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Posted on Friday, 19 June 2015, 2:15 PM

Are mealtimes often a struggle in your household? Do you have a picky eater who refuses to try new food? Do you think your child eats too much or too little food for what she needs?

Children often go through phases where they are less open to trying foods that aren’t familiar to them. Some children will need to taste a food up to 20 times before they will eat it!

Understanding the different feeding responsibilities for parents and for children is the first step in helping your child accept a variety of different foods, in the right amounts for them, at meal and snack time.

The division of responsibility

The parent decides:

  • What foods to offer

  • When to offer meals and snacks

  • Where the child will eat

The child decides:

  • Whether to eat (you can employ the “one bite to be polite” rule for certain foods not touched, but be gentle)

  • How much food to eat from what is provided

Children have a natural ability to know how much they should eat. It is normal for children to vary how much they eat day to day, depending on their growth. Mealtime stress is reduced when parents trust their children to regulate their own food intake. This also gives the child some independence and helps them learn to recognize their internal signs of hunger and fullness.

Other tips to help children establish good eating habits:

  1. Have regular, scheduled meal and snack times

  2. Offer a variety of healthy foods to your child (and eat them yourself!) including; lean meats and vegetarian sources of protein (i.e. beans, lentils, eggs etc) , vegetables and fruit, and whole grains.

  3. Eat with your child and role model healthy eating behaviours that you want to pass on to them

  4. Don’t pressure your child to eat more or less food than they want.

  5. Involve your child in meal planning and preparation.

  6. Limit distractions during meal and snack time like television and games.

Emily Spencer, RD

Posted on Friday, 5 June 2015, 1:45 PM

Michael Scott and Dwight getting ready for a 5K.


I was sent an article titled “Fill ‘Er up, Carbo-loading can help you race without hitting the wall—as long as you do it right.” by BMI fitness director Kelly, and was quite alarmed by the dietary recommendations.  The article encourages runners who are getting ready for their big run, either a half or marathon to properly carb load 2-3 days before the race. Here is the article and the meal plan.


Below is a selection of the day's recommended “good eats” to have:

1 bagel with 2 tablespoons strawberry jam

8 ounces fruit yogurt

8 ounces orange juice

2 Nature Valley Oats 'n Honey Granola Bars

16 ounces Gatorade

8 ounces chocolate milk

1 large oatmeal cookie

1 Clif Bar

1 2-ounce bag Swedish Fish


I cannot fathom any athlete/human being in the world who would benefit from a day on this ultra processed, high added sugar meal plan; more importantly, the casual runner who is deciding to run a half.  Don’t get me wrong, getting the right amount of carbohydrates without too much fiber before a long run can be important but there are a plethora of choices that can meet these requirements without relying on large doses of added sugar.


To put the meal plan into perspective I calculated the added/free sugars from the full day “carbo load” plan and it equalled:


~46 tsp of added/free sugar OR ~ 1 cup of added/free sugar.


The World Health Organization (WHO) recently put guidelines out recommending that 25g (~6 tsp.) or less added sugar per day is a suitable target for adequate health. This plan is a full 40 tsp. above the WHO recommendations! Important to note that the recommendation does not change if you are a runner.  



Yes, the foods on the meal plan may seem innocent enough, from orange juice to a granola bar. However it is precisely these types of foods that have proliferated in the name of activity and health that have helped drive daily sugar intake and empty calories to astronomical levels.


Rob Lazzinnaro, RD

Posted on Monday, 20 April 2015, 9:00 AM

Pic above: What's on Canada's tray? Ottawa's?


On behalf of the Ottawa Food Policy Council I would like to invite parents, students, educators, food providers, interested community members in Ottawa to our free education event:

School Lunches: What’s on the Menu, Ottawa?  


The event will take place on May 12th, 2015 at Immaculata High School from 6:00-8:30PM.

Please register here.


The aim of our event is to provide attendees the opportunity to interact with several different programs connected to children’s health in Ottawa, as well as some key folks directly involved in healthy food in schools (K-12).  


Information kiosks will be set up starting at 6PM, and will include these great organizations and programs:


A panel of speakers will present their experience with healthy food in schools, from varied perspectives, starting at 7:00PM:

  • Public Health Perspective and Keynote Speaker: Pascale Messier, Ottawa Public Health Dietitian.

