As you can imagine, I hear and speak about nutrition day in and day out. It's a great job and I love it, but some trends just drive me nuts, and here they are:
People are getting too free -- as is, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, you name it.
There are always those people who have legitimate food intolerances and allergies who actually need a diet that is 'free' of something. Everyone else, it's not the wheat that's making you bloated, it's all those crackers you used to eat that aren't allowed on your gluten free diet. Cut the junk, lose the weight. It's pretty simple.
The concentration on one particular "superfood."
Kale, I'm talking about you. I'm a dietitian and even I'm sick of kale. Listen, no one food is going to save your life or make you healthier -- it's what you eat overall that really counts. I'm glad that people are willing to branch out and try new foods such as kale, freekeh, goji berries and the like, but let's be clear: you don't need kale in your cookies.
Your body doesn't function like a sewer pipe -- you can't just flush it out, and it doesn't contain pounds of crap that is going to make you sick. The role of your kidneys and your liver is to filter toxins out, and if those things are working fine (and they must be if you're feeling well), you're good.
Let me explain this one. Green juices can be very healthy -- it's always good to chew your greens and I prefer that you do, but green juices do contain a lot of good stuff. It's the juices or smoothies that have eight servings of fruit and tons of sugar that I take issue with. Two to three servings of fruit a day is sufficient for most people. Juice is not fruit, it's sugar water. Eat the whole fruit.
Going overboard, because more must be better.
Whether it's eating spoonfuls of coconut oil because you heard it's healthy (yes, some people do that), or taking handfuls of supplements, some people don't know when to stop. Unfortunately for them, sometimes more isn't better. Moderation is a hard concept, I suppose, but when has it ever been a good idea to eat oil by the spoonful?
Unhealthy for the sake of unhealthy.
Hopefully we're on the back end of this trend now, but restaurants serving dishes like duck fat fries with lardons and gravy topped with a pound of cheese, or putting pork belly in everything, it's not cool, it's unhealthy, and I still can't figure out why people boast about eating that stuff. Please stop.
Organic cookies are still cookies. Period.
Vilifying one food in particular.
The world's health woes are not just because of sugar, just like they were not just because of fat when we thought fat was terrible. People are sick mostly because they eat a lot of junk with all sorts of processed chemicals in it, and far less whole foods than they should. We have always known that sugar isn't something we need a lot of. Eat less out of a box, and you don't have to worry.
And one trend I love, the "new age" of nutrition.
People are more interested in nutrition than ever before, and are concerned in a different way about what they're putting in their body. Nutrition isn't only about trendy diets or losing weight anymore -- the culture of nutrition is changing to involve new foods going mainstream (quinoa, for example), a push for families to cook together, and far more awareness about where food is actually coming from.
This is one trend that I hope continues!
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Make weekday dinners easier on yourself by getting started on the weekend. Peel wash and chop vegetables for the next couple of dinners, buy, marinate and freeze meat in small portions, or cook a big pot of whole grain pasta, barley or quinoa so it’s ready to reheat when you need it.
For people in a rush, there are some prepared foods that retain their healthy properties. They include: • Light canned tuna or canned salmon • Pre-cut butternut squash • Canned legumes such as chickpeas or lentils • Canned diced tomatoes • Shredded cheese • Eggs • Plain frozen fish fillets • Frozen vegetables and fruit • Fresh or frozen whole wheat tortellini • Whole grain pizza crusts
Just because bread and gluten have been called the enemy of healthy eating for years doesn't mean sandwiches are out of the question (or, for that matter, that you shouldn't eat bread). Great combinations include a sandwich with fresh roasted turkey breast, avocado, tomato and lettuce; cheddar cheese, thinly sliced pear and spicy red pepper jelly; or hummus, thinly sliced cucumber, shredded carrot and lettuce.
Don't be so quick to reach for the takeout menus — that gets expensive, and of course, unhealthy, very quickly. Some ideas for those 20 minute meals? • Quesadillas filled with black beans, diced sweet pepper, salsa and Monterey Jack cheese • Shrimp or tofu sautéed with broccoli, garlic, ginger and a pinch of hot pepper flakes, served over whole wheat couscous • Whole grain pita pizzas topped with mushrooms, spinach, leftover grilled chicken and mozzarella
If you have more time to cook breakfast on the weekend, don't be afraid to make double the amount and save it for weekdays. Items like pancakes (which can be reheated in the toaster), oatmeal (which can be frozen in portions) and vegetable frittatas (which refrigerate well for a few days) can all work.
