By Miranda Massie on October 23, 2018
How do you like to Thrive?
It’s nearly Thrive Week at UBC and I’m excited! An award-winning and nationally-recognized initiative, Thrive invites the UBC community to explore diverse and unique paths to mental health.
While there are many relevant ways to foster and maintain good mental health, research consistently points to five actions that can help.
We call these the Thrive 5:
1. Thrive by moving regularly: Moving regularly can help you manage stress and feel more positive.
2. Thrive by resting up: Spending time without screens before bed can help you sleep better and feel more rested.
3. Thrive by eating to feel nourished: Adding more veggies to your diet boosts the health of your mind and body.
4. Thrive by giving back: Helping others and giving back can give you a sense of purpose and connection.
5. Thrive by saying hi: Checking in regularly with family, friends and colleagues builds supportive relationships.
These five actions seem intuitive and simple enough, but in practice, they can seem like daunting tasks. I know that exercise, fruits and veggies, a full night’s sleep and social time are good for my health. But sometimes, all I have energy for is takeout and the couch, which leaves me feeling guilty or disappointed about my inaction.
What I’ve realised is that another critical part of my mental health is understanding my limitations and being self-compassionate. If we learn how to cut ourselves some slack, perhaps it will create the space needed to use the Thrive 5 more effectively.
This month, while I encourage you to use the Thrive 5 as ways to explore mental health, I also encourage you to listen to your needs. If all you feel like doing is going home and zoning out in front of the TV or going to sleep, do it. Enjoy the mental rest, forgive yourself and move on. There is always tomorrow.
And if tomorrow you’re looking for ideas to help you explore your own path to mental health, check out the Thrive Calendar for a range of engaging and diverse events, activities and experiences. Happy Thrive Week!
All my best,
Photo credit: Student Communications and UBC Thrive
Posted in Editorial, Mental Health, Miranda Massie | Tagged connection, eating, giving back, healthy diet, helping others, movement, physical activity, resilience, rest, sleep, social connection, thrive, Thrive 5, Thrive week | 1 Response
By Melissa Lafrance on October 3, 2018
Food is one of the most basic needs for our survival and health, but it also involves sharing, celebrating and demonstrating our care for others, and supporting our social connections and traditions. Food and social interactions often go hand in hand and nourishing ourselves can also cultivate our social supports.
Week 1: Holiday meal ideas and making social connections
What better way to show gratitude towards your loved ones than preparing a delicious Thanksgiving meal? Here are some ideas to help you prepare a holiday feast:
- Build your menu with these Thanksgiving recipes (Greatist)
- If turkey’s not your thing, try these vegetarian recipes instead (Food Network)
The holidays can be a difficult time, especially for older citizens or those without family around. Consider volunteering on a farm: you’ll be supporting a good cause and meeting new people. Check out the upcoming volunteer opportunities at the UBC Farm, as well as other opportunities to socialize and give back on local farms.
Week 2: Comforting meals, fall produce and farmers markets
- Savour the fall flavours and make use of the bountiful array of in-season fall produce in BC
- Get to know your local farmers markets and buy farm-fresh ingredients in your community
- Use Eating Well’s healthy soup and stew recipes to stock your freezer for easy and quick dinners
Week 3: Rethink your drink
This fall, UBC launches a Healthy Beverage Initiative (HBI) to promote healthy beverage consumption. The focus is on educating the UBC community about the health impacts of beverage choices and promoting healthier drink options, particularly water.
Developed by the UBC Food and Nutrition Working Group and other key supporters, which includes faculty, staff and student stakeholders from both campuses, the HBI exemplifies UBC’s commitment to wellbeing through the Okanagan Charter. For more information about the UBC Healthy Beverage Initiative, visit UBC Wellbeing or check out this Ubyssey article.
