‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: shut your pie hole or, in this case: put less in your pie hole.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

6 Reasons We Snack

The basic biological basis of eating is to gain energy in response to physiological, internal cues - like your stomach rumbling. So why then, do so many of us (including myself) feel compelled to stuff our already stuffed stomachs?

A snack is defined as food consumed between meals. An unhealthy snack is high in fat and/or sugar.

New research found 6 reasons people commonly scoffed, scarfed, shoveled and stuffed themselves with unhealthy snack foods:
  1. To enjoy a  special occasion
  2. Opportunity induced eating (more below)
  3. To gain energy
  4. To reward oneself
  5. Social pressure
  6. To cope with negative emotions (relatively lower score)
The study included over 1,500 males and females. In line with previous findings, women more frequently reported snacking for a variety of the 6 reasons. Women tend to be more preoccupied with eating bahaviour than do men.

Can we help it?
Yes, by thinking about why we are snacking, and understanding our triggers. Unhealthy snacking behaviours may be habit and performed automatically. For example, opportunistic eating (reason #2) includes things like:
  • Because I'm watching tv/a movie
  • Because the food tastes so good
  • Because the food is there
It is out of a lack of understanding people search for a reason to explain away or excuse their behaviour.

Should we help it?
No... But yes. Replacing high fat/sugar snacks with healthy snacks is great. It supplements your diet with nutrients you could otherwise may miss out on. Eg: a snack like yoghurt or a piece of fruit, you're getting fiber, calcium, protein, other micronutrients, etc.

Really understanding and identifying why you're snacking pinpoints your triggers. This allows you to make an informed, conscious decision, rather than an excuse. Being actively involved in your own decision making leads to less 'regretful' eating and allows you to enjoy the food (mindful eating).
Here are some healthy and tasty snack ideas for various situations:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Your Body Gives Thanks: Cook @ Home

For this special holiday installment, we've got a recipe to accompany some great new research about cooking at home. The image pictured here is from a few Thanksgivings ago as my hubby and I were getting ready to stuff the turkey.

Cooking at home saves money and correlates with a healthier diet. A new study found that people who spend more than 1 hour a day preparing food at home:

  • Spend significantly less money on food and beverages outside the home compared to folks who spend <1hr/day prepping food ($22 and $15 respectively)
  • Ate significantly more fruits and veggies
  • Placed a lower importance on convenience foods (which are typically high in sugar, salt, refined grains and saturated fats)
  • Had a better overall diet quality
Now we move into the recipe phase. And what better seasonal recipe than pumpkin bread? Made with real pumpkin, I might add.

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder* 
  • 3 eggs
  • 1.25 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 cups of shredded pumpkin**
Preheat oven to 325F (150C)
Lightly grease loaf pan or muffin tins
  1. Using your favourite mixer (hand or KitchenAid-syle) beat the eggs on medium for ~1 minute
  2. Slowly add in the sugar and continue to beat on medium for 3-5 minutes until the sugar is incorporated and the mixture is light yellow, slightly thickened and aerated
  3. Slowly add in the canola oil and vanilla, continue to beat ~3 more minutes
    Folding the shredded pumpkin into the wet crew
  4. Turn the mixer off and add the shredded pumpkin, incorporate by gently folding the mixture with a spatula
  5. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine 
Important note: It's at this point that we mix the dry crew into the wet crew. This recipe is a quick-bread^, so it's important that the wet and dry crews get folded together gently using a spatula until just combined (over-mixing or rigorous mixing deflates the bubbles from the beaten eggs which allow the dough rise).
^Quick-breads use a weak base, in this case baking soda, and a weak acid, the baking powder, to elicit a chemical reaction that releases carbon dioxide and thus causing the bread to rise without yeast.

