Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

h1

Just Add Spice

November 23, 2009

Don’t forget to enter my POM juice giveaway!

I have a very big collection of herbs and spices in my pantry. I adore herbs and spices, and I like playing around with different flavour combinations in dishes. But it seems that I always come back to the same ones, because for some reason I just can’t get enough of them: cinnamon, cumin, red pepper flakes, oregano, basil, and rosemary. Those are my standbys: if I feel that I need a little something extra to jazz up a dish, I’ll toss in one or a combination of the above, and voila! Problem solved.

When we tend to gravitate towards the same kinds of foods, it’s usually because that food contains something our body really needs. We can learn something about what might be missing from what we can’t seem to get enough of. In Chinese medicine, it has to do with warming/cooling foods and the effect that these things have on the body. I was curious about the health benefits from the spices that I mentioned above, and what that might mean about what my body is lacking and therefore requires from external sources. This is an overview of what I found:

Cinnamon:

– 1 tsp of cinnamon contains the same amount of antioxidants as 1 cup pomegranate juice or 1/2 cup blueberries

– Contains polyphenols, which act like insulin and thus regulate blood sugar levels (diabetics, rejoice!)

– Has anti-inflammatory properties to prevent blood clots

– Boosts metabolism and aids digestion

– Protects against fungi diseases and can help with the healing process when you have the flu

Cumin:

– Helps with digestion and insomnia

– Boosts immune system

– Detoxifies and prevents against cancer

– Improves health of skin and skin disorders

– Combats respiratory disorders

Red Pepper Flakes:

– Rich in antioxidants

– Increases satiety, making us feel full faster and thus helps to control our appetites

– Boosts metabolism

– Kills bacteria that causes stomach ulcers and stomach cancer

– Clears congestion

Oregano:

– 1 tsp of oregano contains as many antioxidants as 3 oz of almonds and 1/2 cup chopped asparagus; gram for gram, it is 4 times as potent as blueberries when it comes to antioxidants

– Inhibits bacteria and parasite growth

– Very good source of nutrients such as fibre and iron

– Ancient Greeks and Romans used oregano as a symbol for happiness (aww!)

– Excellent source of vitamin K

Basil:

– Excellent source of vitamin K (I find that oregano and basil often go very well together, so it makes sense that they would have a similar nutrition profile)

– Very good source of iron, calcium, and vitamin A

– Good source of magnesium and potassium

– Blocks an enzyme in the body that causes swelling, thus helping people who have arthritis

– Contains flavanoids which prevent cell structure from being damaged by radiation and oxygen

Rosemary:

– Stimulates the immune system and increases circulation

– Improves digestion

– Contains anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce the severity of asthma

– Increases blood flow to the brain, thus improving concentration

– Fresh rosemary has 25% more manganese than its dried counterpart, but it also has 40% less calcium and iron than when it’s dried, so it’s good to use both interchangeably to reap all of the benefits

The Universal Food Rating System is as follows:

Excellent Source: the food provides more than 75% of your recommended daily value of that nutrient per serving

Very Good Source: the food provides more than 50% of your recommended daily value of that nutrient per serving

Good Source: the food provides more than 25% of your recommended daily value of that nutrient per serving

Spices for Health

I find it really interesting that so many of these herbs and spices have the same kinds of health benefits. And all of them are things which I know that my body really does need help with. I found the notes about digestion and insomnia particularly interesting for myself, personally. I’m looking forward to bringing this up with my nutritionist to hear what she has to say about all of it. It could be that my body needs extra help with all of those antioxidants, too.

How about you? What herbs and spices do you find yourself using repeatedly? Do you think that it might be partly because your body needs the properties and nutrients contained within those herbs and spices?

The above information about herbs and spices can be found in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, World’s Healthiest Foods, and Organic Facts.

Advertisement
h1

Poll: Which inner voice carries the most weight when you’re deciding what to eat?

November 6, 2009

Last month’s poll

Our last poll asked the question, How do you like your bananas? We had 67 voters in total: 6% never eat bananas, 72% prefer their bananas au natural (peeled and eaten plain), and 22% like to mix and mash them into other foods. Bananas are such a classic standby and they are a major player in a lot of healthy/healthified recipes. Go bananas!

This month’s poll

Yesterday afternoon I got to spend a lovely hour with my nutritionist Nicole. We have so much fun together! I could rave about her and our discussion, but suffice it to say that I really enjoy our appointments.

