Recent blog posts - Aviva Allen's Blog

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Posted by on in Babies/Kids
Is Your Child a Carbaholic?

b2ap3_thumbnail_Is-Your-Child-a-Carboholic_20151228-033030_1.jpgDo you find that your child is drawn to carbohydrates over any other food category? You are not alone. While I do encounter children with preferences towards fruits and vegetables and some who love meat, a large number of children I see in my practice prefer to eat grains and other starches. Carbohydrates are energy-rich foods that often have a consistent texture and typically do not overwhelm the taste buds. These characteristics can be very appealing to children, particularly the more selective eaters or those who struggle with sensory or oral-motor issues.

While many adults tend to avoid them, in fact, carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of energy. Children are generally more active and have higher metabolisms than adults, which means they require a greater supply of easily accessible fuel. Restricting carbohydrates can greatly compromise a child’s energy level and even their brain function. The brain needs glucose to function properly so without a ready supply, kids may have a harder time staying focused and alert. Instead of cutting down on your child’s intake, simply choose quality carbohydrates that are high in fibre. Try using whole-grain varieties of bread, rice, pasta, pancakes and waffles, or at least using half and half. Vegetables, whole fruits (not juice), beans and lentils are also good sources of carbohydrates.

Restricting a child’s eating, whether you are restricting the quantity of food eaten or restricting the type of food they choose, can often lead to trouble down the road with the child sneaking food or binge eating. Teach your child to listen to their body. If they are drawn to carbohydrates, there may be a good reason for this. As a parent or caregiver, our job is simply to offer nutritious options from a variety of food categories but it is up to the child to decide which foods they are going to eat and how much their bodies need. When we try to try to override their decisions we are simply teaching them to ignore their body’s signals and often create unnecessary mealtime battles in the process.

Posted by on in Babies/Kids
Using Food as a Reward

b2ap3_thumbnail_Food_as_Reward.jpgIn my practice as a Kids’ Nutritionist, helping families eliminate mealtime battles is something that I do on a daily basis. A common challenge for parents is how to get their kids to try new foods or eat their vegetables and parents will often resort to bribery. They may say to their child “If you eat all of your vegetables, you can have a cookie for dessert.” Offering food as a reward is a tactic that many parents use, not only at mealtime, but as a way to elicit any particular behaviour from their child.

Rewarding children with food presents several problems:

1) It teaches kids to reward and comfort themselves with food. Providing food based on performance or behaviour connects food to mood and can lead to emotional eating.

2) It teaches kids to eat based on the availability of food, not based on hunger or structured mealtimes.

3) It teaches kids that reward foods (i.e. candy) are more valuable and desirable than other foods. Turning sweets into a reward elevates their status.

Health and medical organizations such as the Canadian Paediatric Society and the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) agree that food should not be used as a reward, a punishment or a bribe. Using food as a reward, as a punishment or as comfort sends a message that food leads to love and acceptance and can teach our children to seek out food for comfort or self-punishment.

A wide variety of alternative rewards can be used to provide positive reinforcement for children’s behaviour. Attention, praise, or thanks, are often more highly valued by children than a toy or food. Rewarding your child with privileges such as extra time doing an activity they enjoy or a special outing is an option. Offering toys, books, puzzles or games can be another motivating reward for kids. Consider using a point system or sticker chart where accumulated points could be cashed in for a larger prize. It is important to note, however, that these methods should not be used as a way to pressure your child into eating specific foods or quantities of food at mealtime.

In the long run, food rewards or bribes often create more problems than they solve. If you are struggling at mealtime and have been relying on bribery or threats to get your child to eat a particular food a specific amount of food, it is time for a new approach.

Why Your Child May Not Be Eating At School

b2ap3_thumbnail_Brown-lunch-bag.jpgOpening up your child’s lunchbox at the end of the day only to discover that they have eaten little to none of what you thoughtfully prepared is never a good feeling. When this happens, the first thing we often do is ask the child why they did not eat their lunch. Occasionally a child, depending on their age, is able to accurately articulate the reason, but most of the time we are given a handful of excuses that do not always paint the full picture.

Here are 3 common factors that can influence whether or not your child will eat their school lunch and tips for what you can do to help:

1. Insufficient time to eat - Most schools offer only 20 minutes for your child to eat lunch. For slow eaters, children who are easily distracted or those who love chatting with friends, this can be a concern.

TIP: Try to send your child with only one container that allows them to access all of the items in their lunch at the same time. Include easy-to-eat, nutrient-dense foods so your child can get more out of a smaller quantity of food.

2. Presentation/visual appeal - If the food does not look good, your child will not eat it. Consider how well the food will hold up by the time your child opens their lunchbox, particularly if you are preparing lunches in the evening. How the food is presented can make a huge difference, so investing in a good lunchbox can be helpful.

TIP: Look for a lunchbox that has divided sections to ensure that items do not get mixed together when your child throws around their backpack.

3. Sensory-based considerations - Extra sensitive children can be particular about the smell or temperature of their food. For example, my 6 year old will eat chicken at home but not served cold in his lunchbox (although his 4 year old brother will eat it cold).

TIP: Packing lunches in a stainless steel container can minimize lunchbox-related odours compared to using plastic containers. Experiment with the use of an ice pack to keep foods cool or an insulated container to keep foods warm to ensure your child’s food is at the right temperature for them.

*Some children may also be affected the smell of other kids' lunches and even the lights and noisiness the lunchroom. Addressing these concerns on an individual basis and often speaking to your child’s teacher or principle can help creating a more positive eating environment for your child.

Another point to consider when packing school lunches is what you are trying to achieve. This should not be the time to try to introduce your child to new foods. Offer familiar foods that your child enjoys eating. The goal for school lunches is to give your child energy to get through the day and fuel for their brains so they can focus on learning. Introduce new foods at home and once your child becomes comfortable eating that food, you can then begin incorporating it into their school lunches. If you are struggling with your child eating lunch at school, you may also consider beefing up their snacks to balance things out. Remember - snacks do not need to be “snack” foods. Just think of it as a small meal or another opportunity to eat.

Posted by on in Babies/Kids
Healthy Moms Toronto Discount Card

b2ap3_thumbnail_HMTgraphic2.jpgI have been working on something that I hope you will be as excited about as I am. Announcing the HEALTHY MOMS TORONTO DISCOUNT CARD!

Save money on products and services for the whole family while supporting local and like-minded businesses throughout the GTA.


The Healthy Moms Toronto discount card program will be officially begin January 1, 2016, however, the cards are now available for pre-order for just $20 (the price goes up to $25 once the year begins). Your card will arrive mid-October and you can start using your card at many of the participating businesses as soon as you receive your card.

Check out the website for an up-to-date list of participating businesses and click on their listings to see the discounts they are offering our members.

We are working hard to bring you amazing deals at the places you love to shop as well as introduce you to other local businesses you may not know about. We have over 75 participating businesses so far with new ones being added each week. As a Healthy Moms Toronto Discount Cardholder, you have the potential to save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars! Save on organic mattresses and linens, health and wellness services, organic meat and produce, healthy cooking classes, baby items, organic skincare products and so much more.

Not many shops in your area yet? Not to worry. We have many local, online businesses participating in the program and we are working on expanding to as many pockets of the city as possible. Still not sure if you would use this card? Do you eat food? Because the money you will save on food from the 4 different organic produce delivery companies alone will pay for your card and then some.

Pre-order your 2016 card today and start saving!

Posted by on in Babies/Kids
Your Baby Foodie

b2ap3_thumbnail_Baby-Foodie---crop.jpgWeaning your child onto solid food is about learning how to eat, exploring new textures and flavours and creating an enjoyable eating experience.  The window between six months to one year of age is a key time for helping your child develop his or her taste preferences and offering a variety of flavours during this time is essential. 

It is often assumed that babies prefer bland foods, but this is generally not the case.  Your baby actually begins to taste what mom eats through the amniotic fluid in the third trimester of pregnancy and continues to taste what mom eats through her breastmilk.  Adding flavourful foods into your baby’s diet from the start is the next step in taste development.   

b2ap3_thumbnail_Chefs-Daughter---logo.jpgChef’s Daughter is a new baby food delivery company by prominent Canadian Chef and Top Chef Canada finalist David Chrystian.  He is devoted to encourage building blocks of great taste and nutrition with his seasonally curated, never pasteurized jars of food containing the freshest possible produce, nutrient dense oils and fat, organic meats and sustainably caught fish. 

I met David and his wife, Katherine when they stopped at my booth at last year’s Baby Show with their daughter Charlotte.  The were in the process of launching their new venture and decided to attend one of my introducing solids workshops as they were committed to ensuring they met the developmental and nutritional needs of the babies they would feed, including the chef’s daughter.

b2ap3_thumbnail_chefsdaughter.jpgAs a chef, David knows which combinations of ingredients will work well together to bring out the best flavours.  He also works hard to include nutrient-dense foods that you may not feel comfortable working with at home.  As a kids’ nutritionist and feeding expert, I do not like to see babies exclusively being fed purees for an extended period of time and I always encourage parents to prepare food for their baby at home whenever possible.  While you are in this phase, however, doing your best to maximize the variety and quality of ingredients as well as the flavour potential will help to jumpstart your child’s love for nutritious and delicious food. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_ChefsDaughter2.JPGFor those who wish to supplement their homemade offerings with exciting flavours or those who want the benefits of feeding their child nutritious, freshly prepared food but simply don’t have the time or lack the necessary skills in the kitchen, Chef’s Daughter is a great option.  They not only deliver right to your home but also offer convenient vacation kits. 

Check out their website at chefsdaughterbabyfoods.com for more information.

Tips to Prevent Iron Deficiency in Children

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Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional problems in children.  Do you know if your child is getting enough?

Signs of deficiency may include pale skin, poor appetite, lack of energy/lethargy, slow weight gain, frequent infections, poor concentration or behavioural difficulties.

Iron is a mineral found in food that is essential for formation of hemoglobin that carries oxygen throughout the body.  Severe deficiencies can cause anemia, but many symptoms of low iron can appear much earlier, as the iron stores are depleting.  

There are many factors that can affect your child's iron levels, including genetics, premature birth, health conditions and specific dietary concerns.  For example, children who drink too much milk are at greater risk of iron deficiency.  This is because high calcium intake can interfere with iron absorption, plus, children will often fill up on milk, leaving less room for iron-rich foods.  

Tips to prevent iron deficiency:

•  When possible, breastfeed until the age of one.  Breast milk is relatively low in iron, but it is very well absorbed.  If breastfeeding is not an option, give iron-fortified formula until the age of one.  

•  Avoid giving cow's milk or milk alternatives until after the age of one.

•  After the age of six months, include iron rich foods into your child's diet.

•  Offer iron rich foods with vitamin C sources to enhance absorption.

•  Cook food in cast iron pots/pans as this increases the iron content of your food.

•  Include food sources of iron such as meat, poultry, fish and eggs as well as plant sources such as lentils, beans, grains, nuts/seeds, dried fruit and leafy greens.

If you suspect your child could have an iron deficiency, speak with a nutritionist or ask your doctor/pediatrician for a blood test.

 

5 Mistakes You Are Making With Your Picky Eater

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As parents, we all make mistakes. Every parent loves their child and wants them to be nourished. Parents can be thoughtful and well intentioned but sometimes we interfere too much when it comes to feeding our kids. This is especially the case when dealing with a picky eater and sometimes we end up doing more harm then good. This information is intended to help you, not to place blame or make you feel any worse than you already do about your child’s eating habits. Watch out for common mistakes and learn how to implement best practices. It is never too early or too late to create a positive eating experience for the whole family.

  1. Offering an alternative meal:



    When you prepare a meal for your child and they refuse to eat it, your instincts may tell you to find something else that they WILL eat. Parents will often go back into the kitchen and either pull out leftovers, find a quick alternative such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or prepare a completely new meal for their child in the hope that they will just eat SOMETHING. Offering your child an alternative meal teaches them that there is no need to ever eat what is being served or to try something new. They develop the expectation that you will always cater to them.

  2. Asking your child what they want to eat:



    As parents, it is our role to decide what is being served at meals and snacks.  We must ensure that meals are nutritionally balanced and small children are not capable of making these decisions.  Have you ever prepared a meal that your child has requested only to have them completely refuse to eat it?  Children typically do not know what they will eat until the food is sitting right in front of them. Even though the parents are responsible for planning the menu, your child will still have choices at mealtime.  They will be responsible for choosing how much to eat of the food that is being offered.

  3. Plating your child’s food:



    Placing food directly onto your child’s plate is something that many parents do.  We assume that we know what they are going to eat and putting it together on their plate for them seems easier.  The problem is that plating your child’s food limits their exposure to non-preferred foods and limits their opportunity to try something new.  For the child, plated food can feel like PRESSURE. When you put the plate down in front of them, they interpret it as if you are saying “these are the foods that I expect you to eat and this is how much I want you to have.”

  4. Bribing or negotiating:



    When a child feels pressured to eat, they will usually end up eating less, not more.  It should always be the child’s responsibility to decide which foods to eat and how much, from what is being offered to them.  Although you may feel that your child should be eating more, when we pressure them to eat a specific food or quantity, we are teaching them to override their body’s internal cues. You may be conditioning them to eat everything on their plate, even when they are already full.  It is important that we allow children to listen to their bodies and learn how to self-regulate when it comes to their eating.

  5. Feeding your child the same foods everyday:



    This can be tricky when you have a very picky eater on your hands.  How can you offer variety when you child only eats 10 foods?  If a child eats the same food everyday, prepared in the same way, (and in many cases, multiple times per day), you run the risk of them burning out on those foods.  One day they may simply refuse to eat it any longer. Seek professional help BEFORE this happens.  Children will often go through phases with the foods they eat but it is important to ensure that your child is adding more foods than they are losing.


Support for Parents and their Picky Eaters

If mealtime is a constant battle and you are struggling with your child’s eating, I invite you to contact me for helpful strategies that are tailored to suit the needs of your child and your family.

My approach is parent centred, which means I work with parents to support both the child AND the parents and ensure a healthy feeding relationship. 


For your convenience, I offer consultations via phone or Skype as well as in person at my midtown Toronto office.  Click here for more information about my services or to book an appointment.

Passover 2015: 8 Surprising Kosher for Passover Products

Roaming the Passover aisles in amazement of the latest offerings has become an annual tradition for me. While in the past I have presented my Dirty Dozen list, this year I came across quite a few positive additions so I wanted to put out a list that highlighted the good, the bad and the ugly. Find out which products are a #healthypassoverfind and which ones are a #passoverfail.

Here are 8 Surprising Kosher for Passover Products I found on the shelves for 2015:

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 1. Organic Coconut Water:

This is something that I was really shocked to see on the shelf this year. Coconut water has certainly gained popularity over the years due to its refreshing taste and electrolyte content, however, the majority of coconut water on the market is not organic. To find coconut water that is both organic AND kosher for Passover seems too good to be true.


 

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 2. Nut butters:

Over the last few years I have seen a number of companies producing kosher for Passover nut butter, including almond and cashew butters. On the one hand, I love that this is available (and there is certainly a convenience factor here), but at the same time, if you own a food processor, it is super easy to make yourself, tastier and it will save you money too. One small jar of almond butter retails for almost $20! Here is my recipe for Toasted Almond Butter if you want to give it a try.


 

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3. K for P Quinoa:

Quinoa has been a controversial Passover food in recent years. While some rabbis have given it their seal of approval, others have been reluctant to do so. At this point, it is less of an issue of whether or not Quinoa is permitted, but rather relating to potential cross contamination. Some rabbis were instructing that if the Quinoa was grown in a certain part of the world and was certified kosher (year round) that it may be used during Passover. Other rabbis were still erring on the side of caution. Well, we can finally end that debate as we now have certified kosher for Passover quinoa. For those who require this certification, it is a great option!


 

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4. Almond milk:

This was another item I was surprised to see. I guess it was inevitable. I mean, what is the dairy-free crowd supposed to eat with their rainbow-coloured Crispy-O’s breakfast cereal (see number 8)? Even though, assuming I had a Passover blender (which I don’t), I could easily make my own almond milk, I have to admit, I was a bit excited when I saw this. A closer look at the ingredient list quickly changed that feeling of excitement into horror. Cottonseed oil: a byproduct of the cotton industry and my biggest Passover pet peeve. Cottonseed oil is one of the worst oils we can consume and I look forward to a time when the kosher food industry will find an alternative. Cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops and since cotton is not a food crop, the same regulations for pesticide use do not apply. The seeds of the cotton plant are turned into oil using an extraction method involving harsh chemicals such as hexane as well as other chemicals used to bleach and deodorize the oil. Cottonseed oil is something that I avoid at all costs and while I expect to find it in many Passover products, adding it to almond milk for people to drink is just going too far, in my opinion.


 

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5. Organic Spelt Matzah:

The availability of organic spelt matzah is not new, although you definitely need to stock up early as the boxes tend to disappear from the shelves quickly. There are now even a few brands to choose from which is great to see. Something surprising this year was the newly added Non GMO Project Verified label, North America’s only third party verification and labeling for non-GMO (genetically modified organism) food products. While you might consider this to be redundant, since organic foods are non-GMO by default, it is still great to see Manischewitz showing its support.


 

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6. Gluten-free Oat Matzah:

This year there seems to be a huge surge in gluten-free items. While many Passover items are naturally gluten-free, others are quite processed, so it is essential to read the ingredients. This brand of oat matzah is not new, however, previously we have only been able to get it through special order. It is nice to see it becoming more accessible and while it does come with a hefty price tag, for those who cannot tolerate gluten, it is currently the only option. Even though there are a number of gluten-free matzah style crackers on the shelves, since the matzah used at the seder must be made of only flour and water, they would not be acceptable. Hopefully the claim of “new improved taste” is accurate since my past experience with this matzah has been disappointing, taste-wise.


 

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7. Organic grape juice – mini bottles:

We are not juice drinkers at my house, with the exception of a little grape juice for the kids on Shabbat and holidays. It is always frustrating when I need to purchase a large bottle when we only need a small amount. While small bottles have been available for some time now, this is the first time I have seen Kedem’s organic grape juice in small bottles and I am very excited about this.


 

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8. Fruit-Flavoured Crispy-O’s:

The amount of added food dye including yellow #5 & #6 and red #40 is not all that surprising in this rainbow-hued Passover standard. If you have ever tasted Crispy-O’s cereal, the fact that they have resorted to giving away “20% more free” wouldn’t surprise you either. What does surprise me is that this stuff is still being sold…which means that people are still buying it. Please stop!!



Wishing you a happy and healthy Passover,

Aviva

 

Milk Alternatives: How to make the best choice for your child

b2ap3_thumbnail_Milk_Alternatives.jpgMore and more parents are looking towards plant-based alternatives to cow’s milk for their children.  New products are constantly entering the marketplace and it is wonderful to see the variety of options available.  With so many choices, including milk made of soy, rice, hemp, coconut, flax, oats, quinoa, sunflower seeds and a variety of nuts, parents are left feeling overwhelmed and confused about which milk alternative is the best choice for their child.  

Before choosing a plant-based milk alternative, here are some points to consider:

1. Added ingredients:

Most plant-based milk alternatives will contain a range of added ingredients including thickeners and stabilizers, added oils and sweeteners.  Carrageenan is a thickening agent that many consumers are trying to avoid due to questions regarding its health and safety implications.  An increasing number of companies have been responding to consumer demands and removing carrageenan from their products.  If this is a concern for you, be sure the check the ingredient list as carrageenan is still found in the majority of milk alternatives on the market.  I always look for products with as few ingredients as possible and choose the unsweetened variety.  If necessary, you can always add your own sweetener.

2. Sensory-based considerations:

Other items that should factor into your decision include taste, colour and consistency.  Depending on what your child is already used to drinking and their individual preferences, they may enjoy one brand or type of milk more than another.  Rice milk, for example, is naturally sweet tasting and this can be appealing to children.  Some brands, however, can be quite watery or have a bit of a brownish hue so it is not always easy to seamlessly transition a child who is used to a thicker, whiter milk.  Hemp milk is a great option from a nutritional standpoint and has a very white colour, similar to that of cow’s milk, but the taste can be quite grassy.  Some kids love it, but it’s not for everyone.  If you need to add a hint of sweetness in order for your child to accept a particular milk alternative, it is always better to do this at home with a little honey (if your child is over the age of one) or pure maple syrup rather than purchasing a product which has already been sweetened with refined sugar.  This way you can control the quality, the amount and can gradually wean off of the sweetener altogether at some point.

3. Where will your child be drinking it?

If you be using a milk alternative as a base for smoothies, the taste, colour and consistency concerns are not going to factor in as much since they can be easily masked with the right combination of ingredients.  An important consideration is whether or not your child be drinking this at daycare or school.  If so, chances are that nut-based milk alternatives such as almond, hazelnut or cashew milk will not be an option for them.

4. What are your child’s specific needs?

Think about why you feel the need to offer your child a plant-based milk alternative.  Perhaps there are certain dietary restrictions involved such as a milk protein allergy, dairy sensitivity or lactose intolerance.  Maybe you are a vegan family or making a personal choice to avoid cow’s milk (or milk from other animals in general).  Consider what you are trying to achieve.  Are you trying to wean your child from breast milk or formula and want another type of “milk" to transition to?  Are you looking for an easy way to ensure nutrients in your child’s diet?  Calcium and fat are important nutrients, however, they do not need to come in liquid form.  Rather than simply examining what is in your child’s cup, take a look at their diet as a whole.  A child with a good appetite and a balanced diet that includes a range of nutrients does not necessarily need to drink milk, whether it be from plant OR animal origin.  If you are trying to supplement your child’s diet, it may be helpful to have a nutritionist look at your child’s diet to determine the best way to fill those gaps.  Coconut milk, for example, can be a great way to include more fat into your child’s diet.  In Canada, however, coconut milk is not fortified with calcium so you would need to look elsewhere if ensuring calcium is your goal.

**Note: Some families enjoy making their own plant-based milk alternatives, such as almond milk.  This can be a very tasty beverage, just be aware that even though almonds and almond butter are an excellent sources of calcium, homemade almond milk is not.  When you make almond milk at home, the almond meal is strained out in the process, along with most of the calcium.  The reason that store bought almond milk contains approximately 30% of your recommended daily intake of calcium is because it is fortified.  

Hopefully this will help you navigate the supermarket aisles with a little less anxiety.  I encourage you to try different brands and different types of milk alternatives until you find one that both you and your child are happy with.  Keep in mind that you do not need to find just one.  In my nutrition practice, I will often recommend combinations of milks in order to achieve a specific taste profile or balance of nutrients.

Aviva Allen is a Kids’ Nutritionist specializing in helping parents with their picky eaters.  For more information about services, upcoming workshops or to set up a phone, Skype or in-office appointment, visit www.avivaallen.com.

Posted by on in Babies/Kids
How Much Food Should My Child Be Eating?

b2ap3_thumbnail_How-much-food-should-my-child-be-eating.jpgAs parents we all go through periods where we worry about how much our kids are eating.  This is especially true when dealing with a child who is underweight or seems to have a small appetite.  It is also true when dealing with a child who is overweight and sneaking food.  Yet even when we are dealing with a child who has a perfectly healthy weight, parents will often still wonder if their child is eating enough or too much and how this will affect their future growth and eating habits.

While it is not our job as parents to determine how much our kids eat, there are ways in which we can support them in their eating.

Don’t interfere

Young children are very good at self-regulating if we let them.  This means not interfering with their quantities by the use of pressure tactics. They are the only ones who know how much their bodies need.  Even though at times they may eat more or less than they need, they will usually make up for this by making the necessary adjustments at other meals.

Planned meals and snacks

Planning scheduled meals and snacks is one of our feeding responsibilities.  Your child should be allowed to eat as much as they want at each sit down meal or snack and will be better able to regulate their amounts compared to being allowed to graze throughout the day.  Snacks do not need to be what we tend to think of as “snack foods”.  Think of them more like small meals and ensure the same balance that you would at breakfast, lunch and dinner.  We should be offering our kids 4-5 opportunities to eat throughout the day so that would mean 1-2 snacks.

Proper spacing between meals and snacks

Use snacks to support mealtime and space them out properly to ensure your child comes to the table hungry, but not too hungry.  If you wait too long, some children will be cranky and more likely to have a meltdown at the table while others may overeat.   If your meals and snacks are too close together, your child will be more likely to reject what is offered at the table or eat only a small amount.  This often results in parental pressure to eat in the form of negotiations and bribery.  Your child may legitimately not be hungry and teaching them to ignore their internal huger cues can lead to trouble down the road.

Ultimately it is not our role to determine the appropriate quantity for our children to eat.  We provide healthy and balanced meals and snacks. We provide them with a positive mealtime environment. We provide them with structure.  Then we need to take a step back and let them do their job.  Sometimes they will eat too much, sometimes they will eat too little and sometimes they will not choose to eat from all of the important food/nutrition groups but we need to let them make these mistakes in their eating and then learn to make up for them.

For advice on nutrition and feeding that is specific to your child and your family, call/email or book online to set up an in-office, phone or Skype consultation.

Posted by on in General
Healthy Meals for Busy Families

b2ap3_thumbnail_Healthy-Meals-for-Busy-Familiies.jpgWith our busy schedules, getting a healthy meal on the table is not always an easy task. Lack of time, lack of inspiration and lack of energy can be major challenges but with proper planning, healthy meals are possible for your family!

1. Plan meals for the week: This is probably the single most important thing you can do so please don’t skip this step. Every weekend, take out a blank calendar for the week and plan your dinners. Some have success with theme nights, for example, Monday is Italian food, Tuesday is Mexican and Wednesday is Asian inspired. Over time, you can compile a list of recipes for each theme that your family enjoys and this will make it easy to reference when planning your menus. You can even schedule in some take-out or prepared meals to fill in the gaps at first.

2. Prepare a shopping list: Once your menu is complete, it is a good idea to create a shopping list. Shopping lists are helpful for staying on budget with your grocery shopping, but also important to insure you have all the essential ingredients on hand to prepare the recipes you have planned.

3. Prep in advance: It can be helpful to do some of the prep work in advance, particularly when you only have 30-45 to get dinner on the table. Leafy greens can be pre-washed and dried before storing them in the fridge. Peeling and chopping vegetables can be done the night before for a dish you plan to cook the next day. If you can’t find the time to do this, many grocery stores offer the convenience of packaged, chopped vegetables and pre-washed cooking greens. This convenience comes with an added cost, of course.

4. Batch cooking/Freezing meals: Spend an hour or two on the weekend preparing a few items for the week. You could cook a large pot of soup or a pot of rice, for example, to last throughout the week. 
If you are generally cooking for four people, try cooking for eight instead and freezing the leftovers for another week.

5. Crockpot: Slow cooking is a great way to ensure a hot meal is ready when you get home from work. It typically involves a small amount of prep work, which can be done the night before 
or in the morning. Then just throw all of your ingredients into the Crockpot, turn it on and walk away. Until you become fairly confident in your slow cooking abilities, be sure to look for recipes specifically designed for use in a Crockpot.

Check out the recipe section of my website for healthy recipes the whole family can enjoy!

Posted by on in Babies/Kids
Is Your Child Getting Enough Protein?

One of the top concerns for parents is often - is my child getting enough protein?  This can be a particular concern for picky eaters and those who have trouble with the texture of meat, eggs or beans.

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It is generally recommended that 10–35% of your daily calories come from protein. These are the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for different age groups:

Children ages 1 – 3     13g

Children ages 4 – 8     19g

Children ages 9 – 13   34g

Girls ages 14 – 18      46g

Boys ages 14 – 18      52g

A small piece of chicken, for example, would provide 14g of protein, which works out to an entire day’s worth of protein for a toddler.  One egg and a handful of almonds would also yield 14g of protein.  Even with the pickiest of eaters, most children are able to meet their protein needs.

So if you have been worried about your child’s protein intake and as a result, putting pressure on them to eat more protein-rich foods, put the chicken down and take a deep breath.  Chances are they are getting exactly what their bodies need.

Note: If you believe there is a real concern, do not hesitate to bring this up with your child’s healthcare provider.  If you would feel more comfortable having a professional look at your child’s to ensure they are getting a balance of nutrients, an individualized nutritional consultation would be recommended.

Posted by on in Adventures in Food
What's New in Health Food

This past weekend, I visited the CHFA (Canadian Health Food Association) trade show and had an opportunity to learn about some exciting new products heading our way.  I also had a chance to sample some other goodies that you may or may not have tried yet. Here are some of the highlights:

 

Breakfast:

Love Grown Foods - Power O's: A breakfast cereal made with beans and lentils! They offer a few flavours, and although I'm not a fan of sweetened cereal, the original box is a healthier, unsweetened alternative to traditionally made "O" shaped cereals with a high amount of fibre and protein. (lovegrownfoods.com).


Snacks:

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The Good Bean - roasted chickpea snacks: Chickpeas are soaked and then roasted with sea salt to make a tasty and crunchy snack. I don't love the ingredients in all of their flavours but the Sea Salt variety I would definitely recommend.  They make a nice alternative to nuts that you can send to school.  My 3 year old is definitely NOT a bean lover and these are his new favourite snack.  Also a great source of protein and fibre. (thegoodbean.com)

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Way Better Snacks - Simply Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips: These gluten-free chips contain sweet potato, sprouted quinoa and chia seeds along with the more traditional corn.  A good amount of fibre, iron and protein compared to ordinary tortilla chips.  WARNING: These chips are very addictive. (gowaybetter.com)

 

Gluten Free Pasta:

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Tolerant foods bean/lentil pastas: One ingredient organic pastas that are gluten-free and high in protein, fibre and iron.  Available in red lentil or black bean varieties that include Fettuccine, penne and rotini shapes.  I didn't care for the black bean pasta but we all enjoyed the lentil fettuccine, including the kids. The pasta contains 13g fibre and 21g protein per serving! The downside is they are VERY expensive.  You can, however, order them online from the company directly and save when you order in bulk as well as through costco.ca. (tolerantfoods.com)

 

Dairy-free Yogurt:

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So Delicious coconut milk yogurt: This dairy free product will soon be available in Canada in two new unsweetened varieties - Plain and Vanilla.  I had a chance to taste them at the show and they both had a smooth/creamy consistency and the vanilla added a nice hint of sweetness.  (sodeliciousdairyfree.ca)

 

Frozen Treats:

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Frozen Coconut: An unpasteurized non-dairy ice cream made with fair trade, organic raw coconut milk and 100% raw agave nectar.  Coming soon to Ontario. (frozencoco.ca)

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Coconut Bliss: Two new items to watch for... A new ice cream flavour: Chocolate Walnut Brownie and their popular Salted Caramel flavour will soon be available in an ice cream bar! "Delicious caramel with a hint of salt, dipped in organic fair trade chocolate" (coconutbliss.com)


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Deebee's Organic TeaPops: Organic tea and fresh fruit popsicles. These tasty treats contain no refined sugar and use only fair trade teas, including 3 caffeine free flavours. The products were created by Dr. Dionne Laslo-Baker, a mom AND doctor who has completed years of study into the effects of chemicals on fetal development, so you know there will only be the best ingredients in these popsicles! (deebeesorganics.com)

Plant-based Milks and Other Beverages:

 

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Isola Bio:
This company offers a variety of organic plant-based milks, but the one that stood out for me was their Rice-Coconut blend.  Not as thick as straight coconut milk and the addition of the rice milk adds a natural sweetness without added sugar. No added oils or carrageenan. (isolabio.com)


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So Nice Organic almond milk: This almond milk is available in original or unsweetened and you can find it in the refrigerated aisle.  It is organic AND made without carrageenan. I had a chance to taste them and the unsweetened variety was probably the best packaged almond milks I've tasted so far. (sonice.ca)

Coming Soon...

 

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Seva 100% Pure Maple Water: Pure organic maple sap straight out of the Laurentian Forest maple trees in Quebec. Think of it like coconut water...but LOCAL. Similar to coconut water, maple sap is full of minerals, antioxidants and electrolytes. I really loved this product! It was so refreshing. (drinkseva.com)


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Earth's Own Cashew Fresh: This new product will become available in early 2015.  It will come in original or unsweetened and will not contain carrageenan. This was pretty delicious.
(cashew-fresh.com)

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Earth's Choice Canned organic coconut milk will soon be sporting a BPA-free label (earthschoice.ca)


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So Delicious is currently working on a carrageenan-free coconut milk.  It will likely become available in the US market first, but eventually will make its way up north. FINALLY!! (sodeliciousdairyfree.ca)

Posted by on in Babies/Kids
Picky Eaters vs. Problem Eaters

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Picky eating is very common among children but how do you know when it is just a passing phase or when there is a real problem that needs to be addressed?

Here is a brief comparison of what you might see with a Picky Eater compared to a Problem Eater:

1) A Picky Eater will eat at least one food from each food texture or nutrition group whereas a Problem Eater may refuse foods from an entire group altogether.

2) A Picky Eater is usually able to tolerate a new food being on their plate and may even touch or taste it (although often reluctantly) whereas a Problem Eater may have a complete meltdown when presented with a new/non-preferred food accompanied by a complete refusal.

3) A Picky Eater may experience a "burn out" when a particular favourite food is eaten on a daily basis, but if a short break is taken, they will often return to enjoying that food.  A Problem Eater, however, will often not reintroduce these lost foods, resulting in a decreasing number of accepted foods in their repertoire.

4) A Picky Eater will have a decreased range of foods in their diet, typically eating at least 30 different foods.  A Problem Eater will have a very restricted range of foods in their diet, usually less than 20 foods.

5) A Picky Eater will frequently eat different food from the rest of the family but will usually eat at the same table.  A Problem Eater will almost always eat different food from the rest of the family and will often sit separately at a family meal.

Does this mean that a Problem Eater cannot be helped? Not at all!  A Problem Eater can be more challenging to work with and the process of improving their eating habits will often take longer.  The more common strategies that may be effective when dealing with a Picky Eater may not work with a Problem Eater, leaving parents feeling frustrated and defeated.  Often parents' concerns are brushed off by their family doctors or pediatricians who will advise that "It's nothing to worry about. Your child will grow out of it."  Depending on the nature of the challenges your child is experiencing, involving the support of other health professionals such as a nutritionist, pediatric occupational therapist or speech language pathologist who specialize in feeding may be beneficial.  Getting to the root of the feeding difficulties is a very important part of this process.

Does this mean that a Picky Eater does not need help? Not necessarily.  If your child's eating is affecting their health in any way or causing stress or anxiety for you or for them, then it is important for you to seek help.  Early intervention may prevent a Picky Eater from becoming a Problem Eater.

Read more about my approach to dealing with Picky Eaters here...


Posted by on in Adventures in Food
Healthy Options at the CNE

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While most of us have come to accept that the food building at CNE is not a destination for healthy eating, this year you will find a few pleasant surprises.  You will still find old favourites like Tiny Tom's Mini Donuts, celebrate over 50 years at the CNE.  You will, of course, find standard fare including pizza, fish and chips and poutine.  You will also find a number of newer innovations including a Bacon Wrapped Deep Fried Mars Bar, The Krispy Kreme Donut Burger and "The Behemoth" - not just one, but TWO grilled cheese sandwiches with a burger, bacon and more cheese in the middle. There is even The Chocolate Spread - a whole booth dedicated to food involving Nutella, which is apparent by the display of multiple 5kg jars. 

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The CNE has become well-known for these over the top creations, but amidst all of the trans fat, there were a few spots that were a welcomed contrast:

Wild Child's Kitchen: This was certainly not something I expected to see in the CNE Food Building.  Fresh Smoothies and juices made with (some) organic ingredients, raw vegan "cheese"cake bites, salads and wraps and tacos/nachos with cashew "sour cream".  Vegan and gluten-free!

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Ghazale: Middle Eastern food with a nice selection of fresh salads and vegetarian dishes.  This booth had one of the most vibrant and colourful displays of food in the building.

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Eative: Offering sugar-free and dairy-free sorbet, Eative uses only one ingredient in their products: Fruit.  They puree their own fruit and then add this "fruit juice" to an electric mixer where it is combined with liquid nitrogen and immediately freezes.  The sorbet was so tasty, I unfortunately ate it all before realizing I didn't get a picture of it.

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Mama's Pizza: For those on a dairy-free diet, you can still enjoy a slice of pizza at the Ex!  Mama's Pizza has a vegan pizza option made with Daiya Cheese.

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What I also enjoyed seeing was the food directory where you could search for foods by category but there were also helpful symbols indicating which booths offered alternatives such as vegan, nut-free, gluten-free and dairy-free options.

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If you are planning to head down to the Ex this year, I encourage you to support these businesses and perhaps we will see more like these in the future.  I don't think that the over-indulgent items will disappear, but it would be nice to balance that out with some healthier choices and options for those with dietary restrictions.

Posted by on in Babies/Kids
Encouraging Kids to Drink Water

Are you having a hard time getting your kids to drink water?  Some children love drinking water from the start, while others need a little extra encouragement to hydrate with water. 

If drinking more water is a new initiative for your family, try explaining to your kids about why you are making this change together.  b2ap3_thumbnail_20130603_132052.jpgSimply explain, in an age-appropriate way, how water is so important for our bodies and why it is a healthy choice to make every day.  Creating a water-friendly environment is also key, so make sure water is always accessible, whether your kids are indoor, outdoors or on the go.

Make drinking water a life-long habit for your kids by starting with these 5 tips:

1. Limit other beverages: Avoid pop and other sweetened beverages and limit milk/milk alternatives and fruit juice.  There is only so much liquid your child will be able to drink in a day and you want the focus to be on water.

2. How does your water taste? Children generally have more sensitive taste buds than adults and may not enjoy the taste of tap water.  I know I can certainly taste the difference.  If this is the case, you can try purchasing a water filter or having filtered or spring water delivered by companies such as Cedar Springs.  They are even available in glass jugs and can be used with or without a cooler dispenser.

Another option is to add fresh fruit to your water.  Slice up any combination of lemons, limes, oranges, cucumbers or fresh mint and place into a pitcher of water.  Frozen berries are also great in place of ice cubes.  This will enhance the taste of the water and also make it more appealing to drink with the addition of vibrant colours. 

3. Set an example: Have you ever noticed that you feel thirsty when you see someone else taking a sip of their water?  It's a great subtle reminder for them to take a drink, and great way to keep yourself hydrated at the same time.  So make sure to your kids see YOU drinking water (and not pop or alcoholic beverages) whenever possible.  Spoken reminders are important too, as long as it doesn't start to feel like nagging.

4. Travel with water: Take water with you on the go.  It is cost-effective and eco-friendly to carry a reusable water bottle, rather than purchasing bottled water.  I prefer insulated stainless steel bottles such as these bottles from S'well or Klean Kanteen as they will keep your water cool for up to 24 hours.  I  prefer drinking room temperature water and with this bottle, I can keep it in my car during the winter and it doesn't get too cold and in the summer it prevents my water from heating up.

5. Make it fun! Let your child choose the colour of their water bottle.  At home, try offering water in a glass with a straw as this can often help kids (and grown ups) drink more.  Try a reusable straw such as this one from Strawesome.  If your child needs some extra motivation, keep a chart on the fridge so that they can track how much water they drink.  You can have a reward system, or even start a water drinking contest for the competitive members of the family.

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Once again, my father (Rabbi Wayne Allen) and I have joined forces to bring you the Passover Dirty Dozen List.  We collaborate on this project because keeping kosher for Passover presents us with two different kinds of challenges:  Halachic (matters of Jewish law) and nutritional.  Many of the kosher for Passover products on the supermarket shelves are convenient but are usually not particularly healthy.  While some consumers realize this, many are still unaware of just how unhealthy these products can be.  I recognize that time is a huge factor and not everyone wants to make everything from scratch.  My message is simply to make yourself more aware of what's inside of these products and try to minimize your use of packaged/processed foods, over Passover and year-round.

Our 2014 list includes foods that are extremely unhealthy, totally unnecessary or just downright silly! Some of these may make you cringe, some might make you laugh out loud…but hopefully none of these will end up in your shopping cart.

Here is our Dirty Dozen list for 2014:

1. Mac & Cheeze:

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I definitely laughed out loud when I spotted this gem on the shelf.  Fake "mac": noodles made of various starches and egg powder.  Fake "Cheeze": artificial flavour and turmeric for colour.  That's right…no actual cheese, which is likely the reason they had to spell it with a "Z".  Of course, no Passover product would be complete without the use of cottonseed oil (see number 4).  The 620mg of sodium per 1 cup serving it quite impressive too.  But where they really get you here, is the giant box that it comes in.  You would assume you could get a good number of servings out of it, or at least be able to feed a family of 6 for dinner.  Yet the box contains only 2 small servings of 1 cup each…cooked!  This is false advertising and likely done to take up more shelf space and mislead you into thinking you are getting a good value.  Packaging a product in such a way so to suggest the contents will yield an amount far greater than what it will actually be borders on fraud.  The codes of Jewish law rule explicitly that animal intestines, for example, must not be inflated to make them look larger.  Deceptive packaging can be construed as violation of this law.

 

2. Fruit Slices - Jelly Mini:

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These brightly coloured candies which are covered in sugar don't exactly scream out "healthy", but my issue is how can they get away with calling these "fruit slices"? Do they want people to believe there is some fruit involved?  In fact, not one bit of fruit can be found in these "fruit slices".  The first ingredient is sugar and it contains a variety of artificial flavours and colours including FD&C yellow #5, FD&C yellow #6, Red #40 and FD&C Blue #1.  Artificial food dyes have been linked to a number of health concerns including hyperactivity and other behavioural issues in children, migraines and cancer.  Why don't you just pour some sugar into your mouth and call it a day.

 

3. Mini Mandlin:

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Here we have a classic example of a Passover food that has transitioned into an everyday food, available all year round in every supermarket's kosher aisle.  These artificially coloured yellow crunchy bits are typically added to chicken soup at the table.  Consider this: a chef takes pride in seasoning their food to perfection.  Adding something like this to your bowl may be interpreted as insulting to the chef.  Poor etiquette, if you will.  I understand that some people simply enjoy adding a bit of crunch to their soup, but why not use the eight days of Passover as an opportunity for a "soup nut" detox and perhaps it will carry over to the rest of the year.   So unless you are nutritionally deficient in yellow dye #5, this product should not make its way into your cart.

 

4. "100% PURE" Oil of Cottonseed:

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Cotton is considered to be one of the world's "dirtiest" crops due to the heavy use of pesticides.  Since cotton is technically not a food crop, many chemical pesticides can be sprayed, which would otherwise not be allowed.  These pesticides are concentrated in the seeds and then they are turned into oil for our consumption.  The oil is also extracted, refined, bleached and deodorized using harsh chemicals processes.  You can certainly choose another oil for your Passover cooking needs, but if you buy any packaged Passover food, cottonseed oil is difficult to avoid.  Cottonseed oil has become the oil of choice for Passover products.  Although the oil comes from seeds which are kitniyot (meaning small and grain-like and may be confused with grains that can become chametz), the oil is permitted since derivatives from inedible seeds are  rabbinically allowed.   A better choice would be extra virgin olive oil, which as long as it bears a year-round kosher certification, it would not require special Kosher for Passover certification.

 

5. Passover Bagels:

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If a product is Gebrokt, it means it is made with matzah meal to which water was added.  Some Jews avoid eating these foods during Passover for fear of it turning into chametz.  Thankfully, they can relax and enjoy a nice potato bagel! But seriously - we have 357 days of the year to eat bagels - you can't go eight days without one? While the idea of bagels on Passover just doesn't seem right to me, the cottonseed oil and/or shortening, 11g of fat and 500mg sodium per bagel seems even more outrageous.

6. Toasted Coconut Marshmallows:

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With ingredients like sugar, glucose and fish gelatin, it is not surprising to learn that marshmallows do not exist in nature. The kashrut of marshmallows is contingent on the ingredients used in its manufacture.  The principal ingredient in marshmallow is gelatin, a product that is typically derived from the bones, hides and skins of animals through a process of the hydrolytic conversion of collagen, the fibrous protein constituent of bones and connective tissue.  The gelatinous matter that is the hallmark of kosher marshmallows will instead derive from fish or plants. Coconut covered marshmallows have always been a popular Passover treat, second only to the Passover macaroon, perhaps.  What confuses me about this bag of fluff is the claim of being fat free (per serving) clearly indicated on the front of the package, while if you check the nutritional panel on the back, it actually contains 2.5g of fat per serving.  I think they also should have chosen a better slogan. "Healthy body, healthy spirit" is not exactly what I have in mind when I think of marshmallows.

7. Parve Kishke:

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Nothing says delicious like imitation cow intestines!  Author Leo Rosten correctly notes that kishke is made according to the cook’s ancestry, palate, spices, and patience.  My great grandmother would make a filling of matzah meal, schmaltz, kosher salt, pepper, and sweet paprika and painstakingly stuff it into a casing of cow intestine.  The stuffed “derma” would first be boiled in water and then browned in the oven.  The result was a crispy yet chewy skin and a starchy, flavourful middle.   Slices of kishke could always be added to cholent.  It is a quintessential Jewish comfort food.  Kishke was a treat because it was so labour intensive, therefore only served for special occasions.  From a health perspective, this imitation kishke is a double whammy.  The use of partially hydrogenated cotton seed oil gives you a delicious serving of trans fat with a side of pesticide residue.  According to my great grandmother, love is expressed through food.  To her, the best way to express her love was by spending hours in the kitchen.  Making food that everyone enjoyed and watching them take pleasure in eating it was what made her happy.  You may be able to reproduce the kishke taste with a bunch of chemicals (although I'm sure many kishke enthusiasts would argue this), but you can't reproduce the experience.


8. Chrayonnaise:

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Chrain is the Yiddish word for prepared horseradish.  Its root – pardon the pun - goes back to the twelfth century or earlier.  The sharpness of the horseradish is usually tempered by an addition of beet juice, giving it a red-ish purple colour.  For Jews of Eastern European background, chrain is the condiment of choice for gefilte fish, a traditional Passover food.  Enter the newest fusion condiment: Chrayonnaise.  It's pretty much how it sounds - a mixture of horseradish and mayonnaise.  As with most Passover mayo, you will get your dose of cottonseed oil (first ingredient) along with sugar and preservatives to "protect flavour".  But don't forget the beets.  While this product does contain actual beets, apparently they were not red enough, because the manufacturer felt the need to add some FD&C Red #40.  Why do we really need this product?  To schmear on our passover bagels, of course.

 

9. Matzo Ball Soup - "Ready to Serve":

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If you are thinking that someone's bubbie made a nice big pot of matzo ball soup and ladled it into a jar for you to enjoy in a convenient, "ready to serve" way - think again!  Typically, matzo ball soup involves a chicken soup base, but you will not find any chicken in the list of ingredients on this jar.  This is a parve soup, so in an attempt to match the colour and flavour of chicken soup, MSG, sugar and our old friend yellow dye #5 are thrown in.  At almost 1000mg of sodium per ONE CUP serving, you are looking at nearly half of your recommended daily intake in just one small bowl of soup.

 

10. Ma Puree - "100% natural mashed potatoes":

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The box highlights "100% natural" with an image of a whole potato.  Granted, the box does contain potato flakes as its sole ingredient, but we all know that potatoes don't grow in boxes.  Just boil some potatoes and mash them - it's quite easy to do.  Potatoes are fairly inexpensive and taste much better than the instant varieties.  Although this may be a time saver, to me this is just another example of how the Kosher for Passover industry wants us to spend more money on foods that are completely unnecessary.

 

11. Blueberry Muffin Mix:

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Can you spot the difference between these two boxes of blueberry muffin mix?  If you look closely, you will see that one is made with real blueberries and the other is made with artificial blueberries.  Hmmm…which one would you choose? First of all, I find it quite odd that they need to offer this as an option.  Is there a new wave of blueberry allergies that I need to be aware of? Let's do a little comparison.  The box with the artificial blueberries contains similar ingredients as the one with real blueberries, including shortening made of partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil (trans fat), but the imitation version also contains blueberry flavoured bits (alginate, propylene glycol, potassium sorbate, artificial flavours and colours).  Yet even the box with real blueberries isn't quite so simple.  Its "blueberries" consist of: wild blueberries, sugar and cottonseed oil.  These "blueberries" do not contain artificial flavours like the imitation ones do, but not to worry - they threw some of that into the the rest of the muffin mix anyway.

 

12. Bulk Baby Fingers - "Try me in a bowl of milk"!:

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We just couldn't resist adding this to our list.  What exactly are "baby fingers" and why do we need them in BULK??  Don't get me wrong when my kids were babies, their fingers were quite delicious.  But dipping them in a bowl of milk is going a bit too far.

Our Advice:

Focus on eating REAL food.  If it comes in a box - leave it on the shelf!  Of course, there will be a some exceptions for essentials like matzah. Just try to stick to whole grain varieties to avoid constipation ;-)

 

Have a healthy and kosher Passover!

For a selection of healthy, Passover-friendly recipes, check out The Organic Kosher Cookbook - Holiday Edition: PDF version is now available for download!

 

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Rabbi Wayne Allen is a recognized authority on Jewish law. www.rabbiwayneallen.ca

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Aviva Allen is a Kids' Nutritionist and author of The Organic Kosher Cookbook.  www.avivaallen.com

 

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The most well-known food of the Jewish holiday, Purim, is the Hamentashen: a three-cornered cookie made with a variety of sweet fillings. Typically, a hamentashen is made with white flour and filled with a sugary poppy seed, cherry, apricot or prune filling.  This healthier version is made with whole grain spelt and brown rice flours and naturally sweet fillings that contain no added sugar.

These photos are from last Purim.  It was my boys' first time making hamentashen.  As you can see, they are not all perfect triangles, but they did create something new of their own...the hamen-taco!

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Hamentashen

Yield: 2-3 dozen

1/4 cup EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1/2 cup CHILLED MAPLE SYRUP

2 EGGS

1/2 cup UNSWEETENED APPLE SAUCE

1/2 tsp. PURE VANILLA EXTRACT

1 Tbsp. LEMON ZEST (1 Lemon)

1/2 tsp. SEA SALT

1 tsp. BAKING POWDER

1 1⁄2 cups BROWN RICE FLOUR

2 1⁄2 cups WHOLE SPELT FLOUR

(Plus 1/2 cup WHOLE SPELT FLOUR for rolling out the dough)

Filling*

1 cup UNSULPHURED DRIED APRICOTS

1 cup PRUNES

2 cups HOT WATER


Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.

  2. To prepare filling, place each dried fruit in a separate glass bowl or measuring cup.  Add hot water to cover (approximately 1 cup each) and let soak for 10 minutes.

  3. Drain and reserve the liquid.  Place one of the dried fruits into a food processor with 1 Tbsp. reserve liquid.  Process until a paste has formed, adding more reserve liquid as needed. Remove and set aside.  Repeat procedure with other dried fruit.

  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil and maple syrup.  Add eggs, apple sauce, vanilla and lemon zest and continue whisking until smooth.

  5. In a medium bowl, combine remaining dry ingredients.  Slowly pour dry ingredients into the bowl of wet ingredients and mix well until a ball of dough is formed.

  6. Taking 1/4 of the dough at a time, use a rolling pin and roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of approximately 1/8". Use the rim of glass or mug to cut circles in the dough.  Dough scraps can be combined and rolled out to make more hamentashen.

  7. Fill each circle with 1 1⁄2 tsp. of filling and press into three-cornered cookies. (Press two sides together and pinch the corner that is formed. Then fold the third side over and pinch together the other two corners.)

  8. Place hamentashen on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper and bake for approximately 15 minutes. Remove and let cool completely.


Notes

* Apricot and prune can be substituted with other dried fruits, according to preference.

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Copyright © 2014  AvivaAllen.com. All Rights Reserved.

Posted by on in Adventures in Food

 

Pomegranates are packed with nutrients, including antioxidants and vitamin C. Many people do not buy them simply because they are unsure how to get the seeds out or find it too messy.

There is actually a secret to getting out the pomegranate seeds in a quick and mess-free way...

Step 1: Cut the pomegranate into quarters.

Step 2: Place the pomegranate into a large bowl filled with water.

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Step 3: Gently pull apart the pomegranate while keeping it submerged in water.  Use your thumbs to pop the seeds out of the membrane.

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Step 4: Once all of the seeds have been removed, you will notice that the membrane pieces float to the top of the bowl, and the seeds sink to the bottom.  Carefully pour some of the water out along with the membrane (or you can use your hands or a slotted spoon).  Pour the remaining water and pomegranate seed in a fine mesh strainer along over the sink.

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Step 5: Enjoy!  If you want to save them for later use, store in the refrigerator.

 

Posted by on in Adventures in Food

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Since my oldest son is sensitive to gluten, I am always on the look out for gluten-free products that both of us are happy with.  For my son, this means it needs to look and taste good, while for me, it is important that it meets the nutritional standards I look for as a nutritionist.  This is often a challenge when it come to bread products.  They are typically full of many undesirable ingredients in their attempt to mimic the wonderful sensory experience of "real" bread that we all love so much. And then there is the issue of taste...or lack there of. 

So today, I was staring at a leftover turkey burger in my fridge when it occurred to me...Why not make the burger INTO the bun!  So after lightly reheating the turkey burger in the toaster oven, I cut it in half, lengthwise.  I spread some mustard onto the inner sides of each burger slice and then placed slices of avocado, tomato and our homegrown/homemade pickles in the middle.  Brilliant!! 

Whether you are gluten sensitive, trying to limit your carbs, following a Paleo diet or just looking to put a new spin on your traditional style burger, you must give this a try!

b2ap3_thumbnail_crib-mattress.jpgAs adults, we spend about 30% of our lives in our beds, but your baby will spend about 70% of their time sleeping, so you want to make sure that they are sleeping and resting in mattresses of only the highest materials and best quality. Because babies spend much of their time in their cribs and in the nursery, focusing on creating the healthiest environment possible is of great importance to many parents.  Babies also have more sensitive skin than adults and are more sensitive to chemicals. Organic products provide a safer alternative for your baby and your home.

Even though organic mattresses are often more expensive, avoiding all the chemicals was very important to me when I was pregnant with my first child.  So we ended up decided to buy a used crib and put the money we saved towards the purchase of a new organic crib mattress from Organic Lifestyle.

I recently had a conversation with Dihan Chandra, owner of Organic Lifestyle - an online green boutique that specializes in creating a healthy indoor environment for the home.  I have been shopping at Organic Lifestyle for the last 5 years and love the quality products they carry as well as the expertise they have to offer.  Dihan always does his research before offering any new products to his customers so I know I can trust every item I purchase from Organic Lifestyle.  I had a few questions for Dihan about organic mattresses and wanted to share his responses with you.

1. What are the problems with conventional mattresses?

Dihan: Essentially, it's the number of chemicals like formaldehyde, polyurethane foam and fire retardant chemicals that are included in products we sleep on.  Fire retardant chemicals are from a by gone era when people used to fall asleep with cigarettes in bed. Formaldehyde (common use is in embalming human bodies) is used to help preserve the wood / bed materials so that your bed & mattress lasts longer.  Polyurethane foam is from a petrochemical base which is known to off-gas VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which in turn, some have been shown to be carcinogenic.  Today, what this amounts to is that we inhale this chemical concoction as we sleep. To make matters worse, we re-introduce ourselves to this every 7-10 years when we replace our mattress.

2. What makes organic mattresses different?


Dihan: Organic Mattresses are associated with being expensive - that's because the cost to make it without short cuts are expensive.
For example, the cost to grow, feed & maintain sheep over years to sheer its wool versus cost of making chemicals in a lab.  However,  price-wise organic mattresses are comparable to mid-high quality conventional mattresses available at big box stores like Sleep Country & The Brick (queen mattresses range from $2000-$2500).  So why wouldn't you spend the money on something that you know is certified organic and have Peace of mind?

Organic mattresses contain no synthetic materials so no off-gassing.  Instead, materials like organic cotton and chemically untreated stainless steel innerspring coils or natural rubber are used.  There is also no off-gassing of fire retardant chemicals as wool acts as a natural fire retardant.

•    NO synthetic pesticides
•    NO synthetic fertilizers
•    NO genetically modified organisms
•    NO carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic chemicals
•    NO endocrine disruptors
•    NO non-biodegradable detergents, degreasers, or surfactants
•    NO chlorine bleach
•    NO plastisols
•    NO other synthetic chemicals

If concerned about potential wool allergy, there are other inert fire retardant substances like baking soda & hydrated silica that is consider safe by the FDA.  Just ask the question from your mattress manufacturer - What are they using as a fire retardant - even some of the so called "green" mattress companies use kevlar based fire retardants - Would you feel safe knowing you are inhaling this as you sleep?


3. What should we look for in an organic mattress?  Are there any differences between them?

Dihan:

  1. There is a lot of greenwashing, especially for products carried in bigger box stores, or example organic cotton cover but filled with polyurethane filling - so ask what's inside.  Safer materials for mattresses include organic cotton cover, natural rubber made using the Dunlop process or chemically untreated stainless steel innerspring.
  2. Type of fire retardant options - Look for wool or baking soda & hydrated silica.
  3. Have the mattresses been tested for potential off-gassing or presence/concentration of toxic chemicals?


Organic Lifestyle provides material contents as well as its certification online:
http://www.organiclifestyle.com/how-to-decide/how-are-organic-lifestyle-mattresses-made/

If you have allergy concerns, there are options - latex, wool free, dust mite resistant options.

Here is a good comparison chart:
http://www.organiclifestyle.com/organic-mattress-blog/organic-mattress-comparison-chart/

 



Organic Lifestyle store is a green boutique that specializes in creating a healthy indoor environment for the home.  They carry natural bedding and mattresses, baby products, clothing and more.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to know more, visit www.organiclifestyle.com or check out their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/organiclifestyle.


 

***ENTER TO WIN***

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Enter this contest for a chance to win a natural wool or shredded rubber youth-size pillow from Organic Lifestyle!

Contest is open to North American residents only.  Free shipping of the pillow - winner can choose either the toddler-size wool pillow or the dust mite resistant shredded rubber pillow.  Prize value is approx $75. Contest ends Monday, August 12, 2013 at 11:59pm.  Winner will be randomly chosen and notified on Tuesday, August 13, 2013.

How to enter:

Send an email to aviva@avivaallen.com with the words "contest entry" in the subject line and in the body of the email, please include your full name, email address and phone number.

* The winner will be announced on my Facebook page so be sure to "like" the page if you would like an update to show up in your newsfeed.

Posted by on in Adventures in Food

Check out this handy guide to nuts...and seeds too!

 

Posted by on in Adventures in Food

You MUST try these super delicious treats.  I created these this week while experimenting in the kitchen with my sister and they were a HUGE hit.  They are so easy to make and the recipe contains only 2 ingredients!  It is also a great activity to do with kids of all ages.  They will have a blast mashing the dates and rolling them into balls.  Try them and let me know what you think...

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Almond Date Rolls


Yield: Approximately 25


2 cups RAW ALMONDS
25 MEDJOOL DATES


Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Place 1 cup of the almonds onto a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, or until centre of almond is golden in colour.  Let almonds cool completely, then roughly chop and set aside.
  3. Remove pits from dates then place into medium bowl.  Mash dates well with a fork or with your hands.
  4. Grind remaining 1 cup of almonds in a food processor.  Remove ground almonds and add to bowl of dates and mix well.
  5. Using a teaspoon, take a heaping scoopful of the date/almond mixture and roll in your hands to form a ball.
  6. Roll each ball into the chopped toasted almonds until it is well coated.
  7. Refrigerate until serving and enjoy!


For more delicious recipes, visit www.avivaallen.com

b2ap3_thumbnail_Digestive-issues.jpgConstipation in children is, unfortunately, a very common problem.  When a child is not having a bowel movement often enough, when they do go, it is typically hard and dry and this can cause them to strain and experience pain.  The anticipation of this can further aggravate the situation as children tend to "hold it in" in an attempt to avoid the pain.  Your child may start to experience bloating, smelly gas and complain of tummy aches.  Constipation can cause a great deal of anxiety for a child and is a stressful time for both the child and the parents.

If left untreated, long-term constipation can lead to more serious health concerns, so it is best dealt with as soon as possible.

Here are just a few tips to help get things moving:

1. WATER: Staying hydrated is very important for digestion and is the first thing to address when dealing with constipation.  There is only so much fluid a child is going to drink in a day, so often water ends up being replaced by beverages such as juice or milk.  If your child does not drink enough water, try reducing or diluting other beverages to increase their water intake. 

2. FIBRE: If your child's diet does not contain enough fibre, this could be contributing to the problem.  But simply loading up on fibre is not always the answer.  Increasing intake of fibre without a sufficient intake of water can further aggravate the situation.  Everyday foods that contain fibre include fruits and vegetables, whole grain, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes.  If your child is a picky eater, it can often be challenging for them to include enough fibre-rich foods.  "Sneaking" these fibre-rich foods into their diets is an option, however, it is not a long-term solution.

3. PROBIOTICS: Beneficial bacteria in the form of probiotics can help tremendously for children with digestive issues.  There are many differences between the strains of probiotics on the market so choosing the most effective probiotic for your child's individual situation is important.  Many people think that yogurt is a good way to increase beneficial bacteria but this is not always the case.  There is a huge difference in quantities of bacteria found in therapeutic forms of probiotics compared to those found in most commercial yogurts. 

4. ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS: Omega 3 fats in the form of fish oil or flaxseed oil can help by lubricating the stool.  Including these healthy fats on a daily basis can get things moving more easily.  They can be given right off the spoon, or added into smoothies or a bit of applesauce, but they should not be heated. 

5. POSSIBLE FOOD SENSITIVITIES: If you have tried many of these suggestions and your child is still having difficulties, you may want to explore the possibility of a food sensitivity.  Common foods such dairy or wheat can cause constipation in sensitive individuals, however, traditional allergy testing would not necessarily pick up on this.  A supervised elimination diet can often help get to the bottom of it. 

Constipation, whether it occurs in children or adults, can be a complicated issue.  Almost always there will be nutritional factors, but emotions and stress also play a large role.  Each one of us has a unique situation so there is not one solution that will resolve the issue for everyone. If after your best efforts, the constipation still does not improve, please consult with a healthcare practitioner. 

Aviva Allen is a Toronto Nutritionist specializing in prenatal, infant and child nutrition
. For more information, or to book an appointment, visit www.avivaallen.com.

Would you like a free ticket to the Green Living Show coming up April 12-14?

Use this link before April 1 to receive your FREE admission:  www.ecoparent.ca/form/green-living-show-free-ticket

Come visit me at the show...I will have a booth in the EcoParent Village and will be presenting a workshop - Sunday at 1pm - on Greening your Kids' Lunchboxes.  Pre-register for my workshop and you will have a chance to win a Litterless Lunch Pack including Lunchbots, Neat-O’s, Wean Green & Klean Kanteen, valued at $80!

 

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Posted by on in Adventures in Food

After 5 great years working at Pande Family Wellness Centre, I am sad to be leaving, but it is time for me to move on to new opportunities.

I am excited to announce that as of April 2013, my nutrition practice will be moving to Thrive Natural Family Health located at 110 Eglinton Avenue East.  


I look forward to seeing you there!

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Keeping kosher for Passover presents us with two different kinds of challenges:  Halachic (matters of Jewish law) and nutritional.  Many of the kosher for Passover products on the supermarket shelves are convenient, but are usually not particularly healthy.  While many consumers realize this, many are unaware just how unhealthy these products can be.


Here is a list of our Dirty Dozen for 2013:


1. Cottonseed Oil

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Cotton is considered to be one of the world's "dirtiest" crops due to the heavy use of pesticides.  Since cotton is technically not a food crop, many chemical pesticides can be sprayed, which would otherwise not be allowed.  These pesticides are concentrated in the seeds and then they are turned into oil for our consumption.  The oil is also extracted, refined, bleached and deodorized using harsh chemicals processes.  You can certainly choose another oil for your Passover cooking needs, but if you buy any packaged Passover foods, cottonseed oil is difficult to avoid.  Cottonseed oil has become the oil of choice for Passover products.

Although the oil comes from seeds, which are kitniyot (see number 5), the oil is permitted since derivatives from inedible seeds are  rabbinically allowed.   A better choice would be extra virgin olive oil, which as long as it bears a year-round kosher certification, it would not require special Kosher for Passover certification.


2. Passover M
argarine

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Margarine is full of trans fats which are linked to heart disease and an increase in "bad" cholesterol.  This margarine, for example, contains a whopping 3.5g of trans fat per Tablespoon!!  The trans fats are created from the process of partially hydrogenating vegetable oils.  Many of the year-round margarine also contains partially hydrogenated oil, but the Kosher for Passover margarine is a double whammy, since the oil being used is cottonseed (see number 1).

If you aren't having a meat meal, we would suggest just using real butter, which is what margarine is trying to mimic in the first place (minus the artificial flavours and preservatives). If you prefer margarine for its spreadability, try keeping your butter at room temperature instead of refrigerating.  If butter is not an option because you avoid dairy or are having a meat meal, olive oil can be used for most cooking and baking seeds.  And lastly, if your favourite recipes use margarine, you can either substitute with olive oil or try finding some new favourites that do not require it.

 

3. Chicken Flavor Mashed Potatoes

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Potatoes are kosher for Passover and do not require special certification.  Why bother with this dehydrated/re-hydrated potato product that is full of chemicals when you can simply boil and mash potatoes the old-fashioned way.  Simply add a bit of chicken soup for that REAL chicken flavour.

 

4. Matzo Ball & Soup Mix

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The "secret" is you still need to make the matzo balls yourself!  They don't come out of the box already made, unfortunately (or fortunately IMO) so what's the real convenience factor here?  What is not so secret in this mix is the high sodium levels with a little MSG thrown in.  The time saver here is only the soup.  If you need to make the matzah balls anyway, you might as well just buy matzah meal and find a good recipe.

 

5. Imitation Mustard

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Mustard seeds are not allowed for Passover as they are considered to be kitniyot, meaning small and grain-like and may be confused with grains that can become chametz.  This is why you will find imitation mustard for Passover rather than the real thing.

The first ingredient in this product is cottonseed oil (see number 1) plus added preservatives and flavouring.  Imitation foods such as these, which are created in a laboratory, are best left on the shelves.  If you are looking to add a bit of heat to your food, why not try a more traditional Passover food like horseradish.

 


6. Passover Pizza Bagels

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The Passover Pizza Bagel: A traditional Passover food.  Probably what Moses ate at his Passover table!  This is a perfect example of the many processed Passover foods that try to mimic foods we do not eat on Passover.  Why settle for something you know will not live up to the real thing?  Our professional advice: Wait 8 days.  If you are still craving a pizza bagel - make yourself an ACTUAL pizza bagel!  In the mean time, you could always keep it simple and melt some cheese over tomato sauce on a piece of matzah.

 

7. Passover Mayo…with Olive Oil

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Jewish legal and ethical texts especially note that misleading the public is a terrible sin.  Intentionally making false or misleading labelling claims would be violating the high ethical standards of Judaism.  This product is highlighting olive oil, however the second ingredient is cottonseed oil (again, see number 1).  Olive oil is way down at number 5 on the list.  This is misleading to consumers, pretending to be a healthier choice.

 

8. Flavoured Breakfast Cereal

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Everyone knows that Passover breakfast cereals are a sorry substitute, to say the least.  This rainbow coloured variety, however, is full of artificial colours and flavours.  If you must have a cold cereal for passover, try the plain varieties and add your own fruitiness with some fresh berries.

 

9. Soup Base

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The number one ingredient here is salt and number three is MSG.  This product contains 50% of your daily sodium intake in just one teaspoon (1 cup of prepared soup)!!  If you must use a mix, try to find a low-sodium variety.  Because this is a parve mix, extra artificial flavours and sodium are needed to make up for the lack of real chicken flavour.  A parve soup mix is not even necessary if you are using it for chicken dishes, as the box suggests.

 

10. Tomato Sauce...with vodka

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Just one more Passover money grab, creating products that are unnecessary.  Prepare a sauce from scratch easily by pureeing some fresh or unsalted canned tomatoes and add your own herbs/spices.  Rather that adding it to the sauce, why not drink your shot of vodka while preparing it?  Although traditionally vodka was made from potatoes, which are Kosher for Passover, some vodkas are now made from grains.  Be sure to purchase a specially certified Kosher for Passover vodka.


11. Imitation Soy Sauce

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Similar to imitation mustard, this product has made it's way to the Passover aisle due to restrictions of soy-based products (see number 5 re: kitniyot).  This product is basically liquid MSG and should definitely be avoided.  If you are looking to add a salty flavour, just add salt.  Add flavour to your dishes with fresh herbs and spices.  If you are looking for flavouring for a stir-fry, try fresh ginger and garlic.

 

12. Fruit Snacks

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Here we take an issue with the ingredients, but also with the marketing (see number 7).  The statement on the front of the package: "Made with real fruit" tells us that the company is trying to promote it as being healthier than other similar kosher for passover products on the market.  However, just below that statement you will find the words "natural and artificial flavor" in smaller print.  The ingredients include fruit juice concentrate, but also sugar, starch, added flavour, mineral oil and 4 different food dyes.

Why not just eat REAL fruit?  All fresh fruits are kosher for passover: no special supervision is required. Dried fruits would also make a great substitute but are often coated with starch to prevent sticking, thus require a special kosher for Passover certification. The downside is that all kosher for Passover dried fruits on the market contain unnecessary, added preservatives. If you are looking for something packaged and great for on the go…try a banana.

 

Our Advice:

Focus on eating whole foods as much as possible.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, meat/poultry/fish, eggs, nuts.  Try to stick to whole grain matzah and matzah products to avoid constipation.  For any specific kashrut concerns, contact your rabbi. 

Have a healthy and kosher Passover!

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For a selection of healthy, Passover-friendly recipes, check out The Organic Kosher Cookbook - Holiday Edition.  Currently on sale for 50% off while supplies last!

 


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Rabbi Wayne Allen is a recognized authority on Jewish law. www.rabbiwayneallen.ca

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Aviva Allen is a Toronto-based nutritionist. 
www.avivaallen.com

Posted by on in Babies/Kids

Have you chosen to live a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle and want your children to be a part of that?  Or perhaps you are not a vegetarian, but your child has declared themselves to be one.

Some children decide to become vegetarians when they are old enough to make the connection between the cute face of a cow they see and the piece of meat sitting on their plates that they are told to eat and enjoy.  The idea of this can be troubling for many children.  Then there are of course some children who just do not enjoy the texture or taste of meat, poultry or fish. Regardless of what brought your child to the point of vegetarianism, common questions tend to come up for parents in each of these situations:  Is a vegetarian or vegan diet healthy for a child?  Will my child grow and develop properly on a vegetarian or vegan diet?  How can I ensure my child is getting all of the right nutrients?

Click here to read more

 

Posted by on in Babies/Kids


Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional problems in children.  Do you know if your child is getting enough?

Those with a higher risk for iron deficiency include:

  • Premature babies
  • Babies born with a low birth weight
  • Babies who drink cow's milk before the age of one
  • Children who drink an excessive amount of milk
  • Children with vegetarian/vegan diets
  • Children with gastrointestinal disorders such as celiac disease, Crohn's/colitis
  • Adolescent girls due to blood loss during menstruation
  • Family history of anemia

Click here to read the full article and find out more

 


We all strive for the healthiest pregnancy possible and do our best to eat a nutritious diet.

There are many factors, however, that can make this a challenge including lack of time, nausea and vomiting in pregnancy and food aversions, to name

a few.  Nutritional supplements can often help fill the gaps but making sure you are taking the right ones at the right times is essential.  As a nutritionist, I recommend that my clients try to get their nutrients from food as much as possible, but there are certain nutrients that can be more difficult to get from diet alone.


Click here to learn about 5 important nutrients that you (and your baby) may benefit from supplementing with.

The sun has finally started shining and it's time to get outside and enjoy it!  At the same time, we also need to think about protecting our skin from harmful UV rays.  Most of us know about the importance of sun protection, but many are now becoming concerned about vitamin D levels when sunscreen is applied at all times. 

How do we find the right balance of vitamin D absorption and UV protection?


Simply taking a vitamin D supplement is certainly an option, however, if you are interested in obtaining vitamin D naturally from the sun, here is some information that will help you do that safely.  

Maximizing vitamin D absorption from the sun

Season, time of day, cloud cover, smog, skin colour and the use of sunscreen are among some of the factors that affect vitamin D synthesis. The combination of these factors can make it difficult to determine the necessary length of sun exposure time for a particular individual to produce optimal levels of vitamin D.  It has been suggested by some vitamin D researchers that approximately 15-30 minutes of midday sun exposure, of at least 15% of the body,  at least twice a week without sunscreen, would usually lead to sufficient vitamin D synthesis. The more skin exposed, the shorter the length of time required.  A darker-skinned individual, however, can require up to six times the amount of exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D as a fair-skinned person.

Your best source for vitamin D is daily exposure to the sun, without sunblock on your skin, ONLY until your skin turns the lightest shade of pink.  The production of vitamin D occurs in the skin within minutes and is fully maximized before your skin turns pink, so there is no benefit to staying in the sun longer.  Longer exposures will not produce any more vitamin D but WILL accelerate photo aging and increase your risk for skin cancer.  Cover up before your skin becomes tanned or burned as both are signs of sun damage.  As our vitamin D levels increase, more melanin (pigment) is made to protect us from getting too much of the vitamin (excessive amounts can be harmful to our bodies).  The more melanin our skin has, the less vitamin D we can make.  This is why darker-skinned individuals have a more difficult time maintaining optimal levels.

To use the sun to maximize your vitamin D production and minimize your risk of skin damage, the middle of the day (roughly between 10  and 2) when the sun is at its highest, is the best and safest time for short periods of unprotected exposure. During this UVB-intense period you will need the shortest sun exposure time to produce the most vitamin D.  While this isn't always possible due to the change of the seasons and your geographic location, this is ideal as it will optimize your vitamin D levels naturally with less exposure to damaging UVA rays. 

* Note that UVB radiation does not penetrate glass, so exposure to sunshine indoors through a window would not produce vitamin D.  Also note that wearing sunscreen will block vitamin D-producing UV rays.

Other Sources of Vitamin D

Individuals with limited sun exposure should include good sources of vitamin D in their diet and/or take a supplement to achieve recommended levels of intake.  Supplemental vitamin D should also be taken during the winter months (October-April) as we do not receive enough sun in this part of the world to obtain sufficient amounts naturally.  Vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods. The best sources would be cod liver oil or fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel.  Small amounts of vitamin D can also be found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks.

Tips for protecting your skin from sun damage

  • The use of indoor tanning beds may increase a person’s risk of developing skin cancer.  The CDA, along with Health Canada and the World Health Organization (WHO), strongly recommend that tanning beds not be used.
  • Avoid over-exposure to the sun during the midday hours of 11-4 as this is when UV rays are the strongest
  • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen formula with an SPF of 30 or higher when spending more than 30 minutes outdoors. (Note: SPF numbers only tell you the amount UVB protection that is offered.  UVB rays are what cause tanning and burning.  Using a sunscreen with a higher SPF that does not offer sufficient UVA protection, would allow you to stay out in the sun for longer periods of time without burning, while allowing more of the damaging UVA rays to penetrate your skin.)
  • Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before exposure, re-apply after every 2 hours of sun exposure and re-apply after swimming (even if using a water-resistant/waterproof formula).
  • Cover up with a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses.
  • Keep infants under 6 months away from direct sunlight.  Protect children over the age of 6 months with natural sunscreens, hats and UV protective clothing.

 

Aviva’s pick for sunscreen:

I recommend choosing a natural sunscreen that uses zinc oxide as the active ingredient.  Zinc oxide provides excellent UVB and UVA protection and is a safer alternative to chemical sunscreens.  I love Green Beaver SPF 30 sunscreen!  It's a Canadian company that is certified organic, Health Canada approved, non-whitening, waterproof, fragrance-free AND easy to apply, which is essential when you've got squirmy kids that won't stand still for very long.

Posted by on in Adventures in Food

There have been many reports in the news lately regarding a maple syrup shortage.  Is this an exaggeration, or should we start hoarding?

The early arrival of warm weather this year has certainly impacted the maple syrup industry.  Some producers in Ontario and the US have reported 20-50% lower yields than normal and have already closed their taps.  There are, however, maple syrup producers in northern regions of Quebec who are still producing sap.

In addition, the federation representing approximately 7400 producers across Quebec has over 36 million pounds of maple syrup in storage.  Even if 2012 turns out to be a lower yield season, the surplus syrup from previous years is enough to prevent a shortage.

Long-term, a trend of increasing temperatures could definitely affect the supply, but for now at least, you can enjoy your pure maple syrup as usual!

Try this recipe for Maple-Miso Salmon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by on in General

Help me reach 200 Facebook likes!


Like my facebook page, then share this giveaway with your friends, and you will have a chance to win a prize basket containing a variety of high quality omega 3 products from NutraSea (retail value of approx. $75).

Winner will be randomly selected once we reach 200 likes. Prize must be picked up from Pande Family Wellness Centre, located at Yonge & Eglinton.

 

 

Posted by on in General

Virtually 100 percent of the almonds consumed in the United States and Canada come from California.  Did you know that there is a mandatory program in place requiring all California almonds to be sterilized? While there are three different treatment methods available, the method most commonly used to treat raw almonds involves fumigation; spraying the almonds with propylene oxide, a carcinogen recognized by the EPA. 

These regulations were put into effect in the last five years in response to two separate outbreaks of Salmonella poisoning, which caused over 130 people in Canada and the US to become ill between 2001 and 2004.  In 2004, one person died from Salmonella poisoning and a major almond processor was hit with a costly lawsuit. 

There are currently three approved pasteurization methods:

  1. Propylene Oxide (PPO) fumigation: A chemical treatment which reduces harmful bacteria, and according to the Almond Board, poses no risk to consumers. PPO was once used as a racing fuel, but that usage is now prohibited for safety reasons.
  2. Steam processing: Short bursts of steam are used to sterilize the surface of the almonds.  Organic almonds are processed using this method, however, they can no longer be considered raw.
  3. Oil roasting, dry roasting or blanching: These processes provide the necessary reduction in harmful bacteria.

There are no labelling requirements in place to specify which type of treatment was used.  If you want to avoid fumigated almonds, you have a three options available:

  1. Buy roasted or blanched almonds: Although there is no guarantee they were not pretreated with PPO.
  2. Buy organic almonds: Fumigation with PPO is not an approved treatment for organic almonds.
  3. Buy imported raw almonds: Raw almonds need to be imported from Europe where raw almonds do not require sterilization.

This popular Canadian brand of nut butter (Nuts to You),
lists 'Organic European Almonds' in its ingredients.

 

 

 

 

Have you made a resolution to eat healthier this year?  Following through with your resolution can be challenging when faced with eating outside of the home.  While eating most of your meals at home is ideal, you should still be able to enjoy a meal at a restaurant on occasion.  The important thing to remember is to make the best choices you can.  And if your favourite restaurant does not offer many healthy options, you may want to find some new favourites for 2012.

Here are 7 tips to help you stay on track while dining out:

  1. Make sure there is a good amount of vegetable with your meal.  If it is not included with your dish, order a side salad or a side of cooked vegetables.

  2. Choose whole grains, when available, instead of white rice, pastas or bread.  Many restaurants now have whole wheat pasta options and often sushi restaurants offer a substitution of brown rice for a small extra charge.

  3. Avoid anything that is deep fried.  Ask to substitute fries with a side salad.

  4. Choose tomato sauce over cream-based sauces.

  5. If your meal portion is large, try not to eat the whole thing.  Ask to have it packed up and save it for another meal.

  6. Skip the sugary beverages such as pop, lemonade or iced tea.  Instead, enjoy a refreshing glass of water with a squeeze of lemon or lime.

  7. Don't look at the dessert menu!

 

I recently had the unfortunate experience of tasting one of Tim Hortons new "Real Fruit Smoothies" while in labour with my second child. I needed some liquid energy, and being a holiday Monday in downtown Toronto, the Tim Hortons inside the hospital was my only option. My husband husband bought me one of each flavour, not being sure which I would prefer and thinking it would be a healthier choice as their marketing suggests. Both the Strawberry Banana and Mixed Berry flavour were so sweet that I could not drink either, despite my depleted state!
fruitsmoothie
I later investigated the ingredients for these smoothies and to no surprise, the super sweetness did not come from any actual fresh fruit, but instead came from high-fructose corn syrup.

These so-called "Real" Fruit Smoothies contain fruit purees and juices only - which are blended with ice and a mixture of three different forms of sugars: high fructose corn syrup, glucose and molasses along with salt, added colour and preservatives.

Tim Hortons announced that their "New Real Fruit Smoothies are bursting with a full serving of fruit". One serving of fruit is only half a cup. Imagine making a yourself a smoothie at home using only half a cup of fruit and large cup of ice. It would taste pretty weak. That is why they need add all of that highly-processed liquid sugar.

Tim Hortons should be ashamed of themselves trying to pass-off this sugary beverage as a component of a healthy diet.

Here's a recipe for a REAL fruit smoothie you can make at home. Enjoy!

Fresh Fruit Smoothie

Posted by on in General

Oatmeal


Oatmeal is the hottest new menu item, popping up at a numerous coffee shops and fast food joints around the city.

Even McDonald's is selling it at its US restaurants. But is it really a healthy choice?

Below you will find a comparison of the oatmeal available at three different food chains; Starbuck's, Tim Hortons and Timothy's. While none of these options are as healthy as making your own oatmeal at home, I've provided some tips to help you make the best choices out of what is available.

 

 


Starbuck's


Tim Hortons


Timothy's


Price


$3.49

$1.99


$3.29


Cooking Method


Instant - cooked with hot water


Slow cooked


Instant - cooked in steamed milk


Type of Oats


Rolled oats + oat bran


Rolled oats


Quaker quick oats




What's Added

Guar gum and caramel colour in the oatmeal and sulphites, sugar and sunflower oil in the dried fruit mix


Sugar, salt and
sunflower oil


Just the steamed milk (hot water can be used instead by request)

Sweetener
Options


Brown sugar


Mixed berry and brown sugar or Maple and brown sugar flavour options


Honey or brown sugar


Toppings
Available

Nut mix (almonds, walnuts, pecans) and dried fruit mix


See above


Granola or raisins

 


Recommendations

 


Ask for it without the dried fruit mix or brown sugar and add nut mix and honey instead


Ask for the plain oatmeal and request the mixed berries without the brown sugar


Ask for it to be cooked in hot water instead of milk and skip the sweetened granola and brown sugar



Posted by on in General

Vitamin D, often referred to as the “sunshine” vitamin, as our bodies produce it in our skin by exposure to the sun, has lately been recognized for its wide range of health protective qualities from preventing heart disease to reducing risks of cancer and other chronic diseases. Why then, as of December 1 of this year, does Ontario feel it not necessary to pay for testing our vitamin D levels?*

According to Health Canada, “vitamin D testing in healthy adults and children is not medically necessary...people should follow Health Canada’s recommendations on diet and vitamin D supplementation.” Canada states that following Canada’s Food Guide should be sufficient for adequate intake of this vitamin, and that if necessary, supplementation of 200IUs a day for people 2-50 years old and 400IUs for individuals above fifty is enough for good health.

A recent survey, however, found that two-thirds of the population has vitamin D levels below the amounts associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases, and 1 in 10 have deficiencies so low they are not even at the level for proper bone health. This indicates that the majority of Canadians do not have vitamin D levels needed for optimum health.

One explanation for this widespread deficiency is the low recommendations provided by Health Canada. Recent research has shown that these levels should be much higher in order to get the many preventative health benefits vitamin D has to offer. This is particularly the case during the winter months when we have very little sun to skin exposure. More importantly, because these guidelines are generalized, individual variations and requirements are not taken into account. Colour of skin, time spent outside each day, dietary choices and proper absorption are all factors that influence individual vitamin D levels and need to be considered when making these recommendations.

Working with a nutritionist can help you with a plan that is tailored to you and your individual needs this winter. An adequate amount of vitamin D is essential for a strong immune system and for optimum health and disease prevention.

* OHIP will continue to cover the cost of vitamin D testing for people with the following conditions: Osteoporosis/Osteopenia, Rickets, Malabsorption Syndromes, Renal Disease and patients on medications that affect vitamin metabolism.

Posted by on in General


How your body responds to stress plays an important role in your overall health. Often people feel the effects of stress as fatigue, headaches, sleep disturbances, anxiety or aches and pains. Stress affects others by causing digestive disorders such as ulcers, abdominal cramps and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). People under stress may also experience more colds and infections due to lowered immune responses.
stress
While you may not have control over the causes of stress in your life, you can control how you deal with it.

Here are 5 ways to minimize the effects of stress on your body:

  1. Eat more vitamin B rich foods: B vitamins are essential for the nervous system and assist your body in managing stress. Vitamin B rich foods include whole grains, legumes, liver, egg yolks and leafy green vegetables .
  2. Take a quality probiotic supplement: Stress depletes the beneficial bacteria in your gut which can affect your digestion as well as your immune system.
  3. Exercise regularly: Exercise can decrease the stress hormone cortisol in the body and increase endorphins, giving your mood a boost.
  4. Spend time outside: Sunlight lifts your mood and the vitamin D produced in the skin will boost your immune system. Aim for 10-15 minutes of sunlight per day.
  5. Get enough rest: We need 7-8 hours of sleep each night for our bodies to function optimally.

Posted by on in General

Guest Post

Posted by: Wai-Ke Kim, Certified Financial Planner

Food ShoppingThe recent economic downturn forced many families to rethink their spending habits. One item on the family budget that was commonly the first to be slashed was eating out. Now that cash flow has started to become steadier for many Canadians, some are still on a tight budget these days, whether by choice or necessity.

Will you sacrifice nutrition to save money? Make a commitment to some creative planning and you CAN eat healthy while sticking to a budget!

Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Plan ahead: Each week, set aside some time to plan your meals, make a grocery list and go shopping. Planning in advance will keep you from buying on impulse!

2. Buy in bulk/Limit Packaged Foods: Some food items such as dried goods and grains are cheapest when bought in bulk because less marketing/packaging reduces the cost. If you shop at stores such as Costco, remember - quantity does not always equal quality, so be choosy about what you buy in bulk.

3. Buy in Season/Locally Grown: Find out what produce is in season when you plan your meals. If food is in season, it tends to be cheaper. Locally grown food can also be more affordable, particularly at Farmer's Markets (when you cut out the middle man). Not only is this more cost efficient, but it is fresher too!

4. Eat Less Meat: Fruits, veggies, grains, beans and nuts are less expensive than meats and you get more volume for your dollar. Reducing animal products such as beef and chicken will also help lower costs.

A final note: If you want to reduce overall costs to your family, do not skimp on nutrition! If your family is unhealthy, you may end up spending more money in the long run.


Wai-Ke Kim is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) who helps families put together budgets, save for retirement, reduce taxes and much more!

Contact her and mention this article for a free 1 hour Personal Consultation:
O: (416) 491-7400 ext. 524
M: (416) 727-6538
wai-ke.kim@investorsgroup.com

Posted by on in General

The human body is made up of more than seventy percent water. It is beyond question that the benefits of drinking sufficient water each day go far beyond simply quenching thirst.Water

Water is critical to almost every aspect of a person’s health including regulating body temperature, bringing oxygen to the cells and removing waste from the body. Not drinking enough water on a daily basis can cause headaches, fatigue, dry skin and constipation. Dehydration can also negatively affect blood pressure, circulation, digestion and kidney function.

Here are five tips to help you drink more water:


1. If you are on the go, carry a full water bottle with you at all times.

2. If you are sitting at work, keep a glass of water at your desk and drink throughout the day. Refill often.

3. If you tend to forget to drink water, set an alarm on your watch, computer or hand-held device to remind you to take a drink every half hour.

4. If you don't like the taste of tap water, try adding lemon/lime or drink filtered water. If you enjoy the taste of your water, you will be more likely to drink it.

5. Avoid caffeinated beverages as they will dehydrate you.

Note: Drink the majority of your water between meals - drinking too much liquid with meals will impair your digestion, particularly cold liquids (Sipping room temperature water with meals is okay).

Obesity

Research shows that one in two adults in Canada and the US are overweight. According to Statistics Canada, 18 percent of men and 16 percent of women are obese. The highest rate of obesity is among 55 to 64 year-olds: 24 percent of men and 21 percent of women in this age group are obese.

Excess weight increases risk of heart attack or stroke, diabetes and certain cancers.

Smoking has held the top spot for putting our health at risk, however, recent studies show that while smoking kills more people, the number of smokers has decreased. This decline combined with an increasing number of overweight individuals, makes obesity now the number one health risk.

Experts suggest that increasing daily vitamin D intake is the best way to raise your body's resistance to the flu this winter. Vitamin D is naturally acquired through exposure of the skin to sunlight and, to a lesser extent, from food.

Not surprisingly, studies show that 97 percent of Canadians are deficient in vitamin D during the winter months. Low levels of vitamin D will significantly impair your immune response resulting in a higher susceptibility to viruses such as H1N1, risk of complications and recovery time.

Other factors which may weaken your immune system include:

Lack of sufficient or quality sleep

Excess refined sugar in the diet

Poor stress management

Strengthening your immune system is your best defence against flu viruses. Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels with a simple blood test and speak to a nutritionist about supplementation options and choosing the right one for you.

Posted by on in Adventures in Food

Guest Post

Posted by: Tali

I don't like baking. It's too much like science...and I don't like science. I have a hard time sticking to recipes, and I like adding things off the top of my head when I cook. Nevertheless, I decided to try Aviva's Recipe of the Month. After promising myself that I would NOT add any funky ingredients that weren't listed in the recipe, I gathered all the supplies I would need. This baking endeavor was rather quick and painless, taking only like...7 minutes... to measure and mix everything and get it into a pan. I put it in the oven, and checked it after 25 minutes. It looked amazing, and when I stuck a knife in it, it was clean. But it didn't sound right...it sounded wet and squishy. So I turned off the oven, but put it back in for 6 more minutes. When I took it out for the second time, it was perfect. It sliced really well, and the pieces came out so easily. It's really moist and delicious, but still has that crumbly cornbread texture.

Now, all I need is some chili...

tali_cornbread

Notes from Aviva: I'm glad you enjoyed the cornbread, Tali. I see by your photo that you used a ceramic dish so that may have accounted for the extra baking time required (I use a glass baking dish). This brings up a great point though - If anyone making this recipe uses a non-stick/metal baking dish, it is a faster conductor of heat. You will likely need to reduce the baking time so the cornbread doesn't dry out.

 

Organic Food

Aviva Allen is one of  Toronto's leading Kids' Nutritionists specializing in helping parents deal with their picky eaters.

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