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Good things grow in Ontario!

Lucia and Sue on the strawberry farm

When I was a kid, I remember singing the tune ‘Good things grow in Ontario!’ And that lyric still holds true today.

Lucia and I were recently invited by Farm Food Care Ontario to attend a farm tour in beautiful Norfolk County where we had the chance to learn more about food and agriculture!

 

First stop: Strawberry Tyme Farms

Dalton and John Cooper standing in a high tunnel strawberry field

Meet Dalton Cooper, a 4th generation berry farmer and his dad John. Originally an apple farm since 1939, the family now grows berries using innovative varieties and growing techniques. Traditionally, strawberries harvest in June but a new ‘day-neutral’ strawberry fruits for 5-6 months, extending the typical strawberry season from June / July well into October.

John gave us a little strawberry physiology lesson to understand how this works. ‘June strawberries’ are named as such because they fruit in June. These berries are planted in the Fall when the days are short, and bear fruit in June when the days are long. On the other hand, ‘day-neutral’ strawberries are an annual variety planted in the spring with berries ready to pick about 12 weeks later. The berries continue fruiting regardless of the length of the day, which is why they’re called ‘day-neutral’!

The strawberries are grown on table tops in high tunnels which protect the berries from damaging heavy rains and maintains a moderate temperature. Not to mention, it’s much easier to pick these berries! The Cooper family also grows long cane raspberries, a growing technique where the berries are grown in pots and produce fruit in their second year.

Fun facts: There are 675 farms across Ontario which grow strawberries. Ontario growers produce between 6,000-7,000 tonnes of strawberries each year!

 

Next stop: Suncrest Orchards

Farmers Amanda and Hayden with their family of Jamaican workers

Image: Facebook Suncrest Orchards

Farmers Amanda and Hayden Dooney have owned the Suncrest Orchards since 2019 and work with a wonderful Jamaican family of eight employees including Raymond and George.  They’re seasonal agricultural workers who come up to the farm as early as March and stay until the end of October or longer. The farm grows and harvests seven different varieties of apples: Paula Red, Ginger Gold, Sunrise, Golden Delicious, Honey Crisp, Royal Gala and Ambrosia.

Red gala apples growing on a bush

At lunch, we had the wonderful opportunity to chat with some of the workers. Amanda says, “We have huge respect and appreciation for the sacrifice they make to come up and help with our orchard.”  Livian, (pictured front left below), for example, has worked seasonally on farms for 25 years and is proud to have supported his four kids through university. Indeed, let’s all give our thanks to the amazing farmers and seasonal agricultural workers who work so hard to grow delicious and nutritious food!

Are you hosting an educational tour? Contact us to cover the event and share our insights.

 

Thanks to the event sponsors for hosting a truly inspiring and heart-warming event: Farm and Food Care Ontario, GreenBelt, More than a Migrant Worker, Ontario Apple Growers, Ontario Berries and the Ontario Produce Marketing Association.  This event was sponsored travel and this blog reflects my own learning experiences.

Written by: Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc, FDC ~ Award-winning dietitian and Co-Founder, n4nn

Healthy eating at school – insights for menu planning and nutrition programs

student eating a healthy lunchImage Health Canada

Back-to-school is in full swing, including educational opportunities for dietitians and food professionals! We attended an international seminar on back-to-school success with USDA’s Team Nutrition.[1] As you may know the US funds school lunch programs and has a robust support system – both financial and practical – for feeding kids in schools. We discovered some amazing new content, lots of tips and highlights that you can use to nourish students whether you’re a parent, educator, or foodservice professional.

Scientists and health professionals agree on the importance of healthy eating at school to optimize health, development, and academic performance. Since children and youth spend a large portion of their day in school, they consume a significant proportion of their daily energy intake while in school.[2],[3] This means it’s key to provide food for students that gives them enough energy and nutrients they need throughout the day.

Here are some tips for your school’s food and nutrition program to help kids grow up healthy:

Food Focus

  • Align school nutrition policies with recommendations in Canada’s Food Guide and promote nutrient-rich foods and beverages that are lower in saturated fat, sugars, and sodium.
  • Involve students in the menu development to find the right balance of nutritious foods that are ‘fan favorites’ that kids are going to eat. [4]
  • Encourage student taste-testing and get their feedback on food items created by chefs.
  • Monitor food waste. Are you watching what foods kids throw away? Finding the reason why kids are not eating their lunch provides insights for creating lunches they will enjoy eating.
  • Reach out to a dietitian for support with healthy delicious recipes and meal plans for kids, analyzing recipes and menus to meet school food nutrient standards.

Make an impact beyond the food

  • Provide a safe space to enjoy all foods without fear of food judgement.
  • Advocate for sufficient time for eating lunch. Experts recommend students have at least 20 minutes of seated time to enjoy their meal and socialize. [5]
  • Find out if there is a health committee you can join or start one for your school.
  • Invest in educating your school community about how to build healthy relationships with food. A dietitian can help. Ask them about resources to teach nutrition in the classroom, parent resources on packing lunches, school presentations, and referrals for student nutrition programs.[6]

As Dietitians we look beyond fads to deliver reliable, life-changing advice. Do you want to unlock the potential of food? Connect with us with your comments or questions.

 Written by Lucia Weiler, BSc, RD, PHEc – Award-winning dietitian and Co-Founder, n4nn

 

Tags; Foodservice management, back to school, school nutrition policy, student nutrition, dietitian, Lucia Weiler, n4nn

[1] United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food & Nutrition Service (2022) https://www.fns.usda.gov/team-nutrition

[2] Health Canada (2021) Healthy eating at school – Canada’s Food Guide

[3] Canadian Paediatric Society (2020) School nutrition: Support for providing healthy food and beverage choices in schools

[4] ABC News (2022) Chicago Public Schools lunch menu https://abc7chicago.com/cps-school-lunch-menu-chicago-public-schools/12213616/

[5] CDC (2019) Making Time for School Lunch  https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/nutrition/school_lunch.htm

[6] Dietitians of Canada (2019) Eating Right at School. https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/School-Health/Articles/Eating-Right-at-School.aspx

What’s the benefit of eating locally and in season?

vegetables and fruit displayed at a market

Have you ever wondered if buying local food is a better choice? You’re not alone as more people want to know how and where their food and other products are grown and handled. Local food is also trending in the mainstream of grocers, restaurants, health care facilities and schools. In this article we consider what the term local really means and look at some of the benefits of eating local food.

What does the term ‘local food’ mean?

Most people think that ‘local’ refers to a short geographic distance between where the food was grown and sold. Since the term ‘local’ is largely unregulated and undefined, the area could mean 1 kilometer or 1,000 kilometers away from the point of purchase. Some advocates promote the ‘100-mile (160 km) diet’ as the geographic limit of local, but local food does not have to be such a short a distance.  The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says local food claims are valid for food produced within in the province or territory in which it is sold, or if sold across provincial borders it’s within 50 km of the originating province or territory.  The best way to find out what local means for a specific product is to ask the food seller – be that a grocery store retailer, the farm stand supplier or restaurant owner. You may get some different answers.  How would you define local food?  For the purpose of this article, we’ll go with the CFIA term local food, that is grown within your province or territory.

What are the benefits of buying local food?

Local food is fresh and tastes great

Local food is often harvested a few hours before it’s sold so food produced close to home is usually the freshest it can be.  Local fruits and vegetables are also harvested close to peak ripeness and flavour. When food is picked and eaten at the peak of freshness, it retains more nutrients and tastes better.  Check online what grows in season in your region. You can also eat local food during the winter months because root vegetables, pulses, grains, meats, dairy products are available year-round.

Local food offers seasonal variety

Local farmers may grow a variety of unique foods such as heirloom produce, which you might not find at the grocery store. Look for various types of your favourite vegetables and fruit and try different products.  Seasonal eating may mean eating in step with the agricultural harvest calendar and enjoying foods at peak flavour and ripeness. Embracing foods that are in season may also increase the variety of foods you’re eating. Dietitian’s tip: If raw produce is not in season locally then it probably is not locally produced.

Buying local can save money

Food produced close to home is often sold at a good price, and seasonal produce may be sold for even less. For example, if all the farmers have a lot of tomatoes, they may be willing to lower prices to sell them all. Planning meals around what’s in season also helps you save money. Canning or freezing well-priced seasonal vegetables and fruit is a good way to take advantage of lower prices and eating local all year long!

Local food supports communities

Local food creates community and connections. As we emerge from a long, socially isolating pandemic, loneliness is a rising problem. Meeting local growers, discussing foods unique to your region, discovering how your food is grown and harvested counters this trend.  Local food is a great experience and offers a place for people to meet each other and build meaningful human connections. Local food can also spark healthy conversations, whether at the farmers’ market, grocery store, local restaurant or farm-to-table gathering with family and friends.

Buying local preserves farms

Choosing local food aids your local economy. It helps keep local producers in business, creates jobs and promotes economic growth. When you buy local food, you are also helping to preserve valuable farmland. This also helps protect green space and habitats for wildlife to exist locally your communities.

Where to find local food in your region?

Farmers market

Farmers markets help meet the growing demand for locally produced food by providing a retail hub intended to sell foods directly by farmers to consumers. They’ve become an important connection between rural and urban communities with benefits that are felt throughout the community. At a farmers’ market you may discover products you can’t find elsewhere such as different variety of vegetables and fruits, unique cheeses, fresh or potted herbs, cut flowers, oven fresh baked goods, meat, fresh fish, poultry, or eggs from nearby producers.

Farmers markets are also a place where you get a chance to directly talk food growers, producers and vendors. Many small farmers are eager to talk about their growing methods and how they care for their animals. Take time to connect with them and discover more about the foods you buy and enjoy.

With more farmers markets opening every year, check online and with your local community associations to find out where they are in your region. In Ontario you can find a farmers’ market at this link Find a Farmers’ Market – Farmers’ Markets Ontario (farmersmarketsontario.com)

Pick your own

Some farmers may invite you to pick your own produce at the farm. By making a trip to a local farm you’re treating yourself to an experience of choosing your food from the field where it’s grown. Pick your own is especially valuable during the peak growing season and harvest times.  Check online for local farms that open their gates to pick your own customers.  In Ontario you can find an on-farm market or pick-your-own operation near you to purchase Ontario food at this link: Find a Farm – Farm Fresh Association (farmfreshontario.com)

Grocery stores

Some grocers are offering more local food.  Many of these foods will be clearly labeled in the store so you know what you’re buying and where it came from. At the grocery store, identify the area of origin for foods you buy and look for ‘local’ when possible.

Restaurants

When dining out, consumers are attracted to local foods especially while on vacation. Check out the menus online and look for menu items with local and seasonal ingredients. Some regions have government co-ordinated ‘eat local’ initiatives that include participating restaurant listings. In Ontario, the Culinary Tourism Alliance created the FeastON Certification. You can find a restaurant serving Ontario food on their menu at this link https://ontarioculinary.com/restaurants/

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

CSA provide a way to buy local seasonal vegetables and fruits directly from Farmers – often at a more affordable price. Farmers sell a set of number of shares, or memberships, to customers. The shares usually provide a container of vegetables or other seasonal farm products on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule during the growing season, depending on the growing conditions. CSA’s provide a market for local farmers, and both raw product and a farm connection for consumers.  You can find CSA’s near you by visiting your local community centre, municipal office or searching online.

