Friday, December 30, 2011

Stephen Colbert Night in Canada!

Hope you're enjoying this holiday season! This week is traditionally my blog-cation and so instead of writing new posts, here is a favourite of mine from back in 2008.
I definitely have a man crush on Stephen Colbert.

There, I said it.

God love him, he's today's 2008 recycled Funny Friday.

Have a great weekend!

(email subscribers, head to the blog, this one's definitely worth it)

[Originally posted in May 2008]

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Loot Bag Manifesto

Hope you're enjoying this holiday season! This week is traditionally my blog-cation and so instead of writing new posts, here is a favourite of mine from back in 2008.

My 4 year old came home from a birthday party the other day with a loot-bag that save for one small trinket, contained solely candy.

She's 4.

4 year olds are thrilled with anything. You could put coloured popsicle sticks and cotton balls in a loot bag and they'd be happy - why do you need to send home sugar?

For guests of our daughters we generally raid our local dollar store and buy things like little fairy skirts, wooden puzzles or cars that can be put together and painted with parents, felt doorknockers where we included lettering for kids' names, small dolls, stickers, beading kits for personalized bracelets, pirate hats, squishy balls and play-doh.

Thankfully, my loot bag manifesto is a short one:
I hereby proclaim that an enlightened loot bag contains no candy!
Pass it on!

[Originally published October 23rd, 2008]

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Coca Cola Lies to Doctors?

Hope you're enjoying this holiday season! This week is traditionally my blog-cation and so instead of writing new posts, here is a favourite of mine from back in 2008.

Sure looks that way to me.

The ad pictured above appeared on page 1632 of the June 17th edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The ad leads,
"Can't remember the last Coca-Cola ad targeted at children? There's a reason"
Reading the paragraph below,
"Parents tell us they prefer to be the ones teaching their children about beverage choices. That's why for over 50 years we've adhered to a company policy that prohibits advertising soft drinks to children."
Then they go on to brag about their voluntary efforts,
"And as a founding member of Canadian Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, we'vre recetnly extended this policy to include all forms of media, including broadcast, print, the web and beyond."
So what's my issue?

Well I can remember boatloads of Coca-Cola advertisements targeting children. From the famous Mean Joe Green football jersey commercial, to Santa Claus, little stuffed vending machine animals, animated polar bears, video games and recording and sports idols.

Thankfully, youtube remembers them as well and a smattering of them are posted down below (email subscribers, you'll have to actually visit the blog by clicking here as embedded videos don't make it into the email).

Visiting the Coca-Cola company's website you'll find that there's a lot of small print attached to their pledge but basically it comes down to this - it only applies to programming that is specifically geared towards children under the age of 12. I suppose that means targeting children during any family friendly shows (American/Canadian Idol, sports, some prime time stuff) is fair game and I suppose it also means Coca-Cola thinks your 12 year old is an adult.

What a beautiful example of how Big Food sponsored voluntary "regulation" through grandiose sounding endeavours such as the "Canadian Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative" aren't worth the paper they're written on.

[Originally posted July 23rd, 2008]



CHRISTMAS (Entire commercial with 12 year olds)








Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dr. Sharma and I Have Single Bypasses!

Hope you're enjoying this holiday season! This week is traditionally my blog-cation and so instead of writing new posts, here is a favourite of mine from back in 2008.

What you see above is a picture of me and my friend and colleague Dr. Arya Sharma (The guy on the left. The guy with the stethoscope? That’s the Grill’s owner “Dr.” Jon) at the Heart Attack Grill (blogged about previously here), but really what you're seeing is a picture of Arya and me practicing what we preach.

You might think that my statement above doesn't make sense, after all, the Canadian Medical Association Journal labeled me a "nutritional watchdog" and I run a behavioural weight management program and Arya, well Arya's the head of Capital Health's Weight Wise - the country's largest tertiary care bariatric centre and the scientific director of the Canadian Obesity Network, how could us eating - "flatliner" fries and "single bypass" burgers reflect our practices?

Simple - we preach that food and calories, while worth monitoring for nutrition and weight, are also used in life for comfort and celebration, and if you can't use food for comfort and celebration from time to time, you're probably on a diet and long-term, it's probably going to fail.

In terms of my lifestyle, excluding vacations and conferences I probably eat out a maximum of twice a month and just like most folks, I enjoy the taste of some foods that are let's say less than optimally nutritious, and sometimes I'll indulge. However what I don't do is give myself a carte blanche during those meals out - instead I choose the healthiest option that I think I'll enjoy so for instance at the Heart Attack Grill I had the single bypass (rather than the double, triple or quadruple), shared a fries with Arya and had water to drink.

As I regularly say weight management and healthy eating - they're about living the healthiest lives you can enjoy, not the healthiest lives you can tolerate. The former's a liveable lifestyle, the latter's just another short-term diet.

So if you're in Phoenix and you're so inclined, the Heart Attack Grill might well be worth a visit, but as the posting on their door states in big, bold, red writing,
"Caution! This Establishment is BAD for your Health!"

[Originally posted October 9th, 2008]

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Canadian Government Thinks Dietitians are Useless!

Hope you're enjoying this holiday season! This week is traditionally my blog-cation and so instead of writing new posts, here is a favourite of mine from back in 2008.

Or so it might seem.

Do you work for the Canadian Government? If you do, perhaps you'd like to call your HR department and ask them why it is that the federal government's health care insurance plans don't cover the services of a registered dietitian and while I can't speak for all provinces, neither does the plan for the Province of Ontario's government workers.

That sure seems a bit incongruent doesn't it?

After all, we know that the government worked closely with the Dietitians of Canada in the creation of the Food Guide and putting aside my various condemnations of the Guide's non-evidence based recommendations, doesn't it strike you as odd that while the government might feel dietitians are valuable contributors to counsel Health Canada on nutrition that they don't insist their insurers pay for individual dietetic consultations for their employees?

It's also odd given that the Canadian Government is well aware of the perils of obesity and the role of a healthy diet in the prevention of chronic disease.

David Butler Jones, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer has been heard to state that,
"with the rapid increase in obesity in young people, that this generation currently in childhood will be the first ever to experience poorer health than their parents"
and that,
"by increasing their levels of physical activity, improving eating habits and achieving healthy weights, Canadians can help ensure good health and prevent many chronic diseases, including some cancers, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke."
Tony Clement, our former Minister of Health has stated,
"More than ever, Canadians understand the consequences of an unhealthy diet. We know that a bad diet and no exercise can lead to serious conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer."
And it's not as if the government's insurance plan doesn't cover complementary health care and paramedical services. Both the federal and the province of Ontario's plans cover psychologists, optometrists, chiropractors, chiropodists, audiologists and naturopaths. I'm told they even shell out for homeopathic consultations, a highly contentious practice desperately lacking in evidence-based results covered elegantly in the Guardian by Dr. Ben Goldacre and with mirth yesterday regarding its use in obesity treatment by Dr. J. on Calorie Lab.

If you'd like to complain to our current Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq feel free to click on her name to send her office an email.

If you're looking to email David Butler-Jones, while according to his website the Chief Public Health Officer "welcomes your comments and suggestions", his office's website doesn't provide an email address to which to address them. Instead they provide a fill in the blank form to fill out and Dr. Butler-Jones' snail mail contacts. I was however able to find his phone number in the Government directory and so if you'd like to call him to discuss this just buzz (613)954-8524 or fax him at(613)954-8529.

If you work for the Canadian government, please share this post with your colleagues.

Anyone out there up for a petition?

UPDATE: A kind reader has informed me that really the person in charge of these type of decisions is Mr. Vic Toews from the Treasury Board. If you'd like to email Vic Toews simply click his name.

[Originally posted January 9th, 2008]

Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 Bye Bye! (and good riddance?)

Certainly not the most auspicious year in history as evidenced by this week's Funny Friday Jib Jab retrospective video.

Here's rooting for 2012!

Will be off next week but will have some of my favourite posts from way back in 2008.

Have a great week, and thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Resolution Series Day 12: YOU!

12 Days of Resolutions. 12 resolutions that will help steer you towards a healthier lifestyle, whether you've got weight you'd like to lose or not. 12 resolutions that are each in and of themselves extremely straight forward and doable. Some might involve doing, others simply thinking, and if any of them don't seem useful to you, skip on to the next.
Day 12: YOU!

Is there anyone more neglected by you in your life than yourself?

I know it's cliché, but truly, if you take better care of yourself, you'll likely be better able to take care of those you love.

It may mean asking your family members to pick up some slack around the house. It may mean dropping some volunteer positions that are taking up too much of your time. It may mean organizing a car pool. It may mean carving out some 'you' time from a weekly schedule filled with everyone else. It may mean spending a few dollars on higher quality foods, exercise equipment or new walking shoes. It may mean asking your spouse to look after the kids while occasionally go dancing with your friends.

Whatever it takes, this year resolve to ensure that you not only take care of those who you love around you, but that you also take care of yourself.

You deserve it, and if you don't look out for yourself, who will?

Make this the first of many years of you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Resolution Series Day 11: Small Steps!

12 Days of Resolutions. 12 resolutions that will help steer you towards a healthier lifestyle, whether you've got weight you'd like to lose or not. 12 resolutions that are each in and of themselves extremely straight forward and doable. Some might involve doing, others simply thinking, and if any of them don't seem useful to you, skip on to the next.
Day 11: Small Steps!

It goes somewhat hand in hand with striving not to be perfect, but the fact remains, people often take flying leaps at their New Year's Resolutions.

The thing about flying leaps? You tend to land on your face.

Small steps?

You might actually get somewhere.

Unfortunately the road to New Year's Resolutions for many has been paved by reality television, and real reality sure ain't the same thing.

Reality television teaches you to try to lose huge amounts of weight each and every week, to restrict, deny, and avoid dietary indulgences, that exercise in order to be useful needs to be performed in massive amounts (often the point of throwing up) and be painful.

And while those strategies may well work for contestants on a reality television show, they sure aren't going to work well for a working mom of 3 kids in hockey, or in my case, a working dad of 3 kids with a blog.

Remember, it's the healthiest life you can enjoy, not the healthiest life you can tolerate. Any more and you can probably kiss your resolution goodbye.

This year? Resolve to take small steps and leave the flying leaps to idiotic television shows.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Resolution Series Day 10: Look at Pricetags!

12 Days of Resolutions. 12 resolutions that will help steer you towards a healthier lifestyle, whether you've got weight you'd like to lose or not. 12 resolutions that are each in and of themselves extremely straight forward and doable. Some might involve doing, others simply thinking, and if any of them don't seem useful to you, skip on to the next.
Day 10: Look at Pricetags!

So let's say you wanted to buy a new outfit and that you decided to shop on Beverly Hills' Rodeo Drive. If you didn't look at price tags before you bought your clothes, do you think you'd be pleasantly surprised when you got that month's Visa bill?

I'm guessing not.

Weight wise, the currency of weight is calories, and unfortunately the world out there? It's the Rodeo Drive of calories, where foods that don't look like much, or foods that are "healthy", may still have stupidly high, non-intuitive caloric prices.

I'm not saying calories are the be all and end all of nutrition, but they're certainly a nutritional determinant of health. Research regularly and conclusively points at calorie reduction as life extending, and therefore even if weight's not your concern, a reduction in your total calorie consumption may be beneficial.

Thankfully nowadays calories are easy to identify. Whether by means of nutrition facts panels, online resources, or in some States, even posted on menu boards.

So this year, resolve to look at price tags, with the question to be asking yourself, "Is it worth the calories", and where sometimes, even if they're exceedingly high, the answer's going to be "YES!".

Calories are but one branch of your decision making tree, where other branches might include your stress level, religious holidays, how long it's been since you've indulged in it, how good or bad your day might have been, what your calories have looked like lately, etc.

But they do make a difference.  For instance, I've never met a muffin worth its calories, and once you start looking at price tags, you might feel the same.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Resolution Series Day 9: Burn your Pigeonholes!

12 Days of Resolutions.  12 resolutions that will help steer you towards a healthier lifestyle, whether you've got weight you'd like to lose or not.  12 resolutions that are each in and of themselves extremely straight forward and doable.  Some might involve doing, others simply thinking, and if any of them don't seem useful to you, skip on to the next.
Day 9:  Burn your Pigeonholes!

People sometimes lock themselves down.

Either they always have to be "perfect", never straying from some restrictive ideal, or instead they pigeonhole themselves into some dietary regime or strategy.

This year resolve to do neither.

Striving to be perfect is a sure way to first "fall off the wagon", and then "not get back on track", because who wants to be on an impossible track.

My thinking is that rather than try to be perfect, do your best, remembering of course that your best will vary, and some days, compared with others, objectively your best won't look very good, despite the fact that subjectively it's actually your best.

Pigeonholes are dangerous too. Declare yourself a staunch anything food wise (low carb, paleo, vegan, low fat, etc.) and suddenly you too have that many more opportunities to let yourself down - and if let yourself down often enough, you're liable to quit whatever strategy it is that keeps making you feel guilty.

Sure, if you want to advocate a particular style of eating, go for it, just don't beat yourself up if you're not perfectly adherent.

Don't strive for perfection, and don't live a pigeonhole, instead do and eat your best, and rather than worry that your best isn't perfect, worry if it is.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Innocent Joy of Being Evil

I know Santa pays attention to naughty and nice.

