This week I'm playing with the Thai Basil that I am growing in my herb garden. We're going to run a late #testkitchen this week (today rather than yesterday if all goes well!), making Thai salad rolls for dinner tonight and a Vietnamese noodle soup with chicken and vegetables for dinner tomorrow.
But why bother? Why change to a different kind of basil? Why not stick with the old one that is known and loved?
Over the years I've observed there are 2 basic kinds of eaters in the world: people who can eat the same thing all the time and be perfectly content, and people who want to eat different things all the time and rarely eat the same thing twice. I don't think either extreme is healthy or sustainable. In our family, we encourage a bit of both for a few different reasons:
By now you all are used to me talking about incorporating a variety of different colours into your food but we don't usually emphasize reasons for different flavours. I'm going to hone in on one reason this morning: "...waking up your taste buds".
Raising a family of picky children with a husband who came pretty picky himself has been a journey for us. At the beginning of parenting small children I was completely unprepared for picky eaters. The idea of it was as foreign to me as living in full darkness half a year. When I was a child, if my mom put food in front of me, I ate it. To be suddenly faced with gagging, vomiting, tears, and the rest was bewildering.
However, I firmly believe food should not be a fight. Ever. We determine what foods go on the table so we fully control what response we will get. We can talk more about this a different day.
Suffice it to say, providing different flavours to ourselves and our families can allow us to enjoy different foods while we are out and about at various times in our lives. Like it or not, most of us enjoy meals at places other than home. We can't always control what's for dinner, and so it makes sense to train our taste buds.
And that is it for today, friends. If you enjoyed this post, share it! Help me grow my business by getting my name and brand known! Tune in tomorrow on Facebook for a discussion on reverse meal planning and if you haven't "liked" my page yet, please do so- I don't want you to miss anything!
All the best!
In the future I hope to see, people are cooking together and eating together.
People eat meals around the kitchen table and invite friends and not-yet friends to enjoy a meal with them.
Parents teach their children and children teach their friends.
Recipes take on a treasured life of their own, cultivated and shared between people to demonstrate love and commitment to the places their history intersects. They are renewed and remade to bring traditions together, and thus different versions of the same recipes make their way across generations and timelines.
In the future I hope to see, food is valued and not wasted. We practice gratefulness and appreciation. We use only what we need and give what we don’t. Food is recognized as a sacred gift that provides us with life and allows us to bless others with it. It is respected and cherished.
In the future I hope to see, the world is a place where people aren’t frantically filling their mouths because they don’t know what else to do. They aren’t eating just because they have to just to stay alive, but because it makes them the best version of themselves. There is enough food to go around no matter where you live, and no one goes hungry.
This future is important to me. I see our health and wellness at a crossroads of incredible significance. The less connected we are to recognizing the importance of the food we eat, the less nourishment we give ourselves.
We are overworked, at times both undernourished and overfed, and our society is suffering with more disease and overall unwellness than ever before. This, at a time when we know more, understand more, and research more about food than ever before.
It’s my dream to change this, from one person or family at a time to entire groups of people. I see myself speaking this vision and bringing it into fruition, helping people to understand that they can affect this change in their own lives. They are not slaves to commercialization. They can learn how to eat, what to eat, and when to eat. They can begin to view food not only as nourishment for their bodies but also for their souls.
I believe this is a future that’s possible. When my boys grow up and have families of their own, I believe the seeds of promise will have already been planted. I believe that my generation can stand up and be counted to make a difference not only in their lives but in the lives of their children and the children to come. Will you take the next step with me? Will it begin with you?
To know them is to love them.
Not convinced? Let me try.
Aside from the rhyme we learn as children, beans and other legumes are not as well loved in North America as they are in other parts of the world. Legumes make up a large part of diets around the world, from Africa to Israel, and are especially useful in regions where religion or poverty play a role in the kinds of food people eat, such as India.
If you do a quick google search you will find out many reasons why you should or should not eat legumes. I leave the final decision up to you.
In my role as a nutrition coach I stand firmly behind “common sense nutrition”. I think any food in excess is detrimental to your health and well being.
Pulses are part of the legume family. Pulses refer to beans and lentils (the seed part of the plant). Common legumes are alfalfa, soy, and peanuts.