Right now, we’re trying to work on bringing awareness to my emotional relationship with food. I (and, Nicole pointed out, nearly everyone) have control issues and mine tend to gravitate towards food and exercise. When I become depressed or stressed out, I use food and exercise as a release. We talked about how this is not a bad thing: it is simply that I need to be aware of when I am turning to food or exercise to deal with something, and that I need to identify my mood at the time and figure out what the root cause is. Then I can work on changing perspective. Instead of using exercise to burn calories, for example, I should look at it as a way to burn off the extra energy and emotion that has built up.

Most of the time, these days, I’m already doing that. But talking to Nicole reaffirmed this and I’m going to work on it even more. Unless I can fully comprehend and deal with my relationship with food and exercise, it will be too easy to slip back into negative reasoning and thought processes.

This brings me to this month’s poll. Today’s question is rather a tricky one, but I’d love it if you all take the time to think about it and give the best answer you can! Nicole gave me a worksheet which describes the different “voices” going on in our bodies when we are making a food choice. Although there are usually many factors involved (we’re all about a holistic approach!), sometimes it’s one voice that crops up more often than the others. These are the basic voices from her worksheet:

1. Emotions: “Oh, I want that… I’m craving this… I must have that…”

2. The Mind: “I should eat that… I deserve to eat that… It’s not that bad…”

3. Tastebuds: “Oh, that would be tasty…”

4. The Inner Wisdom of your Body: “I know what would benefit me right now…”

Which voice tends to be the most dominant when you make your food choices? I think that my thought process, over the years, has gone, in general, from the Emotions (when I was a child) to the Mind (when my food issues first began) to the current Inner Wisdom, with bits of Tastebuds spattered throughout. I am not quite at the height of following my intuition as much as I would like to be, so that is my new challenge! Awareness is fundamental to everything that we do, so heightening and tweaking my awareness with intuitive eating is perfect.

Leave a comment below telling me about your thoughts on intuitive eating and to elaborate on your answer from the poll. I can’t wait to hear all of your opinions on this subject and your experiences with these kinds of struggles.

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook!

h1

Book Review and Giveaway: The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook

November 4, 2009

Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the Taza Chocolate Giveaway is… VeggieGirl! Email me with your mailing address and I’ll make sure you receive your vegan, soy-free, gluten-free, delicious dark chocolate to enjoy.

The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook Review

This book was sent to me by Rodale Books to review. Any time I see a book with a title like this one, I assume that it’s going to be along the lines of a fad diet. Thankfully, the title is misleading in that sense: this is not a fad diet cookbook. Hurray!

The cookbook and diet plan were designed by the editors of Prevention. The premise of this diet (and you know I use the term loosely) is to include healthy fats with every meal: specifically, MUFA’s (monunsaturated fatty acids). The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook explains what constitutes a MUFA, how best to incorporate them into our meals, and the value of the Mediterranean diet. Fact: when I was living in Spain for three months, the only exercise I did was lifestyle activities (lots of walking and chasing after the girls that I was au pair to), and I did not count calories or watch my food intake at all. Fact: The food that I ate was whatever my house mother cooked, which included an abundance of olive oil and other MUFA’s (dark chocolate with every meal, not even kidding). Fact: I felt fabulous, had bundles of energy, and lost several pounds over that time period without even trying. That was also the period in my life when I had the best body image and, looking back at pictures over the years, I definitely think that I looked the best at the time and was more comfortable in my skin than I’ve been at any other point in my life. The classic Mediterranean diet is, I believe, an incredibly healthy way to eat.

The Flat Belly Diet also goes on to explain the health benefits of MUFA’s and their role in reducing type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, chronic inflammation, breast cancer, and Alzheimer’s. MUFA’s are vital for proper functioning and this book really focuses on improving our health while still enjoying ourselves.

They begin with a Four-Day Anti-Bloat Jumpstart meal plan, which includes a meal-building formula. For example, lunch might be “1 protein + 1 dairy + 1 veggie + 1 glass Sassy Water. “Sassy water” is their combination of water with ginger, cucumber, lemon, and spearmint leaves to help with digestion.

The book includes meal plans and grocery shopping lists with vegetarian and vegan options. It looks at what foods to include regularly and substitutions for various kinds of food in case of allergies or dislikes. It also advises what foods to avoid and how to make every recipe in the cookbook a well-rounded meal.

The interesting thing that I found about this book is that it appears to be a healthy cookbook disguised as a fad diet cookbook. It has a few “success stories” throughout, which I’m never a big fan of, yet it stresses the importance of eating regularly and encourages the reader to not be afraid of healthy fats.

The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook has a beautiful layout with colour photographs, nutritional information for every recipe, and a broad range of different kinds of foods: breakfast, soup and sandwiches, salads and sides, vegetarian, seafood, poultry, meats, snacks, desserts. The ingredients in all of these recipes are real ingredients (no artificial sweeteners or pudding mixes that so many cookbooks, sadly, make use of with a heavy hand). At the back of the book is a serving chart with the different MUFA’s, such as almonds, Brazil nuts, flaxseed oil, pesto, soybeans and so forth, along with the recommended serving size and the corresponding number of calories per serving. There is also a conversion chart to make measuring easier for everyone.

I’ve tried a couple of the recipes, such as a dairy-free Creamy Broccoli Soup and the thin crust pizza, and both were delicious. Personally, my body doesn’t always enjoy a lot of high-fat foods; however this book will be perfect for the sisterroommate. We already agreed that when she returns from her travels in the spring, we will follow the meal plan included in this book and try it out: her major stumbling block when trying to eat healthy is that her body craves fattier foods, so this cookbook was basically designed for her.

I also received a Flat Belly Diet Pocket Guide, which has now taken a permanent spot in my purse. It’s fun to peruse and it includes shopping lists, calorie counters, meal plans, and really solid advice for eating out.

This is hands down one of the best cookbooks I’ve ever received. It is equally as valuable to me now as my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook is!

Rodale Books has kindly agreed to giveaway not one, but TWO copies of this cookbook to two lucky readers! To enter to win, ask any one or combination of the following questions: what is your favourite MUFA? How often do you tend to eat MUFA’s? What do you think of this kind of diet plan? What type of diet do you find works best for YOU?

You know the drill: it’ll be a random number generator unless someone makes me smile 🙂 You’ve got a week before I announce the winner!

h1

The 21 Foods List: Revamped

October 30, 2009

I asked and you answered. Thanks to everyone for your ideas with the 21 Foods List! Here it is, revamped; these are all the foods that I plan on making over the next year before my 22nd birthday, all of them from scratch and without the aid of bread makers/pasta machines etc:

1. Perogies

2. Pasta

3. Cinnamon buns

4. Jam

5. Marshmallows

6. Gnocchi

7. Baked donuts

8. Graham crackers

9. Cheesecake

10. Bagels

11. Pickles

12. English Muffins

13. Paella

14. Roasting a turkey

15. Nut butter

16. Yogurt

17. Pesto

18. Pate

19. Vegetable stock

20. Pita bread

21. Baklava

A couple others which I want to try but might not get accomplished this year, from your suggestions, are to make coffee, duck (I’m not sure how I’d prepare this- but the idea of tackling Peking duck is so intriguing and would be such a great challenge!), and lavender soup. At the beginning of October, as I was happily indulging in a square of layer cake that my awesome new roommate’s mum made, it crossed my mind that to make a layer cake would be another good one to add to this list. Therefore, I’m adding layer cake as a “bonus” bullet point to my 21 Foods List.

I have already crossed two off my list: roasting a turkey and making vegetable stock. They both turned out amazingly well! I roasted the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner with my mum looking on (following her directions- no one would trust me to bring along my own recipe because I’d likely try to “healthify” it and thus ruin it ;)), and I used a recipe from The Veganomicon for the vegetable stock. Both were simple and easy to do. There’s hardly anything to roasting a turkey! I was pleasantly surprised at the glorious simplicity of such a delicious dish (and, as my mum noted, if you’re using a butterball turkey like we do every holiday, it’s really just the combination of fat and salt that makes it. David Kessler, anyone?).

With the vegetable stock, the key is to use the “leftovers” from veggies. I threw in all of the ends of carrots and stumps of celery that are inedible (I saved them over the course of about a week), and besides that, the recipe just calls for one chopped onion, less than 1 tbsp of olive oil, and a pile of garlic. Delicious. It worked perfectly in my favourite split pea soup recipe. I’ve seen a lot of recipes to make vegetable stock which call for using a ton of vegetables, and I think it took me this long to make my own broth because I didn’t want to waste so many vegetables. But if you use the stumps, cores, peels etc that you wouldn’t eat anyways, vegetable stock becomes an incredibly economical and healthy dish. The best part about it, too, is that it only needs to simmer for a couple hours (throwing the veggies in with the water takes all of about 3 minutes), and it’s not overflowing with sodium! Even vegetable stocks that say “reduced salt” on them at the grocery store tend to have oodles of salt in them, so it’s nice to have that kind of control to ensure that there is either no salt, or very little, added to the homemade variety.

If you have any recipes for the above items on my 21 Foods List, please do send them my way. I’d love to try them out!

