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

Cooking with Courtney: Indian Spiced Briyani

Birdseye Briyani_Full

Photographed by Courtney of The Fig Tree

 

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to cook with my friend and fellow Winnipeg-based food blogger, Courtney of The Fig Tree. For many years now, Courtney’s eating lifestyle has primarily been vegetarian; however, after struggling with some tummy ailments related to food she limits her dairy intake and is now stepping into a vegan lifestyle. We wanted to learn more about each other, network and of course, have some “girl time”. What better way to bond than by cooking together?

I met Courtney in her beautiful downtown loft and by the time I left, her home smelled divine. I decided to show Courtney some tricks of the trade when it comes to preparing Indian cuisine. I’m a huge fan of one-pot-meals (I mean, who isn’t?) so we opted to make biryani.

Being of Punjabi descent, my mom seldom prepared this dish. It’s not so common in that part of India. I was only exposed to the dish in my adulthood and I would primarily prepare it with chicken for my husband to enjoy. Well, Courtney put me up to the challenge of veganizing the dish. I came, I delivered and man was it good.

To make this a complete meal with adequate protein, I added cubes of pressed tofu. You can also add in edamame beans if that’s up your alley. As far as the rice, I have tried this briyani recipe  with brown basmati rice and the final product was mushy. I’ve also tried using a fifty percent ratio of brown and white basmati rice and the final product was much better. In the end, do what’s best for you. If I’m opting for total white rice, then I typically make an effort to load up on veggies to bump my fibre content.

If you’re interested in viewing the full recipe for Indian Spiced Briyani with Tofu, just click here. Drop a comment and let me know how it turned out for you.

To learn more about vegan lifestyle and nutrition components to be aware of, subscribe to The Fig Tree for my nutrition series.

Courtney, thanks again for inviting me into your home. xoxo.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

 

The Better Cinnamon Apple Loaf

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

I’ve been working hard at mastering this recipe; I think I’ve finally nailed it (man, what a good feeling)! The original recipe came from my colleague; she brought her version into work and wow’d everyone. The next day, multiple copies of the recipe floated around my workplace. Eager to make it myself, I grabbed a copy and began making a few tweaks.

And then, the “Dietitian” in me came out.

The original recipe called for only white all-purpose flour and ½ cup of butter. In an effort to increase the fibre content of the loaf I opted to use a bit of whole-wheat flour. Secondly, instead of butter, I used a combination of applesauce and canola oil. But really, you could use the butter if you love that flavor and want to boost the fat content a bit. It really is a versatile recipe.

Note: if you use butter; be sure to really cream it into a smooth consistency for a good quality product.

4.0 from 1 reviews
The Better Cinnamon Apple Loaf
 
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Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup canola oil (or any oil you prefer)
  • ¼ cup applesauce, unsweetened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup milk (or milk alternative)
  • 1 apple, chopped (I used Granny Smith for tartness)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease your loaf pan.
  2. Mix brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon in a small bowl, set aside.
  3. In another medium sized bowl beat white sugar, applesauce and oil using a hand blender or beater. Beat until smooth and then one by one add in the eggs and vanilla.
  4. In a large bowl, blend flours, baking powder and baking soda.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Your batter should be smooth, and wet. It won’t look like a whole lot but that’s okay. Don’t over mix!
  6. Pour ½ the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Next, add ½ the apples and ½ the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture.
  7. Lightly pat the apples into the batter
  8. Pour remaining batter of the apple layer, top with remaining apples and finish off with the sugar and cinnamon topping.
  9. Bake in your oven for approximately 30 – 40 minutes, or, until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

After it’s done, hide it somewhere special so your husband doesn’t gobble it down (sorry babe, xoxo). It’s that good.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

– With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Lentil and Yogurt Spread

Nita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

If you’re in need of changing your usual deli-meat lunch sandwich for something a bit different (and likely less sodium packed), then this recipe post was meant for you.  The protein comes double packed all thanks to the Greek Yogurt and lovely lentils used in this spread. I opted to use this mixture on a fresh loaf of the “Health Bread” which can be purchased at a local Main Street bakery called A L’Epi De Ble (attention Winnipegger’s: you have not yet visited this gem of a place, you must). But really, you can enjoy this spread by the spoonful, wrapped in lettuce, with whole grain crackers or even with baked pita slices.

