Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Be Happy...Finding Yoga on Your Plate, Part One

I am a long time yogi...15 years to be exact. Being a Vancouver Island girl, my introduction to yoga ironically occurred the one time I ever joined a gym. Initially, I liked yoga because it was unusual (just think! there was a time when yoga studios weren't on every corner) and since I was naturally flexible, I was good at it. At 17 years old, chanting "Om" was too intimidating and I couldn't pronounce all those funny Sanskrit names.

15 years later, I can speak from experience regarding the power of this ancient practice. I didn't come to yoga for any reason than to have fun getting bendy. However, as one of my teachers had said: yoga will have its way with you. Practicing the postures (asanas, in Sanskrit) brings balance and health to the mind and body and leads you down a path of living better, even one that you might not expect. As I practiced yoga, I began to devote myself more to the study of yogic and Buddhist texts. I became more interested in how to create true well-being at a time when most of my contemporaries were interested in sneaking into clubs and drinking their faces off. My commitment to my new found vegetarianism grew. Sure, I snuck a few drinks in there too...I was a teenager after all!

As the years went on, my practice deepened. I found ashtanga yoga and started practicing daily. My passion led me to study at Moksana Yoga Centre in Victoria under Jess Freedman and become a registered yoga teacher. While in university, I taught asana classes, mostly to my friends until life became so busy that I had to stop. In fact, one of the greatest ironies is that at the time you need yoga most, you usually practice it the least. While any time spent on practicing the postures is restorative, a traditional practice is 90 minutes a day. No small commitment in this crazy world! Since beginning my career as a registered dietitian, I maybe get on my mat once a month. But as I said, yoga has its way with you. Over the holiday break, a lovely little studio called Che Baba opened on Kingsway near my home and it hastened a return to practice that has my body literally singing with happiness. 

Enough blabbing about myself! I wanted to give you some background on why yoga is so important to me but what does this all have to do with healthy eating? Well, many things, actually. The word yoga means union, or to yoke. The practice of yoga is meant to bring all things into union: you with your body, mind and the divine within; you with others; you with a higher purpose. And so, as asana practice is the foundation of a life in yoga, it is important to integrate the practice into your life off the mat as well. 

One of the central principals (or yamas, in Sanskrit) of yoga is ahimsa, or non-harming. Ahimsa can be interpreted in many ways. Traditionally, one of the interpretations of ahimsa is to choose a diet that does not harm other living beings - a vegetarian diet. I connect with this mission personally and my primary reason for choosing vegetarianism is to reduce harm to others. However in this crazy world, sometimes foods like milk and eggs can also harm. And what about foods grown in developing nations? Fair trade is an option that is growing in popularity as we recognize more acutely that we are all interconnected and our purchase of bananas, sugar or tea affects the lives of those who come into contact with that food.

Non-harming also means not bringing harm to yourself. When we honour ourselves by choosing wholesome foods that nourish and repair our tissues and our minds, we practice ahimsa. Poor quality foods bring dis-ease to the body and are an act of self-harm. In addition, we need to address our thoughts and behaviours around our bodies and our eating habits. When we let go of guilt, self-hatred towards our bodies and other negative emotions surrounding food, we practice ahimsa. 

In my next post, we will talk further on how to practice ahimsa with regards to your diet and give you practical tools to help find yoga on your plate.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Desiree on Global Morning News

I was on Global Morning News with Sophie Lui and Steve Darling today so I thought I would post the video if you missed it. I was promoting our new weight loss book for Choices Markets called Find YOUR Healthy Weight and I prepared my Pear, Feta and Beet salad from the book (delish!). Fast forward on the video to just after 12 minutes to see my segment. 

If you are new to EDBH and found me on Global, welcome! Enjoy the site...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Eat...Healthy Starts Here (a book review)

I love cookbooks. I can't get enough of them, really. It seems that while I am constantly trying to acquire less and rid my life of excess stuff (electrical cords for tech unknown, lidless lunch containers, hole-ridden tights...), cookbooks are exempt from my anti-hoarding aims. This month, while everyone is thinking about eating better, I thought I would share reviews (and recipes!) from some of my latest finds. 

In December, a lovely little gift arrived at my door: my copy of Healthy Starts Here by Mairlyn Smith. Mairlyn is a professional home economist and a Second City alum and she has long been writing on health and creating healthy recipes. I have a very dog-eared (well, no...I take really good care of my books but that doesn't mean they aren't well used!) copy of Ultimate Foods for Ultimate Health, that she co-wrote with Liz Pearson RD. 

Healthy Starts Here is a breath of fresh air where health-focused books are concerned because there are no gimmicks. No low carb, raw-everything or protein overloads here. Mairlyn's recipes are always accessible, healthy and tasty.The recipes are full of fresh produce, whole grains and there are plenty of vegetarian options. The book is organized by ingredient and each section offers information on the health benefits of a variety of foods: from greens to yogurt to berries, there are recipes for each season and appetite. 

Where Mairlyn's background as a home economist and educator really shines through is in the book's opening section where she advises on basic kitchen equipment and stocking a pantry; she also demystifies terms that are commonly used in recipes. With more and more of us spending less and less time in a kitchen, this book is a great crash course in re-introducing yourself to cookery. The recipes come with plenty of helpful tips on, as Mairlyn describes, "how not to wreck them". Mairlyn is encouraging and humorous in her writing and graciously self-effacing in sharing some of her own kitchen mishaps. If nothing else, let the image of Mairlyn in her onion goggles forever be engrained  in your mind as your culinary cheerleader, encouraging as you embark on another meal's prep! 

The recipes all include nutritional information and, even more impressively, Mairlyn enlisted the help of a dietitian to ensure that there are diabetes food choice values for each recipe so that it is easy for diabetics on a meal plan to incorporate these recipes into their daily lives. These are recipes for real life and the book includes treats like cookies and chocolate chip muffins that are family friendly. The quality of ingredients is good and generally whole food focused; Mairlyn does use margarine in some of her recipes and I might argue that butter would be a less processed and better quality choice. 

In choosing a recipe to feature, I thought I would give you something that will keep you warm and healthy this winter and that includes one of my favourite unsung heroes of a grain, barley.


Tuscan Supper
From Healthy Starts Here! by Mairlyn Smith, PHEc 
Used with permission from Whitecap Books

Makes 6 cups (1.5 L) | One serving = 1 cup (250 mL)

4 large cloves garlic
1 cup (250 mL) pot barley
1 tbsp (15 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cups (1 L) sliced cremini mushrooms (about 24 mushrooms, or one and a half 8 oz / 227 g packages)
1 tbsp (15 mL) dried basil leaves (see below)
1 tsp (5 mL) dried oregano leaves (see below)
¼ tsp (1 mL) cracked black pepper
One 19 oz (540 mL) can diced tomatoes
1 cup (250 mL) lower-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (see page 7)
½ cup (125 mL) lightly packed grated
Asiago cheese or really good
Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

Mince the garlic and set aside.

Place the barley in a wire-mesh colander and rinse it well under cold running water. Set the barley aside to drain.

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the oil, then the onion, and sauté until golden brown, about 5 minutes. (This extra bit of time browning the onion pays off in the end as it gives the dish a deeper flavour.)

Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes. (I know what you’re thinking: this pot isn’t big enough. Trust me, the principle of shrinkage applies here and in about 3 minutes the mushrooms will have shrunk down.)

Add the basil, oregano, and pepper, and sauté for 1 minute. Add the barley and sauté for 1 minute.

Stir in the tomatoes and broth, making sure you scrape up all the little browned bits stuck to the bottom of the saucepan.

Bring to a boil and stir again. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until the barley is cooked through and soft but not mushy, 45 to 50 minutes. Stir occasionally and adjust the heat so it doesn’t burn.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir once, and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Spoon into bowls and top each serving with 2 tbsp (30 mL) grated cheese. (Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days.)

Per serving: 207 calories, 5 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 309 mg sodium,
33 g carbohydrate, 8 g fibre, 5.5 g sugars, 9 g protein

Diabetes Food Choice Values per serving: 2 Carbohydrate, 1 Meat and Alternatives, ½ Fat

Tips from Mairlyn:

“Can I use fresh herbs?” Yes, you can. Use 3 tbsp (45 mL) chopped fresh basil and 1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh oregano, but add them just before serving so the flavour isn’t completely cooked out of the herbs.