Also, for those of you who have been asking, here is my delicious bean ball recipe (click on link for more ideas for the best ways to eat them and for substitutions if you don’t have some of the ingredients readily available):

Energizing Protein-packed Bean Balls

Ingredients
1 can red kidney beans (rinsed and drained to remove any excess sodium)
2 heaping tbsp homemade ketchup (recipe below)
1 tbsp water
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
A few squirts of lemon juice
5 tbsp wheat germ
4 tbsp flaxseed meal
2 tbsp whole wheat flour
1 tbsp hemp seeds
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

2. Mash the kidney beans in a mixing bowl so that there are still some chunks of beans. Add the rest of the ingredients and use a spoon to mix everything together until it is well combined.

3. Roll the bean mixture into small balls. You should get between about 20 and 30 balls.

4. Spread parchment paper on a baking sheet. Place the balls on the sheet and spray them with some olive oil. Bake for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned on the bottom, then flip them and bake for another 10 minutes.

To make the ketchup: Combine 1 can tomato paste, 2 tbsp water, 1 tbsp agave nectar (or honey), 1/4 tsp sea salt, 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/8 tsp whole grain mustard, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp ground cloves and 2 tbsp cider vinegar. Refrigerate until use.

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for Taza Chocolate!

h1

Product Review and Giveaway: Taza Chocolate

October 28, 2009

Taza Chocolate kindly agreed to send me some of their products a couple weeks ago to taste-test and review. The reason why I first became interested in Taza Chocolate is because it is stone ground, organic, minimally processed, and direct trade (their press release states that they “always pay more than Fair Trade prices for our beans”). I like the fact that this company operates on a sustainability level to be more environmentally friendly and to produce chocolate which is of the best quality. Taza Chocolate also states that it is a member of Slow Food USA (which we had a lively discussion about back in April) and the ingredient list for their products is refreshingly short. This chocolate is dairy free, gluten free, and soy free as well.

I was given the opportunity to taste-test the Cacao Puro Chocolate Mexicano, Cinnamon Chocolate Mexicano, and the 70% dark chocolate bar. Before the sisterroommate left country for half a year, I asked her to taste the chocolate and tell me what she thought about it. She playfully agreed:

It’s very granular, but it tastes like original chocolate; it has a very pure base to it. It almost tastes a little barbaric, as though this is how they ate it at ceremonies in ancient times. It’s kind of sparkly, you can see the sugar in it… you can taste the sugar quite prominently. It would be really good melted in coffee. It has subtle overtones of rain-washed valleys.

(As you can see, the sisterroommate had fun with her review).

I also quite liked this chocolate, but I don’t think that the Chocolate Mexicano disks are the kind of chocolate I’d want to eat just by itself because the sugar granules are very large, so it’s a little bit too sweet for my liking. The dark chocolate bar is delicious by itself, however!

I tried using both kinds of Chocolate Mexicano in this amazing chocolate zucchini bread, and I can honestly say that this was one of the most decadently delicious breads I have ever made. The chocolate melted perfectly! I used less olive oil, added in some applesauce, and cut out the sugar (replacing part of it with agave nectar); the bread still turned out beautifully and I can’t wait to make it again with the Taza Chocolate.

I do not believe that chocolate is “a health food”, but this would be the perfect replacement in your diet if you normally like the sweet stuff. The cinnamon Chocolate Mexicano only has Dominican cacao beans, cane sugar, and Costa Rican cinnamon in it; the pure cacao has the same ingredients minus the cinnamon. The 70% dark chocolate bar contains Dominican Republic cacao beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter, and whole vanilla beans. These are all real ingredients, and for that reason, Taza Chocolate makes for a great treat.

Interested in trying Taza Chocolate for yourself? Leave a comment about your favourite way to cook/bake with chocolate, your favourite kind of chocolate, or anything else chocolate-related below to enter to win a 70% dark chocolate bar, 2 0z nibs, and Guajillo Chili Chocolate Mexicano! As always, if someone leaves a comment that really rocks my socks off, the prize is yours. Otherwise, I’ll be using a random number generator. Winner will be announced one week from today, on Wednesday, November 4th.

h1

Interview with a Raw Food Vegan

October 26, 2009

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet with a vegan raw foodist who lives in my city. We got together at my favourite cafe and wound up spending three hours chatting excitedly about health and nutrition. The time flew by and I’m sure we could have easily continued talking for the next three hours, swapping stories and ideas and research. It was one of the best possible ways to spend a Friday afternoon.

