The Illusion of Food

A few days ago at work, a fascinating article was circulated from the Nutrition Action Health Letter (published by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest) regarding food serving size, general habits, and consumption patterns.


The gist of the article is that the more food we see, the more food we eat regardless of hunger primarily due to mindless eating and a general feeling of being unaware of our hunger signals.  In large part, I blame industry for creating the level of gluttony and outrageous eating habits we are seeing today which has absolutely contributed to the increase in chronic diseases we are seeing (Type II Diabetes, Stroke, Heart Disease, Arthritis, Hyperlipidaemia, Colitis, Crohn’s, Renal Diseases, etc).

Rate of Type II Diabetes in the United States: 1980 - 2010

Rate of Type II Diabetes in the United States: 1980 – 2010

While industry certaintly plays a role, there is a lot we can do as individuals to take better control of our health…and an improvement in the amount of food ingested can significantly  improve the way you think, feel, move, and life.

In the Nutrition Action Health Letter, author  of the book Mindless EatingBrian Wansink, was interviewed and he reviewed the major findings from his research surrounding eating habits, serving sizes, and the concept of mindless eating (eating without paying attention to hunger signals).  Here are some interesting observations that might make you think, and look twice before you eat.

Mindless Eating

  • When people are given larger servings, they eat more.  In a study where people were given a large bucket of popcorn and others a small bucket, it was found that those who received the larger bucket ate 34% more popcorn.
  • Variety prompts increased consumption.  When people were presented with candy of different colours (as compared a single colour) they ate 40% more.
  • Chicken Wings Are Insightful!  When the bones of the wings consumed were removed from the table (as compared to leaving them on the table in the control group), participants ate more.
  • Health Labels Prompt Increased Consumption.  Labeling a product “low-fat” prompts people to eat more than they would have a normal product.
  • Healthy Restaurants = Underestimation of Calories.  When someone eats at Subway, and then at McDonald’s, they are more likely to underestimate the number of calories consumed at the Subway meal.
  • You are likely to eat more when eating a meal with a fast eater.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“We don’t walk. We overeat because we’ve made it easy to overeat. We have  fast-food joints on every corner. By the way, the ‘we’ is all of us. It’s not  the government. It’s all of us doing this together.”
– Dr. Oz


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Aging Joyfully: A Lesson from the Oldsters

I recently completed a course on geriatric nutrition and before my first class I have to admit, I was not excited.  Studying nutrition specifically geared at the elderly population is so far off the nutritional topics I am typically drawn to and so, I went to my first class with very low expectations.

What I anticipated to be my least favourite course in the program ended up being truly life changing and my perspective on aging, the elderly population, and the general concept of happiness were challenged and reformed.  The instructor, Japanese Naturopathic Doctor Mami Ishii, brought a unique perspective into a population that is generally considered unglamorous and a life stage that most of us are not looking forward to all that much.

Aging Population

Dr. Ishii had the class read Healthy at 100 by John Robbins which has literally, even after studying nutrition for over 2 years, revolutionized the way I view what constitutes vitality and healthy living.  In his book, Robbins starts by outlining the dietary and lifestyle habits of four of the world’s longest-living societies; Abkhasians (South Russia), Vilcabambans (Equador), Hunzans (Central Asia), and the Okinawans (Japan).  Each of these four places has an extraordinarily high number of people who live until and beyond 100 years and they share the same approach to diet and lifestyle.  In fact, the commonalities are staggering.


Okinawa, Japan

 What Robbins outlined in Healthy at 100 is that each of these groups eats a plant-based, whole foods diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.  They eat very little processed foods and sugar and opt for whole grain carbohydrates.  The concept of retirement is null and void and “oldsters” in these areas are active and live purposefully throughout their lives.  Culturally, the older you are, the more esteem you’re given.  They are very active, yet their caloric intake is less than 2000/day.  They limit animal based products to 1% (Hunzans, Vilcabambans), 3% (Okinawa), and 10% (Abkasian).

