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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.

Posted on Wednesday, 4 February 2015, 5:10 PM

 

If you end up at a fast food restaurant, it is always a good strategy to check their online nutrition information so that you can make an informed choice about your selections. Make sure that you are looking closely at what the nutrition information is telling you – it may be misleading.

 

If you take a look at McDonalds’ online nutrition website, the Tuscan salad with grilled chicken has the following nutrition information listed:

 - 330 calories
-13g of fat
-410mg of sodium.

 

The catch is that they’ve left out the 140 calorie salad dressing that adds 12g of fat and 340mg sodium to the meal. All of the salads that are listed on the website do not include their dressings (clearly a necessary component in a salad). And in case you were wondering, this is one of their lower calorie salads.

 

Just for fun, let’s take a look at another example – Subway. Contrary to what marketers, the internet and your friends tell you, subs are not always the healthiest fast food choice.

Subway’s 6 inch tuna sub lists the following nutrition information on their website:

-480 calories
-25g of fat

-580mg of sodium

 

If you don’t read the fine print, you would likely assume that this information includes the cheese, which automatically comes on the sub unless you specifically tell the employee to leave it off. If you take a closer look, you will notice that this nutrition information only applies if you choose the 9-Grain wheat bread, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, green peppers and cucumbers (no cheese!). The Monterey cheddar cheese adds a whopping 240 calories, 6g of fat and 240mg of sodium! That’s not to mention any other toppings that you may want to include on your sub.

Bottom line is that you should always read the fine print and look at fast food nutrition information with a critical eye. You may be getting more than you bargained for!

 

 

Emily Spencer, RD

Posted on Friday, 16 January 2015, 3:20 PM

The regular sweetened yogurt and yogurt like products overtaking the dairy aisle at a rapid pace are the perfect example of a healthy and nutritious food gone haywire. Marketed as healthy, these yogurt indulgences are often added to our diet in large and consistent amounts. However, through comparison it is clear that many of the yogurts on the market are similar to ice cream when looking at calories and added sugar content.  

 

Calories and added sugar in ice cream vs. popular greek yogurt brands

¾ cup serving

Calories

Added Sugar

Breyers French Vanilla Ice cream

~190 calories

~14-16 grams

(~3.5-4 tsp)

Liberte - 0% Vanilla Greek Yogurt

~140 calories

~ 14 grams

(~3.5 tsp)

Oikos - 2% Vanilla Greek Yogurt

~175 calories

~13.5 grams

(~3.5 tsp)

Chobani - 0% - Vanilla Greek Yogurt

~140 calories

~ 10.5 grams

(~2.5 tsp)

PC - 0% Probiotic Vanilla Greek

~ 160 Calories

~ 11 grams

(~3 tsp)

*regardless of flavouring (fruit, honey, etc) added sugar roughly the same in most regular sweetened yogurt products.

Indeed the sweetened yogurt may still be the better choice than ice cream due to their high satiety inducing protein content, but the ends do not justify the means in this case.

Recommendation: Choose plain and sweeten with fresh fruit if needed.

Posted on Friday, 19 December 2014, 11:10 PM

The winter holidays tend to bring an increase in social gatherings and liquid calories. Whether it is from an alcoholic or coffee beverage these indulgences can add up quickly. The good news is information is power, so before you make your next decision on what to drink, always investigate. Here is quick list of some holiday favorites to get you started.




Beverage

Calories

Sugars  (grams)

Starbucks - chestnut praline latte - grande - 16oz

~ 330 calories

~ 39 grams

Red wine - all varieties - 5oz

~ 120 calories

~ 1 gram

Beer - lager - 12oz

~ 150 calories

~ 0 grams

Hot Cocoa w/milk - 8oz

~ 150 calories

~ 28 grams

Second cup - candy cane latte - 16 oz

~ 420 calories

~ 55 grams

Cola - 12 oz.

~ 140 calories

~ 40 grams

Mcdonalds - peppermint mocha - 14.5oz

~ 310 calories

~ 42 grams

Apple cider - 8 oz

~ 120 calories

~ 27 grams

Eggnog - 8 oz w/p alcohol

~ 340 calories

~ 21 grams

* 4 grams of sugar = 1 tsp.

Posted on Thursday, 20 November 2014, 4:15 PM

 

Most likely the first of many recommendations for weight managment is always to reduce liquid calories. So why do healthcare professionals continue to target drinks as the first step in calorie reduction when there are many foods that are higher in calories, sodium and fat?

Before I address this question, I think it is important to highlight how many calories and grams of sugar are hiding in your favorite beverages.

Here are some examples:

Beverage

Calories

Sugar

1 can of cola

90

25

1 medium latté (without whip)

190

17

1 cup (250ml) orange juice

110

22

1 cup (250ml) chocolate milk

158

25

1 bottle Gatorade

213

56

1 energy drink

200

54

4oz wine

93

1

1 bottle of regular beer

150

0

 

As you can see, these commonly consumed beverages contain a tremendous amount of calories and sugar, which can add up very quickly throughout the day.

The major concern with drinking your calories, versus eating them, is that liquids do not have the same effect on satiety or fullness as solids. Research has shown that when people eat their calories, they naturally compensate by reducing the rest of their food intake for the day. Alternatively, when people drink liquid calories, they do not compensate by eating fewer calories. Therefore, the beverages you have throughout the day will likely be extra calories on top of the food you are consuming.

To put this into perspective, let’s imagine you had a glass of orange juice with breakfast, a latté mid-morning, chocolate milk at lunch, a pop mid-afternoon and a beer with your dinner à that is a total of 698 calories and 89 grams of sugar!!!! If you were to consume these drinks every day for a year, that would equal 254770 calories, or 73 (theoretical) pounds!!

The good news is that since liquid calories don’t contribute to a sense of fullness, decreasing them shouldn’t result in feelings of hunger. What can you drink instead? Tap water should be your go to drink as it is a calorie, sugar and cost free beverage. If you do feel like having a sweet drink, try one that is artificially sweetened. These drinks are calorie and sugar free, regulated by Health Canada, and scientifically proven to be safe in the quantities that we would normally consume them*.

All of this is not to say that you can never have your favorite sweetened drinks again, just that you should be mindful of how much and how often you are having them.  At the end of the day, if you’re trying to lose weight, eat your calories, don’t drink them. 

 

*Products that are not safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding are: SugarTwin® (Cyclamate), Sweet’N Low® (Saccharin, Hermesetas®)