Monday, August 27, 2012

Healthy Tips for Back to School

This morning I appeared on CTV Morning Live Saskatoon to discuss the dreaded 'Freshman 15'.  Surprising to some, most research doesn't show such a high weight increase in the first year of college/university.  On average, first year students gain 2.5-3.5 lbs, the problem is that it may continue throughout their studies and into their career (with females gaining 7-9 lbs and males 12-13 lbs over their college career).

Heading back to school is a great time to start thinking about building a new healthy habit.  University freshmen may not have great cooking skills, understand portion sizes, or realize the importance of healthy and nutritious foods.

Some of the challenges these students face include:
  • no longer having access to home cooked meals
  • increased freedom and independence over their food choices
  • consumption of liquid calories (alcohol, specialty coffees, pop, etc.) 
  • food available at every turn (cafes, restaurants, fast food, convenience stores, vending machines)
  • high stress levels (and potentially anxiety and homesickness) which can lead to emotional eating
  • decreased sleep (which can increase appetite and allow you more hours to eat)
  • decreased physical activity
  • a lack of cooking or food preparation skills
  • eating out more often (less control over what's in your food)
  • trying to eat on a tight budget
  • munching while late night studying or socializing
  • skipping meals (and overindulging later)
A great way to get started is to plan out a week of meals and snacks and get the appropriate groceries.  Shopping off a list helps you stay within a budget and make sure healthy options are available when hunger strikes.  It's also a good idea to pack snacks and/or lunch in your bag so you can eat between classes rather than end up always buying food or stopping at the vending machine.  If you are eating out, find ways to include vegetables - load up your pizza, pita, or sub, or hit the salad bar.  Don't attack a buffet unprepared - check out the options and then choose accordingly.  Once you know what's available on campus it's a good idea to have a plan in order to avoid temptation (ie. I'll get a made to order fajita, not a burger and fries).

When cooking for yourself it's great to have creative ways to use leftovers so that you don't feel like you're always eating the same thing.  This is also budget friendly and saves time.
  • rice - eat it hot, have it in a wrap, have it in a salad, or add it to soup
  • pasta - have it hot, have it in a salad
  • veggies - have them hot, have them with eggs as a frittata, have them in a salad or wrap 
Protein can be expensive, but you can include nut butters, canned fish, and/or beans for budget friendly options.

Still looking for a study snack?  Air-popped or microwave popcorn is a great way to get crunch.  A cup of popcorn is only about 30 Calories (vs 160 for potato chips).  Plus popcorn contains fibre, is a whole grain, and contains antioxidants (including some polyphenols not found in other vegetables and fruit).  Don't have an air popper?  Place 3-4 Tbsp of kernels in a brown paper bag, fold twice to seal and microwave for 1.5-2 minutes (depending on your microwave) until the popping slows.  Loads of butter and salt can negate the health benefits, so have fun with different herbs, spices, and seasonings (garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, cocoa powder, cinnamon, etc.) .  Plus remember to take a mental break from studying by being active and getting sleep.

Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bowl of Flavours

My husband insisted that I share the Tom Yum Gai soup recipe that I use.  I first made it for a Thai night and will be making it to share with friends this weekend.  I think it really delivers on tasting sweet, salty, spicy, and sour.  It was a great experience for me as it was my first time cooking with kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass.

If you haven't cooked with some of these ingredients I have provided pictures to help you identify them in your local grocery store or market as well as an informative video on cooking with lemon grass.  I followed the lemongrass for soup demonstration from the video and removed the lemongrass and kafir lime leaves before serving.

Kaffir Lime Leaves
Shiitake Mushrooms

Prep Time: 18 minutes 

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: MAKES 3-4 Servings


  • 6 cups good-quality (strong) chicken stock
  • 1-2 boneless chicken breasts or 3-4 thighs, sliced, OR 1-2 cups roasted chicken or turkey
  • 1 fresh lemongrass stalk, OR 2 Tbsp. frozen/bottled prepared lemongrass
  • 4 kaffir limes leaves (fresh, frozen, or dried) OR substitute 1 tsp. lime zest
  • 6-8 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1 thumb-size piece galangal or ginger, grated
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 fresh red or green chilies, finely sliced, OR substitute 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. dried crushed chili (chili flakes)
  • 1 tomato, chopped into wedges or chunks
  • optional: 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 to 1 can good-quality (thick) coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. sugar, to taste
  • 3 spring (green) onions, sliced
  • handful fresh coriander and/or basil


  1. Place chicken stock in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. If you have leftover chicken or turkey bones, add those too.
  2. Add the lemongrass and bring to a boil. If using fresh lemongrass, slice and mince only the lower half of the stalk, then slice upper half into 3-4 inch segments and add to the soup pot.
  3. Add fresh chicken (or leftover chicken or turkey), kaffir lime leaves/lime zest, galangal or ginger, garlic, chili, plus mushrooms and celery. Bring soup back up to boiling then reduce to medium heat, simmering 6-8 minutes, or until chicken is cooked.
  4. Add tomatoes and bell pepper (if using) and simmer 2 more minutes.
  5. Reduce heat to low and add coconut milk, fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice and sugar. Simmer gently 1-2 minutes while you taste-test the soup. Tip: Look for a balance between spicy, sour, salty, and sweet flavors. Start with salty, adding more fish sauce if not salty or flavorful enough. If too salty or sweet, add more lime juice. If too sour, add more sugar. If too spicy, or if you'd like it creamier, add more coconut milk. If not spicy enough, add more chili.
  6. Ladle soup into serving bowls. Sprinkle over a little fresh coriander or basil, plus spring onions. 
I hope you enjoy it!

Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Back to Brown Bagging it?

Starting to think about going back to school?  You need supplies, but you also need to feed yourself to have the energy to learn and be active after class.  Whether you are going back to school, university, or sending your kids, the pantry should get some school supplies too.

I'll be on Saskatoon's CTV Morning Live Monday August 27 around 8:37am to discuss healthy choices and avoiding the "freshman 15".  Since it's Q's Day, today I want to know:

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to packing your lunch?

Have a great afternoon,
Steph Langdon (Wheler), RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Feasting at Folkfest

Saskatoon's annual Folkfest event starts tomorrow and goes until Saturday night (August 16-18).  I have enjoyed attending the different pavilions over the years to experience different cultures and sample their delicious/traditional cuisines. I also find it's a great time with friends and you're sure to run into someone that you know.

As someone who truly enjoys traveling (and food) I am always intrigued by different cultures and I love to learn about their different dishes, spices, etc.  If you're trying to stay on track and keep good nutrition in mind I have a few tips for you to consider. 

  • First of all I recommend checking out the Folkfest website as some of the pavillions provide a brief list of the food(s) available.  This can help you plan your route if there is a particular food that you want to track down.  It is also beneficial to help create your plan - How many foods will you try?  What will you pass on so that you can have what you really want at the next location?  When will you go?
  • Decide how many options/foods you will allow yourself for the night - create a budget and stick to it.
  • It's important to still eat in a varied and balanced way before you arrive.  This will help you meet some of your nutritional requirements and ensure that you don't show up over-hungry.  Don't skip meals to save those calories for an over-indulgence later that night.  Chance are that you will be so hungry that you'll end up consuming way more than you planned.  This is why it's important to figure out when you want to go.
  • Aim to arrive hydrated and continue to enjoy water throughout your Folkfest experience.  It will quench your thirst for zero calories.
  • Enjoy some foods that may be new to you, but don't forget that can also include whole grains and vegetables or fruit.  
  • Try to limit fried foods and go light on sauces. 
  • Share - often the first bite or two tastes the best, so share with a friend so that you're able to enjoy more variety later.
  • Enjoy yourself (don't stuff yourself) and get back to your routine the next day/meal.
Have a great time!

Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Memory Lane

Quite often we get too busy with work and other commitments that we forget to have fun.  Think about the simple pleasures in life (a sunset, a walk on the beach, good company, a bike ride) and what you used to enjoy doing - or perhaps you're still finding that fun in your adult life!

I grew up near the Forestry Farm and so we would go for picnics, play in the park, or walk around checking out the animals.  I also remember field trips to Wanuskewin Heritage Park and Beaver Creek Conservation Area with my classmates.  We have such great parks and river trails in Saskatoon, but we sometimes forget to use them.  We almost need to think of ourselves as a tourist in our own city to remember all the great sites and activities.

We went for a walk/hike at Beaver Creek last weekend with a couple of friends and it inspired today's Q's Day:

What was your favourite childhood activity?

We used to think of things as activities rather than exercise - even just the term affects the level of fun.  Why aren't you still doing that activity?   

Share your activities, comments, questions, answers, etc.
I'd love to hear from you,

Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Summer Splurges

Saskatoon's summer festivals continue.  My husband and I roamed around the Saskatoon Fringe Festival yesterday afternoon.  It was great to see people outside (walking, biking) enjoying the great weather and getting a bit of exercise.  I honestly haven't ever been to one of the shows, but have fun watching the buskers and checking out the booths.  The fringe runs until Saturday (the 11th). 

The Saskatoon Ex starts today for all the ride lovers!  It runs until Sunday (the 12th).  I didn't grow up going to the Ex and have probably only been 3 or 4 times in my life, so it's not really an event I feel I'm missing out on.  I know many people also go for the shows, musicians, and food. 

The food of course is what gets my attention.  Think elephant ears, spudnuts, cotton candy, sausage on a bun, or whatever nostalgic foods remind you of your childhood.  This is where we can get caught eating for psychological reasons, not physical hunger.  As I'm sure you're aware, these foods tend to be high in fat, sugar, salt, or all three (and low or lacking in nutritional value). 

In the same way that I advise having a plan before heading to a Christmas party, it's also a good idea to have a plan before heading into an area full of potentially tempting foods.  I was actually amazed at how many food vendors were out at the fringe!  If this is your one time a year to have an elephant ear, then have it, enjoy it, savour it, and get back to your healthy eating pattern.  Don't deprive yourself, but don't eat half a dozen either!  Decide what you will allow yourself (ie. I'll have 2 items) and stick to that plan.  Make sure you eat before you go so that you're not starving (and more likely to make a less healthy choice), and include vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and low fat protein in your other meals to help reach your daily requirements.

Health Castle has a great post on carnival foods with the take-aways being:
  • Don't show up hungry
  • Split an order with someone else
  • Find a comfortable spot to sit down and enjoy these treats
  • Open your eyes to other food possibilities beyond the "traditional" carnival far
  • Finally, put it all in context. Indulging in some treats during one visit to the fair probably won't do much harm, but if you are spending a week at an amusement park, "sprinkle out" the treats throughout the visit instead of gobbling them up for every meal. 
So since it's Q's Day, I would like to know:

What is your summer food splurge?

Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Love the Long Weekend

Many people look forward to weekends in the summer to escape to the lake/cottage.  When the weather has been so beautiful and hot it's not hard to see why they want to be near a body of water to cool off.  Then, every once in awhile we get the pleasure of a long weekend - an extra day of R & R (although I know I'm not good at resting and relaxing; likely reading and running errands for me!). 

With hopes for a sunny weekend, I'm sure that people are looking forward to eating outside and using the barbeque.  We recently tried kabobs that my mom likes to make.  They are very delicious and a great way to make sure vegetables show up at your barbeque!  She uses a recipe (see below) from AllRecipes and adapts it based on what she has or can find. 

Happy August Long!
Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching

Mushroom Kabobs

Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Ready In: 40 Minutes
Servings: 4
3/4 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Preheat grill for medium heat.
2. Thread mushrooms and peppers alternately on skewers.
3. In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and salt and pepper. Brush mushrooms and peppers with this flavored oil.
4. Brush grate with oil, and place kabobs on the grill. Baste frequently with oil mixture. Cook for about 4 to 6 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender and thoroughly cooked.     

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Beautiful Bodies

I was recently shown photos of different athletes from a variety of sports (above).  The photo shoot was done by Howard Schatz and can serve as a reminder that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes.  A number on the scale does not determine how healthy you are and it should not determine whether you're going to have a good or bad day.  We are all unique and our bodies have different strengths and capabilities.  Focus on being fit, moving your body, providing yourself with nourishing food, and being at peace with yourself. 

Since we're in the midst of the 2012 Olympics I thought this would be a great photo to share.  As you watch the athletes I'm sure you have noticed different shapes and sizes in different sports, and even in the same event.  Think of the volleyball libero versus the middle blocker for example.   

I know we're suffering with a high rate of overweight and obesity, but we've also set ourselves up to have unrealistic expectations.  People don't go to bed skinny and wake up fat, but they're also not all going to be airbrushed and appear on the cover of Vogue.  I feel that I resemble an athlete (because I was/am one) more than a model, but that gives me strength and energy to enjoy my life.

Celebrate your body and what it can do for you - celebrate by taking it for a walk or a bike ride (I do love non-food rewards!).

Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching