The Whole Grain and Nothing But the Grain (Part 2: Free Gluten)

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeA couple of posts back we talked about the goodness of whole grains and why grain-excluding diets aren’t so great after all. Today we’re going to shift your focus and delve into the increasingly popular gluten-free diet trend that has everyone going cross-eyed with confusion.

WHAT ON EARTH IS GLUTEN?

Well, I guess clarifying things would help. Let’s pause. Contrary to popular belief (thanks to loads and loads of marketing and misinformation) it is not some horrifyingly fattening, health-impeding substance that will cause you to drop dead. Gluten is a protein found in the center (endosperm) of wheat, barley, and rye. Physically speaking, it helps the grain maintain it’s shape and elasticity when used in baking or cooking.

NOT FOR EVERYONE

As wonderful as whole grains are (as previously established here), there are a few instances where they are not well tolerated. Celiac disease for example is an auto-immune disorder that affects 1% of the Canadian population. With this condition, gluten proteins are not digested or absorbed, leading to some pretty unpleasant symptoms and in severe cases, anaphylactic shock – yikes! Remember, in Celiac Disease there is an immune response.

To make matters more confusing we are also noticing a number of folks struggling with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Symptoms are similar to those of celiac disease but luckily the overall clinical picture is less severe. Folks with a non-celiac gluten sensitivity don’t experience an immune response per se, but they may feel groggy, bloated, experience pain, headaches etc when gluten is ingested. In these cases it is always best to STAY CLEAR of wheat.

If you suspect you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, contact a physician or Registered Dietitian to get some help.

1BlackBeanBrownies_squares

Gluten free brownies.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Gluten containing yummy mac and cheese (veggified of course!).

BUYER BEWARE: GLUTEN-FREE vs HEALTHY

As the incidence of celiac disease increases, more and more gluten-free products are constantly becoming available on supermarket shelves. With this shift in the market, gluten-free products have been promoted as “healthy” or “trendy”, which is confusing to the average consumer. Note to self: the words “gluten-free” in bold on a package is not code for healthy. Gluten-free products when refined (ex. white rice crackers) can be just as harmful as the refined, gluten-containing grains described in the previous post.

For those who have trouble tolerating gluten, I recommend experimenting with gluten-free options such as amaranth, buckwheat, uncontaminated oats, quinoa or brown rice pasta to create healthy snacks and meals at home.

BUT IF I GO GLUTEN-FREE, I’LL LOSE WEIGHT RIGHT?

Think of it this way: when a person with celiac disease is properly diagnosed and begins a prescribed gluten-free diet, they may in fact gain weight since the malabsorption that was once happening subsides and they are better equipped to absorb the nutrients and calories they have been consuming. You heard me right! – gluten-free diets were actually intended for people to maintain their ideal weight, sometimes meaning weight gain.

Whether or not you lose weight on a gluten-free diet all depends on how you go gluten-free. Giving the boot to gluten-containing refined grains like white-flour bagels, pasta, and crackers, and processed snacks will definitely be an effective weight loss method if you are replacing them with wholesome, high fiber alternatives. However, if these gluten rich foods are replaced by hyper-processed gluten-free products weight loss isn’t a guarantee. Besides, it never truly is.

FREE GLUTEN

The stigma surrounding gluten deserves to be squashed! Consider how silly this sounds: “My friend is allergic to peanuts – therefore they must be terrible for my health and I must give them up immediately!” That would never fly in one million years – so why would we apply this mentality with gluten? (on a side note: you would have to pry the jar of PB out of my cold dead hands before I would give it up).

The takeaway:

whole grain, gluten-containing foods are absolutely A-OKAY in our books. Unless you have been properly diagnosed with an allergy or intolerance keep munching on whole-grain goodness!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

That’s Ceone rocking some gluten love.

If you’re not in a rush to leave this blog page, check out this video by Jimmy Fallon. Jimmy is notorious for his comedic ways, pranks and well, making us laugh a little more in our day. Enjoy.