To help you rethink your drink, here are some low-sugar beverage options and ideas:
- Find out why tap water is best to quench your thirst (UBC Food Services)
- Jazz up your water with fruits, vegetables and herbs thanks to these flavoured water recipes(Food Network)
- Try no-sugar-added iced tea(Eating Well)
- If you are hosting a meeting, consider getting a water jug dispenser and providing reusable cups
Week 4: Quality meal times
Eating behaviour is strongly influenced by the social contexts we find ourselves in1. We often model behaviours of the people we eat with and the social environment/context. Nourish your relationships through quality meal times.
- Check out how eating together is great for team building and improving productivity (Cornell University)
- Learn how meal times can enhance mental health (The Vanier Institute of the Family)
By Guest Contributor on March 7, 2018
Guest contribution by Dr. Thara Vayali
We’ve all had those moments: midday, computer in front of us, gobbling lunch, not even noticing what we’re eating — let alone how much. We become used to feeling uncomfortable, stuffed or still hungry or experiencing bloating and discomfort in the abdomen. In this way, our meals don’t seem to be doing us any good.
Too easily, instead of eating for enjoyment, we eat for fuel and nutrients. Luckily, nourishing ourselves offers endless opportunities to change our relationship with food. A plate of spaghetti Bolognese could be fuel today, but tomorrow an experience of love.
For a variety of reasons, it would do us all well to value our food and separate eating from other activities. On a physiological level, mindfulness while eating improves health and wellness.
The Mind-Gut Connection
There is a super highway of nerves and hormones that communicates hunger, digestion and satisfaction. The state of our minds reflects the state of our stomachs and impacts how well we digest, how nourished we feel and how well we eliminate. The less aware we are of our eating process, the less benefit we get from our meals.
The digestive process takes approximately 20 minutes to register the food we’ve eaten; only then does it signal to us that we’ve had enough. If we front-load our mealtime by eating quickly, we can regularly overeat or feel digestive distress. Instead of benefitting from our meals, we can end up inadvertently harming our health. Being aware of what we are eating, the smell and taste of our food and noticing how we feel while are eating can markedly improve our digestive experience.
Our meals don’t need to achieve 20-minute marks to experience a change in digestion. If we know our physiology, so we can think differently about how we eat. Your body will notice incremental changes in timing and awareness.
It’s not easy to change our eating habits. The context in which we learned to eat began at a very young age. Mix personal history with career expectations, work/life/family time constraints, sedentary shifts in the nature of work, smartphones that fill down time, and our mind-gut connection becomes fraught. Outside of daily activities, food is part of our socializing world: we talk, laugh, argue and cry while we dine. The community connection to food is enriching and satiating to our lives, and if we can experience our eating with awareness, then the socializing becomes an enhancement, not a distraction to our digestion.
Let Simon & Garfunkel’s song, “The 59th Street Bridge (Feelin’ Groovy)” remind us of how to approach our meal times:
Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Eating mindfully for an entire meal at every meal may take time to achieve. What’s more immediately possible is to choose to eat ONE spoonful with structured awareness. At any point in any day, as you pick up your fork or spoon, try the following:
- Look at your spoon and what’s on it. (Take one deep, long breath in. Then take one slow, long breath out.)
- Next, bring the spoonful to your nose. (Take one deep, long breath in. Then take one slow, long breath out.)
- Next, put the spoonful and its contents in your mouth. (Take one deep, long breath in. Then take one slow, long breath out.)
- Chew. (Take one deep, long breath in. Then take one slow, long breath out.)
- Swallow. (Take one deep, long breath in. Then take one slow, long breath out.)
That’s how simple it is.
You cannot do this wrong. You are practicing. Whether you stop halfway with boredom, or fall into the zone with the smell of the strawberry, you are practicing awareness.
You cannot “forget” to do this. Since it’s an action you choose when it comes to mind, you are always remembering. The goal is to have it come to mind more often.
Thara Vayali is a Vancouver-based naturopathic doctor and yoga teacher, UBC alumnus and popular guest contributor to our Healthy UBC newsletter who specializes in intestinal and immune health, hormones, and pain-free bodies. For more information about Thara, visit www.tharavayali.ca
By Melissa Lafrance on October 25, 2017
In November, we are exploring the link between nutrition and mental health. Food and cooking are being appreciated for more than just satisfying hunger and nutritional needs; its psychological benefits and in some cases, even therapeutic benefits are now being acknowledged. It’s about the whole process of gathering and preparation. Although the determinants of mental health are complex, food and nutrition are influential factors.
