Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why I give out meal plans

As a dietitian, I was trained to give people the tools to plan their own diets rather than giving meal plans. Giving out meal plans isn't always the most effective way to go about helping people reach their nutrition goals, nor is it a good way to create permanent changes.

That being said, I see from food logs and 24 hour recalls that people no longer know how to eat. It is not surprising, with the media publishing headlines from studies without including background and with websites recommending low calorie diets as the norm. Information is everywhere and nobody knows how to interpret it.

The number one thing I see with my clients (women in particular), is that they aren't eating enough. Most of them start the day being "good" and consuming a very low calorie diet, followed by a large evening meal and insatiable hunger and cravings in the latter part of the day. With my meal plans, people are surprised by how much they are eating, without gaining weight, and by eating more frequently, they have fewer cravings, feel more satisfied, and are less bloated.

I often provide a meal plan, tweak it with the client a couple of times and then in future sessions, we work together on creating a meal plan of their own. As time goes on, I have them forward plans they've created themselves, and then they are free to go! They also have a couple of dietitian approved meal plans for the times that media reports, magazine cleanses and their own self doubt start to creep back in.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Taking the Food Guide Too Literally

A couple of months ago in Winnipeg, MB, a daycare charged a mother a fee because the lunch she packed didn't contain a grain. The lunch she had packed contained roast beef, carrots and mashed potatoes, homemade leftovers from the previous night. The daycare, spotting that there were no grains, supplemented the lunch with Ritz crackers and charged the mother for the supplement ($5 per child).

There is so much wrong with this! The food guide is one possible way to achieve your nutrient requirements. From speaking to groups locally, clients tell me the food guide is not very clear on what to eat. The serving sizes are confusing, and the options pictured don't really represent the choices in todays marketplace, nor do they represent the healthiest options in some cases.

The grain group is there because of our requirement for carbohydrates, fibre, certain B-vitamins; like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate and minerals such as iron, magnesium and selenium. These nutrients are also found in a meal made up of vegetables and protein foods (such as meat and beans.)

This misguided daycare provided Ritz Crackers which are low in fibre, high in sodium and only a source of some of those nutrients because of fortified flour. I'm also guessing the kids ate those Ritz crackers first and if they were still hungry they would go on to eat the potatoes and carrots and roast.

The family was refunded the charge after much discussion and public outcry, but it is these stories that really highlight to me that North Americans have lost their common sense when it comes to eating. Because of so much media attention to nutrition, reports of single studies or poorly conducted studies that produce headlines and mixed messages, we've lost the ability to look at a home cooked meal and believe it is healthy.

Resources put out by Health Canada, like nutrition facts labels and Canada's Food Guide, aren't useful without a professional teaching you how to read it. It is a case of too much information for consumers who can't understand the info. (Even the "common" terms carbohydrate or calorie can't be defined by most).

My advice? If you find you feel overwhelmed by all the info out there, talk to a Registered Dietitian who can help you sort through the info and get back to eating with common sense.

Sour Dough

As the rest of the world moves away from bread, I'm moving towards it. Proper bread baked in a traditional way.

I recently attended a workshop at Okanagan Grocery on the art of Sourdough. The bread at Okanagan Grocery is amazing, and if you are in Kelowna, I recommend going. They use organic flour and breads ferment around 6-7 hours before baking.

This longer ferment time has great implications for our health. One of the theories on the increase in gluten intolerance is the fast track methods most commercial bakeries use to quickly turn out a lot of bread. Traditional sour dough is made with a living starter, flour, water and salt. That's it. No unpronounceable ingredients, like sodium-lactylate 2. Good thing, because I don't have any of it in my pantry and I'm guessing you don't either.

Fermenting the dough helps to break down some of the difficult to digest proteins (like gluten), making the bread easier on our digestive health. In addition to being easier to digest, a study has found that white sourdough bread caused less of a spike in blood sugar than even whole wheat flour (not whole grain).

The bread is chewy, with a crispy crust, and beautiful air holes inside. The flavor is incredible. You'll know you're eating real bread, and good luck going back to commercial bread!

We came home with a baked loaf, and another to bake that evening, as well as our own starter. 

We also were treated to croissants baked properly, fresh from the oven and filled with callebaut chocolate, so this course was also a fun outing., which is great because my mum was visiting from Winnipeg and attended with me. (she's also the one who took this photo...she's an even worse food photographer than I am! Sorry Mum, I know you read my blog!)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Simply Cook and Enjoy! Nutrition Month 2014.

It is Nutrition Month in Canada and the USA. Dietitians of Canada has chosen the theme "Simply Cook and Enjoy!" 

I love this theme. One of the single best things you can do to improve your nutritional status is cook for yourself. You control the ingredients, the type of fat, how much salt, preservatives etc.

Cooking if you are a parent is also a great skill to pass on to your kids. I've said it before they may not end up professional dancers, soccer players, or Olympic swimmers, but they will need to eat. Give them those skills!

However, I hear all the time from clients that they don't have time to cook, or don't like to cook. I love cooking, I love eating what I've cooked and I love trying new recipes, but I realize not everyone wants life to be this food-centric. Dietitians of Canada has a few great handouts to help keep things simple

Convenience foods that are healthy? There are lots! Bagged salads or precut vegetables, canned beans, salmon and tuna (look for BPA free cans), frozen vegetables and fruit are great, and tofu or plain, pre-cooked plain frozen fish fillets or chicken breasts are all quick options. Just check your ingredient lists and make sure there's nothing added, like salt.

Look for jars of minced garlic. Keep a well stocked spice cabinet, and you can throw meals together pretty quickly. Lemon or lime squeezed over a meal, or balsamic vinegar, can really enhance the flavour too.

Plan ahead, use leftovers or freezer meals for busy nights, spend more time prepping when you can. A registered dietitian can help you get started with meal planning and cooking. And great news! All my services are offered online, or I can help you find someone local!