Healthy at 100

Robbins goes into describing the changes China has undergone in the past few decades and nicely summarizes findings from one of the largest epidemiological studies ever conducted all of which you can read in a book called The China Study by Dr. Colin Campbell.  The China Study had researchers collected blood, urine, and diet journals from 50 people in each 65 counties and 130 villages selected throughout China.  Researchers analyzed the data with respect to over 50 diseases and though the results are plentiful, findings can be summarized as follows.


In areas of China that are still developing, people are dying from diseases related to nutritional deficiencies and hygiene inadequacies which includes ailments like tuberculosis, respiratory illnesses, measles, and diarrhea.  Conversely, in areas of China that have been developed the diseases have shifted dramatically to deaths from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and obesity related illnesses such as complications from Type II Diabetes.  Dr. Campbell coins this shift as death from “nutritional extravagance” because it has been directly linked to an increase in refined foods and a much higher intake of saturated fats stemming from animal foods (meat and dairy) and hydrogenated foods.  In short, the one of the largest indicators of wealth in China is the level of ones cholesterol levels.  You can bet that high levels of HDL cholesterol are not found in the developing areas of China, but instead larger more prosperous cities.


What does all this have to do with geriatric nutrition?  We should expect to live into old age and this part of the life-cycle is natural, beautiful, and meant to be experienced.  The idea that we are all going to die from a chronic illness is rubbish and believing in dying from disease is something worth reconsidering.  Reading Healthy at 100 made me reconsider my dietary choices and the overwhelming evidence that supports the longevity associated with a whole foods, plant-based diet that is low in animal based foods is undeniable.  It’s a hard revelation to come to for those us use to eating meat each day…or even several times a week.  The idea of aging joyfully and experiencing life to its fullest is definitely something I am striving for and the advice in Healthy to 100 makes it seem possible, if not expected.


Healthy at 100 is a positive and encouraging read that will inspire you to look at your diet, connect with your community, and move intentionally each and every day.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr


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Weekly Recipe Roundup: Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf, Chickpea Burgers, and Blueberry Banana Pancakes

It’s been a busy past few weeks and over here at The Health Junction, the kitchen has been in full swing making and testing new recipes.  Here are a few healthy takes on traditional recipes to kick off 2013!

PoppySeed Loaf

Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf

A while back, my friend Melissa made a delightful dinner and praised “The Looneyspoons Collection” by Janet and Greta Podleski for the array of delicious recipes she had created.  Luckily, Santa brought me this book for Christmas and I’m glad he did – it is a staple for any kitchen.  Here is my take on Poppy Love (page 305):

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup oat bran
  • 1/4 cup milled flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup almond, soy, or rice milk (you could use regular milk too)
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut butter or regular butter.
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest

Directions:  Mix flours, oat bran, milled flax seeds, poppy seeds, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Combine the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and pour into a loaf pan.  Cook at 350 for 45 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes, remove from pan and let cool completely.


Chickpea Burgers

I like this recipe so much because it’s a vegetarian recipe that is actually filling and satisfying….and it was approved by a picky non-vegetarian.  Chickpeas are an excellent source of insoluble fiber and for that reason is a great food for intestinal health.  They are also a good source of anti-oxidants, phytonutrients, and offer one of the best food combinations available – protein and fiber which means chickpeas are idea for blood sugar regulation…horray!

  • 1 x 19 oz can chickepeas
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/3 cup grated onion
  • 1/3 cup grated carrot
  • 3 tbsp fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs

Directions:  drain chickpeas and put in a medium-sized bowl along with tahini and eggs.  Process it with a food processor or hand immersion blender.  Pulse till smooth but still a little bit coarse.  Add onions, carrots, cilantro, curry, salt and mix well.  Make 4 patties and coat with bread crumbs.  Place on parchment paper and put in fridge for 20 minutes.  Heat a non stick pan and bake 3-4 minutes per side.  Serve with a bun and side salad.  Serves 4.


