Friday, 21 December 2012

'Tis the Season

Thanks to Apple Care, my new hard drive is working beautifully and I can get back on track with my blog posts! ‘

Tis the season to be merry, full of holiday parties, Christmas cheers and most of all….excessive consumption of treats and booze!

I love a good party, especially if it involves an ugly Christmas sweater, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely abandon ship and give up your fitness or healthy eating routine. It is possible to enjoy yourself, indulge a little and still feel great during the holidays. To do so, consider following some of the simple guidelines I have listed below. I’ve also included three of my favorite recipes (appetizer, entrĂ©e and dessert) if you’re looking for a new and nutrient filled dish for your next holiday endeavor.

1.     Eat something ahead of time- this may sound counterintuitive, but if you show up ABSOLUTELY starving, people will start giving you weird looks as you stuff your face with every single piece of food in sight. A salad with lean protein, some veggies and hummus or a piece of fruit ahead of time can keep hunger at bay and prevent you from over eating.
2.     Be picky- You look forward to your Grandma’s chocolate dipped shortbread all year and have to have one. Before filling your plate with everyday items, do a scan of the food table and pick out which items you  enjoy most. Choose foods that you don’t normally get, and say no to those you can make at home anytime. My guilty pleasures? I head straight for the red wine (hello merlot) and anything chocolate at the dessert table
3.     Watch the liquid calories- a HALF-CUP (yes literally a tiny half-cup measure) of eggnog contains a whopping 220 calories on average. Since most people pour at least one cup and top if off with a shot of rum, you’re looking at over 500 calories per drink. Limit yourself to one small rum and eggnog, cut the eggnog with skim milk if watching your fat intake and go easy on the rum for a rich and tasty treat. Alternate each alcoholic drink with a glass of water to stay hydrated and avoid being “that drunk girl” at your office Christmas gathering.
4.     Make wise choices- Choose a smaller plate if possible, and load it up with raw veggies to start. I always go for the “expensive” stuff, aka shrimp cocktail, the meat and cheese platter, and you’ll find me heading for seconds if there’s a roast of lamb or beef being served. The worst fingers foods tend to be: creamy dips or spreads, puff pastry, breadcrumb coated or deep-fried anything. Save room for dessert, but limit yourself to small portion sizes, think one of two pieces, as most Christmas cookies, pies and bars are full of butter and refined sugar.
5.     If you’re looking for recipes for your next potluck, I’ve had great success with all three listed below

Spinach Salad with Cinnamon Almond, Strawberries and Goat Cheese,
This nutrient filled salad that is very festive looking and a delicious combination of flavors. I usually cut the brown sugar for the almonds in half and they still taste fine.

Wild and Brown Rice Pilaf with Dried fruits and Pecans
I made this dish at my last Christmas party and it was a huge hit. Feel free to mix up the dried fruits and nuts you use depending on what’s in your pantry.

Chocolate avocado pudding
I made this vegan friendly chocolate pudding at another Christmas party and used it as a dip for a fruit platter my friend brought. It has a delicious, rich taste and is full of healthy fats from the avocado and coconut milk. 

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Can you spot the gluten?

These days, it seems like every other product is labelled “gluten-free” and there is a fast growing trend for restaurants to post separate gluten free menus. While this is great for people who have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity ( there are still tons of hidden sources of gluten out there. If you are on a strict GF diet for medical or health purposes, you really need to read your labels and become aware of what does and doesn’t contain gluten.

A lot of people also ask me the question “should I be on a GF diet?” Since I’m not a regulated health professional (four years until I get my N.D.!) This is not something I feel comfortable commenting on. I will say this; should you think you suffer from celiac disease of have gluten sensitivity or other food allergies, this is something you should see your family physician or a licensed naturopathic doctor about. They can run further tests and assess your symptoms to determine the best course of action. As well, cutting gluten and filling your diet with sugary starchy, gluten-free snack foods and bread will certainly not improve your health OR lead to weight loss.

This list is by no means exhaustive but a good place to start

                Barley (flakes, flour, pearl)
                Breading and bread stuffing
                Brewer's yeast (if leftover from making beer)
                Durum (type of wheat)
                Deep fried anything that is coated in bread crumbs or panko crusted
                Farro/Faro (also known as spelt)
                Graham flour
                Hydrolyzed wheat protein 
                Kamut (a type of wheat)- better tolerated in some individuals
                Malt, malt extract, malt syrup, and malt flavoring
                Malt vinegar
                Malted milk
                Matzoh, matzoh meal
                Modified wheat starch
                Oatmeal, oat bran, oat flour, and whole oats (unless they are from pure, uncontaminated oats) you must be non-contamined certified wheat AND gluten free oats (wheat free doesn’t mean gluten free, they could still be processed on the same manufactoruing equipement as barley, it would be like a kid with a peanut allergy eating a chocolate bar processed on the same equipment at Reese’ pieces)
                Rye bread and flour
                Seitan-A meat-like food derived from wheat gluten used in many vegetarian dishes, and fake meat products such as Tofurky or veggie ground round
                Spelt (A type of wheat also known as farro or faro, dinkel)- certain people can tolerate spelt better other types of gluten containing grains
                Wheat bran
                Wheat flour
                Wheat germ
                Wheat starch
                Atta (chapati flour)
                Dinkel (also known as spelt, a type of wheat)
                Einkorn (type of wheat)
                Emmer (type of wheat)
Fu (a dried gluten product made from wheat and used in some Asian dishes)
                Beer, ale, lager- along with this certain hard alcohols such as different vodka gbrands are made from wheat, NOT potatoes, and even though the distillation process should technically remove this, it’s probably better to stick with clear gin or wine instead. There area few brands of GF beer available, but I haven't personally tried any of them
                Broth, soup, soup bases- look for barley malt extract
                Some chocolates, some chocolate bars, and licorice
                Flavored coffees and teas (certain brands)
                Imitation bacon bits and imitation seafoods- California rolls at sushi restaurants are usually NOT GF, because most use imitation Pollock, which contains wheat and not real crab
                Medications (check with your pharmacist) and certain lipsticks and other makeup contain gluten
                Salad dressings
                Sausages, hot dogs, deli meats- added at toasted wheat crumbs, same with burgers where breadcrumbs are usually added
                Sauces, marinades, gravies (flour is added as a thickener, use cornstarch or xantham gum at home instead)
                Pre-mized Seasonings
                Worcheshire sauce, hoisin sauce and a numerous condiments, your best bet, READ THE LABELS
                Soy sauce- most soy sauce contain wheat, you need to purchase gluten free Tamari or Bragg’s liquid aminos (my personal fav)