Food photography and blog post written/captured by a talented student volunteer, Ceone Dyck. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

Don’t forget to follow Carrots and Cake on Instagram to see tiny square snap shots of my life.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

5 Reasons you Should be Eating Pulses

Photo from www.iyp2016.org

Photo from www.iyp2016.org

Oh hiiii! Or I should say, heho! Forgive me, I’ve been celebrating the Festival Du Voyageur over the last two weeks. Hence the blogging hiatus. Okay, one last time, HEHO!

If you haven’t caught on, over the last little while we’ve really been encouraging you to load up and experiment with legumes. For a refresher on what a legume is, visit our previous blog post. For the next little bit, we’re going to explain the WHY behind the WHAT. It’s your health (and tummy) so you should know our top five reasons for recommending legumes.

  1. High in protein.
    Whether you opt out for a lentil or bean, you’re guaranteed to consume a solid amount of protein. Protein is that good stuff you need to keep you full, maintain muscle, produce enzymes and plays in important role in maintaining our skin.

    • 1 cup cooked lentils = 18 grams of protein
    • 1 cup cooked black beans = 15 grams of protein
    • 1 cup cooked kidney beans = 13 grams of protein
      _____
  2. Source of fibre.
    Unlike most animal proteins, beans and lentils contain a complex carbohydrate component that is rich in fibre. Beyond just promoting gut health and keeping you regular with washroom visits, fibre does your body an amazing favor by helping to keep blood sugar levels stable. It’s even known to reduce the risk of colon cancer, and, it can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels to a healthy range. Oh, and one more thing: it keeps you full for longer.___

    Image from www.pulses.org

    Image from www.pulses.org

  3. Environmentally friendly.
    We’re starting to learn more and more about the agriculture industry. Here’s what we’ve come to know so far:

    • Growing pulses increases farming biodiversity
    • Pulses are highly water efficient (to produce 1 kg of lentils we need 50 litres of water; for same amount of chicken, we need 4325 litres of water)
    • Crop residues and byproducts can be use for animal feed making pulses multifunctional
    • Pulses produce very little carbon footprint, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions that pollute our air
    • The nitrogen in pulses improves soil fertility
    • Okay that’s enough bragging.
  1. Versatile.
    If you’re new to beans and lentils like most of our clients, please take comfort in knowing that these little “big” guys are extremely versatile. You can slowly start incorporating them into meals you already enjoy. Here are a few ideas:

    • Mix red lentils into your favorite mac and cheese recipe
    • Add a can of beans into homemade soups and stews
    • Throw in an extra can of beans into your chili
    • Add lentils into your hamburger patty mixture
    • Mix refried beans into your taco beef
    • Throw in ¼ cup of red lentils into your berry smoothie
    • Source recipes that use beans for baking like these black bean brownies
    • Use lentils in your homemade granola
      _
      _____
  2. Economical.
    Lentils and beans are extremely gentle on your wallet and help you maximize food dollars. For a fraction of the cost, you get the benefit of protein (see point one) and fibre (see point two) without the saturated fat that animal proteins come with. Note to the universe: I do love me a good steak, or homemade chicken fingers but prefer to enjoy veggie proteins for the bulk of my meals. I did some price checks at my local mom and pop grocer, here’s what I learned:

    • 1lb extra lean ground beef = $4.99
    • 1lb sliced bologna = $3.99
    • 1lb chicken legs = $2.49
    • 1lb bag dried red lentils = $2.19

So that’s it folks! This rounds up our top 5 reasons for eating pulses. If you’re feeling motivated by all of this information but stumped on how to put this into practice, contact me so we can discuss things further. In the mean time, stay tuned for a load of Carrots and Cake tried and true recipes featuring pulses.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Real Talk: The Raw Food Diet

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Photo purchased from Shutterstock

Alright, raise your hands: how many of us have seen something on social media recently with a photo of a happy, fit-looking model, and the words “detox” or “cleanse” thrown somewhere in there and thought, “Oh, wow. I’ll have what she’s having”? In today’s age of social media, health fads have the ability to spread faster than ever. And us evidenced-based nutrition folks don’t like it. With all sorts of information now at our fingertips, it can be difficult to navigate through to find sources that are valid. That’s the purpose of this blog post.

