Category Archives: nutrition

What a Dietitian Eats at Ribfest

This past long weekend I headed to my parents’ house to spend the last hurrah of summer with my family. My sister and her boyfriend recently moved back here from England, so we’ve been catching up on missed time! On our agenda for the weekend, like every Labour Day weekend, was Burlington’s Ribfest.

burlington-ribfest-2

Burlington actually has the largest Ribfest in the country, so it brings in some of the top “ribbers” (apparently that’s what they’re called?) in Canada serving up beastly racks of ribs along with other barbecue fare.

Barbecue can be a difficult cuisine to navigate when looking to make healthy choices. Between the fatty meats, sugar laden beans, fried side options, and coleslaw drenched in mayonnaise, there isn’t really much fresh fare. So what does a dietitian eat at a rib fest?

Ribs, duh. And some pulled pork, baked beans, coleslaw, and cornbread too. Oh and a few pieces of a blooming onion.

burlington-ribfest

I mean, you could maybe order more healthily by getting the BBQ chicken and removing the skin before eating, draining the excess dressing off the coleslaw, and bringing your own vegetables to round out the meal. Or you could not go to the ribfest at all, and opt to stay in rather than spending time with your friends or family.  That’s probably what some health magazines would tell  you to do.

But as a dietitian, I wouldn’t go for either of those options and I wouldn’t expect my clients to either. Life is about so much more than the pursuit of the ultimate healthy diet.  And frankly it really doesn’t matter what you eat on special occasions and once-a-year events like Ribfest – what’s important is how you eat the majority of the time in your day to day life. So enjoy your social life and eat some crap from time to time!

Your turn: What’s your approach to eating at events like Ribfest? What does balance look like to you?

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Why I don’t agree with kids menus

restaurant table

The other day I was browsing Yelp and came upon a review of a restaurant in which the reviewer commented that there was no kids menu at the restaurant. And that got me thinking – why do we even need kids menus? In fact the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I don’t actually agree with kids menus at restaurants at all!

As a Registered Dietitian, I recommend fostering healthy eating by not making separate meals for your children, as this won’t teach children to eat a variety of foods. I think this idea should apply whether you’re in the home or out at a restaurant. It makes me roll my eyes to see a restaurant with a diverse menu of foods offer such a limited “kid-friendly” menu to kids – usually consisting of burgers, chicken fingers, and grilled cheese. By restricting kids to such basic options, we’re not even giving them the chance to try new foods and flavours that perhaps they’ve never had the chance to try at home.

Not to mention, the options on kids menus are usually less healthy than some of the other items on the regular menu. Healthy is definitely a relative term when we’re talking about restaurants because all dishes tend to be less nutritious than what we would cook at home, but at least on the regular menu you’ll find vegetables, fish, and whole grains if you’re lucky. Whereas the kids menu, although smaller in portion size, tends to be lacking in vegetables, and high in refined carbohydrates and deep fried dishes. Why are we restricting kids to a limited menu of less healthy options?

I say ditch the kids menu and let children order off the regular menu. It will likely be too much food for their small appetites, but that’s what doggy bags are for. Parents could even split one of their dishes with their kid, as restaurant portions are usually large enough to serve two people anyways!

Let’s stop giving children “kid’s food” and just offer them “food”.

What do you think? Do you agree with restaurants having kids menus?

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7 Ways to Get More Protein at Breakfast

Read this post to learn ways to get more protein at breakfast!

If you’re reading this blog post, you probably eat breakfast. I don’t have any scientific data to back that up, but I’ve noticed that bloggers and blog readers alike tend to love breakfast (best meal of the day, am I right?)! So anyway, I’ll spare you my spiel about why breakfast is important.

Instead I’m going to get nitpicky and focus in on one nutrient that is often missing from many typical breakfasts – protein. We do a good job of getting enough at lunch, and often times too much at dinner (that 8 oz steak could feed two people!), but breakfast tends to be lacking.

So what’s the deal about protein – why should we be getting enough at breakfast? Protein is slower to digest, meaning it can help keep you satisfied for longer and keep your blood sugar more steady than a breakfast containing just simple carbs – this is one of the reasons why protein can help with maintaining a healthy weight. Research also suggests that spreading protein intake out evenly over the day is the best way to maintain and grow our muscles, which is beneficial for overall health (not just bodybuilders!).

With all that being said, here are a few of my favourite ways to get more protein at breakfast time:

1. Eggs

This is probably the obvious protein source at breakfast, but I think it warrants mentioning anyways. Eggs are great because they can fry up in just a few minutes, making them a fast choice. Are your mornings more rushed? Hard boil a half dozen on weekends so that you can grab 1-2 along with a yogurt and piece of fruit when you’re on-the-go. If you have the luxury of having more time on your hands in the mornings, whip up a skillet hash or even a strata that will make leftovers for your next few breakfasts.

Mexican sweet potato skillet hash with a fried egg and melted mozzarella cheese

2. Add some cottage cheese

When you saw this point you probably either nodded in agreement or scrunched up your nose in disgust – I know not everyone is a cottage cheese fan! But if you are, it’s a fantastic source of protein with 16 grams in just 1/2 cup. If your usual breakfast is toast, add some cottage cheese on the side topped with fresh fruit, or you can even try blending it into pancakes.

3. Make a better smoothie

Smoothies are a great convenient breakfast that whip up in just seconds. But if the only ingredient in them is fruit, you’re missing out on some important nutrients. Use milk or soy milk and add 1/2 cup Greek yogurt for some protein to make sure your smoothie keeps you full. And don’t forget some healthy fats from a tablespoon of nut butter or ground flax!

4. Boost your cereal

Breakfast cereal is usually low in protein – and if it boasts high protein content on the package, be wary and check the nutrition label – it’s probably high in sugar too! To make cereal a higher protein breakfast, pair your cereal with milk or soy milk rather than almond, coconut, hemp, or rice milk which are all lower protein options with only ~1 g protein per cup.

It’s the same story with hot cereal – it’s all about what you add to it! I pump up the protein in my oatmeal with these 5 tips, which make it a great post-workout breakfast after my strength training sessions at GoodLife Fitness.

Oatmeal with banana, blueberries, and almond butter

5. Sprinkle with seeds

Whether you like toast, cereal, or oatmeal in the mornings, a good sprinkle of seeds can help boost protein. Hemp hearts are especially potent, with 10 grams of protein in 3 tbsp!

6. Try beans at breakfast

Did you hear it’s the International Year of Pulses? So if you’re not already on the bean bandwagon, this year is a great time to start! Beans may not be thought of as a typical breakfast food, but  they make a great addition to a breakfast wrap with eggs, salsa, avocado and cheese. Or try experimenting with chickpea flour and make socca, a flatbread you can make in a pan in just a few minutes. Top it with savoury flavours like egg and avocado or sauteed mushrooms and cheese.

7. Make a healthy parfait

Not only do they look pretty and taste good, but they can be a fantastic source of protein! Use Greek yogurt, which gives you 17-19 grams per 3/4 cup serving, and layer it with fruit (use fresh or frozen, or try making a compote from dried fruit) and granola. Granola can be high in sugar, so keep your serving size to 1/4 cup – or make a homemade granola that’s lower in sugar!

Fig and Date Compote with Greek Yogurt and Toasted Almonds

Do you pay attention to protein at breakfast? How do you add protein to breakfast?

This post was written as a part of the GoodLife Fitness Blogger Ambassador Program, however all opinions expressed are my own.

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