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This isn’t new news. We know diet affects our health. Studies like the below just help refocus, and remember because we need to hear this over and over again.

A headline in a recent BBC News article reads:

“The food we eat is putting 11 million of us into an early grave each year”

The article based on a new study in the Lancet goes onto say that one in 5 deaths are now down to food, which is more than smoking.

You’re likely going to think, ‘Well, that can’t be me. I don’t eat that badly.’ We all might need to think again. Let’s look into exactly what could put you in an early grave then you can revisit that thought.

Yes, obesity leading to type 2 diabetes isn’t good. A poor quality diet is damaging your heart and causing cancer. What’s the worst though is salt–bread, soy sauce, processed meats and meals is the one that shortened the highest number of lives.

From this study published in the Lancet, it found that about 10 million of the 11 million diet-related deaths relate to salt because it’s really cardiovascular disease that is killing 10 million. The rest of the diet related deaths are from cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Too much salt has an effect on the body called hypertension or high blood pressure. That in turn increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.

The Global Burden of Disease Study looked at diets of 195 countries. The BBC News said that this is “the most authoritative assessment of how people are dying in every country in the world.”  The latest analysis of dangerous diets were those containing:

  • Too much salt – three million deaths
  • Too few whole grains – three million deaths
  • Too little fruit – two million deaths

Also, low levels of nuts, seeds, vegetables, omega-3 from seafood and fibre were the other major killers.

Globally we need to consume 22g more nuts and seeds, almost 100g more whole grains and 370g more milk (I disagree on this one) and reduce 5g red meat, 3g salt and 2g processed meat, daily.

There’s still many people who turn away from eating too many nuts and seeds because of their fat content. After years of having the high-fat-diet-makes-you-fat narrative drilled into us, these essential fat rich gems aren’t our go-to anymore. That needs to be reframed.

Around the world, the Mediterranean countries France, Spain and Israel are well ahead of countries like South East, Southern and Central Asia, who have the highest diet-related deaths in the world. China because of the high use of the cuisine staple soy sauce, and now processed, salty foods.

Canada, Australia and the UK are on the lower end of the evaluation, so there’s work needed.

Hit reply and let me know where can you know that you can reduce salt in your diet? Is it processed food, soy sauce, added salt, processed foods or somewhere else?

Also, share which are your favourite nuts and seeds to eat? Could you eat more today?

The post What one thing can prevent 1 in 5 deaths? appeared first on Sprout Right.

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For anyone feeding their baby rice cereal, this is a headline that you don’t ever want to read. If your baby has been fed cereal in the past, this story is just as alarming. I think of rat poisoning when I think of arsenic. Or someone slipping it into a cup of tea or cocktail in an old spy movie where the heroine is trying to kill her husband so she can be with her adulterous lover – not in a bowl of infant cereal recommended by Health Canada to feed your baby.

While this headline has a new spin on it (European standards and levels), arsenic in infant rice cereal or rice isn’t a new concern. In 2017, an investigation by Healthy Babies Bright Futures reported the following findings:

  • There is 6x more arsenic in infant rice cereals than other types of infant cereals (including oatmeal and multi-grain).
  • Infant rice cereals brands tested that had arsenic in them: Gerber, Earth’s Best, BeechNut, BioKinetics, HappyBABY, and Healthy Times (which is organic)
  • The non-rice and multi grain cereals of the same brands had a much lower level of arsenic.

The new information that has come through CBC’s Marketplace brings the conversation to the forefront once again. While it’s making your head spin, I’m grateful for another chance to discuss this issue because there is no safe level of arsenic for your baby, or for you.

Why is arsenic in rice?

Rice is a grain that takes up more arsenic from the soil than any other. Organic or not, rice has arsenic in it at varying levels, depending on what part of the world it’s grown in.

Is there a safer or better rice?

ConsumerReports.org says: “Don’t buy white rice grown in the Southeastern United States. Rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas had higher levels of total arsenic.” They go on to say “Choose rice grown in California and imported basmati and jasmine rices (Pakistan and India). These may have lower arsenic levels.”

In the CBC.ca article, they call out two Canadian products with the highest levels of arsenic. In fact, they couldn’t even be sold in Europe by European standards:

“PC Organics Whole Grain Puffs and Baby Gourmet Creamy Brown Rice cereal both had levels over what would be permissible in Europe. None of the other products tested surpassed the European limits. PC Organics Whole Grain Puffs had on average 170 parts per billion (ppb) of inorganic arsenic, according to the test results of multiple samples, while Baby Gourmet Creamy Brown Rice Cereal had on average 125 ppb of inorganic arsenic.”

