Spring Veggie Turkey Sandwich

Since I’m planning on taking on a Whole30 in a few weeks (see this post), I’m starting to wrap my head around what I can and can’t eat during that month. I’m planning to have a scroll through my previous posts and find recipes that fit so I have a starting point for planning some meals out well ahead of time. I think I’m going to be hard-pressed to find more than a few recipes, but I’m sure there’s lots I could make slight changes to so they’d be compliant. I’ll tag them as Whole30 so you can find them if you want them.

This recipe, however, is not Whole30 approved, mainly because it’s on a whole wheat english muffin (not that there’s anything wrong with whole wheat english muffins). An easy swap here would be to turn the sandwich into a lettuce wrap, or to toss all the ingredients on a bed of spring mix or spinach and top with a refreshing oil and vinegar dressing. I suspect deli turkey is not Whole30-compliant, but you could also swap it for a few slices of your own roasted turkey or chicken breast. See? Lots of options out there. I think I’ll be fine.

This recipe makes 1 serving. I packed it for lunch the night before and it was fine sitting in the fridge overnight and half of the next day.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 whole wheat english muffin, cut in half
  • 1/4 avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 2 thin slices deli turkey
  • 5 thin cucumber slices
  • 1 radish, thinly sliced
  1. Mash the avocado and spread inside 1 half of english muffin.
  2. Top with turkey, veggies, and the other half of the muffin.
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Why I’m considering trying Whole30

Just from that title alone, I can hear you all shouting at me “you hypocrite!!!”. Normally I don’t want to touch a fad diet with a ten-foot pole. And normally I’m going on and on about why you don’t need to cut certain foods out of your diet completely unless there’s a legit reason. But here I am today debating going through a Whole30.

Why I'm considering trying

For those who don’t know, Whole30 is a 30-day diet change where lots of foods are cut out for a variety of reasons. You eliminate added sugar, alcohol, grains (not just those with gluten), grain-type foods (like quinoa), legumes, dairy, and MSG/carageenan/sulfites. This is a huge list, when you think about what you eat in a day. The idea is that after doing this for 30 days, you can slowly add foods back into your diet. For more info, check out the website here.

I can tell you right now that the hardest things for me to cut out will be cheese and beans, and that I will have to get super creative about breakfasts, since I’m kinda on an oatmeal kick right now.

So here’s why I think Whole30 might be a good idea for me right now:

  • There’s a lot of things that might happen if I cut out added sugar, but I’m pretty sure none of them will be bad things. I am very sure there will be some kind of sugar withdrawal symptoms in the first week, but I don’t think its anything I can’t handle. Like many of these other changes, removing added sugar from my diet temporarily will help me pay more attention to what I’m eating, which could lead to some weight loss. While that isn’t the whole goal of this plan, I would not exactly be sad if I lost a few pounds.
  • Since I won’t be able to eat most processed foods, I’ll have to pay more attention to what I’m eating, which can only lead to a healthier diet.
  • Something is going on with my GI system, and its probably caused by what I’m eating. I’m not talking about anything super serious, just that any regularly scheduled programming is either not there, or too frequent, or I’m gassy, bloated, or have cramps after eating. I know my dad feels better now that he’s cut out dairy from his diet, so it wouldn’t really surprise me if decreasing my dairy intake made me feel better.
  • Or maybe it’s wheat and gluten that my body doesn’t love, in which case, this will also help. I do eat a lot of gluten, so it’s possible that my body just needs a little break.
  • I will have to eat more fruits and vegetables. There is no downside to that.
  • I’ll have to be more creative about what I eat, since there’s so many things that will be off limits. This can only lead to more interesting recipes and cooking experiments. And obviously I would blog about these recipes and share my experience here. There’s also a Whole30 cookbook, with lots of ideas, which will at least get me started.
  • Whole30 has a very no-nonsense, tough-love approach here. It really is all or nothing, which I think will be the kick in the pants I need to actually cut out the foods that aren’t agreeing with me and make healthier choices. Additionally, on the website, they offer so much support as a community for anyone taking on this challenge, and tons of resources, so I’m fairly confident I can find the answers I might need to be able to stick with the program for a month.

Basically the worst case scenario here is that I eat healthier, try some new recipes, and probably lose some weight. All good things.

