Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Whole Foods Recipes

Quinoa (or millet or oats) Porridge
(serves 1)

1-1.5 cups cooked quinoa
handful of berries
2 tbsp currants
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
pinch salt
sweetener (as desired -- I like agave nectar and maple syrup)
1 banana
almond, soy, rice milk (add as much as desired, depending on desired consistency)

Mix all ingredients together, and simmer on the stovetop on medium heat, until warmed through (~5-7 minutes), or heat in microwave for 2-3 minutes.

Salad w/ kamut or spelt kernels
(serves 1)

Lettuce, in bite size pieces
1 carrot, grated
1/2 tomato
few slivers of coloured sweet pepper
1/4 cup cucumber
1-2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1/4 - 1/2 cup kamut or spelt kernels
salad dressing (1/2 cup flax seed oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 garlic clove, few dashes of salt - if desired, a tiny bit of honey, maple syrup or agave nectar can be added for sweetness)

Mix all salad ingredients together.  You can also add some cooked veggies (orange sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower) for variety.  Mix salad dressing in blender, and pour over salad.  

Kamut/Spelt/Oat Groat Salad 
serves 4

4 cups cooked kamut/spelt/oat groats (combination)
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp cranberries
1/3 cup sunflower seeds 
1/2 cucumber, diced
1-2 celery rib, cut into small pieces
1 sweet orange pepper, diced
1 small carrot, diced into thin pieces

4 cups cooked kamut/spelt/oat groats (combination)
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
1/2 cup roasted pepper
1/4 cup chives
1/2 cup feta
1/3 cup fresh basil

Mix together all salad ingredients. 
Dressing: 1/2 cup flax seed oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, few dashes of salt, tiny bit of agave nectar - combine in blender and blend until smooth. Pour over salad and serve.

Black beans and rice 
Serves 2 

2 tsp coconut oil  
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely diced
1 orange sweet potato, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup broccoli, if desired, cut into bite sized chunks
1/2 cup cauliflower, if desired, cut into bite sized chunks
2 carrots, sliced
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 zucchini, sliced and quartered

1 tomato, diced
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
3 tbsp soy sauce (or less, as desired)
2 tsp cayenne pepper or red peper flakes
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup cooked black beans
1/2 cup cooked tomatoes

Heat coconut oil over medium-high heat.  Add onions and garlic and red pepper flakes (if using), lower heat, and cook until translucent.  Add some water and simmer orange sweet potato for 5 minutes, add cauliflower, and simmer another few minutes.  Add broccoli, cook for a few minutes. Add carrot, red pepper and cook for a couple more minutes. Add zucchini, and cook for 3 minutes.  Add seeds, tomato, brown rice, beans, soy sauce/tamari and cayenne pepper if desired. Add tomatoes over top, if desired.  Cook for another 5 minutes, until heated through.

Black Beans and Vegetables 
Serves 2

1 orange sweet potato

1 onion
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
2 tsp coconut oil
1/2 cup broccoli
1 carrot
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
2 tbsp tamari / soy sauce
2 tsp cayenne pepper
3 cups black beans
1 cup cooked corn

Heat oil, garlic, onion, basil and oregano over medium heat.  Cook for two minutes.  Add some water, and orange sweet potato.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Add broccoli and carrot and cook for a few minutes, until cooked through.  Add seeds, beans, corn, tamari/soy sauce and cayenne pepper, and heat until warmed through. 

This is not an exact representation of this dish, but gives an idea of the beautiful colours of orange sweet potatoes and black beans

Pinto Beans over rice 
Serves 4

3 cups cooked brown rice
3 cups cooked pinto beans
2 chili peppers, minced into small pieces
6-8 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup flax seed oil
Few dashes of salt

w/ salad

Serve pinto beans over brown rice. Mix together chili peppers, garlic and apple cider vinegar, oil and salt.  Pour mixture over beans and rice. Serve with a salad. 

