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 […]
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
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 […]
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 people who have a true cow’s milk protein allergy so they need to avoid all forms of dairy. Add to this the amount of people who are choosing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle and we have a huge population now that is avoiding dairy. While there are many new dairy free products on the shelves; almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, and yogurts and ice creams made out of the same products, there seems to be few people who avail of them. Enter the problem. People are removing a whole food group from their diet without replacing it with something and this particular food contains most of the calcium in our diets.
Now, I’m not saying that people need to consume dairy to be healthy or get the amount of calcium they need but I want to talk about why calcium is so important and the other ways we can get it into our diet.
Calcium is the most abundant nutrient in our bodies and has many important roles including:
- Maintaining bone mass
- Vascular contraction
- Muscle functions
- Nerve transmission
- Intracellular signaling
- Hormonal secretion
So all in all, calcium is a super important nutrient. It becomes much more important when we realize that about ninety-eight percent of calcium is found in our bones while the rest is found in our blood. The calcium found in our blood, or serum, needs to be maintained with utmost precision because of the many roles above…so, when serum calcium is low…where does the extra calcium come from? Our bones! Calcium is sucked out of our bones so our serum calcium stays constant. So, you can see, if calcium intake is chronically low, our bones pay the price. This is why low calcium intake over time can lead to osteoporosis, progressive loss of bone mineral density, compromised bone strength and increased risk of fractures (for more information read these studies here or here).
Lactose is the natural sugar found in milk. When people have lactose intolerance, they are lacking enough of the enzyme lactase in their bodies to help them break down lactose. When lactose intolerance is present it comes along with its own horrible and uncomfortable set of symptoms when lactose is ingested.
Fortunately, for people who have lactose intolerance, there are a few over-the-counter enzymes they can take to help them digest lactose if taken before a meal. They can also find many lactose free products on the shelves including milk, yogurt, ice cream, cheese and butter. So their situation has become much easier to manage.
At risk populations
There are a few populations who are at risk for low intake of calcium and who will be impacted most by insufficient intake. Women, female adolescents and post-menopausal women are the most at risk. Due to hormone changes in women during menopause, extra calcium can get withdrawn from the bones. Adolescent girls are still growing and going through hormones changes themselves, so sufficient calcium intake in this population is extremely important, especially considering adolescence is when your bone structure is being formed for the future. Individuals with lactose intolerance or a cow’s milk protein allergy are the second at risk population. We have discussed lactose intolerance above, as long as this population is consuming the same amount of lactose free products they will receive their calcium intake. Lactose free products have the same amount of calcium present, they just have the lactose broken down in them already. Adolescents and elderly are also at risk because lactose tolerance decreases with age and adolescents are still forming their bone structure. Lastly, vegan and vegetarian individuals are at risk because these diets are associated with several factors that do not support bone health including, low body mass index (BMI), low intake of Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 and protein.
So how can we get the amount of calcium we need and what are some non-dairy examples of calcium???
Check out how much calcium you need for your age and then food sources of calcium. If you don’t think you can get enough in your diet naturally through food, talk to your Doctor or Pharmacist about the best supplement for your needs.
Hope this blog was an eye-opener. Calcium is super important…it’s literally the framework that keeps your body strong throughout your life. Take care of it!
Adrianna Smallwood, RD
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 […]
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 fruit is as dangerous to a Diabetic as crack. With information being released on how much sugar people should be consuming and how high intakes are throughout the world people are in sheer panic and tracking their sugar intakes to a tee. Well this information is in fact untrue! These days articles and information are sensationalized. It’s about grabbing attention and getting followers, it might not be, and often isn’t the case that these articles provide guidance or tips. Hence the current sugar crisis. People are throwing fruit out the window and crossing themselves when presented with fruit like it’s an unholy food sent to throw our blood sugars out of whack and kill Diabetics one banana at a time.
Natural sugars are found is a lot of products from potatoes to bread to milk to fruit! Milk you say?! Yes! I bet you have looked at your milk label since all of this sugar information came about and wondered what sugar is doing in milk. Well it isn’t added to white milk. That’s the natural milk sugar Lactose you see reflected in the nutrient label. When we look at food labels it’s really important to figure out what is an added sugar and what is a natural sugar (labels don’t differentiate). Health Canada and other regulatory bodies have recently provided recommended intakes for sugar consumption but this information is in relation to added sugars. Such as candy, juices, sports drinks, cookies, baked goods and other products that have sugar added during the production process that otherwise was not originally there. Potatoes, squash, grains, fruits and milk products do not fall under this category.