This spread speaks “health” – I mean, take a look at the short list of ingredients. Each, so simple on its own, but when combined they come together magically to create a satisfying and drool worthy concoction. Give it a try and let me know what you think. The original source of this recipe came from a beautifully crafted food blog I love to follow, 101 Cookbooks.

*note: instead of using a plain olive oil, I used a sample of chilli infused Prairie Oil – the olive oils are infused, packaged and sold right here in Manitoba. Local loving made easy!

Lentil and Yogurt Spread
 
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Serves: 3-5
Ingredients
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts *preferably toasted
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp liquid honey
  • Pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, shaved
Instructions
  1. Gently chop the spinach and basil leaves, trying hard to not bruise them.
  2. Place the lentils in a bowl and mix in the spinach, basil, parsley, and garlic.
  3. Squeeze the lemon into the lentils. Mix to combine, and then fold in the yogurt gently to prevent the lentils from mushing up.
  4. Drizzle in the olive oil and honey. Fold in the toasted walnuts. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.
  5. When assembled on toast, or if enjoyed alongside a salad simply garnish with Parmesan.

Nita Sharda, Carrots and CakeNita Sharda, Carrots and Cake

 

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

GNI Feature: Jalapeno Spiced Hummus

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Perfectly spiked and ready to enjoy.

Today I’m thrilled to share the first of a recipe series from the girls-night-in (GNI) I hosted a few weeks back. The recipe below is for hummus which is often used as a spread or dip. The main ingredient is chickpeas and often most recipes contain tahini. Because tahini isn’t a staple in my home, I opted to create a hummus spread without it. The base of this recipe came from my glob-trotting, foodie-extraordinaire, yogi friend (also a fellow Dietitian), Allie of Balanced with Allie.  It’s the kind of recipe you can spike with multiple flavors: chilli, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic or caramelized onion–yum! The options are endless.

I’m particularly fond of hummus because unlike many commercial spreads and dips, it’s not loaded with starches, sodium, fat or cheap ingredients. It’s also a great way to incorporate more beans and legumes into your lifestyle if these aren’t foods you typically cook with. Not to mention, it’s super easy to put together. All you need is a blending device or an immersion blender! Hummus also freezes well – yaay for batch cooking!

Enjoy!

Jalapeno Spiced Hummus
 
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Ingredients
  • 1 15oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 - 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • paprika (optional)
  • cilantro (optional)
  • 1 pickled jalapeno
  • 1 - 2 tbsp picked jalapeno juice
Instructions
  1. Drain and rinse garbanzo beans.
  2. Combine all ingredients into food processor and blend until consistency is smooth.
  3. Add additional water or lemon juice as needed.
  4. Serve with veggies, pretzels, wholegrain crackers or use as a spread on wraps, sandwiches or even as a "pizza sauce" (yes, it's yummy)!

Oh, and just incase you missed the magical video that my friends at Samba Joy created for me, see below!

A few more photos, snapped by the talented Samba Joy

Carrots and Cake, Nita ShardaCarrots and Cake, Nita ShardaCarrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

                 – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

The Everything Granola

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

All things good, right here.

Yes, EVERYTHING. This version of a granola recipe is incredibly functional and flexible, not to mention highly addictive. You can mix in different nuts, experiment with a variety of grains such as barley flakes or add in unique dried fruit such as chopped apricots, coconut or even dried blueberries. The options are truly endless which makes this all the more fun.

More and more I’ve been trying to intentionally incorporate Hemp Hearts into my diet. They have a creamy mouth feel and a nutty flavor to them that is irresistible. This is a fairly new seed that is gaining popularity across the nation, and, for the right reasons. The great thing about Hemp seeds is that they are a great option for vegetarian folks that are trying to meet their protein requirements. It’s nutrition profile is quite amazing–beyond the protein, it is also a great source of fibre and those coveted healthy fats (omega-3 and omega-6) which contain anti-inflammatory properties. Okay AND, Manitoba happens to be one of the most successful producers of hemp hearts in North America, HOLA!

