Friday, February 25, 2011

Simple Substitutions to Combat Fat

Oftentimes people associate healthy eating with blandness or a lack of flavour and texture. For example, foods higher in fat tend to be creamy and have a distinct mouth feel that people might think they have to sacrifice in lieu of lighter alternatives. Don't worry, with these tips, you can make some simple swaps to have your cookies and burn belly fat too!

Skip the mayo, go for avocados instead - Unmistakably creamy and full of body, avocados are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. They're high in fibre and loaded with vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. You can mash up avocados and put them wherever you would use mayo and even butter.

Similar to the above tip: In baking, swap butter for apple sauce. You'll be cutting back on a whack of calories while still providing lots of moisture to the batter. Say hello to chewy, moist cookies with way less calories!

Ditch the iceberg and go for the green! When making salads, switch up your base from time to time. The darker the better, that means they're loaded with nutrients. For example, spinach is loaded with folic acid and contains iron and the calorie difference is negligible.

Swap white breadcrumbs for oats or high fibre cereal - Boost your intake of whole grains and cut back on the white, refined stuff. Not only do whole grains contain antioxidants, you're also helping ensure that you meet your target for your daily fibre intake. Combine those benefits with great taste and crunchy texture and you've got a winning combo.

Greek yogurt for sour cream or creme fraiche - Many different types of Greek yogurt have been available in the US for a while now, but it's just gaining popularity and acclaim here in Canada. Containing twice as much protein but the exact same calories as regular yogurt (we know, why not just eat Greek all the time!), with the creaminess and body of sour cream, you'll be slapping this stuff on everything from baked potatoes to fruit and granola parfaits!

Swap cauliflower for potatoes - potatoes are very healthy and there's absolutely nothing wrong with having them; but if you're looking to cut back on calories from time to time, you can simply sub in cauliflower into your mashed potato recipe. Nobody will be able to tell the difference if you don't tell them!

Remember, we eat with our brains first - our expectations determine how much we like things. Trust us, these substitutions work because the difference is so little (some people in fact prefer these versions), so go in with an open mind! Be adventurous, open and willing to make these simple swaps and you'll never look back.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Will Yo-Yo Diets Be a Thing of The Past?

Just the word itself conjures images of ups and down, highs and lows. The ups and downs of Yo-Yo diets are not just in terms of weight lost and gained, but also in terms of mood, feelings of self-worth, and levels of deprivation, physical activity and energy. Yo-Yo dieting is really nasty for your health, but thanks to some new research, we may be closer to discovering who is at risk for this behaviour, and how we can nip it in the bud!

While it's true that all diets bring about highs and lows, Yo-Yo diets not only take a physiological toll on your body but also a psychological one. Yo-Yo dieting is when people lose weight and then gain it back again afterwards, if not even more. It has been found that weight loss isn't people's biggest challenge, it's keeping that weight off that is the hardest part! The thing is, we're finding out that some people are more susceptible to weight gain post-diet than others. Some people just eat what they want and never really gain or lose weight but others quickly bounce back like they were never on a diet to begin with.

Researchers from Cambridge, UK believe that this pattern is somehow linked to the protein angiotensin converting enzyme, or ACE. It is believed that ACE might interfere with the hormones that control how full people feel, and might make their bodies store extra fat and water. This discovery may ultimately lead to the development of a blood test that can detect who is susceptible to these outcomes which can then guide eating practices for healthy, sustainable weight loss.

This test isn't meant or able to fix people's metabolisms or prevent this pattern from happening in a physiological sense, but perhaps the knowledge that crash diets and deprivation will have severe consequences for some people might sway their behaviour towards more sustainable eating practices. It could also potentially be psychologically appeasing to know that there is a way that people can control post-diet weight gain from happening by understanding its cause. Now, we'll just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Does Your Blood Group Affect Your Diet?

We know for certain that our blood groups have important implications for our health. Years of research have shown that having different blood groups gives people variable risks for ailments such as gastric ulcers, heart attacks, malaria, and cholera. They also appear to influence fertility and allergies. However, in recent years, there has been a lot of discussion regarding whether or not there could be a link between our blood groups and the way we should eat in order to feel our best and boost our health even further. Once again, the question is on the table due to the rising popularity of the 'blood type diet', especially in the UK.

