Sunday, May 29, 2011

UnDiet...Week 20

Hello UnDieters!

Into every life a little rain must fall...shall I blame the rain for my absence? Since you are all on the UnDiet path, I am sure that you can appreciate that not everyday is a "perfect" one on the path to health so let's consider the total absence of Week 19 my blip on the path to good bloggership :) It has been a crazy couple of weeks to say the least. 

But I now pick myself up and dust off a new challenge for week 20 of the UnDiet. This week, as the sun starts to remind us that summer is really here I want to challenge you to step outside of your normal routine and go find a farmer's market. 

Why is this important to your health? For several reasons, not the least of which that you will find the best quality food possible from the farmers who live within driving distance of you. Better quality food means a better quality you. In addition, you can often find wild and wonderful produce that you may not be used to seeing (or eating for that matter). Eating well is not just about healthy food but a healthy sense of adventure. 

Buying at the farmer's market also helps to support smaller family farms who typically farm in a more sustainable manner. And, since you are talking to the farmer themselves to purchase your produce, you can make sure that they have sustainable practices like organic farming or purchasing manure from a neighbour farm instead of shipping it long distances before you buy. You also help support agriculture in your area and ensure that those who work long hours to feed us get a reasonable price for their harvest.

So this week, get outside and find your nearest farmer's market and buy at least one item of produce, preferably one you have never tried before and then bring it home and cook something with it. I will be doing the same this Saturday with my friend Heather. We may just show you the results! Spoiler Alert!!

To help you, here are some resources on farmers markets near you:

Vancouver Farmers Markets
Farmers Markets in BC
Farmers Markets in Canada
Farmers Markets in the USA

In Good Health,

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Eat...Mediterranean Style

The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. Used with Permission.
Here in Vancouver, it has been a chilly spring but today the sun is blazing. I am reminded that May is the month when the sun warms the earth, we shake off the layers, embrace a lighter style of eating and thoughts turn to spring fresh produce. Which makes May the perfect month to raise awareness of the Traditional Mediterranean Diet. Far from being a fad, the Traditional Mediterranean Diet (let's call it TMD for short!) is a way of eating and living for lifelong health that is based on the traditional foods and eating habits of Mediterranean cultures. When it comes to eating well, I have always believed that a diet of whole, natural foods is the only way to go. The TMD fits this model well.

First introduced in 1993, the diet pyramid was created by Oldways Trust with the Harvard School of Public Health and the World Health Organization. Since its introduction, research has supported the health benefits of the TMD but most importantly, it is a sane way of eating that people can enjoy for life. I recently had the opportunity to ask Georgia Orcutt, program manager for Oldways and the Mediterranean Foods Alliance, a few questions about the Mediterranean Diet and how we can all incorporate this healthy eating plan into our lives.

What makes the Traditional Mediterranean Diet different from the typical North American eating pattern?

It's tricky to identify one typical North American eating pattern, since a number of regional foods and cultures still exist in the US. But undeniably, the North American diet today for many people is one that relies heavily on processed foods that are high in sodium, sugar and unhealthy fats. The Traditional Mediterranean Diet, in contrast, has at its core vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, peanuts, herbs, spices and healthy fats such as those found in olive oil. These are foods to eat daily. The emphasis on healthy fats is a big difference between the two patterns.  While it's typical in North America to eat meat three meals a day, with the Mediterranean eating pattern, if you eat it at all, include small amounts as a garnish, and as a main course limit the portions to 3 ounces or less.  Or plan to enjoy meat as part of a celebration, not as daily fare. The Med Diet also suggests eating seafood twice a week and building vegetarian meals around beans, whole grains and vegetables, heightening the flavor by using herbs and spices.  

There has been an impressive amount of nutrition research on the Traditional Mediterranean Diet. Have a few key foods in the diet been shown to account for many of its health benefits or does the TMD pattern improve health more than any individual food?

While there are some "superfoods" in the Traditional Mediterranean Diet that stand out for their antioxidant properties or nutritional profiles, in promoting the TMD we align our messaging with the latest Dietary Guidelines that place an emphasis on the whole diet.
(I'll add here that the guidelines also, for the first time this year, offer validation for the Mediterranean eating pattern!)  Consumers frequently misunderstand research that highlights nutrient profiles of specific foods. Encouraging people to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and grains is very important. Think lots of colors and flavors on your plate. 

Given that our current eating habits rely on unsustainable manufacturing and shipping processes, will adopting a Traditional Mediterranean Diet be a more sustainable way of eating? Does the diet lend itself well to a local foods approach?