The standards in Europe don’t allow more than 100 ppb of arsenic in a food.

You might wonder, “What do European standards have to do with us in Canada?” Well, we only have standards for arsenic levels in water, not in infant cereal – or in any cereal for that matter. It would be beneficial for Canada to adopt the European standard on this, and fast.

How much is safe to eat?

Again, CBC.ca says, “According to the European Commission, dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic for children under the age of three, including from rice-based foods, is estimated to be ‘about two- to three-fold that of adults.’” In certain cultures and countries, rice is a dietary staple that’s consumed daily, even at multiple meals.

Reduce the arsenic risk

In this case, buying organic doesn’t help. The arsenic is in the soil and has likely been there for a while. Yes, farming methods, sprays and pesticides have contributed to the arsenic in the soil, but buying organic isn’t better here.

Offering oatmeal to your baby and family, is a much safer option. Amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, farro, polenta (corn) and millet are excellent alternatives to rice and provide many nutrients, including fibre and protein.

Here are two ways to cook rice to reduce arsenic levels:

  1. Rinsing the rice thoroughly with filtered water before cooking starts to eliminate some contaminants. Rinse up to six times. When cooking rice, use a ratio of 6 cups of water to 1 cup of rice and once cooked, drain the excess water. Some of the nutritional value could be lost, but it will reduce the arsenic level.
  2. Soak your rice overnight in more than double the amount of water to rice. Then throw out that water while straining and rinsing the rice before cooking. Soaking grains, beans and lentils before cooking is a much healthier way of eating, so this has a doubly beneficial effect.

For the moment, you could be better off with other grains and leave rice out of the diet. If you’ve been giving rice cereal up until now, stop and increase other colourful produce immediately. Give egg yolks regularly as they can help to clear arsenic from the body and offer iron at the same time.


The post Rice cereal and arsenic appeared first on Sprout Right.

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I’ve been geeking out this week about the new Canada Food Guide. When I sent a note to Jerry Agar’s producer about doing a segment about it, they asked what I wanted to say about it – as in, “It’s not that big of a deal, is it?” It took me a moment to reply. I gathered my thoughts, because I couldn’t go on air and just say how exciting it was. They need an angle, duh. I came up with an angle: the 2007 guide was as outdated as a Sony Walkman, and this is Health Canada’s default for food. This change has been a looooong time coming!

There have been many comments – both positive and negative – about the new guide. One that caught my attention was saying that this guide tells us what we already know. I’d agree with that comment – some of us already eat this way. For so many though, having the Food Guide as a foundation is very important. Even more so, it’s legally required by food service providers like hospitals, daycares and childcare centres to follow it.

I work with many daycares, improving the menus offered to children. They have to follow the Food Guide in all the meals that they prepare and serve. The old food guide meant that they were offering foods that were less nutritious. The most recent daycare that I’m working with didn’t want to include many of the foods required, but they have had to follow the guidelines. This will make both our jobs easier and, most importantly, nurture healthier growing children.

The top line changes weren’t well received by everyone and that’s understandable. Change isn’t always welcome, especially when it comes to dietary changes.

In this paragraph within the Dietary Guidelines document, they called it like it is:

In Canada, chronic diseases account for approximately one third of direct health care costs. The Canadian population is aging, faces high rates of obesity, and engages in sedentary lifestyle behaviours. Thus the impact of chronic diseases is likely to continue to increase, unless we take action to address the many factors that influence what we eat.

We have a lot more work to do.

In case you haven’t seen the new guidelines, here’s a rundown:


  • Vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and protein foods should be consumed regularly. Among protein foods, consume plant-based more often.
  • Protein foods include legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, fortified soy beverage, fish, shellfish, eggs, poultry, lean red meat including wild game, lower fat milk, lower fat yogurts, lower fat kefir, and cheeses lower in fat and sodium.
  • Foods that contain mostly unsaturated fat should replace foods that contain mostly saturated fat.
  • Water should be the beverage of choice over pop, juice or flavoured juice.

Nutritious foods to encourage
Nutritious foods to consume regularly can be fresh, frozen, canned, or dried.

