Dietitian's Blog

Navigating the holiday season

The season is rapidly approaching – the one where our pantries are filled with holiday baking and our weekends booked with dinner parties and family gatherings.  While I love this time of year and revel in the opportunity to share good food with those I love, there are ways to have your holiday cake and eat it too.  There’s a word that we throw around all too freely, but rarely give it the weight it deserves – moderation.  It’s not about denying yourself the pleasures of good food; rather it’s about being choosy.  Think of your calories like a budget – you want to get the most flavour and enjoyment while not spending more than you can afford.  That means choosing food that stimulates your senses and savouring each bite.  Here are 5 tips to keep in mind while we are soaking up all of the season’s offerings:

  1. Know when to indulge, and when to hold back.  When faced with a buffet of choices, fill up on turkey, ham, and veggies, but go easy on gravy, stuffing, and finger-foods.
  2. Feed your sweet tooth, not teeth.  It is very easy to think, “Oh I’ll just have a small taste of everything.” But before you know it, you’ve had an entire day’s worth of calories on one dessert plate.  Instead, choose the 2 sweets that look most appealing to you, and half each of them with a friend (that’s right, for the equivalent of ONE dessert). Remember that there is often more than one occasion to enjoy such delicacies, so choose the best of what each has to offer and truly enjoy it.
  3. Beware of high calorie drinks.  A traditional Rum and Egg Nog can cost you over 400 calories and almost 20 grams of fat! That’s more than a typical slice of pizza! Alternatively, opt for lower calorie mixers, such as a club soda, or cranberry juice mixed with water.  This will save you over 300 calories, and all the fat, which you can then put toward that dessert you’ve had your eye on all night.
  4. Never arrive to a party on an empty stomach.  That is like going to battle without a weapon.  Instead, have a light, high fibre snack 1-2 hours prior and drink at least 2 cups of water. A salad topped with a boiled egg, or a bowl of cereal with fruit and
    skim milk are great options.  That way, once you’re surrounded by temptation, you’re more likely to resist overindulging.
  5. Stay active! The holidays offer us plenty of opportunity to get moving, which will help us avoid the dreaded January weigh-in.  Instead of making the meal the focal point of the gathering, why not organize an ice skating party? Or make a family event out of snow shoeing.  Even a simple walk allows you time to catch up with friends and work off some calories at the same time.

Keep these tips in mind during the next few weeks, as you celebrate with family and friends.  Lose the all-or-none belief that you must either abstain from every delicacy offered or gorge on all that you can get your hands on.  Be selective.  Allow each flavour, and each moment, to linger just a little bit longer.

Will losing weight make you fat?

A new study found that frequent dieting puts people at greater risk of weight gain than non dieting. In fact, regular dieting was associated with greater weight gain than genetics. The study, which was published  in the International Journal of Obesity, looked at over 4000 twins and found that, in those twins who regularly dieted, their weights were significantly higher than the twin who did not reguarly diet. Studies that look at differences between twin sets are good at eliminating the effect of genetics, since both twins would have similar genes.

Now this study certainly does not mean we should throw caution to the wind and eat beyond our needs. However, it does indicate that frequent dieting can end up leaving you further from your weight goals. That is why I always work with my clients to make lifestyle changes. By making modest, but long-term, changes with eating and activity, you can reach a healthy weight, and stay at that healthy weight. Sure, quick fixes that offer big weight loss in a short amount of time might seem appealing, but if it’s only going to make it easier for you to gain weight in the future, is it really worth it?

Healthy Tips for the BBQ

By FWF Admin | Published June 17th, 2011

Even though we haven’t seen much of the sun here in Halifax, it is in fact summertime. One of my favourite parts of summer is the barbeques. But, did you know that cooking meats at high temperatures can increase carcinogen formation in the food?  That’s right, our favourite grilled meats, including fish, can bring with them a serving of cancer-causing compounds.  High consumption of barbecued and/or fried meats has been linked to increased risks of colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancers. But there are steps you can take to make those grilled meats healthier, without losing any of the taste.

  • Marinate the meats before grilling and/or wrap the meats with foil to stop the juices
    from hitting the flame directly.
  • Use lower temperatures when possible and/or cook at high temperatures for shorter
    periods. While it may sound unappetizing, cooking your meat for a couple of minutes in the microwave before putting it on the barbeque can drastically reduce the amount of carcinogens that are produced, without greatly altering the taste and texture.
  • Be sure to scrape off any charred bits that might be on the meat after it’s cooked.
  • Serve your grilled meats with a healthy portion of antioxidant-rich veggies to neutralize some of the risk from the grilled meats.

And remember, clean your barbeque regularly.  Happy grilling!

What are whole grains?

By FWF Admin | Published May 25th, 2011

We all know that we should be eating more whole grains, but what exactly are whole grains?  Whole grains are simply seeds that have their original structure intact; that is they contain the bran, germ, and endosperm.  The bran and germ are the most nutrient dense parts of the seed, containing high amounts of fibre, protein, healthy fats, antioxidants and vitamins and minerals. Refined grains, on the other hand, contain only the endosperm portion of the seed, as their bran and germ are removed during processing. This reduces their nutritional value significantly by removing the majority of the fibre, healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.  Food manufacturers often prefer using refined grains as they have a longer shelf-life than whole grains, meaning that the loaf of white bread you bought can last weeks in your cupboard before it expires. Enriched grains are a hybrid of the two. They are made by first refining the whole grain down to the endosperm and then enriching back some of the nutrients lost through processing. Multigrain or organic grain products may contain different types of grains, but these grains may not necessarily contain the entire seed structure.  Clearly, whole grains are the preferred choice.  Some companies will advertise ‘whole grains’ on the label, but only contain a small amount of whole grain and a lot more of refined grain.  So to be sure your product contains mostly whole grains, make sure that the first ingredient listed is a whole grain.

Some examples of whole grains include:

  • brown rice
  • oats
  • quinoa
  • whole grain whole wheat
  • bulgar
  • millet
  • cornmeal
  • buckwheat
  • kamut
  • amaranth

There are so many different whole grain options, you will never get bored. Try out a new whole grain this week and take advantage of their exciting flavors and textures!

Written in collaboration with dietetic interns Angela Mathews and Kate Grozier






Fueling your activity

By FWF Admin | Published May 18th, 2011

Many of you will be running the Bluenose Marathon run this weekend in Halifax, and in preparation, I’ve compiled a few tips to help fuel your best run on race day.

Tips for Pre-race:

On the morning of the race, eat a small meal 1-2 hours prior to the run. Choose a meal that is low in fat and fiber, moderate in protein, and high in carbs.  Examples include:

  • cereal and milk topped with fruit, and a glass of juice
  • toast with peanut butter and banana, and a glass of milk
  • bagel with cream cheese and an apple

Drink at least 2 cups of fluid 1-2 hrs prior to run.  Take a sip of water or sports drink every few minutes of run

Tips for Post-race:

Eat a snack within 30 minutes of finishing run!  Snack should consist of carbohydrate and protein. Examples include:

  • Chocolate milk
  • Fruit and yogurt
  • Protein-rich granola bar (see recipe below)

Eat a full, well-balanced meal within 2 hrs of finishing run.  Drink 2 cups of fluid within 30 minutes of finishing run and as needed to prevent thirst thereafter.

Tips for Race Day:

Try to keep to normal routine!

  • Eat at same time
  • Eat familiar foods

Stay well hydrated in these final days leading up to race. Good luck!

See my healthy protein bar recipe.