Bottom Line:

Canadians increasingly value supporting a thriving local agricultural system. There are many benefits to exploring local food for individuals and the community.  Let’s start a conversation about the benefits of including some local foods in the diet and in menus.  Dietitians share credible information and can help find ways to maximize this opportunity and navigate around challenges.

Further Reading and more information:

Written by Lucia Weiler, BSc, RD, PHEc – Award-winning dietitian and Co-Founder, n4nn

Contact us for comments or questions.

Does Eating Veggies Protect Your Heart? Trending Research Translated for Wellness

Image Source: Bigstock, Canva

A recent study made media headlines questioning whether eating veggies really protected your heart. Since eating ‘lots of veggies’ has been the mainstream nutrition recommendation for promoting health and wellness, we thought a closer look into this new research was warranted. Here we bring you the Dietitians’ translation of the science into meaningful advice to support healthy living.

The Study [1]

Published in the Frontiers of Nutrition, a new study by researchers from the University of Oxford, the University of Hong Kong, and the University of Bristol involved nearly 400 000 British adults and 12 years of follow up. There are strengths in the diverse team and sample size. The study initially found that the people who consumed the highest amount of vegetables had a 10% lower incidence of cardiovascular disease compared to the people with the lowest vegetable intakes. However, when they adjusted for socioeconomic and lifestyle factors (including physical activity, body weight, high blood pressure, smoking and other nutrients) any protective effect of vegetable intake became much less important. [2]  This surprising finding resulted in the headlines ‘Eating vegetables may not protect against heart disease.’

Low quality evidence

  • Very low vegetable intakes
    The study says the “Mean intakes of raw and cooked vegetables were 2.3 and 2.8 tablespoons/day, respectively”. This amount is very low, less than half a serving per day!  Healthy dietary guidelines recommend much more than this. For example, the WHO suggests consuming at least 400 g (i.e., five portions) of fruit and vegetables per day excluding potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava and other starchy roots to improve overall health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. [3]
  • Observational study errors
    One of the limitations of this observational study was that all data was self reported and vegetable intakes may not have been reported accurately, causing measurement errors. It is possible that the study participants had difficulty visualizing their vegetable intakes as their number of “heaping tablespoons”, which the questionnaire asked them to estimate for their vegetable intakes.1
  • Inconsistent with current evidence
    This is one surprising study whose findings are not supported by the significant amount of existing data. Current mainstream evidence shows higher vegetable consumption promotes health and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Our Recommendations

Keep eating plenty of vegetables and fruit for health including your heart health! Make veggies and fruit half your plate at each meal. Pile your plate with colour and eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day.

Do you have a food or nutrition question? Ask us! Registered Dietitians look beyond fads to deliver reliable, life-changing advice.

Written by Lucia Weiler, BSc, RD, PHEc, Award-winning dietitian and Co-Founder, n4nn

[1] Feng Q, Kim JH, Omiyale,  Bešević j, Conroy M, May M, et al. Raw and cooked vegetable consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease: a study of 400,000 adults in UK biobank. Front Nutr. 2022 Feb; 9:831470. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2022.831470. Available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2022.831470/full

[2] Dietitians of Canada, PEN Nutrition (2022) Available at: https://www.pennutrition.com/TrendingTopic.aspx?id=29382 (PEN registration required to access)

[3] Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases: report of a Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation. WHO Technical Report Series, No. 916. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2003. Available at: WHO_TRS_916.pdf

Ingredients for a healthier tomorrow – Nutrition Month 2022

Image Source: Dietitians of Canada

 

Canadians are looking for healthier ways of eating, a healthier planet and affordable food. To celebrate the 40th annual Nutrition Month, dietitians are focusing on the connection between food, public health and the environment. The sustainability movement has been growing in Canada and around the world. In this blog we define some key ingredients for a healthier tomorrow and sustainable food system.

Key Ingredients for a healthier tomorrow [1]

You probably know that dietitians provide life changing advice on nutrition and food choices to manage illness and promote health. But many dietitians are also involved in these areas of sustainability that could help create a healthier tomorrow.

  • Improved Food Security
    • “Food and nutrition security exists when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to food, which is safe and consumed in sufficient quantity and quality to meet their dietary needs and food preferences, and is supported by an environment of adequate sanitation, health services and care, allowing for a healthy and active life.”[2]
  • Food Literacy
    • “Food literacy includes five main interconnected components: food and nutrition knowledge; food skills; self-efficacy and confidence; food decisions; and external factors such as the food system, social determinants of health, and socio-cultural influences and eating practices.”[3]
  • Food Sovereignty
    • “Food Sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.”[4]
  • Sustainable Food Choices (Diets)
    • “Sustainable Diets are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources”[5]
  • Sustainable Food Systems
    • A food system that delivers food and nutrition security for all in such a way that the economic, social and environmental bases to generate food security and nutrition for future generations are not compromised.”[6]  Figure 1 summarizes what sustainable food systems look like in Canada.

Figure 1. Source: Dietitians of Canada (2022) Nutrition Month Activity Guide

How to join the conversation and support action  

It can be challenging to know where to start with change towards a healthier you and a healthier planet. The Dietitians of Canada share 5 tips for reducing the environmental footprint of your diet:

  1. Reduce food waste
    Check out our tips to Double down on reducing food waste, Put the freeze on food waste, and
  2. Eat to satisfy your hunger and support your health
    Read more tips on 5 smart snacks and What’s Your Food Personality? 
  3. Buy local products
    Read more about the meaning of local!
  4. Choose a healthy and balanced diet
    Read our highlights from a sustainable eating conference
  5. Talk to a dietitian for credible, life changing advice
    Read more about Why work with a dietitian?

Do you have a food or nutrition question? Ask us and we’ll feature it in our Ask a Dietitian posts. Registered Dietitians are the most trusted food and nutrition experts who are committed to helping Canadians enjoy nutritious, sustainable, and affordable and healthy eating.

 

Written by Lucia Weiler, BSc, RD, PHEc, Award-winning dietitian and Co-Founder, n4nn

[1] Dietitians of Canada (2022) Nutrition Month Activity Guide https://www.dietitians.ca/News/2022/Nutrition-Month-2022-Ingredients-for-a-Healthier-T

[2] Committee on World Food Security, Food and Agriculture Organization (2012) https://www.fao.org/3/MD776E/MD776E.pdf

[3] Nutrition Connections. Effective education strategies to increase food and nutrition knowledge in children and youth (2019) https://nutritionconnections.ca/resources/effective-education-strategies-to-increase-food-and-nutrition-knowledge-in-children-and-youth/

[4] What is Food Sovereignty. Food Secure Canada (Accessed 2022) https://foodsecurecanada.org/who-we-are/what-food-sovereignty

[5] Burlingame B, Dernini S. Sustainable Diets and Biodiversity: Directions and Solutions for Policy, Research and Action. (2012) https://www.fao.org/3/i3004e/i3004e.pdf

[6] Nutrition and Food Systems. A report by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security (2017) https://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/hlpe/hlpe_documents/HLPE_Reports/HLPE-Report-12_EN.pdf

Why work with a dietitian?

DIETITIANS SERVICES (SOURCE DIETITIANS OF CANADA)

Nutrition is a hot topic. You may have a growing desire for better nutrition as a way to improve your healthy and productivity.  Research shows that nutrition counselling with a dietitian is a good investment for your health and wellness. Here are some common questions we get asked about working with a dietitian.

Why should I consult a dietitian?

Dietitians translate scientific research into practical solutions. They work with you to help you feel your best. Dietitians can provide:

  • Tips and healthy recipes to help you plan, shop for and cook healthy meals for your family
  • Information to help you interpret food labels, the latest food trends and diets
  • Support to improve your relationship with food and be mindful of your eating habits
  • Individualized Counselling to help you:
    • manage your weight, food allergies and intolerances or digestive issues
    • get the most from your workouts
    • prevent and manage chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and kidney disease
  • Guidance on how to feed your baby, a “picky” eater, or an active teenager
  • Advice on whether you need a vitamin or mineral supplement based on your health needs.

Why are nutrition services important?

Health concerns are on the rise

  • 44% of Canadians over age 20 have at least 1 chronic health condition
  • 11 million Canadians live with diabetes or prediabetes
  • More than 2.6 million Canadians suffer from food allergies

Canadians want better nutrition

Canadians are increasingly more aware of their food choices, shopping smarter, and opting for better nutrition now more than ever before.  Although provincial health plans don’t provide adequate coverage, many employee and private health insurance plans cover Registered Dietitian led Nutrition Counselling sessions.

Manage your Health

Good nutrition improves health and reduces health risks that can lead to illness or high prescription drug use.

  • Lowers risk for and helps manage type 2 diabetes
  • Improves weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels
  • Controls digestive issues and food allergies

Your best choice for nutrition services are Registered Dietitians…hands down!

Dietitians are Specialized

Dietitians must pass university and licensing exams, undergo rigorous practical training, and commit to staying on top of emerging research, skills and techniques in food, nutrition and health.

Dietitians are Regulated

Dietitians are the only nutrition practitioners that are licensed and regulated in every province in Canada. Just like a nurse or physiotherapist, dietitians hold a protected designation. Look for the letters RD (registered dietitian) or PDt (professional dietitian) DT.I or Dt.P, after your health care professional’s name depending on the province.

Dietitians are Health Care Professionals

Dietitians belong to a national association that promotes the highest level of professional standards through extensive training, knowledge sharing and a powerful evidence-based nutrition database – a leading resource for nutrition professionals around the world.

A Dietitian can unlock the power of food for your healthy living. Ask us how. Connect with us

Food & Nutrition Trends 2022

A paper grocery bag filled with lettuce, red pepper and a carton of eggs

Food prices, sustainability and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will be the key influences on our eating habits and practices this year. Here’s our roundup of the top 10 food and nutrition trends to watch in 2022.

1. Pantry to Plate

Who can forget the sourdough baking craze in 2020? The cooking and baking skills we built at the beginning of the pandemic will stick with us. With food prices expected to rise 5 to 7% this year, an average family of four can expect to pay an extra $966 in groceries this year according to the annual Canada’s Food Price Report. Consumers will be looking for creative ways to use up those ingredients at the back of the pantry and fridge. What’s more, this trend will help to tackle food waste in our kitchens.

 

2. Streamlined Menus

Look for smaller menus as restaurant operators are adapting with potential supply chain snags. They’ll be innovating with local ingredients already on hand and opting for simple prix fixe menus rather than bringing in new SKUs. Food and Wine magazine reports that with rising food prices, chefs will be taking creative approaches to minimize waste and streamlining their menus to effectively manage their costs.

 

3. Plant based – The Next Generation

While sales of plant-based burgers appear to be declining, food giants such as Unilever are still committed to offering plant-based options to help reduce the environmental impact of the global food chain. In fact, the company is calling for public health strategies that facilitate the transition to a balanced diet with more diverse nutrient-dense plant foods through consumer education, food fortification and possibly supplementation. Insights from the 2022 Trend Report by Nourish suggests that there are gaps in plant-based categories like snacks, desserts and bakery. Keep your eyes out for novel plant-based ingredients and offerings.

 

4. Bye Bye Plastics

­Not only are sustainability and climate concerns driving our food choices, but they’re also inspiring positive changes in the use of plastics. Just last month, Walmart Canada officially announced the elimination of single use plastic bags from in-store shopping as well as online grocery pickup and delivery orders from each of their 400 stores across the country. This would amount to eliminating almost 750 million plastic bags each year. Biodegradable, compostable cucumber wraps are already on the market, and we can expect to see more innovations from grocers and food manufacturers.

 

5. Packaging

With a move towards take-out and meal delivery, chefs surveyed in the “What’s Hot 2022 Culinary Forecast” by the National Restaurant Association have actually ranked packaging four times in their top 10 trends for 2022:

  • Trend #1 – Packaging that is sustainable / reusable / recyclable
  • Trend #2 – Packaging that travels intact to maintain food quality
  • Trend #3 -Packaging that retains temperature
  • Trend #9 – Packaging that is tamper proof for food security

 

6. Immunity Support

As the pandemic continues, immunity remains top of mind. Findings from the 10th annual “What’s Trending in Nutrition” survey commissioned by Today’s Dietitian and Pollock Communications predicts that immunity support will remain a key purchase driver for 2022. Instead of “boosting” the immune system, consumers will realize that daily nutrition is important to keep the immune system strong and functioning well. Key supports for the immune system include protein, probiotics, selenium, zinc and vitamins A, C and D. Other purchase drivers identified from the dietitian survey are: affordable and value-based items, as well as food and beverages which offer comfort and emotional well-being.

 

7. Digital Do’s and Don’ts

Digital ordering capabilities, QR menus and touchless payment options will continue to become mainstream in restaurants and food service. In the survey of almost 1,200 dietitians, 90% of them cited online food shopping as the biggest trend from the pandemic that they believe will continue. This will compel marketers to reimagine ways to reach consumers on virtual shopping platforms, such as online promotions, digital coupons and immersive virtual branding experiences. On the other hand, the digital world is fuelling false nutrition news and dietitians say that social media is the top source of nutrition misinformation, with friends / family coming in second, and celebrities a close third.

 

8. Fuel for Remote Working & Learning

Working remotely from home, hybrid work models and even online schooling mean that more breakfasts and lunches will be made and enjoyed at home. Nestle USA predicts that consumers will be on the lookout for more at-home breakfast and lunch options such as heat-and-eat meals. According to top chefs, breakfast trends will include non-traditional proteins such as chorizo or vegan bacon, plant-based breakfast sandwiches and egg-base breakfast bowls. For lunch, trends point to globally inspired salads and grain-based bowls.

 

9. Non-alcoholic Beverages

Research from Whole Foods and The Hartman Group are noticing a growing community of “sober curious” millennials and Gen Z-ers. During pandemic lockdowns and restrictions on indoor gatherings, consumers are taking a more mindful approach to enjoying alcohol and embracing a world of “dry-solation”. Enter beverages without the buzz such as dealcoholized wines, low-alcohol beers, mocktails, and drinks with functional ingredients and adaptogens to enhance mood and relaxation.

 

10. Top 5 Regional Cuisines

Chefs surveyed by The National Restaurant Association and the American Culinary Federation predict that these top 5 regions and cuisines will influence the menus of 2022:

  1. Southeast Asian – Vietnamese, Singaporean, Philippine
  2. South American – Argentinian, Brazilian, Chilean
  3. Caribbean – Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican
  4. North African – Moroccan, Algerian, Libyan
  5. Western African – Nigerian, Ghanan, Western Saharan

 

Which of these trends are you most excited about? How can you leverage these trends for your business and product innovations? Connect with us at info@n4nn.ca and let’s shape the future of food and nutrition together!

 

– Written by Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc, FDC – Award-winning Registered Dietitian & Co-Founder, n4nn

What are postbiotics?

 

postbiotic foods in with ask a dietitian title and lucia's image

Postbiotics are one of the hottest topics and the newest member of the ‘biotic’ family! You have heard of prebiotics which are the food for bacteria and probiotics which are beneficial live bacteria. Now we have postbiotics which are the substances that live bacteria produce. The news around postbiotics is how these end products of bacterial metabolism can have therapeutic benefits.

Bacteria with benefits – PRE, PRO, and POST biotics

Like all living things, bacteria need the right environment to survive and produce something. You may be wondering how prebiotics, probiotics and now postbiotics are related to each other. And how are postbiotics connected to the trending business of fermented foods and supplements?

  • Pre-biotics are FOOD for the bacteria. In the food we eat, prebiotic compounds are not digested but provide fuel for gut bacteria to grow to support health. Some foods naturally high in prebiotics are also a source of fibre such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables, beans and legumes. Examples include Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, garlic, onion, asparagus, cabbage, chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans and soybeans.
  • Pro-biotics are LIVE organisms that have scientifically proven health benefits if consumed in adequate amounts. Foods that contain probiotics (live friendly bacteria) include fermented dairy (yogurt, kefir) and fermented vegetables (uncooked sauerkraut, traditional kimchi). Probiotics are also available as dietary supplements.
  • Post-biotics are compounds that bacteria produce as part of their life cycle and metabolism. For example, bacteria and yeast strains used in fermentation generate postbiotic compounds. These include short-chain fatty acids, functional proteins along with discarded matter from the microorganisms themselves, which include cell wall components. Postbiotics also include nutrients such as vitamins B and K, amino acids and substances called antimicrobial peptides that help to slow down the growth of harmful bacteria.

Postbiotics are studied closely for potential health benefits. They may help reduce digestive symptoms, optimize gut flora and advance the immune response of the colon’s lining by improving gut barrier function. Researchers are also looking at anti-inflammatory, antiobesogenic, antihypertensive, hypocholesterolemic, antiproliferative and antioxidant activities.

Although scientists and gut experts have known about postbiotics and their benefits for years, no regulators have provided a definition for postbiotics or a framework specific to postbiotic-containing foods or food supplements. However, a proposed definition was recently published by a team of experts who defined postbiotics as a “preparation of inanimate microorganisms and/or their components that confers a health benefit on the host.”  The expert panel determined that a definition of postbiotics is useful so that scientists, industry, regulators and consumers have common ground for future activity in this area. It’s hoped that a generally accepted definition will lead to regulatory clarity and promote innovation and the development of new postbiotic products (Salmien et al.).

What can you say about biotics?

Terms such a prebiotic and probiotic may suggest a food provides a specific health benefit and are therefore considered health claims. Health claims are subject to the Canadian Food and Drugs regulations and must not be false, misleading or deceptive. These implied health claims are only acceptable when accompanied by a statement of the specific and measurable health benefit conferred by the prebiotic substance, as demonstrated in humans (Health Canada).

Postbiotics are likely to be the next health-boosting compound for digestive health and more. They have the advantage of longer shelf life in comparison to live, active probiotics.  However postbiotics are not yet regulated in many countries. Consult a food labelling expert for guidance.

Bottom line: 

The biotic family supports a healthy gut. For optimal health, scientists recommend a combination approach—prebiotic fiber to feed gut bacteria as well as live probiotics to provide specific health benefits and create postbiotic compounds.

Connect with us (Info@n4nn.ca) and let’s work together for your innovation journey.  As dietitians, we can support you and your business in taking meaningful steps toward health and wellness.

 

References:

  1. Salminen, S.,et al. (2021). The International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of postbiotics. Nature reviews. Gastroenterology & hepatology18(9), 649–667. Accessed  Dec 9, 2021 from  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41575-021-00440-6
  2. Golen, T., Riccotti H. (2021). What are postbiotics? Harvard Health Publishing. Accessed Dec 9, 2021 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/nutrition/what-are-postbiotics
  3. Hermann, M. (2020). Discover the World of Postbiotics, Today’s Dietitian Vol. 22 (6):20.
  4. Health Canada (2019). Health claims on food labels / Prebiotic claims, Probiotic claims. Accessed Dec 9, 2021 from Health claims on food labels – Food label requirements – Canadian Food Inspection Agency (canada.ca)

 

 

How Healthy is the Canadian Preschoolers’ Diet?

 

We know that good nutrition in the pre-school years is important to help develop good eating habits that can last a lifetime. A study from the University of Guelph suggests that 86% of the preschoolers in their study could benefit from dietary improvements.  These results point to an opportunity to support families with young children.

Preschool nutrition

Around the age of 4, toddlers explore the word though all their five senses and food is no exception.  They may not be able to control much in their lives, but they can decide whether to eat or not, and how much. Toddlers are masters of expressing their desire for independence at mealtimes. Many parents worry about their children’s daily intakes; however health professionals recognize that at this age it helps to think of a balanced diet as something a child eats over a few days, even a week, not necessarily daily. Mealtimes are excellent opportunities for parents and caregivers to provide healthy food choices for children and create a positive atmosphere where healthy food attitudes can develop (Sizer et al.).

Evaluating healthy eating

Many researchers focused on studying the daily intake of specific nutrients or foods. In addition to recommendations about eating specific foods and nutrients, a measure of overall diet quality is useful.  Few studies have looked at the overall quality of the diet in children 2-6 years of age which makes this study a valuable reference. University of Guelph researchers used the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) as a measure of diet quality to assess how well the preschoolers’ foods aligned with key dietary guidelines and recommendations. The overall HEI score is made up of 13 dietary components that reflect different food groups and key public health recommendations. The scores range from 0 to 100 maximum, and a higher total score reflects that the set of foods aligns better with dietary guidelines. For this study, three-day food records were collected to calculate HEI scores for 117 children from 83 families as an indicator of diet quality.

Healthy eating results

The mean Healthy Eating Index score reported in this study was about 68% which falls under the ‘needs improvement category (56-80 out of 100). This can be attributed to lower than recommended values in ‘adequacy components’ such as fruits, vegetables, protein foods, seafood and plant proteins and dairy.  Also, ‘moderation components’ that were higher than recommended scores included refined grains and sodium. The 2021 Guelph Study’s HEI score of 68% is similar to findings of a 2004 Canadian preschool study, but higher than the 60% diet quality score found among US preschoolers published in 2019.

University of Guelph researchers also reported that parental education was positively associated with HEI scores. Children of higher educated parents tended to have a higher diet quality that aligned more with public health recommendations such as including adequate vegetables, fruit and protein foods. Specifically, the study highlighted that parents’ socioeconomic status was positively associated with total fruit score. One limitation of this study was that it looked at a relatively small sample of mostly Caucasian families. However, other studies have reported similar findings that fruit intake scores were lower in families with lower income status. Researchers suggest that fruit intake may be particularly sensitive to income status.

Researchers’ recommendations

‘These results underscore the importance of dietitians in supporting families with young children in establishing healthy eating habits early in life. Dietary intervention and additional supports are indicated to improve the diet quality of children with parents with lower socioeconomic status and education’ (Leme et al).

n4nn & healthy eating support

Are you interested in discussing professional nutrition guidance for children so they can grow into healthy adults? At n4nn we offer services to support families with the development of healthier eating habits. We also work with foodservice providers and can help evaluate how well the mix of foods made available to kids (and adults) align with dietary recommendations. Contact us @ info@n4nn.ca  to evaluate diet quality and receive valuable expert advice to inform your food purchases, programs and menus.

References

  • Leme et al., (2021). Diet Quality of Canadian Preschool Children: Associations with Socio-demographic Characteristics, Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research. 82(3): 131-135. Accessed December 12, 2021 from https://doi.org/10.3148/cjdpr-2021-009
  • Sizer et al., (2021). Nutrition Concepts and Controversies, Fifth Canadian Edition,  Nelson
  • USDA, Food and Nutrition Service (2020 update) Healthy Eating Index (HEI). Accessed December 12, 2021 from https://www.fns.usda.gov/healthy-eating-index-hei

Food Innovation – SIAL looks 20 years into the future

In September, Canada’s largest agrifood tradeshow SIAL hosted an event dedicated entirely to food innovation! With a focus on the future, we heard featured talks from Canada’s leading industry experts. Here are the lasting mega-trends that caught our eye on the future of food innovation!

  1. Convenience
  2. Health and Wellness
  3. Sustainability

It was interesting to see the audience response to the trend ranking questions posed by speakers Isabelle Marquis RD, and food innovation expert Dana McCauley. How would you answer these questions?

  • Which of these three core trends do you think was the most influential over the past 20 years?
  • Which of these three core trends do you think is the most important to food businesses today?

Convenience

In our fast paced world, the ‘anything, anytime, anywhere’ convenience is on the rise. Consumers are looking for solutions and the industry will have to change to remain relevant. McCauley says, ‘Instead of buying ingredients, people are buying fully prepared meals at the grocery store. We have come a long way from microwave meals.’  Innovations in convenience stores offer online and in-store features that create an ultra-convenient experience. Consider the mobile product recommendations, in-store product scanning codes (Quick Response Matrix)  that tell you much more about a product than what fits on the packaging. Convenience is an important trend that will continue to drive future innovation.

Health and Wellness

Health and wellness was ranked as the top trend by event participants. It came out as ‘most influential in the past 20 years’ and ‘most important in business today’. Not surprising, consumers are expecting food products that are nutrient rich, support a healthy lifestyle and taste great! Long gone are the days of ‘no fat’ where taste and texture of modified foods were underwhelming. Food makers are boosting the beneficial ingredients with proven health benefits including omega-3 fats, probiotics and other functional ingredients.  Protein continues to lead food innovation from snacks to meals with focus on nutrient quality and source.  Besides nutrients, the ingredients list is in the spotlight. Consumers are choosing to follow an individualized eating pattern that’s good for their personal health and fits their schedule. McCauley observed that more often, the question around meal times may be ‘What will I eat?’ instead of ‘What’s the family dinner?’ The ‘clean label’ trend is here to stay too with no artificial ingredients and no additives. This back to basics and want for naturalness is going to be part of the future of a very strong health and wellness trend.

Sustainability

In addition to looking for foods that are good for the body, consumers are also considering what’s good for the planet. People – especially millennials – are asking questions about where their food comes from and how it was grown / raised and processed. Simple, minimally processed, sustainable foods that are healthy for people and the planet are promising to lead us into the future.  Responsibly grown and processed food is a very important aspect of innovation and it also has a direct impact on the global food supply chain. Buying products considered to be ‘green’ and made with ‘clean ingredients’ is a lifestyle choice that more consumers and communities will be embracing. Another sustainability pillar is around packaging. ‘Plastic attack’ was alive and well pre-Covid pandemic and is likely to return before too long, predicts Marquis. Eco-friendly packaging is what consumers will expect when choosing groceries. Sustainability is a concern to everyone on the planet and we all have a chance to do something about it.

Bottom Line

The challenge of the times for the food business according to McCauley, is ‘integrating the most relevant trends with your brand identity and your consumers’ needs.’ The three key trends driving the way we will be eating in the decades to come include convenience, health and wellness and sustainability.

Connect with us (Info@NutritionForNonNutritionists.com) and let’s work together for your innovation journey.  As dietitians, we can support you and your business in taking meaningful steps toward healthier communities and a more sustainable agri-food industry.

Food, Your Gut and Lower Blood Pressure – What’s the Connection?

Cardiovascular disease remains the world’s number one cause of death. With World Heart Day just around the corner on September 29th, new research points to the beneficial effects of flavonoid-rich foods on blood pressure.

A study just released reveals a link between flavonoids and the gut microbiome in improving blood pressure.

Researchers at the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland found that consuming higher levels of flavonoid rich foods including berries, apples, pears, and red wine may be associated with a reduction in blood pressure levels. This can be explained in part by the characteristics of the gut microbiome.

The gut microbiome are the good bacteria that live in the digestive tracts. The gut microbiome has been studied for its role in gut health, immunity and behavior and now heart health can be added to the list! There is mounting evidence to the importance of a healthy and diverse gut microbiome. This research suggests that the composition of the gut microbiome can play a key role in metabolizing flavonoids to enhance their benefits on heart health.

This study looked at over 900 adults and was published in Hypertension, the scientific journal of the American Heart Association. Those who had the highest intakes of flavonoid-rich foods had lower systolic blood pressure levels as well as a greater variety of bacteria in their gut compared to participants who consumed the lowest levels of flavonoids.

Lead researcher, Professor Aedín Cassidy explains that ‘These blood pressure lowering effects are achievable with simple changes to the daily diet. Eating  160 g of berries a day (which is about 1 cup sliced berries) was associated with a 4.1 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure, and 12% of the association was explained by gut microbiome factors. Drinking 700 mL red wine per week (which is about one glass of red wine 3 times a week, where a glass is 233 ml), was associated with a 3.7 mm Hg drop in systolic blood pressure levels, of which 15% could be explained by the gut microbiome.’

Researchers say that the ‘strength of their study was that they could examine the association between the intake of flavonoid rich foods, blood pressure and the composition of the microbiome concurrently.’

Are you interested in leveraging World Heart Day for your business?  Check out their 2021 playbook for information and ideas.  Let’s connect to help make a difference.

References

 

Is it OK to eat processed foods?

head shot of Sue on a background collage of grocery cart

In short, the answer is YES! As Registered Dietitians, we believe that all foods can be part of a healthy diet, in sensible amounts. But there are actually different categories of processed foods, and some are better choices than others. Let’s break it down.

When you hear the term “processed foods”, you may automatically think of foods that come in a box or package. There’s more to the term “processed foods” though. Scientists at the School of Public Health at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil developed a classification system called NOVA (it’s not an acronym) that groups foods into 4 different categories depending on the extent of the processing:

  1. Unprocessed or Minimally Processed Foods:

Unprocessed foods have not undergone any changes whatsoever. Some examples are fresh fruit and veggies as well as plain unseasoned fish and meats. Minimally processed foods are essentially unprocessed foods that have been cleaned, dried, ground, pasteurized, fermented or frozen. No oils, fats, sugars, salt or other substances have been added to the original food. Dried fruit, frozen veggies, dried beans, dried herbs and ground spices are just a few examples of minimally processed foods. Both unprocessed and minimally processed foods should from the foundation of a healthy, balanced diet.

  1. Processed Culinary Ingredients:

    These are oils, fats, salt and sugars. These ingredients have been extracted from whole foods using processes such as pressing, grinding, refining and crushing. Vegetable oils for example are made from crushed seeds, nuts and fruit. Table sugar and molasses are obtained from sugarcane or sugar beet. Maple syrup is extracted from maple trees, and sea salt is mined from sea water. 

  1. Processed Foods:

    These are unprocessed foods with added oils, fats, salt or sugars. Most processed foods have just 2 or 3 ingredients. Some examples are salted nuts, smoked fish, fruit packed in syrup, pickled veggies, and homemade / bakery-made bread. These foods can still be enjoyed as part of an overall healthy diet. 

  1. Ultra-processed Foods:

    Most ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat products would be considered as ultra-processed foods. These are foods that are made by a series of processes and have extra ingredients such as oils, fats, salt, sugars, additives, colours, flavours, emulsifiers and thickeners. Some examples are cake mixes, packaged pasta dishes, frozen entrées, reconstituted meat products and seasoned packaged snacks. While these foods can be convenient, enjoy them occasionally and in sensible amounts.

Do you have a question about food or nutrition? Ask us (info@NutritionForNonNutritionists.com) and we’ll answer it in a future blog!

Webinar Replay – Nutrition Myth-busting!

Webinar title Nutrition Myth-busting written on a small blackboard, surrounded by images of fruit, a headshot of Lucia and Sue, and the logos for Nutrition for NON-Nutritionists, Royal Fair and Florida Department of Citrus.

Do you love food? We sure do! But there are so many nutrition myths out there.

Get the facts on food and beverage in this fun, interactive presentation. Join Lucia and Sue as they share the science of nutrition, offer credible advice for healthy living, and answer your burning questions. Sponsored by Florida Department of Citrus. Hosted by The Royal Agricultural Virtual Experience – Summer 2021.

To view the recording, login (or create a free login), go to the Auditorium tab, and then click on the June 16th to find the webinar recording.

Ask the Dietitian: Is there any nutritional benefit to coconut sugar or date sugar?

Coconut sugar (Istock)

Date sugar (Bing)

You may have seen recipes that say ingredients like coconut sugar and date sugar contribute nutritional benefits. Although there are a few elements in these sugars that make them different from regular sugars, in reality, coconut sugar and date sugar are almost identical to regular cane sugar in terms of nutrients and calories. Both consist mainly of sugars, which are simple carbohydrates. Diabetes Canada states sugars may be eaten in moderation by people with diabetes but there is no advantage to those with diabetes in using one type of sugar over another.

Coconut sugar is also called palm sugar and comes from the dehydrated sap of the coconut palm. Coconut sugar may contain some trace minerals found in the coconut palm like iron, zinc, magnesium and B-Vitamins.  These nutrients support good health, but coconut sugar does not contain enough of them per serving to offer a measurable benefit. Coconut sugar also contains inulin, a type of soluble fibre. Fibre is a more complex type of carbohydrate and it slows down the absorption of the sweetener which is linked to a lower risk of blood sugar spikes.  Coconut sugar may impart a nutty flavor and is recommended as a substitute for brown sugar in food preparation.

Date sugar is simply dried dates ground into a fine powder. Date sugar has the trace nutrients found in whole dates, including potassium, calcium, and antioxidants. The fibre in a teaspoon of date sugar is nutritionally insignificant. The main drawback to date sugar is that it doesn’t melt or dissolve completely in water, so its uses are somewhat limited. Replacing brown sugar in recipes, such as banana bread and bar cookies, or sprinkling some on yogurt or fruit are suggested uses.

Bottom line: If you prefer to use coconut sugar or date sugar, go ahead and enjoy it. But remember it’s really just like eating another type of sugar. It provides just as many calories and carbohydrates as regular sugar: about 15 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrate per teaspoon. All added sugars should only be used in moderation. Speak to a dietitian about your personal nutrition questions.

Sources: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Today’s Dietitian, Diabetes Canada

Double Down on Reducing Food Waste


Image Source: Shutterstock

Addressing food waste at home is a priority issue for the National Zero Waste Council.  Did you know that Canadian households waste more food than they realize?

Think for a moment – What foods do you throw away most often?  Fruits & Veggies?  or Milk?  or Meat? or Cereals?  If you said ‘fruit and veggies’ you’re not alone! So much is wasted each year! Recent research in Canada tells us that almost two thirds of food scraps that end up as kitchen waste could have been eaten. (National Zero Waste Council 2017)

The good news is that there are many things you can do help ensure that the energy, water, and land resources that go into growing our food are not wasted. Here are 5 tips to help you save your food, money and reduce waste:

  1. Think differently about food waste
    Because fruit and vegetables have the highest rate of waste, think differently about the food you would usually toss out. How can you use up the broccoli stems, cilantro stems, and maybe even banana peels in recipes that taste great and reduce waste?  Use all the edible parts of produce – leaves, peels, seeds, stalks and stems. For some creative and fresh ideas, check out a new IKEA cookbook filled with recipes that use kitchen scraps.
  2. Make sustainable food decisions
    Caring for the environment is everyone’s responsibility. Consider ways you can bring food to your table while protecting some natural resources. Can you build a healthy relationship with food, and value its origin and quality? Can you buy foods with less packaging or recyclable packaging when possible? Learn more about making impactful choices from credible sources like Dietitians of Canada , 2020, Advocacy /Priority Issues and Actions/ Food and Nutrition Policy and Health Canada 2021, Health Canada Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy.
  3. Talk to farmers
    Take a moment to remember farmers who work to produce our food every day. If you get a chance, talk to farmers at farmers’ markets or farm stands to discover more about the food they produce and how they manage resources and care for their environment.  Farmers can tell you the story behind the foods they grow. Take a farm tour either virtually or in person to meet the farmers and see things first hand. Be curious and open minded – you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll learn to support your informed and confident food choices. In the meantime if you’d like to discover more about Canadian food and farming stories check out Canadian Food Focus at https://canadianfoodfocus.org/about-us/ where we share our food and nutrition blogs.
  4. Plan out your meals
    Buy and eat the amount of food that you need to help reduce waste. Resist the urge to overbuy fresh produce because it’s the food that’s most likely to get tossed.  Plan a weekly ‘Must-Go’ meal that cleans out your fridge. In a recent study by Hellmann’s, food waste was reduced by one- third when participants planned just one weekly meal that used up soon-to-expire ingredients.  In your meal plan you can also use perishable foods and leftovers to create ‘planned over’ meals.  Cook and eat once then create an entirely different second meal with the same ingredients for your next meal or two.  For some quick and tasty examples of “cook once, eat twice” recipes that will help you reduce food waste, check out the Guelph Family Health Study’s cookbook: Rock What You’ve Got Recipes for Preventing Food Waste.
  5. Minimize wasted food at your table
    Serve sensible, smaller portions. This way, you’re not scraping uneaten food into the waste bin or encouraging overconsumption as a way to reduce food waste. Alternatively, consider serving food family style where everyone can serve themselves and take the amount they wish to eat. If you cooked too much food you can repurpose it or freeze leftovers for another meal.

Let’s reduce food waste together! Contact us to discover more! We also offer virtual workshops and cooking demos on how to minimize food waste at your organization and your family table.

Find Your Healthy with Cultural Cuisines

chicken lettuce wraps on a long white platter

Happy Nutrition Month!

This year, dietitians want you to know that healthy eating looks different for everyone. There’s no one-size-fits-all eating plan. Instead, the food we eat depends on so many different factors such as our culture, age, activity level, personal circumstances and health conditions.

Let’s learn about food and culture! Sue and Lucia celebrate the diversity of cuisines and share the meaning of food in their Chinese and Hungarian cultures.

Sue in her kitchen, squeezing lemon over a salad

Sue Mah, Co-Founder n4nn

1. What’s your cultural background? 

I am Chinese.

2. What is the meaning of food in your culture? / How is food used in celebrations or traditions?

Food is a huge part of Chinese celebrations and traditions! For example, chicken, fish and lettuce are enjoyed during the Lunar New Year because they are homonyms for prosperity, abundance and wealth. Special birthdays and weddings are celebrated with a delightful 8-course menu including significant foods like Peking duck and noodles for longevity. My paternal grandfather was a medical acupuncturist, so we also used foods, herbs and special soups for healing and health.

3. What is your favourite cultural ingredient or food or recipe?

It’s probably a tie between Har Cheung which is a steamed shrimp rice noodle roll, and Zongzi, which is a sticky rice dumpling with meat wrapped in bamboo leaves. These recipes are trickier to make, so my go-to cultural recipe are these Chicken Lettuce Wraps – see recipe below  – even my chef Dad eats these, so you know they must be good!

4. What would you like to say to Canadians during National Nutrition Month?

Food is delicious, nourishing and brings us together. Take time to embrace your own cultural foods as well as explore new flavours and ingredients.

 

1. What’s your cultural background?

I am Hungarian.

2. What is the meaning of food in your culture? / How is food used in celebrations or traditions?

Food is family – and food is love. Hungarians know how to cook everything – snout to tail, farm to table. Many like my grandmother and sister are excellent bakers too though that’s not my forte.

3. What is your favourite cultural ingredient or food or recipe?

Hungarian Cuisine in short! Paprika is the heart of Hungarian cuisine and the traditions go all the way back to the first Hungarians, and some of the dishes have been cooked the same way for hundreds of years.

4. What would you like to say to Canadians during National Nutrition Month?

Enjoy and explore how your culture, food traditions, personal circumstances & nutritional needs all contribute to what healthy looks like for you. Reach out to a registered dietitian to support your healthy eating journey.

Sue’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Chicken lettuce wraps on a long white platter

Sue’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps

This is an easy and delicious recipe that’s fun to eat. The secret is the hoisin sauce!

Ingredients
4 – 5 T hoisin sauce
2 T light soy sauce
2 T rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornstarch
1 pound ground chicken (or diced chicken breast)
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T ginger, minced
1 head Bibb, Boston or romaine lettuce
Red pepper, julienned (for garnish)
Green onions, julienned (for garnish)

Directions
1. In a small bowl, mix the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. Whisk in cornstarch. Set aside.

2. Heat 1 tsp of canola oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the ground chicken and crumble it with a spoon or spatula as you are cooking it. Cook for about 8 minutes or until the internal temperatures reaches 165 F. Transfer the cooked chicken to a clean bowl.

3. Heat 1 tsp of canola oil in the frying pan. Add the onions and carrots, and cook until tender. Add water chestnuts, garlic and ginger. Cook for about 30 seconds.

4. Add the chicken back to the pan. Stir in the sauce and continue cooking until the sauce begins to bubble and the chicken is thoroughly coated with sauce.

5. Gently separate the lettuce leaves. Wash and pat the leaves dry. Place a large spoonful of the chicken mixture in the centre of the lettuce leaf. Garnish with red pepper and green onions. Roll it up and eat it with your hands! Enjoy!

Makes 6 servings.

 

Lucia’s Chicken Paprikás

Serve some veggies on the side such as steamed broccoli or green beans. A fresh cucumber or tomato salad is also fitting. Enjoy! Jó étvágyat!

Chicken Paprikas on a plate with broccoli and red pepper

Lucia’s Chicken Paprikás

Ingredients: 

2 1/2 – 3 lbs chicken thighs or drumsticks
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp Hungarian ground paprika
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 bell peppers, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cups water or low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp flour

Directions:

1. In a large skillet, heat oil and brown chicken on all sides – remove chicken to a plate.

2. Next, add onion to the skillet and cook till golden brown. Add garlic, pepper and tomatoes and cook for another 3 minutes.

3. Turn off heat and stir in the paprika and ground black pepper.

4. Return chicken to the skillet and mix well. Add water or chicken broth until chicken is mostly covered. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

5. In a small bowl, mix sour cream and flour until the mixture is smooth. Add the sour cream mixture to the chicken paprikas and simmer for 5 minutes until sauce is thickened.

6. Serve with Hungarian nokedli (small dumplings) or penne or rotini. [For a vegetarian version, replace chicken with tofu cubes and reduce cooking time to 10 minutes].

Makes 6 servings.

 

February signals Black History Month and Heart Month

L.Weiler, Canva

Every February is Black History Month and also Heart Month. Do you think this is a coincidence or is there more to consider?

As dietitians and health care professionals, especially this year, we reflected deeper. We are taking the time to recognize health disparity and reflect on what is happening in our health care community. Now is the time to double down on efforts to listen and learn from our colleagues in the Black community and act accordingly.

When people think about heart health, it’s important to consider what this could mean in terms of things we can and cannot change.  Research shows that people of African descent are at higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke. This is because they are more likely to have high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes or other risk factors for heart disease at a younger age (Heart and Stroke Foundation Canada, 2021).

Studies also confirm that there are Black-White health inequalities in Canada (Veenstra, 2016). For example, Black women and men were more likely than their White counterparts to report diabetes and hypertension. The authors of this study concluded that high rates of diabetes and hypertension among Black Canadians may stem from experiences of racism in everyday life. University of Ottawa Heart Institute’s prevention and wellness experts explain that ‘people of the same ethnicity share many of the same genes, which is why family history and ethnicity are so closely linked.’  Studies also indicate that ‘people from minority populations are less aware that smoking, high cholesterol, and family history increase their risk for heart disease. Awareness levels can impact a person’s decision about whether to start making healthy lifestyle changes’ (Ottawa Heart Institute, 2021).

We are committed to continue navigating through these changing times with an open mind, positivity, compassion and hope for a better future. We are reading the science, listening to colleagues in the Black community at conferences and on their media and social media channels.

Here are some resources we found informative:

As we journey to do better, you can rely on us as Registered Dietitians to bring you trusted food and nutrition information to help you make informed choices about your health and wellness. We love food – it unites us all.

Reference List:

Veenstra (2016)  Black-White Health Inequalities in Canada. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25894533/
Ottawa Heart Institute (2021) Heart Health Education. Available at:  http://pwc.ottawaheart.ca/education/heart-health-education/risk-factors/ethnicity)
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (2021) Risk & Prevention Available at: https://www.heartandstroke.ca/stroke/risk-and-prevention/risk-factors-you-cannot-change

Introducing the NEW Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025

On December 29, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the latest U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2020-2025. Every five years, these science-based guidelines are updated to offer the most current advice on “what to eat and drink to promote health, reduce risk of chronic disease, and meet nutrient needs.”

Key message – Make every bite count!

Americans’ health is suffering.  According to the USDA, 6 in 10 adults are living with chronic illness, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis that are often related to poor-quality diets. Following the Dietary Guidelines can help improve Americans’ health and it’s never too late to start dietary improvements.  People at any stage of life can make every bite count and benefit from changing to more nutrient-dense forms of foods and beverages.

How are Dietary Guidelines used?

The US Dietary Guidelines have a significant impact on nutrition in the United States.  The Dietary Guidelines form the basis of all federal nutrition policy and programs including nutrition resources. They also guide local, state, and national health promotion and disease prevention initiatives. The Dietary Guidelines are adapted by health professionals to meet specific needs of groups and individuals.

What’s new and what’s the same?

Here’s a snapshot of what’s new and what’s not in the USDA Dietary Guidelines 2020-2025 and what it means to people and businesses.

  1. NEW – 4 overarching Guidelines in the 2020-2025 edition
    • Follow a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage.
    • Customize and enjoy nutrient-dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations.
    • Focus on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and stay within calorie limits.
    • Limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limit alcoholic beverages.
  2. NEW – Guidance across all life stages now includes infants and toddlers.

    From pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to older adults, nutrition advice is provided in the Dietary Guidelines for all life stages. The edition also emphasizes that it is never too early or too late to eat healthy!

    • For first time ever the guidelines include advice for children less than 2 years of age. This will help parents know how to start their infants and toddlers out with a healthy diet. Specific recommendations include:
    • Introduce potential food allergens including eggs, peanuts and dairy to children early to help reduce the risk of developing food allergies.
    • Avoid added sugars for infants and toddlers.
  3. NEW – Call to action: ‘Make every bite count’ with same 5 food groups and ‘MyPlate’ model 

    USDA continues to use 5 food groups including dairy, unlike the Canadian Food Guide. Both Food guides recommend half the plate be filled with vegetables and fruit.  Here is how the key consumer messages appear based on the new guidelines ‘Small Changes Matter, Start Simple’ resource:

  4. SAME – Key recommendations limit saturated fat, added sugars, sodium and alcohol
    • Limit saturated fat to less than 10% of calories per day starting at age 2.
    • Limit added sugars to less than 10% of calories per day for ages 2 and older; Avoid added sugars for infants and toddlers.
    • Limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day (or even less if younger than age 14).
    • If consumed by adults, alcoholic beverage guidance remains the same as previous years:
    • 2 drinks or less per day for men and 1 drink or less a day for women. Pregnant women should not drink alcohol. Some experts are disappointed because the Scientific Advisory? Committee recommended further limiting alcohol intakes to just one drink a day for both men and women however this was not reflected in the final guidelines.
  5. SAME – Lack of mention about food insecurity and food systems.

Some food and nutrition advocates were hoping to see guidance on sustainably, climate change and information about food systems including activities involving the production, processing, transport in addition to the consumption of food.  The Dietary Guidelines received some criticism for these exclusions.

The bottom line:

This is a comprehensive 164-page guidance document on what the average American should eat and drink to promote health and prevent chronic disease. For most people the takeaway from these guidelines should be forming healthy dietary patterns. “For lifelong good health, make every bite count with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans”.

Consult with Registered Dietitian to discover what the guidelines mean for your nutritional requirements, personal health and wellness or your food and nutrition business.

Want to discover more about how to make the Food Guide work for you and your business? Contact us now for a presentation / workshop.

Written by: Lucia Weiler, BSc, RD, PHEc, Co-Founder Nutrition for NON-Nutritionists

Five growing trends in food innovation

Our world is facing disruption and uncertainty. Yet in this changed world people seek to nourish their bodies to the best of their ability. Consumers have re-evaluated their food and nutrition priorities and in this post we take a closer look at what this means for your business. We joined virtual global conferences including SIAL 2020 and reviewed top notch research articles to study the future of food innovation.  Here is our translation of the 5 growing trends in food innovation that will impact all food and nutrition professionals for the next 5-10 years to come.

  1. Covid 19 disruption in food purchasing
  2. Clean label
  3. Plant based
  4. Food safety
  5. Well-being and immunity

1 Covid 19 disruption in food purchasing

Consumers are looking for new ways to meet their food needs. Less time spent in grocery stores and restaurants means convenience and personalized shopping is essential.

Digital-age solutions are transforming the way grocery stores, food retailers and restaurants operate. Pandemic-impacted brands must adapt and power through by branching out of traditional platforms to sustain consumer engagement.  Discount chains are offering more food brands and premium brands at better value. Have you seen groceries in dollar stores yet? They are priced as close to a dollar as possible.

The line between retail and restaurants continues to blur.  A completely new restaurant concept dubbed as a ‘dark kitchen’ or ‘virtual kitchen’ is rising. These kitchens sell meals exclusively through delivery – no eating in, seating or serving is involved.  Virtual kitchens cook purely for delivery so the food that is produced there must be transported and enjoyed elsewhere.  Third party delivery and distribution channels enable these food businesses to connect with consumers quickly and effectively.

2 Clean labels

Consumers continue to seek clean labels. Although undefined by regulators, shoppers consider ‘clean label foods’ to have familiar sounding ingredients and made simply using fewer ingredients.  Various claims are also sought after including ‘organic’, ‘free from’ and health-related benefits like reduced sugars. Product innovations across all categories are now sharing messages about minimal processing and fewer chemicals as consumers don’t want to see labels packed with additives to extend shelf life.  Some consumers are also evaluating foods’ environmental impact based on climate change and land / water use.

In our work with clients we collaborate with them to simplify food labels and provide meaningful, legally sound claims that address clean-label project goals.

3 Plant based

Gone are the days when plant based was just an ‘alternative’.  Plant-based foods are successfully crossing over into the mainstream and becoming a regular part of people’s diet.  More and more consumers are looking to limit meat or dairy intake based on deeply held values such as ‘eco-health’ or ethical reasons.

This macro trend is driving innovation for dairy and meat substitutes and fish/shellfish alternatives are expected to follow. The key ingredient of interest in food innovation for plant-based foods and beverages is protein, a trend that continues to remain strong.  Consider the variety and diversity of plant based sources of protein including a larger selection of grains and cereals. Consumers are also expecting great taste and an eating experience that is beyond imitation.

What’s holding your plant-based food innovation back from crossing over to the mainstream? As dietitians and food experts we empower our clients to make plant-based foods an everyday healthy choice.

4 Food safety*

Ensuring high food safety standards is becoming a greater concern as people focus on keeping illnesses at bay.  Although there is no evidence to suggest that food is a likely source of transmission of the Covid19 virus it’s critical that all stakeholders protect food safety, animal health, plant health and market access. Everyone has a role to play to bolster and safeguard food. Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is committed to appropriate oversight of domestic production and imported food products. Agri-food stakeholders, including farmers are providing safe food for consumers and managing the supply chain. Culinary professionals and consumers should continue to follow good hygiene practices during food handling and preparation including:

  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Clean and sanitize food preparation surfaces including chopping boards and countertops
  • Clean fruit and vegetables before eating, cutting, cooking and wash them under running water. (Do NOT use soap or detergents or other chemicals on food.)
  • Keep fruits and vegetables separate from raw foods that come from animals such as meat poultry and seafood. Avoid potential cross-contamination between cooked and uncooked foods
  • Cook meat thoroughly and use a meat thermometer to ensure safe cooking temperatures

More information about food safety is available at our previous post here or consult Health Canada’s website for food safety tips.

* Source: Health Canada, CFIA, CDC

5 Well-being & immunity

Research shows that many consumers have at least one health goal they are looking to reach and are actively seeking healthier foods.  Well-being is a common goal and functional ingredients, like prebiotic fiber and slow-release carbohydrates are setting the stage for wellness foods.  This is good news and we applaud food makers to evaluate and re-formulate as needed to provide healthier food choices and optimise nutrient density.
During the pandemic many consumers are seeking functional ingredients to boost immunity. Good nutrition is essential along the journey towards supporting immunity. There are many articles about how this claim will be growing in the future and we caution food makers in the way they approach immunity. Careful consideration must be given to maintaining the integrity and credibility of the statements as food makers formulate food and drinks to empower consumers’ lives. Contact us for credible and legally sound advice on food labelling and claims.

 

Nutrition for NON-Nutritionists Services     www.n4nn.ca
 
 
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Unleash your strength and personal brand – Professional career coaching

Are you ready to unleash your strength and personal brand? We can help!

Leading from your strengths impacts you and the people around you. This professional development workshop introduces the science of strengths and the framework of strengths based leadership, which produces better results for people and teams. Save your spot for the next course or jump right into your professional reboot coaching. Register here.

This is the perfect course if you want to:

  • discover the power of your natural strengths
  • build your personal and professional brand
  • improve yourself to perform better
  • find a happier and healthier way to work

Join dietitian and nutrition entrepreneur Lucia Weiler to enter the future of professional development with real-time, personalized guidance.  Let’s take a virtual walk together in a positive, encouraging and motiving session that will help you discover the power of strengths and build your personal brand.

Who should attend?

This course suits the needs of participants from diverse backgrounds. Developed to support professional training and growth among early career trainees and seasoned professionals with rich and diverse experiences.

  • Individuals
  • Students
  • Educators
  • Managers
  • Leaders

Facilitator  Bio:  

Lucia is a Registered Dietitian and savvy nutrition entrepreneur.  She is a pro at facilitating online workshops that empower professionals to apply their individual strengths for professional and personal success. With over 25 years of experience as a recognized leader in food and nutrition, Lucia has witnessed first-hand the power of strengths-based leadership in helping transform individuals and teams to successfully reach their goals. Lucia is faculty at Humber College Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellness and is an active member of the Board of Directors of Dietitians of Canada. Her company Weiler Nutrition Communications Inc. helps professionals and businesses thrive to achieve their goals. More information about Lucia’s bio is available at www.weilernutrition.com

Course Date & Cost:

Course: Fall 2020 date to be announced for an engaging live Zoom presentation. $ 50 +HST   Save your spot

Professional Coaching Program: Open for registration

**Register for a course or start your Individualized Professional Reboot Program *

Questions? Email Lucia@WeilerNutrition.com

Body Weight Words Matter! Reflecting on the New Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines

For most people their body weight is a personal issue. However people living in larger bodies face hurtful stigma including language surrounding obesity and overweight.  Developed by Obesity Canada and the Canadian Association of Bariatric Physicians and Surgeons, the new Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines represent the first comprehensive update in Canadian obesity guidelines since 2007.[1]

Decades of research in behavioral and nutrition science suggest that it’s time to update our clinical approach and recognize that some patterns of communication about body weight are more helpful than others. Registered dietitians are deeply involved in this discussion and here are some of the topline messages from leading experts that stood out to us:

  1. Body Mass Index (BMI) is NOT an accurate tool for identifying obesity related complications [2]
    BMI is a widely used tool for screening and classifying body weight but it’s been controversial for decades.  A person’s BMI number is generated by considering their height in relation to their weight and it tells us about the size of the person’s body.  Experts now agree that more information than BMI is needed to determine whether a person is sick or healthy.
  2. Patient-centered, weight-inclusive care focuses on health outcomes rather than weight loss 1,2
    Remember to ask permission before discussing body weight and respect the person’s answer. Health issues are measured by lab data and clinical signs. These can include blood pressure, blood sugar or reduced mobility. Shift the focus toward addressing impairments to health rather than weight loss alone.
  3. Obesity is NOT simply a matter of self-control and the ‘eat less, move more’ advice is insufficient1
    The effects of a dieting lifestyle are burdensome. Evidence-based advice must move beyond simplistic approaches of ‘eat less and move more’. For example, in recent years researchers gained a better understanding of clinical evidence and body weight biology. These include the amount of food energy absorbed through the gut, the brain’s role in appetite regulation and the thermic effect of eating.[3] Environmental factors such as where people live, work and food availably also have an influence on body weight.
  4. People of higher weights should have access to evidence informed interventions, including medical nutrition therapy
    There is a lot of misinformation about body weight so evidence-based health management is key. One of the recommended interventions is to include personalized counselling by a registered dietitian with a focus on healthy food choices and evidence-based nutrition therapy.
  5. Recognize and address weight bias and stigma
    People with excess body weight experience weight bias and stigma. Weight bias is defined as negative weight–related attitudes, beliefs and judgements toward people who are of higher weight. This thinking can result in stigma which is acting on weight-based beliefs such as teasing, bullying, macroaggressions, social rejection and discrimination towards people living in larger bodies. People may also internalize weight stigma and criticize themselves or others based on body weight.
    Experts consider that changes to language can alleviate the stigma of obesity within the health-care system and support improved outcomes for both people living in a larger body and for the health-care system. 3,[4],[5],[6]

In our Body Weight Words Matter! chart below we provide several examples of communication interventions to help assess your attitude and reduce body weight bias. Body Weight Words Matter INFOGRAPHIC N4N (Click here to download your copy of the PDF Body Weight Words Matter INFOGRAPHIC N4NN ) Body Weight Words Matter

References:

[1] Obesity Canada (2020) Canadian Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPGs) https://obesitycanada.ca/guidelines/

[2] Obesity Canada (2020) CMAJ Obesity in adults: a clinical practice guideline https://www.cmaj.ca/content/cmaj/192/31/E875.full.pdf

[3]   Rubino et al. (2020) Joint international consensus statement for ending stigma of obesity. Nature Medicine  www.nature.com/medicine

[4] Obesity UK (2020) Language Matters: Obesity https://cdn.easo.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/31073423/Obesity-Language-Matters-_FINAL.pdf

[5] Puhl, R. et.al (2016) Cross-national perspectives about weight-based bullying in youth: nature, extent and remedies. Pediatric Obesity,

[6] Puhl R., Peterson J. L., Luedicke J. (2013). Motivating or stigmatizing? Public perceptions of weight-related language used by health providers. Int. J. Obes.  https://www.nature.com/articles/ijo2012110

5 Smart Snacks

snack ideas that combine protein with produce

Want to stay fueled and alert? Our dietitian tip is to combine protein with produce at every snack! Protein foods give you staying power, satiety and alertness. Produce offers a medley of antioxidants to boost your health and wellness. That’s a powerful combo, right?

Try these snacks the next time you’re heading out on the trails, camping or even studying for exams. Which snack combo is your favourite?

 

The Science of Comfort Foods

aerial image of kitchen counter filled with baking supplies like flour, eggs, and measuring spoons

[Image: Piktochart]

Can you believe that we’re into week 11 of quarantine now? We’ve been seeing plenty of homemade comfort food pics posted on Instagram lately. In fact, the hashtag #QuarantineBaking has over 208 THOUSAND posts and the hashtag #ComfortFood has over 7.1 MILLLION posts.

There has been so much about comfort food lately in the news too:

  • In Toronto, Bradley Harder started the #PandemicPieProject – he’s baked over 200 pies and given them away to members in his community;
  • In Halifax, Amy Munch who owns Cake Babes, a wedding cake shop, has now baked over 2000 cupcakes and delivered them to front line workers; and
  • In Italy, an 84-year-old Grandma is on lighting up YouTube, demonstrating her recipe for Lockdown Lasagna.

Here are 4 reasons why you might be reaching for those comfort foods right now.

Watch our 1 minute video clip below about The Science of Comfort Foods!

 

1 – Comfort foods trigger dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that sends messages between the brain cells. Dopamine is all about motivation, reward and pleasure. It gives us a feel-good sensation. So when you eat a comfort food that tastes good and is rewarding, you get a rush of dopamine. Your brain remembers this connection between your behaviour (the comfort food you ate) and the reward (the positive feeling). You may be more motivated to continue that behaviour i.e. eat a comfort food because it gives you that feel-good reward. Some psychology researchers think that even ANTICIPATING eating certain foods generates dopamine. So just THINKING about eating a cinnamon bun or chocolate cake can trigger dopamine!

2 – Comfort foods gives us social connection

As a dietitian, I always say that food unites us. My dad is a chef and to me, food is an expression of love. I remember when Jamie Oliver was here in Toronto in 2015, promoting his new cookbook. When he stood up on stage, he said “Food can be a hug”.  Wow, don’t you agree – food can be as comforting as a hug. Some interesting research from the Universities of Tennessee and New York State in 2015 found that comfort foods remind us of our social relationships / and helps us feel less lonesome especially when we are isolated. Comfort foods offer a sense of belonging. So it makes sense that we’re turning to comfort foods during these times of quarantine and physical isolation. On top of that, baking and cooking together offers psychosocial benefits. Think of those virtual dinner parties or virtual cooking classes we’ve been taking – they keep us feeling connected even when we’re not physically together.

3 – Comfort foods are associated with positive memories and nostalgia

Very often, comfort foods remind us of our childhood or home or friends and family. Comfort foods may also be linked to special person like your mom, dad, Nona, Bubbe or Grandma. When we eat comfort foods, it brings pack happy memories from our past. Sometimes even the SMELL of comfort foods can trigger these positive memories. Psychological research shows that smells are powerfully linked to areas in the brain that are associated with memory and emotional experiences 

4 – Comfort foods can give us a little more certainty and routine.

In these times of uncertainty, making and eating comfort foods can offer a sense of structure and control. We have control over the foods we are making and eating, and we also have a little more control over how we feel. Our brain tells us that eating that piece of homemade bread or pasta will make us feel good.

 

If you’re eating for comfort, that’s completely OK. Be mindful of how often and how much. Practice other healthy lifestyle habits to beat stress – try yoga, meditation, a walk with the dog, listening to music or calling a friend. Stay safe and stay well!

 

By Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc, FDC – Co-founder n4nn

4 Fridge rules for food safety & wellness

Can you think of a time when you found something in your fridge you did not recognize?  Or a special food you bought was misplaced only to turn up spoiled? Well you’re not alone!  In today’s busy home kitchens these things happen.  As a dietitian and food safety professional I can offer you some evidence based advice to help you keep your food cool safely, save you money and reduce waste. Follow these tips for safe food storage in your fridge.

1. Refrigerate perishable foods promptly.
After shopping or cooking how do you put food in the fridge? You may be surprised to discover there is a recommended safe way to store perishable foods.

  • When you return home from shopping put perishable foods in the fridge quickly. Follow the safe food storage tips outlined in this article.
  • If you have extra food after cooking refrigerate leftover foods within two hours. Use clear shallow containers or baggies to store leftovers. Pro tip: separate larger amounts of leftovers into small, shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.

2. Label cooked food containers with name of the food and date you made them.
It’s a lot to ask sometimes to remember when you ate that leftover food that’s sitting in your fridge. To help jog your memory try these foodservice professional’s practices.

  • Place a label on the food containers with the name and date when you made them before putting them in the fridge. Keep a roll of masking tape and a marker handy.
  • Use clear containers with a lid to protect the food and see what is in it.

Leftovers are safe in the fridge for 3-4 days. If you don’t have a chance to eat leftovers within this time, move them to the freezer for later use.

3. Practice safe food storage order.
Did you know there is a best way ‘hierarchy’ to store perishable foods in your fridge? Here are the foodservice pro’s fridge rules to keep foods safe and organized.

  • TOP SHELF – Keep ready to eat fully cooked leftovers here so they are at eye level. Remember to eat leftover foods within 3-4 days of cooking or move them to the freezer.
  • MIDDLE SHELVES: The mid-section of the fridge is best for dairy such as milks, cheeses, yogurt and butter, eggs.
  • BOTTOM SHELF – RAW / uncooked MEAT: Store uncooked fish, meat at the bottom – lowest shelf or meat drawer. To prevent juices from leaking and cross contaminating other foods, store raw fish, meat and poultry wrapped and place it on a plate or in a sealed container.
  • CRISPER DRAWERS – These sealed compartments are specially designed to keep the humidity right for veggies and fruit. Remember fresh fruit, many vegetables and herbs are perishable and require refrigerated storage to keep them fresh longer.
  • Mind the doors. The temperature in the door is not always consistent. So play it safe and keep items that don’t spoil easily, such as condiments, in the fridge door.

4. Clean your fridge regularly and keep it in good running condition.
A fridge is often a ‘taken for granted’ appliance and giving it a little attention helps keep it running well. After all it stores hundreds of dollars’ worth of food that must be kept cold so it doesn’t spoil as fast and make us sick.

  • Declutter your fridge contents regularly. An overstuffed fridge restricts airflow and it may hinder proper cooling. Toss out items that are past their prime and keep foods that are before their expiration date.
  • Clean out your fridge regularly. It’s not enough to just wipe up the obvious messes. Wash down shelves and drawers with soapy water and use a sanitizer to reduce germs.
  • Monitor your fridge’s temperature – it should be between 1-4 degrees Celsius (36-40 Fahrenheit.) Keep a backup thermometer in your fridge for food safety.

If you can implement some of these savvy fridge food storage tips, you’ll be well on your way to keeping your food safe, wasting less food and saving more of your money. Good luck and if you have any questions or would like more information contact us at  Info@NutritionForNonNutritionists.com

Interested in seeing the Instagram Live show on Fridge food storage tips? Check out the 20 min interactive chat here:

 

Foods to Manage Stress

 

woman wearing glasses, looking stressed, sitting at her computer desk and chewing on a pencil

Can you believe that we’re into week 7 of physical distancing and the COVID quarantine? If you’re feeling stressed, you’re not alone.

In fact, a recent poll by Angus Reid found that 50% of Canadians say their mental health has worsened, feeling worried and anxious.

First of all, please know that there are many support resources available online to help you manage stress and anxiety during these tough times. Regular exercise, meditation and other healthy stress busting behaviours can help. Talk to a health care professional if you need some support.

As a dietitian, here are 5 key nutrients and foods to add to your plate which can help you manage stress.

Watch my 1-minute video summary below.

 

 

 

Carbs, especially whole grain carbs

Carbs help trigger the production of serotonin. This is the feel good chemical in the brain (a neurotransmitter). Serotonin is made in brain from the amino acid tryptophan. This is a small amino acid and has a tough time getting into the brain.

When you eat a meal that’s mostly carbs, it triggers the insulin to clear the bigger amino acids from your bloodstream, allowing tryptophan to get into the brain and make serotonin. Overall, serotonin helps you to feel calm.

Some good whole grain carb choices are:

  • brown rice
  • whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta
  • quinoa

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 also helps our body make serotonin. This vitamin is found in a wide range of foods, so it’s important to eat a variety of foods. Some of the best foods for vitamin B6 are:

  • chicken, turkey, meat, fish like salmon
  • chickpeas, pistachio nuts, sunflower seeds
  • potatoes, bananas, avocados

Magnesium

When we are stressed, our body (adrenal glands) releases cortisol which is a stress hormone. Cortisol actually depletes the body of magnesium. So we need to make sure we’re getting enough magnesium when you’re feeling stressed.

Some of the best foods for magnesium are:

  • leafy greens like spinach, kale and Swiss chard
  • nuts and seeds like almonds, pine nuts and sunflower seeds
  • whole grains like whole wheat bread (Fun fact: whole wheat bread contains 4x more Mg than white bread)
  • dark chocolate!

Omega-3 fats

You may already know that omega-3 fats are good for our heart health. But did you know that the animal sources of omega-3 fats also help to boost our mood!

Some of the best sources of omega-3 fats are:

  • fatty fish like salmon, trout, arctic char, sardines. Try to eat fatty fish at least twice a week
  • omega-3 enriched eggs

Tea

Tea contains a special amino acid called L– theanine. This actually triggers the release of another neurotransmitter in the brain (called GABA or gamma-amino-butyric-acid) which gives you a relaxed feeling. Black tea, green tea, white tea and oolong tea all contain this special amino acid.

Stay well and stay safe. We are all in this together to get through the COVID-19 crisis.

foods to manage stress with images of bread, lettuce, fish and tea

 

Nutrition & Immunity Challenge – Covid19

Your immune system is always on guard against attacks on your body. Attacks could come in many forms including virus, bacteria or even cancer cells. If your immune system trips up, you could become more vulnerable and even ill. In terms of nutrition, there are many nutrients that are involved with the normal functioning of the immune system. The immune system is sophisticated ‘team’ with many ‘players’ involved. The best performance in defending your body happens when all ‘players are present’ and ready to do their job. That is why health experts recommend to promote your own immunity follow an overall healthy eating plan.

With Covid19 there seem to be a lot of questions about nutrition and immunity so here is a closer look at the basics.

  • No diet, supplement will cure or prevent disease. Good hygiene practice and physical distancing remain the best means of avoiding COVID19 infection.
  • Almost all nutrients help the immune system in one way or another; however some nutrient deficiencies may be more harmful to immunity than others. Malnutrition and deficient intakes of many vitamins and minerals are associated with lower disease resistance. Among the nutrients well recognized for their roles in building immunity are Protein, Zinc, Vitamins A, C and E. Below we profile these nutrients of interest that support general immunity but emphasize the bottom line:  Eat a variety of healthy foods each day in order to support immune function.

Protein:

Protein helps build and repair body tissues and forms antibodies. Antibodies are protective proteins produced by the immune system to fight foreign substances in the body.

Eat protein foods at each meal. Recommendations for most adults are to aim for 20-30 grams of protein at every meal. Examples of protein rich foods include fish, shellfish, poultry, lean meat, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), tofu (edamame), eggs, nuts, seeds, greek yogurt and cottage cheese.

Vitamins and Minerals:

All vitamins and minerals promote good health and many protect against infection and diseases. Research suggests that certain vitamins and minerals may have bigger roles in immune health. Examples include Zinc, Vitamins A, C, E. For most people, however, there is no good evidence that taking more of these nutrients than what you can get from a varied healthy diet will improve your immune system. For reference, here is some information about vitamins/minerals of interest for immune health.

    • Zinc:
      A wide variety of foods contain zinc. By far, oysters have more zinc per serving than any other food. More good sources of zinc are lean meats, fish or poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, cereals (fortified) and dairy products
    • Vitamin A:
      Vitamin A is naturally present in many foods and most people get enough Vitamin A from the foods they eat. The most active form is retinol, a fat soluble vitamin found in animal foods such as meat, poultry, fish and dairy products. Beta carotene which converts to vitamin A in the body is found in yellow, orange and dark green vegetables and fruits.
    • Vitamin C:
      Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid is found in fruits and vegetables. Among its many other roles, Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant that helps protect cells against damage. You can get recommended amounts of vitamin C by eating a variety of foods including citrus fruits (such as oranges and grapefruit). Red and green peppers and kiwifruit also have a lot of vitamin C as do other fruits and vegetables.
    • Vitamin E:
      Vitamin E is found in many foods. In the body, it acts as an antioxidant that helps protect the tissues from damage. Rich sources of Vitamin E include vegetable oils (wheat germ, sunflower, safflower), nuts (peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds), seeds (sunflower), fortified cereals.Watch our one minute VIDEO summary and tips on the immunity challenge here:

Sources:

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) 2020 Health Information Facts
  • Health Canada (2019) Nutrient Function Claims
  • Duyff Academy of Food and Nutrition (2017) Complete Food & Nutrition Guide
  • Sizer et al (2017) Nutrition Concepts and Controversies

Clean and sanitize your kitchen surfaces like a food safety pro during COVID-19

You can protect yourself from COVID-19 by preventing the spread of germs. Although there are not many studies on COVID-19 specifically, scientists suggest that what we know works against other coronaviruses could work against this new strain too. Well known food safety cleaning and sanitizing practices can kill many different kids of harmful germs that cause disease.  Consider these expert tips for cleaning and sanitizing surfaces you use for food handling and preparation to reduce your risk of COVID-19 exposure.

3 Food safety rules to sanitize kitchen surfaces

  1. CLEAN: Remove dirt by washing down surfaces using warm soapy water & rinse with clean water.
  2. SANITIZE: This step reduces the harmful germs to safe levels on surfaces so illness is less likely to occur. Before preparing meals food safety pro’s make sure that counters, cutting boards and work surfaces are sanitized first. Chemicals approved as sanitizes for food-contact surfaces in food-service are chlorine, iodine and quaternary ammonium. Diluted chlorine bleach is a very effective sanitizer that is easy to make at home too. You can make your own sanitizing spray using 1 tsp (5 mL) bleach for every 3 cups (750 mL) of water. (Ministry of Health & LTC Ontario)  This sanitization method works for both plastic and wooden cutting board, taps, sinks and other surfaces. (Note: Bleach is NOT recommended for marble or stone countertops!)
  3. AIR DRY: Let surfaces air dry or dry with a clean disposable paper towel.

 

More tips on cleaning and sanitizing in the kitchen are available at this link: https://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/foodnut/kitchen-sanitize.pdf

Dietitians’ tips to stay fueled and focused when working from home

 

desk with vase of flowers

 

The doorbell rings. The dog is barking. A load of laundry sits in the hallway. There can be a lot of distractions when working from home! Here are a few tips to help you stay fueled and focused.

Stick to a regular eating schedule. Get into a routine by eating your meals at the same times every day if possible. Routine gives us a little sense of control during these uncertain times. Plus, you’ll keep your energy levels steady to power through your work day. (Ditto the routine message for sleep and exercise.)

Cook extra for tomorrow’s lunch. Now that you and everyone else in your family are staying home, you’re likely eating all your meals at home too. No more lunch meetings or buying lunch at the food court. Plan to cook extra and portion them out so they’re ready to reheat for tomorrow’s lunch.

Snack on nourishing foods. During times of crisis, we all stress eat. Food can offer us both comfort and nourishment. Give yourself permission to enjoy ALL foods without guilt. If you’re finding that you’re frequently eating to deal with stress or emotions, reach out to a friend, family member or health professional for support.

Stay hydrated with water. By the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Keep your water bottle nearby. Other beverages like coffee, tea and milk count towards your fluid intake too.

Take a break. Stand up and stretch. Do some shoulder rolls. Go out for a walk. This helps minimize mindless munching at your desk. To reduce eye strain, follow the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Keep well, everyone!

 

Serving food safely during COVID-19

Since COVID19 arrived, you already know about the importance of hand washing. This is a great first step in handling food safely. Remember to use the WHO method to wash your hands every time before touching food or setting the table.

When it comes to serving food safely there are some additional simple steps you can take to help you keep germs at bay. For example, don’t let your fingers touch the surfaces of of dishes or utensils that come into contact with mouths or food. Here are some examples and tips to help you build your healthy habits and serve food safely during COVID-19 and beyond.

  1. Don’t put your thumb on top of a plate to hold it.
    Hold plates underneath with your thumb on the rim.
  2. Don’t touch the inside or lip of a cup.
    Use the cup handle instead
  3. Don’t let others touch the lid of your beverage container that comes in contact with your mouth!
    Ask the cup to be handed to you and place the lid on yourself.
    If others bring you a lidded cup consider removing it before you drink it.
    Pour canned or bottled beverages into a clean cup instead of bringing the can or bottle to your lips.
  4. Keep your hands off  the bowl of a spoon or prongs of a fork.
    Grip utensils by the handle and don’t let handles touch the food.
  5. Don’t share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils.
    Wash your dishes well in hot soapy water after each use.

Keep well and remember it is important to get information from credible, trustworthy sources during this time. Dietitians are regulated health professionals committed to providing evidence-based advice and information that is tailored to your personal needs and challenges. For the latest and most up-to-date information on COVID-19, visit Health Canada at www.canada.ca/coronavirus

That Study about Milk and Risk of Breast Cancer – 6 Questions to Ask Before Jumping to Conclusions

Glass of milk

Image: Pixabay

You may have seen the recent media headlines about a study looking at drinking milk and its impact on breast cancer risk. It’s easy to get caught up in the news. But with any nutrition research, it’s important to read it with a critical eye and ask yourself a few important questions before jumping to conclusions.

Question #1 – Did the study involve humans, animals or cells in the lab? Who were the participants and how many? How long was the study?

Human studies are always the most applicable. This study looked at almost 53,000 adult women across North America. The average age of the women was 57 years and they were all initially free of cancer. The study lasted almost 8 years.

Question #2 – What is the source of the study? Was it published in a reputable, peer-reviewed journal? Was it preliminary research that has yet to be published? 

This study was part of the large Adventist Health Study-2 and published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, which is a peer-reviewed journal. Researchers were from the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University in California.

Question #3 – How was the study designed?

The study design has a big impact on the type of conclusions that can be drawn. This study about milk and breast cancer was an “observational” study meaning that researchers observed participants’ diets, collected data and then came up with a summary of their observations 8 years later.

The problem with observational studies is that we can’t make strong conclusions about cause and effect – in other words, we can’t say with certainty that “A causes B.” We can really only say that “A may be linked to B.” This is a big limitation of observational studies. A better study design would be “experimental”. In an “experimental” study, researchers randomly ask the participants to either undergo treatment A (such as drinking milk) or not undergo treatment A (such as not drinking milk), compare the results, and then see if treatment A causes outcome B (such as an increased risk of breast cancer). Of course, ethics are highly considered ahead of time, and the study needs to include a good number of participants for a decent duration. The advantage with experimental studies is that conclusions can be made about cause and effect.

Also, this study left out some important factors that could have affected the results. For example, the women were only asked if they ever smoked and how long they’ve used alcohol. The researchers didn’t ask for the amounts of tobacco smoked or the amounts of alcohol consumed. In addition, only “vigorous physical activity” was considered, not moderate physical activity (which might be more realistic) or even total minutes of physical activity. Social determinants of health weren’t considered either – like income, education or employment – and we know that these can all affect one’s health and risk for chronic diseases.

Question #4 – How was the nutrition information collected?

This study used self-reported food frequency questionnaires and 24-hour food recalls. In other words, participants told researchers how often they ate certain foods as well as what foods / beverages they consumed in the last 24 hours. There are a few problems with this type of data. First of all, this information was only collected ONCE, and at the beginning of the 8 year-long study. One has to ask if the participants ate exactly the same way years later? (Think about your own diet – has it changed over the last 8 years?) Secondly, self-reported data isn’t entirely accurate since it’s easy to under-estimate or over-estimate the amounts of food eaten. (Can you remember what and how much you ate yesterday or the day before?) And finally, a 24-hour food recall may have been taken on an “off” day, such as a weekend – which may not be an accurate picture of your true dietary intake.

Question #5 – How were the results interpreted?

This question is a bit tricky but crucial to the overall interpretation of the research. The researchers found that as milk intake increased, so did the risk of breast cancer. One news story stated that “women who drink as little as one cup of dairy milk per day could increase their risk of developing breast cancer by up to 50 per cent.” While this sounds alarming, we need to look at the statistics a bit closer.

At the end of the study, 1,057 women out of the 53,000 women developed breast cancer – this is a risk of 2% or 2 cases per 100 women. When women drank 1 cup of milk, their chances of developing breast cancer increased to 3% or 3 cases per 100 women. The difference is 1% and this is called the “absolute risk”. Since the risk of breast cancer went up from 2% to 3%, the overall increase is indeed 50% and this is called the “relative risk”. So while 50% sounds like a big number, the more important and more relevant number for YOU is the absolute risk which is only 1%.

Question #6 – What are other credible authorities saying about this topic?

Dietary guidelines are shaped by evidence-based studies, not just a single study. Always check to see what other credible, professional authorities are saying about the topic. When it comes to preventing cancer, both the Canadian Cancer Society  as well as the American Institute of Cancer Research recommend eating whole grains, vegetables, fruit, beans and lentils as a major part of your everyday diet. Sounds like great advice to us!

As always, feel free to reach out to us if you’d like our help in translating the science of nutrition into easy to understand, practical advice.

Written by: Sue Mah & Lucia Weiler, Co-Founders n4nn