Cultural preferences and food traditions
Nutritious foods can reflect cultural preferences and food traditions.
Eating with others can bring enjoyment to healthy eating and can foster connections between generations and cultures.
Traditional food improves diet quality among Indigenous Peoples.

Energy balance
Energy needs are individual and depend on a number of factors, including levels of physical activity.
Some fad diets can be restrictive and pose nutritional risks.

Environmental impact
Food choices can have an impact on the environment.

That’s the crux of the new guide, along with the new plate visual replacing the last guide’s four food groups and rainbow shape. The recommendation here is that you do away with portions and focus on proportions. Half of your plate or serving needs to be fruit and vegetables. One-quarter needs to be protein, including eggs, dairy, and milk, meat, poultry, plant-based protein from soy (tofu), lentils and beans. The emphasis is on plant-based proteins, rather than animal-based. This doesn’t mean that you need to become vegan or vegetarian, just that you can change up your meals to be more plant-based. The last quarter is whole grains, including brown rice, oats, quinoa, etc. There isn’t a mention of bread as much as there was in the past, which is important for those who think you need to eat bread as a fiber source daily.

What I think could have been mentioned more:

Fat – there’s little mention of fat, only about one line is written. Listing out unsaturated fat food sources – including polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats – would have been most helpful. It’s clear that reducing the amount of saturated or animal fat is the way forward for overall health.

Canned vegetables – these would not be a recommendation that I would make to anyone. Ideally frozen is an affordable option because canned vegetables can last far too many years, beyond what’s good for us, even if it has just been processed.

Bread and more grains – people get so confused about what bread to buy and eat. This is an area where there could have been more clarity. Whole grain sourdough is a fantastic option that would be worth a mention. I would have liked it if they made it clear that “brown bread” isn’t good enough, as it usually still contains white flour.

Overall, the main goal was to create an uncomplicated, healthy way of eating, and I do believe that was achieved.

Listen to my clip with Jerry Agar on NewsTalk1010 radio here.

Watch my interview on CTV News:

The post Canada’s Food Guide 2019 appeared first on Sprout Right.

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Snacks can be incredibly important for kids after their day at school. Whether they are heading to an activity, have homework to do and focus on or are headed out on the circuit of sports and games, they need to be fueled in a super healthy way. Here are my suggestions:

After school snacks – kids who are heading off to activities and need an after school snack.

When kids get home, they usually need something to eat. Lunch was likely four hours ago and before ‘hangry’ sets in, have some quick and healthy, homemade snacks ready or prepped and in the fridge, ready for the backpack drop as they walk through the door.

  • Banana and peanut butter
  • Apple and almond butter
  • Smoothie bowl (a thick version of a smoothie with fruit and protein powder)
  • Mango flipped out of its skin
  • Grapes, apples with trail mix or dried chickpeas
  • Veggies and bean dip
  • Greek yogurt parfait, berries, and low sugar granola

Active Kid Snacks

Active kids doing high-intensity sports like soccer, hockey, basketball, parkour for an hour can burn up to 400 calories depending on their weight. That uses a big chunk of their glycogen or energy stores that need to be replaced. If they’re going straight to practice after school, they need to fuel before and after that are low sugar options, easy to eat on-the-go and hydration.

  • Flourless high protein muffins (recipe below)
  • Smoothie (in a thermal bottle for keeping it cool)
  • CLIF Kids Z Bar Filled bars
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Dates and coconut oil or nut butter
  • Bean dip made with almond butter and veggies

On-the-go dinner ideas

Whether they’re off to a weekend cheering competition in Niagara, an away game north of the city, or in the car between soccer and gymnastics, kids need a filling dinner that travels well and can be eaten off their lap.

  • Tuna melt with cheese and tuna or salmon and veggies. 
  • Hard-boiled eggs–whole or mashed with mayo on whole grain bread
  • Blender Pancakes made with oats and ricotta cheese and fruit spread
  • Thermos with wholegrain pasta and cut up sausage

Any of the above are perfect for adults and kids alike! Make batches at the beginning of the week, get some great gear for snacks, lunch, and dinner and get your kids involved in the planning and packing of their snacks. If they are resistant to eating healthier foods, don’t get talked into buying junk, processed or fast food. In many cases, if you don’t buy it, they can’t eat it.

Blender Pancakes 

Anything that can be made in my blender is a good thing. Fast, simple, and with just one thing to wash. I came across this one weekend, made a massive batch and ate them all week long. They are so filling so you won’t need as many as your mile high stack.

2 cups gluten-free oats

1 1/2 cups vanilla almond milk

1 large ripe, organic banana

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp raw honey

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 large egg

coconut oil or butter for cooking

Put all ingredients (except egg and coconut oil) in a blender and blend until smooth. Add egg and pulse a few times.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and melt a teaspoon or two of coconut oil. Pour 1/4 cup batter and cook for about 2 – 3 minutes each side.

*Batter can become thick, so continue to add more milk if needed

The post After school snacks, fuel for sports, and even long weekend road trips. appeared first on Sprout Right.

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We all know it’s coming, and you’re likely dreading it, as all parents are – back to school and those darn lunches. Seasoned parents (even those with high school kids) need new inspiration for packing lunches and getting great food into their kids. If you’re a newbie at this with a child off to school for the first time, all of the below is for you too. To get you off to a great start, I’ve got handy tips and lots of lunch ideas that I also shared on Cityline with Tracy Moore.

Start of the school year

Firstly, I want you to write down the lunches that you make in the first weeks because that’s when you’re most creative. Then, when you’re running out of steam in the idea department and you’re stuck for inspiration, take a look back at them. You can download and use the Sprout Right Weekly Lunch Planner to keep track of both planning and also what you’ve made. Save them all in a folder. These are great for both parents and kids to write on.

The Smart Kids Breakfast and Lunch meal plan is also a great, time-saving tool for inspiration and healthy lunch ideas. It has 10 breakfast ideas, 15 thermos-fillers, 20 sandwich/wrap fillings, and lots of tasty and simple side dishes. Check it out and order yours for kids of all ages.

Kindergarten to 2nd Grade

Let’s start with kindergarten to around 2nd grade. They need to have easy-to-open lunch boxes. Use lunch gear that they love, filled with simple, easy-to-eat foods. Some kids like mixed up stuff and some like everything separate.

Bento box type containers are excellent for things like filling a toothpick with:

  • cheddar cheese and grapes
  • bocconcini and baby tomato with basil
  • feta cheese and watermelon

For kids who love dipping their veggies or crackers, hummus is the most fibre-rich. Edamame dip is a great source of plant-based protein, guacamole keeps then going with neutral fats and tzatziki for yogurt lovers. Some pita triangles, veggies (like zucchini or carrot sticks, green beans or sugar snap peas), and they could be set.

Those recess snacks keep their energy going, so send along a little bag with raisins and puffed cereal, apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon, a trusty applesauce cup, or MadeGood school-safe granola bars that are allergy-free and have vegetable powders in them for a quick boost. Also, for after school or a Friday treat, the new MadeGood cookies are so tasty that they won’t ever know that, just like in the bars and bites, there are vegetable powders so it’s a healthier cookie!

Grade 3 to Grade 6

From grade 3 up to around grade 6, think outside the sandwich and fill pita bread or use wraps so there’s a better balance of carbs to protein. There are many kids who don’t really even like sandwiches.

Now is a great time to introduce more feedback about lunches with the incredible Sprout Right Lunchbox Survey that they can fill out right after they eat their lunch. It’ll save the “it was ok” response when you ask how their lunch was and they can’t even recall what was in their lunchbox. Download it for free and send with kids of any age!

Wraps filled with tuna or salmon and cucumber or pickles, mashed egg with red pepper, grated carrot and hummus, grated cheese, chicken and barbecue sauce. Any of the separate ideas work well for kids here too. Fish cakes with sweet potato fries are a hearty lunch with slow-release carbs and brainy fats, and add some sugar snap peas that are sweet and fun to pull apart. Breakfast for lunch options like Blender Pancakes with protein-rich ricotta and some fruit spread with a hard boiled egg works great for a change.

A thermos filled with pasta, like meat-filled ravioli with a meat sauce or any leftovers make an excellent warm lunch. Remember that all of these lunches can be eaten by any age group.

Grade 7’s and 8’s

Grade 7’s and 8’s need cool lunches (and gear) and this is when, if they aren’t contributing already, it’s time to get them to make their own lunches. As the school year starts, sit down and talk about who is going to make what, and when. Maybe they get Friday off and build their own lunch from Monday to Thursday. Here’s a great Meal Plan Template that they can use to get the hang of it. Make it the night before, once dinner is done, so that it’s not a rush in the morning.