Blueberry-Banana Pancakes

Adapted from “The Looneyspoons Collection”, these are REALLY FILLING (and healthy)!

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup flax seeds
  • 2/3 cup oat bran
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk (or Almond, Rice, or Soy  Milk)*
  • 1/2 cup banana, mashed
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil melted (or butter)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp pure  maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup fresh berries (I used a mix of cherries, blueberries and blackberries)
  • 1 cup of vanilla yogurt or yogurt substitute (like So Delicious Coconut “Yogurt”)

*if using something other than buttermilk, you may need to put in a little less to get a thicker consistency.

Directions:  In a large bowl, combine flours, flax seeds, oat bran, baking powder, and baking soda.  In a medium-sized bowl, whisk buttermilk, banana, coconut oil/butter, egg, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well.  Add berries.  Heat a skillet over medium heat and scoop about 1/2 cup per pancake.  When you see bubbles start to appear in the middle of the pancake, flip and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Top pancakes with yogurt and a bit of syrup.  Makes 10 very filling pancakes.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

““Your body is a temple, but only if you treat it as one.”

– Astrid Alauda


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Weekly Recipe Roundup: Banana Coco AM Smoothie, Healthier Butter Chicken, and MORE!

Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about the concept of nutrient density.  It started when writing about foods such as Hemp and Chia Seeds and continued at work where I was trying to explain the difference between whole grain whole wheat (WGWH) and white bread.  In talking to the students about this concept, we came up with an analogy – white bread is like scrap metal and WGWW is like gold.  Eating white bread with give you immediate energy while WGWW will give you energy and a host of essential nutrients.

So, in evaluating my own diet I’ve been cognizant of selecting nutrient dense foods while trying to be flexible with the time and energy I put into meal planning.  With that in mind, here are a few of my favourite recipes from the last week which were made with the concept of nutrient density in mind – enjoy!

Banana Coco AM Smoothie

This is a shake that provides complex carbohydrates, healthy fat, quality protein, fiber, and enough calories to keep you alert throughout the morning.  It’s also really delicious and takes less than 7 minutes (including time taken to clean up afterwards!).


1 cup warm water

2 tbsp quick oats

1 banana

1 scoop Vega Energizing Smoothie Powder* Choc-A-Lot

1 tbsp nut butter; can be almond, peanut butter, macadamia, cashew, etc

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp pure maple syrup (optional)

Directions:  Get your blender out and put 2 x tbsp oats and 1 cup of hot water.  Let the contents sit for a few minutes.  Meanwhile, cut a banana up into chunks and toss it in the blender.  Pour in Vega Energizing Smoothie Powder, nut butter, cinnamon, and maple syrup.  Blend thoroughly.  This can be taken on the go – just give it a good shake before consuming.  Serves 1.

*I am not to crazy about protein shakes, especially whey based products.  The Energizing Smoothie Powder is like a more laid back and less intense version of traditional protein powder.  Vega is p based and totally vegan – each scoop of the Choc-A-Lot flavour contains 11 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, 2 servings of vegetables, and 1 gram of omega-3 – this would be a good option for people with dairy allergies or sensitivities.

Healthier Butter Chicken

This recipe is from my favourite cookbook called Simply Great Food by the Dietitians of Canada.  If you’re just getting into healthy eating and want a book that doesn’t have a slew of crazy ingredients and will not leave you feeling exhausted – this is your lady.  If you like traditional butter chicken, this dish is sure to become a meal planning staple because you can feel good about the fact that the fat content is much lower without compromising the taste.


Chicken Marinade

3 tbsp tandori paste

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp low-fat yogurt (or a soy alternative if you have a dairy allergy)

1.5 lbs or 750 grams of chicken


1/4 cup tomato paste

1/2 cup water

1 inch finely chopped gingerroot

1 green chili pepper, finely chopped

4 tsp lemon juice

1 tbsp cilantro (fresh or spiced version)

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp garam masala (can be found in the spice section of your grocery store…even No Frills!)

3/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp granulated sugar

1/4 tsp chili powder

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 cup 10% cream (I use 1  cup of rice milk or 5% instead of the 10% recommended in the book)

Instructions:  mix the “chicken marinade” ingredients in a decent sized bowl – add diced up raw chicken at let marinate for around one hour.  After an hour, put chicken onto a baking sheet and pour the sauce over top.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes and then remove from the oven.  While chicken is baking, mix the “sauce” ingredients together – everything except for the butter and cream.  Get a good-sized cooking pot and melt butter…add the sauce and bring to a gentle boil.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add chicken.  Add cream.  Serve with basmati or brown rice.  Serves 8.

Teriyaki Rice Noodles with Veggies & Beans

I was pleasantly surprised at how well this recipe turned out – the ingredients are so simple yet they really work well together to bring out the flavours and contrasting textures of the veggies.  It calls for beans but you could easily substitute with chicken breast or even beef if it suits your fancy.  Each serving is exceptionally high in Vitamin C and Fiber (when  made with beans).  This recipe comes from the holy bible of fast, easy, and healthy food, Simply Great Food by the Dietitians of Canada.


2 cups rice noodles – use penne or macaroni instead of long spaghetti style noodles

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup peeled and chopped carrots

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups broccoli florets

1/2 cup reduced sodium teriyaki sauce

1 x 19 oz can mixed beans, drained and rinsed

Instructions: cook rice noodles according to package and set aside.  In a large skillet, heat oil and add onion, carrots and celery – saute for 5 minutes.  Add broccoli and garlic and then cover the skillet for 5 mins.  Pour in teriyaki sauce, beans, and rice noodles.  Cover for 5 more minutes.  Serves 8 – tastes even better than next day when packed for lunch.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“Spend some time alone every day.”

– Dalai Lama XIV


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Weekly Recipe Bulletin – Work Week Breakfast & 9 to 5 Lunch

Over the past year or so, I’ve come to realise that many people know what they should be eating – but making it happen is a whole other story.  The pace of life is so fast and we’re running in place (or from home to work, driving kids to sports, school, book clubs, dinner dates, the gym, etc) so trying to eat healthy with a limited “time” budget can be a challenge.  My whole world is healthy eating/living and even I find it hard at times!

With that in mind, this week the focus is on getting in a good breakfast and lunch with the following recipes – each packed with nutrition and can be accomplished with as little as 15 minutes a day.  Try it for one week and I promise that you’ll feel so good you’ll want to continue investing time and energy into your health.

Sunday Night Muesli Delight

On Sunday night, you’re going to grab a big Tupperware container (3-4 litres will do).  Grab the following ingredients, toss them into the Tupperware, and shake until combined (this will take you under 10 minutes).  Each  morning when you wake up, grab about 1/3rd a cup of this mix, top it with Almond milk (or whatever milk you enjoy) and let it sit for 20 minutes till the milk is absorbed…then enjoy.  Thank you my amazing teacher and author Caroline Dupont for her inspiration!  This makes about 10 servings.

– 2 cups rolled oats

– 1/2 cup chia seeds

– 1/2 cup flax seeds

– 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

– 1/2 cup sunflower seeds

– 1/4 cup goji berries

– 1/4 cup cranberries

– 4 dried apricots, chopped

– 2 tsp cinnamon

– 2 tbsp honey (optional)

9-5 Work Week Lunch

I’m on the 9-5 Work Week Lunch bandwagon and I’m never getting off.  Each time I eat a different variation of this recipe I’m floored by how awesome it tastes.  It leave you feeling full, focused, and doesn’t cause bloating or post-meal fatigue.  It takes about 15 minutes if you’re using your time wisely and can be done while you’re waiting for your muesli to soak.  Again, thank you to Caroline Dupont for sharing this secret with me so that I could share it with you!  Here’s how it works:

Get a medium-sized pot and put a grain in it – I like to use one of the following:  brown rice, soba noodles, millet, or quinoa.  For the purpose of this example, let’s go with quinoa.

In the pot, put 1/2 cup of water and bring it to a boil.  Add 1/4 cup of quinoa.

Put a steamer on top of the grain and add in the following (note, when you steam the veggies all their juices will fall into the quinoa which you’re going to eat – score!)

– 2 cups leafy green veggies (I like kale or swiss chard)

– 1 cup of an orange or red veggie (red pepper, carrots, etc)

– 1 cup of bean sprouts (or other sprouts)

Cover and let steam until the quinoa is ready – about 10 minutes.

Pour the quinoa and steamed veggies in a big bowl and mix.  Next you’re going to add your seasonings and concentrated protein – here is what I normally add in:

– 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

– 1 tbsp sunflower seeds

– 1 tbsp walnuts

– 1 tbsp chia seeds

– 2-3 sheets of nori (sea weed)

– you could also add some cooked chicken, turkey, fish, or tofu

– 1 tbsp chives

– 1 tbsp fresh basil leaves

– tbsp fresh cilantro

– 1 diced raw clove of garlic

– 1 tbsp sauerkraut (the fermented kind you find in the refrigerated section of a health food store)

You need a suace to bring this to life.  You an use a bit of sesame seed oil, tahini, or ponzu sauce…I make a big patch of sauce on Sunday night and then use it throughout the week.  Here is a breakdown of my ponzu sauce that is adapted from the Fresh at Home cookbook (this cookbook btw has a whole chapter on cool sauces and there are 12 copies available at the Toronto Public Library):

– 4 cloves garlic

– 1/4 cup fresh ginger, chopped

– 1.5 stalks of lemongrass (available in the fresh spice/herb section of the fruit and veg section of your grocery store)

– 1/4 cup chili flakes

– 1/4 cup dry white wine

– 2 cup s water

– 1/3 cup soy sauce

– 1/3 cup brown sugar

Combine everything in a pot and bring to a boil.  Let simmer for 20 minutes, strain so that you remove all the chunks of garlic, lemon grass, and ginger and store the liquid in an air tight container in the fridge.


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Winning Against The Ultimate Honeybadgers (Food/Beverage Companies)

Back in the day, I obtained a Bachelor of Commerce degree my major’s were Marketing and Organizational Behaviour and unlike my classmates who were salivating to get a job at a big consumer packaged goods company, I was more interested in the psychology of both advertising and organizational culture.

One of the things I learned is that the internal and external culture of an organization is like a personality and if we look closely, core values and beliefs can be determined.  An extreme example of this would be which boldly and outwardly applauses itself for being the most successful online service geared at helping people have extramarital affairs.  In both the advertising and media exposure, representatives and the owner of AshelyMadision are unapologetic about what they stand for – in fact, their tagline is “Life is Short, Have an Affair”. 

If I had to personify AshleyMadison it would go a little something like this:

Name:  Troy

Occupation:  Telemarketing Guru

Hobbies:  Driving around in a civic, blaring music, running through red lights and hollarin’ at hotties.

Criminal Records: none, however, the police are watching him closely. 

Troy’s Honda Civic

You get the drift.  It’s somewhat more difficult to get into the essence of a consumer packaged goods company because they are so good at being unoriginal, “safe”, and outwardly socially responsible (Becel is the key sponsor of Ride for Heart).  They have lawyers and PR representatives on staff to make sure that they are protected and have learned very successfully how to leverage any and all loop holes to differentiate their product against the competitor.

