The Whole Grain and nothing but the Grain (Part 1)

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeAs soon as you type the word “diet” into your preferred internet search-engine, you’ll probably be met with results like “gluten-free,” “low-carb,” or “cutting out wheat for weight loss.” This grain-free diet trend has become increasingly popular, compliments of endorsements by many celebrities and Instagram stars. But before you write off grains for good, take a look at some of the top reasons we love whole grains, and why they’re essential to your health.

SO…. WHAT IS A WHOLE GRAIN?

What makes a whole grain whole? Well, really ALL grains start out as “whole.” The harvested seed is made up of three edible parts: the bran, germ, and endosperm.

  • The bran is the darker coloured, outer skin of the seed, which is where most of the antioxidants, B-vitamins, and fiber is stored.
  • The germ is the center embryo of the seed, which stores B-vitamins, but also protein, minerals, and healthy fat.
  • Lastly the endosperm, which is the largest portion of the seed, contains starchy carbohydrates, protein, and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.

When whole grains are refined, the bran and the germ are kicked to the curb, leaving all those wonderful and healthy vitamins, minerals, and fiber behind. Whole grains are not refined, and because of that all parts of the seed are included in the final (healthy) product. Remember, you don’t want to go grain-free, you want to go whole grain.

THE GOOD STUFF

Clearly, those un-refined whole grains have got a lot of good things going on. Here are a few of the amazing benefits of whole grains:

  • Dietary fiber helps you feel fuller, faster, and longer. It also aids in digestion and promotes gut health. Fiber is found only in plant sources (nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), and grain fiber specifically has been shown to be protective against digestive cancers even more so than other forms of fiber. Beta-glucan, found in high concentration in both oats and barley, has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels remarkably. Personally, we love starting our day with a big bowl of oatmeal and fruit – which honestly keeps us feeling satisfied all the way until lunch.
  • B vitamins are metabolic champions which you need, in order to make use of all those other amazing super-powered nutrients you are consuming. These power house vitamins ensure that the food you consume is utilized and absorbed to the full extent so you can get the most out of your daily nutrient consumption! They also maintain healthy skin, hair, muscles, form red blood cells, and promote healthy immune & nervous system function – kind of incredible, right?
  • Minerals – such as zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium, and iron are abundant in whole grains. Collectively, these compounds have the power to boost your immune system, regulate metabolism, reduce blood pressure, and keep your skin & hair looking healthy!

The moral of this story: whole grains keep you looking and feeling like the total 10 you are.

kjkj
Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

HIGH QUALITY VERSUS LOW QUALITY GRAIN

So, after reading that first section, it’s probably clear to you that not all grain products are created equal in terms of nutrient value. It’s important to choose the right grain products in order to get all those wonderful benefits described above. Refined grains, which is the bulk of what people consume today since they’re the bulk of what’s stocked on market shelves, have been linked to obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes – whoa! Just about the exact opposite effect of whole grains. That can feel overwhelming, but here’s something to hold on to: little changes in your diet can make a huge difference. (psst, looking to make smart goals, click here). Look for the words “whole wheat flour” or “100% whole grains” as opposed to “enriched wheat flour” or “wheat flour” on the ingredient lists of your favourite grain products. Or, even better, opt to make more snacks and meals at home ahead of time with a healthy whole grain flour (try whole-wheat flour, oat flour, buckwheat, or spelt). And hey! Bake these super seedy chocolate chip cookies made with whole wheat flour, you won’t regret it I promise!