The gear is crucial here, they’ve moved past the cute stuff and maybe want their favourite movie character or a plain block colour. All the gear here is from well.ca and will allow them to build their lunch in a healthful way.

Once you know their favourites, suggest using skewers, or taking leftovers in a thermos. If they like more of a snack-type lunch then use the bento-box type lunch boxes. It keeps them organized. They must take fruit and vegetables every day and have some protein and energy-rich whole grain carbs. Some of the lunch boxes that well.ca provided me for the Cityline segment have lids that seal up the segments of the lunchbox, so any dips or sauces won’t end up mingling with everything else. Genius!

High School

High school is where you can lose some kids to a very junk food based lunch. With the cafeteria and going to local hangouts with their friends, maybe you’re dealing with a vegetarian – no matter what, you’ve got to up your game. If they’re still into anything that I’ve mentioned already, excellent. If not then make their go-to, like pizza, but jam pack it with vegetables and use the cheese to stick it down. Leftover slices of meat pies, things like samosas, dishes made with veggie noodles to keep their veggie count up. Also, leftover meals like butter chicken goes down well in a thermos or microwavable container that they can heat up at school. Edamame beans are great snacks either on their own or in a slaw. Smoothies are great pre- or post-sports or games, along with granola bars that can live in the bottom of their backpacks until they need them.

In all cases, hydration is essential – so let them choose their favourite water bottle so they take it and bring it home again!

All food was provided by Farm Boy in Etobicoke, so thank you to them.
If you liked the look of any of the gear in the Cityline segment, do check out well.ca and their incredible range of products for all ages.

For more info about varieties of MadeGood bars, check out their site here.

Watch the Cityline segment here.
Watch my Facebook Live from Tuesday, August 21st for a deeper look at the lunchbox gear and even more new ideas!

Download the Sprout Right Weekly Lunch Planner here.
Download the Sprout Right Lunchbox Survey here.

The post Back to School with Cityline appeared first on Sprout Right.

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With a summer full of outings, road trips and cottage visits, smart snacking is a part of everyone’s to-do this summer. I’ve got some great suggestions of what to include in your snack bag for wherever you go.

Key criteria for smart snacks include:

  • High in fibre and low in sugar.
  • Colourful fruits and veggies are a must.
  • Choose wisely with packaged foods and read your labels.
Nuts and seeds

My new summer favourite is Wonderful Pistachios. They’re a high-fibre, smart snacking option. They make snacking more mindful because cracking them open slows you down, as your hand goes back and forth into the bowl. Also, the visual cue of shells helps you see how much you’ve eaten. There are four different flavours to choose from: Roasted Unsalted, Roasted & Salted, Salt & Pepper, and Sweet Chili. My family is divided in favourites between the S&P and Sweet Chili. The brand recently did a survey on snacking habits which found 74% of Canadians snack when they’re bored. It also found that men are more likely to consume a snack until there is nothing left!!

Oat-based granola bars

I say oats because they’re an excellent source of fibre and slow-releasing energy. Our go-to at the moment is MadeGood and their bars and bites. I do love that they add in veggie powders so my kids are getting another serving of veggies in their snack, even if they won’t eat the actual veggies that time. This is also an allergy safe snack. Safe of the top food allergens (always read the label to confirm if you have an allergy), and low in sugar, I do have a stash in my car for not only road trips for those times when you’re rushing and need a quick, healthy snack. They have bars, bites, Crispy Squares and launching this summer, soft baked COOKIES!

Cut up veggies

This is a staple in any snack offering. Carrot sticks, celery, zucchini, broccoli, colourful peppers, and cucumber are great places to start. Add in some fibre-rich dip like Hummus (recipe below), Beany Green Dip (recipe below), guacamole, tzatziki or edamame bean dip.


One of the most fibre-rich foods that you can eat, beans make a tremendous snack. Edamame beans, shelled or still in their pods are also high in protein. Either the shelled or pods can be defrosted quickly warmed in a bowl and covered with boiling water. Put into a container and sprinkle with sea salt.

All the other typical snacks like chips are so high in sodium and lack fibre. Filling up on the fibre rich snacks means you feel fuller for longer as well as keep appetite in check. Those sugar cravings can hit at any time and fibre-rich foods help ease the feeling of needing something sweet.

For more on healthy summer snacking, watch my clip with George on CP24!

Beany Green Dip

1 can (14 oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil or cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive, hemp or flax oil
4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 handful dinosaur kale or other leafy green, chopped

Puree all ingredients in a food processor or with a hand blender – then it’s ready to eat.

Note: It’s best eaten fresh but can be frozen in baby-safe food containers for up to 1 month.


Hummus is fantastic served on its own or spread on a rice cake. This can also be made with cannellini beans or navy beans. Instead of raw garlic, you can use roasted garlic for a sweeter, milder flavour (see tip below). Remember that you’re not adding salt, so don’t expect this to taste like store-bought.
Makes about 2 cups (500 mL).

1 can (14 oz) chickpeas, drained
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic

Place all ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender and blend to desired consistency, adding extra water to thin it out or extra olive oil for more flavour. Serve immediately.

Tip: To make roasted garlic, slice the top off a whole garlic bulb and place in aluminum foil. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, wrap the foil together, and bake in a 350ºF (180ºC) oven for about 20 minutes or until cloves are tender. Cool, and “squish” garlic cloves out of the bulb.

Note: Can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days or frozen in ice cube trays or in baby-safe food containers for up to 1 month.

The post Smart Summer Snacking appeared first on Sprout Right.

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Just like at kids birthday parties that serve pizzas, everyone thinks that throwing some burgers and dogs on the BBQ is the way to go. Well, not this summer. I spoke about a few of my favourites to barbecue in this video, and also wanted to follow up with some recipes that you can try out on your crowd this summer.

Barbecue and Burgers! - YouTube

Grilled Portobello Mushroom

A great portobello is a meaty option for both meat eaters and vegetarians. They are substantial enough to be put between two buns or to eat as an accompaniment.

4 portobello mushrooms
¼ cup olive oil
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, finely chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Clean portobello mushrooms with a brush or a dry piece of paper towel and cut off the stem close to the base.

With the stem side up, evenly drizzle the oil, garlic and herb mixture around the inside of the mushroom.

Grill on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes.

Grilled Vegetables

Think asparagus, peppers, corn, zucchini, eggplant and any other vegetable that you love. As long as you slice, dice, toss and season with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, you’ve got a delicious side to tempt everyone to jump in and eat some plants! Use a grilling tray if you have one, or tin foil that’s oiled in advance. Some veggies can be cooked on the upper grill when you turn them frequently.

Coconut Curry Mussels

I’ve been making this recipe for years and it’s a real crowd-pleaser. Even those who don’t usually enjoy mussels come back for more. I’ve also made these on the stove top, so they can be made any time of year, but coming off the barbecue enhances the wow factor!
Serves 4.

1 can (14 oz) coconut milk, regular
1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste
1 tablespoon (15 mL) fresh lime juice (about one lime)
2 teaspoons (10 mL) runny honey
2 teaspoons  (10 mL) fish sauce
2 tablespoons (30 mL) coconut or peanut oil
1 tablespoon (15 mL) fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon (15 mL) garlic. minced
2 lb (900 g) live mussels, scrubbed and beards removed (discard any that won’t close when tapped)
1/4 cup (50 mL) loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Preheat the grill to medium temperature.

In a medium bowl, add the coconut milk, curry paste, lime juice, honey and fish sauce and stir well.

In a large disposable foil pan or roasting pan, combine the oil, ginger, and garlic. Place the pan over direct medium heat, close the grill lid, and cook for about 1 minute. Add the coconut milk mixture to the pan and gently stir to combine. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes to bring the sauce to a boil.

Add the cleaned mussels to the sauce. Cover the pan with tightly sealed foil, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove foil and stir gently to see if all the mussels are open. If not, continue to cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. Carefully remove the foil from the foil pan and gently stir, checking that all the mussels have opened. Slowly take the pan off the grill and spoon mussels and sauce into a large serving bowl. Sprinkle fresh cilantro over the whole dish. Serve with LOTS of crusty bread.

Still, the burger is a barbecue staple. So much so that I’m doing a challenge to find The BEST Burger with Jerry Agar on NewsTalk1010. We want to know your favourite burger (meat or plant-based), that you grace your grill with and serve to friends and family. This isn’t a recipe challenge, but a butcher-made or store-bought burger that’s available for us and you, to buy and try out. We have a list going already and will taste test the burgers that you suggest with specific ranking and scoring. We will share the results on air on Friday, June 15th, just in time for Father’s Day. Listen to our chat about the challenge here.