I use both pulses and legumes as a whole often in our cooking. As a family we enjoy meals that are made strictly vegetarian but also enjoy meals where legumes complement traditional meat-based meals. For example, chana masala was my latest test-kitchen dinner for a client, and that’s a vegetarian dinner. My oldest son loved it in spite of it being a new recipe for all of us, and even went for seconds. We also eat chili a couple of times a month that incorporates both beans and meat.
Lentils can be pureed and added as filler to meatballs, meatloaf, or burgers. They add bulk with nutrition so the meat goes further, and they also give an extra boost of fibre and iron. Beans can be added to salads and soups. Roasted beans are a fantastic snack to keep with you to enjoy when you’re on the run and you know you’ll be hungry. They’re packable, require no special care, and a small amount is very satisfying. My roasted bean recipe will be posted on my Facebook page this week on #foodiefriday. Come check it out!
It's almost summer. Eating meals based on legumes and pulses makes sense in the summer because they can require no real effort beyond opening a can, rinsing them, and eating them cold. When cooking a hot meal with them they really only need to be cooked long enough to heat all the way through- much less cooking time than meat.
*Important Note: Beans and legumes usually require soaking, draining, and boiling. Always follow the package instructions or they can be toxic.
One of my final reasons to eat and enjoy this variety in our diet is a financial one. You get amazing nutrition from pulses and legumes at a fraction of the cost of meat. As someone who is the grocery shopper and meal planner for the family, I know I can attest to the cost of meat on the rise. It makes sense to branch out to seek our nutrition from a variety of sources if nothing else then to stretch the grocery budget further.
Fortunately for us, it’s not a hardship to enjoy this branch of the meat and alternates food group. Do you eat legumes and pulses on a regular basis? If not, I encourage you to schedule a few meals this summer that incorporate beans or other pulses into your regular meal.
Stuck for ideas? I’m only a message away.
This week on Facebook we are talking about Basil. Not only does it taste great in food, it’s also delicious when mixed with fresh lemon in a jug of water. Fresh flavoured water without any added extras is somewhat addictive! I highly recommend it.
Basil is a good source of Vitamin K, the dried version more so than the fresh because it’s more highly concentrated. Getting your vitamins from your diet is the most direct way to absorb your nutrition, and is infinitely preferable to loading up on supplements.
Vitamin K helps keep our bones strong... it takes more than just calcium. Because it’s a vitamin, it also works in conjunction with vitamin D to do so. There are actually 2 types of vitamin K- K1, found in foods, and K2, produced by gut bacteria.
Vitamin K also plays a role in cancer prevention. It works with Vitamin C to weaken cancer cells and causing them to rupture.
Vitamin K keeps hearts healthy and strong by preventing calcium buildup in the arteries. There is also some really interesting work being done that suggests insulin response can be treated with Vitamin K supplementation.
Vitamin K can be overdosed on when using a supplement, and is no longer sold as one because of the high liver toxicity associated with it. This is why you must get it from your diet. I know I say it all the time but I will say it again:
The best way to maintain a healthy body in all areas is to eat a well-balanced diet of appropriate portions, drink lots of water, get enough sleep, and exercise the best you can when you can.
With the opposite benefit of Vitamin E, Vitamin K causes coagulation of the blood. It exists in a delicate balance within people taking blood thinners. Some Vitamin K rich foods are required, but not too much. Do speak to your doctor about this if you have any questions.
Vitamin K deficiency is rare, and most commonly found in infants.
There are interactions associated with Vitamin K.
To summarize, Vitamin K is important to:
You can find Vitamin K in these food sources:
Green leafy vegetables such as kale, beet greens, romaine lettuce and collard greens, cucumbers, broccoli, basil (dried is the most potent), pine nuts, carrots, peas, and so much more.
For a comprehensive look at foods containing Vitamin K, check here.
When we think of futuristic grocery shopping, we think about the ability to order online, pay and pick up for your groceries, or sometimes home delivery through amazing companies such as The Organic Box or Spud. For many of us, that future is already here. My imagination jumped a step further ahead the last couple of weeks with the news that the sugar industry as a whole has lied to the public for the last 5 decades. What will groceries even look like?