The basic premise of the blood group diet, or the genotype diet, is the concept of nutrigenomics, a growing area of research. Taken straight from the blood group diet's website, nutrigenomics and this diet recognize "the biochemical uniqueness of each individual and the need to tailor treatments and prescriptions to match that individual variability. While a person's genetic code, ultimately, is the basis of this individuality, basing treatments on genetic factors is too broad an approach and not consistent with alternative medicine". Basically, the plan suggests that your blood type indicates the prehistoric group you're descended from, and it reveals what your digestive system can tolerate. Interesting, but is there any truth behind this?

There is no published research to date that shows that such diets are particularly effective, but one thing is for sure; they can put people at risk of nutrient deficiencies. For example, Group A's are recommended to consume a vegetarian-style diet with more vegetables and greens, cereals, nuts, seeds and carbohydrates such as pasta. It is proposed that meat should be consumed in lesser quantity. Perhaps this isn't a huge deal, but what about Type O's, for whom whole grains and dairy are off limits? It is recommended that they follow a 'prehistoric' style of eating, consuming lots of red meat and fish. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize that excluding dairy and grains, while eating lots of red meat raises many red flags.

Also, I might remind you that our food has changed in an astronomical number of ways since the time of hunters and gatherers, and humans have changed too, so trying to copy their diets expecting the same results just doesn't follow. Most respected medical experts simply don't back this diet because they don't want to put their patients or clients at risk for deficiencies and best practices are always backed by sound research. Realistically, the best road to good health is ensuring that you get all the nutrients you need from a balanced diet and avoid excluding entire food groups. Balance is the name of the game, not blood type!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Regular Exercise Can Delay Aging

So many people are searching for the fountain of youth. They want not only to look younger on the outside, but to feel younger as well, and live longer in good health. Perhaps they may need to look no farther than to their local gym, their living room or even the great outdoors; according to a new study, physical activity holds the key to delaying aging.

The study was performed using genetically modified mice who were designed to age rapidly with defective mitochondria, the cellular powerhouses. Half the mice were made to exercise regularly, while the other half were sedentary. The authors of the Canadian study from McMaster University, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that a lifetime of physical activity can slow the physical signs of aging through all tissues in the body; exercise had a systemic effect. While the sedentary mice started balding and going grey, the active mice did not, and they were also much less socially isolated.

According to Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at McMaster's DeGroote School of Medicine and the lead researcher in this study,"What really shocked us was the gonads, the spleen, liver -- every tissue we looked at was made better with the exercise. It has a systemic effect and even prevented a slight shrinkage of the brain,". Also surprising was the fact that the damaged mitochondrial DNA, a suggested cause of aging, was repaired in the mice who exercised. This was an unexpected and very promising discovery.

Now, even though these were mice in the study, we know enough about the effects of exercise on the human body that this should just be an added catalyst to get people moving. Tarnopolsky has this advice, "Get moving, get active and get your kids moving while they are young,".

Monday, February 21, 2011

Family Day Activities to Boost Your Health

Happy Family Day! Since most businesses are closed and the kids are staying home, it can be a challenge to figure out what to do on days such as this. Thankfully, a little snow fell last night making for a whole host of family friendly activities to get your heart rates up and encourage relaxation and a little family bonding at the same time!

For starters, most skating rinks are open today, and what is more Canadian than strapping on a pair of skates and doing a few laps around the ice? Don't worry if you're inexperienced; learning keeps the mind and body active and a challenge is always more exciting than plain old repetition. Why not then celebrate your successes with a mug of hot chocolate when you're finished?

Another family friendly activity to enjoy today is tobogganing. With the snow that has fallen, most hills will be nicely covered to allow for hours of family fun. If that's not your thing, why not bundle up and go for a nice long winter walk? That ought to get everyone hungry and excited for some healthy food later on. And for that matter, why not make meals a family event today and get everyone involved! Cooking from scratch takes time but also teaches cooperation and teamwork in the kitchen. Then you can all enjoy the fruits of your labour together.

