Food Documentary Recommendations

February 9th, 2013

Healthy-Eating image

Google nutrition, nutrient, vitamins/minerals….etc. and you’ll be inundated with information. Is it accurate? Well that all depends on the source. If you are looking for ACCURATE information then you are better going to reputable sources. If you google food documentaries you will also find a number of results, some are definitely better than others. Here are my reviews of food documentaries that I’ve seen. I’m sure there are a lot more but for now here you go.

1) Forks over knives – I actually found the documentary of extra interviews more interesting than the actual film although you do have to have an interest in the topics discussed (likely a little dry for some!).  It is absolutely biased towards veganism but rightly so. The recommendations by the doctors are supported 30+ years of research. Most interesting is the connection between dairy and prostate cancer. Plus, there’s the connection between early erectile difficulties and heart disease. Dr T Campbell also discusses how supplements can actually damage the body vs. heal. The best way to get the nutrients we need is by eating whole foods (not new news by any means but well put). Available on iTunes $4.99. See the trailer here.

2) Fresh – I have a hard time watching the cruelty of animals that occurs in industrialized farming but it’s a reality. This film takes a closer look at how mid-sized sustainable farms can be equally if not more productive as large industrial farms. There’s also the lack of animal cruelty and less impact on the environment etc. Available on iTunes $4.99. See the trailer here.

3) Food Inc. – I haven’t seen this movie for some time and from what I remember I was covering my eyes for a lot of it. I am very empathetic to animals and cannot under any circumstances see them treated poorly. This is a powerful film not for the faint of heart. Will open your eyes to how big corporations control the food supply. Available on iTunes for $4.99. View the trailer here.

4) Vegucated – Watch the journey of 3 meat eating New Yorkers try out veganism for a couple months. See the challenges and transformations that people undergo both mentally and physically. A low budget film but enjoyable. Available on Netflix Canada. See the trailer here.

5) Food matters – You need to get past the curly haired raw food advocate and the first 25% of the film to get to any substance.. I almost turned it off but thankfully I stayed committed. It turned out to be a very powerful movie that focusses on the inefficacies of the pharmaceutical industry and how nutrition should be the focus of all treatment, especially cancer. A few quotes, “Nutrition is the primary health prevention strategy”, “food can change your mood”, “you are everything you have ever done to yourself”, “the choices you make directly impact the rest of your life”, “stop being a patient” – take your life into your own hands. Available for $4.99 on iTunes. View the trailer here.

5) Corn King - Another low budget film that follows 2 friends as they grow an acre of corn. Informative if you aren’t familiar with the corn industry in the US. To sum it up in a kernel of corn – much of the corn produced by farmers is completely inedible. It’s been genetic modified to be used in animal feed as well as yield high sugar content that is used to manufacture corn by-products like dextrose, modified corn starches and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). I’m not a huge fan of Michael Pollan but he does say manage to say a few things that don’t rub me the wrong way as he’s managed to do in the past. Available on iTunes $4.99. See the trailer here.

6) Super Size Me - not exactly new on the scene but powerful none the less. I can’t imagine how you wouldn’t know about this film. Premise – a guy eats nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days and becomes sick and addicted to fat/sugar. See the trailer here.


Smoothie Sugar Extravaganza

May 9th, 2012

I just got off the phone with a customer service rep at McDonald’s and I’m in shock. I’ve worked with the food industry for 10 years and I truly believe that many companies are trying to provide healthy alternatives for Canadians. When it comes to smoothie offerings, many restaurants have abandoned health for a product that should be healthy. I just confirmed that a medium strawberry banana smoothie at McD’s contains 280g of sugar and a large contains 310g. That’s equivalent to 70 tsp and 77.5 tsp of sugar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I wish I was kidding. The rep told me that this specific smoothie has added sugar, DUH really?! I’m pretty sure that’s not natural sugar from the fruit. I checked the ingredient list and it’s not any different from the ingredient lists of the other smoothies. The smoothie ingredient list is “fruit base, ice, low fat yogurt (for the yogurt varieties)”. In case you aren’t aware, that “fruit base” will have it’s own set of ingredients (not listed) and I would bet that the 1st ingredient or at least 2nd ingredient is sugar. The other varieties are lower but still way too high for my liking. For example the blueberry pomegranate has 73g or 18.5tsp of sugar. This is pretty close to a large Coke that contains 20.5g of sugar. Clearly McD’s smoothies are not a healthy choice.
Other restaurants are a little better HOWEVER their serving sizes aren’t as big as McD’s. At Starbucks the smoothies range from 31-40g sugar or 7-10tsp of sugar for an average size of 280mL. If you triple the size to approach that of McD’s then the sugar content is close to 100g. At least some of this sugar is natural because because Starbucks makes their smoothies with milk or soy. Milk naturally contains a sugar called lactose. At Tim Horton’s a 10oz serving contains about 30g sugar or 7.5tsp of sugar. FYI I’m not sure how many oz are in the McD’s smoothies as they are listed in grams instead of mLs (i.e. a large = 1228g).
Your best bed is to pass on these options and make your own at home. Yesterday I made a yummy smoothie with frozen mango, 0% vanilla Greek yogurt and skim milk. Check out a past post I did about making your own smoothies here.