The post Summer barbecue that’s more than burgers and dogs appeared first on Sprout Right.

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It’s coming. The recommendation from Health Canada and our new Food Guide is going to recommend you eat more plant-based foods. What does that mean exactly?

For some, it means eating more fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, grains, nuts and seeds. For others, it means only eating those foods and leaving behind the meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. Either way, including more plants in your diet is only going to increase fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and – according to many studies – improve every single aspect of your health. If you’ve got high blood pressure or cholesterol, yes, plant-based will help. If you’ve got digestive issues, depression, sore knees or headaches, a plant-based diet could help you too. Anyone on medication for just about any situation can be helped by eating more plant-based meals and snacks and lessening processed foods and animal-based foods.

I had the pleasure of seeing the documentary The Game Changers in Toronto’s Hot Docs festival and it really had an impact. The doc is about elite athletes who are on a plant-based diet. Yes, you read that right. Athletes at the top of their game, not eating any animal-based protein.

I can bet the first question that popped into your head was “How do they get enough protein by just eating plant-based?” It’s a valid and common question. I regularly exercise and on my newest fitness journey, that includes weight training, I was guided to consume my body weight in grams of protein. Well, that’s a lot, even on an animal and plant-based diet. I had to have smoothies with protein powder, tins of tuna, eggs topped up with whites, Greek yogurt and chicken all day, every day just to almost reach my 130 g protein intake! I’m not sure that it agreed with me and my kidneys, as I blew up like a balloon. As I backed off, my body’s swelling reduced over time. It was an interesting and pricey experiment.

Since seeing The Game Changers with my 12-year-old daughter (who is super sporty), she decided that we would try “Meatless Mondays” all day long, not just dinner. This past Monday, she carefully chose her breakfast (oatmeal with almond milk), lunch and dinner and managed to get it all in around her Parkour class and Karate. My older daughter (the carnivore), isn’t on board. Yet.

What inspired me so much about The Game Changers?

I heard the words stamina, energy, strength, circulation and excellent health so many times. The science behind what was presented was mind-blowing and the experiences and experiments showed incredible results. Real people making real changes and seeing considerable health benefits. We were inspired.

I was reminded of one key fact: all whole plant foods contain protein.

Some more than others. By eating enough calories and a variety of foods every day, you’ll meet what you need. Our minimum requirement of all essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) can easily be obtained from vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and grains.

Your protein needs:

A sedentary adult needs about 0.8-1g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. So for a 65 kg female who does little physical activity, this would equate to between 52-65 grams of protein per day.

An active adult who regularly exercises needs 1.2-2g per kilogram of body weight per day.

The body requires more protein during times of cell growth and repair such as: childhood and teenage years; pregnancy and lactation; and after illness or surgery.

Health Canada’s recommendation about eating a plant-based diet is explained as “a high proportion of plant-based foods without necessarily excluding animal foods altogether.” I came across the term “reducetarian”, which I thought was perfect. You can just start to reduce the animal-based foods that you regularly consume at the same time as increasing the plant-based ones.

For my interview with James Wilks of The Game Changers, read this. To listen to my radio segment with Jerry Agar on NewsTalk 1010, click here. Or to watch my talk on CP24, click here.

The post Plant-Based Diets appeared first on Sprout Right.

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In my world, ‘mommy brain’ (forgetfulness, lack of concentration, and even feeling depressed) is a real phenomenon. I read an article in Time Magazine quoting a book written about ‘Mommy Brain’ which said that in neurological tests, women actually got smarter as a result of pregnancy and becoming a new parent and that mommy brain wasn’t a real issue. I can see where they are coming from in a way, the neuroscientists found in the brains of pregnant rats, new neuron arms (dendrites and dendritic spines) which would indicate increased mental capacity. (I wonder though how they measured the rat’s ability to multi-task at a whole new level as a new mom does!) However, I believe that this is one of those times when anecdotal evidence outweighs science.

After meeting with many new moms each week, as I do, they are all suffering in a similar way. Keys… where are they? Ok got them, now where’s my bag? Didn’t I just put extra diapers in there? Oh and now I’ve forgotten the extra bib and my snack… this list goes on and on.

