Detoxing the Detox

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Weighing in on the detox

Alas, winter is over. Spring is here (well, sort of). This also means summer is just around the corner and more than ever people are frantically preparing for that perfect beach body, brides are pressured to shed weight in honor of their big day, and others are given hope that a quick detox will result in a total transformation worthy of infomercial infamy.

If you’re on the search for that perfect detox, you don’t need to leave home. The human body was miraculously created with organs to facilitate exactly that: a natural process for detoxification all thanks to our livers, kidneys, and colons.

Be weary of products that promote weight loss after a “7 day detoxification” or a “30 day colon cleanse”.  Marketers strategically construct these products to appeal to those looking for an easy way out and sell people on the notion that they’ll somehow become healthier, thinner, happier, and more attractive after using such products. The pursuit of the perfect detox has become a million dollar industry that targets people looking for “a quick fix”.

–   The pursuit of the perfect detox has become a million dollar industry that targets people looking for “a quick fix”   –

Often sold in the form of a pill, tea, or loose powder—detox products’ claims often have very limited evidence to support their alleged grandiose changes. In fact, leading toxicologists give very little credit to these types of products; in some cases, detoxes can actually cause harm by disrupting our normal gut flora, exposing us to dehydration, and can also toy with our biological hunger cues. Many are laced with laxatives causing bowel urgency, leading people to believe this is somehow “cleansing”–it’s not, and it certainly isn’t natural.

It may seem like an old wives tale by now, but moderation is key. Rather than embracing this principle, our ‘slowly but surely’ health model is quickly being replaced by compulsiveness, extremism, and the impatience for instant gratification. We’ve all had moments of overindulgence and feeling the need to “reboot” how we eat, but don’t be swayed to believe any one product will transform your body or health for that matter.

The take away: a consistently healthy, well-balanced diet is the best “cleanse”.

        – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Smooth, creamy and chocolatey.

This is the kind of dessert that makes you feel good as you’re eating it. It also happens to be dairy-free, gluten-free and isn’t chalk full of refined sugar. Now let me warn you, if you’re expecting this to taste like our traditional Jell-O brand chocolate puddings, you need to know it doesn’t. This take on a chocolate mousse plays on the flavor and texture of the avocado–creating a dessert that is smooth and creamy. But heck, who care about all that when it has chocolate in it!

Don’t be alarmed by the addition of soy sauce as an ingredient. It helps to mask the taste of the avocado and enhances the flavor of the cocoa powder. I prommmise. 

Go on, enjoy. 

Carrots and Cake

Chocolate Avocado Mousse
 
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Serves: 4 - 5
Ingredients
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 6 tbsp unsweetened raw cocoa powder
  • 5 tbsp maple syrup or agave nectar
  • ¼ cup milk (or water, or an alternative milk substitute)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp reduced sodium soy sauce (if Gluten Free source GF soy sauce)
  • Fresh fruit for garnish
Instructions
  1. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric food processor.
  2. Process until mixture is smooth. If the pudding is too thick, feel free to add more liquid.
  3. Garnish with desired fruit such as raspberries, kiwi or mango!

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Pumpkin Pecan Muffins

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

We all know pumpkins are seasonal in the fall, but when you’re craving that rich flavor with hints of cinnamon, it’s hard to resist baking a batch of muffins that feature this squash. These Pumpkin Pecan Muffins are moist and taste best when served fresh. Don’t be alarmed by the ratio of whole wheat flour to all purpose flour. The muffins don’t come out dense; instead, they are light and fluffy. If you’re whipping up a batch of these feel free to add in dried cranberries instead or even a handful of dark chocolate chips. Have fun with it, and own it!

Oh and a tip…

Sour milk can be used instead of buttermilk. To prepare, combine 2 tsp (10 mL) lemon juice or vinegar with 1 cup (250 mL) milk and let stand for 5 minutes. See, I gotchu’ covered. And what’s even better? These muffins freeze really well, SO double up! 

Recipe was adapted from this Pumpkin Raisin Muffin.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Pumpkin Pecan Muffins
 
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Serves: as many or as few as you'd like
Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tbsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • ½ can (7 oz/200 mL) pumpkin purée (not pie filling)
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (see tip below)
  • 2 eggs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt and raisins
  3. In a separate bowl, blend together pumpkin, oil, buttermilk and eggs.
  4. Make a large well in center of dry ingredients; pour in wet ingredients all at once. Gently fold together until just combined.
  5. Spoon batter into muffin tins. Sprinkle each muffin lightly with brown sugar.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until firm to the touch.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Yeah, that’s real butter.

Recipe adapted from Dietitian’s of Canada website:
http://www.dietitians.ca/Recipes/Pumpkin-Raisin-Muffins.aspx

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Off the Farm, In the City

Chilly outside, cozy inside.

Chilly outside, cozy inside.

I love Winnipeg, but as a self-proclaimed foodie it can be challenging to source locally-grown food given our northern climate. Though I may have to rely on California for my broccoli, and thank Chile for my grapes, I know I can always rely on our hard-working dairy farmers for local milk. When I spoke about my Food Philosophy I shared that I enjoy drinking dairy milk and nibbling cheeses.  For me, milk is nostalgia at its finest. Thanks to my mom, I have childhood memories gulping homemade lassi made with milk and yogurt—yum.

