Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The UnDiet...begins January 1st!

It's that time of year again....sitting on our couches feeling lethargic with the top button undone on our pants, that we swear off all excess. Starting January 1st, we say "No more!" and spend the rest of our vacations searching book stores and the internet putting together our own personal torture plan for the New Year. 

We vow that overnight we will abandon our bacon and chocolate chip ways in favour of broiled chicken and broccoli or raw food smoothies. Magically, we will overcome our sloth and get to the gym daily. And for the first couple of weeks, our previous excess motivates us through the pain and the deprivation but one day, long after the last taste of creme brulee is forgotten, we wake up and decide....just one brunch of waffles won't hurt. And it won't matter if I miss my yoga class to go....starting to sound achingly familiar? Still really want to do this again?

Why not swear off diets for good? Vow to get healthy for life...and join me for an UnDiet. Each week, starting January 1st, I will offer one simple lifestyle change. Try it faithfully for the week and if you like it, keep doing it. If not, just move on to the next change. 52 weeks...52 changes. The idea is that eventually all the new healthy  habits you acquire will crowd out the less healthy ones. And by building change gradually, it will be easy. Even if you take on half of the suggested changes permanently you will be well on your way to a healthier, slimmer you by New Year's Eve 2011. 

See you on New Year's Day 2011...enjoy the rest of your holiday season!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Eat....Monster Cookies are my mother-in-law's Monster taken with their Canon camera...still hoping I get a new one in my stocking!
It's almost Christmas and inevitably, we will all be eating some holiday treats, including me. (Yes, Virginia, dietitians do eat holiday treats!) Unfortunately, my little one, E, appears not to tolerate wheat in his breast milk so I have been eating fewer treats than I would normally enjoy over the holiday season. In my desire to have something festive to nibble on I have been making a ridiculous amount of Rice Krispie treats, even crafting a salted caramel variety, which I promise to share in a future post. Not the most thrilling of treats but a worthy substitute when everyone else is noshing.

My mother-in-law is a serious holiday baker. We are talking mountains of baking: one Christmas I assisted her for 8 hours straight of baking. So when my mother-in-law mentioned holiday baking and I sullenly replied...."but I can't eat wheat!" she triumphantly mentioned that her monster cookie recipe doesn't contain any flour. So of course I instantly thought - I need to share these with you!

Not for the dietetically faint of heart, these really are a monster of a cookie. Lots of eggs and good old fashioned sugar and fat for your holiday pleasure. However, they are not without their merits among lesser cookies. To their credit, monster cookies are 100% whole grain, contain a reasonable amount of protein and far less sugar then some other recipes. They are wheat free and can be gluten free if you ensure all your ingredients are gluten free, such as the chocolate chips. You could make these cookies dairy free with a switch of candies. And not that I would ever advocate cookies for breakfast but in a pinch one of these could keep you going if you have to scram out of the house because you still have Christmas presents to buy 5 days before Christmas (not that I am speaking from experience...). 

Recipe: Monster-in-Law (just kidding, I totally love my mother-in-law) Cookies

My mother-in-law got this recipe a couple of decades ago from a neighbour so I don't know if there is an original source I can attribute this recipe apologies!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cream together the following ingredients in a really, really big bowl:

1 1/2 cups butter or vegan butter (3/4 pound)  Go for organic butter if you can afford it...
9 eggs Ditto on the organic eggs....
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
2 1/4 lb peanut butter (just over one kilogram)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp corn syrup
6 tsp baking soda

Then add the following to the creamed mixture and get your strongest armed family member to mix:

1/2 lb plain M&M candies
1/2 lb peanut M&M candies
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
13 1/2 cups oatmeal (yes, not a typo....that is thirteen and a half cups of regular quick cooking oats, not instant and not thick or steel cut oats)

Once mixed, drop by spoonful (about 1/4 cup batter) onto cookie sheets and bake for 12 - 15 minutes.

The recipe makes 8 - 10 dozen snack/meal sized cookies, depending on how big you make them. Perfect for bake sales, gifts and fattening up relatives you don't like too much.

Merry Christmas,

Monday, December 13, 2010

Eat...Winter Apple Parsnip Bake

One of the things I love most about my SPUD produce box (besides the fact that the groceries come to me and they use local and organic producers first) is that my cooking strategy changes from "what do I feel like making" to "how can I use the contents of my produce drawer?" It forces you to get a bit more creative which is good for your health and good for your taste buds. 

I have been staring down some parsnips for a while and wasn't sure what I wanted to do with them. Parsnips, called "carrots with attitude" by Rachel Ray, are a local root veggie that have a sharp spiciness to them that lends well to a bit of time in the old oven. Even though they lack colour, parsnips aren't just nutritional filler: they are a source of fibre, heart loving potassium, bone building calcium and folate for a healthy nervous system. I figured I would sweeten them up a bit so my husband might like them. He thinks that this would be a nice side dish for some pork tenderloin but I served it, of course, as a vegetarian main course over organic quinoa. The nice thing about this recipe is that it can be a completely 100 mile meal with a few adjustments.

Here is what resulted...I had a photo but it turned out so badly I thought I wouldn't bother putting it up. I am hoping Santa will deliver a new camera. 

Recipe: Winter Apple Parsnip Bake

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

4 medium parsnips, cubed or sliced
2 medium apples, cubed or sliced
1 medium leek, sliced
2 cups canned or precooked chick peas, drained

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (substitute butter for a 100 mile recipe)
1/2 cup demerara sugar (substitute honey for a 100 mile recipe)
pinch salt

2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces

In a 9x9 baking dish or a 9 inch pie plate, combine all ingredients except for butter and toss well. Then add butter on top. You could cube the parsnips and apples so they are uniform with the chick peas or slice them. 

Bake for 15 minutes, stir and bake for 15 more minutes or until parsnips are tender. I think this would also be tasty curried: Add 1-2 tbsp curry powder and reduce sugar by half and add 1/4 cup raisins if you like them. 

Serve over your favourite whole grain like quinoa, barley, brown rice or buckwheat.