Each week in November, we will be sharing tips, recipes and information on how food and nutrition is related to mental health and wellbeing. Become a UBC Health Contact to receive weekly reminders, tips and tricks.
Week 1: Cooking and Positive Mental Health
It’s been suggested that completing small creative tasks such as cooking and baking increases wellbeing, particularly enthusiasm and feelings of flourishing . Focusing on small tasks in a manner similar to meditation can help boost mood. Cooking or meal prepping can be similar to meditation; the outcome is good food if executed properly. Culinary therapy is being implemented as a viable part of treatment plans for mental health clinics for a wide range of mental and behavioural health conditions .
Check out the following to help boost your abilities and confidence:
- Simple and fun cooking videos with Sarah Carey in Everyday Food
- Quick and easy recipe videos via Jamie Oliver’s FoodTube
Week 2: Link Between Proper Nutrition and Mental Wellbeing
A clear link between cooking and mental health is nutrition and the ability to have better control of the quality of your diet if you prepare food yourself. Nutrition plays a huge factor in keeping our brains healthy and for mental wellbeing. Brains operate at a very high metabolic rate, and therefore use a lot of the body’s total energy and nutrient intake. Some nutrients that are key to brain health and functioning include carbohydrates, fat, protein and in particular omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamins C and E, iron, zinc and magnesium , .
Here are some healthy recipes to try out:
- Cookspiration’s Scottish oat and leek pilaf with salmon
- Oh She Glows’ maple cinnamon apple and pear baked oatmeal. Have it with walnuts and soy milk for extra brain health benefits.
- Feasting at Home’s lentil with swiss chard, roasted beets and goat cheese
Week 3: Hacks to Reduce Stress
Cooking and preparing food is a sensory experience involving aromas, tastes, touch, visuals and sounds. It can even be a way to relieve stress because it serves as a creative outlet that can also improve daily happiness . Why not add a dash of mindfulness? Cooking can be an activity that is grounding and keeps you in the moment while focusing on the task at hand.
- Check out Huffington Post’s five tips for mindful cooking
- Check out Melissa Baker’s blog post on meals to help you Thrive. Melissa is a registered dietitian and Manager of Nutrition and Wellbeing in UBC Food Services.
Week 4: Celebrating Food and Being Together
How about a heaping spoonful of joy? It’s easy to dismiss cooking as just another chore, however cooking can be fun and a lot more interesting than folding laundry. Here’s how you can enjoy the cooking process more and not worry too much about the end product being perfect. As long as it tastes good, right?
Try these tips and tricks to have more fun in the kitchen:
- Huffington Post’s five tips for having fun in the kitchen
- Check out Thug Kitchen recipes to lighten up the mood in the kitchen
Melissa Lafrance’s Tip of the Month
Try a friendship salad or meal where each colleague brings a prepared ingredient. When friends and flavours come together collectively, you’re left with a delicious dish for everyone to enjoy. Check out Greatist’s healthy and easy fall salads.
By Melissa Lafrance on June 7, 2017
It’s the time of year when we want to cook and eat outdoors. To kick off grilling season this June, we are exploring grilling tips and tricks as well as delicious recipes for complete meals. There are many benefits to using a BBQ and best of all, fewer dishes! Read on to learn more!
Let’s start with safety tips and basic tricks:
Let’s look at appetizers and sides! Here are some healthy options for your next BBQ meal:
- Grilled eggplant & tomato stacks
- Grilled appetizer recipe collection
- Grilled radicchio, summer squashes and scallions
- Three ways to grill corn
- Zucchini and cauliflower skewers
Nothing says summer like a burger. These recipes offer a twist on the classic beef burger:
If you want to complete your meal with a dessert, try these lightened-up options:
- Grilled summer fruit skewers
- Chocolate marshmallow bananas
- Grilled angel food cake with strawberries in balsamic
Each week in June, we will be sharing tips, tricks and information for this BBQ grilling season. Become a UBC Health Contact to receive weekly reminders.