The Raw Vegan Diet or also know as the Raw Food diet is a trend that is loud and clear on our radar. Actually, it’s on our front door step. Let’s learn:

What is it?

The Raw Vegan, or Raw Food diet consists of eating plant-based foods that have not been cooked, or that have been dehydrated at a very low temperature (usually not higher than 40 degrees Celsius). This is (falsey) based on the premise that cooking destroys enzymes and nutrients that are essential for human health, as well as can “produce toxins that accumulate in the body”.

Wait, is this true?

Well, there are some truths, however, don’t hop onboard just yet. Yes, cooking can destroy some nutrients in fruits and vegetables such as vitamin C. However, many nutrients actually become more bioavailable, or easily absorbed and used by the body after being heated at a certain temperature. This includes some good stuff such as lycopene in tomatoes and red peppers, and beta carotene in carrots and sweet potato.

Cooking = not a bad thing. 

Cooking vegetables also helps to break down tough cell walls in plants which releases nutrients that would otherwise be inaccessible to the body. This, in turn creates less work for your digestive system (ie. spinach). Many people who have switched to a raw food diet report concerns with bloating and gas due to the excess fibre content associated with consuming large amounts of fruit and vegetables. No fun.

There is one nutrient that would be very difficult to obtain from a raw vegan diet, Vitamin B12. This micronutrient is found mostly in meat, or fortified foods – neither of which are allowed in a raw vegan diet. Deficiency of this particular vitamin leads to a host of problems including fatigue, weakness, memory loss, and depression. Not fun. Not fun at all.

What about those enzymes? Don’t I need them?

Yep, cooking does indeed denature some enzymes, which are made up of proteins. This means that they unfold and unravel so that they can no longer function properly. But guess what? These enzymes are no match for stomach acid either. Raw or cooked, proteins in food will get denatured so that the body can break them down into building blocks to use for other things. We are fully capable of producing all the enzymes we need. Our bodies are smart like that!

Show me the money. Cost?

With the rising cost of produce in Canada, the raw food diet simply isn’t economical. Since fruits and vegetables are lower in calories than other food groups, you would have to eat a much larger volume to meet your required energy intake. Therefore, you would have to buy way more (can you imagine a professional hockey player on this diet? No!). If you live somewhere where most fresh fruits aren’t in season in the winter, you’re not only paying more for imported produce, but increasing your carbon footprint due to the transportation of these foods. Those instagram collages of pretty blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are worth the double-tap but can cost a fortune.

What about the benefits?

Many raw vegans claim to feel more energetic, and have lost weight loss since starting this diet. Swapping out certain processed foods for more fruits and veggies will do that for ya. Indeed, eating more fruits and vegetables is great, and we should definitely take advantage of the nutrients that raw food provides (check out these easy recipes for Avocado Chocolate Mousse, Energy Date Balls, and Tropical Green Smoothies)! However, restricting yourself to only raw foods could really limit your variety. It would mean excluding many vegetables that have SO MUCH to offer, like root vegetables, squash, and pulses which have formed the staple diets of various cultures for centuries. I mean, how would we have survived the Great Depression without potatoes?

Despite individual testimonies, there is no evidence that shows the long term effects of a raw diet on the body. On the flip side, fire has been used for cooking for hundreds of thousands of years! Many anthropologists believe that our brains would not be as developed as they are today if it weren’t for the switch to the consumption of cooked food. Gotta love the industrial and agricultural revolution.

At the end of the day, when it comes to most of us, the best diet is no diet.

