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 February 5, 2018
This February, we are focusing on nutrition for heart health and cardiovascular disease prevention. A healthy diet is a major preventative measure as it affects blood pressure, cholesterol levels, body weight and blood sugar control. For this month, try taking the following recipes and articles to heart.
Week 1: Mediterranean Diet and Healthy Fats
- Easy ways to protect your heart by Alive@Work
- Avocado, mango, black bean and kale salad by Cookspiration
- Wild rice and lentils with salmon by Cookspiration
- Dietary fats, oils and cholesterol by Heart and Stroke Foundation
Week 2: Fibre
- Increasing your fibre intake by Dietitians of Canada
- Cooking with whole grains and other recipes by Oldways Whole Grains Council
- Apple pie oatmeal by Cookspiration
Week 3: Heart-healthy Treats
- Baking that’s better for your heart by Alive@Work
- Pineapple nice cream by EatingWell
- Peachy buckwheat muffins with hazelnut crunch by Cookspiration
Week 4: Sodium
By Melissa Lafrance on January 11, 2018
This month, we’re focusing on recipes and nutrition tips to fuel your physical activity.
Food provides energy for body function and physical activity. Your energy and food intake needs can change in relation to your activity levels. Balance and variety of protein, carbohydrates, fat and water will provide you with the nutrients required for optimal performance and nutrient replenishment.
Weeks 1 and 2: Hydration
To keep your body hydrated, aim for a daily fluid intake of about 2-3 litres (9-12 cups); your intake will vary depending on your body size and activity level. When you are more active or if the weather is hot, you will need to increase your intake. Water is one of the best fluid choices and you should also use your thirst as a guide to help you determine fluid requirements.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) as “any liquids that are sweetened with various forms of added sugars”. Some examples include fruit, sports and energy drinks, sweetened waters, and coffee and tea beverages with added sugars. SSBs provide no additional nutritional benefit and contain “hidden” calories . If you choose to have SSBs once in a while, that is okay. But water is a better choice of hydration.
Here are some tips and recipes to help you stay hydrated:
- Check out the Dietitians of Canada’s recommendations on sports hydration, including steps to stay hydrated during and after exercise.
- See Eating Well’s seven refreshing foods to help you stay hydrated.
- If you need to boost your water intake, here are 12 easy ways to drink more water from Self magazine.
- Find out what’s in your drink with this rethink your drink article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Read this news release from the Canadian Paediatric Society and Dietitians of Canada, which advises against kids and adolescents consuming sports and energy drinks.
Week 3: Snacks
Having a small meal or snack about one to two hours before you exercise can help stabilize blood glucose levels and keep you hydrated and energized. It can also help you perform for longer and with more intensity . You’ll likely focus less on a rumbling tummy and more on your activity or workout!
If you are exercising for more than a couple of hours, make sure to fuel up halfway with fluids, a carbohydrate and protein-rich snack or small meal.
Here are some tips and recipes to help you fuel up before exercising:
- The Dietitians of Canada encourage learning how to plan pre-exercise meals and snacks.
- Try these simple snack combinations and adjust the amount based on the length of your activity: whole fruit with nuts or nut butter, vegetables and hummus or other bean/veggie dip, cheese and crackers, or plain yogurt with berries and granola.
- Simple Banana Berry Smoothie from Cookspiration
- Breakfast Burrito from Cookspiration
- Colourful Quinoa Salad from Cookspiration
Week 4: Recovery
Post-exercise healthy eating is important because it replaces the energy, fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates that were used up during your workout. Protein is essential in building and maintaining muscle and supporting muscle recovery after exercise. It’s best to get these nutrients from foods rather than sports drinks, sports foods, and supplementation (i.e. protein supplements) — unless you are an athlete, in which case it’s best to seek advice from a registered dietitian.
Here are some tips and recipes to help you satisfy your hunger and nutritional needs after exercise:
- The Dietitians of Canada offer steps you can take to recover after exercise.
- Ginger Granola & Pineapple Cottage Cheese from Cookspiration
- Greek-style Chicken Sandwiches from Cookspiration
- Green Lentil Power Smoothie from Cookspiration
- Check out the Dietitians of Canada’s facts on sport supplements.
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 September 13, 2017
September is here and so is back-to-school time. This month, we offer ideas, recipes and tips that are as stress-free as possible.
Food fuels our bodies including our brains. Nourishing ourselves with good quality foods will help ensure peak cognitive function. It starts with a fortifying breakfast, then a recharging lunch, followed by delicious supper and balancing snacks to keep us going throughout the day.
Week 1: Let’s start September on the right foot by planning ahead for breakfast.
Trust me, it’s worth getting up a few minutes earlier to avoid having your stomach growl mid-morning during an important meeting. Breakfasts that include foods with a low glycemic index  will produce a slower rise and lower peak in blood glucose concentration after eating. Your first meal of the day should also include carbohydrates such as low-in-sugar breakfast cereals, oatmeal or whole grain toast combined with some protein such as a plain dairy or non-dairy product, eggs and nut butters to keep you satiated for longer.
- Check out Healthy Families BC’s blog post on healthy breakfast ideas for busy mornings
- Think outside the breakfast cereal box with Greatist’s 34 healthy breakfasts for busy mornings
- Freezer-friendly breakfast sandwiches from Damn Delicious
- Freezer-friendly spinach feta breakfast wraps from Kitchn
- A week’s worth of oatmeal in jars from Kitchn
Week 2: Transform leftovers into tomorrow’s lunch
With a bit of planning and making extra food when you do have time to cook or prep meals, you can transform leftovers into tomorrow’s lunch. Try doubling up on recipes so you have enough portions for a couple of lunches. It shouldn’t add any cooking/prep time. Also, consider shopping for food online to save time. Some stores prepare your order for easy pick-up or even deliver!
Be prepared with these recipes, tips, and healthy lunch spots:
- Check out Spud’s 13 hacks for quick lunches
- If you need to buy lunch, no problem! After all, we are trying to reduce stress levels. Check out Melissa is a Registered Dietitian and Manager of Nutrition and Wellbeing in UBC Food Services. seven places to grab healthy food on campus.
- UBC Food Services offers these alternate ideas to replace deli meats
- Explore mouth-watering healthy lunch ideas for work from EatingWell
For those extra busy times when you don’t have time to grocery shop, consider online food ordering. Here are some local options:
Week 3: Who’s ready for snacks?
Avoid the mid-morning or mid-day run to the snack bar by incorporating healthy snacks that include a minimum of two food groups. That will help reduce the sugar spike and impending crash from eating highly processed, carbohydrate-based, easy-to-grab snacks.
- 27 healthy and portable high-protein snacks by the Greatist
- Check out Melissa Baker’sHealthy Snacking 101
- Did you know UBC staff and faculty (in Vancouver) get a discount to Naked Snacks?
Week 4: Plan and execute home-cooked meals with less chaos
How many times have you gotten home after work starving and with no idea what to make for dinner?
- Explore meal planners, including Martha Stewart’s Grocery Bag Weekly Meal Planner. You’ll get recipes for dinner (and possibly leftovers for lunch), grocery lists and the confidence to whip up simple meals.
- Did you know UBC staff and faculty (in Vancouver) get a discount to iMeal?
Here are some time-saving tips:
- Wash, chop and store fresh veggies and fruit once or twice a week to minimize cooking and prep time on other days.
- Make grains galore. Cook extra whole grains or other sides and store portioned leftovers in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for up to a month. That way, you’ll be ready when you need a healthy meal in a hurry.
- Slow saves time: consider using a slow cooker. Check out BBC good food’s vegetarian slow cooker recipes.
Dinner in 30 minutes or less:
Melissa Lafrance’s Tip of the Month
Try one of my favourite recipes from Oh She Glows: Maple-Cinnamon Apple & Pear Baked Oatmeal. It’s great to make on Sunday evening and have as a quick breakfast each weekday morning. I scoop some in a bowl, add milk, and heat it up in the microwave. It also keeps me satiated until my mid-morning snack!
Become a UBC Health Contact
Each week in September, we will be sharing tips, tricks and information to support environmental health. To receive weekly reminders or for more information on how you can promote health and wellbeing at UBC, sign up to be a UBC Health Contact.
By Melissa Lafrance on August 3, 2017
August is already here! This month, we offer ideas, recipes and tips that are environmentally sustainable. Read on to learn more about meatless Monday and discover plant-based recipes.
Wondering what the deal is with meatless Mondays, and why people are making an effort to reduce or avoid eating meat? There are many personal reasons that influence the choices we make when it comes to our diet.
Check out Melissa Baker’s Meatless Mondays: Plants are the New Protein article, which presents fact-based information supporting the idea of meatless Mondays or replacing meat with alternatives. Decide if you want to join the movement. Melissa is a Registered Dietitian and Manager of Nutrition and Wellbeing in UBC Food Services.
Plant-based foods are highly beneficial to have in your diet. Did you know that in March, one of the ways UBC celebrated Nutrition Month was by launching a vegetarian recipe contest? Students, staff and faculty were invited to participate and many fantastic recipes were submitted. The winner of the contest was Dietetics student, Holly Heximer, with her lentil sloppy joes! Learn more and check out Holly’s lentil sloppy joe recipe.
Try these other plant-based recipes and tricks:
- Healthy vegan recipes from Cookspiration
- Learn to cook lentils(short video)
- Make Chef Michael Smith’s vegan lentil burgers (recipe demo video and lentil burger recipe)
From purchasing to eating and even discarding, the food choices we make have a great impact on our surroundings. We can all take steps to increase our awareness and to do our part to support a sustainable and friendly environment for all species inhabiting this Earth.
Ready to eat more sustainably and save money in the process? Here are five tips to reduce your food waste.
Also, try these vegan recipes:
- Flavour-packed vegan chickpea salad sandwich from Oh She Glows
- Garden veggie Buddha bowl with lentils and tahini dressing from Cookspiration
- Pho with spinach and tofu (free login required)
Ready for more delicious, sustainable recipes? This is the week to try the following:
- Lunch box chili from Cookspiration
- Hearty black bean soup
- Almond portobello steaks
- Roasted beet, walnut and arugula salad from Cookspiration
- Sweet chili tofu stir-fry from Cookspiration
Remember, if you need to purchase your lunch, there are many local and sustainable food options to purchase across the Point Grey campus. If you are in the Okanagan, learn more about environmental sustainability initiatives.
Become a UBC Health Contact
Each week in August, we will be sharing tips, tricks and information to support environmental health.. To receive weekly reminders or for more information on how you can promote health and wellbeing at UBC, sign up to be a UBC Health Contact.
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 Melissa Lafrance on May 4, 2017
It’s easy to reach for a bottle of ketchup or salad dressing at the grocery store. But it’s just as easy – and often healthier and less expensive – to make your own.
This month, we’re taking a look at basic food staples and finding ways to make them a little healthier by making our own instead of buying pre-made. The best way to know exactly what is in your food is to make it yourself. You also benefit from being able to customize it to your taste and can often save money, particularly when you buy the ingredients in bulk. Plus, cooking is fun and satisfying.
Check out the four-week plan and get cooking!
Let’s start small and simple. Try these recipes and tips:
- Make your own salad dressing. You can use old bottles for your dressing or mix up all the ingredients in a glass or a Mason jar.
- You can even make your own butter!
- Make homemade crackers. I’ve made these before and they are super easy and delicious on their own or with hummus or cheese.
- Try baking your own bread.
What about dairy and dairy alternatives? Most of us have these as staples in our everyday diets.
- Did you know you can make your own almond milk? The leftover almond pulp can be used in smoothies, hummus, oatmeal and crackers.
- Homemade yogurt is easier to make than you might think!
Now let’s explore condiments! Nut butters are full of nutrition and great to add to many dishes or use in a good ol’ peanut butter and jam sandwich (even better if it’s with your homemade bread!)
By Melissa Lafrance on April 5, 2017
In April, we are exploring ways we can be financially well. Given that food accounts for a significant portion of our incomes and budgets, let’s look at recipes and tips that can stretch our food dollars, reduce food waste and still allow us to have the nourishing food that is essential for good health.
Try these creative and cost-effective ideas to make use of food scraps you might otherwise throw out:
- Stockpile your scraps. Before you reach for the compost bin, save any bones, leftover carrots and their leafy tops, broccoli stems or limp celery and make a broth or stock! All ingredients can be kept frozen until ready to use. And don’t forget to save those glass jars to store your broth.
- Make a puréed soup. When you find your vegetables going soft faster than you can eat them, make a soup using your homemade broth. You can use cauliflower and celery leaves, kale stems, the dark green part of leeks, sweet potato with the skins, etc.
Wasting food is like dumping your money in the trash. Yet so many of us are guilty of this.
Here are a few waste-reducing tips and recipes:
- SuperCook: This website instantly finds matching recipes for ingredients you have and want to use up!
- Expiration Date vs. Best-Before Date: What is still okay to eat?
- How to become a financially wise food shopper
Batch cooking is a great way to produce meals and avoid having to buy more expensive restaurant or pre-made meals. It also allows you to have leftovers for lunches and to create healthy weekday breakfasts and snacks.
Here are some batch cooking recipes & tips:
It is one of the simplest ways of saving and prolonging food freshness. Freezing baked goods, snacks, fruits, vegetables and even full meals makes it easy to eat home-cooked food when you need a quick fix.
Here are some freezer-friendly recipes and tips:
Each week in April, we will be sharing tips, tricks and information to extend your food dollar and waste less. 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