      6. Place all of the dry crew into the wet crew and gently fold until just combined (see note above)
      7. Quickly place batter in designated (lightly greased) baking vessels and into the oven
      8. Bake loaf in the center of the oven for 75 minutes (30 minutes if you're making muffins)
      9. Remove from oven and cool in loaf pan 15 mins, turn out and cool on rack 1 hour
    10. Devour

Frozen leftover pumpkin

* If your baking powder is older than 6 months, throw in an extra pinch as it loses its potency
** There are two schools of thought re using Halloween or Jack 'O Lantern pumpkins, if they are stored indoors and not carved, they are safe and fine to use. Bear in mind these pumpkins are grown for size and appearance. I used a leftover, uncarved Halloween pumpkin and lived to tell the tale of a delicious baking venture, so it's up to you. Shred using your favourite food processor. Oh, and you can freeze the shreddings to use at a later date.

Wishing everyone a happy and delicious Turkey Day.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Milking it is Udderly D-lightful

Hate drinking milk? Maybe that's what your poor unsuspecting child, niece, nephew or other young relation tells you. Many parents worry about their children drinking their mandated allotment of daily cow juice. More on that shortly. Research shows we are putting our children at risk when they stray from milk drinking, but maybe, just maybe there's more to the story...

Vitamin D is a very active area of research due to it's role in human health which, we are learning, is more than what we once thought. The sunshine vitamin plays a well known part in bone health: allowing our bodies to absorb calcium. Mounting evidence also shows its importance in the immune system: clearing dangerous proteins from the brain - more on that here.

'Non-cow milk' is increasingly readily available and has become something of a fad. These milks include oat, goat, almond, rice and soy milks. 
A new study investigated a group of over 2,500 children aged 1-6 and found:
  • Over 10% of children regularly consumed non-cow milk beverages
  • Children exclusively consuming non-cow milk were were over twice as likely to be vitamin D deficient (blood levels of vit D <50nmol/L)
  • Children drinking both cow and non-cow milk were at greater risk of low vitamin D: every additional cup of non-cow milk corresponded with a 5% decrease in blood vitamin D levels

In the US and Canada, cows milk must be fortified (40IU/100ml or greater) and research shows cows milk is the predominant dietary source of vitamin D for young children. But why?

America has a somewhat disturbing culture of 'child food'. Since living in the US, I've witness the prescribed, and strictly enforced allotment of cow juice for children at mealtimes. Simultaneously though, children are given a meal of mac and cheese; breaded, battered and deep fried chicken nuggets; or unidentifiable sticks of breaded, battered, deep fried fish; or other meals mostly devoid of nutrients necessary for growth, development and developing healthy habits.

That scenario is akin to an obese person getting a combo meal of a BigMac, large fries and a diet coke. 

I'm yet to see a parent join their child and both drink a cup of milk together (which, I might add, is an excellent source of protein, calcium and vitamin D that is just as important for adults who want healthy bones when they get old). Parental hypocrisy at its best.

Perhaps contrary to popular parental belief, vitamin D is found in other foods including:
  • 3oz/85g of salmon (~450IU of vitamin D)
  • 3oz/85g drained, canned tuna (~150IU of vitamin D)
  • Eggs (yolk)
  • Beef liver
  • Sardines
  • Fortified foods like orange juice, some yoghurts, some cereals, margarine (always look for ones with 0 trans fat and no hydrogenated oils)
A child requires 600IU/day of vitamin D. Eating a combination of fish, eggs and choice fortified foods throughout the week will get them there without forcing milk down their throats. It'll also remove this ridiculous notion of 'child food'. Perhaps children eating weekly meals of fish, omelets, tuna sandwiches, fruit and yoghurt and other such goodies will improve the outlook of health in this glorious country.

Take home messages:
  • Vitamin D is important: For children and adults
  • Don't force your kids to drink milk if they don't like it
  • If you've got an outlier child who loves milk, give it to them as a between-meal snack rather than filling up their little tummies when you want them to eat a meal
  • Ditch the dated and delirious notion that children need 'child food'

For more info on kids, dairy, calcium and snacks, check out:
Udder Confusion: Are Your Kids Having a Cow Over Milk? 
Lunch Boxes For Picky Pie Holes
We Came, We Snacked, We Conquered
We Came, We Snacked, We Conquered: A Big Day Out