Happy Holidays,

Friday, December 10, 2010

Losing it...the post baby diaries...December 10

E and me, looking super sleepy...getting out for a walk and a smoothie. Carrying a baby sure adds an extra punch to your afternoon stroll! it is. The last of my losing it posts. I can hardly believe it actually. E is 4 1/2 months old and I have actually lost the baby weight. I feel a little apologetic about it actually. Because despite my trials and tribulations, the weight came off pretty quickly. Pregnancy has definitely made a permanent shift to my body (Can I keep the chest?? Please?) but I have achieved my goal of getting down to my pre-baby weight.

So to what do I attribute my success? Here are some thoughts:

I was a healthy weight before getting pregnant. Not in the best shape at the time but not a complete couch potato and I was a healthy weight for my height before getting pregnant. I always tended to go through cycles of working out and not but I have been active for a decade. So if you are thinking of getting pregnant and aren't at your healthiest, now is the time to get into the gym and get that heart pumping. Important Note: if you are already pregnant, do not try to lose weight or avoid weight gain as it can put you and your baby at risk. 

I was a healthy eater before, during and after pregnancy. I like fruits and vegetables and eat them regularly as the foundation, not the accompaniment, of my meals. I eat beans and whole grains like quinoa and barley daily. I don't eat white bread, pastries or junk food or drink pop. I did eat a lot when I was pregnant...and more Sour Patch Kids and Haagen Dazs than I care to admit. But after giving birth, I went right back to healthy eating. Not a diet - I ate well to help me heal and nourish my little one.

I worked out as soon as I was able. I worked out 1-2 times per week when I was pregnant and as soon as I had the okay, I got back to working out 3-4 days a week. I credit the Tracy Anderson Method big time for being so freaking effective at reshaping my body. I am not an expert on this but I have a feeling that if I waited until 6 months to start working out it would have been ten times as hard to lose the weight. After giving birth, your body is still going through a lot of changes and I feel that working out during this time harnessed the capacity for change for good. Very unscientific but that is how it felt to me. In addition, breastfeeding takes a lot of energy so the combination of breastfeeding and moderate exercise allowed me not to have to reduce calories. I was able simply to focus on healthful eating. Important Note: Talk to your doctor if you want to start exercising while pregnant and you weren't active before pregnancy. Generally speaking, whatever you did for a work out before getting pregnant you can continue in pregnancy until your body tells you otherwise.

I tried a supportive girdle.  I am a bit embarrassed to admit this but I bought the ShrinkXHips. I remember when I was first pregnant and saw an ad for ShrinkXHips and was so indignant. "You just had a baby and the first thing you care about is your freaking hips?" I declared smugly. Then none of my pants fit at three months pregnant and I thought...that ShrinkXHips is looking kind of good. So I used it. Not constantly. I found that sleeping in it was easier than sitting in it all day because it shifted a lot. Did it help? I don't know for sure but my hips are back to their starting measurement. It would have been easier to determine if it didn't work...but it is harder to be sure it did. 

Do you have any tips and tricks you used for weight loss post-baby? Let me know!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Drink...something festive!

How cultured...martinis and music! The Harvest Pear Martini makes its debut at my friend's cocktail party.

Yes, this is still a nutrition blog. But let's be honest: when I am at work, the number of phone calls and emails I receive from customers plummets spectacularly from December 1 to the 24th. Pretty much no one wants to talk nutrition in December (but come January 1st, you're mine!). So why not share a cocktail recipe?

My friends A & S hosted a "create your own cocktail" party last weekend and I thought I had better bring my A game. My friend, A, was busy infusing tequilas with all sorts of goodies so I grabbed the Grey Goose and got to work. Usually people recommend infusing inexpensive vodkas but I was too lazy to get E into the stroller and Grey Goose is what we had in the cupboard.

As a base for the drink, I infused one cup of Grey Goose with one cinnamon stick and one organic fair trade vanilla bean (premium vodka demands premium vanilla!). I left the cinnamon stick in for just a day as I figured that the cinnamon would overpower the vanilla and I was right. So give the vanilla a good week to infuse. Another tip: ensure that the infusing ingredients are submerged in the vodka. The cup of vodka will make about 6 sure to share!

Harvest Pear Martini (way lighter than a rum and egg nog. There is my "nutrition" angle.)

1 oz infused vodka
1/2 oz Navan vanilla cognac
1 1/2 oz Knudsen's organic pear juice

Shake with lots of ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into martini glass. Serve with a twist of lime and enjoy!

Happy Holidays,

PS. If you have noticed my conspicuous absence this month (sure you have...) I was without internet for almost 3 1/2 weeks. Hard to believe in this day and age but it's true! Thanks Telus.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Losing it...the post baby diaries...October 26

As is a look at my food diary for yesterday!

Organic steel cut oats (1/4 cup dry), 2 tsp brown sugar, 1 tsp organic butter, tea with 1/2 cup organic 1% milk and an organic apple.

Approximately 341 calories, 10 grams of protein and 7 grams of fibre

The dietitian in me thinks this is a pretty balance breakfast: fibre, protein and slowly released carbohydrates for sustained energy (thanks to steady blood sugars). For weight loss, I typically like to see a little more protein and energy; you could add 1/2 cup cottage cheese to accomplish this nicely.

1 egg, scrambled into 1 1/2 cups of leftover beans and rice stew topped with 1/4 cup light feta cheese

Approximately 440 calories, 28 grams of protein and 8 grams of fibre

This is a good lunch but a little bit light on the veggies...a super quick side salad of baby spinach and cherry tomatoes would bump up the veggie servings without adding much in the way of calories.

1 pear with tea with 1/2 cup organic 1% milk

Approximately 150 calories, 4 grams of protein and 4 grams of fibre

Scrambled extra firm organic tofu with carrots, soy sauce and 1 cup of brown rice

Approximately 400 calories, 18 grams of protein and 5 grams of fibre

The dietitian in me says "not bad at all!" This is a good balance of grains, vegetarian protein and veggie servings.