By Miranda Massie on March 2, 2017
A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with celiac disease. Although she was not experiencing any symptoms, she was tested based on the diagnosis of a close relative. The results came back positive – and from that point on she has had to make significant changes to her life.
Even if someone is not experiencing physical symptoms, celiac disease can damage the intestinal lining, which increases the risk of future health problems. According to the Canadian Celiac Association, treating the disease requires a “strict adherence to a GLUTEN FREE DIET FOR LIFE.” Their website literally spells it out in ALL CAPS.
Before my friend’s diagnosis, I had an idea of what a gluten free diet looked like: avoid bread and pasta, order bun-less burgers and use a substitute for wheat-based flour when baking. I was very wrong. Over the last few months, I have learned so much about the challenges of living with a food allergy or intolerance. It is not simply choosing the “GF” menu item at a restaurant.
Living gluten-free means:
- having to check ingredient labels on everything from salad dressing to Tylenol,
- needing a separate cutting board, knife and cooking equipment when sharing a kitchen with gluten eaters,
- bringing your own pre-prepared food to parties and dinners with friends, and
- being the only person with nothing but water in front of them when out at a restaurant.
It requires a complete lifestyle overhaul that, sadly, those who don’t have food allergies will have a hard time understanding. Eating and meal preparation are communal events in many cultures, and a diagnosis like this can lead to both physical and social isolation.
Research shows that rates of depression are more common in adults diagnosed with celiac disease and that these rates are similar to those of people living with other chronic physical illnesses. Food sensitivities or allergies in general are associated with higher levels of psychological distress (including depression and anxiety) in both children and adults.
Through my friend’s diagnosis, I have learned to be more tolerant, and I have learned to be more patient and empathetic. I have a greater understanding of just how tough it is to maintain a specialized diet – it’s a lifestyle commitment that requires tremendous dedication, strength and vigilance. One I doubt that I would have the strength for.
In honour of Nutrition Month, and in a spirit of humanity and understanding, I invite you to be kind to those around you living with food allergies. We exist in a world that is not typically designed to make their lives easy. And since we require food for survival, these folks could probably use some thoughtful support and understanding.
For more information about food allergies and how to provide support, visit the Newly Diagnosed Support Centre created by Food Allergy Canada.
All my best,
Canadian Celiac Association: http://www.celiac.ca/
Cummings, A. J., Knibb, R. C., King, R. M. and Lucas, J. S. (2010). The psychosocial impact of food allergy and food hypersensitivity in children, adolescents and their families: a review. Allergy 65: 933–945. doi:10.1111/j.1398-9995.2010.02342.x
Lieberman, J. A. & Sicherer, S. H. (2011). Quality of life in food allergy. Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology 11(3): 236–242. doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e3283464cf0
Smith, D. F. and Gerdes, L. U. (2012). Meta-analysis on anxiety and depression in adult celiac disease. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 125: 189–193. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0447.2011.01795.x
Posted in Editorial, Miranda Massie, Nutrition | Tagged allergies, compassion, Diet, eating, editorial, education, food, food intolerance, gluten, gluten-free, health, Miranda Massie, nutrition month | 7 Responses
By Melissa Lafrance on October 5, 2016
Food is one of the most basic needs for our survival and health, but it is also involves sharing, celebrating, demonstrating our care for others, and supporting our rituals and traditions. Food and social interactions often go hand and hand.
Each week in October, we will be sharing tips, tricks, and information to stay well while being social! Become a UBC Health Contact to receive weekly reminders, tips and tricks.
Studies show a strong relationship between workplaces’ physical and social environments and employee health behaviours. A lot of our waking hours are spent at work, which can involve meetings and social gatherings.
Try these tips and recipes to consider while at work:
Bringing your own lunch to work, try these recipes:
What should you bring? Try these re-imagined classic dishes you can serve at a potluck or social event.
- Layered Mexican Dip
- Lightened up Guacamole and Chips
- Zucchini Lentil Fritters with Dill Sour Cream
- Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Curry Mayo
Take advantage of social opportunities that involve food in our communities:
- Farm Market at UBC
- Events Calendar – Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm
- Vancouver Farmers Markets
Social groups can highly influence our behaviours, including food choices. While social gatherings often promote indulgence, they can also involve consuming healthier options. Remember, the choice is yours to make.
By Miranda Massie on September 13, 2016
Eating your Way to a Productive September
Food fuels our bodies including our brains. Nourishing ourselves with good quality foods will help ensure peak cognitive function. It starts with a bright breakfast, then a recharging lunch, followed by delicious supper and balancing snacks to keep us going throughout the day!
Each week in September, we will be sharing tips, tricks, and information to help you have a productive September! Become a UBC Health Contact to receive weekly reminders, tips and tricks.
Remember to eat breakfast! Trust me, it’s worth it to get up a few minutes earlier than to have your stomach growling mid-morning during an important meeting. Breakfasts including foods with a low glycemic index will produce a slower rise and lower peak in blood glucose concentration after eating. It should also include carbohydrates such as low-in-sugar breakfast cereals, oatmeal, whole grain toast and add in some protein such as plain dairy or non-dairy product, eggs and nut butters to keep you satiated for longer.
Try out these easy and innovative breakfast ideas:
- Think outside the breakfast cereal box with 34 Healthy Breakfasts for Busy Mornings
- Explore a variety of breakfast and brunch recipes
- Easy overnight oats recipe
- Maple-Cinnamon Apple & Pear Baked Oatmeal (one of my favourite recipes from Oh She Glows)
- Additional low glycemic index recipes
This week, learn all about lunches to replace the old boring deli meet sandwich! You can always make extra portions at dinnertime to have an easy lunch the next day.
With a bit of planning and key ingredients on hand, it is possible to make complete dinners during the week!
Who’s ready for snacks? Try bringing a magic bullet to work and your cup filled with your smoothie ingredients for a refreshing pick me up. Bring your snacks for the week to have them on hand and be less tempted to run to the corner store.
Posted in Nutrition, Physical Health | Tagged Back to school, breakfast, dinner, eating, family, food, healthy, healthy eating tips, healthy recipes, leftovers, meals, planning, Recipes, september | Leave a response
By Miranda Massie on June 8, 2016
This May marked the 5th annual David Suzuki Foundation 30×30 challenge, which encourages Canadians to spend at least 30 minutes in nature every day for 30 days. Sounds easy, right? It turns out it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
I regularly find myself outside (walking to the bus, heading to meetings, etc.) but rarely do I attempt to purposefully spend time in nature. I realize now that walking down a busy street is not the same as sitting under a tree in a park. Research shows us that exposure to nature is good for our wellbeing. It boosts our immune system, lowers blood pressure, increases creativity, builds empathy and fosters community.
Despite being aware of all of these benefits, consciously finding time in my day to get outside was tough. Truthfully, I ran out of ideas after going for a couple of walks and having my lunch on a bench on Main Mall.
That is where the 30×30 challenge daily tips came in handy! It provided a list of 30 different ways to inspire my ‘re-connect’ with nature. Here are some of my favourites:
Tips for taking a time-out in nature
- Read outside: Grab your coffee and a book and start your morning off with some fresh air
- Eat alfresco: Invite colleagues to take lunch outside or take your dinner to a local park
- Bring nature indoors: Enhance your home or workspace with plants, fresh flowers, shells, rocks or pine cones
- Get dirty: Exposure to soil bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae can act as a natural antidepressant, activating brain cells that improve mood, reduce anxiety and facilitate learning.
- Stargaze: Go outside on a clear evening and look at the sky. Stretch out on a blanket and relish the sense of perspective.
- Cloud watch: Look up! Cloud watching any time of the day clears the mind and calms the senses.
- Listen: Did you know birds have their own language? Instead of identifying species, pay attention to the behavior and communication of our feathered friends.
