Friday, June 15, 2012

A healthy summer treat...

Banana "Ice Cream"...minus all the sugar and cream

With the warm weather flirting with more regular attendance (and perhaps intending to stay for the actual summer season), I find myself needing some cool treats. And since I like "treats" to be more than an occasional treat, I like to find healthy ways of indulging in a little something.

So in a craving fit, I took one look at the very ripe bananas sitting on my counter and thought that something could be done. The resulting confection is sort of like a frozen smoothie and plenty worth sharing here. So this summer, spare the expense and additives that are usually found in frozen desserts and try this out instead!

Banana Ginger "Ice Cream"

5 very ripe bananas
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 355ml can of light coconut milk
2 tbsp diced candied ginger

Mix the bananas, cinnamon and coconut milk in a blender until smooth. Pour mixture into your ice cream maker and then add the ginger. Mix according to manufacturer's instructions. When finished, freeze for at least 1-2 hours before serving so it can firm up. If making ahead, let the ice cream sit at room temperature for a few minutes before serving as it freezes very hard. 

If you don't have an ice cream maker, you could try this granita style: simply pour into a 6 cup square cake pan, cover with saran wrap and freeze, either stirring every 20 minutes or making a true granita by allowing to freeze solid and then scraping with a fork to create the granita to serve.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Happy World Oceans Day!

Did you know that today was World Oceans Day? I had the extreme good fortune of starting the day at the Vancouver Aquarium's Yoga with Belugas event so I thought I would share a few photos from the day...

The stars of the show! Beautiful Belugas.
 The class was taught by Eoin Finn, legendary Vancouver yogi and passionate ocean lover. If you don't know about Eoin, check out his website
Getting cozy, just like sardines in the ocean!
The event was a fundraiser for Ocean Wise and Sea Choice and it was a sellout! There was such a positive vibe in the room and everyone was in awe of the beauty of the whales.
Myself (2nd from left) and the amazing crew at Ocean Wise
 I had the honour of representing Choices Markets, who put on an amazing healthy and organic breakfast featuring sustainable salmon lox from the Okanagan Nation Alliance.
The beautiful, organic spread we served from Choices Markets

I hope you all got a chance to celebrate today! If not, venture out this weekend and spend time by the ocean if you are lucky enough to live by one. If not, consider choosing sustainable seafood, buying biodegradable products or create a personal way to show respect and care for this most precious resource.

Words to Eat By...

Obviously, I have a lot of opinions about food. I would be in the wrong career if I didn't. However, there is a difference between the advice of Desiree, the dietitian, and Desiree, the eater. Why? As a dietitian, it is my job to give each person the utmost in support on their healthy eating journey which includes remaining open to different perspectives, cultures, emotional attachments and deeply held beliefs about nutrition. As an eater, I have my own perspectives, culture, attachments and deeply held beliefs. So here are some thoughts on what I think it means to eat contradictory or irrational as some of them might seem. Love them or hate them, I offer them in hopes they will help open a dialogue for you on your own personal definition of eating well so that you can continue on your own journey towards being as healthy as you can possibly be. I encourage you to share your own views here, to add to the discussion.

1. If your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, steer clear. Your grandmother thought margarine was food...she was wrong.

2. Genetically modified foods are useless at best and toxic at worst. At the very least, corporations should be forced to label them so we, the public, would finally realize how much of them we are eating and have the power to choose. 

3. We should not be eating refined wheat 6 times a day, regardless of whether you believe it is healthy or not. Time to drop the granola bar and pick up a carrot stick. 

4. Whether we love steak, crave cheese or pine for vegan cocoa cupcakes, we should all be 80% whole foods vegan. That means that 80% of the time, eat unprocessed fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. If you do that, whatever tickles your fancy the other 20% of the time, your body can handle. 

5. Remember, it's just food - constantly obsessing about the merits of almond versus hemp milk or counting every gram of sugar will drive you (and all of your friends and family) crazy.

6. Food is medicine. Not the blunt force object that pharmaceuticals are, but no less powerful. 

7. The reason that all of us bleeding-heart, organic-touting, farmers' market-obsessed foodies wax lyrical about bloody heirloom beets is because our society is so fooled into believing that cocoa puffs are actual food that we need to make a religion out of real food so we can all get back to our senses. See point one.

8. Eating well is not reserved for the rich. You don't need goji berries. Rice and beans, one of the humblest and cheapest foods around, will save your value-meal-eating soul.

9. Good, healthy, safe food is a human rights issue. Get political.

10. Yes, nutritionism got us into this mess. However, if rhapsodizing over the anti-oxidant values of kale gets you to eat it, I am all for it.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Nutrition ABCs...G is for Gluten (Part One)

On our way through the nutrition alphabet, it's time for could it not be gluten? You can hardly have a conversation (here on the diet-conscious West Coast at least!) without the word popping up. 

You know, in my education, I actually didn't learn a lot about Celiac Disease and gluten. It was only when I started my career that I became immersed in the world of the gluten free and nowadays, gluten free advocates are multiplying like rabbits. As a dietitian, it is impossible to ignore...and for the public, an important topic on which to set a few things straight. So let's start with a simple definition.

What is gluten? 

Gluten refers to a family of storage proteins, also called prolamins, that are found in wheat, barley and rye and all grains related to (and commonly contaminated with) them. Spelt and Kamut contain gluten. Most commercial oats are cross-contaminated with gluten. For this reason, wheat free and gluten free do not mean the same thing. This is an important fact to remember because many I see are confused by this. Since gluten is a protein found in wheat AND other grains, all gluten free foods will be also free of wheat but since gluten is found in other grains, a wheat free food might still have gluten. 

Is gluten bad for me? 

It depends on who you ask. Us darned health professionals have differing views on this question, based on our interpretation of the research available. In conventional medical thinking, only those of us with Celiac Disease or non-Celiac gluten sensitivity need to avoid gluten. According to best estimates, 1% of us in North America have Celiac Disease, an auto-immune disease that causes the body to attack itself when gluten is ingested. Celiac Disease is NOT an allergy to gluten. Gluten is the trigger that activates the disease process in those who have it. 

Dr Alessio Fasano, of the Cleveland Clinic, also estimates that a further 6% of us have non-Celiac gluten sensitivity, which is non-immune mediated yet still causes health concerns when gluten is consumed. Doing the quick math, that should leave 93% of us who can safely and healthfully consume gluten. However, advocates of many popular diets including the Wheat Belly Diet and the Paleo Diet, believe that all of us should stop consuming gluten. There, the research becomes a little more fuzzy. 

We'll get further into the question of whether we should avoid gluten in the next instalment...