My totals for the day: approximately 1331 calories, 60 grams of protein (18% of total calories) and 24 grams of fibre. This is a bit low for a lactating female...I did get 3 calcium servings and almost exactly met my daily goal for fibre. I also could have stood to bump up my fruit and veggie servings, as I only got 5 of my 7-10 for the day. More snacks could have helped with this (or the side salad at lunch). This is one of the biggest challenges I find being at home with a little one: I rarely think to snack and make lunch as quick as possible, so I am not always perfectly balanced in terms of nutrients. The good news is that this is a pretty healthy day overall...and I get a whole new chance to eat even better again today!

In good health,

Monday, October 25, 2010

Losing it...the post baby diaries...October 25

Image from

My little one, E, is 3 months old today. I can hardly believe how the time has flown and feel lucky that I got to enjoy the first few months in the sun as now the rain is setting in and I know that I will be a bit more tied to the apartment for the next 5 months. 

I have also firmly entered plateauland. Why? Because I am having a hard time breaking 4 workouts a week (and I sit on my butt the rest of the day) and I have not gone any further with my diet. The reason for this was, if I am losing weight, why restrict myself further? 

Welcome to further. 

I have 9 more pounds of baby weight to go (and 5 additional pounds to get to my goal weight). Last week I did, as promised, start the Tracy Anderson Dance Cardio DVD. Wow. Wow. I tried the routine on Tuesday and my calves turned into ridiculously painful knots for the next 4 days from all the bouncing around. Walking across the apartment was a chore. Not quite the handi-rail incident of 2009, but there was a lot of hurt concentrated in a very small area.

There are 8 dance routines to learn and the learning part of the DVD takes about 45 minutes. On Tracy Anderson's website, she recommends careful attention to diet while you are still learning as you won't be getting much of a cardio workout. However, as it has been months since my last cardio, I was sweaty and breathless throughout the instruction so felt pretty pleased with the workout.

What is so different about this DVD is that the actual workout contains no instruction whatsoever. It is just you and Tracy dancing, full out, to the breakneck speed. So she has also kindly included an instructional portion of the tape where she breaks down each of the 8 routines for you so you can learn them. Not having any dance experience and being generally uncoordinated at high speeds, learning the dances is going to be super tough. However, it is a lot more fun learning dance routines than running to nowhere on a treadmill. 

I am still committed to trying to get to 5 workouts a week. For now, I am going to do the mat workout three times a week and the dance cardio twice a week. I got up at 6:30 today, hoping to sneak in a work out...and then so did E. However, I did manage to get him back to bed so I could workout so I have to pat myself on the back for persevering. 

For my eating plan, I am simply going to start paying attention to portion and type of food (no more pizza when I am too tired to cook!). I will post my food diary tomorrow so you can see what that looks like. The goal is lots of protein, whole grains and produce. 

To your health, 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Eat...just like old times...part two

One of my grandfather's four apple trees

My grandparents’ garden, where I spent many a summer reading books and eating raspberries, is still producing in October. There are 4 apple and pear trees, grafted so many times that they form unusual shapes, that bear 20 different varieties for which my grandfather cannot offer names. The simple greenhouse still houses pimento peppers and pickling cucumbers. Portuguese winter kale, paler and softer and sweeter than that which you find in the grocery store, is flourishing and there are still plump blackberries on the (unthinkably smooth) vines. Pumpkins are hiding in tall grass.

The pumpkins in question

When I was little, this garden was my hideaway. I was always a bit of a loner, preferring to spend the long summer days reading books and stuffing my face by myself. The garden was the perfect spot to pass the time: I could sit undisturbed and enjoy the sun and whenever the urge struck, I would just reach up a grab a snack. Cherries, blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries, strawberries and green peas kept my belly full. I remember eating so many cherries that I would get a stomachache. I can also remember afternoons spent with my grandmother in the basement, fingers green from shelling peas to store in the freezer. I am not sure how many of my peas escaped my mouth, but I at least I though I had contributed.
 Pomace from wine making the week before my arrival is pungently fertilizing the resting soil. I am sorry I missed the crush. While many grandfathers make their own “two buck chuck” from commercial wine juice, my grandfather has grapes shipped here and actually crushes his own wine, which is then stored in oak barrels in the basement.

The seeds for this kale came directly from Portugal

Not that a touch of grandfatherly thrift isn’t present: instead of making wine from 17 cases of grapes, he learned that he can create it from fewer cases if he adds raisins. I just found this out. I had always wondered why it tastes like raisins…I guess my palette isn’t so useless after all. I remember as a child watching this process with an intensity befitting a future food geek. On tip toe, I would peek into the pungent barrels, frothy as the yeast did their business. When the barrels weren’t present, I would bound into the basement at speed. When it was winemaking time, some part of me expected that quiet and stealth were necessary so as not to disturb the alchemy at hand. The grapes are crushed via a small hand crank crush that sits on top of the barrels. I always wanted to try and crush the grapes myself and would attempt, each year, in vain to muster up the strength necessary to get the crank a full turn, always succeeding only when a strong hand came to my assistance. One turn, and my work was done. My little hands had made wine.

In this house, the next meal begins as soon as this one is done. Breakfast dishes cleared, one must set to marinating meat for dinner. There are ingredients to be defrosted. More food from the cold room brought up to be crammed, impossibly, into the overloaded fridge.

The basement in any Portuguese home is where the dirty work of feeding a family really happens. There is a second fridge, an area under the stairs that serves as a pantry, barrels for wine, a cold storage room, a deep freeze and of course, a bar where the men congregate to drink and gossip.

Taro...not just for poi...we fry it in the drippings left over from making linguica

In preparation for our arrival, linguiƧa, or Portuguese sausage, has been chopped, filled and cured in the basement. The cold room is filled with this fall’s harvest (and the surplus of shopping trips that could feed a small army). The a deep freeze is filled with blackberries, raspberries and rhubarb, beans and peas…but not cherries this year, as a late frost stunted the supply down to 15 pounds.

Having been a vegetarian for 14 years, my grandparents are still confounded by what I will eat. Not eating bacon (my childhood favourite) is suspicious. Actually, not eating meat at all is suspicious. The young me ate steak, bacon and chicken with vigor. My grandmother cannot reconcile that my tastes could have changed so dramatically. The first trip back to Terrace after changing my eating habits as a teenager, my grandmother was convinced that it was my mother who would not let me eat meat. She implored my mother at every meal to allow me to eat each dish, as it had once been a favourite.