  • Regional perspective:Laurie Dojeiji​, Health Promotion Manager, Champlain CVD Prevention Network.

  • Teacher perspective: ​Sally Collins​, High School Teacher, Lead on the Healthy Eating Grant provided by the Ministry of Education, Norman Johnston Alternate Program.  Who has blogged about the grant herself on Weighty Matters on two occasions! [1] [2]

  • Student perspective: Samuele-Lyn​ LaRocque, G12 Student, Student Representative on the Healthy Eating Working Committee, Norman Johnston Alternate.

  • Senior Management perspective:Christopher Mes​, Principal, Immaculata High School.

  • Parent perspective:Alejandra Dubois​, Parent, School Council, école secondaire publique Gisèle-Lalonde.

Free healthy snacks will be provided, prepared by the wonderful chefs at the Ottawa Mission!


Please add the event to your calendar and register as soon as you can. The night promises to be a great opportunity to learn about healthy food in Ottawa schools, and how you can get involved!

Rob Lazzinnaro, RD

Posted on Friday, 17 April 2015, 3:50 PM

Everyone loves the taste (and smell!) of homemade baked goods but baking often contributes to high calorie, low protein and fibre snacking. The beauty of making your own baked goods at home, rather than buying them pre-made, is that you have complete control over what ingredients you use. Luckily for those of us who love baking (or who love to eat the baking done by others), there are some easy tricks that can be used to boost the protein and fibre, as well as lower the calories, in your favorite baked snacks.


Replace ½ (or more) of the oil or butter in a recipe with pureed fruits or vegetables (ie. Applesauce, pumpkin puree, mashed ripe banana)

  • Yes, I know – this sounds odd. By replacing half of the fat with a pureed fruit or vegetable you will be reducing the calories and increasing the fibre in the product, PLUS creating a softer, chewier texture. YUM!
  • You can also try replacing the butter in a recipe with ripe avocado. Although avocado is still a fat, it is an omega 3 fatty acid (the good, heart healthy fat!) with the added bonus of fiber.


Replace white flour with whole wheat flour

  • Try replacing some (or all) of the white or all-purpose flour in a recipe with whole-wheat flour in order to bump up the fibre content of your baked goods.


Add 2-4 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds to your batter

  • Flaxseeds contain omega 3 fatty acids (like avocado) in addition to extra fibre.


Reduce the overall sugar – try using a sugar substitute

  • Start by trying to reduce the amount of sugar the recipe calls in half – you won’t miss it.
  • You can also try substituting some (or all) of the sugar for an artificial sweetener. Sweeteners like sucralose and stevia are 200-600 times sweeter than granulated sugar and contain very few calories (make sure to look up how much sweetener of choice is needed to replace the sugar and produce a similar product).


Add Greek yogurt

  • Last but certainly not least (and a personal favorite) is to simply add Greek yogurt to your baking. This is going to create a moist baked product and most importantly boost the protein content of the recipe (bonus!).
  • Greek yogurt can also be used to replace some of the oil or butter in a recipe (just like the pureed fruits and vegetables).



Emily Spencer RD


Posted on Wednesday, 18 March 2015, 11:25 PM

This week's post comes from Registered Dietitian Laurel LeConte.

p.s. Today is National Dietitians Day in Canada! Celebrate with some veggies :)

It’s funny how life experience broadens your perspective. As a registered dietitian (RD), I’ve provided out-patient counselling in a diabetes clinic for over nine years. Looking back, I can see how the advice I provide to patients—and the way that I relate to them—has changed dramatically over the years.

I’ll be the first to admit that, in the past, I would sometimes feel a little judgemental towards my patients. Frankly, I couldn’t believe that some people would “forget” to eat breakfast, or “skip” lunch, or choose to make hot dogs or Kraft dinner for their kids’ dinner. Now that I’ve added two young children to the mix of my own life, however, I totally understand that sometimes people are just “surviving.” For many people, nutrition and healthy cooking simply don’t make the “to‑do” list in their overscheduled lives.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Regardless of how hectic our lives are, we can still choose to devote some time and energy to creating healthy meals (and a positive food environment) in our homes. We make time for what’s important to us—so long as it’s doable. And yes, healthy cooking is doable, even in our busy lives. Let me share a few tips that have helped me to continue to make healthy eating at home a reality for me and my family.