If the outdoors aren't for you, there are plenty of indoor activities you can all do today. Certain townships are leaving swimming pools and community centers open to encourage more family fun and physical activity today. And if you'd rather just stay home, aside from traditional board games, why not bake up something delicious and healthy that you can share with others throughout the week? Not only will you stay warm, but your whole house will smell amazing too! You can pop in a few movies and get some much needed R&R with those you love. Both physical activity and relaxation are critical for good health, so don't feel guilty if you just take it easy today and catch up on a little shut-eye and rest!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Another Important Nutrient in Fish Benefits Unborn Babies

Fish is a bit of a slimy subject to discuss with pregnant moms. On one hand, they're warned about the risk of mercury contamination from tuna, and the risk of food poisoning from raw or improperly cooked fish. But on the other hand, fish is loaded with some key nutrients that are absolutely essential for their baby's healthy growth and development. Now, a new study suggests that there's another reason for expectant moms to chow down on more fish - it contains a key nutrient that can help prevent pre-term births and other complications.

You may have heard of the co-enzyme Q10 as it's name is splashed across the labels of many face and body creams, but it's actually a very important nutrient that everyone should be getting in their diets. For those of you biochem students, you've probably heard this co-enzyme referred to as ubiquinone, an important participant in the electron transport chain in the production of ATP. CoQ10 is a beneficial antioxidant that is extremely important for energy and blood circulation, encourages a healthy immune system and helps reduce the effects of aging. But of the greatest importance to moms-to-be, CoQ10 has been associated with lower rates of miscarriages, pre-eclampsia and pre-term births.

Some great sources of this nutrient include oily fish (such as salmon and tuna), organ meats (such as liver), and whole grains. Through a balanced diet, most people actually get enough of CoQ10, but excluding foods like fish might jeopardize your ability to consume sufficient amounts. You might also have realized that by consuming plenty of fish, particularly the oily kind, you'll be loading up on omega-3 essential fatty acids which are extremely important for the healthy development of a baby's brain and central nervous system.

Sure, supplements are always available, but think of all the other benefits that eating oily fish provides, including lots of protein and vitamin D. In addition, the safety of supplements is often questionable, and you don't want to have any other reason to worry for the safety of your unborn child! So tonight, cook up a nice piece of salmon and both of you can enjoy the benefits.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Skinny Pepsi Spokeswoman Sofia Vergara Doesn't Diet

With the launch of their questionably appropriate new can, loaded with social and cultural euphemisms (see our previous post), Pepsi has sure done a good job in choosing an appropriate spokeswoman to represent them. Gorgeous, talented, yet not rail-thin, Sofia Vergara is hitting the nail on the head to make up for Pepsi's faux-pas' or perhaps gain the forgiveness of those who feel that Pepsi had sent the wrong message with their 'tall, skinny' can.

Smart and confident, actress Sofia Vergara seems like she's got the whole package. She looks like she must work really hard to maintain her amazing figure, but to the surprise of many, she has admitted that she doesn't cook and she refuses to succumb to the exercise obsessed mindset that Hollywood stars are known for.

It seems surprising, then, that this curvy Colombian star would want to represent the new skinny Pepsi can. It seems against her beliefs and values, but perhaps she feels she owes Pepsi a little bit of her success. You see, she got her 'in' to Hollywood through a Pepsi ad when she was only 17. Now at nearly 40 (but could pass for 29), she's finally made her big break on the ABC sitcom 'Modern Family'.

In a recent interview with ABCNews.com, the curvaceous star confessed "I can't wake up at four in the morning to exercise...If I have to be on the set at six, I work out on the weekends." Aha! So she does exercise, just not like a madwoman typical of many other actresses. Also surprising, her diet sounds like something off of the 'banned list' of many skinny starlets. "I don't cook at all," she said. "I always have these Colombian things shipped to me, arepas. You can put anything on top of them -- cheese, meat, butter, salt. I always have them in my refrigerator and when I really want to feed myself I go for them."

Take it however you will, but perhaps the point of choosing Vergara was to illustrate that looking and feeling great is all about balance, not excess. You can have that butter, salt, cheese and meat in healthy amounts, pair them with a diet soda to save a few calories, and exercise moderately a couple of times a week. Man, those PR people sure are clever.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Nutrient You Need More of...Now!