This month, I invite you to think about how to take advantage of the the warm summer weather and beautiful natural surroundings to re-introduce some nature into your life!
All my best,
Posted in Editorial, Miranda Massie | Tagged 30x30, David Suzuki Foundation, eating, editorial, gardening, health benefits, Miranda Massie, Nature, outdoors, plants, reading, summer, time out, weather, wellbeing | 1 Response
By Melissa Lafrance on May 3, 2016
This month’s healthy recipes & tips include nutritious snacks to nourish yourself and maintain energy throughout your work day!
Check out the following resources during the month of May!
Seven Eating for Energy Tips – article
It’s no surprise that we get our energy from food. Maintaining energy is all about avoiding drastic fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Use these seven tips to help you beat the three o’clock slump.
Healthy Snacks for Adults – article with snack ideas
Pick up some satisfying snack ideas to keep your blood sugar levels stable and your energy up throughout the day.
Energy Balls – recipe
This recipe contains nuts, dried fruits, cinnamon, and a hint of Canadian sweetness. They are called energy balls after all, so they are a perfect mid-morning or afternoon snack.
Easy Overnight Oats – recipe
Eating a nourishing breakfast is an important way to start your day. Plan your breakfasts and even prepare them ahead of time! Try this delicious and easy overnight oats recipe.
To keep informed of all new recipes and additional weekly health and wellbeing offerings, become a UBC Health Contact.
Here are more recipes & tips…
For more of tasty treats, visit our Healthy UBC Recipe Series page. Bon appétit!
By Miranda Massie on March 1, 2016
When it comes to food and diet, we have all heard the phrase: “everything in moderation”. But what does that really mean? How do I serve up moderation? What does moderation look like in a measuring cup or on the end of my fork?
I have recently started to think a lot about the cultural role that language plays with respect to eating. Words, terms, catch phrases and labels permeate our world, particularly when we are dealing with health and eating.
‘Good’ vs ‘Bad’ Foods
One example is the recent official classification of salami, bacon and other processed meats as carcinogenic. The World Health Organization published guidelines to support this 15 years ago, and yet it took a shift in language to make it into the headlines. Overnight, these foods became enemy number 1 to some people, joining a growing list of so-called ‘bad’ foods.
A few years ago (after watching her eat ice cream on waffles for breakfast) I asked a dietitian friend for advice. “Tell me about bad sugar vs. good sugar,” I asked. “What about good fats vs bad fats?”
Her response: there are no such things as bad foods or good foods. Just eat more of this and less of that. Fill your plate with more of the foods containing whole and healthy nutrients and with less of the foods containing empty calories or processed ingredients.
Terms like ‘bad’ or ‘good’ are rife with judgement and can make us feel ashamed and guilty if we’re seen to be ‘giving in’ or eating something that is labelled ‘bad’ for us. The negative psychological impact of this disappointment and deprivation can derail our healthy eating goals or weight-loss plans and discourage us from trying again.
Here comes that word again…moderation.
Studies are starting to show that this eating philosophy is actually leading to larger amounts of high sugar and high fat foods taking the place of healthy foods in our diets. Our modern diets have also become so diverse that eating all of these foods in moderation can actually lead to weight gain.
Moderation can certainly be used as a tool to reduce or quit our consumption of certain foods but as an overall nutrition philosophy, it leaves a lot to be desired and it may not work for everyone.
Milk in “moderation” for someone with a dairy allergy will make them sick. Sugary desserts in “moderation” for someone with diabetes could have serious health outcomes.
This month, I encourage you to think about the language you use when talking about food. Think about how that language makes you feel and its impact on your health. And perhaps try eating more of this and less of that.
- Eat more whole foods, and less processed foods.
- Drink more water, and less alcohol or soda pop.
- Fill your plate with more veggies and less meat.
- Add more herbs and less salt when cooking.
- Have more breakfast and less dessert.
Make an effort to consume more of the foods that we know will give us energy, feed our muscles and keep our bodies strong and eat less of the foods that can be harmful and destructive to our long term health.
All my best,
More reading on this topic: