This morning I prepared a cute little Christmas Tree plate for my son out of kiwi. Banana and strawberry. I absolutely love having fun with my food and shaping it into different things. Its so exciting to create healthy alternatives for the holidays. It’s also […]
Author: Adrianna Smallwood, RD
While I have been plugging away these past few years writing blogs about food I always wanted to delve into writing a lifestyle blog. It appears I didn’t feel like I had a lot to say until I had my own little guy! Having a […]
Its almost Christmas! The holiday season can be full of stress for some people. You worry about eating too many treats, drinking too much alcohol and perhaps an ever expanding waistline…fear not for I have some tips to sneak extra nutrients into your diet that will help you throughout the week so you can treat yourself to those amazing Christmas goodies on the weekend (or maybe a couple nights during the week).
Dietitians will tell you there is no such thing as super foods. And there isn’t. All foods have particular properties, nutrients, and flavors that when combined make a healthy diet. That’s why we advise against “fad diets” that eliminate entire food groups from your daily routine. A diet rich in all foods will be rich in all nutrients. Now that isn’t to say there are certain things we can add to our meals that can super charge us with more nutrients!
What are my favorite little add ons?
Ground Flax is high in Fibre! I would say that for most of my clients this is a big one. A lot of people don’t consume enough fibre. This nutrient is important because it acts in the body to manage IBS symptoms, decrease cholesterol levels and control blood sugar. It can even help you lose weight! I like to explain it this way. Fibre is like a sponge because our body can’t break it down. So, it travels through our bodies absorbing excess fat and other things as it goes along. Since fibre isn’t broken down it sticks around in our digestive systems a little longer. This is the part that is responsible for controlling blood sugar. Food is digested over a longer period of time so we feel full longer and our blood sugar remains stable longer. So to me…..fibre is the magic key and you can always use more.
TIP: increase your water consumption as you increase fibre because too much fibre can be constipating without anything helping it to move along.
Ground Flax is also high in Omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats are the heart healthy fats and quite simply…they can help prevent heart disease. Omega 3’s have also been found to help with symptoms related to muscle and joint pain. If seafood isn’t your favorite thing or if you are following a plant based diet with little or not animal product, then ground flax would be a great addition to your diet! Most people get enough of other kinds of fats but not always the important Omega 3’s, this becomes especially important if your bad cholesterol is high…Omega 3’s help boost your GOOD cholesterol.
So…what types of things can you add ground flax to?
- 1 Tbsp to yogurt, smoothies or oatmeal
- Sprinkle in pizza sauce before adding toppings
- Make your own coating for chicken fingers, fish sticks, etc using flour and flax
- In baking as a substitute for some flour
- Add into spaghetti sauce, chili or other thicker based soups and sauces
- In Vegan recipes as a “flax egg”
Just like ground flax, chia seed is high in both fibre and omega 3 fats. They also have the benefit of a few other nutrients like Magnesium, Manganese and Iron.
What types of things can you add Chia Seed to?
- 1 Tbsp to Yogurt, Smoothies or Oatmeal
- Chia Seed Pudding (recipe here)
- Salad topping
- Stir fry topping
- In Vegan recipes as a “chia egg”
*I find this one can’t be added to hot foods like ground flax so I generally keep it to the above
TIP: Once you open your bags of ground flax seed and chia seed, make sure you keep them in the fridge so the omega 3 fats don’t go rancid.
These little seeds are my favorite because they are a great source of protein for anyone following a plant-based or completely vegan diet. They contain all the amino acids which is why the are considered a complete protein. 2-3 Tbsp is equal to 11g of protein.
Hemp seeds also contain other nutrients like vitamin E and the minerals, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc.
What exactly can you add Hemp hearts to?
- 2-3 Tbsp to Oatmeal
- 2-3 Tbsp as a salad topping
- 2-3 Tbsp sprinkled in stir fry
- In baking as a substitute for some flour
I have just recently tested this interesting little add in myself! Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that is used as a topping and flavor enhancer in foods. What does it taste like….CHEESE! Nutritional yeast is high in the B Vitamins Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, B6, Folate and B12 and low low low in fat…hey…delicious cheesy flavor, no fat and lots of nutrients…gimme!
Nutritional yeast is a particularly great option for 2 populations…vegans and individuals with Celiac…why? Because B12 is only found in animal products and some of the other B vitamins are more widely available in animal products. In the case of celiac, at the beginning of diagnosis B vitamins can be low because of malabsorption and because a lot of gluten containing foods are fortified with B vitamins while their gluten free counterparts are not. Why am I concerned about B Vitamins?! Because these babies are your ENERGY nutrients. They help your body utilize the energy from food. If your B vitamins are low you might find yourself getting exhausted quite easily and even occasionally grabbing an afternoon nap. Your metabolism would also be affected in this case so weight loss will not be your friend.
So now that you know the details, where can you add this?
- Roasted potatoes, fries and veggies
- Kale chips
- Stir fry
- Make your own vegan cheese sauce (with cashews as the base)
I am sure there are lots of other little things you can add to your meals to give them a nutrient boost but these are my favorites. They’re also really easy to take in your lunch bag and add to your food as you go and I’m all about convenience. Give them a try, maybe you’ll even discover a new way to use them that I haven’t listed here!
Signing off, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Expert,
Adrianna Smallwood, RD
Nutrition Month is here and I love, love, love this year’s theme: Unlock The Potential Of Food. Food has limitless potential and carries so many different meanings to each and every person! This particular blog is all about the Potential of food to fuel our […]
The term Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is popping up all over the place these days. It is met with skepticism by some health professionals to total cult movements in some parenting groups. BLW is essentially a way of feeding your baby that completely by-passes the […]
February is Heart month and in light of this important topic I thought it would be a great time to talk about FAT! Over the past years there has been some new findings that have changed the way we look at fat in foods and it has left a lot of people scratching their heads and trying to read labels in total confusion. So what exactly are we looking for?
It turns out that it’s more complicated than simply cutting out certain kinds of fat and decreasing others. Let’s break it down and talk about the different kind of fats and the effect they can have on our bodies.
Trans fats can be found in some degree in animal products but are more widely dispersed and in great abundance in industrially produced foods. The main source of trans fats are partially hydrogenated oils. Their use was accepted for so long because they improved the length of time a food can stay on the shelf without spoiling. They can also improve the texture of foods, for example it is the ingredient responsible for holding the 2 layers of peanut butter together so that it isn’t separated like in natural nut butters. Other places you might find these partially hydrogenated oils include: hard margarines, vegetable shortenings and baked goods like cookies, cakes and muffins. So why are trans fats bad for us? They have what we call a double whammy effect on our cholesterol levels…they raise the bad cholesterol…which is bad, and decrease our good cholesterol which is also bad. We want our bad cholesterol to be low and our good cholesterol to be high!
Saturated fats are found naturally in mostly animal based foods like meat and dairy. Not all saturated fats have negative impacts on our health but most do so it is important to ensure that you are consuming lower quantities when possible. This type of fat has no impact on our good cholesterol but it does increase our bad cholesterol.
Monounsaturated fats are our healthy fats and are found in plant based foods. These fats can lower bad cholesterol but they can also lower good cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats are found in nuts, oils, avocado and peanut butter.
Omega-3 fats or polyunsaturated fats are also found in plant based foods like monounsaturated fats. These fats have many important functions in our bodies and can help lower our bad cholesterol and increase our good cholesterol. These are those fats we consider heart healthy and are found in fatty fish, oils, walnuts, flax seed and eggs.
OK…so now that we have that all straightened out…what do we do with this information??? Essentially we want to cut all trans fats out of our diet because they are bad, bad, bad. That is why you will find “tans fat free” on packaging these days! You want to limit saturated fats because they’re not totally bad but they’re not entirely good either and lastly, we want to try and increase our intake of mono and polyunsaturated fats.
Luckily I’m a Dietitian so I can tell you how to put this information into practice and which foods you should pick to make this work…but isn’t it nice to know why?!