There are so many nutrients we need to consume each day to be healthy, but some are easier to obtain than others. Those, we don't have to worry so much about. There are, however, others that we have to work a little to seek them out and ensure we're obtaining them in our diets, but it's well worth the effort. Fibre is one of those nutrients, and it's getting easier to meet your daily fibre intake each day.

Fibre is crucial in our diets. Did you know that aside from it's function in digestion, the gut is actually your largest immunological organ? It's true, and fibre keeps our gut lining healthy and strong to keep bad bacteria and toxins out. Fibre is also an essential component in maintaining heart health - it lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, and it helps keep diabetes at bay by lowering blood sugar levels and helping you keep your weight in check. So why is this nutrient often lacking in people's diets?

It's not because fibre is hiding, that's for sure. Fibre is present in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. It's also added in to granola bars, breads and cereals, plus you can drink it down as a lemonade, pink grapefruit, orange or flavourless fibre supplement. You need between 25 and 30 grams each day, and an easy way would be to start your day with a high fibre cereal like fibre 1 (14g), an apple and pear during the day (about 4g each = 8g), a granola bar as another snack (4g), 1 cup of broccoli with dinner (2.5g) plus your daily 1.5 oz of almonds or nuts sprinkled throughout the day (5g). That's 33.5g; even more than is recommended each day and it was so easy.

As you can see, however, breakfast is a key component and an easy way to get in lots of fibre each day. Otherwise, you'd have to reach for 2-4 other fruits or veggies or other whole grains like bread or pasta during the day, which is easily doable for many people, but not everyone.

So think heart smart and boost your overall health by keeping fibre in mind when choosing snacks and meal components throughout the day!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Diet or Be Dumped: Jessica Simpson's Ultimatum

Jessica Simpson's weight has been the butt of many jokes in the past couple of years. While it's true that she no longer looks like Daisy Duke, Jessica has spoken out about being comfortable with her weight, even chronicling her discovery of 'true beauty' on her latest reality show venture called "The Price of Beauty". But now, in preparation for her wedding to football player Eric Johnson, Jessica might have a lot more to lose than just her 'single lady' status. According to reports, Jessica has been handed an ultimatum by her future hubby: diet or we're done.

While a source close to the couple calls the story "complete B.S.", others are suggesting that Jessica's weight is tearing the couple apart. At just 5'3'', Jessica has reportedly tipped the scales at 150 lbs while her 6'3" future hubby is in the best shape of his life. Aside from this weighty issue, Johnson follows a vegan diet, while Jess, a thoroughbred Texan, is said to prefer margaritas, fried chicken and Mexican food. Jess was also said to have tried out the vegan lifestyle for a little while when they started dating, but that soon fell through.

Now it seems Jess might be making a greater effort to incorporate her future hubby's values into her own lifestyle. Jessica hosted a vegan Thanksgiving last year and tweeted that she was going to start taking some vegan cooking classes. If she goes through with it, this would certainly please her beau, who is an activist for the vegan diet and lifestyle and denounces animal cruelty. It might also help Jess meet her quota of fruits and veggies, in addition to adopting a plant-based diet. Not only will she be likely to boost her overall health this way, she may in fact lose a few pounds in the process as well, if that is what she wants to do!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Keep Your Heart Healthy this Valentine's Day

It's finally upon us. Yes, Valentine's Day, the often overdone, pink heart sprinkled, candy-coated day we celebrate love and indulgence is here. Roses are overpriced and cards have pictures of puppies and hearts on them, but today is equally about food as it is about kind gestures. Love and food go hand in hand, haven't you noticed? And what better way to show someone you love them than by treating them to a delicious meal, perhaps paired with a glass of wine?

Even though Valentine's day is synonymous with indulgence, it doesn't mean that you have to blow your entire diet in one singular day. There are plenty of healthy, romantic options available for today and for the entire month of February, as it's Hearth month! Your valentine's staples, in moderation, including chocolate and wine can actually be quite healthy for your heart (coincidence? I think not!). In addition, seafood and fresh fruit make regular appearances at the dinner table on this day of love, and we already know how good those foods are for us.