Drumroll please…. a few of my favourite whole, unrefined grain swaps are:

  • Overnight oats as a replacement for boxed breakfast-cereal (get the recipe here)
  • Quinoa or brown rice noodles as a replacement for white rice in stir-fry or soup
  • 100% whole wheat wraps to replace refined, white flour sandwich bread
  • Whole-wheat or oat flour to replace white flour in baking (replacing even half is a great way to start)

It is important to note that a lot of whole grain products on the grocery shelf today get a bad rep for being “unhealthy” due to some of the other ingredients included in their making. For instance, certain brands of 100% whole wheat bread, crackers, or pre-packaged snacks may also contain high levels of sodium, sugar, or additives which are admittedly not so great. Because of this, often the whole grains themselves take the blame. The best way to avoid some of those unhealthy extras is to incorporate unprocessed whole grains into cooking or baking at home and get familiar with reading nutrition labels.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

TO SUM IT ALL UP

Whole grains are the BOMB! (The capitalization is totally needed, I promise!). Whole grains are jam-packed with nutrients, energy, and overall deliciousness, so they make a great addition to just about anyone’s diet. Now that you’ve received a brief grain education (you are hereby granted your diploma in grain education!) you are ready to navigate the grocery store and pick out some seriously nutritious whole grains! Go forth, be adventurous, and enjoy adding those amazing whole grains into your life!

Food photography done by the talented 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

No Bake Granola Bar

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeI love a good granola bar. It’s basically like having portable nutrition in your hand! Mind you, a good quality product can often be hard to spot. Most large-chain grocers have entire aisles dedicated to this iconic food item. The tough part is distinguishing which one truly is a granola bar versus which one is…well..basically a chocolate bar.

Tips to sourcing a quality granola bar:

  • When I’m on the hunt for a bar I try to look for something that has less than 8 – 9 grams of sugar and offers me up at least 3 grams of fibre.
  • Protein is another POWERHOUSE nutrient that I scout for. If you’re looking for a nut-free product, it will be difficult to find a protein bar with more than 2 grams of protein. Otherwise, if nuts are your thang, you’ll likely have no trouble finding something that can offer you atleast 4 – 5 grams of protein.
  • Look at the ingredient list and find something that is 100% whole grain.
  • Avoid granola bars that are chocolate or yogurt covered. These bars can have upwards of 3 teaspoons of sugar in a small serving.

Or HAYYYYYYhow about making your own?

When I have a bit of extra time on my hands, I take pleasure in being able to make my own granola bars that I can snack on. The ingredients in this recipe (adapted from Cookspiration) include all the foods I enjoy eating as snacks: dates, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and hemp hearts are the super heroes behind this bar. Seriously, you’ll feel so good after making them, eating them…and maybe even sharing them. You’ll notice – the recipe doesn’t call for any refined sugar. The sweetness is brought to you naturally from the dates and honey. Don’t cha love nature?
Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and CakeOkay, recipe deets below:

5.0 from 1 reviews
No Bake Granola Bar
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cup All Bran Flakes cereal (I used PC brand from Superstore)
  • 1 ½ cup large flake oats
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup hemp hearts
  • 1 cup dates (about 12 - 15 dates)
  • ¼ cup honey or maple syrup for vegan option
  • ⅓ cup almond or peanut-butter
Instructions
  1. In a large nonstick skillet, toast oats, walnuts and pumpkin seeds over medium heat, stirring often for about 8 minutes or until light golden and fragrant. You'll even hear the pumpkin seeds "pop".
  2. Pour this mixture into a large bowl and let cool slightly; stir in bran flakes and hemp hearts.
  3. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse dates until finely chopped. For me, it rolls into one giant blob.
  4. In a small saucepan, heat together honey and almond butter over medium low heat until melted and smooth. Add dates and stir to combine.
  5. Pour into oat mixture and stir together until dates are distributed evenly throughout and oats are coated well.
  6. Press mixture into 23 cm (9 inch) parchment or foil lined baking pan and press to flatten evenly (warning: don't place it on a pan that's too big - you want the mixture to be "tight").
  7. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until firm. Cut into bars and wrap individually with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for longer.
No Bake Granola Bar_Stacked

STACKS ON STACKS OVER HERE!!

For more granola bar inspiration, here are a few ideas from my personal food friends:

Food photography done by the talented 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

Overnight Oats

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeI’m all about making sure we’re eating a variety of whole grains in this house. Sometimes without knowing it, we get stuck in a rut and stick to one primary grain (wheat, and by the way: there is nothing wrong with that). Consequently, we don’t get a chance to enjoy the wonder and benefits other grains have to offer us.

Oats. I LOVE OATS. a) they are hella cheap  b) they are super versatile  c) they are easy to cook  d) you can enjoy them sweet, savory, warm or cold!  e) for folks who are sensitive to gluten, they can enjoy certified gluten free oats. What more do ya want from a grain?

Want the nutrition jiffy on oats?

  • They are whole grain! Health Canada recommends that 50% of your grains should be whole grain; we know people who eat whole grains have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and digestive disorders.
  • They are rich in soluble fibre; this type of fibre helps improve blood cholesterol and can help manage blood sugar levels too.
  • A half cup serving (dry, large flake oats) offers up nearly 8 grams of protein.
  • They are a source of B vitamins, iron and vitamin E.

Why overnight oats?

It’s great for people who require a quick grab n’ go style breakfast; maybe you’re someone who prefers to enjoy breakfast at work or are too busy preparing breakfast for your little ones. This is a great alternative!

Mornings can be rough for some of us so overnight oats take the prep-work out in the morning. You can prepare a few batches to last you throughout the week.

Overnight oats are incredibly versatile. You can change the proportion of milk/yogurt/oats as needed to suit your needs.

In general, you’re getting a great source of protein, carbohydrate, fat if you add some nuts/seeds and fruit. These components make it a complete and balanced meal.

It’s a nice change from your typical bowl of hot oatmeal.

Variations: 

  • Top it with my 5 Ingredient Berry Sauce, bananas, shredded coconut, apples, canned peaches or any other favorite fruit.
  • Switch up the milk from a dairy milk, nut milk or soy milk.
  • Add nuts and seeds for extra protein such as pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds or toasted hazelnuts. My friend Chantal of Nutty for Nutrition loves adding chia seed to her concoction, just make sure add extra moisture if you go this route because chia seeds love to suck up liquid!
  • Feel free to use your favorite sweetener such as brown sugar, maple syrup, honey or stevia if that’s what you fancy.

Nita sharda, Carrots and Cake

Overnight Oats
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • ½ cup rolled oats (large flake)
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ - ⅓ cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp flax seed
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Drizzle of maple syrup, honey or your preferred sweetener
  • Fruit
Instructions
  1. Place oats, milk, yogurt, flax seed, cinnamon and sweetener into a Tupperware, mason jar or cereal bowl. Stir until smooth.
  2. Top with your choice of fruit. Leave overnight.
  3. The next day, enjoy it cold or feel free to nuke it in the microwave for 20 seconds! If it's a little too thick for you add a dash of milk or water until you've got your desired consistency.

Nita sharda, Carrots and CakeFood photography done by the talented 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 Ingredient Berry Sauce

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeI remember the first time I made a berry sauce. It was for a brunch I was hosting and waffles were on the menu. It was some random recipe that Mr. Google found for me. It called for 1 cup of juice and 1 cup of sugar for only two cups of berries. Jesse whiz, that is A LOT of sugar. What’s a Dietitian/Food Nerd to do?

Develop her own recipe! 

I prepare this berry sauce quite regularly for our meal-prep line up. It’s extremely low maintenance and the recipe is pretty darn easy to memorize. There are so many uses for this sauce, here’s what I’ve tried so far:

  • Great in smoothies
  • Lovely on top of plain yogurt
  • Fabulous over pancakes or waffles
  • Yummy on warm or cold oats
  • Genius as a jam on toast or biscuits

The recipe uses a super cool ingredient that might be new to you. It’s chia seeds! You can find these little guys at any bulk store and they can also be spotted in the “health food” aisle of many large-chain stores. Chia seeds harness a lot of nutrition, offering up some omega-3 power, fibre, calcium and a wee-bit of protein too. Chia seeds are crucial for this recipe as they suck up (literally) moisture from the concoction, leaving you with a nice saucy texture. I promise you’ll love it.

Recipe taymeee.Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

5.0 from 1 reviews
5 Ingredient Berry Sauce
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Ingredients
  • 3 cups frozen berries, mixed variety
  • ½ cup 100% orange juice or water
  • 2 tbsp maple sryup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp chia seed
Instructions
  1. Place frozen berries into a medium sized pot. Add in orange juice or water.
  2. Turn heat to medium and bring mixture to a gentle simmer. When this happens, using a potato masher muddle the berries to a desired consistency. I prefer to leave mine a little chunky, but to each their own!
  3. Next, add in maple syrup and vanilla. Stir to combine.
  4. Remove pot from heat and add in chia seeds.
  5. Stir and wait about 20 minutes. The mixture will begin to thicken.
  6. Store in a mason jar or tupperware for one week, refrigerated.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake
Food photography done by the talented 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

Veggie-filled Mac and Cheese

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeDon’t get upset! I know what you’re thinking “why did this Dietitian take my favorite comfort food and add veggies and then butcher it with lentils?”! I realize fully that mac and cheese is all things comforting and nostalgic for many of us. Having said that, most of use could do with a bit more veggies in our life and in honour of The International Year of the Pulse, it only made sense.

The truth is, I love a good mac and cheese. You know, the kind you get at restaurants with the crispy topping. Oh, and when it has bacon, even better. Unfortunately, on almost all occasions, these variations of mac and cheese left me feeling like I had just eaten a treat. So, I wanted to create a wholesome recipe that I could enjoy and feel good about eating throughout the week. You feel me?

I remember the first time I made this recipe. My husband scratched his head and said, “babe, there is something more gritty in the texture”. I smiled and told him it was the lentils. He shrugged, grabbed a second serving and called it great. What a keeper. So yes, you should expect a slight change in the texture you’re used to, but the taste shouldn’t be all too different.

If you need to take baby steps. Maybe try the recipe with just onion and lentils. Or, just veggies. It’s your body, you’re the boss. 

I tripple-tried this recipe before deciding to have it photographed and placed on the blog. But, it fits. It truly does. Here’s what I love about this version of mac n’ cheese:

  • It uses 2% Evaporated Milk to give it the creaminess you want. It’s made by removing water from fresh milk and then heating it. Heating the milk gives it the creamy, slightly cooked taste and darker colour. It’s a source of protein, calcium and Vitamin D!
  • It includes approximately 3 cups of veggies which mean you could really add more, or less. One time I added cauliflower! Another time I opted to use mushrooms.
  • The lentils help to increase the protein and fibre content of the entire recipe, making it a one-pot-meal kinda deal.
  • You can spice it up as you wish. I keep it simple but you could also add some basil or parsley if you fancy.
  • Lastly, it’s freezer friendly and great to pull out on those day’s you might be extra crazy busy and don’t want to compromise on your nutrition. Simply place it in the oven and bake until everything is heated through and your cheese is bubbly.

I drew inspiration for this recipe from The Lean Green Bean and the Eat Shrink and Be Merry gals. Check out their versions if you wish.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Okay, recipe taymeeee.

Mac and Cheese with Lentils
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 6 - 8
Ingredients
  • 1 cup elbow pasta
  • ¾ cup red lentils, uncooked
  • 2 tbsp canola oil or butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped into small florets
  • 1 cup spinach, thinly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 can (370mL) Evaporated Milk (I used 2% MF)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook elbow pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  3. Cook red lentils according to package directions. Once lentils are cooked through, set aside.
  4. In a separate large pot, heat butter or canola oil. Add in onion and cook until translucent.
  5. Once onion is cooked through, add in remaining vegetables, garlic and spices. Saute for 10 - 15 minutes until vegetables are softened. I prefer to add my spinach last as it requires very little heat.
  6. Sprinkle vegetables with flour, ensuring the mixture is well coated.
  7. Add evaporated milk and ¾ cup of cheese, leaving some cheese for the last step.
  8. Add in cooked pasta and lentils to the vegetable mixture and combine thoroughly.
  9. Place mixture in a 9 x 13 dish, or two 8 x 8 dishes. Top with remaining cheese.
  10. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until cheese is bubbly.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake
Food photography done by the talented 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

Black Bean Brownies

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Seriously, yummy.

Earlier this week we talked to you about how excited we are that 2016 is the International Year of the Pulse. Hip hip hooray! In today’s recipe post we’re sharing an exciting brownie recipe that uses black beans. Yes, you read that right: BLACK BEANS. Please, don’t be scared – the results are amazing and dddddelish.

If you’re also making it a goal to experiment with new grains you’ll note that this recipe is actually wheat free. Instead, it uses oats. The original inspiration came from a fellow food blogger who we love, Chocolate Covered Katie. Our contributor Ceone had also made variations of the recipe in the past, so we wanted to share-share (what do they say? Sharing is caring). We made a few adaptations such as using applesauce to reduce the fat content and also decided to finely process the oats a bit more. The result is a brownie that resembles fudge but is still soft, a little gooey and chocolatey. All good things people. All good things.

From a nutrition standpoint, what I love about this dessert option is that it offers my clients an opportunity to still practice balance. In comparison to commercial or boxed brownies, this brownie is fairly low in sugar, offers up some fibre and protein which in turn will help you feel full for longer (that’s because fibre and protein are satiating). It’s totally the type of treat (or every day food) that really can be good for you. 

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

All mixed up.

Before it goes into the oven.

Before it goes into the oven.

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

After it’s been baked.

Okay, okay. Enough with the chatter. Recipe below:

Black Bean Brownies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • ½ cup quick oats or rolled oats
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅓ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Place oats into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it resembles coarse flour.
  3. Add remaining ingredients except chocolate chips into a food processor and blend until completely smooth.
  4. Fold the chocolate chips into the batter.
  5. Place mixture into a greased 8×8 pan.
  6. Optional: sprinkle extra chocolate chips over the top.
  7. Cook the black bean brownies 20 minutes. Allow it to cool and set at least 10 minutes before trying to cutting into it. If they still look a bit undercooked, you can place them in the fridge overnight and they will magically firm up! Makes 12 brownies

1BlackBeanBrownies_squares

These photos  were taken by Ceone Dyck, 4th Year Human Nutritional Sciences student. To learn more about Ceone click here or follow her on Facebook.

                 – 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

Hearty Meat Marinara

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeWhen guests come over for dinner, what’s your go-to-recipe? You know, the one that gets the oohs and ahhs. I tend to lean towards Italian cuisine. I mean, WHO DOESN’T LOVE PASTA? Pasta tends to receive a lot of negativity – you know, it’s just carbs, right? No way! Pasta is actually very versatile and can be super nutritious. Most enriched varieties come with B vitamins and iron. Not to mention it’s hella economical.

What to buy?

When choosing pasta look for something that offers you at least 4 grams of fibre per serving. Next, check out the ingredient list. Go for a pasta that has the word whole grain written as the first ingredient. If you’re not quite ready for whole grain pasta (don’t worry, I get it) then I recommend starting slowly. Mix in half wholegrain with half regular pasta. Baby steps are all G around here. I tend to enjoy spaghettini as it’s slightly thinner.

So we’ve got the right pasta in the shopping cart. It’s also important to pay attention to how you dress your pasta. If you prefer to use a ready-made pasta sauce be weary of the sodium content. This marinara is stuffed full with yummy vegetables, flavourful spices and for protein I opted to use a lean protein – ground turkey. You could also use lean ground beef or soy protein.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

Okay. Rant over. Recipe below!

Hearty Meat Marinara
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Ingredients
  • 1½ tbsp canola oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 whole yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced (keep the skin on)
  • Large handful mushrooms, diced
  • ¾ - 1 lb ground meat (lean beef, turkey, chicken)
  • 1 28oz can whole tomatoes
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup water or vegetable broth
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp basil
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp parsley
Instructions
  1. In a large pot add canola oil, onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add in green pepper, celery, zucchini and mushrooms. Cook for 5-8 minutes until softened over medium heat.
  2. Place cooked veggies on a plate and set aside. In the same pot brown your meat with salt and pepper to taste, about 3 minutes.
  3. Pour in whole tomatoes (mashing them each with your hands), crushed tomatoes, and water/broth.
  4. Add salt, black pepper, sugar, basil, oregano and parsley. Add in plated veggies. Stir to combine and simmer over very low heat for 30 minutes.
  5. If you would like, feel free to blend the sauce for a desired consistency using an emersion blender.
  6. Voila!

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake
Food photography done by the talented 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

 

Red Thai Curry with Tofu

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeRemember a few posts ago I talked to you about living in Winterpeg, Manisnowba (Winnipeg, Manitoba). Well, the past two weeks have been cold. Like, hella cold. What’s a girl to do? Make curry! Curries are enjoyed all over the world and although they may appear complicated, they don’t have to be! Plus, during these winter months I find a bowl of curry just heats from the inside out.

I love many variations of curry but this winter I find myself cooking quite a bit of Thai inspired dishes (ahem, husband, please fly me to Bangkok). I love the richness of coconut milk, the flexibility in produce that I can use and the aroma it leaves in my home.

For this recipe my veggies included:

  • Sweet potato
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Yellow Bell Pepper

As far as fat goes, I chose to use canola oil. As many of you might gather, it’s one of my staple liquid fats around the house. But that doesn’t mean you have to follow my suite. Other fat options include:

  • coconut oil
  • grapeseed oil
  • olive oil
  • avocado oil
  • camelina oil

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

You can certainly try your hand at making your own curry paste – that’s something I haven’t ventured into just yet. Or, you can purchase a ready-made paste such this product by Thai Kitchen. Now, if you fancy other veggies or proteins, the options are endless:

  • Onion
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Snow peas
  • Mushrooms
  • 2 chicken breasts, cubed
  • Edamame beans
  • etc.

Once you’ve tried this recipe. Try it again and get creative with all types of ingredients and spices.

Nita Sharda

Easy as ONE, TWO, THREE.

Okay, okay. Rant over. Recipe below.

Red Thai Curry with Tofu
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 4-5
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp cilantro stalk, minced
  • 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1 ½ cup cubed sweet potato (leave the skin on, fibre! This is about 300 grams)
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 800ml low sodium vegetable broth
  • Pinch of salt, black pepper and red chilli flakes (all optional)
  • 1 can coconut milk (14oz or approx. 400ml)
  • 1 cup tofu, cubed into 1” pieces (medium-firm or firm)
  • ½ lime
  • Cilantro, to garnish
Instructions
  1. In a medium sized pot heat canola oil, ginger, cilantro stalk and red curry paste. Heat over low-medium temperature just until the ginger and cilantro stalks begin to sizzle.
  2. Add in cubed sweet potato, red bell pepper and yellow bell pepper. Give the mixture a whirl ensuring the paste has smothered all the veggies. Cook for 5 – 6 minutes on medium heat ensuring you’re stirring the contents every minute or so.
  3. Pour in vegetable broth. Add in your desired pinch salt, black pepper and red chilli flakes.
  4. Once the vegetable broth has come to a boil, allow the sweet potato to be cooked through until they are soft. About 12 minutes.
  5. Once potatoes have been cooked, turn the heat down to low-medium and pour in coconut milk. Allow the mixture to heat through.
  6. Using a potato masher, mash some of the mixture to create a thick curry. Or if you prefer, feel free to blend a portion of the curry using an immersion blender or any other blender you may have.
  7. Gently add in tofu cubes, juice of ½ lime and cilantro.
  8. Serve.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake
Food photography done by the talented 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