Here are my TEN handy dandy tips on making your ticker healthier with each bite:
One Choose lean cuts of meat and lower fat (but not fat free) milk, cheese and yogurt. The reason I say lower fat but not fat free is because many products that are fat free tend to bump up the sugar content majorly and this can also be bad for your heart too.
Two Aim to eat 2 servings of fish weekly. Fish particuly high in Omega-3 fats include salmon, albacore tuna (fresh and canned), sardines, lake trout and mackerel. You might have salmon for supper one evening and save half to make a salmon salad sandwich the next day. It’s that easy!
Three Aim to eat 2 vegetarian meals each week. Plant based foods like beans, peas and lentils are high in protein but have little to no fat. Try making a big pot of vegetarian chili for supper and bring leftovers for lunch the next day….boom…your 2 vegetarian meals taken care of. Beans, peas and lentils are also high in fibre. Fibre has an added benefit of lowering your bad cholesterol as well. Double bonus.
Four Choose natural nut or seed butters like peanut or sunflower. They have to be mixed but they contain no hydrogenated fat. Try keeping the container in your cupboard upside down for a couple days before opening. This will give the 2 layers a chance to come together. Then you just have to give them a little stir and keep them in the fridge. They won’t separate after that.
Five Add ground flax and chia seeds to your yogurt, oatmeal or cereal. These are both high in omega-3 fats and high in fibre.
Six Snack on unsalted nuts and seeds. Keep your serving size at ¼ cup per day or less as calories can add up quickly.
Seven Try cooking with heat stable oils like canola oil. While Olive oil is healthy, it loses these health properties once heat is introduced as it isn’t heat stable. Use olive oil to make your own salad dressings instead.
Eight Try using plain Greek Yogurt instead of sour cream as the fat content is much lower and it still has the same great taste.
Nine Try your hand at baking. Home baked goods have half the amount of fat as store bought goods which tend to be high in hydrogenated fats. Try using olive oil in baking or switch out the oil and sub in apple sauce for an even lower fat end product.
Ten Use avocado as a base instead of mayo on sandwiches and wraps.
So there are your tips and tricks for not only lowering bad fats but increasing your goods ones. Give it a try! Remember that this is just one way of improving your heart health but it’s definitely a great starting point!
Dairy consumption seems to have decreased in the last little while. I find that in my private practice I always have clients who are avoiding it for one reason or another. Incidence of lactose intolerance seems to have increased and then there are those few […]
When your job is giving people nutrition advice for a living, you always think that when it comes to yourself, you will obviously be the PERFECT candidate. Usually…this assumption is correct…but when it came to my own pregnancy, it was much harder to follow my […]
Baby lead weaning (BLW) is a concept that is gaining a lot of attention in the media. While it isn’t an entirely new concept it has certainly become popularized in the past years! But what exactly is it? Are there standards? Do health professionals recommend this approach and most importantly, is it a healthy concept for growing babies?
With BLW, infants bypass the whole spoon feeding stage. Right from the onset of complimentary feeding, babies are encouraged to feed themselves with their hands, preferably from the same foods being offered at the family meal. BLW is an approach that puts great trust in a baby’s instincts to feed itself and know its own hunger and fullness cues as well as how fast to eat and how much to eat.
“Baby-led weaning is firmly rooted in the overall normal development of infants and because of the normal developmental readiness at this age [6 months] of the gut, oral motor functions and immune system to extend the diet beyond breast milk but also because it is at about six months that infants naturally begin to want, and become able, to investigate their environment using their hands and their mouths.”
This approach also focuses on social developments and the normal meal time behaviors of people. Babies are offered the same foods as parents at meal time and sit at the table observing their parents and family members eating the same foods, enjoying them and also using cutlery and other utensils appropriately. “If spoon feeding is used, the opportunity for the exercise of autonomy by the infant is significantly reduced. However responsive the carer, spoon feeding can never be entirely baby-led because the baby is not in charge of what goes on the spoon. He is able to decide whether or not to accept it – a yes/no decision – but is prevented from choosing between options. ” The overall view is about more than nutrition. It focuses on the entire eating process, motor functions, nutrition, and social development. The child learns to feed itself appropriately and learns to listen to its own hunger and fullness cues appropriately.