To keep the mood (and the calories) light this Valentine's day, go ahead and order those oysters but skip the added calories from any heavy sauces. Try opting for a seafood dish that has been grilled or poached and be sure to load up on the veggies and whole grains alongside your protein. For dessert, strawberries are an obvious choice, and for less than 150 calories a pound, you can put away the whole clamshell of strawberries guilt-free!

As for the chocolate and vino, you will need to exercise a little bit of control, but small amounts are quite good for you. Ladies, stick to one glass, and men - two glasses are perfect to keep your hearts healthy. With chocolate, go for the dark kind, and one square is all you need to keep your ticker beating strong. Try melting it down and dipping your strawberries in it! It can be easy to go overboard with the wine and chocolates, especially when celebrating, but remember that going over those amounts eliminates the benefits to your heart and actually does quite the opposite.

Once in a while, however, we all indulge, and it's no reason to beat yourself up. Just pick yourself up tomorrow and make up for it! Get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, hit the gym and eat light. You'll be feeling great again in no time.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The New Diet Pepsi Can is a Loaded Gun

You are what you eat, isn't that what they say? The same goes with what you drink, what you wear and generally speaking, what you do. So what does it mean, then, if someone is seen enjoying a brand new can of Diet Pepsi - you know; the tall, skinny can?

Short and stubby no more, the can, which is meant to be a "celebration of beautiful and confident women" was debuted during fashion week. In a press release, Jill Beraud, Chief Marketing Officer of PepsiCo in a press release said "Diet Pepsi has a long history of celebrating women through iconic fashion imagery seen in our infamous and historical campaigns," . She went on to add "Our slim, attractive new can is the perfect complement to today's most stylish looks." Oh boy, "slim, attractive, perfect"...that's treading some dangerous territory.

While it's true that the can is indeed sleek and attractive, reminiscent of a Red Bull can, it is also associating being skinny with confidence, attractiveness and perfection, just as the fashion industry does. You could say that this new can is the Barbie doll of beverages. I'm not totally sure how I feel about this; I'll admit that I do like the can, but not so much the message. Now, just in case you think that perhaps this wasn't Pepsi's intention, check out this other ad for 'Pepsi Light' that you wont see in North America. Uh...Yeah.

You can rest assured that if you're feeling uneasy as well, the regular can will still be available on the shelves for purchase.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Diet Soda and Stroke: What's the Link?

Oh boy, you really can't take anything at face value when it comes to research. It has been reported today that diet soda may not be the best alternative to regular soda and has still been associated with vascular events such as heart attacks and stroke. Is this backlash to Diet Coke's promotion of Heart month?

Over the course of 9 years, the soda consumption habits of 2,500 New Yorkers were followed, and it was found that people who drank diet soda every day had a 61% higher risk of vascular events, including stroke and heart attack, than people who avoided soda all together. These were people who reported having a diet soda every day. For nine years? Wow!

Now, I don't have the figures on how high someone's risk might be if they went for a regular soda every day for nine years, but my spider sense tells me that their risk would be a heck of a lot higher. Despite the headlines blaring that diet soda isn't a good choice, potentially swaying consumers' decisions to sticking with the regular stuff, the researchers warn that this one study shouldn't be enough have that effect. We do know that swapping out all that sugar and all those calories has its benefits, no matter how you slice it.

Just as with all research, you have to take the findings with a grain of salt. There are strong associations between people choosing 'diet' foods and beverages, and failing to lose weight, because they think 'this has less (or zero) calories, so I'll also have this, and this, and one more of these'. Perhaps that's not their exact thought process, but you get my flow. Instead of one cup of regular popcorn, why not have two of the diet kind? The end result might still be unhealthy.

Dr. Nehal N. Mehta, director of inflammatory risk cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania agrees. Although the researchers know the total calories study volunteers were consuming, they weren’t able to account for unhealthy eating habits, Mehta said.“Maybe along with the diet soda, people are grabbing a Big Mac and a large fries,...Soda may not be the villain. It may be the other things people consume in association with diet soda. After all, what goes better with pizza or fries than a soda?” Brilliant.

