy and semi-solid in the fridge. This will not affect the oil and can be reversed by bringing oil to room temperature.

Spring has sprung!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

UnDiet...Week Eleven

Good Morning UnDieters! 

What did you eat for breakfast this morning? A bowl of Special K? A slice of leftover pizza? A banana? 
What? You didn't eat breakfast? Let's talk...

Your mother was right. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Why? Because you just fasted for a good 6 - 10 hours. Your body is working overtime to ensure a constant stream of glucose for your brain via an increase in stress hormones to help liberate stored energy. You need to help your body out and give it something good first thing in the morning. Within 2 hours of rising is best. If you do, you will be rewarded with more energy, fewer sugar cravings and less of an affinity for weight gain. Seems to good to be true doesn't it?

The reason why this occurs is because when you eat breakfast, you help your body shut of the anti-starvation machinery. It needs protein, fat and slow burning carbohydrates to help shift your hormone balance into neutral. Do this and your hormones will stay balanced, putting less strain on your pancreas and keeping you energized all day long. Run out the door, cup of black coffee in hand, and your body has to kick into high gear to keep things running smoothly (and ensure that you don't run out of steam mid commute) but it will also start sending really strong signals for you to eat as much as you can to store energy for the next fast. And what will your body want? Quick energy. Like donuts. Which will only spike your blood sugar and leave you scrambling for more sugar an hour later. 

So what constitutes a good breakfast? Here it is on a sliding scale from horrible to excellent:

1. Nothing
2. A bowl of Special K or similarly rapidly digested cereal and some black coffee.
3. A donut or "muffin" from a cafe
4. A piece of fruit and a large skim latte
5. A bowl of instant oats and some fruit or a slice of leftover thin crust veggie pizza
6. A bowl of steel cut oats 
7. Any of the following: a big bowl of steel cut oats with hemp seeds, berries and a glass of skim milk; scrambled eggs on sprouted grain toast with a sliced apple; greek yogurt with high fibre cereal, berries and hemp seeds.

Your mission this week? Move yourself at least one notch on the better breakfast scale. Not hungry in the morning? Start small and get your body used to getting nourished. Want to go all the way? You need some combination of protein (plain yogurt, skim milk or soy milk, eggs), slowly digested carbohydrates (sprouted grain bread, steel cut oats, super high fibre cold cereal) and some fruit (your choice). That is the formula for sustained energy. 

Mid morning slump, be gone!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Eat...better on a budget

Want cheap healthy food? Grow your own!

After my appearance this morning on CBC Radio One's Early Edition, I thought I would do a follow up post with some easy ways to truly eat well on a limited budget. With so many people either out of work or working at lower paying jobs than they used to before the recession it is important that we not equate eating cheap with eating badly. When I was doing my internship in Edmonton to become a dietitian (completely unpaid!) my husband had to support two households: a mortgage AND rent, 2 sets of utilities and flights to come home so we could see each other. Budget eating was imperative: I ate a LOT of rice and beans. When we are stressed and busy, a trip through the drive thru might seem easier than cooking from scratch. But when we are under stress, we need good food even more to help our bodies cope and defend against the damage stress can inflict. It can be done...here are 5 ways to eat well on the cheap. 

1. Buy staples in bulk. Stock up when items you use all the time are on sale and buy staples in bulk or warehouse size packs. The important thing here is not to buy everything supersized. If you buy a warehouse pack of chicken and you are cooking for one, you will likely bid at least half of that adieu. If you can't use the package before it goes bad you are wasting money, not saving. Good things to buy in bulk are frozen veggies, whole grains like brown rice or quinoa and dried beans. If you have a family, you can probably use up staples like cereal, soups, cheese, olive oil and trail mix pretty quickly too.

2. Trade convenience for cost savings. The more processed (value added, in grocery speak) a food is the more it costs. Whole wheat pasta is about 25 cents a serving; a seasoned and sauced "side dish" style pasta is usually 2 or 3 times that. Pre-shredded cheese costs more than brick cheese and individual yogurts cost more per serving than a family sized tub. "Prewashed" salads cost tons more than a head of lettuce or bunch of spinach. Take 30 seconds to scoop out yogurt into tupperware for lunches and get a family member shredding cheese for you. I hate shredding cheese for some reason. I make my husband do it.

3. Think veggie. Vegetarian proteins are incredibly healthy and way less expensive than animal proteins. Crumble up extra firm tofu in chili or burritos. Bulk up vegetable soups with beans or extend lean ground beef with lentils in your favourite recipes. To save even more (and keep extra sodium at bay), cook beans from scratch instead of buying canned. The trick here is to think ahead. Soak beans overnight and then cook them in the evening while you are watching TV or doing other chores. Then you have a batch in the fridge ready to go when it comes time to make a quick meal.

4. Plan to succeed. When everyone arrives home tired, it can be tricky to figure out what to cook and all too easy to go to MacDohs. Pour yourself a cup of coffee tonight and think of 10 super quick meal ideas, like spaghetti, chili or grilled cheese and spinach salad and post it on the fridge. Make sure you keep your kitchen stocked so you always have the ingredients for your go to meals. Next time you are at a loss for the age old question "what's for dinner?", you can just go to your fridge and get cooking. Wash and prep veggies when you get home from grocery shopping so they are ready to go for snacks and meals. Make lunches the night before so you aren't scrambling come morning. 

5. Rethink snack food. While chips, pop and candy seem like inexpensive options the costs really do add up. Instead of spending $5 on pop a week for your kids, use the cash to buy 100% juice instead. Does your family go through a couple of bags of chips a week? Take that $5 and use it for some healthy unsalted nuts to add to lunches. What to snack on instead? Popcorn! Making popcorn from scratch on the stove takes the same amount of time as putting it in the microwave and is just pennies a serving, even with a bit of butter and salt added to it. Not to mention how much healthier it is.

I would love to hear your favourite money saving tips for eating well....

Sunday, March 6, 2011

UnDiet...Week Ten

Hello UnDieters....we are into the double digits now! Talk about commitment. Hopefully by now you are starting to feel just a little different. A little more regular and a little less bloated. Perhaps there is a bit more energy coursing through your system. It is time to continue supercharging your body with nutrition and start incorporating more nutrient dense power foods into your life.

Let's start tackling seeds. We talk all the time about the health benefits of nuts but seeds are largely forgotten. Seeds are filled with heart and skin loving unsaturated fats, vital minerals and fibre (yes, more fibre...get used to it!). They are the total package. For our first week of seeds, we are going to try some classics.

Pumpkin seeds boast anti-inflammatory omega 3 ALA and plenty of relaxing magnesium. A natural source of plant sterols for your heart, pumpkin seeds are also rich in immune boosting zinc. Sunflower seeds contain a synergistic blend of vitamin E and selenium in addition to more sterols and magnesium.

For this week, buy either sunflower or pumpkin seeds (or both if you're keen!) and add a couple of tablespoons to a meal or snack a few times this week. Add your seeds to trail mixes, granola or cereal. You can sprinkle them on salads or even over pasta for some crunch. Snack on them on their own or try them stirred into yogurt. Ensure you buy raw, unsalted seeds and store them in the refrigerator to preserve their quality. If they start to smell like paint thinner, it is time to toss them.

To your health,