What you need to know as a consumer is that you’re your own best advocate and it would be wise of you to be just a little skeptical of claims you hear and see on TV.  Advertisers have been caught in the past:

Danone paid $45 million in a class action lawsuit to consumers who busted them on unsubstantiated claims as to the benefits of their yogurt on the digestive system.

In 2010, Coca-Cola was slapped with a lawsuit for its product Vitaminwater for “The beverage company stands accused of selling what amounts to little more than sugar, artificial colouring and water and promoting it as something that can boost immunity, give energy and reduce risk of disease.”

Pfizer’s Centrum was busted for making unsubstantiated claims on colon and breast health.

Kashi has faced some controversy in recent days for claiming their products are natural, when in fact they are made using genetically modified ingredients.

Diamond settled in a class-action lawsuit for 3.5 million for misleading packaging relating to the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids on the heart (FYI, only fish oil omega-3 fatty acids are good for heart health – check out The Health Junction’s prior post on this topic).

The list goes on an on and these are the cases where a consumer took the time and energy to file a complaint.  It makes me wonder how many other false, misleading, and/or unsubstantiated claims are running around out there.

So, what can you do?  Here are 5 tips to get you started:

1.) Be aware of claims that are being made and if you question the information follow-up with the advertiser to clarify what you heard.  If you’re not satisfied, resort to Advertising Standards Canada where you can file a complaint.  See yesterday’s post for issues surrounding ASC.

2.) Compare Labels.  If you have heard that product ABC is better than XYZ because it’s lower in sodium, next time you go to the supermarket, compare the labels.  ABC might be lower in sodium but  by how much – ask yourself if the difference is legitimate.

3.) Beware of terms like “all natural”. What does that even mean?  It’s not a regulated term.  I worked on a jam campaign where the product was “all natural” but had 11 grams of added sugar per 1 tablespoon.  When you read a label, the sugar that appears is ADDED and not naturally occurring.  It’s evaporated cane sugar.  Sugar is sugar my friends and it’s all garbage regardless of cane, white, and brown.  This is misleading.

4.) Money Talks. Do  not purchase goods from a company that has questionable advertising practices.  I have cut the aformentioned jam company out of my life.  I’m also not interested in purchasing Activia yogurt, and other such crap.  And Becel?  Please.  Ride for the Heart?  It’s insulting to the consumer.

5.) Complain.  This one is tricky because it takes time, but if you’re not happy with something you’ve seen file a complaint with Advertising Standards Canada and follow-up with them until you receive a response.  Reach out to the advertiser and demand an explanation.

6.) Educate Yourself.  I like The Centre for Science in the Public Interest and this site often posts about food/beverage related issues in the news.  There is also a great book by Marion Nestle called Food Politics that examines the influence on the food and beverage industry on nutrition.  It’s available at the Toronto Public Library.

I would love to hear of any tips you have on keeping yourself informed and aware of potentially misleading or false advertising.  Drop me a line!


Beat the heat wave with these cool books!

Note:  all books reviewed are available at the Toronto Public Library.



The Kind Diet

Despite having seen this slightly weird video of Alicia Silverstone feeding her son pre-chewed food directly from her own mouth, I wanted to check out her book “The Kind Diet” which was suggested to me by a friend.  In her book, Alicia Silverstone outlines her path to becoming vegan and managed to examine the benefits of such a diet without being preachy.  I learned a lot about how mainstream animal protein is farmed and merchandised to the public which makes me feel like I have more power as a consumer.  There is a recipe section which is divided into three sections which build up on going vegetarian to vegan (the later by the way means eating no animal or animal by-products).  I made Eggplant Chana Masala with a group of middle school students and we all quite enjoyed it!  If you are interested in the topic of veganism or just want to learn more about whole and natural foods check this book out.  Four out of five stars!


Meals That Heal Inflammation

Julie Daniluk is a pretty well-known Canadian Nutritionist and is the host of OWN’s Healthy Gourmet – and she graduated from the school I’m going to so I’m extra proud of her book “Meals That Heal Inflammation”. I waited 3 months for this book at the library, but it was worth the wait.  Julie’s book talks about how inflammation within the body is often caused by food.  By using anti-inflammatory healing foods as medicine, we can give our body a break and restore balance.  Both recipes that I’ve tested so far were 100 percent delectable; African Nut Butter Stew which was a creamy white bean, sweet potato, almond butter, and kale based concoction as well as Cinnamon Baked Apples, a lovely grain free version of apple crisp. Five out of five stars!


Sleep, Beauty, Eco-Ideas, and Tricking Your Kids…More June Book Reviews

Note:  all books reviewed are available at the Toronto Public Library.


A Good Night’s Sleep

At school, my teachers are constantly talking about how important sleep and stress are to our overall health and wellbeing but it’s something that we often discount and it’s the first to go during busy periods.  This book, written by Lawrence J. Epstein and published by The Harvard Medical School breaks down why we need sleep and explains ways to overcome sleep issues in a way that is readable and understandable.  Sleep related issues such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and even night terrors are discussed and examined for possible solutions backed with scientific research that supports the evidence supplied.  If you, or anyone you know has ever experienced problems sleeping, definitely check this book out.  4 out of 5 stars.

Deceptively Delicious

I love Jerry Seinfeld, who doesn’t!?  Well, his wife is pretty much just as awesome.  In her book Deceptively Delicious, Jessica Seinfeld paves the way for parents to sneak healthy food into foods.  For real, you can put beets in cupcakes, cauliflower into tuna salad, and spinach and broccoli into chicken nuggets.  YES!  This is the book I’ve been looking for.  I work at a middle school teaching nutrition and cooking to 6, 7, and 8th grade kids and the minute I pull out any type of vegetable they start to moan and groan.  This book will allow me to get their stamp of approval on the taste of a dish BEFORE telling them what’s in it.  Brilliant!  The author teaches you how to puree and store foods so that “hidden” ingredients are quick and accessible even on a busy weeknight.  5 out of 5 stars!!!

The Green Beauty Guide

I loved the book There’s Lead in Your Lipstick so much that I decided to explore the topic of DIY beauty even more and was pleasantly surprised with the information contained in The Green Beauty Guide. Written by Julie Gabriel, this book suits those looking to up the ante on their home pharmacy and will allow you to avoid purchasing most beauty products from your local drugstore.  Learn how to make your own perfume, soaps, creams, and oils and if you decide to purchase items instead, Gabriel has outlined the safest and most environmentally friendly products on the market.  4 out of 5 stars.

Green for Life

By the same author as There’s Lead in Your Lipstick (can you tell I loved that  book??!), Green For Life teaches readers how to be environmentally conscious without having to live on a commune.  Learn how to purchase a car, have sex, have a baby, and do renovations to your house while keeping the environment in mind.  Did you know that cloth diapers have half the environmental footprint as conventional diapers which stay in landfills for more than 200 years?  By installing a low flow shower head and turning off the water while you soap up you can save you $250 dollars a year.  I hadn’t even considered that you could throw an environmentally friendly child’s birthday party…wow!  Some of the suggestions in Green For Life are too much for the average person to implement but most are totally doable and so, this book is absolutely worth reading if you care about reducing your eco-footprint.  5 out of 5 stars!



June 2012 Book Reviews

1801 Home Remedies:  Trustworthy treatments for Everyday Health Problems

This book, published by Reader’s Digest, was put together by a group of MD’s, Nurses, pharmacists, and Herbalists and the result is an informative and realistic approach to treating everyday aliments without necessarily reaching for a bottle of pills.  Each issue has a few pages dedicate to the causes and treatment options for everything from constipation, a sty, ingrown toe nails, and jock itch to snoring and the common cold.  The suggestions given are really easy to implement and there is a sidebar that indicates when the problem could be more serious requiring a trip to the doctor.  5 out of 5 stars!