So before you start panicking that your Diet Coke is going to give you a stroke, perhaps just don't have one every day for 9 years, and skip the Big Mac and fries while you're at it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Was Paula Deen Behind This? Donut Burger Served Up in Toronto Restaurant

One of the top food trends of 2010 was 'grotesque' monster meals. You know, the 'double down' sandwich, and other outrageous creations along those lines. Loaded with enough calories, fat and sodium to last you 3 days, Toronto's Thompson Hotel's 'Brunch Burger' is no different, and their creation looks like it was taken straight out of one of Paula Deen's cook books (No offense Paula - I love you, but you love your butter).

The burger was supposedly inspired by something that the executive chef, Robert Mills, saw on a recent trip to New York. The target market? The 'morning after' crowd; you know, you've got a hangover and you just want it all - sweet, salty, meaty, cheesy, eggy. Hence the term 'brunch burger'. Why not just mix breakfast, lunch and dessert all into one shiny, convenient, handheld bundle of grease? I'm really not joking when I say shiny.

In the absence of a bun, the shine is the result of the glaze on the two over sized Krispy Kreme-like donuts enclosing the contents of the sandwich. Containing a patty, egg, bacon and cheese, this burger is just a heart attack waiting to happen. Now, would you pay $12 for that?

All things considered, from a purely 'food' perspective, I'm not sure if this creation is meant to arouse laughter or disgust. Whatever one's motivation might be, eating this burger can't make you feel good, that's for sure, especially with a hangover. We could also look at this from a public health perspective. Should such a thing be allowed to be served? We've got such stringent rules on banning trans fats and we want to make menus transparent, so why even bother making something like this? It's not like people couldn't put this together on their own if they felt so inclined, but serving it is only going to make the people who order it sick. It's no wonder people are struggling with their weight and high blood pressure! What do you think?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Healthy Diet Makes for Healthy Teeth and Gums

We know that eating well helps us nourish our bodies and fend off illness. We associate certain manifestations of people's appearances with having a well balanced diet - good skin, strong hair and nails and lean physique. But few people realize that a healthy diet is also the key to maintaining healthy gums and strong teeth. And for those of you who don't know, oral health is total health.

It's true; numerous studies have proven that poor oral health, take gingivitis as an example, is strongly linked with heart disease and other illnesses. But if you think about it, it's really saying the same thing - the connection between gingivitis and heart disease has to do with practicing unhealthy behaviours including not following a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle. "A healthy diet gives you healthy gums,'' says Dr. Bruce Ward, president of the British Columbia Dental Association. "People who eat a lot of acidic food and drink a lot of acidic drinks like pop have red, inflamed, swollen gums, just because of the nature of what they are eating." But soda's not the only culprit.

According to Dr. Lynn Tomkins, president of the Ontario Dental Association, "Diet really affects the teeth directly and indirectly,''. Dr. Ward agrees, adding that "if you are not a eating a healthy diet, you are not giving the body the opportunity to build the best teeth it can." This fact is particularly pervasive in children, whose teeth are forming and developing, setting the stage for a lifetime of either good health or medical complications.

Key nutrients that children need to ensure they are getting during tooth formation include vitamins A, C, D, and K in addition to calcium, magnesium and fluoride. Collectively, these nutrients help with the formation of collagen for healthy gums, stimulate bone metabolism to deposit calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and fluoride into the teeth and bones and make for hard, strong and resilient teeth and gums. These nutrients are equally important throughout all stages of the life cycle and great sources include dairy products and almonds, broccoli and dark leafy greens, strawberries and bell peppers, and good old tap water.

Dr. Ward uses a really great metaphor to drive the message home, which I just love. He says that "The gums are almost like the canary in the coal mine. If the body is not in good shape, the gums are one of the places that it shows up first.'' So true!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Where Should We Eat? How About....The Bay?

It might surprise you to know that all this time, when you had felt peckish while shopping, The Bay department stores across Canada have indeed had restaurants where you could grab a bite to eat. You probably just never heard of them because there isn't too much to speak of - until now. The Bay is partnering up food service providers Compass Group, in addition to Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants, to inject some life into their dated food courts.

Currently, 'The Arcadian Court' at The Bay is just your average, run of the mill food court. I know this, because my curiosity led me to visit the one located at Yonge and Queen, attached to the Toronto Eaton Centre back in December. The view was spectacular, way up high, overlooking the skating rink at Nathan Phillip's Square. The food, however, did nothing for me and I decided to just wait until I got home to eat. Knowing that this spectacular space is set to become an Oliver & Bonacini restaurant, however, is music to my ears!

Oliver & Bonacini have opened up a couple of restaurants in Downtown Toronto this past year, including their 'O&B Canteen' at the Bell Lightbox, plus they own fine dining restaurants such as Canoe and Auberge du Pommier. Compass has food-service operations at colleges, universities, hospitals, museums and corporate offices in North America.

The Bay has undergone some major re-structuring and upped it's marketing strategy in the past few years, and this is just one more brilliant move on behalf of this company. According to the Bay's CEO Bonnie Brooks, "We are currently planning the roll out to all our major stores, and we view it as an amazing opportunity to build upon our foundation of delivering new and exciting brands to the Bay — and taking dining and foodservice to an entirely new level for our customers,". The Yonge and Queen location is set to begin its face lift in April of this year. I Can't wait!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Don't Fumble Your Diet During the Superbowl

Beer. Nachos. Chili. Hot wings. You can pretty much bet that these football staples will be joining you if you're watching the Superbowl this weekend. Not that there's anything wrong them in moderation, but what are the odds that moderation will be on anyone's mind through all the Superbowl excitement? Not to worry, we've thought about this in advance for you so you don't have to. So just relax, enjoy the game and have a great time this weekend without feeling guilty or packing on the pounds when it's all over!

Everyone loves a good hearty chili during the Superbowl, so why not up the nutritional value and flavour while cutting back on the fat and calories? It's a win-win. Simply substitute ground beef for some lean ground turkey and be sure to throw in a wide variety of high-fibre beans and diced vegetables for added flavour and texture. Each spoonful will be brimming with goodness, in addition to tons of lean protein and fibre, which will keep you full and satisfied the whole game through. If you like it hot, throw in some chillies or hot sauce. A sprinkling of cheese is totally fine, too, just go easy on it! Choosing a more pungent variety allows you to use less while getting a mouthful of flavour in each bite.

What's a Superbowl party without wings? They're so little that you wouldn't expect it, but there are few things as high in calories and saturated fat as these little suckers. Try making your own using skinless chicken thighs in some Tex-Mex or barbecue seasoning, brushed with low-calorie barbecue sauce and hot sauce. More meat (i.e. protein), more flavour, and way (I cant stress this one enough) less calories and artery-clogging fat. Of course, pair these puppies with a veggie platter loaded with celery, carrot sticks, diced peppers and anything else that will satisfy your munchy cravings. Even if paired with ranch, this combo is so much better for you than chips!

Nachos are regulars at Superbowl parties. They can be done a number of ways, but if you want to make them a little healthier, just load them up with the healthy chili ideas noted above. Bake them in the oven to melt a little cheese all over them and you'll be more than satisfied!

And finally - beer. There's nothing wrong with 1-2 drinks per day in moderation if you're healthy, but going overboard is never a good idea. Not only does alcohol make you hungrier and more likely to munch on high-fat foods, it also helps you lose track of exactly how many drinks you've had. Try alternating your drinks with a full glass of water and snack on veggie sticks to keep your cravings at bay.

If you really want to stick with your diet and lifestyle resolutions, there are always solutions to sticky situations like parties. It just takes motivation and a little creativity, but staying on track is more than worth it in the long haul!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Oprah and Crew Adopt Vegan Diet

Interestingly, as I typed in the title for this blog, my predictive browser brought up another title I'd written a while back "Oprah Says She'll Never Diet Again". Gee, I guess once a chronic dieter, always a chronic dieter? Even Oprah can't keep her word when it comes to health and weight loss but this time it's a little different.

Oprah managed to convince 378 of her staff members to go vegan for a whole week in order to highlight their experiences on last Tuesday's show. She also brought in guests including Michael Pollan, the author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma", and Kathy Freston, whose new book "Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World" is currently Amazon's top seller to talk about the benefits of going meat-free.