Full Disclosure: Whitecap Publishing generously supplied my copy of Healthy Starts Here but they did so because I am already such a fan of Mairlyn's and my views, expressed here, are entirely my own. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Eat...a little love for the super foods

Hi Everyone!

My list of 10 (real food!) super foods has been getting a bit of love this week...here are the links!

I was on CTV Morning Live, with Norma Reid, this morning talking about super foods for weight loss. You can check out the video and my super foods list, here:

Ten superfoods for weight loss | CTV British Columbia

Erin Ireland, master of life-changing banana bread and Vancouver food writer extraordinaire, shared my list here. Do check out her blog...it's to die for :)

10 Super Foods for a Super You in 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

Eat...a few foods to help ward off cold and flu season

I have a toddler, a husband, a full time job and a writing habit, which essentially means that I don't rest nearly enough and my immune system runs at half mast. As a result, I entertain more than my fair share of germs. Hmmm...maybe that is not the ideal introduction to convince you that I can help you strengthen your own immune system but what the heck, honesty at all costs!

Since most of us don't live perfectly restful lives, we can use all the help we can get. So below are a few foods to help you stimulate your immune system. Eat them regularly and, hey, try and relax once in a while! You look tired. 

Foods that Boost your Immune System

Wild mushrooms are the king of immune boosting foods. Polysaccharides in mushrooms help make white blood cells more active and mushrooms also contain a vitamin D precursor - a known immune booster. Eat shiitakes instead of your basic button and sauté them for a lovely pasta or pizza topper, stir-fry or bake into a casserole.

Long considered a medicinal food, anti-cancer garlic has been shown to fight infection. Allicin, a sulfur-containing compound that is created when the cell walls of garlic cloves are broken via mincing or crushing, is thought responsible for part of this benefit. Eat as much garlic as you can and don't cook the heck out of it (if you can handle it, try some raw!): keep heat low or add gently sautéed garlic at the end of cooking.

This fermented milk is akin to a yogurt drink with a kick: in addition to probiotic bacteria, kefir is fermented with yeasts. The resulting kefiran molecules have immune-boosting properties and the probiotics (more than your average yogurt) encourage a healthy digestive flora which is important for maintaining a healthy digestive tract and strong immune system. Drink 1/4 - 1/2 cup daily.

These are some of my favourites...what are yours?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Eat...lots more beans (a book review)

Dear Readers,

I must be forgiven for some of my nutritional (and editorial) idiosyncrasies...after all, I share my thoughts and passions in genuine attempt to inspire others to eat well. So it is with that humble admission that I must again turn our conversation to beans. Sweet, glorious legumes in all their shapes, sizes and colours. The fibre! The protein! The magnesium! Not a seminar goes by without my singing the praises of the musical fruit...and I can barely go 3 weeks on EDBH without sliding in a plug for the noble bean. And now I have found allies in my quest to encourage the world to eat more beans; they have even written a cookbook to entice you to do so. Julie van Rosendaal and Sue Duncan, two Canadians with a love for the humble legume, published their book, Spilling the Beans, just this year and thanks to my mom...their book ended up in my kitchen. 

What I admire about this book is that it is a love affair with beans and all of the comforting, hearty meals that they inspire. This is not a vegetarian book, although many recipes are vegetarian. It is also not a "health food" book, although many recipes are incredibly healthy. This is a book to appeal to everyone, from the bacon lover to the sweet tooth. It will convert you to our bean mission. I promise. The authors offer some compelling reasons for eating more beans in the book's brief introduction: that beans are planet friendly, economical and, of course, incredibly healthy. And they have found a way to get beans into almost every type of food imaginable: from cinnamon buns to muffins and mac and cheese to scones, there is a bean recipe for every appetite. 

The photography, from Julie herself, hits just the right foodie note and the book is beautiful. So far, I have tried 3 recipes and all of them have been a smashing success: the black-eyed pea and kale soup with cheesy croutons; the chard, white bean and sweet potato gratin which my 15 month old could not get enough of and the black bean brownies. You heard me, brownies. I am sharing the gratin recipe  here as I have made it 6 times since owning the book. It has gotten in the way of my trying other recipes, just like when you can't stop ordering the same dish every time you go out to a certain restaurant. 