Here’s why doing Whole30 will be super hard for me:

  • I don’t want to be that person at a party or event or whatever who’s like “Oh sorry I don’t eat gluten/dairy/meat/grains/alcohol/legumes, please find me something else”. If I’m going to do this, I will treat it as my problem, not one for the rest of the world to solve for me. If I go to a friends for a weekend, I’ll bring some Whole30 approved back-up food, so that it’s never anyone else’s problem to find me food. If I’m going out for dinner, I’ll check the menu first and figure out what I can eat. This is not a medical thing, this is something I’m doing voluntarily, and it’s not anyone else’s problem to figure it out for me.
  • The biggest hurdle for me is that I work in the food industry. I have to taste things as part of my job. I have to test recipes as part of my job. Fortunately, there are other people in my department who are also considering taking on their own dietary challenges, so we’ll all be in it together. The solution is that we have to have spit cups for doing tastings. Basically you chew the food, taste it, and then spit it into your cup so you don’t actually eat it. I would hate to be the only at the table doing that, but if everyone else is doing it too, it’s not as weird.
  • I live (and eat) with someone who will not do this challenge with me. And that’s fine. But he’s still going to have things I can’t eat in the house. So I’m going to have to deal with having that temptation in front of me all the time.
  • I am very worried about how I’ll get enough iron. I don’t usually eat tons of meat (unless it’s with the carnivore I live with), so I rely on legumes for that. Without being able to eat those, I’m going to have to pay more attention to making sure I do eat meat, and lots of spinach, and eggs. I’ll also have to work on pairing my iron-rich veggies with some vitamin C, which will help me absorb more non-heme iron. Basically it’s just something else I’ll have to plan around and pay attention to.

So in conclusion, there’s lots of things to think about, both good and bad. I really do think that doing the Whole30 for a month, and then reintroducing the foods I think might be upsetting my digestive system will help. And everything else will just help me make changes for a healthier diet. While this will be a challenge and time consuming, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to take on, as long as I’m willing to take the time to meal plan and be creative with my diet. If the whole thing totally tanks and I don’t think its worth it, I go back to my normal eating. Not the end of the world.

What are your thoughts on the Whole30? If you’ve done one and have any tips or advice to share, let me know in the comments or on Facebook.

Taco Zucchini Boats

Just in time for Hump Day, I’ve got an easy weeknight recipe for you. This recipe cuts out processed carbs and uses all real food.

This is a true Meal-Prep Pro recipe. The recipe the way I made it serves two people, but the meat part makes more. So either you could double the rest of the ingredients if you’re cooking for more people than that, or you can use the rest of the meat for other things. Taco meat with some BBQ sauce makes a great sandwich, or you can throw it on some salad with salsa and sour cream for a taco salad. Or wrap it in a tortilla. Or just eat it with a fork. Possibilities are endless! The easiest way to eat as healthy as possible is to plan ahead of time.

Recently I’ve started to get better at planning my meals. This isn’t a set-in-stone kind of thing, but it is a rough plan for what I’ll eat for the week. This includes 5 quick breakfasts for work days, plus something else for weekend mornings. I also plan morning and afternoon snacks to take to work, and small lunches. And for dinners, I’ve realized that the best plan is to not stick to the plan. I have a rough idea of what dinners can be made with what’s in the fridge and freezer, and then just make them based on what needs to be used up first, or what we actually want to eat. What are your meal planning strategies?

This recipe serves 2 people, but extra taco meat.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 small zucchinis
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheese (or more because CHEESE)
  • Taco toppings (salsa, green onions, sour cream, whatever else makes you happy)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Brown the ground pork in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chili powder, cumin, and paprika and stir to coat everything evenly.
  3. Meanwhile, scoop out the middle of the zucchinis so there’s a trough in the middle. Place them on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  4. Spoon the pork into the zucchinis, top with cheese, and bake for 5-7 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted.
  5. Top with your favourite taco toppings to serve.

Trail Mix for 1

Oh hi! It is gorgeous and sunny out right now, and I just came in from BBQing and it was so warm out and it really feels like summer!

Ok, so in my last post, I talked about food literacy and where to find more information. Recently, I’ve found Goodness Me!’s webinars, which are free and led by holistic nutritionists and other experts. I find them super interesting, and so far I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on one about avoiding sugar and reducing sugar cravings, and tonight I’m in one about fermentation and gut health. While they do pass on some amazing information, and make this information available to as many people as possible, really listen to what’s being said, since they are hoping to sell you their products. That being said, the holistic nutritionist speaking tonight had some amazing descriptions of autoimmune diseases that made them so easy to understand. She’s also focusing on adding foods to promote digestive health, versus removing foods and avoiding them, and how one diet will not work for everyone! Very interesting to listen to. The point is that there’s lots of information (good and bad) out there. Find it, but think about what you read and hear, don’t just assume every thing you hear is right.