There’s Lead in Your Lipstick

My teacher recommended this book during a class discussion on toxic buildup and she outlined that many of our beauty products are laden with harmful chemicals (check out a more in-depth post on this issue).  Until I read Gillian Decon’s book, I really hadn’t given much thought to the ingredient list on my shampoo, conditioner’s, deodorant, and makeup.  It’s hard for me to now discount the harmful effects of these chemicals on my long-term health and so I was especially glad that there were a ton of suggestions on safer product options on the market.  “There’s Lead in Your Lipstick” is also speckled with DIY recipes with I keenly tried out and now have a bathroom shelf complete with my own homemade deodorant, toothpaste, and body moisturizer.  5 out of 5 stars!


Fit and Fast in Minutes

I’m always on the lookout for recipes that meet the needs of a busy weeknight so was pleased when I saw this book on the shelf of my local branch of the Toronto Public Library.  Written by Prevention Magazine, this book has 175 recipes that all take under 30 minutes to make.  What I enjoyed about “Fit and Fast in Minutes” was that there was a focus on fruits, vegetables, and high fiber foods while keeping sodium and saturated fats in check.  The author, Linda Gassenheimer, was able to introduce readers to short but varied ingredient lists while keeping things realistic for those of us who shop at a No Frills type grocery store.  Some recipes that caught my eye include Wild Turkey Hash, Smoked Trout Salad, and Chicken Satay with Thai Peanut Sauce.  Yum!  For those of you watching your dietary intake, you’ll be pleased to know that the per seving nutritional information is included.  4 out of 5 stars!



May 2012 Cookbook Reviews

I’m always on the lookout for new cookbooks and luckily the Toronto Public Library is privy to an excellent selection.  It’s nice to investigate and test out a book before making an investment – so without further ado, here are a couple of reviews:

Best Recipes Ever

Best Recipes Ever is a co-production of the CBC & Canadian Living and is featured on CBC daily at 3 pm.  The host, Kary Osmond, is your everyday girl just looking to get a delicious (and somewhat healthy) meal on your plate.  What I like about both the show and the book is that you can make some seriously tasty meals that will impress your taste buds and your guests.  I tried about a handful of recipes from this book including; after school granola bars, stuffed ricotta-parmasean-mozzarella cheese pasta shells, and sweet and sour chicken stir fry and they didn’t disappoint.  My only concern with the recipes is that the sodium and fat content are on the high side, however, there are usually creative ways of revising the ingredients to make healthier choices.  This book gets 3 our of 5 stars!

Hungry Girl 300 Under 300

This book written by Lisa Lillien is aimed at helping those looking to watch their calories make healthy and filling meals – all under 300 calories per serving.  There were some seriously creative recipes in here sure to delight like Lasagna Cupcakes, Rockin’ Red Velvet Pancakes, Cheesy Squashtaki, and Naked Chicken Parm.  Overall, I thought this book did an excellent job at showing how food can be healthy AND tasty.  Where it fell short, in my opinion, was the overuse of synthetic sweeteners (almost every breakfast recipe had zero calorie sweetener included) but as with Best Recipes Ever, a creative cook can always modify the ingredients for a more wholesome end product.  3 out of 5 stars!

Kids Kitchen:  Good Food Made Easy

I had such high hopes for this book!  Written by Mitchell Beazley and Amanda Grant, Kids Kitchen is geared towards young chefs who want to have fun in the kitchen while learning key cooking skills.  Unfortunately, the recipes included ingredients that picky pallets wouldn’t touch (like flounder and lamb chops?!).  Having a little experience working with kids in a kitchen environment, the recipe must be simple and easy to construct  – anything over 7 ingredients is tough for most kids to follow.  The recipes in Kids Kitchen were lengthy and too complex to complete without heavy parental supervision.  From what I have observed, kids enjoy cooking when it’s hands on and low stress which cannot be achieved with this book.  1 out of 5 stars.