I went to our little interview knowing very little about the raw food lifestyle. I’ve learned some from reading Hanlie’s blog (she of the motto “Eat Produce, Not Products” that I adore), but aside from that, I knew virtually nothing. I’ve learned over the past couple years that many people in the medical profession don’t know much about nutrition, and that people who are interested and passionate in nutrition and health can be better informed than doctors or registered dietitians. Some experts in the field, such as Janel and Nicole and Gina, give fantastic advice and are incredibly knowledgeable. But I find that sometimes “experts” in health aren’t interested in considering alternative nutrition plans or working with what individuals feel comfortable with, and this is highly problematic. That is why I found it so refreshing to meet with Amanda and hear her views on raw foodism.

Amanda has a background in science from some of her university studies and she shares my passion for health and nutrition. She has been vegan for two years and a raw food vegan for one and a half years. Her 15-month-old son is also a raw food vegan, and her husband has just started this plan within the past month. The reasons why a person might choose a raw food diet are numerous, but one of Amanda’s reasons for it is because the living enzymes have a stronger nutrient content than cooked food.

The raw food diet creates even more controversy than the vegan diet. Some say that raw diets are very healthy; others say that raw diets are completely ridiculous and unnatural. I’m doing my best to keep an open mind when it comes to health and nutrition, and so I’m very interested in learning about alternative nutrition plans. My position on the nutrient content of raw vs. cooked food places more of an emphasis on balance: for many foods, the nutrient content might not necessarily be better or worse if the food is cooked or uncooked, but the nutrient content is different depending on how the food is prepared (raw or cooked- and if it’s cooked, the way it is cooked also has a dramatic impact).

A few years ago, if someone asked me what I thought about vegetarianism, I would have likely scoffed and said that being an omnivore is the most well-rounded, healthy way to eat. Once I learned more about vegetarianism, I came to the conclusion that if done correctly, it can be very healthy. After that, the issue of veganism came up; I was convinced that veganism is not a healthy option and that it is deficient in many nutrients. After my month-long vegan experiment, I realized that I’d been wrong: if done correctly, veganism, too, can be very healthy.

During my vegan challenge, I joked to others that I was thinking about trying out a raw food diet. The most common response from others was, “Ew. Really? Don’t do that. It’s not healthy.”

But I’ve learned my lesson, after my initial presumptions about vegetarianism and veganism. I’ve learned that most of the time, if we think that a diet/lifestyle is unhealthy, it’s because we do not know much about it. Being able to speak to Amanda was wonderful because I learned so much about the concept of a raw food diet.

I would now like to pose a question to everyone who maintains that raw food is “not healthy”: is the way that most people eat now, with eating some kind of processed food from grocery stores every day, “healthy”?

Even if the “processed” foods are things like loaves of bread, which most people would not consider to be all that processed, is it really “healthy” for us when we don’t know what half the ingredients are? We don’t have to chow down on bags of chips and fast food to still be eating food that isn’t healthy. I recently gave a speech for one of my classes about the misleading claims on nutrition labels, and I found it fascinating that a loaf of bread from the Safeway bakery counter contained 43 ingredients and half a dozen kinds of sugar, whereas if you bake bread yourself, you’ll use about five well-known ingredients with one kind of sugar. To me, that’s not healthy, if we eat bread which contains ingredients we don’t recognize.

Amanda told me that people concerned with her raw food vegan lifestyle never once approached her with concern when she ate processed foods. It wasn’t until she took an interest in nutrition and began to eat really healthy that the people around her began questioning her choices.

I found this interesting because the same sort of thing has happened for me. I went through junior high without anyone batting an eyelash at my intake of trans fatty packaged sunflower seeds, microwavable popcorn, Subway sandwiches, Slurpees, and KitKat bars. When I made the effort to lose a bit of excess weight and was eating Special K vanilla crisp bars and Cup-a-soups every day, people were still supportive of me. However, choosing to forego processed food as much as possible has led to an uproar of disapproval. It boggles the mind. Can anyone explain this phenomenon to me? Because I do not understand it. “Live a little! Enjoy yourself! You don’t have to be healthy all the time!” Well, guess what: I don’t have to eat crap all the time, either.

I believe very strongly that we can all benefit from eating natural, real, whole foods, and that each one of us should experiment with different foods to see what kind of diet best suits us as individuals. We’re all human, so we’re going to have a lot of stumbling blocks and obstacles in our way, but that’s part of what’s so great about it: the constant challenge means that we’re always given another chance to try again and make progress and learn what is best for our bodies and build a better relationship with them.

Amanda has clearly found that being a raw food vegan works for her. She used to wear glasses but no longer needs them. Her skin is clear, she has bundles of energy, and she emits a healthy glow (I sound like an infomercial here, but it’s true! I haven’t seen many people who look as healthy as her). Sometimes vegans and raw foodists have a sort of emaciated look to them, but Amanda has an inspiringly energetic, healthy look to her. She says that her son is equally as healthy and that her immune system has strengthened over the past couple years, too.

One of the common myths of a raw food diet is the length of time it takes to prepare and make food. However, Amanda told me that she can make food in five to 20 minutes, and she used to spend a couple hours each day cooking up healthy meals (just like I currently do- making things from scratch is rewarding but can be very time-consuming!). She has also found that the raw food diet is very cost-effective. She now spends less money on food for three people than they used to spend when there was just her and her husband.

“Raw food is a lifestyle, not a religion,” Amanda told me. I really loved that attitude. If Winnipeg doesn’t appear to be very accommodating for vegans, it is not a raw-friendly city at all. Because of that, a raw food vegan is going to run up against some difficulties in maintaining a wholly raw food diet. This is particularly true because there are no regulations for the label “raw” on food products. All a person can do, if they are interested in adopting a raw food lifestyle, is try to eat as raw as possible but allow that there are going to be a small percentage of meals that will not be raw.

I plan on trying a (virtually 100%) raw food diet for a month, but I think I’ll be waiting until January to do it- right now, things are a little too busy to jump into it completely. Over the next couple months I’ll be doing more research and trying out meals to slowly incorporate a few raw meals into my diet to make the transition a little smoother. A dehydrator and a food processor are two of the best kitchen tools when making the transition to a raw food diet, so I’m going to see if I can borrow those two tools from the mother dear and play with them before I try a raw food diet.

If you’d like to read more about the topic in the meantime, here are some interesting articles arguing both for and against a raw food lifestyle:

The Science Behind Raw Food

Raw Food Life

Is Raw Food More Nutritious?

My personal thoughts, at this stage, are that there appear to be health benefits to a raw food diet, but it might not be for everyone, and if someone were to try it out, they should definitely do their research to ensure that they are consuming a variety of nutrients. I also think that there are health benefits to cooked foods. We should, however, keep an open mind to all kinds of different approaches to healthy diets and lifestyles, and seek to learn more about them before we make wild assumptions about the positive or negative effects.

What do you think of the raw food diet and lifestyle? How much do you know about it? Would you be willing to learn more about it? I’m sure that there is a wide range of strong opinions on this subject and I want to hear all of your thoughts!

h1

POM Wonderful Blogger Harvest Tour Recap

October 23, 2009

One missed flight and two delayed flights later, I am home again in Winnipeg after a POMtastically wonderful Blogger Harvest Tour at the POM Wonderful orchards in California. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

The latter part of Day Two

After picking pomegranates on Tuesday, Janel gave a talk about the role antioxidants play as an anti-aging superpower. Her health and nutrition philosophy is the twin of my own. It was beautiful to hear her stressing the importance of eating real, whole foods. I had to restrain myself from jumping up and giving her a gigantic hug partway through her talk!

Then it was time for dinner at The Vintage Press. It ever you go to California- no matter what part you’re in- make a detour to Visalia so that you can eat at The Vintage Press restaurant. The interior is gorgeous, the owner is kindness in human form, and the food… I’ll be dreaming of the deliciousness of that meal for days:

PA200107Random things on a stick. They were tasty. That’s all that really matters anyways, right? 🙂 I believe these were mostly vegetables and a mozzarella ball in some kind of oil/vinegar sauce

PA200110Bacon-wrapped almond-stuffed date, crusty whole wheat bread, and melty cheese in puff pastry

PA200112Cream cheese and pomegranate arils layered on top of a fig

PA200115Mushrooms between layers of puff pastry with cream sauce

PA200116Sliced pears and mixed greens with pomegranate arils

PA200120Pistachio-crusted salmon in a white wine/lemon sauce

PA200122Pomegranate sorbet

I enjoyed the meal with Kristy and Eric (I had so much fun with them the evening before that I really wanted to spend a lot more time with those two!), and Heather and Janel. The conversation was engaging and the company, perfect. I’d be understating to say that it was a complete pleasure and delight to talk to them.

PA200121Me and Heather

PA200124Kristy and I

Jeff gave an incredibly touching speech about the POM Wonderful-blogger relationship which I think had us all choked up. He and Andrea were the most amazing hosts any of us could have asked for! Then we went on a quick tour of the restaurant.

PA200135The whole place was beautiful, but I especially loved the piano at the top of this winding staircase

Roni suggested the idea of walking back to the hotel, so some of us walked/stumbled back. I crashed as soon as I got to my room.

Day Three

I woke up early for some quickie strength training and an interval workout on the treadmill to burn off at least two bites of that decadently rich dinner from the previous night. Once we’d all eaten breakfast together, we packed up and drove to the POM plant for our tour.