Chickpea and Quinoa
Serves 2 

1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed or diced
2 tsp coconut oil
1/2 orange sweet potato, cut into bite sized pieces
1 carrot, diced
1/2 cup broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces

4 spears of asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 sweet pepper, diced
3 cups cooked quinoa
1.5 cups cooked chickpeas
1 tbsp tamari
cayenne, as desired

Heat coconut oil over medium heat, add onion and garlic.  Cook until translucent.  Add sweet potato.  Add broccoli, asparagus and carrot.  Cook a few minutes.  Add sweet pepper, and cook a few minutes until all veggies are cooked through.  Add quinoa, chickpeas, tamari and cayenne.  Also good with tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce over top.

Cooking Quinoa 
Makes 4 cups cooked quinoa

2 cup dry quinoa
4 cups water

Rinse quinoa two times in water before cooking.  Swirl quinoa around in water with hands, then drain water using a very fine sieve or a lid over top of a cooking pot. This removes a bitter film from the grain.  Add fresh water to rinsed quinoa, and simmer, for 15 minutes, once water begins to boil.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Whole Foods

Whole Foods -- In the health arena, whole foods is a recently coined phrase that is gaining a following. But what does it mean, what are the benefits and how do you incorporate whole foods into your diet?

Whole food essentially means food that has not been refined or processed and exists in its natural state with the bran, germ and endosperm intact. Including all the componants of grains and seeds is important, as each part provides different benefits: the bran is the outer shell and includes fibre, B vitamins and trace minerals, the endosperm is the bulk and provides energy, carbohydrates and protein, while the germ provides nourishment for the seed, antioxidants, vitamin E and B vitamins.

Whole foods include fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains (brown rice, oats, millet, rye, whole wheat, quinoa, spelt kernels, kamut kernels), beans (black, pinto, red, kidney, aduki), unroasted nuts and seeds, legumes. Many of these foods may be unfamiliar to the average North American, and would definitely not be considered staples in their diet. However, they are tasty alternatives to the average North American diet and slowly gaining in popularity - even becoming available in many grocery stores.

Today, the average North American diet is composed of processed foods such as white flour, white sugar, roasted nuts and seeds, processed oils, chips, white rice, processed meats and soy products. One of the main reasons processed foods have grown in popularity is because they are faster to cook, softer, lighter and sweeter. They digest quickly, and thus allow more calories to be consumed, since they don't fill up the body as much as whole foods. This facilitates over-eating and is contributing to the obesity epidemic.

The nutritional value of these foods have been stripped, and they are essentially empty calories, lacking in the vitamins and minerals that are essential for optimum health. We have become addicted to and reliant on fast, easy foods loaded with unhealthy fats, salt and sugar.

Individuals who have not consumed whole foods previously may find the adaptaion process to be difficult. Keeping the grain intact can make the texture 'chewier' and denser and creates a stronger flavour that can feel overpowering, if you are not used to it. However, after some time, your body will become used to these new textures and tastes, and will appreciate the whole nutrition it is receiving. Consuming whole foods inhibits overconsumption, as whole foods keep you feeling fuller for longer, and thus less likely to snack unnecessarily.

Consuming whole foods provides numerous added health benefits -- studies have shown that individuals with a diet high in unrefiend foods, high in fibre and low in sugar have a lower incidence of heart disease bowel disease, diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure). Whole foods are also a rich source of quality carbohydrates, proteins and various vitamins and minerals.  Whole grains will have more iron, B vitamins, fibre, protein and other minerals than their processed counterparts.  Eating a diet high in whole foods will also ensure that all of your foods provide you with a nutrient boost, rather than simply providing you with simple calories.   

Many people complain that they don't have time to cook anymore, and thus our reliance on 'quick' processed foods deepens. But, are whole foods that much more work to prepare? They may require some additional planning, but with forethought, beans and whole grains can be prepared ahead of time and ready to be made into a satisfying supper within half and hour.

Brown rice - ready in 40 minutes. 1 cup grain to 2 cups water.
Will keep in the fridge for several days and can also be frozen.
Quick to make into stir-fries with veggies, eggs, tofu, peanut or other sauces, good with asian curries and with spaghetti sauce.

Quinoa - ready in 15 minutes. 1 cup grain to 2 cups water -- should be rinsed a couple of times prior to cooking to remove bitterness.
Can be used like brown rice for savoury dishes, or is fantastic as a breakfast with milk (cow, soy, almond, rice), berries, nuts, dried fruit and a dash of salt and sweetener.  This is a super fast meal to throw together.

Oats - use steal cut or scottish oats to retain more of the benefits and minimize processing.  Takes 10-20 minutes to cook.  Great for oatmeal, with milk, a dash of salt and sweetener.  Fruit (apples, bananas, berries, peaches, dried fruit), nuts (almonds and walnuts) and coconut are also great additions.

Buckwheat - Ready in 30 minutes.  Tasty with vegetables and combines really well with tomato sauces.  Can also be made into a porridge with milk, sweetener and a dash of salt.

Spelt and Kamut kernels and oat groats- Should be soaked for several hours prior to cooking.  You can leave them to soak when you leave for work, and they are ready to cook when you return home in the evening.
Cooking time is between 50-70 minutes. The kernels or groats will be somewhat chewy when ready.
They can be used like rice for stir-fries, or are great additions to salads for extra nutritients, substance and texture.  They can also be made into a salad on their own by adding cucumber, sunflower seeds, dried fruit (cranberries, raisins or currants), celery, coloured peppers, tomatoes, and a dressing (I like flax seed oil and lemon juice, with a little salt and maple syrup).

Beans- black, pinto, garbanzo, aduki, red, northern etc.  They should be soaked overnight (or for at least 8 hours). In the morning, change the soaking water, rinse the beans a few times, and then cover with ~2 cms of extra water.  Place in a slow cooker on the low setting, and they will be ready in the evening.
Aduki beans are softer and cook quite a bit faster than the other beans.
Once ready, beans are fantastic for quick dishes.  They can be thrown into a stir-fry (garbanzo beans are especially good with rice or quinoa), be made into a dip (eg: hummous or black bean dip), thrown together for a chili, or made into tacos, enchiladas or huevos rancheros (corn tortilla with cheese, fried egg, black beans and salsa).
Beans and rice can be combined as a meal in itself, or they also make fantastic burgers.

Lentils- red, brown, french, green.  Red lentils cook the fastest in about 10-15 minutes.  The others take about 20-25 minutes.
Lentils are packed with iron and B vitamins and excellent sources of protein and fibre.
They are quick to cook and can be thrown together for soups or stews and added to rice or quinoa in a stir-fry like dish.
Red lentils taste quite a bit different than the other kinds, have a milder taste and may be more palatable for those who have never consumed lentils.

Vegetables and fruits - 
Can be eaten alone for snacks or with some peanut butter or humous for added protein.  Vegetables of course combine well with grains, beans and legumes and add a good dose of nutrients, fibre, antioxidants, and colour.

So far I have focused on foods in their most natural state, rather than foods ground into flour. Maximizing our use of whole foods that are entirely intact provides the most benefits for our bodies.  However, when flour products are consumed, an easy way to enhance the nutrient value of our food is to switch to whole grain proucts.  So instead of consuming refined pasta and white bread, choose whole wheat, spelt or kamut pasta and 100% whole wheat, rye or spelt bread.  Breads that are sprouted add an additional benefit.

However, be careful of consuming too much soft store bread.  Despite the fact that many of it is 100% whole wheat or whole grain, it still includes many added preservatives and sugars that are unnecessary.  The best option is to either bake your own bread (this is really easy and fast using a bread machine) or purchase bread from your local bakery.   

Muffins and cakes can also be made from whole grains and are equally delicious.  If you are baking your own, you can substitute the whole grain flour for a bit of amaranth flour, to lighten it.

As noted there are lots of easy and quick ways to add whole foods to our diets.  It may appear or sound daunting, but once you start practicing it, it becomes routine and doesn't require a lot of extra time.

In my next post, which I'll put up in a week, I will provide recipes for many of the ideas I've listed in this blog.  Until then, have fun, eat well and experiment a little.  

Friday, January 8, 2010

A new year - time for reflection and goal setting

A new year has begun - this time of year is often one in which we take stock of where we are at, review our past year and make goals for the upcoming year. They can take the form of resolutions or goals that we want to accomplish. Some of the most common themes relate to health and wellness, exercise and weight-loss.

As humans, we are really good at thinking and imagining, coming up with ideas, and talking about our plans or ideas. However, putting those plans into actions or keeping our actions going is more difficult. This requires determination, focus, commitment and internal motivation. It also requires a realistic plan, with checks and balances. As the saying goes: "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

This might seem a bit harsh, but it's the truth; without coming up with actions to put your ideas into motion, they remain simply ideas. We cannot (as of yet) make ourselves miraculously lose weight, get fit or gain muscle simply by thinking about it.

The first step in achieving your health and wellness (or any goal) is to (i) set a realistic goal, (ii) that is achievable, (iii) is timebound and has targets associated with timelines, (iv) is measurable and (v) is specific: SMART (specific, measurable, achieveable, realistic, timebound).

Next, you need to figure out how you are going to achieve your goal. Decide what exact actions are you going to put into place that will enable you to succeed. Sign up for a fitness class, join a friend and make plans to meet up 1-2 times a week to go for a run, or go biking, or roller-blading. Plan into your schedule the days and times you are going to go to the gym. Meet with a personal trainer to learn tips on how to use the equipment and determine what you need to do to meet your fitness goal. Or decide to stop drinking frappuncinos or mochas every day and switch to a lower caloric and lower fat drink (eg: americano, regular coffee, tea). Reduce the number of times per week that you eat out. Reduce the number of times per week you buy pastries or sweets. Add in more whole grains, beans and vegetables into your meals. Plan your meals for the week and only purchase the items you need for your weekly meals. Buy a whole-grain cookbook and try out some new recipes.

There are many actions you can take to meet your goals. Planning them, listing them, sharing them with others and posting them in a spot where you will see them will keep you honest about how you are progressing.

It's also important not to bite off more than you can chew. It is easy to get demoralized and feel like your goal is unachievable if you try to do too much too soon, or go too far too fast. Start off with small achievable goals that you can meet, and build upon them. Treat each piece as a mini-success, and then move on, gaining confidence as you slowly move towards meeting your ultimate goal.

So, if you want to start running, don't just go out and expect to be able to run 10 kilometres, if you haven't run further than a few hundred meters in 10 years. Start small: join a learn to run clinic, start with run walks (run 1 minute, walk 1 minute), and then progressively start to run more and walk less. Start with one kilometer at a time and slowly add on. This will enable you to enjoy your progress, rather than feel bad because you can't run as fast or as far as your friend who has been running the past 5 years.

It's important to believe that you can achieve your goal, but realize that you won't achieve it right away. You will need to take steps to get there. You may encounter difficulties or make mistakes, but try not to let yourself get discouraged. Realize that even the fastest runners, have bad days and had to build up to their current regime, and that those who seem the healthiest have their weaknesses and don't eat perfectly all of the time.

The final point to making your health or fitness goal a success is to build it into your lifestyle. To be truly successful, it cannot be something that you just do for a few weeks, or few months, it requires a change to how you live. This change will occur slowly, but ultimately you have to make the commitment to change how you are currently living your life, and don't think of it as a diet or a phase, but of a lifestyle change.

In a future post I will provide tips on how to change your diet to become more vegetarian oriented, or completely vegetarian, while ensuring you are getting all the nutrients you need. I will also include some more recipes.