Okay, back to business. Enjoy this recipe:
The Everything Granola
 
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Serves: Lots.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup walnut halves or pecans
  • ½ cup hazelnuts
  • ½ cup almonds
  • ⅔ cup almond butter
  • ½ cup honey or agave nectar
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 6 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ cup wheat germ
  • ½ cup ground flax seeds
  • ½ cup hemp hearts or hemp seeds
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup flaked unsweetened coconut (optional)
  • 1 cup dried fruit (chopped dates, raisins, dried cranberries etc)
Instructions
  1. Spread walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds on a baking sheet. Toast in preheated oven for about 8 minutes or until lightly browned at 350 degrees. Caution: be sure to keep an eye on them to prevent the nuts from burning. Remove from the oven, allow them to cool and chop coarsely.
  2. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, stir together almond butter, honey, and oil. Microwave on high for about 45 seconds or until bubbly. Give this liquid mixture a good stir and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together oats, wheat germ, hemp hearts, flax seed and cinnamon. Pour the warm honey mixture on top of the grain mixture and mix well.
  4. Cover a baking or cookie sheet with Parchment paper and spread the mixture evenly across the pan. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to use two.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes but be sure to stir the granola every 5 minutes to ensure it is all evenly cooked. Your house should smell like heaven by now.
  6. Once the granola is cooked through, allow it to cool. Place the mixture into a large bowl and stir in chopped nuts, coconut (if used) and dried fruit.
  7. Store in an air tight container, it keeps well for several weeks!
 Let me know what changes you’d make, and don’t forget to leave a comment below or subscribe to the blog!

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

 Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda       

                  – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Spicy Honey Roasted Chickpeas

Carrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

Seasoned and roasted to perfection!

As you can likely tell from the few posts I’ve had since the birth of this blog, I’m a HUGE proponent of sourcing plant based foods as a source of protein. Where do I begin? Beans, legumes, lentils and nuts are packed with protein and heart healthy nutrients to keep your ticker in top shape!

This particular recipe for roasted chickpeas is ridiculously easy and incredibly tasty. What more do you want out of a recipe,  like really? If you’re new to beans, you can purchase them dry and boil until tender. Inspect your dried chickpeas before cooking, throwing out those that are shriveled or have broken skin. You might find some pebbles or twigs which can be discarded. For every cup of chickpeas, soak with 3 cups water. Chickpeas need to be soaked for at least four hours or preferably for 8 hours. To keep things easy, soak them overnight. Throw out the soaking water by putting chickpeas into a strainer and rinsing them well. This washes away the carbohydrates and sugars that cause gas. For more information on chickpeas, check out this article from Eat Right Ontario.

Or, you can easily find canned versions. If you’re going this route, be sure to rinse them thoroughly. Either way, ensure you allow enough time for the chickpeas to completely dry out, otherwise they may not roast nicely for this recipe.

I typically stash these in an airtight container in the fridge and nibble on the chickpeas a little bit at a time. Another way to enjoy this recipe is by tossing them onto a salad. They offer an added “kick” to any salad and a pretty awesome crunch.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Spicy Honey Roasted Chickpeas
 
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Ingredients
  • 1 28oz can chickpeas
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp honey (or agave nectar)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Drain, rinse and dry the chickpeas. You can also use a salad spinner to help them dry a bit faster.
  3. Mix the cumin, paprika, garlic powder and black pepper into the oil. Stir honey into this mixture.
  4. Toss this dressing onto the chickpeas until evenly coated.
  5. Spread the chickpeas in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 30 to 40 minutes. Check up on your chickpeas every 10 minutes and roll them around with a spatula.
  6. And, enjoy!

 

Carrots and Cake, Nita ShardaCarrots and Cake, Nita Sharda

            – With Love, Carrots and Cake,

Carrots and Cake Nita Sharda

Energy Date Balls

Energy Date Balls

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

Get ballin’!

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

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

Energy Date Balls

Perfect on-the-go snack!

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