My grandparents seem to be more accepting, or at least used to my unusual lifestyle choices. The first morning I was here, my grandfather took me to Save on Foods and instructed me to buy whatever I needed. At the checkout, the cashier saw my 82 year old grandfather and a basket full of tofu, plain yogurt, All Bran Buds, veggie burgers, sprouted grain bread and soy milk and astutely remarked that she didn’t think grandpa would be indulging in said delicacies.

This trip, I have initiated an even stranger habit: taking pictures and video of the everyday dishes that my grandmother has made for our family for years. I am actually shocked that she has allowed me to document her in the kitchen. Notoriously camera shy, I managed to convince her that I was not taking pictures of anything but the food and her hands (and if I caught a few of her in the process for my own memory books, no one needs to know).

Where my grandmother has been accommodating, my grandfather has been surprisingly enthusiastic. Each meal, he kept dreaming up new delicacies to document and stories from our food history to be shared. I wish I could document every last bit of this incredible knowledge because my grandmother famously refuses to write recipes. Hers is an expertise that doesn’t bother with such crude utility. For her, food is a living, breathing substance that needs to be expertly coaxed and crafted to perfection despite variations in weather, taste or texture. A recipe does not offer the subtlety required to produce such nourishing fare.

A few of said recipes are to come…stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Eat...just like old times...part one

Tree Carvings on Ferry Island in Terrace BC

As I write, I am sitting in the house that formed my primary education in food. My mother is Portuguese by birth, having arrived on chilly Canadian soil as a child in 1959…and I am Portuguese by acculturation via these four walls. I grew up, for all intents and purposes, in my grandparent’s house here in Terrace. The small, simple house at the end of a quiet street, anchored by a giant old cherry tree and flanked by lovingly tended gardens. The house where there is always more food than its inhabitants (and neighbours, for that matter) could possibly eat. Where my grandmother does not greet you with a traditional “Hi” or “So good to see you” but “Did you eat?”

After 48 hours here, memories are flooding back and now in a more reflective state, induced no doubt by my recent foray into motherhood, I am starting to make myriad connections between who I am now as a dietitian, a cook and an eater and my formative food experiences which occurred right here.

Life in this house revolves around food and wine. Everyone who enters will either help themselves to whatever is on the kitchen counter - cake, boiled taro, fried broad beans – or will be lovingly force fed these and more upon taking a seat. If you don’t eat, my grandmother will offer more and different types of food until she finds one that you like and will eat. Not being hungry is unfathomable and therefore you are refusing because she has not correctly guessed what might be appetizing to you.

My culinary history is filled with a historically appropriate dichotomy of traditional and “modern”, simple and processed, home grown and store bought. Arriving in Canada without immediate access to the foods she knew and wanting to make a life in harmony with her new nation, as was common for immigrants of the time, my grandmother embraced Canadian foods with open arms. Mid century marvels such as Shake and Bake chicken, Jello molds, Cool Whip and Duncan Hines cake mixes shared pride of place alongside the familiar caldo verde, feijoa assado, massa sovada and arroz doce of our Azorean homeland. I remember as a child eating all of these traditional foods happily but still wanting the brand name treats I saw on the Saturday morning commercials. So I pleaded for my grandmother to buy Lucky Charms (from which I removed the toy and left in the cupboard, uneaten). I bought Chips Ahoy and Oreos instead of eating homemade meringues and butter cookies. But I sat down and ate every kind of vegetable imaginable (Brussels sprouts! Kale! Cabbage!) without complaint. And then I downed Pringles for dessert. Now that all of the grandkids are grown up, the processed foods feature somewhat less frequently than the foods of my grandparent's youth but the chips and candy are still hiding in the same spot…ready for snack attacks whenever they occur.

I spent my childhood watching my grandmother move deftly through the kitchen with admiration. A chair beside the counter was my prime vantage point. There were bowls to be licked (cake batter and cookie dough) and chicken to be shook and I didn't want to miss a minute of it. The turning point in my culinary education occurred one day when I was waiting to shake chicken. My grandmother had received a phone call before she could stuff the first piece in the bag, leaving me on the chair, staring at the chicken…dying to shake it. Patience was not one of my early virtues, sufficed to say. Pestering my grandmother as to when we could make the chicken, she simply stated, “you can do it yourself”. I could? This was serious business. I had not touched raw chicken before. It was slimy. And weird. But as my pulse quickened with the weight of the decision, my impatience finally outweighed my trepidation and so the fingers gingerly grabbed the chicken and placed it in the bag and shook away. Emboldened, I tried another piece, then another, until I proceeded to finish the entire batch.

Do you remember those commercials, the one where the little girl exclaims “It’s Shake and Bake…and I helped!” That day, I did...indeed.
My grandfather, as in many traditional European homes, dictates the menu by virtue of what he will and will not eat. This makes learning to cook in this house more difficult. One can assist my grandmother, but taking over the menu will leave you at the mercy of my grandfather’s critique, honed by years of exacting standards at my grandmother’s hands. My mother knew better than to try and take over the reigns until she had her own family to cook for. I, however, had to learn the hard way.

I remember getting permission as a child to make dinner with my friend, T, one summer vacation. We decided to make fajitas. My grandfather took us to the grocery store to gather our ingredients and once at home we set out creating chaos in the kitchen from which a fairly passable meal emerged. We were so excited to present the first “real” dinner we had ever made. I must have been 8 at the time but what I remember most vividly from that experience was that my grandfather informed us that we had sliced the steak incorrectly, going against the grain.
My grandfather had been a meat cutter when he first arrived in Canada.

Thankfully, he was not able to dampen my enthusiasm for cookery…but let’s just say that young child never again attempted to feed her grandfather. My husband, however, has fared far worse experiments and eats them without complaint. How times have changed...

More to come,

Friday, October 1, 2010 me!

There is nothing stronger than photographic time to share a day in the diet! This was my Wednesday...nothing too unusual going on, although I was trying to clear out my fridge before leaving tomorrow for 9 days away....

Breakfast was organic steel cut oats with unsweetened soy milk, hemp seeds, a fair trade banana and a bit of brown sugar....starting your day with a combination of high fibre whole grains plus the extra protein from the hemp and soy milk will help to keep you full.

Lunch was a 2 egg omelet (Rabbit River Farms Omega 3 Eggs) with a sliced organic potato, light feta and a chopped green pepper on top. The pepper provides 2 servings of veggies (although not the most nutrient dense option...) and perhaps a touch too much saturated fat from the egg and feta - but not too bad!

Every once in a while, I get a craving for one of their sugary concoctions...and then am always left unsatisfied. I had a decaf, half sweet toffee mocha. Not too bad...but not that exciting. Even half sweet, it is more sugar than I needed.

An afternoon snack  (which looks completely indistinguishable here!) was Liberte apple pie yogurt with a sprinkle of raw trail mix, All Bran buds and hemp seeds. Now this is a good sweet treat: probiotic yogurt, protein and the heart healthy soluble fibre that all of us need more of.

Yum! This is a riff on a Jamie Oliver recipe from the Cook with Jamie book. It is a raw beet, pear and feta salad to which I added chick peas for protein. And leave it to me to forget to take a picture of the bread...but there was bread too. Two slices of Terra green olive bread with butter. I love chopped salads to help you get a huge proportion of your fruit and veggie servings at one go but I never serve a main course salad without a protein: either beans, tofu or eggs. It's a must! 

See you in a week or so...I shall actually be without Internet access while I'm away!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Losing it...the post baby diaries...Sept 28

Losing the baby weight goes way beyond willpower. It requires the stubbornness to stick with it even though you are exhausted, interrupted multiple times by baby and facing a big pile of laundry in the bin. You also need to strike a fine balance between a dose of pragmatism and avoiding the justification trap. 

Last week, I did it...I made it to my 5-workout-a-week goal. I felt pretty damn good. And here is a ringing endorsement of the Tracy Anderson Method: after doing the video 5 times in a week, there is a significant change in my body. Gravity be damned! Talk about motivation. Still 17 pounds to go, but I am bolstered by this apparent progress.

There was a large amount of stick-to-it-ive-ness required to achieve this goal. The first tenet was, workout no matter what. Typically, I workout after I wake up and have fed my little one and then I set him to lay down near me while I put the DVD on. Early after birth, I would do this and then put him in the stroller and wheel him into the gym while I worked out. And to my delight, he would sleep through my workout. Now, not so much. No matter what I have tried, he refuses to just hang out through the 45 minute DVD. So to get through the workout, I have to stop an average of 3-5 times to pick him up, rock him, change his diaper etc. The first couple of times this happened, it was enough to make me not want to work, I just accept it as part of the routine and allot 1 hour to my 45 minute DVD. 

I am already testing the strength of this first tenet this week: my little guy has taken to not sleeping well through the night and I have been so exhausted that I have gotten up "too late" to get my workout in before rushing to prior appointments. Two days in a row...but tomorrow it ends (and lucky for me, I will still have 5 days left to get my workouts in).

This weekend, I am even leaving for a week with family...and I am determined to keep going. I am bringing my laptop, yoga mat and weights so I can still get my workouts in. Actually, with both my mom and grandma around the house, I now have child care for a week straight and consequently, a lack of excuses. 

As for my eating regime...I have eaten very well for the last week but there have been a few hiccups. Six, to be exact. Let me explain: Sunday was my birthday. And throughout the week, I have had multiple celebrations (and of course, leftovers) which has meant 6 servings of birthday cakes. So much for my "no junk food plan". 

Now here is the balance between pragmatism and justification: the dietitian in me knows that I have eaten really well so I have had a "good" week in terms of nutrient density. And a birthday is once a is easy to forgo treats made for others but pretty impossible to forgo treats made specially for you. However, this will not be a great weight loss week. This is one of the trade offs: if you approach a diet as a quick fix, any number of slip ups could be incredibly frustrating and lead you astray. A common diet mentality is "well, I am 'ruining' this week anyways....". Hold it right there! I did not give myself permission to eat loads of junk food because I knew each day wouldn't be "perfect". To be honest, I wasn't craving junk...but I still planned healthy meals to help "balance" the indulgences. And once we finally rid our fridge of the birthday treats (which my husband can thankfully help with), it is back to the original game plan. I am halfway through this 6 week "phase" of my eating 3 weeks from now, I am going to ramp up the diet efforts. My motivating deadline is that I would like to be close to my goal so I can wear something fun for New Year's Eve. A week with my grandmother's cooking should be interesting...stay tuned next week. 

In good health,

PS: do you have any diet disaster stories? Feel free to share them here!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Losing it...the post baby diaries...Sept 21

This weekend was a disaster. Total. Disaster. Progress wise, at least. 

It started Saturday morning, as I was lying in bed. As I laid there in a dreamy waking state, I thought to myself, "Ah...I can work out without having to worry about my little one fussing because my husband will watch him. could be fun to have a Solly's cinnamon bun instead. But I need to get my 4th workout in and I am totally capable of doing it. But I haven't had a cinnamon bun in like 4 months..."

What is strange is that in diet attempts past, I have always had such strong cravings that I routinely cave from the pressure. In the last couple weeks, I have not had cravings at all. I have felt kind of liberated from junk food and relieved not to be eating it anymore. So why my bedhead drove me to stay in my pajamas and send my husband to Solly's, I do not know. But one meal in two weeks would have been a forgivable non-issue. Then lunch with friends was a reasonable (if not ultra health conscious) mushroom omelet (the only veggie option with significant protein) and rye toast and dinner was a "we're running late" portion of leftover thin crust veggie pizza (whole grain crust and lots of veggies, but still pizza) and you now have a total write off day. 

Sunday I managed to claw back a little with a Jamba Juice protein smoothie and a gorgeous Kung Pao tofu and Kale salad dinner....but there was a significant amount of chips consumed in the car mid-road trip. Damn.