1. Plan ahead

This one is nothing new. If you want to eat well, you need a little organization. I suggest sitting down once per week and jotting down a weekly menu. Personally, I do this on the day the grocery flyers come out so I can plan the menu around what’s on sale. I make a grocery list based on the meals I plan to make that week, then I do one main grocery shopping trip per week. (Sometimes I grocery shop on my lunch hour; I stow a cooler with ice packs in my trunk to keep things cool until I get home. The alternative is bringing my children to the grocery store with me, which is a recipe for disaster.)

2. Use the appliances you already have

I’ve come to realize that most people already own a slow cooker—they just don’t use it. Slow cookers (and other time-saving kitchen devices like rice cookers, pressure cookers, etcetera) can be essential for a time-pressed cook. Once you dust off your slow cooker, treat yourself to a new cookbook or go online for literally thousands of recipes. Many slow cooker recipes are as simple as dumping in a few ingredients before leaving for work, then coming home to a warm, fragrant, delicious, and inexpensive home-cooked meal. Likewise, the freezer and deep freeze are underutilized (and underappreciated!) home appliances. When you do have time to cook a great meal, make multiples of the same recipe and freeze portions for later use. I’ve found that making larger quantities of recipes for future meals takes only a few extra minutes—and saves a ton of time later on. Your future self will thank you.

3. Be boring

If there’s something that your family really likes, and that’s reasonably easy and nutritious to make, then there is no shame in serving it on continuous repeat. In our house, my homemade spaghetti sauce chockablock—filled with hidden vegetables and served over a moderate portion of whole grain noodles with a side of steamed broccoli—is on the menu once per week, 52 weeks per year. We like it so much that we never get tired of it.

4. Delegate

Some people—women in particular and myself included—seem to have a disease called “control freakism.” We try to do it all, and we get resentful when our spouses and/or kids and/or family pets are not helping enough. If you want help, you need to ask for it—and you need to delegate as necessary. In my case, I need to start “trusting” my husband to execute the occasional grocery list on his own, and I also need to start enlisting the help of my children more as they get older. My daughter, who is four, is already capable of arranging chopped raw vegetables on a plate, scooping up the vegetable trimmings for the composter, and sweeping the floor after we prepare dinner together.

5. Take shortcuts

Along with the pressure we put on ourselves to “do better” in the cooking and eating department, there also seems to be the impression that, in order to do it “right,” we have to be culinary superstars. This simply isn’t so. Buy the bagged salad. Use the pre-chopped and pre-washed squash. Toss in the “steam-in-bag” veggies to round out your meal. Although these options can cost a little more, they can also help you keep your sanity—and ensure a balanced meal after a long day’s work.

I’ll be the first to admit that the above tips made easier by having a spouse who’s home on evenings and weekends. It also helps that I’m a dietitian who has a real interest in food and cooking. But regardless of your situation, prioritizing healthier eating is doable for everyone—at least on most days, which is what I consider a win.

One of my favorite parts of being a dietitian is sharing recipes and talking about cooking with patients, friends, and my community. I’ve decided to use social media as an extension of this passion by documenting my own “real world” cooking and food preparation. Please join me in my journey by following me on Instagram at @lecontelaurel

Laurel LeConte is a registered dietitian and Manager of Nutrition and Foodservices at the Manitoulin Health Centre on Manitoulin Island, ON. She is the mother of two children, ages two and four, as well as chief cook and grocery shopper for her hungry husband, who is training for an Ironman triathlon. She is also an avid athlete herself (and is confident that she could beat Yoni in a road race anytime, anywhere). Starting in September 2015, she will be adding part-time Masters student to her already brimming plate. For more of her “real world” cooking tips, recipes, and a few pictures of her trying to make hospital food look attractive, follow her on Instagram at @lecontelaurel



Posted on Thursday, 12 February 2015, 1:40 PM

It is always good to remind ourselves just how well marketing works to sell food.  A product can simply sell us on the idea that it is “healthy” when it has no business doing so. The shining example is Nutella, and we may all know by now that it is not the healthy breakfast it has always been marketed to be, but comparing it side by side with icing sugar really drives home the point.  

Did you know?

That the food industry and politicians alike fought tooth and nail in Italy to stop a proposed EU bill that would force food items to have calories and sugar on front of packaging. With deep pockets (the richest food company in Italy) Nutella put up a fight that claimed it would be the “death” of their product, and the economy.  Wouldn’t you know it, the new bill didn't pass.