Where am I going with this?

I wanted to reflect on a wonderful event that connected me to local dairy producers, held at Thom Bargen Coffee & Tea (Must. Go. Back.). While sipping on lattes, guests listened to dairy farmer Henry Holtmann speak about the important roles farmers play in their communities. In addition to his talk being educational, it was endearing to hear Henry talk about the way in which he nourished and cared for his cows. I can say with confidence that our fine dairy farmers commit their daily lives to bring safe milk of the highest quality to our tables.
Carrots and Cake mingling_CnCPeople listening_CnC
Oh, I can’t forget about the delectable treats made by Winnipeg’s very own French bakery, A l’epi de Ble! The lemon tarts were my favorite!

They tasted as good as they look.

They tasted as good as they look.

Bite size pieces of heaven.

Bite size pieces of heaven.

Events like this can’t take place without the champions that host them. A big hip-hip-whooray to the folks at Grazing in the Field for finding an innovative way to bring the farm to our homes. I cannot stress the importance of supporting our local producers—think of it as an investment for the future of our communities.

For more information on upcoming Grazing in the Field events, click here.
Beautiful photography by Cory Aronec.

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Energy Date Balls

Energy Date Balls

These delectable balls are power packed with amazing micronutrients, healthy fats and a ton of flavor. What I love about them is their versatility. It’s easy to pack up and munch on these gems when life is throwing you a few curve balls and time is of the essence. What’s even better? You don’t gotta bake ‘em! These energy balls remind me to never judge a book by it’s cover—though are small in size, they are packed with power. About 2 – 3 of these will keep you full and offer you the opportunity to snack on something sweet without sacrificing nutrition.

Get ballin’!

Energy Date Balls
 
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Ingredients
  • 1 cup raw almonds, pecans or walnuts
  • 16 dates, pitted
  • Water, for blending (1 – 2 tbsp)
  • ½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • ⅓ cup almond butter
  • 3 tbsp good quality cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Pulse almonds in a food processor until coarsely ground. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Pulse dates in food processor until almost smooth, adding up to 3 tbsp (45 mL) water as needed to help blend.
  3. Add almonds back to food processor with coconut, almond butter, cocoa powder and cinnamon and pulse, scraping down mixture in bowl with a wooden spoon as needed until completely incorporated.
  4. Transfer to a large bowl. Scoop mixture into 2tbsp balls, rolling with your hands; place balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate.
  5. Makes 18 balls

Recipe adapted from http://naturaldelights.ca/MedjoolDatePowerBalls.html

Energy Date Balls

Perfect on-the-go snack!

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My Food Philosophy

Philosophy

When I meet new people, they ask, “What do you do?” I respond by letting them know I work as a Registered Dietitian, which almost inevitably leads to their next question, “Oh, cool—so what kind of a diet do you have?”

I tell them, “None, I just eat well.” To which they give me a puzzled and confused look. So here’s what I really mean by eating well and not dieting:

I eat everything: I’m not a vegan, a lacto-ovo vegetarian, not a raw foodist nor do I eat follow a “Paleo Diet” (mostly because it doesn’t exist). In our home, we enjoy eating meat and we do our best to source organic and local cuts. Even still, we chose not to eat meat a few times during our week to encourage a higher intake of legumes, lentils, and plants. In the summer time you’ll catch me nibbling on fish here and there. And eggs – eggs are a staple in our home (and yeah, I eat the yolk too).

I enjoy dairy milk and cheeses—not only because my digestive system can tolerate them, but also because the taste is nostalgic and I feel its properties are nourishing.

I don’t have much of a green thumb; one year I tried to garden, it was an epic fail. But I am determined to master it one day soon! In the mean time, I try to purchase organic produce when my budget allows for it, and take pride in centering my meal around what’s in season. When the Farmers’ Markets open you’ll find me frolicking around with fresh produce, lemonade and kettle corn from local vendors.

And, probably to everyone’s greatest shock, in our home we are not carb-phobics (intense fear of carbohydrates). In fact, we usually include a grain or starchy food in every meal of the day. For some it may not feel right, but grains are a staple for our family. I often enjoy experimenting with quinoa, barley, and wheat berries, but also stick to basics (whole wheat flour, rice, oats, corn flour).

You’ll find very few packaged and processed foods tucked away in my pantry. I do my best to prepare fresh meals but when time is my worst enemy we don’t mind a bowl of Kraft Dinner with a fizzy Coca Cola.

After struggling with creating and maintaining a balanced lifestyle, I feel like I’ve finally got it. It’s taken me years to get past the calorie counting, the myths and fads and now more than simply eating to live, I now live to eat. The kitchen is the heart of our home, it’s where I spend most of my time and where I feel the most empowered to be the best me.

So, what’s your food philosophy?

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Truly Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh_main

I think I’ve come pretty close. I wish you could smell it looking at the photo.

It was all thanks to the Shop & Save book that enticed us to take a trip down to Winnipeg’s Exchange District to enjoy some eats from Shawarma Khan. Here we enjoyed their infamous lamb shawarma, a delish chickpea salad and tabbouleh. Everything served was delectable and certainly worth our dollar. The tabbouleh got me—it was the perfect mixture of fresh, flavor and zing. I came home anxious to try my hand at replicating the recipe.

Truly Tabbouleh
 
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Serves: 5-6
Ingredients
  • ½ bulgur wheat
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 bunches flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch mint (approx ⅓ cup)
  • 2 roma tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and finely diced
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Pour the boiling water over the bulgur wheat in a shallow bowl. Use a fork to quickly stir the water into the wheat, then set aside for 10 minutes.
  2. Fluff the wheat with a fork, then place lid over the bowl and set on the countertop.
  3. Wash the leaves of parsley and mint. Dry completely and then finely chop up your herbs. Combine with the tomatoes, cucumber, green onion and bulgur.
  4. Drizzle olive oil, lemon juice and add in salt and pepper, to taste.

Tip: This salad is great when paired with a soup, pita or kabobs. It lasts in your fridge for 3 days
Tabbouleh_ingredients

Tasty and fresh!

The salad itself will last in your fridge several days—it almost tastes infinitely better the following day once the flavors have had some time to meddle. For those of you that haven’t experimented with bulgur—it’s a form of a whole wheat grain that has been dried and cracked. It can be used as porridge, in baking or as a side dish.

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Confetti Quinoa Salad

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When we’re stuck dead center in a Winnipeg winter—what do we do? How about make colorful summery salads? This quinoa salad won my heart over. I’m a pesto fanatic so I was happy when the Fresh Juice magazine featured a quinoa recipe that was all dressed in a basil dressing and could be assembled with minimal cooking. I’ve adapted the recipe a bit from the original (which, I couldn’t seem to find online)!

4.5 from 2 reviews
Confetti Quinoa Salad
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced (optional, great especially if you want to increase your veggie intake)
  • 1 cup diced English cucumber
  • ⅓ cup chopped red onion
  • 1 can (19 oz) no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Toasted pine nuts for garnish (optional)
  • Dressing:
  • 2 tbsp prepared pesto (I love the Classico Pesto)
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
Instructions
  1. In saucepan, add quinoa and water (if quinoa isn't pre-rinsed, first rinse and drain well). Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 18 to 20 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork; transfer to large bowl. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, for the dressing, whisk together pesto, vinegar, oil and pepper.
  3. Add to quinoa with yellow pepper, cucumber, onion and chickpeas; toss gently to coat. Fold in feta and tomatoes. Sprinkle with pine nuts, if desired.
  4. Substitutions/Tips
  5. Feel free to add in other veggies you may enjoy, or sun dried tomatoes for additional flavor.
  6. This recipe makes a large batch so you may want to cut the ingredients in half if you’re just feeding yourself or a small group.

Substitutions/Tips

Feel free to add in other veggies you may enjoy, or sun dried tomatoes for additional flavor.
This recipe makes a large batch so you may want to cut the ingredients in half if you’re just feeding yourself or a small group.

Quinoa_ingredients

Look at the array of colors—pretty, huh?

Quinoa; it’s an ancient grain that seems to be all the talk as of lately, and with good reasons. It boasts itself as a great source of protein, making it worthwhile for vegetarians to incorporate into their lifestyle. And, for those with a gluten sensitivity, it’s a dream come true. Quinoa can be purchased in different forms—whole grain or as ground flour. You’ll even find them offered in an array of colors: white, black, red—but really, they’re all the same. We typically consume quinoa 2-3x week as a hearty salad like this one, as a side or in the form of patties. How do you enjoy your quinoa? Let me know, in the mean time give this recipe a try.

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Ready or not…

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I’ve dwindled the thought of starting this project for nearly five years. FIVE YEARS. I’ve spent five years mostly procrastinating, but also trying to determine what this would all be about. In the last few months I’ve realized that perhaps all along the only thing that was stopping me was fear. Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of opening myself up and being vulnerable.

This is how I'm currently feeling

This is how I’m currently feeling

With help and encouragement from my family and friends, I’ve mustered up the strength to dive in. So after five years I’m still not all too sure what this blog will contain. But I can tell you this: I hope this platform offers my clients and readers a chance to reflect not only on the foods they eat, but how and why they eat. It is my sincere aim to provide readers with opportunities to learn more about our food, where it comes from and how it’s properties can nourish our body (or not).

And most importantly, I hope that sharing my experiences will serve as a connection to me as both a Dietitian and a “normal” person.

More than this being a place for my readers to gain access to recipes and information, I also anticipate there will be moments when my heart is heavy and I will just to need vent frustrations I have with my career in being a Dietitian. Though I may not write things in the most “lady-like” manner, I hope it will encourage people to be naturally curious but also critical about our food. Lastly, what foodie-nutrition blog wouldn’t be complete without the opportunity to dispel some silly nutrition myths. Bam!

So here I come cyber universe.

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