There’s quite an involved process for ensuring that each pomegranate is in pristine condition, but essentially what happens is that each pomegranate moves along the conveyer belt…

PA210152

PA210149

PA210151

…and then it gets a pretty heart-shaped POM sticker further on down the line. Aww!

PA210182This is one of the biggest pomegranates ever! It’s about 5.5 inches in diameter

There were big banners hanging all over the processing plant with motivational phrases such as “Everyone matters at POM” and “Every drop of juice counts”. I loved the friendliness of the atmosphere.

It was also fascinating to see how the bottles are made and the juicing system itself. The bottles are made with recycled materials and even the husk of the pomegranate is squeezed for juice, so POM is very efficient in using every part of the pomegranate. I was impressed at how little goes to waste.

Every minute of this trip was unbelievable. The only thing I would have changed would be for it to have lasted longer- there was so much more to learn and so much more time I wished I could have spent with the other bloggers! It was nice to meet these fantastic people who have such an interest in health and food. Shirley explained to me all about the gluten-free philosophy, which I had known nothing about before. And I have to say that it was a lot of fun to meet the girl behind the infamous breakfast cookie, Gina, too- now I finally know how to make one.

The Harvest Tour was out of this world.

h1

Day Two of the POM Blogger Harvest Tour

October 21, 2009

We started off the morning bright and early with a continental breakfast at the hotel. From there, it was a long drive to the POM orchards, so we snacked on Wonderful brand pistachios along the way. The orchards were fantastic; there are 18,000 acres of pomegranate bushes alone (and yes, pomegranates grow on bushes rather than trees).

PA200041

Pomegranates as far as the eye can see

We also became very excited when we learned that there are almond and pistachio trees in the orchard too!

PA200019Almond!

Then we went up in two planes to do a fly-over. The little plane was a six-seater; the “big” plane had about 8 seats. Just for kicks, I went up in the air on both planes.

PA200050Me and Janel on the small plane

The orchards are beautiful and cover an enormous distance. The ride was very bumpy on the smaller plane too:

PA200040

After the fly-over, we ate lunch before heading back out to the orchards to learn more about pomegranates from the experts, and to pick pomegranates and do a little taste-test.

PA200086

After that, we snacked on some POMx bars (chocolate-dipped peanut butter flavour and chocolate-dipped pomegranate flavour) on the drive to Visalia, California. We did a lot of driving today, but I kind of liked that- it gave us all an opportunity to get to know each other better and learn more about everyone’s truly fascinating lives. It’s very refreshing to be surrounded by people who have an interest in health, and the other bloggers are some of the loveliest people I have ever met.

PA200094

In about an hour we’ll all be meeting up to hear Janel talk to us about nutrition. I’ve only spoken to her a few times but already it sounds as though our views on health are really similar, so I’m looking forward to it! We’ll be going to dinner later on at a nice restaurant, with a meal featuring pomegranates in every dish. Tasty.

PA200079

h1

POM Blogger Harvest Tour: Day One!

October 20, 2009

This morning I left my apartment at 6am to make it to the airport on time. A couple of airplanes later, with a quick stopover in Denver between them, I arrived in Fresno, California!

The POM company gave each blogger (there are 15 of us in total) a temporary credit card to pay for the taxi to the hotel, and I arrived at the hotel without a hitch about four hours before we were all planning on meeting together for dinner. A lovely little POM care package was waiting for me upon my arrival: it included a big environmentally-friendly tote bag full of goodies! Inside the bag was a folder full of the Harvest Tour information as well as a POM notebook, POM pen, POM usb device (with POM info and press releases on it, as I learned after I plugged it into my laptop), a bunch of beautifully designed cards with recipes for using POM on them, and a very large diagram of “how to open a pomegranate” (clearly it takes a lot of skill. Without step-by-step instructions I’m sure I could make as much of a mess with a pomegranate as anything else in my kitchen ;)). There was also a smaller box and inside it were a POM t-shirt (my size, yay!), POM Iced Coffee, and Spiced POM Cider. And a water bottle too, which was very much appreciated after the flight.

PA190008

I decided that I should spend the next few hours exploring some of Fresno before meeting everyone, so I asked at the front desk if there was anything interesting in the area. When she mentioned a Trader Joe’s nearby I’m sure I nearly shrieked with excitement! I went for a little walk to discover Trader Joe’s and it was heaven. I ended up buying a loaf of vegan sprouted bread, Better ‘n Peanut Butter, and a Clif Z bar. I haven’t ever seen any of those items in Canada before and I always hear bloggers raving about the latter two, so I just had to try them. I ate the Clif Z bar as a pre-dinner snack and the honey graham flavour was very tasty. I’m excited to take the bread and peanut butter back home with me. Some people get excited about seeing tourist sites when they go traveling; I get excited about places like Trader Joe’s.