Embrace "planned extras" and make more than you need for dinner so that certain ingredients will work for breakfast, lunch and beyond. Grilled chicken works perfectly on a sandwich the next day, roasted veggies top a pizza beautifully and chili can be transformed into enchilada in a snap.
Put the intimidating cookbooks away, and try these super simple recipes that are just as delicious: • Cheesy Frittata – eggs, spinach, diced potato, red onion, milk and old cheddar cheese • Lemony Pasta – whole grain pasta tossed with grilled zucchini, cherry tomatoes, roasted garlic, chickpeas and lemon juice • Loaded Sweet Potato – baked sweet potato topped with black beans, green onion, tomato, cilantro and a spoonful of plain yogurt
According to the Dietitians of Canada, you can have a whole kitchen full of supplies, but there are five you really need to cook your meals: • Sharp knives – including a paring knife for small slices • Box grater – for grated vegetables, citrus zest and shredded cheese • Immersion (hand-held) blender – perfect for puréeing vegetable soups right in the pot • Steamer basket – makes cooking tender-crisp veggies a snap • Instant-read thermometer – so you know when food is cooked to safe temperatures (no more guessing!)
It sounds simple, but is a step many people plunging into cooking for the first time forget: read your recipe the whole way through so that you know what's involved. Get your ingredients and tools ready accordingly and make cooking that much easier.
There are certain items you should always have in your kitchen. While fresh produce and dairy products are great to buy regularly, these ingredients can be stocked at any time: • Frozen vegetables and fruit • Whole grains, such as quinoa, oats, brown rice and barley • Canned salmon and chunk light tuna • Canned or dried legumes, such as chickpeas, black beans and lentils • Spices, garlic, vinegars and oils
Suggestions for meals that use only one major cooking tool (therefore reducing clean-up time by half): • Go quick: Cook simple skillet fajitas with sautéed onions, garlic, chicken and bell peppers. Serve the mixture in warm tortillas with avocado, cheese and salsa. • Go slow: Make satisfying slow-cooker stews with beef, pork or dried legumes, root veggies, herbs and spices, simmered in flavourful broth.
Marinating inexpensive cuts of meat, such as pork shoulder, lamb shanks or beef brisket, adds flavour while it tenderizes, explain the Dietitians of Canada. It's easy to marinade meat in a plastic freezer bag, anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours. Check out <a href="http://www.dietitians.ca/Recipes/Sesame-Steak.aspx" target="_hplink">the recipe for sesame flank steak here</a>.
Once you create your own stock (which just needs a bit of time, some vegetables, chicken or beef if you'd like), you can have soup any day by adding in pasta, more veggies or whatever your favourite ingredients are.
Besides the benefits of vegetarianism, which we know are myriad, using proteins like chickpeas, lentils, black beans instead of meat will cut the cost of your grocery bill significantly.
Eliminate hidden salts and fats, and make your own pasta sauce like this: • Lightly sauté onions and garlic in a little olive oil • Add low-sodium canned tomatoes and simmer • Season with freshly ground pepper and herbs such as basil or oregano
You may be scared to give your kids knives, but even getting them to do things like measure ingredients or mix up a salad (or even better, cleaning up!) teaches them from an early age about making healthy meals regularly.
Teens who eat meals with their families and help out in the kitchen are more likely to make better food choices, according to the Dietitians of Canada — they’re also less likely to have eating disorders. Make it fun for them by letting them put together their own meals, whether it's tacos, fajitas or pizza created buffet style.
It's always a good idea to add a little interest into the mix, especially once your regular meals start getting tired. Challenge your family or friends to pick a new recipe to try a month, and each person has to take the responsibility for it. Once they make it, judge away — and more than likely, discover a new favourite.
Smoothies are massively trendy right now, and even better, they're so easy to make. Literally, it's a blender, and the healthy, fresh ingredients you choose to combine. This is another great way to get kids involved in cooking — let them pick the foods, and even hit the blend button (which you know they'll love).
Especially for those cooking for one, there's no reason why you can't eat breakfast for dinner. To bulk it up, try adding veggies like sautéed spinachs and mushrooms to poached eggs, yogurt on top of French toast or a Greek omelette complete with feta, tomatoes, red onions and olives.
When cooking for one or two, throwing whatever veggies are in your fridge together can be a great choice. Literally, the formula for stir-fries is a few veggies, some olive oil, maybe a bit of garlic, a protein and a grain. A complete meal in one!
Don't even look at the iceberg lettuce — if you want to get serious about salads, it's all about baby spinach, mixed greens or arugula. And try out these additions: • Sliced fresh pear, dried cranberries, toasted almonds and crumbled blue cheese • Grilled salmon, green onion, grapefruit or orange pieces, and celery, and serve with a side of crusty whole grain bread • Cherry tomatoes, English cucumber, minced red onion, lentils and barley
If you're planning to entertain friends, you can do it without ordering in. Try preparing things like leafy green salads, chilis, lasagnas, curries and stews a day in advance, or pasta salads a couple of days prior. And just ... make a lot of it. If it doesn't get eaten that night, it can always be leftovers after.
If you're crunched for time in general but still want to be social, be amazingly productive by inviting your friends over for a cooking party. Settle on two or three recipes, split up the ingredients (or at least, the cost) and quadruple the serving size. Then, have fun and cook! Everyone gets a meal, and hopefully, a bit to take home as well.
Forget adding in filler — if you put nutrient-rich ingredients into dishes, they'll help fill you up and add serious health factors. For example: • Cheese – just a sprinkle of strong-tasting cheese such as Parmesan, Asiago or aged cheddar fills your food with flavour • Pesto – it’s bursting with basil, so you just need a spoonful to turn plain pasta into a gourmet meal • Nuts – toasting nutrient-rich nuts brings out their rich flavour, so a handful will do
It may seem like a boring way to eat your veggies, but guess what? Steaming vegetables is also incredibly healthy, and incredibly simple. Try out new produce you've never had that's in season to spice things up if you like.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/03/03/how-to-eat-healthy-_n_4877396.html" target="_blank">We've talked a bit about sneaking fruits and veggies into your diet</a>, but these ideas are truly inventive. • Blend a handful of spinach or kale into a fruit smoothie • Mash cooked cauliflower together with potatoes • Add puréed butternut squash to homemade macaroni and cheese • Shred carrots, zucchini or onions into spaghetti sauce • Stir canned puréed pumpkin into whole grain pancake or muffin batter • Sprinkle berries onto breakfast cereal or yogurt
You know what's great about the Dietitians of Canada? They encourage dessert — albeit with a healthier edge. Check out these ideas for making your favourite baked goods more nutritious: • Replace at least half of the enriched white flour with whole grain flour • Replace a quarter of the sugar with skim milk powder • Replace half of the fat in muffins, quick breads and cookies with mashed fruit or vegetables, such as unsweetened applesauce or puréed sweet potato • Use milk instead of water
Dessert is the part of the meal that gets the bad rap, but there are plenty of hidden (read: unnecessary) fats in meals as well. Check out these ideas for keeping the flavour, but losing the fats: • Use evaporated milk instead of cream for a luscious pasta Alfredo • Substitute lower-fat yogurt for mayonnaise to make a creamy salad dressing • Sweeten whole grain hot cereal with fruit, such as bananas, apples or peaches, instead of sugar • Use lemon juice, garlic, herbs and spices instead of salt to flavour savoury dishes
Bland food is just that — boring. Here are five flavours to add that will make seriously anything taste better: • Red pepper flakes deliver delicious heat to lightly sautéed greens • Fresh lime juice is a tangy addition to fish, avocado or fresh tomato salsa • Garlic is perfect for pasta, potatoes and peas, and it makes a tofu-and-veggie stir-fry sizzle • Ginger spices up butternut squash soup and adds depth to beef and pork dishes • Cinnamon pairs sweetly with apples, squash and sweet potatoes
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