“But my Doctor told me to avoid fruit when I was diagnosed with Diabetes” ok, this is a valid point of view, but your Doctor is a primary health care provider and also a gateway to other health professionals. Nutrition is a specialty and most Doctors have little or no background in Nutrition. Recently Dr. Brian Goldman wrote an article titled “Don’t ask your doctor for advice on nutrition, unless…” He states “In a study of medical school graduates entering residency to become paediatricians, they were tested on an 18-point nutrition questionnaire. The average mark was just 52 per cent. Other studies have documented that on average, the knowledge doctors have about obesity and how to manage it is out of date.” In addition to that “A study published in the journal Academic Medicine found that in the 2008-2009 academic year, just 27 per cent of 105 medical schools met the minimum requirement of 25 hours of teaching on nutrition.” Dietitians are required to do a full course load for 4 years at 5 courses a semester which leads to hundreds of hours of nutrition education. They are also required to complete a 1 year internship before writing their exam to practice and Dr. Brian Goldman agrees that Dietitians are the nutrition experts “Registered dietitians are the ones I’d ask. They have the requisite knowledge and experience to do the job.” You can read the article here if you like.
Now, I think Doctors are great! I go to mine regularly and I trust him with my life. Most people spend their lives looking for a Doctor who is invested in their health. Mine will contact me personally if I go too long without an appointment. But he’s also the first person who said….give me your card to I can refer my patients to you. I think that is great. Being a health professional isn’t just about what you know but also referring to other people when you don’t know enough.
So getting to the nitty gritty of it all…this blog was initially about FRUIT consumption! Fruits do contain natural sugars that can impact your blood sugar, this much is true, however, it isn’t just about ONE thing that you’re eating. It’s all about timing and what other foods are being consumed with it and also about the other nutrients in the food. Unlike granola bars, chips and cookies, fruit is full of fibre and other important vitamins and minerals. Avoiding a whole food group because a personal trainer with no nutrition background or a well-intentioned doctor told you to isn’t enough. You need more information.
When a Diabetic client sits in front of me for the first time we do several things a.) discuss timing of foods b.) how many meals a day they’re having and finally c.) what things they eating at each meal and snack. It’s important to pair 2 or more food groups at each meal and snack. Carbohydrates should always be paired with a protein. Why? Because protein is low in carbohydrates and is digested slower. A carbohydrate consumed by itself is broken down very quickly. Consuming high fibre carbohydrates with a protein will slow down that process, keep your blood sugar stable and keep you full longer. Avoiding carbs is not the answer to the dilemma. It’s choosing which ones to eat and pairing them with another great food. So here are some examples of how to successfully pair a fruit with a protein source:
- Apple slices and 2 Tbsp peanut butter for dipping
- 1 cup chopped fruit and ¼ cup of nuts or seeds
- Berries and Greek yogurt
- ½ cup grapes and 1.5 oz low fat cheese
- 1 cup berries and ½ cup cottage cheese
- ½ banana, 2 Tbsp peanut butter and a rice cake
Sometimes when articles are written and new research is presented it’s important to consider the fact that researchers do research and educators use this research to develop tools and put together methods to help you. It’s important in today’s society, where anyone can post on the internet, to get the real facts from the real experts. Dietitians are nutrition experts and we work with people every day to meet their health needs from weight loss to renal failure to basic cooking skills, you will find us in Community Health, Hospitals, Private Practice, Culinary school, Universities and in the Government to mention a few. The one thing we all have in common no matter what area we practice in is, giving you the right knowledge and skills to be the healthiest version of yourself.
The take home message from this is, knowledge comes from more than one place. No surgery technique, medication prescription, or nutrition recommendation was ever decided because of one study or one magical ingredient or tool. The recommendations health professionals make were tried, tested and tested again. Seek out the real facts from the real experts.
Adrianna Smallwood, Registered Dietitian and Food and Nutrition Expert