So a new week begins and I plan on skipping over the 4 workout week to the 5 workout week that this week should be. And as evidence as my return to the "no junk food plan", here is what I ate today:

Breakfast 2 slices Silver Hills sprouted grain toast with 2 tbsp natural peanut butter and 2 tsp honey. 2 kiwis. 1 cup tea with milk and honey.

Snack decaf Americano with 2 tbsp cream and 2 tsp sugar

Lunch leftover roasted veggies and chickpeas with some mozzarella broiled on top (yum!!). 1 apple

Snack tea with milk and sugar

Dinner Whole wheat macaroni with sauteed zucchini, mushrooms, lemon and feta

Snack Liberte apple pie yogurt with a sprinkle of trail mix and All Bran buds 

In good health,

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Losing it...the post baby diaries...Sept 14

I am so tired...I want to go back to sleep.

You can't go back to sleep...if you do, you won't have time to work out and get showered before A arrives for a visit.

But I am exhausted! Not sleeping is worse for me than not working out...and I could probably fit it in in the afternoon...

You know you won' have work to do this afternoon. Besides, you are starting to wake up. It is time to wake up. Turn on the DVD, lazy bones.

Sound familiar? That was my internal dialogue this morning before finally deciding to work out while I put my little one back to sleep, instead of going back to sleep myself. Yes, I am tired...but I feel way better that I worked out. And I would still be tired even if I got that last hour of sleep. The dark circles under my eyes have been cemented by weeks, not hours, of lost sleep.

Last week, I only worked out three times so I set myself the challenge of at least 4 times for this week. As of today, I am 2 for 2 and already, things are feeling like they "work" a little better. This is probably because I was so drastically out of shape by the time I gave birth that any little increment of improvement is evident :)The 25 minute ab work is getting easier (well, the first 5 minutes is...) but my devotion to the method is intact because I can see subtle changes already. And, my weight is down 3 more pounds....just 20 more to go! I have to admit, that this is probably way more about breastfeeding than working out at this point, but it is still motivating!

So what about my diet strategy? Right now, my only rule is that I have cut out the junk food. No chips, cookies, cakes, candy....just real food. It's funny that before I got pregnant, junk food wasn't such a big part of my lifestyle. I saved room for the good quality stuff...a nice dessert from a good restaurant, the occasional chips (my nutritional crack) and liberal amounts of cheese. But regular junk food? Rarely! Not worth the calories, in my opinion.

However, when I got pregnant...I turned into a human vending machine. Sure, I still ate all the amazing healthy foods that I always do, like dark leafy greens, whole grains and beans but for dessert or snack time...I wanted garbage. I would eat almost anything put in front of me: from generic nasty cake to twizzlers to cheap pastries and chocolate I had to have junk every single day. Talk about maternal AND professional guilt! The dietitian was mainlining processed sugar and fats to her unborn on a daily basis. I comforted myself with the thought that all the nourishing food I ate on a daily basis was "insulating" the baby from damage. Do as I say, ladies...not as I do :) Stay away from the junk if you can! Your baby (and your butt) is better off for it.

So from the 6 week to the 12 week post partum mark, my only diet strategy is one of no junk food. I have three main lines of rationale for this decision (given my nature, I can't do anything, even something this simple, without creating theories to convince myself of the utility of a strategy or decision - professional hazard I guess!).

The first theory is that research has shown humans actually have almost like a "bank" of willpower. Use it up in pursuit of, say, working on your MBA and have less left for cooking from scratch every night. This is one of the reasons why super drastic "become a vegan yogi master overnight detox" plans rarely work for more than a few days before they fail dramatically via the bottom of a bag of Sour Cream and Cheddar Ruffles. It is also why, in my practice, I always preach slow and accumulating changes to try and create habits that no longer require willpower to maintain. So, keeping the diet simple will allow me to focus my willpower on restarting and maintaining my workout regime.

My second theory is that the weight gain battle is won or lost by relatively small changes in calorie balance and simply taking the daily junk out of the diet should have a great effect, especially in light of the energy that breastfeeding consumes and how healthy my overall diet is.

My third theory revolves around supporting the breastfeeding process: drastic calorie restriction will impede breast milk production...that means a little bit of hell for a mom trying to feed her baby. In addition, I am sleep deprived and I need energy! It isn't the time to cut back too much or I may end up brushing my teeth with mascara or washing my hands with spaghetti sauce or something else related to zombie like behaviour!

The idea is that if by week 12, things aren't progressing fast enough...I will ramp up the diet efforts. But before you walk away thinking...just cut out the junk food! Full diet may or may not look like yours...and that matters!

5 healthy diet habits I live by....

1. Processed carbs don't live here! All my grains are whole...the only bread in my house 9.5 times out of 10 is Silver Hills sprouted grain bread and it lives in my freezer because it takes the two of us at least 10 days to go through a loaf. Many of my meals are based on beans and vegetables and intact grains like quinoa or barley instead of couscous or pasta.

2. I don't drink my calories...I drink water, sparkling mineral water, tea and the occasional glass of wine. No soda, no juice, no desserts masquerading as coffee drinks.

3. We eat fruits and vegetables...lots of them! If I don't have vegetables, I can't make a meal. Fruits and vegetables are essential for nourishing your body with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre in a low calorie package.

4. I love beans. I am not afraid to admit it...but the musical fruit has a starring role in our daily lives. I make a lot of one pot meals, focused on beans. I don't make salads without them and I often add them to soups, pastas and casseroles. Beans are super filling, feature lots of fibre and protein and are rich in trace minerals. A perfect food for maintaining a healthy weight.

5. I love fat...the right kind of fat. We stay away from trans fats and depend on anti-inflammatory extra virgin olive oil to cook our meals. We snack on raw, unsalted nuts and seeds and I get my dose of healthy omega 3 fats daily from Salba, hemp seeds and good quality fish oil. I would rather see a little extra fat in a dish than extra starch. Fat carries flavour, making foods satisfying and helps to fill you up and is essential for a healthy metabolism. Stay away from the cheap vegetable oils and try not to overdo the saturated fat.

Okay, I think my little one is tired of me ignoring time!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Losing it...the post baby diaries...Sept 8

I didn't work out today.

I am three days into my new workout plan and I didn't work out! I have been here before...with variable outcomes. My son, who has been sleeping well, decided he wanted to party all night long and then would only spend his waking hours attached to me - making working out a bit of a challenge. Even now, this blog post has been interrupted a few times...

I am undeterred. And sore. In that good, you are working out, way. So I know that tomorrow I will get up and work out again. And if I only make it four days, that's not bad for a first week. And I did manage to go out for a walk today since the stroller is my little boy's zen long as I am moving :)

Being so exhausted today, I really wanted a treat. Something huge and filled with a guaranteed sugar rush (subsequent energy crash be damned!). I triumphed there at least! Walked past the gelato shop, the coffee shops, the grocery store...and came home and ate the good stuff. I said that the next post would be about my food strategy but I think I might beg for the raincheck and instead share what I have been eating today...and I can go into details as to the why another (more rested) time.

1 slice silver hills toast with 2 omega 3 eggs fried in extra virgin olive oil, served with about an ounce of shredded light cheddar and a couple of tablespoons of salsa plus a cup of green tea

Large glass of Gerolsteiner mineral water with 1/4 cup of pomegranate juice

1.5 cups of homemade vegetarian chili (fresh veggies, two kinds of beans plus veggie ground round) served with a tablespoon of light feta

1/2 cup of Naturesource Voyageur trail mix (unroasted, unsweetened, unsalted) and an organic apple (fresh from my SPUD box today!)

1/2 box of Annie's whole wheat macaroni served with sauteed mushrooms and Parmesan

Cup of orange pekoe tea with milk and sugar and an organic pear

Here's hoping for a good night's sleep!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ask me...

Have a question about something you see on the blog? Or have some burning nutrition question you would like me to answer? Feel free to write a comment...or send me an email!

My email address is !

Monday, September 6, 2010

Losing it...the post baby diaries...Sept 6

"Ouch...welcome to the new you," I thought to myself this morning as I struggled through my workout. I gave birth to my son 6 weeks ago and today is the first day of my post-baby weight loss life. My wrists are sore, I feel like like my body is broken and I will never, ever have abs again. All of this awakening comes courtesy of the woman staring at me, gorgeous and strong, from my television screen: Tracy Anderson. 

I purchased the Tracy Anderson Post-Pregnancy Workout DVD online and just got it this weekend. Tracy Anderson is the ubertrainer to the long, lean and gorgeous set that I am hoping to rejoin (well, long and lean anyways...). She whipped Gwyneth Paltrow back into shape post-baby and Tracy herself gained 60lbs with her own son and look at her now. Seriously...look at her! She is proof that a mother in her 30s can look amazing and I found her totally inspiring. Tracy has created a unique workout program which she calls her "method". What I love is that the exercises are unlike anything you have ever seen before and they are tough. Super tough. My first experience with the "method" was a 10 minute leg workout webisode I purchased that literally kicked my ass. I was hooked.

Now that I am six weeks past giving birth, I have the all clear from my midwives to start working out seriously. I am devoting myself to the "method": she recommends doing the DVD 4-6 times a weeks so I am going to go ahead and make the full 6 day commitment. The workout contains a full 25 minutes of ab work, which I am considering more of a goal than anything :) A few crunches here...pause...stare at TV...try the next exercise...collapse in heap...wait for the next exercise. I bought her Dance Cardio DVD too but after going cross-eyed trying to figure it out, I decided to just focus on mastering one DVD at a time. Tracy also has a new book out this month...which I have in my Amazon shop here or on the side bar.

Image from 

Am I ready for this? I think so...I am physically a bit weak but recovered. I was lucky enough to have a very positive birth experience and healed quickly (which I attribute to my lovely Hypnomammas class). I actually got into the gym, very gingerly, at 2 weeks postpartum. I did 15 minutes of no-impact cardio and some basic leg and arm exercises just to wake things up a bit. But is time to get going again. The biggest challenge will be mental. I have a hard time really pushing myself when it comes to exercise and giving it the ol' "110%" instead of my typical 65% will take some willpower.

Given that I already have a blog, I thought I might share this experience with all of you. There are a couple of reasons for this: first, it will keep me honest. Nothing like making your goals and commitments public to keep you accountable. Second, because I am a dietitian. I counsel people on healthy eating and (sometimes) weight loss for a living. And being slim, no one believes that I know how hard it is to lose weight (Believe me, I do). So I am also doing this to earn a little "street cred" :) 

Even though I gave birth a full month early, I had already gained 36 pounds...the dietitian in me "knows" that a healthy pregnancy weight gain is 25-35 pounds. (This photo is me only a couple weeks before birth.) But the pregnant lady in me was hungry...really hungry. Since the weight loss was slow and steady, I assumed that my body needed the I didn't fight it. Six weeks postpartum, birth and breast feeding has helped me lose 18 pounds. Since my weight had crept up a bit before I got pregnant, my weight loss goal is another 23 pounds. So you are all my witness...I will eat and workout my way to a 23 pound weight loss and I am hoping to do so in about 6 months (which is a safe ~1lb a week weight loss). 

I will talk about food next time... until then I will be nursing my aching muscles.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

To Eat...or Not to Eat...Seafood

Five weeks in, the sleepless nights are now starting to add up and my little bundle of joy is robbing my brain of valuable thinking time. Well, at least I tell myself that my thinking time is valuable...So my "baby brain" has to thank my friend Steve for all of the good blog post ideas he has been providing me of late. 

Surprisingly (or not, for any other health professionals out there), very few of my friends or family actually ask me for nutrition advice. What is even more humorous is the discussions that occur regarding health or nutrition in my presence without anyone even so much as glancing my way. I have gotten used to just shutting my trap when this occurs because I have learned that unsolicited advice is rarely accepted with a smile. Maybe that is why I started this blog in the first spew out all the information held hostage in my brain.

My friend Steve, however, is one of the few exceptions to this rule and a few days ago he asked me about what kind of seafood he should be eating, other than salmon (which is all most nutrition literature talks about). At the bottom of the email, he casually mentioned that the topic would make a good blog post and since I was stumped on what to write about next...voila!

Seafood is an interesting discussion, both from a nutrition perspective and an environmental perspective; one topic which I can claim to have a decent background in...the other, not. Here in BC, we are pretty fortunate to have the king's ransom of seafood at our doorsteps but few of us venture outside of a handful of comfortable favourites: canned tuna, fish and chips, salmon and prawns. When it comes to seafood, there are really two categories to choose from - the "superfoods" and the "healthy options". Read on, on...

The Superfoods 
You guessed it, these are the cold water, fatty fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines and salmon. If you were only to eat one serving of seafood a week, make one of these stars your choice. Why are these so good for you? It isn't just the omega 3 fats...but that's a start. 

Omega 3s Cold water oily fish such as salmon are rich in anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats and what makes them really special is the kind of omega 3 fats they contain. We get ALA from vegetable omega 3s like pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds but fish give us what are called the "long chain" or "preformed" omega 3 fats, EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA are not technically essential fats because in theory, our body can make EPA and DHA from ALA - but we suck at it. The most efficient of us turn about 20% of the ALA we eat into EPA and DHA, which are the potent omega 3s in the body; some of us can only convert 5%. So getting your EPA and DHA directly from fish makes a lot of sense, because we know that these two fats can help us soothe chronic inflammation, help us prevent chronic disease and even boost our brain function. In fact, EPA and DHA are so good for you that they are one of only two supplements I recommend everyone take, unless they eat 3 good sized servings of fatty fish a week. Wild fish is your best source; it used to be that it had far greater amounts of omega 3 fats than farmed but of course the farmers just started adding omega 3 to the feed to boost the level in the farmed fish. Nothing like "design your own" salmon...come on, wild! If your seafood does not specifically say "wild", it isn' look for the label.

Vitamin D The next reason that these fish are so good for you is vitamin D, the other of the two supplements I recommend every man, woman and child consume. You can see my post on vitamin D here. There are very few natural food sources of vitamin D, which is critical for our immune function and likely helps us to prevent cancer. Salmon is the star here, with the most vitamin D: a wild Sockeye Salmon steak can have as much as 900 IU of vitamin D (which is 90% of the 1000IU that many experts are now recommending as a daily dose). Nothing else in nature comes close to this level.

Antioxidants Again, gorgeous wild salmon is the star here (remember, colour equals antioxidant pigments) and in salmon, it is the pigment astaxanthin that is responsible for the lovely colour. Same old story with farmed salmon...that pink colour is added via feed manipulation. A unique member of the carotenoid (like beta carotene) family, astaxanthin does not convert to vitamin A in our bodies but the significance of this is not really known. Astaxanthin is being studied for its potential role in reducing inflammation, protecting our skin from sun damage and preventing cancer.

The Healthy Choices
This is the category I will lump most other seafood into. Fish and seafood stand out for being beautifully lean sources of protein, making them a great addition to the diet. White fish and shellfish are low in fat and calories and nutritious: scallops are rich in heart healthy magnesium and anti-oxidant selenium; oysters excel for blood building iron and skin loving zinc and sablefish boasts the electrolyte potassium for healthy blood pressure. I generally recommend that (non-vegetarian) folks divide their daily protein choices between vegetarian sources, poultry and fish throughout the week for better health and choose red meats only occasionally.

There is one health caveat with shellfish and that is the cholesterol in foods like shrimp and lobster. However, these foods contribute very little cholesterol to our diets in comparison with red meats and cheese. In addition, unless you have a significant cholesterol problem, it is the saturated fat in our diet that we worry about with regards to our blood cholesterol levels than our dietary cholesterol intake so feel free to enjoy shrimp every once in a while, guilt free!

Mercury and other Contaminants
The biggest health risk that seafood poses is that of the neurotoxic contaminants, mercury and PCB. When it comes to seafood and contaminants, think to yourself: "Good things come in small packages." Women who are or can become pregnant and children are most vulnerable to dietary exposure to mercury and should take care to avoid highly contaminated species of fish. 

Since contaminants like PCBs and Mercury are not excreted, they accumulate as you move up the food chain - yes, that goes for us too! All the fish we eat (if we are eating highly contaminated species) deposit these nasty toxins into our own system where they stay put and wreak havoc with our health. The superfood fish are all low in contaminants because they are small fish. Stay away from the "big game" fish like swordfish, marlin, shark and fresh tuna. When buying canned tuna, choose light tuna over white tuna, which comes from smaller tuna species. 

Which fish are best for you when it comes to contaminant levels? Rather than have me reinvent the wheel, read this Health Canada article which lays it all out on the line...pun intended.

Now for the larger it sustainable to eat seafood at all? This is a far more complex issue. With the best Sockeye Salmon run we have seen in BC in years, this little voice might get pushed to the back of our minds as we clammer down the dock to buy this delicacy by the bushel load. As news of the health benefits of eating fish grew, our appetite (and therefore demand) for seafood, salmon in particular, grew alongside. And what the affluent Western world wants, it gets - to the detriment of less affluent nations that used to rely on seafood as the main source of protein in their diets.

As our love for seafood grew, we learned to choose wild over farmed, line caught over trawled and local over exotic. These changes went a long way towards "greening" our seafood choices. However, some experts argue that we should refrain from eating seafood at all as even stocks of typically "sustainable" sardines and mackerel in South America and Scandinavia are at risk of overfishing (some say that we are already there) to supply us with fish meal used to fatten up farmed salmon. Others, like the pioneering chef Frank Pabst at Blue Water Cafe believe in introducing us to less favoured items like sea urchin and jellyfish. 

I will stop there or risk exposing my lack of depth when it comes to exploring this topic. Where you stand on this issue is a personal choice but there are some great resources to help you make your decisions. Home grown Ocean Wise is an education program from the Vancouver Aquarium which guides you towards local businesses providing sustainable seafood options, designated by the Ocean Wise logo. The website also provides a list of more sustainable species. The Monterrey Bay Aquarium has its own program called Seafood Watch, where you can print off a handy little pocket guide that I like because it organizes itself with a stoplight system to categorize sustainable choices and also alerts you to high mercury choices so you can avoid them. If you have an iPhone, you can even download an app to keep at your side as you shop and dine. 

In good health,