Valentine’s Day Recipe Round Up

Andrea Falcone BLOG Leave a Comment

There is no better way to spend Valentine’s Day than with your favourite loved ones! Here are some great simple recipes to make up and enjoy with one another that are quick to prepare and will leave you being able to enjoy the evening!

Cranberry Ricotta Crostini

The perfect bite to the start of your meal! This little appetizer is sure to set the mood with the creamy ricotta along with sweet and sour cranberries reserve. You’ll be glad you made a little extra too have the next day as breakfast or as a snack!

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup Frozen or Fresh CranberriesIMG_5927
  • 1 Cup 100% Orange Juice
  • 1 Tbsp Rosemary
  • 1, small Whole Grain baguette
  • ¾ Cup Ricotta

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350o
  2. In a small saucepan, over medium high heat, add the cranberries, orange juice, and rosemary. Bring to a boil.
  3. Once at a boil, lower to a light simmer for about 8-10 minutes, until the cranberries all pop. You may need to smash them with the back of a wooden spoon. Allow the mixture to reduce down until it forms a jam-like consistency.
  4. Meanwhile, cut your baguette into small pieces (squares or rounds), and place on a baking sheet. Once the oven is heated, add the bread and allow to toast (or broil) for 5 minutes, checking in to ensure it doesn’t burn.
  5. Once toasted, remove from the oven and place on a plate, leaving aside to slightly cool.
  6. Just before you’re ready to eat, spread about one tablespoon of ricotta cheese on top of the toast and top it with the cranberry-orange reserve. Place on a plate and enjoy with yours truly.

Mini Greek-town Meatballs

It’s all about finger-foods and bite-sized items you can display on your plate or share with your loved one this Valentine’s Day – and hey, who doesn’t love to be fed sometimes! Enjoy these savoury meatballs with some Tzaziki or BBQ sauce – whichever suits your palate.

Makes 30 mini meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 450 g, each Ground Turkey and Ground ChickenIMG_5909
  • ¼ Cup Chopped Parsley
  • 2 Garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • ½ Cup Chopped Sundried Tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp Oregano
  • 3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Cracked Salt and Pepper
  • Tzaziki sauce for dipping

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350o Fahrenheit.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, add the ingredients: ground turkey and chicken, shopped parsley, minced garlic cloves, shopped sundried tomatoes, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  4. Use your hands to mix all of the ingredients together – about 2 minutes– until you are sure all ingredients are well combined.
  5. Form the mixture into small meatballs, about the size of a golf ball or slightly smaller.
  6. Place in a preheated oven for 20 minutes, turning the pan at the half way point.
  7. Meanwhile grab your favourite Tzaziki sauce for dipping
  8. You can broil the meatballs for about 2-3 minutes to achieve a golden brown colour on top.
  9. Plate and serve along with a simple Greek Vegetable Salad and Cheesy Baked Rice Balls. 

Cheesy Baked Arancini (aka: Rice Balls) 

I have eaten my fair share of rice balls in my life – often homemade passed down for generations, and some within restaurants too! They seem taunting to make, but oh-my-goodness, once you try these puppies you’ll be enjoying them with your loved ones, and keeping a few reserved in the freezer for a quick thaw and go-to meal accompaniment or appetizer.

Makes 35 small rice balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup White RiceIMG_5915
  • 1, 400 mL can Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 Small onion, chopped
  • 2 Cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • ½ Cup Parsley
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • ¾ Cup Shredded Asiago Cheese (*or any other sharp white cheese)
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 3 Eggs, beaten
  • 1½ Cups Breadcrumbs (Seasoned if you prefer)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350o Fahrenheit.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Prepare your tomato sauce. In a saucepan, add the chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and using a hand mixer or immersion blender, mix the ingredients to remove the majority of the chunks. Place back on the stove and keep at a low temperature to keep warm. Reserve 1 Cup of the tomato sauce for dipping.
  3. Cook the rice – in a saucepan, place the rice along with 2 Cups of water. I often add 1 Tbsp of butter or olive oil to the water as well. Bring the rice to a boil over medium-high heat. Once at a boil, lower the heat and simmer to soak up all of the water, allowing the rice to cook. You may need to add more water if you find the rice is drying up and not fully cooked.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add the grated cheeses.
  5. Add the rice and tomato sauce (ensuring you reserve about 1 Cup for dipping) to the grated cheese and stir well to incorporate all ingredients. The cheese will melt and appear stringy. Leave aside to slightly cool and make it tolerable to handle with your hands.
  6. Place three separate dishes out on your counter, one for the flour, one for the beaten eggs, and one for the breadcrumbs to set up your assembly line.
  7. Here’s where things will get a little messy – but oh-so-worth-it! I recommend to make all of your rice balls first, then roll them into the flour, egg and finally the breadcrumbs.
  8. To make the rice balls: Place about 1½ Tbsp of the rice mixture into your hands. Roll the rice mixture around so that it forms a ball. Place on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Once all rice balls are formed, dip, each one into the flour, then coat with egg and finally roll in the breadcrumbs. Place them back on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet, maintaining the integrity of the ball shape as best as possible.
  9. Once all rice balls have been dipped, place the pan into the preheated oven for 20 minutes, turning in between.
  10. Once cooked, remove from the oven and place on a serving dish. Add the reserved tomato sauce in a small bowl for dipping or to pour on top if you desire.

Simple Greek Vegetable Salad

C-O-L-O-U-R! That’s what I like to see in my plate and share with all of you! This is the simplest way to get a good load of veggies into any meal, and can be served up the next day with a can of tuna, chick peas, or left-over chicken, for a great meal! And while things are getting ready in the oven, this one will come together in no time.

Serves: 4 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, washed and cubedIMG_5918
  • ½ English Cucumber, washed and quartered
  • 1, small Pint, Heirloom tomatoes, washed and cut in half
  • 3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh Oregano
  • 1 tsp Fresh cracked Sea salt

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss evenly and allow to marinade until ready to serve!
  2. If you’re making this ahead of time, you can place in the refrigerator to ensure the vegetables stay fresh and crisp.

New Level Dipped Strawberries

Dipped strawberries are a classic when it comes to Valentine’s Day or even just giving to that special person you know who loves them! Here are three new ways to fancy up your dipped strawberries that will undoubtedly leave the meal complete!

Serves: 2-4 people (Depending on how hungry you are at the end of the meal)

Ingredients:

  • 1  Pint, Fresh Strawberries (about 15 strawberries)IMG_5931
  • 50 g Dark chocolate
  • 80 g White Chocolate, divided
  • ⅓ Cup Natural Peanut Butter

Directions:

  1. Wash strawberries and allow to completely dry. You’ll need to ensure all moisture is dried up to make the perfect dipped strawberry.
  2. Prepare your three dips:

White chocolate: Place 50 g of white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for about 65 seconds. If the chocolate comes out with a few chunks, you can stir to allow the rest to melt. If the chocolate needs more time to melt, place back into the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds.

Dark chocolate: Place 50 g of dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for about 55 seconds. If the chocolate comes out with a few chunks, you can stir to allow the rest to melt. If the chocolate needs more time to melt, place back into the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds.

White Chocolate Peanut Butter: Place ⅓ Cup of Peanut butter and 30 g of white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for about 45 seconds. Remove and mix the ingredients to combine the white chocolate and the peanut butter. If the mixture needs more time to melt, place back into the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds.

  1. Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper.
  2. Dip each strawberry into the preferred melted chocolate or peanut butter mixture and place on the baking sheet. If you’d like, you can drizzle some of the left over sauces on top of the dipped strawberries.
  3. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for at least 20 to 30 minutes (or freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes) to allow the chocolate/peanut butter chocolate mixture to harden. The peanut butter mixture may require a long period of time to harden onto the strawberries.
  4. Remove from the refrigerator at least 10 minutes before serving to bring to room temperature.
IMG_5931

New Level Dipped Strawberries

Andrea Falcone Recipes Leave a Comment

Dipped strawberries are a classic when it comes to Valentine’s Day or even just giving to that special person you know who loves them! Here are three new ways to fancy up your dipped strawberries that will undoubtedly leave the meal complete!

Serves: 2-4 people (Depending on how hungry you are at the end of the meal)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Pint, Fresh Strawberries (about 15 strawberries)
  • 50 g Dark chocolate
  • 80 g White Chocolate, divided
  • ⅓ Cup Natural Peanut Butter

Directions:

  1. Wash strawberries and allow to completely dry. You’ll need to ensure all moisture is dried up to make the perfect dipped strawberry.
  2. Prepare your three dips:

White chocolate: Place 50 g of white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for about 65 seconds. If the chocolate comes out with a few chunks, you can stir to allow the rest to melt. If the chocolate needs more time to melt, place back into the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds.

Dark chocolate: Place 50 g of dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for about 55 seconds. If the chocolate comes out with a few chunks, you can stir to allow the rest to melt. If the chocolate needs more time to melt, place back into the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds.

White Chocolate Peanut Butter: Place ⅓ Cup of Peanut butter and 30 g of white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for about 45 seconds. Remove and mix the ingredients to combine the white chocolate and the peanut butter. If the mixture needs more time to melt, place back into the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds.

  1. Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper.
  2. Dip each strawberry into the preferred melted chocolate or peanut butter mixture and place on the baking sheet. If you’d like, you can drizzle some of the left over sauces on top of the dipped strawberries.
  3. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for at least 20 to 30 minutes (or freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes) to allow the chocolate/peanut butter chocolate mixture to harden. The peanut butter mixture may require a long period of time to harden onto the strawberries.
  4. Remove from the refrigerator at least 10 minutes before serving to bring to room temperature.
IMG_5918

Simple Greek Vegetable Salad

Andrea Falcone Recipes Leave a Comment

C-O-L-O-U-R! That’s what I like to see in my plate and share with all of you! This is the simplest way to get a good load of veggies into any meal, and can be served up the next day with a can of tuna, chick peas, or left-over chicken for a great meal! And while things are getting ready in the oven, this one will come together in no time.

Serves: 4 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, washed and cubed
  • ½ English Cucumber, washed and quartered
  • 1, small Pint, Heirloom tomatoes, washed and cut in half
  • 3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh Oregano
  • 1 tsp Fresh cracked Sea salt

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss evenly and allow to marinade until ready to serve!
  2. If you’re making this ahead of time, you can place in the refrigerator to ensure the vegetables stay fresh and crisp.
IMG_5909

Mini Greek-town Meatballs

Andrea Falcone Recipes Leave a Comment

It’s all about finger-foods and bite-sized items you can display on your plate or share with your loved one this Valentine’s Day – and hey, who doesn’t love to be fed sometimes! Enjoy these savoury meatballs with some Tzaziki or BBQ sauce – whichever suits your palate.

Makes 30 mini meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 450 g, each Ground Turkey and Ground Chicken
  • ¼ Cup Chopped Parsley
  • 2 Garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • ½ Cup Chopped Sundried Tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp Oregano
  • 3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Cracked Salt and Pepper
  • Tzaziki sauce for dipping

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350o Fahrenheit.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, add the ingredients: ground turkey and chicken, shopped parsley, minced garlic cloves, shopped sundried tomatoes, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  4. Use your hands to mix all of the ingredients together – about 2 minutes– until you are sure all ingredients are well combined.
  5. Form the mixture into small meatballs, about the size of a golf ball or slightly smaller.
  6. Place in a preheated oven for 20 minutes, turning the pan at the half way point.
  7. Meanwhile grab your favourite Tzaziki sauce for dipping
  8. You can broil the meatballs for about 2-3 minutes to achieve a golden brown colour on top.
  9. Plate and serve along with a simple Greek Vegetable Salad and Cheesy Baked Rice Balls.
IMG_5915

Cheesy Baked Arancini (aka: Rice Balls)

Andrea Falcone Recipes Leave a Comment

I have eaten my fair share of rice balls in my life – often homemade passed down for generations, and some within restaurants too! They seem taunting to make, but oh-my-goodness, once you try these puppies you’ll be enjoying them with your loved ones, and keeping a few reserved in the freezer for a quick thaw and go-to meal accompaniment or appetizer.

Makes 35 small rice balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup White Rice
  • 1, 400 mL can Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 Small onion, chopped
  • 2 Cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • ½ Cup Parsley
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • ¾ Cup Shredded Asiago Cheese (*or any other sharp white cheese)
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 3 Eggs, beaten
  • 1½ Cups Breadcrumbs (Seasoned if you prefer)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350o Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Prepare your tomato sauce. In a saucepan, add the chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and using a hand mixer or immersion blender, mix the ingredients to remove the majority of the chunks. Place back on the stove and keep at a low temperature to keep warm. Reserve 1 Cup of the tomato sauce for dipping.
  3. Cook the rice – in a saucepan, place the rice along with 2 Cups of water. I often add 1 Tbsp of butter or olive oil to the water as well. Bring the rice to a boil over medium-high heat. Once at a boil, lower the heat and simmer to soak up all of the water, allowing the rice to cook. You may need to add more water if you find the rice is drying up and not fully cooked.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add the grated cheeses.
  5. Add the rice and tomato sauce (ensuring you reserve about 1 Cup for dipping) to the grated cheese and stir well to incorporate all ingredients. The cheese will melt and appear stringy. Leave aside to slightly cool and make it tolerable to handle with your hands.
  6. Place three separate dishes out on your counter, one for the flour, one for the beaten eggs, and one for the breadcrumbs to set up your assembly line.
  7. Here’s where things will get a little messy – but oh-so-worth-it! I recommend to make all of your rice balls first, then roll them into the flour, egg and finally the breadcrumbs.
  8. To make the rice balls: Place about 1½ Tbsp of the rice mixture into your hands. Roll the rice mixture around so that it forms a ball. Place on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Once all rice balls are formed, dip, each one into the flour, then coat with egg and finally roll in the breadcrumbs. Place them back on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet, maintaining the integrity of the ball shape as best as possible.
  9. Once all rice balls have been dipped, place the pan into the preheated oven for 20 minutes, turning in between.
  10. Once cooked, remove from the oven and place on a serving dish. Add the reserved tomato sauce in a small bowl for dipping or to pour on top if you desire.
IMG_5927

Cranberry Ricotta Crostini

Andrea Falcone Recipes Leave a Comment

The perfect bite to the start of your meal! This little appetizer is sure to set the mood with the creamy ricotta along with sweet and sour cranberries reserve. You’ll be glad you made a little extra too have the next day as breakfast or as a snack!

Serves 4-8

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup Frozen or Fresh Cranberries
  • 1 Cup 100% Orange Juice
  • 1 Tbsp Rosemary
  • 1, small Whole Grain baguette
  • ¾ Cup Ricotta

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350o
  2. In a small saucepan, over medium high heat, add the cranberries, orange juice, and rosemary. Bring to a boil.
  3. Once at a boil, lower to a light simmer for about 8-10 minutes, until the cranberries all pop. You may need to smash them with the back of a wooden spoon. Allow the mixture to reduce down until it forms a jam-like consistency.
  4. Meanwhile, cut your baguette into small pieces (squares or rounds), and place on a baking sheet. Once the oven is heated, add the bread and allow to toast (or broil) for 5 minutes, checking in to ensure it doesn’t burn.
  5. Once toasted, remove from the oven and place on a plate, leaving aside to slightly cool.
  6. Just before you’re ready to eat, spread about one tablespoon of ricotta cheese on top of the toast and top it with the cranberry-orange reserve. Place on a plate and enjoy with yours truly.
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A Night at the Movies ~ Food Evolution ~ Bringing Facts & Science to Life

Andrea Falcone BLOG Leave a Comment

I partnered with Canola Eat Well to bring the contents of this article to you. As always the thoughts and opinions are those of my own.

What’s in your food? Where does your food come from? How and what should we eat to stay healthy and well? In a world full of opinions, here say, celebrities and anecdotal “evidence”, not to mention the fear-mongering that sways over our heads sometimes when others question our own food beliefs and what we’re feeding our families, it can be hard to separate the facts from the fiction and just simply EAT.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a screening of a movie documentary, Food Evolution, directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy and narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson – the first movie of its kind to relay facts and the science on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) as opposed to one-sided, biased information that often fuels other food documentaries. With special thanks to CropLife Canada, Life Sciences Ontario, University of Waterloo Faculty of Science Foundation, Partners in Research, Ontario Agri-Food Technologies, Food Starter, and the Royal Canadian Institute of Science, I also had the opportunity to listen in to a panel discussion including Scott Hamilton himself, Carol T. Culhane, Ian Affleck, and two farmers, Greg Hannam (Canada) and Motlatsi Musi (South Africa).

I have read numerous studies on GMO’s over the years in order to be fully aware of both sides of the coin, however, most importantly, as a dietitian, being able to recognize the validity or sound research vs. that which can be skewed. I was fascinated to leave the film presentation, hearing the panelists speak, and a conversation with Greg Hannam with the following insights:

  • The issue from consumers, and even farmers agree, is that when GMO’s were introduced, little consumer education was provided, as the development of GM-crops was primarily towards the benefit of the farmers as opposed to the end-consumer. Better education could have been delivered to educate on the need for technology in order to safely supply demands of food to our world’s growing population
  • GMO’s allow crops to withstand certain characteristics such as negative temperatures, viruses, pesticide-resistance, as well as to enhance the nutrient profile of a food item.
    • For example, the papaya industry was destroyed due to viruses. Genetic engineering allowed scientists to transcribe a gene to allow the papaya industry to thrive again. The same occurred with crops of bananas throughout South America
    • Vitamin A-enriched golden rice was produced to support the health of at-risk populations and used in Africa for those with a Vitamin A deficiency
  • Each new GM-product undergoes strict testing to verify its safety for both consuming and towards the environment.
    • For example, allergens. Many people have questioned the increased incident in allergic reactions towards food products. In speaking with Greg, he indicated that he is not a professional in this area, but from a GMO standpoint, there is no allergenic link between a non-GMO and GMO plant because of the testing system in place to verify new plants. It really comes down to an individual’s diet, and what one may be eating now versus many years ago. Gluten for example is loaded in so much of the prepared and pre-packaged foods in our grocery stores, resulting in a greater consumption of it compared to how generations would focus on eating in the past, including a meat or fish, vegetables and potatoes.

So what can you do as a consumer?

  • Verify research to be credible, seeking out the support from a regulated nutrition professional who is willing and able to look into the valid science to achieve this.
  • Choose fresh foods more often and prepare them at home into a meal as opposed to ready-made or boxed items.
  • Canada has one of the safest food and food regulatory systems in the world. Take comfort in the fact that when you walk into a grocery store, everything meets the standards of being safe and healthy.
  • Don’t choose foods loaded with different labeling that may be there to meet our social desires (Gluten Free, GMO-free, etc), but rather food that comes straight from the earth and soil.
  • Our busy lifestyles may leave us feeling that there is little time to cook a meal. I can understand this, however remember to keep it simple! There is a load of science indicating that eating lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables are good for you – so stick with this.
  • Check out the trailer for Food Evolution here, and then set an evening to watch the whole movie!

Internet searches on GMO’s and Organic Farming can deliver a plethora of hits, making it difficult to even know where to start to gain truthful information. Have a read here to stay educated on the science behind GMO’s and Organic foods to leave you with peace of mind in the decisions you choose to make for your health and your family’s health.

Organic-vs-GMO

The GMO and Organic Food Debate: What does the Science Really Say?

Andrea Falcone BLOG Leave a Comment

Are you a part of it? You know, all of the information and (sometimes) nonsense media coverage around our food system, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) and Organic foods.

Between the petitions, debates, advocacy, global government legislation, “research”, marketing, fear-mongering, and ability to hide a few known facts through the real science, it can become difficult to know who and what to believe when it comes to GMO’s or Organic food (if you don’t have a Registered Dietitian on speed dial that is).

The issues of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) and organic farming have been around for many decades. Produce sections in grocery stores are extending their organic quantities, and the “non-GMO” labeling on packages has become one of the most prominent negative claims on your favourite cookie or loaf of bread (more on that later).

But where’s the research? The truth? The scientific studies that show whether something is actually harmful to our being or not? When so many studies are completed with bias, funding from large corporations, or on the basis that it is easier to scare people than it is to inform them, you can imagine the discrepancy I have when I read through some studies and try to piece together the information to relay to the masses.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a screening of a movie documentary, Food Evolution, directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy and narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Although I have been immersed in the science of GMO’s and Organic foods (and tampered science) and articles for a number of years, it truly made me dive into this post, giving you all some more information about these two hot topics, especially after having the opportunity to listen in to a panel of experts and first-hand farmers who have needed to evolve with changing technology and demands.

It seems that the rallies, petitions, legislation and banning of GMO’s in some countries have caused quite the stir amongst certain groups of people. And when we are all told to use our voices and be heard, there has to be some form of separation between using your voice to advocate for truth and science, versus using your voice to instill fear in others around you because you are voicing an opinion not based on true facts.   So, what exactly are GMO’s and genetic engineering?

GMO’s are defined as a genome that has been altered by the techniques of genetic engineering, so that its DNA contains one or more genes not normally found there. The basis of genetic engineering is to add positive traits to these organisms to help with weed control, disease, pest resistance, drought, nutrition enhancement, and other factors to help stabilize crops in a better way. When reviewing the numerous studies on the benefits or risks associated with GM-foods, all results state “may”, “could”, or indication that “there is a great deal of unknown”.

Consider this: What would happen if a virus struck your favourite fruits and vegetables to the point where they were wiped obsolete? What about Mother Nature? What if she hit your favourite farms with a 6-month drought? Food wouldn’t grow. Crops would be wiped out and food production would decrease, or in some cases stop growing. Farmers agree that technology is needed in order to make farming sustainable for the growing population of the world, and tools and resources are required in order to make this happen, including genetic engineering.

Consumers (some) seem to be quick to blame the food we eat and the food system for so many of our “ailments” and “issues” that surface daily, and although farming techniques have evolved over the years in order to feed a growing population, coupled with the fact that there are fewer farmers with each passing year, you better believe some things needed to change to improve technology and keep up with demand. Unless if you and everyone you know is ready, willing and able to pop up your own garden and start feeding your families from farm to table, we need to evolve as a human race with these facts – I mean we rarely use a pen and paper to send a letter much anymore. We have evolved in so many other areas of life, why all of the slack with the way the food system has needed to evolve to keep up with the demands? And I’m specifically speaking about farm fresh foods here. I am not oblivious to the thousands of packaged products with “other” ingredients in them (or in their packaging) that the world is presented with as “healthy”, which is a whole other article. But let’s compare apples to apples here! And then ask yourself are GM foods the issue? Or is your relationship with food easier to blame on this crop of food? (Yes, I know it always comes down to that with me….but just trying to be real here).

If you are someone who asks questions and always wants to know where your food comes from, well, I have to commend you. There is a ton going on with our food system these days, marketing that places fear in the consumer to create a buy-in towards one product or another, as well as the ability to sway a claim that you read on a package. If you are purchasing and preparing fresh fruits and vegetables, you are already doing something right. Taking the time to be in the kitchen to bring ingredients together, which is even more powerful when you get your children involved too, is a huge step towards bringing more health into your body. If you opt towards having a grocery cart full of pre-packaged prepared foods or ready to eat dinners the majority of your days, then along with that comes added ingredients your body doesn’t necessarily need, which may be wreaking more havoc on your system.

But at what fine line do we shed a little more common sense towards the “where does my food come from” question to prevent the obsession that could result if worry and fear take over? Organic farming is becoming more mainstream, which is great for our environment, and possibly better for your health. Fewer use of and/or more natural pesticides and herbicides create a food that has been cultivated in a “cleaner” way. Though it has been shown that organic food does not bare more nutrition than non-organic food, many individuals prefer to choose these foods because of the way the seed is brought to life. The unfortunate part of this equation is that we don’t have a set standard that dictates to what degree a food is organic yet, unless if you know you have grown it in your own garden, with your own hands, cultivated in your soil over the years – like I do with my grandfather’s garden. Many non-organic gardens did not used to be organic, so there may be some form of pesticide-element leaching within the soil. There are also “organic” products which farmers can still use, provided they are labeled as such. Are there less toxins than previous years? Probably so. But this is why there are no set guidelines to compare one organic apple to another.

It is important to look at the research whenever we can, however more important to review the funding basis, sample populations, or any possible “sways” in the study results. How do we trust science that is relayed from a company to produce data that is biased or not? From the study, you must review the independent science that was completed and not funded. Of the 2000 studies completed on GMO’s, more than half are independent, providing global bodies of evidence that indicate there to be no proof of adverse health effects related to GMO’s, and that GMO’s are safe to eat. In fact, each new product needs to be tested for health and environmental safety before it actually is available to you.

Canada has not legislated the labeling of GMO’s on food packages, as the government feels that it is largely a marketing tactic that is misleading, not to mention Canadian standards for food regulation are one of the strictest in the world. Many companies can still provide this information to the consumer, however, these are known as negative claims or voluntary by Health Canada, meaning:

“In Canada, voluntary claims on foods that are and are not products of genetic engineering may be made provided such claims are truthful, not misleading or deceptive, and not likely to create an erroneous impression of a food’s character, value, composition, merit or safety, and in compliance with all other requirements set out under the FDA, the CPLA and other applicable legislation.”

In the end, I always commend when questions are asked. However, I always encourage you to use a little common sense and if the research is unclear or at all “persuasive”, poke out to someone who can clarify it for you. The people who are not going to sway you with their own food beliefs, but rather provide you with the information that allows you to live a life as healthy as possible.

And the Movie?   Food Evolution. Click here to gain access to it. You won’t regret it. And continue your read here, where I share my take-homes from the movie, along what You can do as consumers moving forward.

There is no knowing where our food system will steer in the coming decades, but if you can include more food from farm to table in your daily diet, cook more foods from scratch, at home and with your families, and choose foods with real ingredients or as natural as possible, then you are already in the green zone!

 

 

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What do Your Cravings Really Mean?

Andrea Falcone BLOG Leave a Comment

You’ve probably heard me speak and write about cravings before, and how we can learn to listen to our bodies in order to feed it intuitively. The most common question I’ve received throughout my pregnancy thus far is “Have you had any cravings”? And yes – I have! But they are the same types of cravings I’ve always had, even before becoming pregnant.

Besides the 10 days during my first trimester when all I wanted was cheese, potatoes with salt and potato chips (and a lot of cold water), now that I am in my final four months, I can honestly say nothing out of the ordinary has crossed my mind with what I have been “craving”, BUT I have listened in to what my body wants and needs.

I could easily make potato chips a prime food group to help offset the crunchy and salty foods I’ve been wanting, but I’ve found these strategies to work better for me, which I wanted to share with all of you. Because, honestly, pregnant or not, a craving can be defined as something that your body wants and/or needs.

Do I want something sweet?

If this is the case, where I simply have the desire for something sweet I’ve generally steered towards fruit. I mean it’s sweet right! Dried or fresh is often my choice, whether it’s dried cherries or prunes, or oranges or berries. There is always fruit on hand in my home for reasons like this, and it supports giving your body a good load of nutrients throughout the day. If you find yourself to have a constant “sweet tooth”, replacing one of those higher sweet items like candy, cookies or chocolate with a fruit is a great way to help your body then recognize the want for more natural sweetness.  If it’s snack time, or a few hours until your next meal, I would also suggest to pair this food with a source of protein. Check in here and here to read why and see some pretty delicious snack ideas.

Do I want something salty?

This is the savoury end of the spectrum, and it may mean a few things: you may be thirsty and the salty food will help you gravitate towards some water, your blood pressure may be a little low, you had an awesome sweaty workout and your body needs some replenishing – just some of the few reasons why a salty craving may hit. Before gravitating right to that bag of chips, ask yourself what some of the more natural “salty” foods may be that you could choose instead:

  • Salty and creamy = cheese, Tzaziki or hummus dip with crackers
  • Salty and crunchy (cold) = pickles
  • Salty and crunchy (room temp) = lightly salted roasted nuts
  • Salty and Warm = soup
  • Salty and comforting = homemade nachos with melted grated cheese
  • Salty and sweet = dark chocolate with Peanut butter

Do I want a specific food? (eg. Chocolate, pickles, cheese, etc)

When you are thinking of a specific food (even if it’s that chocolate Nanaimo bar from your favourite bakery), that’s what your body wants. Have you ever had a “craving” for a specific food and told yourself (a) Oh but I can’t have that or (b) I’ll just have this instead, and after indulging in something else went back for the next food, or something else? This may be because your body is asking for a specific food, and you did not give it to yourself, otherwise known as not fully satisfying your craving. I can guarantee that if you feed into your specific craving with that specific food, you will most likely not need ALL of it (ie. half of the Nanaimo bar) —- so do us both a favour and go grab that fresh one from the bakery, and savour it. Try to steer clear of grabbing a whole box (because the marketers make you believe it’s a cheaper deal) that will leave 11 extra squares starting at you in the face.

Are you wanting a specific “food group”?

Have you ever wanted cheese, yogurt, milk, or ice cream? Or a piece of steak or meat? This could be your body asking for a specific nutrient. Yup! When you become more intuitive in your eating patterns and learn to listen to your body, there could be moments when the “dairy” field may mean you need some calcium in your diet (for example). Or the meat/steak craving may indicate you need a boost of iron. You may then reflect and notice you haven’t had these foods in a few days or for my case, I know when I crave a piece of steak I haven’t included it in my diet for a week or longer.

Ask yourself if you’re thirsty?

Our thirst cues are much weaker than our hunger cues. Many times when we think we’re hungry, we are actually thirsty (about 37% of the time actually). So, do yourself a favour and sip your water or herbal tea throughout the day, and go for the water or tea (especially at night in front of the television here) before the food. By all means, if there is true stomach hunger, go in for that food you need, or if after having some water you still feel hungry, have a snack, but go for the water if you can sit and reflect that you may need it!

Are you bored?

This is HUGE! As a society we have lost the ability to simply sit and do nothing. To just read a book or watch a television program – not to mention the commercials and marketing that infiltrates our screens to entice us towards eating something. We may feel that we always have to be doing two or more things at once. Some times we may go grab that treat when all we really need is to sit tight, or pick up a puzzle (if we MUST do two things at once). Sit still for 2-6 minutes and just listen to your breathing. Amazing how hard this is, but just try it out

Here are a few tips and suggestions to get you going if and when a craving does hit!

  • Sit with yourself for a few minutes to recognize what it is you may be wanting or needing. This assessment will allow you to recognize if you are truly hungry? If you want something salty, sweet, water, or a warm tea!
  • Ask yourself if you’ve had that for a while (ie. vegetables, meat, fish). Maybe your body is craving a specific food or a nutrient.
  • Look at the nutrition of something that would cure the craving but may be a healthier choice (for example, a fresh fruit instead of a candy or cookie)

Remember, everyone is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all, so if you feel you have been struggling with cravings for a while, reach out to a dietitian and have them support you to get on track of the more natural and whole foods more often so that you body learns to crave these types of foods, because it is so very possible.

Healthy You – Episode 24: Eating While on Vacation

Andrea Falcone Podcast Leave a Comment

We work so hard to maintain a balanced lifestyle and diet throughout the year, and then we work up to that well deserved vacation! How do we maintain that balance while on vacation? Andrea and Drew chat about the fears and concerns that so many have before going on vacation and what to do to support your health goals while you’re away too, and remove the guilt!

#VacationEating #Vacation #HealthyTips #FoodForThought #FamilyNutrition #HealthyYou #HealthyMind #HealthyBody #DietitianPodcast #RDChat