Hopefully the joy this little girl gets from being naughty doesn't translate into a lifetime of evil.....but boy does she have evil joy down pat as is evidenced by this just 9 seconds long Funny Friday video.

Have a great weekend!

(email subscribers, hit the blog to watch)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Resolution Series Day 8: Beeps and Boops!

12 Days of Resolutions. 12 resolutions that will help steer you towards a healthier lifestyle, whether you've got weight you'd like to lose or not. 12 resolutions that are each in and of themselves extremely straight forward and doable. Some might involve doing, others simply thinking, and if any of them don't seem useful to you, skip on to the next.
Day 8: Beeps and Boops!

Thankfully these days, if we want to remind ourselves of something, we don't need to tie a string onto our finger, instead, we can use the magical world around us.

Everything these days beeps or boops.

Cellphone and smartphone calendars and alarms, reminder apps, Outlook, text messaging, emails. There's no shortage of means to get in touch with oneself.

The thing about resolutions, by their very definition they're things you're not accustomed to doing in your normal, default, daily routine.

So how do you turn a resolution into a habit?

You consciously remind yourself over, and over, and over again, of those very things you're resolving to change.

This year resolve to remember, and resolve to do so without using one extra ounce of brain power or resilience, resolve to do so with beeps or boops.

Set your cell or smart phone calendar to remind you to snack, to shop for fresh produce, to exercise. Schedule your resolutions into your outlook reminders. Use text messaging services like  OhDon' or send emails out into the future.

Why would you naturally remember to do things you aren't accustomed to doing?

Beeps and boops? They're your secret resolution weapons. Wield them well.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Resolution Series Day 7: Construct, don't Destruct!

12 Days of Resolutions. 12 resolutions that will help steer you towards a healthier lifestyle, whether you've got weight you'd like to lose or not. 12 resolutions that are each in and of themselves extremely straight forward and doable. Some might involve doing, others simply thinking, and if any of them don't seem useful to you, skip on to the next.
Day 7: Construct, don't Destruct!

I've blogged about this resolution before.

This year resolve to ask yourself constructive questions, rather than destructive ones.

People generally interpret their lives through a series of reflective questions, and when things are going well, we tend to fall into questions like,
"What's my problem"

"What's wrong with me?"

"Why can't I just do this?"
And brains? Well, they're very accommodating. If you ask your brain to point out, "what's wrong" with you, it will readily and happily do so.

Self-destructing by piling guilt, anger and derision on yourself is no way to build a lifelong change.

If you want to change for good, I'd recommend you build on constructive, positive questions, because remember, your brain is accommodating.

So instead of the destructive questions like those above, when things aren't going well, when you're unhappy with your performance or the situation, resolve to ask these constructive questions instead,
"What can I do right now that'll help?"

"What can I do tomorrow to improve things?"

"What can I do today that I can be proud of?"
And suddenly, instead of beating yourself up, your helping yourself out.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Resolution Series Day 6: Meet Your New Best Friend!

12 Days of Resolutions. 12 resolutions that will help steer you towards a healthier lifestyle, whether you've got weight you'd like to lose or not. 12 resolutions that are each in and of themselves extremely straight forward and doable. Some might involve doing, others simply thinking, and if any of them don't seem useful to you, skip on to the next.
Day 6: Meet Your New Best Friend!

Who is it?


What do I mean?

We don't treat ourselves very nicely.

Whether it's struggling with healthy living behaviours, parenting, or doing our jobs, we're usually our own worst critic and most of us regularly heap piles of self scorn on our already weary shoulders.

There's an easy-ish way out of the circle of shame - treat yourself like you would your best friend.

Whatever's going on or going wrong in your life, ask yourself what you'd tell your best friend if they were recounting the exact same scenario.

My guess?

It'll be both kinder and more constructive than the guilt and self-loathing you're likely to be loading on yourself.

Shouldn't we all resolve to be our own best friends?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Resolution Series Day 5: A New After-school Activity!

12 Days of Resolutions. 12 resolutions that will help steer you towards a healthier lifestyle, whether you've got weight you'd like to lose or not. 12 resolutions that are each in and of themselves extremely straight forward and doable. Some might involve doing, others simply thinking, and if any of them don't seem useful to you, skip on to the next.
Day 5: A New After-school Activity!

There's no debate, exercise is the single most important modifiable determinant of health.  The even better news is that there's really no need for skill - plain old walking works great.  Of course that doesn't stop any of us parents from schlepping our kids here there and everywhere for exercise "lessons" - soccer, hockey, skating, dance, the list, and the time involved, can sometimes seem and feel endless.

But with all of those after-school sports, is something else suffering?

I'd say so.  In fact I'd say that perhaps all of those after school skill building activities are actually decreasing the likelihood of parents teaching their children the single most health conferring skill imaginable - the skill involved in transforming raw ingredients into food. The skill of cooking.

Cooking is quickly becoming a lost art.

With the incredibly fast pace of our lives and world these days, it's no wonder cooking's falling by the wayside. Between chauffeuring kids to their various after school activities, to the electronic tethers we all now wear, time has become more pressured than ever. And of course restaurants of all sorts are everywhere to fill the void.

Resistance isn't futile.

Resolve this year to ensure you teach your children how to cook (and if you yourself don't know how, this is your opportunity to ask them to help you to learn).

Find a simple and easy to follow cookbook (like for instance any of the Looney Spoons' books) and book off one night a week as a family cooking night.

Each week a different family member gets to take a turn picking, prepping and cooking a recipe. Of course parents can and should help, this isn't about division of labour, this is about sharing and learning the love and joy of cooking.

Pick the recipe out on a pre-specified night each week at the dinner table. Ensure you schedule a time to shop for the recipe's ingredients before the day of, and perhaps even prep the ingredients together the night before cooking so that putting things together the next day is a quick snap.

Your kid missing one extra after school activity isn't likely to have any negative long term impact on their health. Their leaving your home not knowing how to cook will, as not only will it lead them into the processed food world's nutritionally bereft embrace, it might lead them to lead their future families into it as well.

In a sense, your family cooking nights?  They're for your unborn grandchildren.

(P.S. - Not my wife and kid up above)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday Stories - Dying, Personal Responsibility and 23.5 hours

Dr. Ken Murray tells us how doctors die.

Wonderful piece on how personal responsibility is a horrible way to consider disease prevention or treatment (when you read this think about things like weight bias and the parental no defense to the food industry).

Toronto's Mike Evans wonders if you can survive on 23 1/2 hours a day (fabulous video) - link here for email subscribers and embedded below for visitors:

Friday, December 09, 2011

Do Your Kids Smile for their School Portraits?

Mine sometimes do...but certainly not always.

Today's Funny Friday?

Behind the scenes of school portraiture.

(Email subscribers, head to the blog to watch)

Have a great weekend!

School Portrait (2011) from Michael Berliner on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Resolution Series Day 4: Reclaim Your Table!

12 Days of Resolutions. 12 resolutions that will help steer you towards a healthier lifestyle, whether you've got weight you'd like to lose or not. 12 resolutions that are each in and of themselves extremely straight forward and doable. Some might involve doing, others simply thinking, and if any of them don't seem useful to you, skip on to the next.
Day 4: Reclaim Your Table

I know you have one. You might even have two. A dining room version and a kitchen version.

But do you use them?

Most of us (sadly me included many nights), pile up our plates and head to the living room. It's a practice we all ought to stop, and assuming my wife's in agreement, this one's a resolution for us as well. We're going to rediscover our table, maybe not every night, but certainly some and maybe many.

If you live alone, eating at the table will allow you to pay attention to your food and actually enjoy your bites rather than just mindless chewing (and if the bites aren't as enjoyable as you'd like, that might be a cue for you to try some new dishes). Turn on some of your favourite music, reflect on your day, and savour your meal. If you're trying to lose or maintain your weight, eating mindfully might allow you to get away with smaller portions than those you'd have plated for your televised meal.

If you live with adult loved ones or roommates, eating at the table will allow you to share your days, and spend a few moments of quality time in a world that has too few.

If you live with children, eating at the table will first and foremost teach them that families eat at tables, but has also been shown to be correlated with a healthier diet for the children, lesser body weights, and decreased adolescent acting out type behaviours.

Don't let your kitchen table just be a place to pile stuff up.

This year resolve to reclaim your table and stake your dietary flag in as often as you possibly can.

(P.S. - That's not my table)

- Resolution series to continue on Monday!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

What I Now Have in Common with Dr. Oz

Simon and Schuster's Free Press!

Just a quick thank you and announcement post to let you know that my first non-self published book is slated to hit shelves in early 2013.

It'll be about my experiences and the lessons I've learned over the course of the 8 years it's been since I helped to co-found the Bariatric Medical Institute, and how to translate those lessons into real world, long term successes.

A huge thank you to my fabulous literary agent Yfat Reiss-Gendell from Foundry Literary and Media, and also to my fabulous "agent agent" Holly Bodger as without her advice, I'd never have met Yfat.

Of course thanks too to my editors at Free Press. I couldn't ask for a better team and imprint and am both thrilled and humbled to be counted among their authors.

Lastly, a tremendous thanks to all of the wonderful people who've trusted us with their care, and to my family for their incredible patience and love.

Resolution Series Day 3: Lose a Box!

12 Days of Resolutions. 12 resolutions that will help steer you towards a healthier lifestyle, whether you've got weight you'd like to lose or not. 12 resolutions that are each in and of themselves extremely straight forward and doable. Some might involve doing, others simply thinking, and if any of them don't seem useful to you, skip on to the next.
Day 3: Lose a Box!

When my wife and I first met, her freezer was full of boxes. There were chicken fingers, burritos, pierogies, and fish sticks.

Now I can't brag too much. While I wasn't a box sort of bachelor, my staples were home made burgers, steaks, pizzas and chicken wings.

Over time our dietary worlds have changed - in part because of the career path I found myself upon, in part because of simply getting older/wiser, and in part because we had children.

Nowadays there are no boxes in our freezer.  In fact it's an extremely rare meal that's not home made, from scratch.

Of course we didn't get to where we are now overnight. Instead we slowly lost boxes.

I think the pierogies might have been the first to go, followed by the fish sticks. A few years later the chicken fingers were gone and finally the burritos.

You don't need to get where you're going overnight. In fact that's a great way to not get there.  Flying leaps land you on your face.

Instead start with a small and very doable step.  Why not take a boxed food inventory of your freezer and resolve to permanently lose the most nutritionally offensive box?

In it's place?

Learn a new home made, from scratch, produce rich meal.

Once one box is successfully done and gone, consider when you might want to tackle the next.

In terms of what's replaced our boxes, here's one we love. It's stupidly healthy, ridiculously inexpensive, strangely coloured, but wonderfully delicious and extremely hearty:
Lose a Box, Stupid Easy, Beet Curry (Serves 4)

1 large beet
1 can coconut milk
1 can chickpeas (rinsed)
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
1/4 to 1/2 vegetable bouillon cube (depending how salt sensitive you are)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons curry powder
3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 cup Brown rice or quinoa

1. Cook chickpeas until tender
2. Cook brown rice or quinoa on side to serve over
3. Peel and dice beet root and cook in simmering water until tender
4. Chop up beet leaves
5. Saute garlic and onion with some sesame oil for extra flavour
6. Add coconut milk, diced beet root, chickpeas, tomato paste, tiny bit of stock cube and curry powder and bring to boil and when boiling add in chopped beet leaves (or cooking greens). Boil for 5 more minutes
7. Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve over brown rice or quinoa

Per serving 410 calories, 12g protein, 9g fibre, 427mg sodium

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Resolution Series Day 2: Pre-Eat

12 Days of Resolutions. 12 resolutions that will help steer you towards a healthier lifestyle, whether you've got weight you'd like to lose or not. 12 resolutions that are each in and of themselves extremely straight forward and doable. Some might involve doing, others simply thinking, and if any of them don't seem useful to you, skip on to the next.
Day 2: Pre-Eat

Another incredibly easy one.

You're going to have lots of celebratory meals this month. Office get togethers, family dinners, vacationing, etc. Most folks think that their best plan is to ensure they skimp on their calories all day long so that when their celebratory meal time comes around, they've got more caloric room for indulgences.

That's a terrible plan.


Because you'll end up combining frank hunger with a terrifically human reason to eat (celebration), along with markedly more indulgent food, social pressures, and probably alcohol.

And hunger wins of course. Go to the supermarket hungry and you'll know what I mean, you shop differently when you're hungry.

Sitting down to eat hungry is exactly the same, just on a smaller scale. Simply put, you'll be shopping from your plate.

But what happens when you go to the supermarket not hungry? Well you buy what you need and aren't tempted to buy much else.

Show up to your festive meal not hungry and you'll eat what you need - including a more indulgent menu given the circumstances, but by not being hungry, and by being in control, you'll have a far easier time navigating your choices and your portions.

My recommendation? Resolve to "pre-eat" all of this year's celebrations. Not only have all of your day's meals and snacks, but ensure you have an extra 200-300 calorie, protein inclusive snack half an hour before you head out to your dinner. The calories you'll spend "pre-eating" will be dramatically outweighed by the calories you don't consume from the seconds you leave on the table, the more thoughtful navigation of choices and a more controlled consumption of dessert.

You don't crave green leafy salads when you're hungry. The flip side of that? You don't crave much at all when you're full. So this year, pre-eat, avoid hunger, and thoughtfully indulge because it's a celebration and not uncontrollably indulge because you're hungry.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Resolution Series Day 1: Like Em!

Yes, I'm Jewish, but that's not going to stop me from glomming on to the "12 Days Of" theme.

My 12 Days?

12 Days of Resolutions. 12 resolutions that will help steer you towards a healthier lifestyle, whether you've got weight you'd like to lose or not. 12 resolutions that are each in and of themselves extremely straight forward and doable. Some might involve doing, others simply thinking, and if any of them don't seem useful to you, skip on to the next.

Which brings me to my first recommended resolution:

Day1: Like Em!

This one's pretty straight forward, and pretty darn easy too. Simply put? For any of your coming year's resolutions or lifestyle interventions, resolve to only start ones that you think you'll actually like.

What do I mean?

Too many people make far too dramatic, broad, general, or strict resolutions, and are then surprised when a few months later, their resolutions are barely a memory.

It's this phenomenon that pays the bills at every gym in the world - people take a flying leap at a far too aggressive and/or time intensive program and surprise, when they get sick of trying to bite off more than they can chew, they stop chewing.

Weight wise, the more weight you want to permanently lose, the more of your lifestyle you're going to have to permanently change. Trying to adopt changes you don't like is a sure fire way to ensure that they're not going to be permanent.

So this year, resolve to like them. Analyze each and every resolution through the lens of, "Can I keep happily keep living this way"? Because if you can't do it happily, you're probably not going to keep doing it.

Friday, December 02, 2011

The Beauty of a Single Second

Life's fleeting.

Today's Funny Friday video isn't so much funny as it is astounding in its ability to demonstrate how much beauty can exist in even a single second.

Thanks to my wonderful wife and my delicious children, I'm blessed with many such seconds.

Have a great weekend!

Seconds Of Beauty - 1st round compilation from The Beauty Of A Second on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

American Dietetic Association Under Fire from RDs for Corporate Ties

Over the years much has been said about the close relationship between the American Dietetic Association and the food industry, but not too much has been done about it.

Perhaps that's changing.

Thanks to Canadian RD Cara Rosenbloom for pointing me to a grass roots initiative that took the ADA's "" website and created their own version, "".

Now the site itself is alarmist, woo-y, kinda anti-science, and a bit over the top, but their campaign to have the ADA sever their ties with food industry funding is one I fully support.

And why wouldn't they do so?

What a tremendous public relations ride they could take on such a move, and it'd be a move that at least superficially, sounds like an easy thing to do as Colby Vorland once calculated, if the ADA wanted to raise as much money annually from their members as they currently do from the food industry they'd only need to charge each member $41 more per year.

I doubt they'd lose members if that $41/year was rolled out with a clear explanation of what it was for. In fact I bet they could roll out a $50/year increase and help fund a new initiative that combats food industry spin. I'd bet further that many RDs who may have left the ADA in disgust, would in fact rejoin, increasing their coffers further.

Heck, if they did that, and if they let me, I'd join.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Has Your Doctor Ever Taken a Lifestyle History?

Whether you're worried about your weight or not, how you live your life - how you eat and how you play - will markedly impact on your health and well being. In fact it'll impact on your health far more than any drug your physician could ever prescribe.

So why is it that most people have never had their physicians discuss healthy living with them?

Sure, a doc may ask you whether or not you exercise, and might even inquire into your sleep, but do they delve further?

My belief, though unproven, isn't that doctors aren't interested, and it's not that they're unaware of the benefits of healthy living, but rather that they're simply not taught to consider lifestyle in their clinical history taking, nor how to champion healthy living effectively.

So what are the top 10 things I would want physicians to explore with you at a bare minimum?

In no particular order:
  1. How many meals do you eat out (including cafeterias), order in or take out (including prepared supermarket counter foods) per week?
  2. Do you feel comfortable cooking?
  3. How many meals a week do you cook yourself by means of the actual transformation of raw ingredients?
  4. How many glasses of milk, juice, sugared soda and/or alcohol do you drink a day?
  5. What do you put in your coffee or tea, and how many do you drink a day?
  6. What's your typical pattern of daily eating (ie do you miss meals or snacks and what do you typically have for breakfast/snacks/etc.?)?
  7. (If married and/or with children) How many meals a week do you eat together as a family?
  8. What was your favourite sport or activity as a kid and why aren't you doing it today?
  9. How many minutes of simple walking might you be able to add to your day without it being a hardship, and when would it be (ensuring goal here is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely)?
  10. (If a parent of still at home children) Are you living the life, food, fitness and health wise, that you want your child to be living, and if not, what do you think you might improve?
While I realize this list is by no means exhaustive (for instance it doesn't touch on other hugely important issues like relationships, friendships, sleep, job satisfaction, parental struggles, sandwich generation issues, socio-economic stressors, etc.) and may only scratch the surface of healthy living, it would certainly help a physician to get a sense of how their patients are managing their two most important determinants of health, and provide a myriad of opportunities to try to help collaboratively trouble shoot common barriers to healthy lifestyles.

Unfortunately, while we physicians are all taught to examine the micro level minutia of each and every physical system in our annual review of systems, I strongly and firmly believe that as far as health benefits go, it'd be far more valuable to our patients to review the macro level of how they're are actually living their lives.

Of course asking those questions up above will also necessitate having answers...and sadly, therein lies the problem.

Medical schools and residency programs may do wonderful jobs at preparing us on how to treat illness with pharmacotherapy, but sadly the vast majority do a respectively terrible job at preparing us how to help patients manage, as Yale's David Katz puts it, "medical destiny's master levers" - forks and feet.

Here's hoping that one day, the day will come where forks and feet get the medical respect they so clearly and desperately deserve.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

You can stack your deck, but you can't get a new one!

Long time readers will know, I'm a slow runner.

I was thrilled a few weeks ago to break a 5 minute km pace on a 4km run (roughly a 7.5mph pace, nothing particularly brag worthy), and I had to really kill myself to do it, and the distance sure wasn't all that long.

Then I came across this video that highlighted an absolutely brilliant advertisement from ASICS.

Their challenge? Race against Olympic caliber marathoner Ryan Hall for just 60ft and see if you can keep up.

Ryan's best marathon time? 2:04:58. That translates to a pace of nearly 12.6mph for 26.2 miles!


And enlightening.

There are only a few Ryan Hall's in the world. Don't try to be one of them. Instead, as I've been yammering on about for some time, set your goal to do your best and never be discouraged if it's not as good as someone else's. Sure So-And-So might be losing weight faster than you, but really, why does it matter?

We've all got a deck of cards in life. We can stack them, but we can't swap them out.

Stack your deck as best you can, but don't ever be discouraged if your deck isn't as stacked as someone else - that's just real life.

If you want to see Ryan Hall run, and the brilliant ASICS ad, watch the video below (email subscribers, head to the blog to watch).

Monday, November 28, 2011

Are you Feeding your Children Properly?

And here I'm not talking about nutrition, I'm talking about how you actually feed them. What are your practices surrounding food? Do you have regular meal times? Do you use coercion to try to inspire vegetable consumption? Do you reward with treats?

Parental feeding practices have been the subject of a great deal of research, and this month, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a handy summary of it all.

Here are the top 10 take home messages:
  1. Pressuring kids to eat fruits and vegetables and markedly limiting their access to sweets and fatty snacks, along with using food as a reward are all strongly linked with dis-inhibited children's eating patterns.
  2. The more inconsistent parents are with either eating schedules or serving healthy vs. unhealthy foods, the greater the negative impact of the parenting styles listed in the first point above.
  3. Having at least one parent at the family meal is associated with better consumption of fruit and vegetables, and a lower risk of skipping breakfast.
  4. Adopting a knee jerk pattern of dietary restriction with an overweight child may drive that child to be more, not less, likely to overeat.
  5. The availability and exposure to foods at home most certainly affects children's long term food selections and preferences.
  6. The earlier and more broadly a child is exposed to different foods, the healthier that child's eventual adult diet.
  7. The more fruits and vegetables available at home the more fruits and vegetables your kids will consume.
  8. The more fruit juice and breakfast bars available at home the less actual fruits and vegetables your kids will consume
  9. The greater the frequency of meals in front of the television and/or the lesser the frequency of family meals, and/or the greater the use of food as a reward, the higher your kids' intake of sugar sweetened beverages.
And number 10?

I'll quote directly from the paper, as it pretty much sums up everything else up:
"Children like what they know and eat what they like."
So to make sure your children know healthy, here are some straight forward prescriptions for healthy home eating:
  • Encourage a wide and varied healthy diet introducing new foods frequently and early.
  • Don't pressure your children to eat (one bite rules are fine), or withhold dessert unless they eat their veggies.
  • Don't reward them with food.
  • Disband the clean your plate club.
  • Keep plenty of fruits and vegetables handy, accessible, visible, washed and prepared and literally smile at your kids when they eat them.
  • Sit at the table and eat with your kids.
  • Don't skip meals.
  • Dramatically minimize meals out and takeout.
  • Ensure that as many meals as possible a week involve the transformation of raw ingredients (not mixing boxes).
  • Involve your kids in cooking.
Or put even more simply?

Live the lives you want your children to live.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Stories - WWII, Astrophysics and Smoking Marathoners

If you think life's tough, take a peek at this collection of photos published in the Atlantic detailing WWII's Eastern front.

Astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson visits Reddit and spends some time answering questions. Mind blowing.

Travis on Obesity Panacea discusses how one might think that cigarettes help distance runners.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Grossest. Card Trick. Ever.


The world is a strange place.

Don't believe me? Check out this week's Funny Friday video which is without a doubt the vilest card trick imaginable. Don't watch (I mean it), if easily offended, or if you have a full stomach.

Think David Blaine mixed in with 8 year old boy humour.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Have a great weekend!

(email subscribers, you'll have to head to the blog to watch)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What is your Toothbrush Level of Exercise?

Do you enjoy brushing your teeth?

I mean really enjoy it? Do you relish the time that you take to do it, or are you brushing because you value the outcome (clean teeth, non-scary breath) enough to happily put in the 4-6 minutes a day it takes?

I'm guessing it's the latter.

I've met many folks who reportedly can't stand exercise....and I can't help but wonder if they're simply trying to brush their teeth for hours.

What I mean to say is that if you've got it in your head that unless you do "X" minutes per day of exercise it's not worth doing, that'd be akin to thinking that unless you brush your teeth 30 minutes at a shot it's not worth brushing.

My eight word exercise manifesto is straightforward, and given all of the data piling up on the risks of sitting and the benefits of small bouts of exercise, I'm willing to go out on a limb and suggest it's probably even supported by evidence.

The eight words?
Some is Good. More is Better. Everything Counts.
So rather than focus on big blocks of time, if you're an exercise avoider, why not take a few minutes and figure out your "Toothbrush Level".

What's that?

Well you know exercise has tremendous health benefits. So what amount of exercise do you think you'd be able to regardless of likeability, add to your day?

5 mins? 10 mins?

And then, as with tooth brushing, figure out when you're going to do it.

Maybe it'll simply be parking 5 minutes away from work so that you get 5 minutes of walking on either end of your work day. Maybe it'll be a brief 10 minute weights or calisthenics program when you wake up.  Whatever you decide, do figure out when you're going to do it, because simply aiming at a nebulous "more" isn't likely to help.

Next, set up a reminder system. Smart phones, outlook reminders, text messaging services (like oh, don't forget)- use them, because here you'll be trying to remember to do something you're not accustomed to doing, and reminders count. How many times do you think your parents reminded you to brush your teeth before you simply started doing it automatically?

I know more is better, but truly, everything counts, and who knows, as your fitness improves and you grow accustomed to intentional daily exercise, perhaps your toothbrush level will grow too.

Now go brush your teeth!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Does your Bench need a Bedside?

So I was figuratively leafing through this week's table of contents from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and a study caught my eye.

It was entitled, "Satiety-relevant sensory qualities enhance the satiating effects of mixed carbohydrate-protein preloads", which matters to me as the title would suggest that there were modifiable qualities to food that would help enhance fullness.

When I clicked over to read the article, here's what I found they studied - the impact of a juice with or without whey protein powder consumed 30mins before lunch on total lunch calories consumed.

The results?

If you drink a high calorie, high protein drink 30mins before lunch, you'll consume less lunch.

So is this helpful clinically?

This study doesn't say. And to be fair, perhaps it's simply a preliminary study and further studies will address what I'm about to suggest is important.

What matters to me isn't lunch calories. What matters to me are total daily calories. What matters to me are perceptions of hunger, especially at night. What matters to me are cravings and compulsions the whole day through.

The thing is, hunger and cravings are funny things. What a person eats in the daytime will most assuredly impact on their hunger and/or cravings, especially at night, and so really, any study on daytime dietary manipulation truly needs to look at the day's entirety in order to actually provide clinical relevance.

Now I'm not suggesting the researchers don't know all of the above, but I can tell you, I've read plenty of papers, where the results weren't even remotely surprising given the study's design, and where the conclusion of a lack or gain of utility, may not be applicable in a real world clinical setting, perhaps for reasons unfamiliar to the study's bench-side researchers.

If you're a researcher and you're doing a study that you're hoping might have clinical relevance in weight management, and if you don't have a bedside clinician to run things by, find one. They might well have suggestions that would improve your methodology and consequently the "so what" factor of your research.

(And BTW, my bedside's always open)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Life's not a straight line (and some runs stink).

Further to my post on accepting your personal best as great, one more point.

Life's not a straight line.

Pick anything in life - education, relationships, work - they'll all have their ups and downs. Sometimes for obvious reasons, but sometimes for no good reason at all. Life includes its fair share of inexplicable funks.

As with any real funk, the most important thing is recognizing it for what it is and soldiering on through to the other side.

Running's a great example. From my office I have 3 set running routes. One's 4km, another 5km and the last 7km with the amount of time I have at hand in part determining which route I take.

A few weeks ago I ran my best 4km. I felt strong, breathing was easy, my strides natural. All in all feeling really great allowed me to push. Fast forward a week later, same route, same time of day and within 1km I knew I was in for a crummy run. I hurt, my breathing was laboured, and I spent the last 3km mentally forcing myself to finish. It was anything but a fast and easy run.

Was I upset that my run stunk and my time was markedly slower than just a week earlier? Nope. I was proud as hell I finished because that run. It wasn't about speed. It was simply about finishing despite not really wanting to, and doing the best I could while feeling crummy.

Whatever your aim, whatever you're trying to accomplish, some runs will feel great, and some won't. Your job (and yes, I know I'm a broken record)?

Do your best, and love it!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Who Knew Liam Neeson was so Damn Funny?

Looking for a straight man to be in your funny movie?

Today's Funny Friday proves ever so conclusively that you should look no further than Liam Neeson.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

You Can Always Do Your Best!

Ever have a write-off day?

Where stuff happens that leads you to feel like the day's a write-off and there's no point in even trying?

There's no need for that if your best is your goal.

What do I mean?

Although we'll all have days when our great intentions go awry, that should never preclude the fact that you can still do your best.

Your best when things have gone awry may well not be the same as your best when all systems are go, but it'll still be your best.

If your goal is to do your best, and you remember that your best changes by the hour let alone by the day, it'll take the pressure of perfection off your shoulders.

And really, other than weight is there any other area of your life where you wouldn't accept your personal best as great?

The best you can do if you're hungry or have cravings will be different than the best you can do when you don't. The best you can do on your birthday will be different than a plain old Thursday. The best you can do after a really crappy or stressful day will be different than a boring one. And so on, and so forth.

Perfection's an awful goal.

Do your best.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Enjoy every sandwich!

Do yourself a favour. Watch this video, and when it's available, consider buying the book.

[Hat tip to my inspirational friend and colleage Dr. Derek Puddester]

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why Cholesterol Screening for Kids is the Wrong Idea

If your ears are tuned to the health-o-sphere, I'm guessing you've heard that America's National Institute of Health's NHLBI has recommended screening children starting at age 9 for hyperlipidemia, and doing so by means of a blood test.

While I won't debate the gravity of the rising tide of childhood hyperlipidemia, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, etc., I really do scratch my head about their recommendations.

Firstly I don't believe in ordering blood tests where there's a low likelihood of clinically relevant consequent intervention. What I mean is, doctors shouldn't order tests unless the results have a clear cut, reproducible and clinically effective response.  So what type of response will there be?  Obviously it won't be the kids intervening themselves as it doesn't matter what you tell a 9 year old about their cholesterol, they're 9 years old! Does anyone really think a 9 year old has the necessary insight to react rationally to an elevated serum cholesterol? The problem is, neither do adults. In fact we as a profession seem to be almost wholly incapable of inspiring lifelong change even in supposedly insightful adults with elevated cholesterol.  I wonder therefore why we think we're so good at it so as to ask a child to endure a screening blood test at age 9.

Secondly, even if we could affect lasting change, are the recommendations provided proven to be a clinically reproducible, useful and efficacious dietary pattern?

Well, from what I can gather, fancy expert panel or not, they seem to have simply regurgitated the same low-fat message that recent years have pretty much proven to be non-helpful in preventing cardiovascular problems in adults. And despite regurgitating old, proven to be ineffective with adults advice, what's perhaps more shocking is what they didn't recommend. From what I read there's not one word about whole-food cooking, and not one word about the processed food environment in which these kids are drowning.

I find that absolutely astonishing. Much ado was made about how we have to work with best available evidence in terms of testing 9 year olds rather than wait for the clinical trials. How about the best available evidence that from a dietary perspective society's nutritional fracture is the loss of the ability, desire, time, and/or motivation to regularly transform raw ingredients into meals? Where's the advice to actually cook from scratch? To minimize all meals out and not just "fast" food? To stay away from boxes? Instead all I see is the DASH diet, a call to avoid eggs (good grief), and a call to avoid full fat milk.

Lastly, do we really need 9 year olds to endure a blood test to know that they're on an unhealthy path, and moreover and more importantly, are high cholesterol, sugar or blood pressure really the barometers of dangerous dietary or lifestyle dysfunctions?  Does that mean that kids who eat atrocious diets and live unhealthy lifestyles but don't have signs of traditionally adult diseases are safe?

Whether they've got elevated cholesterol, sugar or blood pressure or not, how about we teach doctors to take detailed eating and lifestyle histories from every kid, at every annual visit?

What sort of history?

Well for starters, how about questions like:
  • How many meals out a week (including cafeterias, take out and restaurants)?
  • Who, if anyone, is cooking?
  • How much juice?
  • How many sweetened beverages?
  • What are their patterns of eating like?
  • Do they struggle with any disordered eating?
  • What are their usual meals for breakfast, lunches, dinners or snacks?
  • How often do they exercise (and what do they enjoy doing)?
  • What does their parental healthy living role modeling look like?
  • How many hours of screen time?
  • What time do they go to sleep?
  • How is their body image?
  • How is their self-esteem?
In medical school I was taught that over 90% of diagnoses can be made on the basis of history alone. Rather than recommending a blood test, how about recommending physicians take lifestyle histories and that way, instead of just focusing on those kids who are unfortunate and predisposed enough to be developing "adult" style chronic diseases at a frighteningly young age, we can focus on all kids, including those whose youth might still be protecting them against an awful lifestyle.  Don't those kids need help too?

My view from the trenches for those folks in their ivory towers?

We don't need a blood test from a 9 year old to know if a kid needs help, and looking at the actual recommendations these experts have put forth, I think it's pretty clear they need some help too.

So my two cents addition to this expert report (and I'll keep it short and sweet)?
  1. Lifestyle history from all kids starting at birth (obviously with parental input until the kids are old enough to answer for themselves).
  2. As a family: Cook.  From scratch.  More often than not. (oh, and mixing things from packages together isn't actual cooking).
  3. Live the lives you want your children to live.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Is your spouse sabotaging your weight management efforts? Please RT!

Spousal sabotage is a common complaint.

Whether it's pressure to regularly eat out in restaurants, frequent gifts of hugely calorific indulgences, or worst of all, regular weight related derision, spouses can certainly challenge our best weight intentions.

If you've experienced what you would describe as spousal sabotage, would you mind taking a few minutes to help further some research?

Amanda Harp, for her PhD dissertation at Clark University, is studying the phenomenon, and perhaps, through her work therein and your contribution, we'll gain a better understanding of just what we're facing with less than helpful spouses.

Amanda's put together an online questionnaire. Have a peek at the inclusion criteria, and if it's you, please consider helping out:
"1) Have you been participating in a weight loss program for the past 5 weeks?

2) Have you been in a committed, co-habitating relationship for the past 2 years?

3) Do you ever feel like your partner/spouse gets in the way of your weight loss?

If so, you're invited to participate in an anonymous, online survey:

This survey should take approximately 30-45 minutes to complete. Responses cannot be traced back to participants. Any question may be left unanswered. Participation is voluntary and may be withdrawn at any time. If eligible to take this survey, you may opt to enter a lottery for $100.

Please direct questions about this study to Amanda ( or Dr. Cordova ("
Regardless of whether or not you participate, have you ever experienced spousal sabotage? If you have, what'd they do, how'd it impact upon your efforts, and were you able to figure out a successful way around them?

Friday, November 11, 2011

This video almost makes me want to buy a dog.

My children, if you're reading this, please note that I said almost!

Today's Funny Friday involves a dog who really, really, wants to play with the baby.

Have a great weekend!

(Email subscribers, head to the blog to watch)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Book Review: Hold that Hidden Salt!

[Full disclosure. I was sent this book by the author]

Today's guest post is from my office's Registered Dietitian Mark McGill. Mark's been spending a great deal of time these days in the kitchen, in part because I keep on giving him cookbooks for review. Today's example comes from registered dietitian Maureen Tilley who after coming to one of my talks, asked if I'd like a copy of her books. Reading Mark's review, I'm glad she did:
Maybe it’s because you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, or are at increased risk of stroke or heart disease.

Perhaps you simply want to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Whatever the reason, the question I hear on a regular basis is: How do I lower my sodium intake? Throwing away the salt shaker is a great start, but given the incredible saltiness of most supermarket purchased packaged foods, it’s often not enough.

What’s the solution?


Registered Dietitian and author of Hold That Hidden Salt! Maureen Tilley understands this and has created a cookbook that provides "recipes for delicious alternatives to processed, salt-heavy supermarket favourites".

Canadians average 3400 mg of sodium per day with 75% coming from processed foods. The average adult needs only 1500 mg daily. So why is there so much sodium in our food supply? According to Maureen, it’s to generate profits for salt manufacturers and food companies who use it to cheaply preserve foods and improve their flavour. Food companies argue that without the amount of salt they’re using their products would be tasteless. They’ve even attempted to demonstrate this by providing product samples without salt to show how ‘poor’ they are without it. What they conveniently forget to mention is that if they were required to reduce the amount of sodium they would have to switch to more expensive substitutions which would negatively affect their bottom line, substitutes that they don’t add into the foods with the removed sodium.

If you’re trying to reduce your home’s sodium intake, I highly recommend picking up Maureen’s book. It is well organized, easy to read and if nothing else will get you cooking more foods from scratch – something we should all do more frequently if we want to live healthier lives (and save money!).

The book begins by explaining how to determine the amount of sodium in a food accompanied by a list of which foods are high in sodium. Some are more obvious than others – e.g. frozen meals are a main culprit whereas breads may not come to mind as quickly but are often quite laden with the stuff. Also discussed are daily sodium requirements by age, and easy to follow explanations of high blood pressure and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) dietary guidelines.

Recipes are divided into the following categories: Breakfast Foods and Breads, Snacks and Appetizers, Soups, Salads and Side Dishes, Condiments, Dressings, Sauces and Seasonings and finally, Main Dishes. In each section, Maureen presents a brief commentary on why a type of food (e.g. salsa, chip and veggie dips, meatballs) is high in sodium and an accompanying nutrition facts panel based on a specific example (e.g. Old El Paso Salsa, Ruffles Dip, President’s Choice Blue Menu Lean Italian Beef Meatballs). She then suggests alternative made-from-scratch versions that are lower in sodium. How much lower? The following examples are particularly eye-opening:

Knorr Frozen Shrimp, Asparagus and Penne (1300 mg per 340 g serving) vs. Maureen’s Garlic and Basil Shrimp Medley recipe (141 mg per serving).

Quaker Blueberry Muffin Mix (300 mg per 38 g serving) vs. Maureen’s Blueberry Bran Muffin recipe (87 mg per 54 g serving).

Quaker High Fibre Raisins & Spice Oatmeal (220 mg per 43 g serving) vs. Maureen’s High-Fibre Oatmeal recipe (37 mg per serving)

Heinz Ketchup (140 mg per tbsp) vs. Maureen’s Ketchup recipe (9 mg per tbsp(

I prepared two recipes: curry, lentil and sweet potato burgers (p. 117) and cinnamon garlic sweet potato and turnip fries (p. 74). Both recipes were easy to follow and took less than 45 min (prep and cooking time). The burgers were tasty, filling and high in fibre (7 grams per burger) while the curry paired well with the sweet potato. The fries were certainly different as using cinnamon and garlic together is not something I’ve tried before. I was pleasantly surprised by the combination, though I found the cinnamon over-powered the garlic as I was eating them. I only really noticed the garlic about thirty minutes later. I prepared them for my younger brother (who is a very picky eater) and my mother on two separate occasions. Both enjoyed them and stated that they would have them again. As for the sodium: We saved 378 mg per burger (compared to M&M Angus Beef Burgers) and 283 mg per serving for the fries (compared with McCain Superfries Xtracrispy Straight Cut Fries).

Some may argue that they need to add salt to food to make it taste good. The reality is food tastes good without salt – we’ve just become accustomed to food containing too much of it. It is possible to retrain your taste buds to like foods without added salt, to experience foods as they were meant to be enjoyed. As Maureen correctly points out: “After a couple of weeks of moderate daily amounts of salt, you’ll find that many of the items you used to find ‘normal and ‘tasty’ will seem excessively salty.”

In the end, I can confidently recommend this book to not only those looking to reduce their sodium intake but to anyone who wishes to live healthier by consuming less processed food and more home-cooked meals.