You can read about the lies here, here, and here if you'd like to know more about them. What makes me the most angry is how much misinformation was scattered about and regarded as factual. We are generations into rising obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and so on.
"In short, rather than do definitive research to learn the truth about its product, good or bad, the association stuck to a PR scheme designed to "establish with the broadest possible audience—virtually everyone is a consumer—the safety of sugar as a food." One of its first acts was to establish a Food & Nutrition Advisory Council consisting of a half-dozen physicians and two dentists willing to defend sugar's place in a healthy diet, and set aside roughly $60,000 per year (more than $220,000 today) to cover its cost." - (copied and pasted from: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/10/sugar-industry-lies-campaign)
Surely our shopping and eating habits will change. I was in high school in the early 1990's when the shift moved to low or non-fat foods. How does food taste good when all the fat is removed? Add sugar. Our entire snack and cooking industry has evolved to include sugar in just about every form. It's not just cakes, cookies, icing, and boxed cereals to point the finger at either. Salad dressings, ketchup, canned tomato soup, canned fruit, even our favourite bread for toasting and sandwiches comes with added sugar.
Over the years I've morphed almost all my recipes to remove added sugar when possible- made the switch to tomato paste, for example, instead of tomato soup. Ingredients list: tomatoes. It's definitely a learning curve, and not an easy one for our taste buds. My friend Kareema wrote about sugar addiction here on her guest blog post. Everyone in our family noticed the change in flavour and it took some time to get used to. But how will things change with the way food is produced, stored, and sold in the future?
Is the grocery store of the future a place where everything is produced locally and made fresh that very day? Would a return to a "farm to table" mentality take over so we wouldn't have the same need for shelf life? Who can say? But one thing I do know is that we as a species cannot continue to knowingly fill our pantries and tummies with food that contains sugar, something we are just now starting to learn the extent of the damage it can do. It will take a public shift of perception to force companies to take a look at the items added to our food supply, but in the long run I think there will be no other option. As long as evidence continues to surface that the food we eat is killing us slowly, there will have to be a change in the mass production and marketing of food.
Will processed groceries ever be truly healthy? How will we know for sure? If a lie of this magnitude can be perpetuated for half a century, what untruths do we believe today?
And that's my 2 cents for today. I hope you're enjoying your weekend, friends.
This bird is enjoying people food...tortilla chips dropped while someone was eating lunch. It's calories for the bird, undeniably. It's an easy meal, and this bird and a few friends spent quite some time eating these crumbs. But while this bird may have gotten some carbohydrate energy from these crumbs, that's about all it got. To be honest, I don't know what the nutritional requirements are of this bird. It lives in Victoria, BC. It's got a pretty cushy winter compared to birds here in Alberta, so I would hazard a guess it doesn't need the same energy reserves that birds here would need to stay warm if they don't migrate. But still. I would be astonished if tortilla chip crumbs offered the same nutritional benefits as more traditional wild-forged food.
Here in the West we are most assuredly over-nourished. There has never been a time when food wasn't available for us in my lifetime. It may not be our favourite foods, or what we want to eat at the moment, but it is available. Consider famines that have stretched on for years in many parts of Africa. A complete and utter lack of food and drinking water have killed thousands of people, and yet we in the West throw out a third of what's produced and waste water like it's an endlessly renewable resource. It's heartbreaking and horrifying, and one of the reasons I started meal planning- food waste is something I'm very passionate about.
Just because we are over-nourished doesn't mean we are healthy, however. It's a common understanding that malnourished looks like skin stretched over rib cages and distended bellies such as this first picture of famine in East Africa.
Our malnourishment in North America takes on many different forms. We can look overweight or obese, we can look "average", or we can look thin or skinny. You won't necessarily see malnourishment on a person until it progresses past a certain point.
A person becomes overweight or obese due to our propensity to overeat and the easy availability of food. Serving size increases, a largely sedentary lifestyle, and the evil triplets of perceived affordability, convenience, and focused advertising have led to this growing issue. Sometimes this can be due to an eating disorder. You can read more about that here. Other people suffering from malnourishment look like everyone else, or are thin, underweight, or skinny. If they, too, aren't eating the variety of foods that our bodies require for optimal health, they can also suffer long term damage.
To return back to the example of that little bird, he may be eating too much of a single food, and not receiving the nutritional variety he requires to be a healthy little bird. Like him, we can eat too much of the same sorts of foods and prevent our bodies from acquiring the right kinds of nutrients. We may be suffering from a malabsorption disorder such as Crohn's or Celiac disease, or we may just be neglecting variety in our diets. Whatever the case, malnutrition is a serious concern that can lead to long-term quality of life issues.
I encourage you to take stock of your diet. Keep track of what you're eating, how much you're eating, and when you're eating. Log everything for a few weeks, a month. Make note of any physical symptoms you may experience but haven't noted before, and see if there's a pattern. Notice if you've got a well-balanced diet, or if you're overloaded in fats and refined carbohydrates. Once you have started tracking your intake, you will be better equipped to see changes you may need to make to your overall diet.
And like diet, movement is essential for our quality of life. If keeping track of your diet has you feeling motivated to continue with positive changes, you might want to consider a movement tracker. This article contains a link to one that is easy to use and comes with a plethora of helpful tips to begin your journey.
I wish you all the best, and have a great weekend, friends.
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I'm not a fan of gardening. Like baking, I can do it, but I don't really like it. It feels like a chore. I do, however, like food, and the fact that bees are our main pollinators and dying off at an alarming rate alarms me. So I plant flowers and avoid garden centers that use neonicotinoids as pesticides, and try hard to not cringe when dandelions bloom on our property. It might not be much, and maybe won't have a massive impact overall, but if my garden or deck boxes provide a small oasis for some local bees, then I know I've done something to address the problem. Here's another article about this in Wikipedia.
I have a little bit of personal involvement in this issue. When I was a little girl I used to visit what we called "the farm". My grandpa was a beekeeper. The first time I saw those bees winging their way from the house to the fields was terrifying to me, being a city girl through and through. But he and my dad pulled me aside to watch them as they flew to the water barrel next to the house and back out to the fields or wherever they were going. He showed me that they weren't going out of their way to scare me, that if you respect them and give them their space, they would work hard doing what they do- to my young eyes, the only thing they did was make honey for me to take home- but that was a good enough lesson to stick with me for a lifetime.
My mom loves gardening. She always thought I would get to the point in my life where it was something I would eventually enjoy, that it must be an inherited trait. It's really, really not. But as I said, I like food. So my boys (especially my second son) and I are taking care of our "crops"- this year, we're growing flowers and a few herbs, and my first son is growing a bean stalk and a pea plant- we'll keep them protected (as much as possible) from hail and drought. I will take the time needed to deadhead them. I will use my lemongrass, basil and thyme with gratitude, and I hope to sit out on the deck and enjoy the buzz of the bees as they appreciate the effort we went to in order to give them some flowers to visit. My boys are learning that food actually comes from somewhere other than a store, which I think is a helpful thing for them to learn.
Planting flowers does improve our community overall, I think. When spring and summer are such fleeting seasons for us here in Alberta, it does make a heart happy to see and smell flowers and plants growing and thriving, green and blooming. It gives other species a place of peace and rest too, such as birds and butterflies. It is so fun to watch birds chase each other around, to listen to them sing, or to find a place to nest in your clematis. And larger than our local community, giving space for these pollinators will help with global needs. It's not just here that we would lose our pollinators- a world wide food shortage will be the outcome if we lose our bees. We need to be more globally focused and think about what we can do for the earth as a whole. It's a shared space, and we are a village, albeit a pretty large one.
I don't know if the bees will come to my house this year. I've learned a lot about bees in the last few years, ever since a bunch of them spent a summer living in the dirt under our deck. But I hope they'll return; there aren't many in our neighborhood the last few years. I'm going with a lesson learned and deliberately misquoted from Field of Dreams, a movie from several years ago: "If you build it, they will come". (Misquoting makes more sense in this context!)
Peace and love, friends. Enjoy your weekend.
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For most of my teen and adult life I was a dieter. Always watching what I ate and counting calories. Restricting this, that, and everything else. Trying out the ideas featured in women's magazines, harshly condemning myself when I looked in the mirror or when I'd try on a pair of jeans or a dress in the "wrong" size. And heaven forbid I should cave and allow myself some chocolate or some popcorn at the movies.
In the cold, harsh light of comparison, there was always someone thinner than me, taller than me, slimmer waisted or tighter tushed. I remember swim suit shopping with my bestie and another friend in college. What could have been a really fun day for us was ruined for me because I was so obsessed with how I thought the bathing suits looked so much worse on me than on her.
I even struggled with how I looked on my wedding day, even though now I think I looked beautiful. When I look back, I can't believe I thought I was fat. I can't believe how much of my life has been spent in obsessive introspection about the size of my clothes or how I looked in a bathing suit.
The human body's capacity for adaptation is amazing. At my slimmest, the year or so before I was married, I was probably about 30 lbs lighter than I am now. That was the only time my BMI was in line with the "healthy" weight. And I say that in quotations, because my body and my mental state are hundreds of times healthier now than I ever was then. I had just come off of a bad breakup, and was so emotionally shattered I couldn't eat for days. And once I started eating again, I severely restricted my food intake and started working out. Sure, I looked great. But I was obsessing with food and exercise as a means to control something in a life I felt was out of control.
When I was pregnant with my second child I was heavier than I ever have been, before or since. I learned the hard way with my first pregnancy that denying myself food when I was hungry in an effort to not gain more than the recommended 25 lbs was a recipe for non stop vomiting for my entire pregnancy. So, with my second son, I ate when I was hungry. As a result, I was 50 lbs higher than I am now- a staggering number.
A few years ago, I was almost at my BMI target weight again- just 15 lbs away from it. To get there I was working out almost every day, counting calories, and again obsessing about how I looked, and what size I could fit into. I loved buying smaller clothes! But I didn't love the amount of effort I had to put into my life to be that size. It was constant vigilance, never ending. If my weight didn't drop in a week I'd feel despair, even worse if I put on a pound or two. Woe to me if I was too sick or busy to get my hour long workouts in. I'd started letting food control issues dictate my life again, and eventually I burnt out.
Naturally, I put some weight back on. But the number I'm at is the one my body seems to like. It takes no effort to maintain it, and I am physically healthy- blood work confirms it- and active. I am now active purely for the joy of it. I can't wait to take up yoga and tap dance again in the fall. I can keep up with my boys. I enjoy walking and sometimes even jog a little. I may not ever hit my ideal BMI again, but somehow over the last year I don't look in the mirror and think "eww" anymore. Sure, my belly and my bottom got a little bit of extra padding from when my boys took up residence inside me, but I'm strong and capable. I'm not afraid to try new things, and my quality of life is pretty great.
Today I was chopping up a pineapple to eat with dinner tonight, and of course the last part on the cutting board is the core. I always compost or toss it. But today I was thinking about eating it. The texture was more woody than the rest of the fruit, but it tasted good, and so I googled it. And one rabbit trail led down another, so you will have a full google hunt ahead of you in this article.
In addition to just eating the core as is, some people use it for a natural skin exfoliating treatment, which I could see, because those enzymes that make your tongue feel funny after too much pineapple make a gentle peel for your face. It turns out there are lot of benefits to fresh pineapple, so those are going on my grocery list for the whole summer. The more nutrition we can pack into our sweet summer snacks the better!
Many people use the core as part of a marinade to tenderize meat. Some use it in smoothies, and some freeze it whole to add to a jug of juice. Here was an interesting article with a bunch of ideas.
After some digging I decided on the easiest thing. I chopped it up into thin coins, and am freezing them separately on parchment paper so they can be used individually. I'll use them in smoothies, maybe puree them to add to a sweet and sour chicken recipe, or as ice cubes in an iced fruit tea.
What do you do with your pineapple cores?
I started a second course this week (through Coursera) that's titled Lifestyle and Nutrition. One of the lectures included an interview and slideshow from Peter Menzel titled "Hungry Planet". This photographer and his wife traveled to several different countries and photographed families with a week's worth of food. It was really interesting to see the different kinds of foods people eat in different parts of the world, and to hear about the families that were photographed.
I thought it might be interesting if I took a collection of photos of the foods we eat each day for a week, and then look at them a year from now to see how things have changed. What do you think would change from year to year for you? What did you think of the slideshow I linked to?