By the way if you want to calculate how many tsp of sugar is in your food or beverage divide the sugar in grams by 4. 1 tsp of sugar = 4g. Therefore, 280g of sugar/4g per tsp = 70 tsp.


Sesame Street Super Foods

January 24th, 2012

sesame street superfoods

Now that I’m watching Sesame Street with my little munchkin I’ve been enjoying their attempts to teach healthy eating. Did you know that Elmo’s favourite food is wasabi, which is a “sometimes” food like cookies. In one video, Elmo tries kiwi for the first time after being encouraged to do so by the superfood puppets. I love the concept of the song in the video (see below), which suggests kids try foods that they aren’t familiar with. However, I don’t like the term superfood so I wish Sesame Street had called these puppets by another name. The term superfood suggests that certain healthy foods are superior to others, which is not true. The term has no scientific support. For instance, Goji berries are often considered to be superfoods because of a particularly high nutritive value. However, the nutrition is not much different than other berries or fruits & vegetables for that matter. They certainly do not have any magical powers that will fight aging or illness.
My advice is to;
1) ignore the silly marketing term and,
2) choose fresh and unprocessed meats, poultry, fruits & vegetables and whole grains



July 3rd, 2011

beetsI recently moved to a new part of town and discovered a cute little farmer’s market that’s open on Sundays. Today I picked up some locally grown beets along with delicious cheese and meat that is currently on the BBQ. I thought it would be nice to make a raw beet salad for a side and it’s fantastic. I thought I should share it…

Raw Beet Salad (2 servings)

2 large Beets, washed, peeled and shredded finely (I used a fine cheese grater for long thin strands)

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon
1 Tbsp honey
pinch of salt and pepper
2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Mix together and let stand to marinade for 30 minutes or so. I would’ve added some fresh dill or cilantro if I had it.


Campbell’s committment to Nourishing the body

April 1st, 2011


No Excuses Broccoli Soup

December 4th, 2010


I have to tell you a secret. It’s realllly easy to make soup! You don’t even have to know how to cook. The even better part is that when you serve it to guests you can pretend that you spent hours over a hot stove and they won’t know the difference because it’s too delicious to doubt.

This past week I made a vegan carrot ginger soup and a dairy free creamy broccoli soup. You can find the carrot and other soup recipes here. The great part about making pureed soups is that you don’t have to chop the veggies finely because they are going to end up in a blender. I diced the onion and garlic into large chunks and threw them into the pot. I used frozen broccoli in this recipe so the pieces were already in small florets. If you use a head of broccoli cut it into 6 pieces and it will break apart during cooking. Use leftovers for the next few days to add a extra serving of veggies to dinner or store in single serve containers and transport your yummy soup to work for lunch. Your coworkers will undoubtedly be impressed.

Broccoli is one of my favourite vegetables not only because it’s healthy but I love the taste. I’ve loved eating the little trees since I was little. In it’s cooked state, broccoli offers more nutritive value. I know it sounds strange but cooking often makes the nutrients in vegetables more bioavailable, which means free for absorption by the body. Here’s a chart comparing raw and cooked broccoli in 1/2 cup or 1 serving from Canada’s Food Guide.

Raw   v.s    Cooked

Fiber: 1g vs. 2g

Folate: 29ug vs. 89ug

Beta carotene: 168ug vs. 766ug

Vitamin K: 47ug vs. 115ug

Lutein & Zeathancins:  652ug vs. 890ug

Potassium: 47mg vs. 241ug

ug = micrograms. Beta carotene, lutein and zeathancins are antioxidants that help ward off illnesses/diseases by neutralizing free radicals in our bodies that harm our cells.

Green Soup

1 medium onion, chopped into chunks

2 cloves garlic, chopped into 3-4 pieces

2 cup vegetable broth

1 cup water

3 cups broccoli

1 cup arugula

1 large potato, chopped into 4 pieces (optional – add if you prefer a thicker soup)

2 cup soy beverage

1. In a large pot, heat 1 Tbsp oil and sautee onion for a few minutes until softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 min.

2. Add stock and potato and cook covered on medium heat for about 15 minutes until potato is tender.

3. Add broccoli and cook an additional 5-10 minutes until tender. Add arugula and remove the pot from the heat.

4. Transfer soup to a blender. You may have to do 1 or more batches. Puree until smooth.

5. Combine batches of soup in a bowl and add soy beverage. Serve.


Easy steps to reduce sodium in canned food

November 22nd, 2010

Daily sodium targets are likely to drop again at some point in the near future from the current 2300mg to 1500mg/day. If you read labels then you have likely noticed that canned vegetables and beans contain sodium. Companies don’t add salt for taste but instead for a functional purpose. Do you recall the concept of osmosis? Basically it is the movement of water in and out of cells. Sodium prevents the cell walls from breaking down. Without sodium in the brine, a can of beans would turn into a can of bean mush.

The good news is that much of this sodium can be washed away before eating. This is one strategy to reduce your daily sodium intake. The below chart is from Pulse Canada. Following these 3 basic steps reduces sodium in a can of beans by 41%!! Check out their website for more information, including delicious recipes. I’m going to try the Almond Chickpea burger recipe this week!



VIA: Starbucks answer to more sugary coffee

November 11th, 2010

ViaStarbucks loves sugar. For fun I scrutinized the sugar content in Starbucks beverages. You’ll never guess what I found. A Grande Iced Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha contains 71g of sugar!!! I almost fell off my chair. How can they sell such a product?? To put this in perspective 71g sugar =  18 packages or teaspoons of sugar. Would you put that many packages into a Grande drip coffee? I hope not!

It’s not surprising that Starbucks’s newest product, VIA flavoured coffees, contain sugar. There isn’t as much sugar as the Peppermint Mocha (thank goodness) but be aware of what you are drinking. There is 60 calories in each pack of flavoured VIA, which comes directly from sugar, a total of 13g or 3 packages/teaspoons of sugar. There are only 2 ingredients in the list and the first one is NOT coffee. No, it’s sugar. This means that the majority of VIA is made not from coffee but from sugar. 60 calories may sound innocent enough but there isn’t any nutrition in those calories. For 50 calories, I’d prefer that you eat a small apple so you get some fibre, vitamins and minerals. That’s just my opinion though…


Healthy Smoothies

November 6th, 2010


Homemade smoothies can be part of a quick breakfast or a healthy snack. Don’t get sucked into smoothie stores that promise increased energy etc. All you will get is a cup of sugar. Some of the store-bought smoothies contain over 500 calories – that’s equivalent to a meal!!

Here’s some tips on making your own blended smoothie goodness:

Pick a  base: Avoid juice at all costs as it adds sugar with little nutrition. Instead choose skim milk, light soy beverage, unsweetened almond milk, low fat coconut milk, low fat or fat free yogurt plus water or even egg nog (seasonal)

Add protein: Nut butters, skim milk powder, evaporated milk (not the condensed variety with added sugar), silken tofu or high protein yogurts like this one.

Fruity goodness: It’s possible to add fruit without simply adding sugary calories. You can do this by using fresh fruit and avoiding juice. Frozen fruit is my favourite because I don’t have to add ice to the smoothie and I don’t have to worry about the fresh fruit going bad before I use it. It can also be more nutritious than fresh since it’s picked when it’s ripe. Any fruit works well but be wary of berries like raspberries and blackberries. These fruits contain lots of seeds that give an unpleasant grittiness to smoothies, especially at the bottom of your glass.

Boosts: If you want to get a little extra nutrition try out some of these options. Flax or chia seeds (omega 3 fats), wheat germ (fibre), unrefined cocoa powder or spinach or green tea (antioxidants).


Delicious Brunch Frittata

November 2nd, 2010


Eggs are a quick breakfast option whether during the week or on the weekend. Eggs contain nutrients like protein, iron and are naturally low in calories (70 per egg) and low in those bad fats (saturated). Despite containing cholesterol, you don’t have to avoid them. Research indicates that the cholesterol in eggs doesn’t increase the body’s blood cholesterol. For more information on eggs and cholesterol click here.

I’ve never figured out the logistics of keeping omelettes in one piece and my attempts usually end up as tasty scrambled eggs. Recently, I decided to spread my wings and try to make a frittata. It was so easy, I don’t know why I didn’t try it years ago.

In this recipe, I used a carton of egg whites because it was in my refrigerator. You can use whole eggs or a combination of half whole eggs and half egg whites. Replacing some of the eggs with egg whites will reduce the total fat, although the fat in eggs is mainly good fats!

Savoury Veggie Frittata

10 egg whites

1/2 cup red onion, diced

1 cup baby heirloom tomatoes, halved

1 cup roasted butternut squash, diced (I had this leftover from dinner the night before but any leftover cookies veggies will do)

3 cloves garlic, minced or diced finely

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese


1) Coat a small fry pan with a small amount of oil. Sautee onions with a tsp of oil until tender. Add garlic for approximately 1 minute or until fragrant. Remove from heat.

2) To a mixing bowl, add egg whites and remaining ingredients except cheese. Add onion and garlic. Mix well and add to a greased oven safe pan. The frittata will conform to the shape of whatever pan you use. Sprinkle Parmesan on top. Bake at 350 F for about 35 minutes or until a knife comes out clean from the centre.