Friday, August 30, 2013

Labor-less Long Weekend

It's the last long weekend of summer, so I'm going to focus on enjoying it (and I will not talk about winter - after 30 years, I know it's coming!).  Long weekends can mean sports camps, road trips, family gatherings, taking in local events, etc.  I will make the most of mine by attending our fireworks festival, attending my grandparent's 60'th wedding anniversary celebration (I wonder what the world will be like in 2072 for mine?), hanging with my family at the cabin, kayaking, playing frisbee, and of course - enjoying some great food!  There's always food at family gatherings!

Some of you may be making last minute preparations to send the kids back to school, so a little meal planning or big batch cooking this weekend will come in handy.  Your children might not be ready for the morning rush to get dressed, fed, and off to class; but we know how important it is for them to start the day off right!

With the long weekend and back to school on our minds, I thought I'd post about breakfast today.  I am truly a breakfast lover - I thoroughly enjoyed the odd 'pancakes for supper' when I was young.  Today, my husband would tell you that I love pancakes, crepes, eggs, fruit salad, etc.  A go-to pancake recipe I use is from Dietitians of Canada Cook!  To me it has a fall flavour because of the pumpkin, cinnamon, allspice and ginger - yum!

Pumpkin Pancakes

Serving size = 2 pancakes
  • Preheat overn to 200°F (100°C)
  • Makes eighteen 3- to 4-inch (7.5 to 10 cm) pancakes

1 cup
(250 mL)
all-purpose flour
1 cup
(250 mL)
whole wheat flour
3 tbsp
(45 mL)
lightly packed brown sugar
2 tsp
(10 mL)
baking powder
1 tsp
(5 mL)
baking soda
1 tsp
(5 mL)
ground allspice
1 tsp
(5 mL)
ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp
(2 mL)
ground ginger
1/4 tsp
(1 mL)

1 1/2 cups
(375 mL)
1% milk
1 cup
(250 mL)
pumpkin purée (see tip, at right)
2 tbsp
(30 mL)
canola oil
1 tbsp
(15 mL)
white vinegar

Vegetable cooking spray

  1. In a large bowl, combine all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and salt.
  2. In another large bowl, whisk together egg, milk, pumpkin purée, oil and vinegar. Add to flour mixture and stir to combine.
  3. Heat a griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray lightly with cooking spray. For each pancake, pour 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) batter onto griddle and cook for about 2 minutes or until bubbly around the edges. Flip and cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a plate and keep warm in preheated oven. Repeat with the remaining batter, spraying griddle and adjusting heat between batches as needed.
Pancakes are a usual occurrence at our cabin and since it's the long weekend, you may be doing a larger breakfast or brunch.  Aim to include a variety of fruits (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, apples, bananas) with the meal - or add them into your batter.  Some people like to switch up their flours, add ground flaxseed/wheat germ/oats, etc. Also try to include a healthy protein to keep you satisfied longer and prevent you from having a pile of hot cakes and syrup on your plate.  Try a glass of milk, greek yogurt, scrambled/poached/boiled egg, peanut butter, cottage cheese, etc.

Knowing that it will be a busy week ahead, you can plan to make extra pancakes to refrigerate or freeze.  They are great quickly toasted in the morning.  The trick is to set them aside so you don't end up eating them all for breakfast/brunch this weekend!

I also recently tried overnight chia breakfast oats from Dietitian Debbie - a fellow Recipe Redux contributor, and they're a great quick breakfast as well - we served ours with blueberries and greek yogurt.  Another new find I wanted to share is a Red Lentil Waffle recipe from Canadian Lentils that I am looking forward to trying.

What do you add to your pancakes/waffles/brunch to make them/it healthier?

Enjoy your weekend!
Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


The sugar and sweetener debate has been going on for a long time.  With Coca Cola defending aspartame in its new ad campaign, people are once again questioning the safety of such ingredients.

I agree with dietitian Andy Bellatti (quoted below by cbc) that junk food (or highly processed food) made with natural sugar or artificial sweeteners is still junk food. 
"Even if (aspartame is) 100 per cent safe to use, it's still problematic from a nutrition standpoint," said Andy Bellatti, a registered dietitian based in Las Vegas who is critical of the food industry's marketing practices.  Bellatti noted that foods and drinks aren't good for people just because they don't have any calories or have been shown to be safe. He added that ingredients such as aspartame only keep people hooked on sweets over more wholesome choices (cbc).
It may be the other choices that people make along with their diet soda (sedentary lifestyle, high calorie foods with high levels of trans fat and/or saturated fat, and a lack of vitamins and minerals), the sugar craving that is just not satisfied with an artificial (or non-nutritive) sweetener or an over-consumption of an item which they have deemed 'healthy' because of the lack (or low) calorie level.  There are many factors to consider.

Health Canada must approve all the artificial sweeteners that are sold in Canada. A sweetener has to undergo extensive research to show its safety and effectiveness before Health Canada will approve it for use. Once a sweetener is approved, Health Canada sets strict guidelines for how it can be used, as well as advice on Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) levels.  Keep in mind that just because it is considered safe, doesn't mean that it's healthy.

Many people are consuming more sugar and/or sweeteners/substitutes than they may realize.  The American Heart Association recommends that women keep added sugar to less than 6 tsp per day and men to less than 9 tsp per day.  Whatever sugar or substitute you are choosing, moderation is key.  A natural, organic, raw sugar or syrup is still contributing calories with little or no nutritional value (all sugars have similar calories).  The Mayo Clinic is also in agreement with the idea of moderation:
When choosing sugar substitutes, it pays to be a savvy consumer. Get informed and look beyond the hype. While artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes may help with weight management, they aren't a magic bullet and should be used only in moderation. Just because a food is marketed as sugar-free doesn't mean it's free of calories. If you eat too many sugar-free foods, you can still gain weight if they have other ingredients that contain calories. And remember that processed foods, which often contain sugar substitutes, generally don't offer the same health benefits as do whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
Sugar naturally occurs in fruit, vegetables, and milk products.  Choose those wholesome foods to also get the benefit of antioxidants, fibre, vitamins, and minerals, rather than replacing them with artificially sweetened or naturally sweetened items.  Be a smart shopper and familiarize yourself with the ingredient list.  Sugars and sweeteners may appear as: honey, maple syrup, white sugar, brown sugar, icing sugar, molasses, corn syrup, brown rice syrup, sucralose, splenda, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sugar alcohols (xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, malitol), cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, and various "-ose" sugars (dextrose, sucrose, lactose, fructose, maltose, glucose).

You can find science based pros and cons (an un-researched proclamations), but you need to decide what's right for you.  Artificial sweeteners may help people with diabetes to manage their blood sugar levels or may be sweet enough that you find you're using less.  Sugar alcohols don't contribute to tooth decay and cavities and you may feel 'healthier' switching from sugar to agave, but your best bet is to kick the pop/sweet habit in the first place and start enjoying more nutritious options.  In my perfect world we would have less sugar added to our food so that we could re-train our preferences and remember/enjoy the real taste of food.

Here's to eating food!
Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In a Jam? {Recipe ReDux}

You may have noticed a food trend using Mason jars to display delicious creations.  At my foodie group last month we enjoyed a fabulous dessert which was displayed perfectly in a small Mason jar.  This month, for my rookie appearance in the Recipe ReDux, the theme is "Raising the Bar on Food in a Jar". 

As the first and only recipe challenge founded by registered dietitians,The Recipe ReDux is focused on taking delicious dishes, keeping them delicious, but making them better for you.   Dietitians taking part each month will share their recipes on the 21st of the month, so be sure to check back often for ideas on making both healthy and delicious food!

Knowing that many of my clients want quick and easy meals, I tried to create a salad that can use leftovers and/or planned extras.  You can rinse the chickpeas ahead of time, grill extra peppers the night before, chop your parsley/tomatoes/red onion on the weekend, and cook couscous in a little over 5 minutes Grilling the peppers brings out their flavour and adds a touch of sweetness which balances out the onion and fresh parsley flavours.  The lime dressing keeps the salad light and refreshing.

Mason Salad
Makes 4 servings

4 Mason jars
2 bell peppers, cored, seeded, halved
1/3 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 can (540ml, 19 fl oz) of chickpeas, rinsed
1 cup cherry tomatoes, rinsed, halved
1 cup cooked whole wheat couscous, chilled
2 cups of leafy greens (I used baby romaine)
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

1 lime, juiced (reserve fluid for dressing); about 3-4 Tbsp
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place the peppers soft side down on grill for about 6-8 minutes, turn and continue cooking 3-4 minutes until desired tenderness and grill marks.  Let cool and slice peppers into 1/8-1/4 inch pieces.
2. Rinse, chop, and chill ingredients as above.
3. Start layering in with 1/4 of ingredients in each jar.  Chickpeas, tomatoes, parsley, onions, couscous, peppers, and top with leafy greens.
4. Combine lime juice, olive oil, and salt & pepper. Drizzle dressing on top before serving.

Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching

Monday, August 19, 2013

A World of Flavours

One reason I love traveling is because you get to experience different cultures and their foods.  There may be similar ingredients, but perhaps they are used in different ways.  When I talk about mindful eating, that involves enjoying the many flavours of your food.  Whether you're cooking the food yourself or lucky enough to just get to eat it (I love cooking, don't get me wrong!), it's important to stop and savour the tastes - the sweetness of cinnamon, the 'meatiness' of cumin, the memories I have that I associate with mint.  We will all have preferences and familiar flavours, but I do enjoy cooking with different ingredients and spices and seeing/experiencing how other people flavour their food.

The smells are also very important when we think of taste and flavour.  My mom used to say to start sauteing onions and garlic to at least give the impression that the meal is on the way (even if you still have lots of prepping, you'll also have drooling guests).  I think I still need to work on my detection of different spices, but that just means I can continue to slow down and discuss my food with others and pick out the different flavours.  At my wedding shower, we played a 'guess the spice' game, which was a perfect game for a foodie bride, but the blends got me and I definitely wasn't the winner!

Many cities celebrate culture with a type of folk festival.  We just had ours in Saskatoon and I sampled great food and spent time with family and friends.  As we were leaving, my husband and I noticed some informational signs in the Caribbean pavilion, so I made sure to capture them to share with you.

They give some background on flavours used in Caribbean food and connections to Indian food (curry).  This reminded me of our cooking class in Thailand and how we noticed just a slight change in the ingredients meant a huge difference in the curry paste.

If you're like many people, you might have a cupboard full of spices, but you have your favourites (or the ones that you're comfortable using) and then you have ones that were in a rare recipe or that you don't know what to do with.  Spices can be a great ingredient to share with others since they may come in much larger portions than you need.  You can also start looking for new ways to spice up or flavour your meals.  Herbs and spices can be a great way to reduce salt, fat, and sugar in our diets, but still leave us feeling satisfied.

Dietitians of Canada has created a chart with suggested flavour enhancers to inspire your cooking efforts.  And if you're not sure what to do with that marjoram or cardamom, EatRight Ontario has brief descriptions and recipes for a variety of herbs and spices.  This may give you ideas for fresh herbs from your garden or local farmer's market as well.  There are also lots of infographics out there to help you create spice blends or determine which spices go best with which ingredients.

Here's to delicious food!
Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching

Thursday, August 15, 2013

4 Ways to Chill Out

We are experiencing a few hot days of summer and for many people that means no motivation to cook.  Who wants to heat up the house by turning on the oven anyway?  The heat can also affect your appetite and means that you need to stay hydrated.  Try to hydrate with water or dilute your 100% juice with soda water so that you're not staying cool with a lot of extra sugar.

When it's hot you may seek coolness in the basement, air conditioned house, movie theatre, mall, or swimming pool.  Being out and about may mean grabbing food away from home, and it can be very tempting to go out to eat when you're too hot to cook.  You can make some wise choices eating out, but you can also chill out at home with a little planning and preparation.

1) Use proteins that don't need to be heated.
2)  Make extra when it's not as hot (in the morning or evening)
  • leftover quinoa, rice, couscous, bulgar, or pasta for a salad tonight or tomorrow
  • leftover chicken or beef for a barbequed quesadilla or soft taco
  • hard boiled eggs for salads or sandwiches
3) Cook outside (to avoid the heat indoors)
  • enjoy the sun while you grill vegetables
  • do potatoes or corn on the barbeque for a quick starch
  • create skewers with a variety of vegetables and proteins
  • grill fruit for dessert
 4) Spice things up
  • many of the hottest countries have the spiciest food (think Thai curry, Jamaican jerk, etc.) - the spice gets you sweating which in turn helps your body to cool down
You can also stay hydrated and cool off with juice watermelon, cucumber slices, and frozen grapes.  Many people enjoy gazpacho (cold soup) with different fruits and vegetables as well.  Dietitians of Canada has a refreshing fruit gazpacho dessert you can try or use for inspiration.

What are you consuming when it's hot out?

We enjoyed leftover vegetable and bean salad with quinoa the other night for a light, quick, and cold supper.  I also tend to go towards black beans, avocado, onions, corn, tomatoes, etc. for a quick salad.

Enjoy the summer!
Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Think About It (5 guidelines for mindful eating)

Since I am currently very interested in mindfullness and mindful eating, I decided to focus on challenging my own mind.  I came across a 21 day meditation challenge on facebook, so I decided to partake.  It is hosted by none other than Oprah and Deepak Chopra.  Today is day 4, and since one of my Day Zero goals was to meditate every day for a month, I will aim to continue past the 21 days to Sept. 5.

I definitely have wandering thoughts and am still struggling with deep focus for a mere 15 minutes, but I hope I will see a significant change after the month and perhaps even have a new habit to carry on with in my wellness journey (that's my life).  I've also been attending a local Yin class with 2 friends in an attempt to focus (and increase my flexibility).  I have a pile of books on mindfulness and a few courses I hope to take in the future.

Being present and content is a challenge for me - I'm an achiever, so I'm always looking for the next thing on my to do list.  Enjoying food also means being in the moment and enjoying the tastes, smells, textures, ambiance, and company you're with.  We have created a fast food culture where family meals are not common, meals occur in vehicles or in front of televisions instead of at the table, and we want it now!

Dietitian Lindsey Mazur recommends taking a deep breath before eating and asking yourself questions to help stay in the moment: Do I really like what I'm eating? Will what I'm eating nourish me? Am I eating it out of habit or because I'm truly hungry? Am I able to stop eating when I feel satisfied rather than stuffed?

5 guidelines to help create mindfullness:
Lava cake from Simon's Fine Foods class - dessert to savour
  1. Ask questions - such as those listed above, or where the food came from (farmer's market, Asian recipe, etc.), or what's in the meal (if you didn't make it)
  2. Avoid distractions - turn off electronic devices and have a conversation!
  3. Look at each item - take time to consider the presentation of your meals, set the table, make it an enjoyable experience and fill the plate with a variety of colours and textures of food. 
  4. Savour each bite - see what ingredients you can detect and slow down (this is where you need to be right now).
  5. Keep practicing - you might be falling back to old habits, so just re-set and start enjoying each bite again (remember that change takes time - and can be hard!)
Mindful eating can help create a positive relationship with food (rather than a cycle of diets, restrictions, and binges).  It also falls into the area of wellness with a focus on healthy eating and enjoying what you're eating rather than worrying about what the scale tells you.  Focus on your health, making food a priority, and nourishing your body (which does mean the occasional treat, but choose it and savour it mindfully!).  Many dietitians talk about an 80:20 or 90:10 rule, and most dietitians really love food.  I strive for BALANCE, VARIETY, and MODERATION which means all foods can fit on my plate!

Yours in food,
Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

That's a Wrap

I often ask about barriers to healthy eating and hear about a lack of time, being unsure of what to make, picky family members, etc.   Wraps can be a great way to get a quick and balanced meal (depending on the ingredients your choose).  Adding a glass of milk and/or piece of fruit for dessert can complete the meal as well. 

They also work as a meal on the go and when you set out ingredients, everyone can take part in the prep.  Coincidentally, for our theme this month, my foodie group is doing 'all things rolled'.  Wraps can help you use up random ingredients and encourage your to make more (protein, grain, veggies) at one meal and enjoy them in a different form (wrapped) at another meal so that you don't feel like you're always eating the same foods or the same leftovers.

I have previously posted a few wrapped meals that include Taco Salad Wrap (which I make often and have made in cooking demos) and Enchilladas (which I've only made once so far) - these were both bean based, but you can of course create your own variety (that's the joy of wraps).

Get creative with your ingredients (and seasonings)

  • rice paper
  • tortillas
  • pitas
  • rice, quinoa, etc. (a great way to use leftovers and/or make planned extras)
  • egg(s)
  • tuna, salmon, other leftover fish
  • chicken, steak, etc. (can be leftovers)
  • black beans, chickpeas, etc.
  • hummus
  • shredded low fat cheese
  • tomato
  • avocado
  • onion, red onion, green onion
  • grapes
  • celery
  • shredded carrots
  • leafy greens (spinach, romaine, arugula...) - can be the 'wrap' too
  • shredded cabbage 
  • apple
  • corn
  • cucumber
  • bell peppers
  • leftover grilled or roasted vegetables
My husband enjoys bringing ingredients to the lake for a quick lettuce wrap (great on hot summer days when you don't feel like cooking), so don't feel you always have to wrap with a grain.  I have athletes that like to grab a quick peanut butter and banana tortilla for an on the go meal/snack.  My go to would likely be a quick egg wrap (with spinach, vegetables that are available, a little cheese, and salsa) or we do Mexican themed wraps often as well.

If you're tired of salads, not sure what to do with your leftovers, or wanting to add some variety, why not try a wrap this week and see what you can create.

What do you wrap and roll?

Steph Langdon, RD
something nutrishus counselling & coaching