After my expedition to Trader Joe’s, I went out walking in the other direction and discovered that the area that of Fresno that we’re in right now consists of large box stores and even larger parking lots. But that also means that there’s a gigantic mall only about 20 minutes walking distance away. I found a lovely pair of boots and am somehow going to fit that gorgeous purchase in my bag along with my Trader Joe’s treasures to take home to Winnipeg.

Then it was time for the dinner! We went to BJ’s Brewery and because there were so many of us it was difficult to get around to talking to everyone. I spent most of the evening talking with Kristy of The Wicked Noodle and Eric of Eric Rivera’s Cooking Blog. I think I spent far more of my time laughing than eating, which is always a good sign. They are both hilarious and it was wonderful to meet with other food and health bloggers! It’s also good to be able to finally put a face to bloggers that I see all over the blogosphere, such as Heather of Heather Eats Almond Butter, Tina of Carrots ‘n Cake, and Roni of Green Lite Bites– and to meet bloggers whom I’d never know about before this occasion. And of course, as soon as the meals arrived, everyone whipped out their cameras and started snapping photos. How I do dearly love bloggers! It’s just the beginnings, I’m sure, of an immense amount of fun.

I had a lettuce wrap with Thai shrimp and some calamari to begin, followed by a massive salad with heaps of Cajun shrimp, artichoke hearts, and fire-roasted red peppers, and then finished it all off with a taste of apple crumble and a few bites of cookies with ice cream on top. Delicious! But I’m especially looking forward to tomorrow night’s dinner, which will be a specially-prepared POM affair.

PA190015

It’s time for this health blogger to crawl into bed before a busy day tomorrow of touring the orchards! I love being a part of this experience.

h1

Poll: How do you like your bananas?

October 9, 2009

Last month’s poll

Last month we discussed ingredient lists which, truth be told, are a favourite subject of mine (as you probably already know if you’re a regular reader around here!). I’m ecstatic to report that out of 35 voters, 71% always read the front of the package, the nutrition facts table, and the ingredient list! 26% sometimes check the ingredient list, 3% don’t really care what’s in their food, and 0% say that they trust the nutrition claims made on the front packaging of food products.

Obviously, with the demographic of readers we have here, as always the results are going to be heavily skewed. But it is so nice to see such a high percentage of people reading ingredient lists. I fully support not trusting major food corporations, until those food manufacturers smarten up and start caring about our health rather than solely about making a profit.

This month’s poll

This week while I was studying researching procrastinating, I came across this post at The Delicious about bananas. It occurred to me that Sarah is onto something: no one really seems to “like” bananas.

I eat bananas in some form nearly every day. But I never eat just a banana. No. It’s mixed into oatmeal. It’s smeared with nut butter. It’s turned into bread or muffins. It’s used as a substitute for fats in baking. It’s tossed into smoothies. It’s sandwiched between a couple slices of bread or rolled inside a tortilla or pita. But to take it along with me as a snack, all by its lonesome? Preposterous!

Bananas are a fantastic source of nutrition, and as Sarah pointed out, just about any home will have a lonely bunch hanging from a basket in the kitchen. But who eats them? And how do they get eaten? Does anyone really care for bananas when they aren’t combined with something else? I’m interested to know.

That is our (very profound, thought-provoking, and deeply philosophical) question for this month’s poll! What’s your opinion on bananas? When I went to Cambodia, we made banana flower salad and used banana leaves to create cups. A woman I met there knew all about the fruit because she owned a banana plantation in the Caribbean. Bananas are a great source of vitamin B6 (vegans, are you listening? :)). All around, they’re a pretty great fruit!

The World’s Healthiest Foods website- one of my favourite resources to learn about nutrition- talks all about the health benefits of bananas if you’re interested in reading more.

Speaking of the World’s Healthiest Foods website, I’m thinking about writing a separate blog post for every food on the website, to spread the awareness about the nutrients in each of these foods and to post a recipe for each. Let me know if that’s something you’d all be interested in reading more about! I would probably pick a different food each week so that one out of every three blog posts would be featuring a World’s Healthiest Food (the other two posts each week would be regular Living Healthy articles).

Leave your opinions about the World’s Healthiest Foods idea or about your thoughts on bananas in the comments!

You still have a few days left to enter my giveaway for Mimi Spencer’s 101 Things to Do Before You Diet, too.