It’s all about balance

At the end of the day, when it comes to most of us, the best diet is no diet. All foods provide energy and nutrients. Eating a variety of whole foods; cooked and uncooked is the best way to ensure that we get the proper amount of nutrients we need to thrive. Our bodies will take care of the rest! When in doubt, consult with a Registered Dietitian before starting any new meal plan. They’ll tell you what’s up!

To learn more about our thoughts on detoxes, click here.

And, before peacing-out check out the video below created by Registered Dietitians Abbey Sharp and Abby Langer. I love the banter.

This blog post was written by Christy Lai, 4th Year Human Nutritional Sciences student. Follow Christy on Instagram, trust me, you’ll want to.

Don’t forget to follow Carrots and Cake on Instagram to see tiny square snap shots of my life.

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Guest Post: I used to Overeat

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake Today on the blog I’ve got Jessica Penner of Smart Nutrition to share her history with overeating, and, a new program she has recently launched titled “I Quit Overeating”. Jessica is a great Dietitian and I’m lucky to rely on her locally as a colleague. Here’s her story and feel free to pass information about this program onto your friends, colleagues or anyone you feel would benefit.

I used to overeat.

I’ve never been significantly overweight, so people are surprised to hear this. When you think of overeating, you think of someone who is above their natural weight range, right? Well, I used to purposefully undereat as well. I was able to keep my weight within some control, but only through a lot of physical and mental anguish.

Here’s a glimpse into my life as a first year university student:

  • Friday: Go to a party and eat a lot of chips. Feel guilt and regret. Vow to wake up and run an extra mile.
  • Saturday: Run 6 miles, come home and only eat a tiny breakfast. Eat like a bird the rest of the day. Feel proud of myself.
  • Sunday: Study and snack on chocolate chips all day. Feel gross.
  • Monday: Head to class with no snack and no money so that I can’t buy any food. Feel hungry but full of willpower. Go home starving. Overeat at dinner. Feel out of control.

My feelings were on a constant pendulum shift. I was proud and in control one moment, then full of regret and out of control the next. It was exhausting.

As I studied nutrition and human anatomy in university, I started to learn just how amazing the human body is! I started to realize that I was not giving myself enough credit!

The human body is an amazing, self-regulatory system. It knows precisely how much food it needs. The body sends the mind all sorts of signals to indicate when it’s hungry and when it’s full. When I learned this, my whole world changed. I stopped trying to manage my eating with willpower. I stopped compensating for gross overeating with difficult undereating. Instead, I started to listen to my body and respond to its needs appropriately.

Instead of trying to power through my hunger, I would nourish my body with wholesome foods, so I would feel hungry less often.

Instead of mindlessly overeating at social events, I would take a small portion and check-in with my body to know when to stop eating.

This process definitely took some work and reflection, but after a while it became second nature. Maintaining this way of eating barely takes any thought now that it has become a habit!

I am now more in tune with my body’s needs. Eating has become a joyful experience, instead of a source of stress and worry in my life.

“Eating has become a joyful experience, instead of a source of stress and worry in my life”

The best part? ALL my eating is now guilt-free!

You heard that right. I, Jessica Penner, Registered Dietitian, shamelessly eat “unhealthy” snacks and treats without regret. Of course, the majority of my food intake does come from whole, healthy foods that are close to nature. But when everything is in proportion, I don’t NEED to feel bad about some delicious indulgences.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

I’ve done a lot of reflecting on my journey to quit overeating. I firmly believe that this happy, healthy relationship with food is achievable by everyone.  As a dietitian, it’s a passion of mine to pass on to others this liberating lifestyle! So I’ve taken what I learned, and picked out the step-by-step process I followed to get there. It’s a process that anyone can follow.

If you want to learn how to quit overeating, then join me for my 10 week online program starting October 4th! If you’re not sure yet that this program is for you, that’s okay. You can start by joining us for the first week for free. Only pay once you know that the program is a good fit for you! Just enter your email address here.

Please note that readers of Carrots and Cake are eligible to receive a 10% discount when you use the promo code CARROTSANDCAKE. Click on the image below for information or to sign up!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Fit Story: HEAL with Chinwe

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Photos by Bree-Ann Merritt Photography

To keep things interesting on the Carrots and Cake blog, I’ll be showcasing local “Fit Stories”. This is your chance to learn about local exercise gurus and fitness opportunities available in Winnipeg. I often find when I’m counselling clients, we talk a lot about moving the body. So, what better way to share information about local experts than by being able to offer their unique stories on the blog. I’m so humbled that Chinwe Asagwara of Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) is joining me for round one!

Chinwe is a personal friend of mine, and, she also happens to be my personal trainer. After a back injury that left me demotivated, weak and actually really sad I decided it was time to get strong. I remember a time when reading a book for twenty minutes would cause week long pain. Something had to change. We all have different reasons for being active. My desire to participate in regular physical activity has very little to do with my body size. I’m a petite woman (just like my mama, and my grandmama) and I’ll likely always be this way. I choose to engage in exercises that will push my body in unique ways so that it can stay strong for years to come. Coupled with yoga, barre and running I feel like I’m honouring this body of mine to do what it does best. To be well. To just be well. Oh! And if you can’t tell, Chinwe is the one in full-sleeve blue top.

How did the birth of HEAL come to be? Was it a big decision?

I feel that the birth of HEAL was an organic progression over time. I dabbled in private practice for nutrition services soon after graduating from my dietetic internship program in 2011. At the same time I began personal training. I quickly found that my personal training clients required nutrition support to get the full benefits of their training programs. The same applied to my clients who came to see me for nutrition, starting an exercise program was something that would benefit their nutrition goals. I always had a vision of providing my clients with both nutrition and exercise support to be as healthy as they could be. In my first few years of working as a dietitian and personal trainer I worked for larger fitness facilities. I felt this limited my ability to provide services the way I really wanted to. I’m now able to work with the whole person, physically, mentally and emotionally. Eventually I made the decision to start my own business, and HEAL was born.

On the blog, I shared my personal food philosophy. Do you have a personal food philosophy or something you “eat by”?

If I had to describe my personal food philosophy I think of words like balance, moderation and preparation. When I am not training for a physique competition I like to include variety. To me this means eating from all four food groups, with room for a few extras. I love to see color on my plate, fresh vegetables in a tasty kale salad topped with red and yellow peppers, sunflower seeds, avocado and goat cheese for example. I am a meat eater, choosing lean cuts such as chicken and turkey, extra lean ground beef for a yummy tomato based sauce to put over pasta, typically whole wheat, but maybe white if I feel like a change. One of my favorite snacks is fresh raspberries with yogurt, I love other dairy products such as cheese and yogurt, oh ya and ice cream here and there too! I also love traditional Nigerian foods, which I grew up on as a child. Semo and draw soup, fried plantains, jollof rice and black eye beans are just a few. I have a phrase I like to share ‘all foods can fit, balance is key’ I truly believe this, and my meals are guided in this manner.

“If I had to describe my personal food philosophy I think of words like balance, moderation and preparation”

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

How come you use the phrase “Women and Weights” to describe your circuit classes instead of “Bootcamp”?

I find that a lot of women are intimidated by weight training, and believe it will create a masculine body. This belief is untrue. Weight training is so important for women. I wanted to create a program that emphasises the importance of weight training for women and draw attention to the benefits it can provide. I don’t think I intentionally avoided the term ‘bootcamp’ but rather wanted to emphasise the class was an opportunity for women to start weight training.

How does the “health at every size” approach fit into your company?

I try to emphasise all the benefits of exercise and balanced nutrition, which is not limited to a person’s body shape or size. Exercise and balanced nutrition have benefits such as a reduced resting heart rate, improved blood sugar control, increased total body strength, improved flexibility, increased energy levels and improved sleep just to name a few. That being said, weight loss can also be a beneficial result of exercise and balanced nutrition. We know that a BMI and waist circumference above normal ranges places them at higher risk for chronic disease. I do not feel this should be ignored, so as a Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer this is always something I look at and assess when starting with a new client. It is also a measure of assessment as a client moves through a training or a nutrition action plan. But if focusing on weight does not serve as a positive motivator for my client, we simply do not focus on it, rather all the other benefits I’ve mentioned.

Is HEAL geared at a particular population or gender?

HEAL is for everyone and anyone, and body size, shape and fitness level. The goal of HEAL is to help people become more active, and more importantly maintain that new level of activity.

Many people juggling full time work have a tough time scheduling in physical activity AND eating well. It’s not easy. Do you have any kitchen hacks you could share?

I think the main thing is to be prepared. If you have healthy and nutritious foods and snacks at your finger tips healthy eating can be made a little easier. Choose a time during the week (it doesn’t have to be the weekend) to plan, shop and prepare your meals and snacks. It pays to invest a couple hours at one time, to eliminate the need to cook and prepare foods during the week – big time saver! If this is new for you, start simple. For example breakfast can be a hardboiled egg and a piece of toast. Eggs can be boiled for the week, peeled and kept in the fridge – easy! Even those mornings you are rushed and in a hurry, you can grab it and go.

Lunch, again – keep it simple! Cruise the vegetable section of your grocery store, there are so many awesome pre-made salads that can be great time savers. Grab some fresh vegetables to chop and keep in the fridge, maybe cucumbers, yellow peppers, tomatoes, red onion… the options are endless. In a large Tupperware container, throw in all your vegetables and salad mix, maybe add some chickpeas for added protein, sprinkle some cheese – there you go! For more preparation you can bake a few chicken or turkey breasts in the oven to be added to meals during the week. Prefer a warm lunch? Whip up some chicken quesadillas with that baked chicken and keep them in the fridge. Grab and go, a perfect match to your salad.

Utilizing cooking tools such as a slow cooker can be a time saver as well. Slow cookers allow for meals to be made without the fuss of watching the stove. It also makes a large volume of food that can be portioned and saved in the freezer for later in the week.

It’s Friday night, what’s Chinwe having for dinner?

That’s a tough one! It could be so many things. Friday evenings I typically move away from whatever I have prepared for the week and make myself and make whatever I’m craving for. The meal is usually based on the season as well. During the colder winter months I like to make hearty meals that warm me up. I love whole wheat rotini with a lean beef meat sauce, with a simple salad of romaine, tomatoes and cucumbers. I enjoy making chilli in my slow cooker or stovetop. I load them up with beans and vegetables. In the summer months I enjoy cold salads like fresh leafy vegetables with summer berries. I often make a quick and easy mini pizza topped with with cheese, tomatoes and fresh cilantro (I love cilantro!). I also like to make meals from groceries I picked up at the St. Norbert Farmers market. Last year a reoccurring favourite was grilled cheese sandwiches made with fresh baked bread and bison sausage.

To learn more about Chinwe and the services she offers, be sure to visit her site by clicking here. If you want to follow her along on Instagram, her handle is @healthy_eating_active_living. Stay tuned for an at-home workout that Chinwe specifically designed for Carrots and Cake readers!

– 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

#nutritionmonth Let’s Talk Breakfast

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Spotted, Nita’s Breakfast Muffin. Click the photo for recipe details.

March is Nutrition Month, which means Dietitians across Canada rally together to bring you relevant nutrition information around a particular topic. This year, the theme centers on Eating 9 to 5! We realize that families no matter the size can find eating healthy to be a challenge. This is especially true with rushed mornings, limited breaks, multiple work meetings, appointments and of course end-of-the-day dinner struggles.

In fact, almost 40% of Canadians skip breakfast, increasing their risk for morning brain drain.

On that note, let’s dissect the breakfast. This is usually the first day of the meal for many Canadians. Unfortunately, it’s also often skipped and not given the attention it oh-so-lovingly deserves. I get it, when you need to beat rush hour traffic to make it in time to work (after brewing your cup of Joe and dropping off the little humans), eating a solid breakfast may not be on your morning “to do” list.

What if you knew these interesting facts about eating healthy breakfast:

  • It’s linked to health weights and reduced weight gain over time
  • You can achieve improved appetite control so you can avoid morning munchies
  • You’ll be more alert and better able to concentrate at work (or school)
  • And, you’ll likely have a better intake of key nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, potassium and fibre

Have I got you convinced yet? Yes! Read on.

The key to having a star breakfast is to keep it simple and plan ahead.

  • On the weekend make a big batch of hot cereal like dahlia (Indian cracked wheat) or baked oatmeal. Pre-pack in individual servings, top with some fruit and refrigerate.
  • Get in a routine of hard boiling a few eggs. In the morning, grab an egg or two, whole wheat toast and a fruit! Of course your chai or latte can pack well into a travel mug. Tip: gradually reduce the amount of sugar you use, this way you can enjoy the natural flavor of your tea/coffee.
  • Blend up a smoothie. At home, my husband and I usually make a 1L serving of smoothie and portion them into mason jars to keep for a few days. Smoothies are a big trend right now and can often be packed full of fruits and veggies. Have you tried my Tropical Green Smoothie? Yum.
  • Enlist some help and get baking. If you have little ones at home, get them into the kitchen to help whip up a few dozen muffins. Muffins can be stored in an airtight container and kept in the freezer for a quick grab n’ go breakfast. Try these yummy breakfast muffins.
  • Stock your pantry with nutritious cold or dry cereals. What could be easier? Look for cereals that are high in fibre the next time you’re at the grocery store. What you want to do is find a product that has at least 4 grams of fibre per serving. Reading the nutrition facts table will offer you a wealth of information. A few packaged cereals currently in my pantry include:

What’s your favorite breakfast? Is there something you specifically struggle with? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

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Please note, 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

The Vitamin you SHOULD be Taking

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Pictured above is my little cocktail of daily nutrition supplements. With the help of my amazing physician and some critical thinking on my part, this concoction is just right for me at this life stage. It includes a good quality probiotic, prescription iron supplement and vitamin D.

Vitamins—their purposes, roles, and needs were the focus of many discussions this year. This was largely due to mainstream media articles and a few studies suggesting that vitamin supplements aren’t necessary for all individuals. Disclaimer: this statement is true. Not everyone needs to take a multivitamin; you may not be deficient in a nutrient if you’re eating a variety of foods in adequate portions.

Having said this, there is one nonnegotiatiable supplement, and that my friends is vitamin D. Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D can actually be made in our skin when we are exposed to sunlight. We can also source vitamin D from a few food sources, such as in fortified milk, fish, and to a lesser extent, eggs and mushrooms.  A quick fact: to get enough vitamin D from milk, you would need to drink 10 cups per day. Idealistic? Sure. Realistic? Unlikely.

Because of  its’ poor bioavailability in foods,  we run the risk of being vitamin D deficient. Furthermore, when you live in a city affectionately called “Winterpeg” it can be difficult to make vitamin D subcutaneously because we’re often bundled up in the spring, fall, and winter months. According to research, Canadians actually produce zero vitamin D between October and May. And, if you’re wearing sunscreen in the summer months you’re also less likely to being producing vitamin D.

There’s so much fuss about it, but do I really need vitamin D?

It plays a key role in helping our bodies absorb and utilize calcium. As a result, we can help maintain healthy bones, muscles, and teeth by having a-okay stores of vitamin D. Beyond this, new research is showing that the human body has evolved with more receptors for vitamin D. Increasingly, there is substantial evidence that vitamin D can improve our immune health, prevent certain forms of cancer, fight inflammation, and even promote better mental health.

So what’s the point?

It’s virtually impossible to get enough vitamin D from food alone. Consider taking a single vitamin D3 supplement. I typically recommend my clients take between 1000 – 2000IU daily depending on their intake of other vitamin D containing foods. This recommendation applies to anyone I see over the age of one (so, basically everyone!). If you or a family member is not a ‘pill person,’ talk to your pharmacist about a liquid or chewable version of vitamin D which is readily available.

Can I overdo taking vitamin D?

Vitamin D supplements have no known side effects if they’re taken at the appropriate dose. A dose of 4,000 IU/day is considered the tolerable highest dose a person can consume long-term without risk of adverse effects. Still concerned? Feel free to contact me or speak to your physician for more information!

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

To all the Sweethearts out there: Here’s what you need to know about sugar

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Photography purchased from Shutterstock.

In recent months, the sweet ingredient itself – sugar – has been busy making headlines. If you don’t already know why, you should. Consuming too much sugar is not beneficial to our health. It’s associated with a variety of health conditions, so it’s important to know the facts.

So what is sugar? Simply put, sugar is a carbohydrate that provides energy (calories) to our bodies. Other than that purpose, sugar has no specific nutritional benefit (for example, it isn’t high in iron or other nutrients). In other words: beyond carbs, sugar isn’t doing much for you. (Remember that we all need carbs in our diets, but not without some healthy limits).

Where is sugar found? Sugars can occur naturally in many foods. We can’t do much about that type of sugar. For example, milk, fruit, some vegetables, and grains contain sugar. Sugar can also be added to foods and drinks to enhance the flavor, texture, or to preserve a food such as in jams and jellies. This is where you want to keep an eye open!

What’s the problem? Canadians are consuming a lot of foods with added sugars. This is the type of sugar you want to be worry about and be conscious about controlling. Over time, a high intake of sugar can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, cancer and high cholesterol.

In a day, you may consume two cookies, a bowl of cereal, a few glasses of juice or a cola beverage, a handful of dried mango, and fruit flavored yogurt – what’s the common thread? All of these foods are very likely laced with hidden sugars that have been added by manufacturers (or consumers via that handy spoon in the sugar bowl). Now, if you’re getting most of your calories from whole foods that come from the earth and eat little in the way processed foods, then no need to worry – you’re likely on the right track.

Did you know a glass of orange juice is pretty much equivalent to eating 3 or 4 oranges all at once? Would you eat that many oranges in one sitting? Not to mention you miss out the bountiful load of fibre and phytochemicals that get lost in the processing. And about that tempting can of cola: it contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar with no nutritional value whatsoever. Would you ever dare to place 10 teaspoons of sugar into your coffee? (Or, better yet, would you pop 10 sugar cubes in your mouth?). I think (or hope!) not.

So, what can you do?

  • Get informed. Get in the habit of reading nutrition labels and ingredient lists. Usually anything that ends in an “-ose” or “-ide” is a hidden form of sugar (monosaccharide, dextrose, maltose etc).
  • Limit the amount of processed foods you eat.
  • Load up on fresh, canned or frozen fruits and veggies that are loaded with fibre, water content, and other nutrients.
  • Reduce the amount of sugar you use in your coffee, baking & preparation of other foods.
  • Sip smart. Instead of gulping down heaps of juices and soda beverages, try sipping on low fat milk, water, or even plain soda water.

The bottom line: Just because we need to be informed of sugar consumption doesn’t mean you need to forgo making your favorite chocolate chip cookie, never ever make pavlova again or never sip on that fizzy cola drink. What it means is you not only need to know where/what sugar is, your body deserves to know. Another tid bit in case you’re wondering: my favorite sugar substitute lately has been honey and agave nectar; still sugar, but with more of the natural good stuff.

For more information about sugar visit www.dietitians.ca or visit the Heart and Stroke Foundation for their position statement on this hot topic!

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda