Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Cooking in the time of COVID19

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Image from Cook Smarts

Since you’re all (hopefully) joining me in social-isolation (I’ve been practicing for a while being on mat leave) I thought I’d compile some useful websites for pantry recipes and meal planning.

Also, while it’s good to have enough food at home to see you through two weeks, please be considerate when you’re shopping and don’t buy more than you need. There are many people who can’t afford to stock-up and/or don’t have facilities to store piles of food.

With that out of the way, I’m a big fan of Budget Bytes and she’s compiled a list of 15 pantry recipes. She has lots of other recipes on her website too that are affordable and require very few perishable ingredients. And for more affordable recipes you might want to check out Jack Monroe’s (aka The Bootstrap Cook) website. Smitten Kitchen’s blog and cookbooks are a couple of my favourite recipe resources. She’s also got a section for pantry recipes on her website. Another great source of simple, affordable recipes is Leanne Brown’s free pdf cookbook: Good & Cheap.

Why not take advantage of being home to try a new baking recipe? Personally, I’m planning on tackling croissants. Sally’s Baking Addiction has compiled a list of 36+ fun home baking projects for everyone who’s holed up at home.

If you’re new to meal planning, UnlockFood.ca has a list of 7 steps for quick and easy meal planning and if you scroll down to the bottom there are a bunch of additional meal planning tools.

This is just a short list I threw together off the top of my head to get you started. If you know of additional websites please share in the comments. Also, if you decide to undertake a baking project send me a pic!


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Why this dietitian hates Nutrition Month

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It’s March and that means it’s Nutrition Month. The time of year when dietitians post a whole bunch of the same social media messages that were created by Dietitians of Canada and a whole bunch of people probably mute the hashtag “NutritionMonth2020” to stop the onslaught. And I have to confess, even as a dietitian, that impulse is strong. But, the bombardment of generic healthy eating messages aside, there’s another reason why I hate Nutrition Month and that’s the fact that it’s more of a vehicle for Big Food to promote their products than it is an opportunity for dietitians to promote nutrition and our profession.

Every year Dietitians of Canada releases a suite of Nutrition Month tools and resources. And every year I find myself feeling frustrated by the obvious bias they exhibit for their sponsors. Let’s see if you can guess the two sponsors this year just by the recipes in their free recipe booklet: Hearty Manitoba Vegetable Soup, Avocado and Fruit Salad with Basil and Honey, Proudly Canadian Beet and Barley Salad, Roasted Cauliflower Farro and Avocado Salad, Avocado and Tuna Salad Sandwich, Easy Red Lentil Dhal, Grilled Vegetable Bean and Avocado Tacos, Mexican Squash and Bean Salad, Super Easy Chicken Parm, Chewy Ginger Pecan Cookies, Peach Strawberry and Almond Muesli, Yoghurt Bark. To help you out a little, I’ve bolded the recipes that were supplied by the sponsors. One is obvious: Avocados from Mexico. The other may be a little trickier: Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Dietitians are supposed to be an unbiased, evidence-based source of nutrition information and yet how can we expect people to believe that when a national dietetic organization accepts sponsorship from food companies and exhibits clear preference for those foods as a result?

Don’t get me wrong, I love avocados as much as a Millennial and I consume plenty of dairy products. However, both of these foods are problematic and should probably not be so heavily promoted by Dietitians of Canada. There are ethical concerns about both avocados and dairy (e.g. methane gas, land use, animal welfare). In addition, these are both fairly high-ticket grocery items, at least in Canada. A single avocado often goes for $1.99 at my local grocery store while a modest block of cheese is at least $7.99. Considering that about one in eight households in Canada is food insecure is it really appropriate for DC to be promoting such costly items as part of national Nutrition Month? I mean, considering that an annual DC membership costs $496 and DC has roughly 6000 members, surely to goodness they could develop a few recipes on their own, or even have members submit them so that they didn’t have to resort to corporate sponsorship.

All this to say, I hate Nutrition Month. Nutrition Month could be great. Dietitians of Canada has a fantastic opportunity to promote nutrition, dietitians, and all that we do. However, as it stands, Nutrition Month does nothing more than to undermine our credibility as nutrition professionals.


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What bothered me about Lizzo’s red bikini

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An article I kept seeing popping up in my Twitter feed over the past few days was titled “Lizzo rocks tiny red bikini while on vacation in Brazil” and was accompanied by a couple of photos of Lizzo on a beach wearing a red bikini. And while part of me was like, “good for her” and was pleasantly surprised to see a positive headline there was another part of me that felt really uncomfortable about the whole thing. I spent altogether too much time trying to figure out exactly what about it made me uncomfortable. No, it wasn’t that she was wearing a bikini, I wear a bikini when I go to the beach and I have no problem with other people wearing bikinis, I’m not a total prude.