I believe that it negatively affects self-confidence and relationships with friends and partners. If you don’t feel good about yourself, by doubting your capability to stay on top of what life demands, how are you going to feel as a parent? I’ve met many women who have successful careers, have managed teams of people or even run a large company — and now that she’s had a baby, her brain feels like it’s turned to mush.

I thought that I was out of the woods with this one, but boy was I wrong. I’m not a new parent, my kids are in their early teens. They go to different schools, have different schedules that I need to keep up with. I run my own business, which brings it’s own organization challenges and have recently written a second edition of my book. It’s been busy around Sprout Right headquarters of late. And what happened in the midst of all this? My brain reverted back to those newborn days. I felt just as I did as a new mom – I couldn’t remember things (and didn’t remember that I had forgotten something for a week or two) and it was like things just vanished from my brain. It was brutal. I’d write a list of what I had to do and then forget that I’d written it, or couldn’t find where I’d put it. One part of me was oblivious to my forgetfulness and the other was really worried. I thought I’d fried my brain with trying to do and remember too much while living on less sleep (just to top it all off!).

So before taking myself off to the doc’s to ask for an MRI of my brain, I treated myself like I’d treat a new mom in one of my classes or consultations… recommend for her to take DHA from fish oil. I hadn’t been having my smoothie in the morning so taking my DHA daily had gone by the wayside as that’s where I hide it (I’ve never been good at taking oil off a spoon). So I started to add two tablespoons of cod liver oil to my smoothie every morning. And wow, what a difference. Within two days, it was like someone turned the light back on in my brain. Later in the week, I started to remember much of what I’d completely forgotten (and started the long list of apologies to anyone else who this had affected). After about four weeks, I slowed down my dose to about two teaspoons a day and was so thankful to have my memory back.

It was a worrying experience, but the positive outcome is to keep re-enforcing to everyone that I meet how important it is to eat oily fish (wild salmon, mackerel, sardines or herring) or take a DHA supplement EVERY DAY. This is not only a phenomenon of new moms, but of kids — especially those suffering from learning difficulties, ADD, or ADHD. Anyone (including men) suffering from depression, poor concentration or memory, heart conditions, a lack of physical endurance and even joint pain.

So after reading this, think of someone you know who might be in need of some extra zip from taking a DHA supplement (or yourself), and share the situation with me by commenting below. I’m going to give away a bottle of Cod Liver oil (or capsules if you are like me) to someone in real need — adult or child. And then, in a few weeks, I’d like the winner to comment/share how they’re feeling after taking the oil. It’ll be our own little experiment.

The post Mommy Brain… It’s Back! appeared first on Sprout Right.

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A story written by Leslie Beck in the Globe and Mail newspaper this week caught my attention. It’s about kids drinking plant-based milk over dairy milk. A big topic for many parents.

First of all, I’ll say that in my experience, goat’s milk is better tolerated than cow’s milk because of the protein structure. Cow’s milk comes from large animals with large protein structure.

Milk offers protein, fat, and nutrients like vitamin A, D, B, zinc, and calcium – all important nutrients – but there are more that are needed for all the growth and development at a young age. 

I see a lot of kids who can’t tolerate or just won’t drink milk, so parents have to find alternatives. Most will eat cheese and yogurt, so that’s a much better option. If they can’t tolerate dairy altogether, a more specific diet needs to be created. Full fat cheese and yogurt (unflavoured) still have the naturally occurring fat-soluble vitamins and fat for better absorption of vitamin D and K (if organic or grass-fed).

Other calcium-rich options are sardines or salmon with bones, cooked bok choi, almonds, sesame seeds, cooked kale or broccoli. To lesser amounts than a glass of milk but a healthier option with other minerals and vitamins, fibre and antioxidants.

Plant-based milk like almond, cashew, coconut or rice offer about 2g of protein versus 16g from the same amount of milk. Hemp milk offers more at 6g per two cups.

Overall calories are less in plant-based milk too. Lower fat has a lot to do with this and which milk is chosen, homemade versus store bought also plays a part. There’s a recipe in my book Sprout Right for making homemade almond milk that’s really easy. Cashew milk is even easier because it doesn’t need straining.

While milk is thought to be very important from age two to eight, there certainly are other options to ensure that all protein, fat and nutrient needs are met with broader health benefits.

The post Plant-milk versus dairy milk appeared first on Sprout Right.

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