Sustainability is a very complex issue and we need to all become agents of change in our own lives. Since the Mediterranean Diet places an emphasis on eating lots of vegetables and fruits, eating seasonally and shopping at  farmers markets when possible is an ideal way to support local agriculture.  Growing your own vegetables and fruits is a great goal, too. But not everyone can do this. It's also important to keep an eye on what choices we make in our busy, everyday lives and how this can impact sustainability.  If you stock your pantry with Mediterranean basics such as pasta, rice, tuna, canned tomatoes and spices, and you have seafood, nuts, grated cheese and vegetables in your freezer, you can come home and make a home cooked meal, rather than running out the door and supporting a fast food franchise.  

Habit change can be challenging for many people, especially where diet changes are concerned. What do you think are the most difficult changes to make when adopting the traditional Mediterranean diet and how can they be overcome?

Taking small steps, one a day or one a week, can be the best way to make positive, healthy changes in the way you eat.  (Author's note...UnDiet!!) Because we are all such creatures of habit, it can be very difficult to understand and consistently follow through on portion control and creating a Mediterranean-style lunch or dinner plate that looks different than what we are accustomed to seeing.  (i.e. a variety of vegetables, smaller amounts of meat., 1/2 cup of pasta or rice).   It's important to keep meals simple and easy; aim for making every meal taste great and to eat nourishing foods that promote satiety.  We outline these 8 simple steps to help people learn how to adopt the Mediterranean eating pattern: Eat lots of vegetables; Change the way you think about meat and if you eat it, add small amounts to vegetable saut├ęs or use as a garnish for a dish a pasta; always eat breakfast; eat seafood twice a week; cook a vegetarian meal one night a week, and then aim for two nights a week; use healthy fats in daily meals, especially extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, peanuts, seeds, olives, and avocados. In addition, we encourage consumers to discover the wide variety of delicious Mediterranean foods at the supermarket and learn how to routinely break old habits and make healthy substitutions. For example, buy Greek yogurt and use that instead of sour cream; sample different varieties of hummus, find your favorites, and use that in place of mayonnaise.

What one step can readers take today to bring them closer to a Mediterranean diet?

Go to your local supermarket and spend a few minutes just looking at the fresh produce. Buy one vegetable you've never tried before, take it home, search the web for that vegetable paired with the word "Mediterranean” and find a tasty way to prepare it.  

Learn more about the Mediterranean Diet and download your own diet pyramid at and like Eat Drink Be Happy on Facebook for a chance to win a copy of The Oldways Table: Essays & Recipes from the Culinary Think Tank by K. Dun Gifford and Sara Baer-Sinnott.


Friday, May 13, 2011

UnDiet...Week 20

Hello UnDieters, didn't miss last week's post. It was, ahem, a week off. Every once in a while, you need a freebie. I will pretend it was premeditated and not a consequence of being blindsided by life. However, the break does nicely illustrate one of the key philosophies of the UnDiet.

One thing to remember when embarking on path of healthy living is that it is a marathon, not a sprint. What makes the UnDiet so special is that it is not about drastic measures. The UnDiet is about permanent change. We don't tend to be good at moderate. We like extremes. Starve yourself by following a hundred and one diet restrictions or go hog wild at a buffet because you already "broke" your diet at breakfast by eating a piece of toast.

This week, I would like to put your commitment to diet sanity to the ultimate test and introduce you to one of dietitians' favourite healthy eating "rules": the 80/20 principle.

This is a rule to live by: 80% of the time, eat beautiful, nutrient dense foods prepared fresh. That means really good food: whole grains, lean protein, tons of fruits and veggies. Muffins, luncheon meat and seasoned side dishes don't count. 20% of the time, indulge in whatever adds excitement and indulgence to your life. Whether indulgence to you is organic ice cream, mac and cheese or fried chicken, you cannot do harm with 20% indulgence when 80% of your diet is nutrient dense. If you tend to live by an all or nothing approach, this philosophy can be dangerous as a little indulgence could trigger a landslide. If this is what happens for you, take a step back to consider what is going on for you. Sometimes, it is worth talking to someone about it. Our relationships with food are complex.

For the rest of us, consider the 80/20 rule a reprieve from the bad/good mentality. Even if you have a generally healthy attitude to food, it can still be difficult to live in the grey area but it will help to reset your attitude to eating. If you need some more solid quantification, try 2 indulgence meals a week. Keep the size moderate; a buffet binge doesn't count as a single meal. Another approach to 20% indulgence could easily net you about 100-200 calories of treat a day depending on your size and activity level. For most moderately active women, keep it to 100 calories. For very active women or men, try up to 200 calories of whatever floats your boat be it triple cream brie or Cheetos.

What is your favourite indulgence? Let me know...mine? A tie between Salt Spring Island truffle chevre and black current tea truffles from Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France.

Time to get radically moderate,

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Local, Fresh and Organic...Kauai Part 2

Living Foods Market in Kukui'ula Village
 Everywhere you turn on Kauai, you will hit some good local food. I had a couple of favourite places to shop for local food during my visit...

 Living Foods Market, in the posh Kukui'ula Village in Poipu is just over a year old. The Market is owned by San Francisco transplant, chef Jim Moffat who also owns Bar Acuda in Hanalei.

The Market is pricey (even for Hawaii) and I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for general shopping unless you need to slim down an overstuffed wallet. There healthy packaged staples at a better price. The Nut Thins I purchased there were $3 more a box than the grocery store in Lihue. 

What you do come here for is the gorgeous cafe (get Jim Moffat's cuisine on the cheap!) and for the local produce. 

As I mentioned in my previous post, grocery stores typically don't have any local produce. Not so here - they proudly display a Kaua'i Grown sign in their small produce case. 

I also picked up some incredibly delicious local honeycomb....

And some yummy tropical granola. The store also had locally baked gluten free bread!

In terms of organic shops, there are tons on the island, particularly in Kapa'a but my favourite by far was Healthy Hut in the north shore town of Kilauea. As someone who has been shopping in health food stores since before quinoa was a household word, I really appreciated the honest, friendly vibe at Healthy Hut. They have plenty of local and organic products for such a jewel box sized location and it was there that I found the BEST BABYFOOD EVER!!

I make my own baby food at home, believing that I don't serve myself canned food everyday, so why would I feed my baby canned? However, given that it was my first time traveling with E I decided to leave the mini food processor at home and give prepared food a go. 

Surprisingly, given the number of organic food shops on Kaua'i, finding organic baby food is difficult. There was one dusty jar at Long's Drugs; ditto at Vim & Vigor in Lihue, niente at Papaya's in Kapa'a and EXPIRED food at Hoku. So thank you, Healthy Hut! They had a great selection of Plum Organics food. 

Why do I love them so much? I love the blends, they don't shy away from good stuff like spinach and broccoli. The packaging is ingenious; just squeeze directly from the package onto the spoon when you are on the go. They taste delicious (I won't feed E anything I wouldn't eat myself) and they are clean, simple and organic. Now I just have to get these to Vancouver! I will be adding Plum to my Healthy Grocery List for sure.

Luscious Links

Desiree always, the companies don't know I was featuring paid ads here!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Local, Fresh and Organic...Kauai

Tuesday Market...just west of Hanalei, Kauai
 No secret that I am a bit of a foodie...everywhere I travel, I want to taste whatever is local and special. So I was pretty excited to see that there were so many farmers markets all over Kauai. 

Check out the dude with the pineapple. That is local flavour.
I was amazed by the local food culture in Kauai specifically; a recent trip to Oahu certainly did not have the same local vibe. Hawaii has to ship so much of their food in and most supermarkets don't carry anything local so staples like tomatoes are incredibly expensive and usually kind of sad tasting. Farmers on Kauai have the ability to grow so much in their climate so I was excited to check out a farmers market or two. Who needs tomatoes when you have local taro, greens, papayas and passion fruit?
Apple bananas...sweet and firm fleshed.

 The pictures above are of the market recommended by the Lonely Planet, just west of gorgeous Hanalei on the north shore of the island. Edible Hawaiian Islands also has a great listing on their website here. They kindly offered the tip of "get there early". Do indeed. We showed up at 2:05 for the market in Hanalei, just 5 minutes after the opening. The field was already packed with cars and it was a literal feeding frenzy: stands were emptying fast. People snacked on chocolate covered frozen bananas while filling their baskets with local eggs, goat cheese and pineapples. We bought just a couple of things, including the apple bananas and mangosteen ( I LOVE mangosteen, what a treat!). 

Yummy mangosteen...
The markets are a bit smaller than we are used to here in the lower mainland but what an incredible community spirit. I couldn't think of a better way to get to know the local food culture than to feast on what is grown in their backyards.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

UnDiet...Week 18

Hello UnDieters!

I hope you are enjoying the first day of May...

In Week 12, I talked to you about cleaning up the oils in your kitchen to ensure that you are eating healthful, anti-inflammatory oils. When it comes to healthy eating, quality is vital but quantity also counts when it comes to watching your waist line. I am not talking about trying to eat a low fat diet but I am a fan of watching the amounts of added fats in your diet. When it comes to oils and fats, a little goes a long way for health!

While whole food sources of fat like nuts, seeds and avocado are high in calories they also help to fill you up as you eat. However, that splash of olive oil in the pan doesn't do much to sate your hunger so an overly generous pour could set you up for extra calories (and extra pounds).

So this week, it is time to get out your measuring utensils once more. Whenever you are cooking or adding oils this week, measure them out instead of eyeballing them. I would aim for no more than 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of added oil per serving. A teaspoon of oil has 5 grams of fat and 40 calories, which is a great boost: enough to provide fat to carry flavour in your food, add texture and help you absorb all the fat soluble vitamins and antioxidants in your food without getting too high in calories. For salad dressing, a typical serving size is 1 tablespoon because it is not all oils.

To your health!