Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Has healthy eating jumped the shark?

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My colleague and I were recently looking for cookbooks for children and families. I was a bit surprised by what’s available. We were looking for something that used basic, affordable ingredients. Recipes that would be easy to prepare, nutritious, and tasty. What we found was a limited number of children’s cookbooks. Some which met our criteria but many that didn’t. Often they featured recipes that weren’t the healthiest. Lots of sweets and not many vegetables. Things that might appeal to kids but that weren’t going to simultaneously promote healthy eating.

The family cookbooks were the most shocking. There were lots that touted themselves as being “healthy” but they featured obscure and expensive ingredients. Recipes that were heavy on the “superfoods” and light on simplicity. While these might appeal to a certain “foodie” subset of the population, they certainly aren’t going to encourage people who shy away from home cooking because they’re intimidated by the prospect.

It makes me wonder if we’ve put “healthy eating” on such a pedestal that it’s become the sole purview of the culinary elite. Has the “wellness” movement made healthy eating seem unattainable to many people by convincing them that they need to prepare chia lemonade, mushroom jerky, and spirulina chapati (yes, these are actual recipes from an actual children’s cookbook)? Are people throwing in the towel and assuming that healthy eating isn’t for them because they think it means having to spend hours in the kitchen every day activating almonds for gluten-free, refined sugar-free, vegan pancakes?

Some of the top cookbooks that came up when I searched Amazon for “family cookbooks” included: Forks Over Knives: Ever Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, Kids on a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet; The Happy Family Organic Superfoods Cookbook for Baby & Toddler; and several other vegan cookbooks. I also came across a paleo for families cookbook and a low-carb for families cookbook.

I’m not criticizing anyone’s decision to feed their families in what ever way they see fit. My concern is that by making it seem that healthy eating can only be achieved by following a very specific, often complicated, and costly diet, that the wellness industry is actually pushing people away from healthy eating. Sure, many of these diets and foods can be a part of a healthy diet. The point is that they don’t need to be. You don’t need to eat chia seeds and tempeh to be healthy. Classics like carrots and broccoli are still nutritious. Don’t buy into the hype. Healthy eating can be simple, affordable, and delicious.

 

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Will Watson render cookbook authors obsolete?

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Have you guys heard of Watson? No, not that Watson. The flavour combining computer that’s just released a cookbook? Based on this review I don’t think that human cookbook authors have much to fear just yet. In fact, Watson didn’t actually write the recipes, he was more like the provider of ingredients on Master Chef. Based on algorithms he suggested ingredient and flavour combinations that chefs then used to develop recipes for the cookbook. Kind of neat, but it’s already been done, just not by a computer.

If you want to play Watson and develop new recipes based on flavour profiles you might want to pick-up Niki Segnit’s The Flavour ThesaurusNo, I’m not being paid to plug this. It just happens to be a book I own. It gives you recipe ideas and pairings based on flavour profiles. Essentially, you look up an ingredient and it will tell you a number of other ingredients that it pairs well with, as well as recipe and preparation suggestions. Some are obvious, like chocolate and peanut butter. Others are a little more surprising, like egg and banana, based on sweetened omelettes that are common in French cuisine. Who needs Watson?


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So hot; overnight oats

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Overnight oats are totally hot right now because they’re cool. In the summertime, if you’re anything like me, you don’t crave a bowl of hot oatmeal for breakfast. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need a good breakfast. The perfect, quick, easy, and tasty way to get the satisfaction of oatmeal for breakfast, with none of the heat, is overnight oats.

I prefer to make them in a mason jar as I can make a few batches and stash them in the fridge for breakfast. Another great trick is to make them in your nearly empty jar of peanut butter (or other nut butter). I’m sure that if you don’t have any jar you could still make them in a bowl; just cover with a lid of cling wrap before refrigerating.

The key to overnight oats is letting them sit long enough for the oats to absorb the liquid ingredients. I like to make mine in the evening and then all I have to do in the morning is grab them out of the fridge. Make sure you mix your ingredients well, before refrigerating. This is also where a mason jar comes in handy because you can just shake it like crazy.

Here are a couple of my favourite versions I’ve come up with:

Stewed rhubarb and coconut overnight oats

1/4 cup stewed rhubarb (use your favourite recipe or combine about 2 cups of rhubarb, squeeze of orange juice, bit of orange zest, and 1 tbsp of sugar – this will make enough for several servings of overnight oats or use the extras for another recipe)

1/4 cup quick oats

1/2 cup milk (cow, almond, coconut, whatever you prefer)

1/4 cup greek yoghurt (plain or coconut both work well for this recipe)

1 tsp shredded unsweetened coconut

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate until thickened (preferably overnight). Enjoy as is.

Choconana PB overnight oats

1/4 quick oats

1/4 cup plain greek yoghurt

1/2 cup (unsweetened) chocolate almond milk (or use plain milk and add 1 tsp of unsweetened cocoa powder)

1/2-1 mashed banana

1 tbsp natural PB

Mash the banana and PB together, put in jar with all other ingredients. Mix well. Refrigerate. Enjoy!

Basically, you can combine any fruit, nuts, seeds, you desire. Although you may want to add nuts in the morning so that they don’t get mushy in the mixture overnight.

Have a great weekend!!

 


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Follow Friday: Good and Cheap

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A friend and regular reader shared a link to the cookbook Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown with me last week. The book was created as part of her Master’s Thesis and is available for free under a Creative Commons licence. According to Brown, the cookbook was designed to be affordable for people using  SNAP (formerly food stamps) in the US. However, I’m sure that most of the recipes would be equally affordable for Canadians on a budget. In addition to being affordable, the recipes are nutritious and appealing. Even if you’re not on a tight budget there’s likely something in here you’d like to try: pumpkin oatmeal, broccoli apple salad, or brussels sprouts hash and eggs perhaps.


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Follow Friday: Cookie + Kate

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It’s been a little while since I gave you a recipe blog for a Follow Friday post. I made two things from Cookie + Kate last weekend and they were both great so I think her blog is worthy of sharing. I made her Curried Coconut Quinoa and Greens with Roasted Cauliflower for supper one evening. It was mighty tasty and easy. Just a little chopping. Cauliflower in the oven, everything else in a pot, done. I also made a batch of these Maple Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies to refuel after my long run on Sunday and we satisfied our sweet teeth on them all week.

If you’re looking for easy, delicious, vegetarian recipes, Cookie + Kate is a great place to look.