Following a vegan lifestyle means avoiding all animal-derived items. Aside from meat and dairy, eggs are not vegan and neither is honey. The good news is that properly balanced plant-based diets are not missing any key nutrients and have been shown in numerous medical trials to reduce the incidence and severity of illness and chronic diseases, including heart disease. With all the plant-based food substitution items out there like vegan cheese and meats, one must still take care to avoid taking in too many calories each day, since overweight is a primary risk factor for heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, among other ailments.

Veganism is becoming as mainstream today as any other diet you can imagine. Even Food Network's "Cupcake Challenge" winner was vegan, creating 4 vegan delicacies that won all the judges over. The judges called her ginger nutmeg spice cakes with vanilla bean buttercream frosting, date drizzle and sweet almond topping "perfect". Her other creations included chocolate strawberry shortcake, raspberry tiramisu, and dark chocolate orange. The catch? There was no butter, no milk and no eggs. All plant-based substitutions, and nobody could tell the difference. Who said anything about deprivation?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New U.S. Dietary Guidelines Crack Down on Salt Consumption

In both Canada and the U.S., you could say that salt consumption is out of control. Diets high in sodium are a major cause of hypertension (high blood pressure) which can have no symptoms but can lead to heart disease, stroke and even sudden death. Now, to the surprise of many health and nutrition experts, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services have re-vamped the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to reflect the seriousness of this issue.

Not a lot of young people give much thought to chronic disease prevention, but high blood pressure isn't just a concern for older individuals; the wheels of chronic disease progression are set in motion far before people end up with chronic diseases in middle age, through poor diet and lifestyle choices. The new dietary guidelines encourage people to eat more fruits, vegetables and "nutrient-dense" foods, which most people can wrap their heads around, but cutting down on salt might be easier said than done.

Sodium isn't something we can always see. In fact, the salt that we add to our food is often the smallest contributor to our daily sodium intake. Most of the sodium we consume is hidden in packaged foods or those prepared outside the home; we're so used to it that we can't even tell it's there. In the U.S. and Canada, eating in restaurants or ordering take out is something of an epidemic as a result of busy schedules and 'no time' to cook. So how can you cut down on sodium if you don't know how much is in that pizza slice?

Regardless, the new sodium recommendations have been tightened to reflect the current best practice standards in medicine, that is, people 51 and older, African-Americans and people suffering from chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disease should cut their daily sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams - not quite half a teaspoon. Everyone else can eat up to 2,300 milligrams a day, but it is advised that they also aim for 1,500 milligrams per day if possible. Unfortunately, the average American consumes over twice that amount per day.

So, until food producers and restaurateurs start cutting back on how much salt they throw in the mix of their recipes, consumers will simply have to revert to reading nutrition labels (when available) in order to know what they are putting into their bodies. So really, does it make a difference that the advice has changed if the situation for the average consumer has not improved? Progress is good, but more still needs to be done before high sodium intakes and poor eating habits can become a thing of the past.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Kim Cattrall Has Dieted All her Life

I always find it interesting to hear people say they've dieted all their lives. This phrase raises many questions in my mind. Could it be that they simply know how to balance discipline with indulgence, that they know how to keep their health and weight in check when it tips one way or the other, or are they constantly living in deprivation and experience the backlash of such a life by overindulging from time to time? Whatever the actual situation may be, Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall has admitted that she's been watching what she eats her entire life in order to maintain her enviable physique.

The 54-year old star admits that she loves to eat, blaming her "tremendous appetite" for her need to work hard and exercise to stay in shape. It's pretty fitting, then, that she's the new spokeswoman for "I can't believe it's not butter"; by choosing lower-calorie alternatives to some of her favourite foods, she can still enjoy them but not gain as much weight.

Cattrall is also realistic. She said she doesn't want to look 'perfect' or like she's 19; those goals are simply not in line with her values. She just wants to look good for her age and she's willing to work for it, saying "“It gets harder because parts of my body don’t want to be on a diet, but at the same time it gets me up in the morning to work out.” I think she's found just the right balance.