Getting down to the nitty gritty of it, it sounds fantastic! Babies develop on their own and learn feeding cues appropriately. Picky eating is rampant these days in so many children, this could be a solution? But clearly there must be speculation regarding this diet as it is not yet widely suggested by health care professionals. So what are the down sides? It is a concern, due to previous studies on families using the BLW weaning approach, in comparison to the traditional spoon feeding approach, that parents using the BLW approach expose their infants to an increased risk of choking and inadequate iron and energy intakes.
Why are there increased risks with the BLW approach? It lies with the food choices and also the way foods are being offered to infants. Fruits and vegetables are easy peasy. They are great finger foods and easy to work with so they tend to be the first foods that parents offer their children. However, there is a reason that formulas and cereals were fortified with iron. At 6 months your infant’s iron stores from birth are waning and it is super important that they start to get foods high in iron at this stage. Also, even though the spoon feeding approach is being skipped entirely, it does not mean that infants should be offered all textures immediately. It’s important to remember that little babies have few teeth so raw fruits and veggies and other harder to chew foods should be put on the back burner. Essentially babies should be offered foods that are appropriate to their age and developmental level. Lastly, it is a concern that since babies are feeding themselves that foods end up everywhere and not much gets in their mouths. We’ve all seen those pics of adorable babies wearing more of their foods than seems could have ever gone into their bodies but you can rest assured that studies have found that energy intake is not significantly different between babies following the traditional spoon feeding approach and those following the BLW approach.
Well, we have narrowed down the pitfalls of the BLW approach. How do we get around them? A great study was completed in New Zealand (where all the great BLW research is happening) that showed the difference once again between 2 approaches. This one compared BLW to a modified BLW group constructed by the researchers. The researchers were all Registered Dietitians or part of the Nutrition and Dietetics Departments and they involved a Paediatrician and Paediatric Speech-Language therapist in the development of their resources. Parents in the BLW group were provided with no intervention, they could offer whichever foods they liked and report these foods back. The parents in the modified group were given education and resources about high-iron, high-energy foods as well as potential choking hazards. The results? Parents in the modified BLW group were more likely to offer high-iron, low-risk choking hazard foods, and again this study found that energy intakes between the 2 groups was not significantly different.
This Dietitian’s opinion? As a new and coming mom, I was super invested in the research behind this approach and it is certainly something I will try with my infant. Mom’s following the BLW approach are more likely to exclusively breast feed until 6 months (which is the recommendation in Canada right now), they are more likely to have an infant who feeds themselves all their food (78%) at meal times and more likely to have children who sit at the table and contribute effectively and behave appropriately at meal times and most importantly…you save time! No prepping foods separately for baby, they eat what you eat!
Foods that are of appropriate texture and high in iron include:
Tofu; ground meat or poultry; small (pea sized) pieces of tender meat or poultry; fish (de-boned and flaked); quartered meatball; pieces of egg; small beans (black beans, navy beans) or larger beans cut in half (kidney beans)
Food for thought…this approach is gaining momentum but it needs further research. All studies concluded that trials need to be completed on larger populations and this approach needs to be standardized to insure babies receive adequate iron intakes, energy intake and foods which are low-risk for choking hazards. Some other things to keep in mind: Babies should be able to sit up themselves, hold their heads up, and have good neck control before solids are offered and babies should never be left along while eating.
Moral of the story. If you are seriously considering taking this approach, make sure you talk to a Registered Dietitian about which foods to introduce first and keep your Health Care Practitioner up to date on your baby’s progress. Here are the articles I used for this research here, here and here. It’s important to be informed about your choices and at the end of the day you want to take whatever approach is going to be exciting and stress-free for you and your baby
Adrianna Smallwood, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Expert
Usually my blogs start out with some piece of Nutrition Misinformation that has been totally misinterpreted and this latest blog is no different. Recently I have heard a lot in the media about carbohydrates and fruit in particular. Anywhere from fruit is pure sugar to […]