Cucumber Life Boats in a Sea of Trans Fat

20140801_122533After looking up some raw food recipes, I came across this cutesy Cucumber Boat idea.  It made a super healthy, low calorie lunch; it’s high in fibre, potassium,
vitamin C,
and even had some iron.

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We think David Suzuki would approve

We diced some tomato and avocado, then added minced cilantro, and flavoured the filling with a splash of lemon juice and balsamic vinegar.  I preferred mine open-faced, but my squeeze made his into a cucumber sandwich.

The Nutrition facts of this healthy concoction were complied at eatracker.ca, a really handy site for punching in ingredients and seeing what health benefits can be found in the meals you’re cooking.


Trans fat

Did you know New York City’s Health board banned trans fat in restaurant food back in 2006?  Since 2013, the FDA put a plan together to completely phase trans fat out of the U.S.  Since 2013 the FDA has determined that trans fat — or partially hydrogenated oils — can no longer be classified as safe for consumption, and will be phased out.

Why is Health Canada still lagging behind in this matter?  At this point we shouldn’t have to be buying anything with trans fat in it at all.  For the time being all we can do is check the label and put it back on the shelf if there’s trans fat listed.  Health Canada recommends that our daily intake be less than 1%… whatevs.

Here are some typically trans fatty foods to watch out for:
battered & fried foods, flaky pastries, margarine, cake mixes and frostings, pancake/waffle mixes, ice cream, microwave popcorn (waaa!), cookies, some types of crackers, frozen dinners, and packaged puddings.

When you make it yourself, then you’ll know what’s in it!

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Fruit Leather

wpid-20140907_150449.jpgI picked up a dehydrator so jumped on making some fruit leather using my fantastic Vitamix.

Here is my first batch:
Bananas, strawberries, apple, peach, and unsweetened coconut flakes as garnish.

There are four trays, so if you divide each tray in four, the contents of one piece of fruit leather is:
¼ banana, 2 strawberries, 1/6 apple, 1/12 peach, 1/4 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes

Using the Nutrient Value of Some Common Foods guide by Health Canada I was able to calculate the nutrient value per serving of fruit leather.

Banana Strawberry Apple Peach Coconut TOTAL
Calories (kcal) 26.25 7.7 12 4.65 110 160.6
Carbohydrates (g) 6.75 1.7 3.17 1.1 4 16.72
Fat (g) 0 0 0 0 10 10
Saturated fat (g) 0 0 0 0 9 9
Sodium (mg) 0.25 0.285 0.16 0  0 0.695
Sugar (g) 3.5 1.14 2.33 0.98  1 8.95
Protein (g) 0 0.285 0 0.12  1 1.405
Fibre (g) 0.525 0.54 0.43 0.23  2 3.725
Vitamin C (µg) 2.5 14 1 0.73  0 18.23
Vitamin A (µg) 1 0.285 0.66 1.96  0 3.905
Iron (mg) 0.0075 0.01 0.03 0.002  0.4 0.4495
Calcium (mg) 1.5 3.7 1.33 0.73 0 7.26
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Mmm – Fruit Leather

Fruit Leather label

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a handy-dandy online nutrition label generator that is quite handy for making your own labels and calculating the daily nutrition values for the average 2,000 calorie-a-day diet.

Here is a chart with the recommended daily values of intake that we should be aiming for each day regarding nutrients – it comes from healthycanadians.gc.ca

Daily Values
Nutrient Daily Value (DV)  
Fat 65 g
Saturated and trans fats 20 g
Cholesterol 300 mg
Sodium 2400 mg
Carbohydrate 300 g
Fibre 25 g
Vitamin A 1000 RE
Vitamin C 60 mg
Calcium 1100 mg
Iron 14 mg

 

Gluten Free Pizza

wpid-20140922_182116.jpgToday in school we focused on feeding patients with Celiac disease, and their inability to eat gluten.  People with Celiac disease are not simply ‘gluten avoiders’ which is a growing trend.  This autoimmune disorder can occur to genetically predisposed people of all ages, including infants.

The small intestine walls actually become damaged by gluten, and since most of the nutrients are absorbed in the first ten inches of the small intestine, Celiac patients are at risk of vitamin deficiency, weight loss, fatigue, and anemia.

The pizza dough resembled wet sand and was crumbly to work with. After we baked it, it seemed drier and heavier than regular pizza crust.  As our lab chef pointed out, it’s the flavours of what’s on top of the crust that people notice the most when they bite into a pizza!

I have read Wheat Belly, by William Davis, and am all for eating less wheat, but I now understand there is a big difference between the so-called ‘wheat avoiders’ and people who suffer from Celiac.  I wonder(bread) if people had Celiac Disease 1,000 years ago, back before wheat was GMO’d to death.

Prepping Smoothies in Freezer Bags

freezer bagsCan there be a better way to start the day than a nutrient blast from a full power smoothie? Yet, who has time to wash fruit, grab this and that, or even think with clarity during those early hours? I don’t, so taking 15 minutes to divvy up ingredients up into freezer bags is the way to make it happen.

Just throw her in the blender, add almond milk, or a liquid of your choice, and spin up an easy, nutrient-packed, breakfast smoothie!

Here are some combos I used: strawberries, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, peaches, bananas, and kale. Some of the bags are doubled because it’s always nice to have a smoothie for two!

Mine have been fortified with flax seeds, apple cider vinegar, and bee pollen, but the sky’s the limit for whatever your specific health needs are. You can also invigorate smoothies with goji berries, peanut/almond butter, kefir, psyllium, coconut, chia, or cacao beans. Mmmm!

Emotional Eating

stressed

While working towards consciously eating my way into a balanced diet, I’m noticing emotional dependence on certain foods.

Chocolate is something I like to have on my desk at all times; chocolate equals happiness! At the grocery store, I compared the milk versus dark chocolate labels, and it was a no-brainer – dark has less sugar. The higher the cocoa content the more minerals such as magnesium and copper. I can’t say I enjoyed eating it as much, but maybe I can learn to love it?

Some people eat out of depression – this must be where chocolate comes in. Is chocolate keeping my head above water? Without it will I drown in depression? Probably not, but it’s not really a boat I care to rock.

They say snacking on chips is related to boredom. For me, snacking on chips (and popcorn) goes exceptionally well with watching movies! Luckily, it’s pretty easy to substitute that kind of snacking with dried fruits and nuts – problem solved.

Guilt. Wouldn’t it be stressful to feel guilty about something, then roll an even larger self-loathing snowball by indulging in unhealthy eating? When I see cheesecake, cupcakes, cookies, or any baked goods in general, I want to pop them in my mouth because the experience is so enjoyable. There is no guilt, even after swallowing.

Who knew that improving diet would require so much self exploration for success? I thought it would simply be a logical choice. All we can do is take baby-steps and be kind to ourselves through the process.

Mediterranean Diet – Healthiest in the World

Rotwein und PizzaThere are different eating habits all over the world based on locally abundant foods and social habits, and studies show the Mediterranean Diet to be the most nutritious among them.

Fortunately for us, foods of other cultures are readily available these days, so why not try out a Mediterranean Diet?

 

The main differences between the Mediterranean Diet and what the Canada Food Guide recommends are:
-Having a glass of wine with dinner
-Using olive oil as the main source of fat
-Less meat servings

Animal products are consumed a few times per week, with red meat as an exception – only a few times per month.  The main diet focus is plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, with wine in moderation during meals, and lunch being the main meal of the day. (See the diet pyramid below.)

According to the New England Journal of Medicine’s 2008 study – following a Mediterranean diet was just as effective for weight loss as a low-carb diet. As a result, longer life expectancy, less chance of heart disease, protection against type 2 diabetes, with lowering of blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

So tonight for dinner – veggie lasagne and a bottle o’ red!

mediterranean-diet-food-pyramid

Mediterranean Diet Pyramid from http://www.italialiving.com

Brewing Kombucha

kombucha

The SCOBY is floating near the top

We are brewing our first batch of kombucha at the moment.  A year ago I attempted to brew kombucha, but didn’t have the right conditions and had to chuck it all out.

Since then I picked up a few huge jars because I’d hoped to try again some day.  There was a starter cultures listed on Kijiji for $5, so I gave it another shot, plus did some more research.

This is a sterilized four litre jar, and we used Darjeeling tea, a cup of sugar, and two small scobys (starter cultures).  After eight days you can already see some carbonation bubbling to the top.  We capped it with a coffee filter and rubber band; the fruit flies came out of nowhere!

Kombucha is fermented – a food preservation method that actually increases the nutrient value.  It’s bubbly like pop, yet good for you, with alcohol content around a mere .5%!

Too Hot to Cook? Make a Spicy Lentil Salad

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Spicy Lentil Salad – packs a flavourful punch

Yesterday the kitchen was too hot to turn on the stove, but my squeeze was coming over for dinner and I knew he would be heat-exhausted after working his manly-man job all day.

So, alongside some other carbs, I whipped up this cold and spicy lentil salad, because – as everybody knows – lentils are FULL of protein.  A slightly lesser known fact is – lentils lower cholesterol.  Of all legumes and nuts, lentils are third highest in protein (after soya and hemp).

nutrient value imageIn this dish I used parsley, but plan to try cilantro next time. Parsley is highly nutritious, so I try to fit it in where I can.  Chock-full of vitamin K, with good amounts of vitamin C, A, and iron — parsley has become a blasé plate garnish, but don’t ignore it! I like to make pesto with parsley replacing the basil, and using walnuts instead of pine nuts.

The Nutrition Facts of this Spicy Lentil Salad were found using the Nutrient-Value of Some Common Foods PDF guide from Health Canada.  It’s handy if you’re interested in calculating and tracking your personal calorie and protein intake.


Spicy Lentil Salad

NutritionLabel for lentil salad sm

Created at onlinelabels.com

Ingredients:
1 19 oz can of lentils
1/3 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cold pressed, virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. agave (or other sweetener)
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Directions:
Drain and rinse lentils well.
Combine all ingredients in a serving bowl and toss until mixed.
Serve immediately, or chill in the refrigerator for up to three days.

The Fruit of the Sumac

sumac panorama

 

 

 

 

While walking the dog by the river this morning, I noticed the full bloom of the Sumac trees.  At first glance, just some shrubbery that we’ve been seeing our whole lives, but there is more to the Sumac than meets the eyes.

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Fruit of the Sumac (drupes)

Last summer, I read in my handy Peterson Field Guide book, Edible Wild Plants Eastern/Central North America, that you can make a lemonade-style drink out of the strange looking, wooly ‘drupes’, or the fruit of the Sumac.  Simply soak them in cold water for 15 minutes, then strain the pink liquid through cheese cloth to remove the fuzzies, add sweetener, and voila – you have an old school Native American beverage!

According to Wikipedia;
-Native Americans used Sumac leaves and drupes in their tobacco mix.

-Sumac leaves contain vegetable tannins which are used for dying and tanning.

-There are 35 species of Sumac, but beware, the ones that grow white drupes are poisonous!

-Drupes are dried, ground, and used as a culinary spice in some Middle Eastern countries.  The spice gives a lemony taste to meat and salads.

Vitamin C is found in the drupes, along with protein, fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.

So next time you see a Sumac, take a closer look at the fruit.  Do you find those fuzzy drupes appetizing?

 

 

Local Medicinal Plants – Broadleaf Plantain

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Broadleaf Plantain

While walking the dog I noticed multitudes of broadleaf plantain by the river.  They are so common, I can remember even seeing this ‘weed’ as a child.

Broadleaf plantain isn’t just a childhood nostalgic plant from local Ontario, but originates from Europe and Asia, and has spread over most of the world because their seeds have become mixed in with other cereal grains. Plantain is a resilient plant that grows in compacted soil, and can often be found sprouting from sidewalk cracks – they can bounce back from plenty of foot stomping!

What I would never have fathomed about this plant is they are so highly nutritious and edible, packed full of vitamins A, C, and K – including a high calcium content.  Young leaves can be consumed in salads and the older, denser leaves can be broken down in stews.  So, save some money on groceries!

It gets even better.  This ‘weed’, that we’ve been trampling over all our lives, also has medicinal properties to heal wounds if applied as a paste due to cell-growth promotion and anti-microbial properties which prevent infection.  Scientific studies have found mild antibiotic properties in broadleaf plantain, as well as anti-inflammatory, and wound healing activity.

Broadleaf plantain has been widely used in folk medicine throughout the world.  Make the leaves into a tea to treat diarrhea or dysentery; add the flowers and seeds to your tea to soothe a sore throat.  Traditionally, the roots were used for respiratory infections and to treat fever.

I look forward to finding out how it tastes!

 

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