Memories at “Abbi’s Payfair”

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Me and the boss, dad.

We all have a story of how we came to our career choices. For some of us our careers found us, while for others we work hard day-in and day-out to work in a chosen field. The passion for becoming a nutrition expert came quite naturally to me, and I found myself on the path towards the career.

I distinctly remember being a young teenager and watching a woman speak on the national news. She was so poised and eloquently spoke about the increasing rates of Type II Diabetes and obesity among our First Nations population in Canada. And voila, that was it. That was the moment that would prescribe how I focused my academic time for the next several years.

But, you may ask, why?

Because something clicked for me in hearing what she had to say.

You see, my parents have operated a family grocery store, Abbi’s Payfair, in the Point Douglas area since 1997. We primarily service the First Nations community and plates of other ethnic minorities. The grocery store is a humble one with three aisles, a quaint produce aisle, and a very popular meat counter. Growing up, I spent my summers and some odd weekends working for parents. It was in this setting I began to observe what my ‘friends,’ our customers, were purchasing. I made the link: the kinds of foods we purchase and the way we do (or don’t) prepare meals directly influences our health and the health of our families. An aha moment!

Nita Sharda

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Perhaps some of the most valuable life lessons I’ve learned came from experiences within those three aisles. My parents taught us about hard work, discipline, and about earning respect by giving respect (especially as a small independent grocer) via leading as examples. My dad, affectionately known in the community as “Abbi,” can be seen at the grocery store seven days a week. Yes, you read that right, seven days a week! (Getting this guy to take a day off is like pulling teeth!). I guess that’s the beauty of it – running Abbi’s Payfair isn’t just a job, it’s his passion, it’s his life. And somehow in some awesome way it’s also a part of my life and helps create my story.


CnC_DadMeatCounter Chicken_smiling CnC_Family Hugs CnC_DadMom

There you have it folks! If you’re ever in the Point Douglas area and pop into the store, say hi to my papa!

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Cheers to Spring “Cleaning” How You Eat

Above photo was taken by SambaJoy Photo & Art.

Above photo was taken by SambaJoy Photo & Art.

It’s here people. Spring. Is. Here.

As we bid farewell to our cold winter, we welcome all that the new season will bring to us. For many, spring marks a time for an annual “purge-my-closet”, a car tune up and more famously, we gear up to hit the shopping malls in race for the perfect new shoes, purse or even that pretty dress.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with any of this; but how many of us take this time to reflect on how we eat and where we can perhaps make a few improvements in our diet, if even one?

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you embrace spring with a sense of renewal and work towards a healthier you:

Reduce sugar by a third in baked good recipes. Now that’s a sweet deal. 

It’s no secret that foods that contain sugar can be part of a balanced diet, but too much of the sweet stuff can add unnecessary calories.  Be conscious about your efforts to reduce sugar intake. We certainly can’t completely omit sugar when we bake chewy cookies, moist muffins or sweet breads. But typically up to one third of the sugar can go missing without anyone noticing. If you’re going give this try, add a little extra cinnamon, vanilla or almond extract to add a hint of sweetness without the load of sugar.

Get intense flavor with less fat. 

When people want to reduce fat intake, they often jump the gun and eliminate cheese from their usual regime. C’mon, cheese is more than just F-A-T. Cheese provides muscled building protein, calcium and other nutrients too. Reduced-fat and low-fat cheese can be a smart choice for snack and sandwiches—look for something at 20% M.F. Because these types of cheeses don’t melt well and make for a tough or stringy casserole, try using a little less regular cheese in your usual recipe. Or, shred in highly flavourful cheese such as Asiago, aged cheddar or Parmesan.

Eat a variety of different fruits and vegetables. 

No one fruit or vegetable is so “super” that it can keep you healthy on its own. Don’t dwell on products that are labeled as “superfoods”; sometimes this phrase is used to market expensive foods or new trendy ingredients. Everyday (and affordable) produce such as broccoli, carrots or apples can be just nutritious.

Fibre up! 

Fibre can help to lower blood cholesterol and control blood sugar levels. This is called soluble fibre and is found in some vegetables, fruits and legumes. Other types of fibre, called insoluble fibre from some vegetables and fruit, whole grains and wheat bran, help keep you “regular” and may protect against colon cancer. How can you increase fibre?

  • Consume higher amounts of whole grains such as rolled oats, barley, quinoa and brown rice.
  • Replace at least half of the white flour with whole wheat flour in your recipes.
  • Add a few spoonfuls of bran, chia seeds and ground flaxseed to your cereal or yogurt.
  • Savor the peel—crunch into your apples and pears as they are.
  • Read the label—check for grams of fibre. A food labeled as “high in fibre” must have four or more grams of fibre per serving.
  • Try your hand at these Energy Date Balls that are loaded with fibre and will hit that sweet spot.

Whatever you decide, make it sustainable. Find ways to source help from a Registered Dietitian or your fan club (we’ve all got one: your spouse, sister, friend, child etc). This is one great way to welcome all that spring brings (and then, it’s summer).

This blog post was originally published as a guest post on PegCityLovely for my friend Natalie Bell. Visit her here!

SpringClean

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Celebrating National Dietitians Day #nutritionmonth

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

This photo is from a College of Dietitians of Manitoba video. See the full length video below. Aren’t those characters cute?

 

Once a year, a special day is dedicated to all dietitians across Canada. It celebrates dietitians as health care professionals, committed to using their specialized knowledge and skills in food and nutrition to improve the health of Canadians. Why have a Dietitians Day? Well, it’s a great way to spotlight the profession and reminds us that dietitians are the smart choice for advice on proper eating, good nutrition and healthy living.

I have difficulty celebrating this day without thanking all of my colleagues, peers, governing bodies and clients that have made my career one that I can enjoy. With a complex food system and a bombardment of false information (thanks to the media and cyberspace), my job hasn’t always been an easy one. Sorting through the facts and fallacies to bring you relevant information is my job, and I’m proud of it.

On this morning, my husband packed my lunch along with a few extra goodies and a beautiful bouquet of hydrangeas. I love that he loves my profession as much as I do. Earlier in the month, I was welcomed at my workplace with a Carrot Pineapple Loaf. My colleague had made it for me after seeing it shared on the blog. That’s special.

Here’s the deal: if you know a Dietitian or have worked with one, on this day, maybe give him/her a call, an email or a message letting them know their work is valuable.

And, how about a few DID YOU KNOW’s:

  • Structured, intensive lifestyle interventions delivered by dietitians can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 60% in clients at risk
  • Nutrition counselling improves general dietary behaviours associated with good health such as increased fruit, vegetable, and fibre intake and decreased fat intake
  • In working with a Dietitian, we can potentially reduce healthcare cost by 34%
  • Lifestyle and diet changes can reduce the risk of cancer by 40% and heart disease/stroke by 80%
  • After at least three months of nutrition counselling, patients with chronic disease have experienced:
    • Decreased body weight of about 3-5 kg
    • Improved blood sugar/glucose control
    • Reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels

In the mean time, get educated. Here’s a great video brought to you by the College of Dietitians of Manitoba that highlights the credibility and work that Registered Dietitians offer to Manitobans.

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Please note, a portion of the above information is adapted from the Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month Campaign Materials. Find more information about Nutrition Month at www.nutritionmonth2015.ca.

 

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Honey Ginger Chicken – Slow Cooker Friendly

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Always a crowd pleaser.

When the hubs tells me that the boys are coming over for dinner, I can always turn to this no-fail recipe! Stir up the dressing, throw in the chicken and let the slow cooker do its thing. Now that’s my kinda meal. But beyond the simplicity in preparing this dish, it’s actually insanely delicious. I was inspired by a recipe posted by fellow blogger, Foodie with Family. I adapted the recipe to suit our taste buds and we’ve never looked back.

Honey Ginger Chicken - Slow Cooker Friendly
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 5-6
Ingredients
  • 4lb boneless skinless chicken thighs (approx 16 – 18 thighs, trim the fat)
  • Black pepper
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup sodium reduced soy sauce
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
Instructions
  1. Very lightly season the chicken thighs with pepper and place them in the slow cooker.
  2. Whisk the honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, sesame oil, ginger and pepper flakes together in a mixing bowl and pour over the chicken thighs. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
  3. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a rimmed plate or bowl and cover lightly with foil, leaving the pan juices in the slow cooker.
  4. Stir the cornstarch into the water with a fork or small whisk until dissolved. Whisk the mixture into the pan juices in the slow cooker. Re-cover the slow-cooker and turn the heat to high. Let it cook and thicken for 15 minutes. (Note: This step is optional and most desired for a thicker sauce).
  5. Carefully transfer the chicken back into the slow-cooker.
  6. Garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro. Serve!

This chicken entree pairs nicely with quinoa or even on a bed of rice. As far as veg, I like to enjoy this recipe with green beans or stir fried vegetables. Don’t forget to top with cilantro or toasted sesame seeds. Oh and it’s the kind of recipe that tastes better the next day.  L O V E.

Let me know how you’d change up the recipe, and don’t forget to leave a comment. Happy long weekend!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

            – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Love Local, Love Manitoba

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m a huge advocate for supporting local producers. This statement means that much more when you live in Manitoba; a part of Canada that faces extreme temperature changes and a very short growing season. But when has bad weather ever stopped Manitobans from doing anything?

This spring & summer, look forward to fresh local produce at Famers’ Markets across the city.  In fact, one of Manitoba’s largest Farmers’ Market has announced their opening on May 24th, 2014. Drum-roll please… it’s none other than the amazing Le Marche St. Norbert Farmers’ Market. When you get the chance to check it out, make sure you meet the many local producers and growers that are happy to serve this fine province.

At Le Marché St. Norbert Farmers’ Market, everything within sight will have been made right here in Manitoba – you can talk to the person who grew your dinner-table veggies, cared for the produce, and carefully construct drool-worthy pies.

“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy local. And that’s kind of the same thing.”

I personally like to go to the market slightly hungry; it allows me to munch on some fresh Kettle Popcorn, sample cookies, or a stalk of crunchy celery as I shop around and enjoy music from live entertainers.

The “go local” food movement is far beyond any trend or a temporary fad. It’s here to stay, folks. People all over Manitoba (and Canada) are becoming more skeptical about where their food comes from, how it’s cared for, and – more over – consumers want to know who is producing the food that nourishes their family’s bodies. When you buy local food, you vote with your food dollar for family farms, thriving communities, and nourishing food.

 Over the next few months, make it a goal—go local.
 For more information on steps you can take to source local foods, visit Buy Manitoba. For more about Farmers’ Markets across Manitoba, visit the Manitoba Farmers’ Market Website.

     – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

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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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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