Trail mix time! So when I was in high school, we did a lot of camping with our school programs, and I loved to bring the Costco trail mix, full of nuts and raisins – and of course M&M’s. And it is soooooo easy to say you’re going to only eat a handful of trail mix, and then eat a huge amount. Trail mix is generally a calorie-heavy, sugar-heavy, and fat-heavy food, so we don’t want to eat a ton of it. This mini recipe in portion controlled, but still has a bit of sugar from the dates and cranberries. The pumpkin seeds provide some healthy fat and a little bit of iron ( we all know I’m trying to cram more iron into my diet all the time), while the fruit provides some fibre to keep you full and keep digestive-type-things moving. 

Meal prep pro tip: pack a bunch of these servings into little snack Ziploc bags or small containers and keep them handy. Throw one in your lunch bag for a morning, afternoon, or pre-gym snack, or keep one in your purse/back pack/gym bag/car for snack emergencies. Another great option is to portion out 14 almonds in the same way to mix it up.

This recipe makes 1 snack serving.

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Ingredients:

  • 4 dates
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened dried cranberries
  • 2 tbsp unsalted pumpkin seeds
  1. Combine the ingredients in a small bowl, container, or snack Ziploc bag.

 

 

What is Food Literacy?

Today, instead of writing a recipe, I want to talk about food literacy. What is it? Food literacy means that you have the knowledge and skills to feed yourself in a healthy manner. You don’t need to be a gourmet chef, but everyone should be able to make basic healthy dishes that include all four food groups from Canada’s Food Guide. You don’t need to do a huge assessment on the nutrition content of every food you consume, but knowing how to compare the sugar or protein of the granola bars for your lunch shouldn’t be rocket science. You  don’t need to eat all organic (or raw, or vegan, or paleo, or whatever), but you should know what terms like organic, pure, or grass-fed mean on a food label, and make your decisions based on that. And you definitely don’t need to cut out treat foods or swear off chocolate or never eat take-out again, but you should know how these things fit into a healthy diet.

Food and nutrition is a complicated field right now. I do not pretend to know everything or be an expert on nutrition, cooking, food, and healthy eating, but it’s an area I’m passionate about. More importantly, I know where to go to find answers for the things I don’t know.

How can we all become more food literate?

  • Cook more food at home. Trying recipes (even when they don’t work!) and getting comfortable in a kitchen will help everyone gain the confidence to keep cooking more! A object in motion stays in motion!
  • Do your research. If food or diet claims are just too good to be true, look harder. Find another source. Talk to a dietitian. Don’t let yourself fall for every silly claim or fad out there.
  • Choose local food as much as you can and buy in season as much as possible. This could mean growing some of your own food, visiting farmer’s markets and local producers, or just choosing Ontario produce over something imported when you’re in the grocery store. That being said, there are some things we just can’t grow in Canada for the most part, like bananas or citrus. This doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing, just a good attempt for some items.
  • Read labels. Remember to compare serving sizes as well, to make sure you’re making the right choice. Nutrition label or ingredient statement freaking you out? See if it’s something you can make a healthier version of at home.
  • Stay curious. Look for recipes. Try new foods. Find cookbooks at the library. Talk to farmers and producers. See if there’s interesting food events going on in your community or online. Talk to people around you about what you learn or try.

For more information on food literacy, check out http://www.food-literacy.ca/.

To talk to a dietitian, or for other nutrition questions, check out https://www.eatrightontario.ca.

 

Gluten Free Banana Peanut Butter Pancakes

After making these Strawberry Cottage Cheese Pancakes, I had a request for more gluten-free recipes, specifically for pancakes. So here we are! If you have some other weird and wonderful request, send it my way and I’ll figure it out!

Speaking of gluten-free diets, let’s talk about that for a minute. There are people who need to eat a gluten-free for medical reasons and those people need pancake recipes! However, there are tons of diets out there promoting going gluten-free as a weight loss strategy or other nonsense. Going gluten-free might help you lose weight, but that’s more likely to be because you’ve cut out processed gluten-filled foods and made a conscious effort to eat a healthier diet while avoiding gluten. Repeat after me: gluten doesn’t make you fat. But if eating gluten-free makes you feel better for whatever reason, and you’re eating a balanced, healthy diet, then do whatever makes you happy.

Meal prep pro tip: These pancakes can be made ahead of time and reheated for breakfast (or lunch. Or dinner) on busier days. Try making a double or triple batch for get you through the week. These pancakes pack a protein punch (how’s that for alliteration, grade 11 English?) from the egg and Greek yogurt. This recipe makes 2 small servings or 1 really big one.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  1. Mash the banana in a mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  2. Spray a skillet with non-stick spray. Dollop the batter into the pan 2 tbsp at a time. Spread the batter into a circle with a spatula or flipper. Cook 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Repeat with remaining batter.