Chard, White Bean and Sweet Potato Gratin

Excerpted from Spilling the Beans (Whitecap Books) by Julie van Rosendaal and Sue Duncan and used with permission. 

Canola or olive oil, for cooking
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 bunches chard, leaves and stems separated and both cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp (30ml) butter
2 tbsp (30ml) all-purpose flour
2 cups (500ml) milk
2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
1 large dark-fleshed sweet potato, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
2 cups (500ml) cooked white beans or a 19 oz (540ml) can, rinsed and drained
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup (250ml) coarsely shredded Gruyere, old cheddar or Gouda cheese

Heat a drizzle of oil in a heavy skillet set over medium-high heat and cook the onion for a few minutes. Add the chard, sprinkle with salt and cook until the chard wilts and there is no moisture left in the pan. Transfer to a bowl.

Add the butter and flour to the skillet and whisk together to make a paste. Whisk in the milk, then add the garlic and bring to a simmer. Boil for 2 minutes, whisking; season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spread half of the sweet potatoes in the baking dish. Top with half the beans, a sprinkle of nutmeg, salt and pepper, half of the greens mixture, half of the cheese and half of the sauce. Layer the rest of the potatoes, beans, greens and sauce and top with the rest of the cheese.

Cover with tin foil and bake for about 45 minutes, then take the tin foil off and bake for another 15 minutes, until golden and bubbly. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Eat...to find YOUR Healthy Weight

In my day job, I get to do a lot of cool stuff and this month is no exception. 

I am proud to announce (shameless plug!) that I wrote a little weight loss plan for Choices Markets, our first ever, called Find YOUR Healthy Weight. 

Before you go doubting my intentions...this is no fad diet. Find YOUR Healthy Weight is all about getting off the diet roller coaster (a familiar theme around here, n'est pas?) and eating whole food, plant-based diet to help you normalize your weight for life. Included in the book is a workout plan designed for us by Innovative Fitness, a 7 day meal plan, grocery shopping lists and 25 recipes to help get you started. The book is just $11.95 at your local Choices Markets. 

We are also hosting an unprecedented amount of programming at the stores to support you on your path to health: nutrition tours, dietitian consultations, a weight loss club and seminars. 

You can learn more in our newsletters and at the Find YOUR Healthy Weight home page.

If you want to hear me speak about finding YOUR healthy weight, you can do so at the following times and locations:

Thursday, January 5 7PM Choices Markets Kelowna 
Monday, January 9 7PM Choices Markets South Surrey 
Thursday, January 12 7PM Canadian Memorial Centre for Peace West 16th Ave @ Burrard
Tuesday, January 17 7PM Choices Markets at the Crest (Burnaby)

All seminars are $5 at the door.

Good luck to you as you make 2012 your healthiest year yet!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Be Happy...Happy New Year

Happy New Year, Everyone!

In my 32 (spoiler alert!) years, I have not yet tired of the promise of January 1st. How, just mere hours from the height of the chaos and indulgence of the holiday season can such a crisp page be turned in my soul? In years past, the laundry list of my hopeful resolutions has been vast: I have resolved to eat better, swear off alcohol, get fit, spend more time with loved ones, write more, relax more, be more organized...

Some years, progress turned to regress. Other years, I enjoyed a long run of success. More often than not, I added just a few positive notches to my belt that have stayed with me ever since. And yet, here I am, ready anew to breathe fresh life into my routine and commit to the highest purpose of continual self improvement. Given my own propensity to desire renewal, as 2011 drew to a close and my inbox grew quiet, I knew that it was just a matter of time. 

Come Tuesday (today is for brunch, tomorrow is for prep), I will be rocking and rolling, helping to cheer people on to a healthier path. In the interest of solidarity, I thought I would share some of my own wishes for the New Year with you.

1. Figure out how to get back into daily exercise. With a full time job, a writing habit and a family, exercise seems like a luxury but I know that it is not. My goal is to carve out 20 minutes every single day. 

2. Get back to writing "the book". The one I thought I would finish on maternity leave (ha!); the one that is only 20% finished; the one I have gotta write.

3. Pick up the phone once a week and call someone I love. When I get into my work cave, I shut the outside world out. Time to reach out and touch someone (I already told you my age, so it doesn't matter if I show it with lines from ancient TV commercials!)

What will you aspire to this year?