My problem with it is, that I don’t think it’s cool for us to be publicly judging people’s bodies, regardless of their size, and regardless of whether or not that judgement is positive or negative. I hate seeing those magazines at the grocery store checkouts that are plastered with paparazzi shots of famous people on beaches and are either commenting on their cellulite or their hotness. Just because someone is famous that doesn’t mean their bodies belong to the public domain. It doesn’t mean that they’ve granted us permission to share photos of them during their personal time and pass judgement on them. And just because those judgements happen to be fat-positive it doesn’t make them any more acceptable. Yes, it’s great that Lizzo is confident and is a positive role model but that doesn’t make it okay for us to intrude on her personal vacation and it doesn’t make it okay for us to comment on her body. Frankly, other people’s bodies are none of our business.


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How much do you weigh?

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How much do you weigh? That question seems to be asked of us all too often. It’s something that I never really gave all that much thought to as someone who had maintained relatively the same weight since university. However, as I’ve learned more about taking a weight-neutral approach to healthcare, and experienced the changes that my body went through during pregnancy and postnatally, it’s something that I find myself thinking about a lot.

So many of us tie our identities up in our size and part of that is our weight. We think of ourselves as being a certain height and weight and we talk about those things as if they’re static numbers but for many of us, that’s not the case. When we gain or lose weight unintentionally it’s as if suddenly our identities are called into question. We’re not the person that others are meeting for the first time; the real me is someone who’s 20 pounds lighter, or 10 pounds heavier.

The thing is though, our bodies change, and that’s normal and okay. Many of us gain a few pounds in the winter (there’s even a word for it in German: winterspeck) only to shed them again in the warmer months. Most people will weigh more in middle age than we did as young adults. And yet, we think that we need to be the same weight as our youthful selves. We talk about losing those “last 10 pounds” as if some weight on a BMI chart is our “true” weight. As if once we attain that weight we will have reached our final destination and our weight will never change again.

We are all changing all the time. Our bodies are always changing and it’s foolish of us to think that our weight is a magically unchanging fact about ourselves. It’s okay not to be the same size that you were 20 years ago, or two months ago. You are no more or less worthy of love and acceptance if your body is larger or smaller than it was in the past or will be in the future. You are no more or less yourself if you gain or lose weight. Your identity does not hinge on numbers on a scale.


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Will the Impossible Burger give you boobs?

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I saw this article making the rounds on Twitter and I couldn’t resist blogging about it. For those who haven’t seen it, and can’t be bothered to click the link (honestly, it’s not worthy of your clicks) it’s some sort of “Big Meat” propaganda. The headline reads: DOCTOR: Burger King’s ‘Impossible Burger’ has 18 Million Times More Estrogen Than Regular Whopper: Burger King’s Impossible Burger may cause men to grow breasts. Total clickbait and I, for one, could not resist it.

According to the article, the Impossible Burger has 44 mg of estrogen while the Whopper has a mere 2.5 ng. Allegedly this means that if a hypothetical man were to eat four Impossible Burgers a day (for some indeterminate number of days which I feel is a pretty huge omission) he would grow breasts.  Apparently, eating four Impossible Burgers a day is the same as drinking six glasses of soy milk a day which is well known to be the magic number of glasses of soy milk at which men will spontaneously grow breasts. Except, I can find absolutely no evidence that this is true. According to Harvard, there are a number of reasons why men may grow breasts including certain medications and medical conditions but there is no mention of soy (which is the source of the phytoestrogens in the Impossible Burger). Fellow RD, Andy has also dispelled many of the myths around soy consumption including claims that it can have a detrimental effect on men’s health in this article.

You may also have noticed that the doctor who wrote the original smear piece on the Impossible Burger refers to estrogen while I’m talking about phytoestrogens. Despite what you may have heard, these are not the same things. Estrogen is the hormone found in humans and other animals while phytoestrogens are the plant-based forms of estrogen. Phytoestrogens do not have the same effect on us as estrogen does. I think it’s also worth pointing out that all of these men who are now afraid to eat the Impossible Burger because they might get boobs that there is already a LOT of soy in many foods that you’re probably eating every day. There is soy in many processed meats (yep, your good old manly hot dogs, deli meats, and many beef burgers) contain TVP (textured vegetable protein, aka soy, as a cheap filler); many of your sports supplements like bars, shakes, and protein powders contain soy; breakfast cereals, etc.

The article I referenced above was from a publication called National File which purports to be “America’s newest conservative news source”. This automatically raises red flags for me. As it’s pretty much proclaiming to be fake news. The original article by Dr Stangle was published in Tri-State Livestock News. Hmm…. could such a publication possibly have any bias? Surely they would never want to paint beef burgers in a more favourable light than plant-based burgers. And not that this means that he’s not knowledgeable about human nutrition but the doctor who wrote the article is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. This doesn’t instil great confidence in me that he’s an authority on human nutrition. I also wonder about where he gets his money from; certainly not soybean farmers but perhaps cattle ranchers? I can’t find much about him online but I did find an article that mentions he’s a member of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners.

All this to say: sorry everyone who’s been scarfing down four Impossible Burgers daily in the hopes of growing breasts, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. I still wouldn’t recommend eating that many burgers a day (Impossible or otherwise) but they’re not going to give you breasts.