Monday, August 20, 2012

Where's Desiree? A not so lazy summer...

Relax...and enjoy the view!

What a year this has been. 

I feel pretty lucky. I have a career that I love because I get to share what I have learned about healthy eating, inspire others to live well and learn so much from those I meet along the way. 

August has been a pretty banner month and so I am taking a week or so off from posting because I have two exciting projects (and a fun foodie trip) coming up...the first, with this fantastic, Canadian company and the second, with this truly super food. Stay tuned...and enjoy those last rays of summer sunshine!

Monday, August 13, 2012

What is a sustainable eating plan?

Patio THAT's sustainable
I live by a truly integrative approach to nutrition. It is not enough for me to search out the best sources of fibre or omega 3s and admonish you to eat them. Whether we are conscious of our food choices or not, we arrive at those choices via complex processes. Similarly, the impact that those food choices have on our body, mind, spirit, culture and environment are equally complex. Sustainability is a word that gets thrown about a great deal - but what does it mean to eat sustainably? 

Many of us choose to eat a vegetarian or vegan diet in the name of sustainability. And there is plenty of data to support this. According to the EWG's Meat Eater's Guide, if everyone in the US went without meat and dairy for just a single day (Meatless Monday, anyone?) it would be akin to taking 7.6 million cars off the road. However, even within a plant-based diet, there are plenty of sustainability concerns.

We must also consider how we process our food, where it is grown and by whom. If a vegan diet contains plenty of exotic super foods such as matcha, acai and goji berries, does that negate its sustainability? Is it more sustainable to purchase fair trade, organic quinoa from Peru or to buy conventionally grown wheat from Saskatchewan? Is it greener to buy 100 mile greenhouse-grown tomatoes in March or field grown from Mexico? If only someone could create a perfect, all-encompassing calculation to help us weigh the options and deliver a tidy little point system to help guide us!

What about seafood? The evidence on the health benefits of omega 3 DHA and EPA from seafood is quite strong but we must contend with whether it is sustainable for us to eat any fish at all. And does contamination with mercury and PCBs, rampant in our polluted oceans, negate the long term benefits?

Another local Vancouver dietitian, Dean Simmons, published a wonderful essay on the topic of sustainability and other ethical issues in nutrition practice in the journal Critical Dietetics. It is free to access the journal (but you must create a login) and the essay is well worth the time to read it. I agree with Dean that as nutrition professionals, we need to consider more than just the latest research when choosing how to form our nutrition philosophy and guiding others on making food choices.

I have to say, I don't think I have all the answers. This is not a prescriptive article. I know which choices make the most sense for me - as they are the choices I make on a daily basis. I feel that eating locally grown, organic food is important. As is eating more plant foods and fewer processed foods. However, I still choose to eat organic dairy and eggs. And I can understand why eating ethically raised, pastured meat makes sense for people. Vegetarian diets, as I learned when I completed my first 100 mile diet challenge last year, are a luxury borne by access to plant proteins - which we don't really grow close to home.

And I can't dismiss the sustainability issue of the family food budget. It is getting more and more expensive to house and transport yourself. I have a difficulty with praising buying local food from the farmer's market to a family that is trying to make ends meet. If you are interested in what it costs to feed a family a basic healthy food basket, read this report on the cost of eating in BC. I do feel that we all have a right to high quality food...but that is a soapbox chat for another day.

Of course, at the end of the day, sustainable food choices also mean that they are food choices you can continue to make for life. Eating nothing but patio kale and locally caught sardines is no way to live. I have seen plenty of instances where someones sincere desire to live healthfully has led to an expensive, restrictive, joyless diet. Food is something that should nourish your senses and your well as your stomach. It is up to you to determine what a sustainable lifestyle will look like in your world - I would love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Happy Food Day, Canada!

You know what makes a food geek want to celebrate? A whole day devoted to food! Today is Food Day Canada, so I thought I would share some of my favourite ways to celebrate food. Pick one to try today or try them all while the sun is still shining this August!

1. Go U-Pick. Nothing will make you appreciate those gorgeous overflowing cartons of berries more than realizing how long it takes you to pick them yourself. Plus, I can't think of a better way to spend a summer morning than out in the sunshine, plucking sweet, juicy berries. Followed by eating said berries.

2. Have an amazing, leisurely meal at a local restaurant celebrating Food Day. One of my favourite neighbourhood haunts, Campagnolo, is taking part.

3. Go to the farmer's market and say thank you to a farmer for all of their hard work. Not from Vancouver? Search for Canadian markets here or US markets here. Then rustle yourself up some gorgeous grub and pick a shady spot for a picnic lunch. 

4. Invite friends over for a potluck. My favourite dinner party is one I didn't have to spend 6 hours preparing for. 

5. Take a cooking class. Here is one sweet and one savoury on my wish list.

6. Go to the beach. Bring along tasty snacks and some foodie reading

7. Try making something you have never cooked or baked before. For inspiration, try this or this or this.

8. Treat yourself to your favourite food. Write a haiku about its pleasures.

9. Have a recipe swap. Ask friends to email you their best family recipes and then you can distribute them all to the group. No chain letters, please!!

10. Tell me what Food Day means to you!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Feast or Famine? Time to get off the diet roller coaster.

This week, someone shared this Bloomberg Business Week article revealing interesting data from a few US chains showing increased salad sales on Mondays. 

Monday - day of perpetual hope and new beginnings! 

Diets always start on Mondays, usually to crash and burn with Friday night drinks after work. In fact, one business owner in the article cites Friday lunch as a boom time for burgers. Or, maybe Monday is the day of repentance, as the article suggests. Many of us have been there: weekends filled with nachos, beers and double-scoop ice cream to be followed by All Bran and skinny lattes come Monday morning. In fact, as dietitians, we always ensure that clients record food habits on both weekends and weekdays as dietary habits are so different during those times. Yet another option is if a new dietary regime is already in the works, we plan to start it on Monday. We can then "take advantage" of the weekend to get all of our favourites "out of our system". 

You know when would be a good time to start a diet? Right now. And let's not call it a diet, so  much as a "new way of eating". The best part? No radical overhauls to how you eat. You don't have to say goodbye to some of your favourite treats. You simply need to figure out how to make them work for you and your bottom line.

If you are planning on making a big change, think about what your goals are and how realistic your plan is for long term success. Dieting is a bore so if you have weight to lose, consider how well your plan can be followed for life. If you can't see yourself on this regime for the rest of your life (or if it doesn't teach you how to adapt the plan for maintenance) you may find yourself selecting another Monday for another new diet in 6 months time. 

If like the fresh start Mondays provide, use that power for permanent change by trying my UnDiet project, with weekly tips to slowly makeover your diet for good. Small changes have a powerful effect over time.