Disclaimer: I have been compensated for this post by Loblaws as part of the Food Lovers Unite campaign. As always, the post may be sponsored, but the opinions expressed are my own.
Hey friends, love to juggle? Did I confuse you a little? Ok, how about we switch the word juggle out for multitask - now we are talking right? So many of us pride ourselves on being great multitaskers. We swing from bustling mornings and packing balanced lunchboxes into afternoons that all too fast barrel into the evening, dinner times, bedtimes and bath times. As a juggling mama of two girls with two enterprises (my blog and the South Asian Bloggers Network) the things I sacrifice first and fast are my own needs.
Working with a Loblaws in-store dietitian
Regular readers of the blog (hey guys!) will know that I have been working with Loblaws as part of their #FoodLoversUnite campaign. It is for me an opportunity to celebrate food that is fresh, local, and undeniably delicious. In the last challenge my 8 year old helped me recognize that even where different tastes abound we are all Food Lovers. This time around I was given the opportunity to work with a Loblaws in-store registered dietitian and instantly knew what I wanted to talk about: me.
As a foodie in her 30s I understand the power of food. I understand it on a visceral level as something that connects us to our roots, on a pragmatic level as something that fuels us, and on an emotional level as something I turn to for comfort. As a carnivore I also understand what higher meat consumption means for the planet. Finally, as a South Asian woman with a family history of diabetes and heart disease I also understand those risks. What I somehow did not understand was how do I translate all this into my diet. Not just in an abstract way, but in a tangible "I am at the store, now what?" kinda way. That is precisely where the Loblaws in-store Registered Dietitian that I had the privilege of working with came in.
Spoiler Alert: I absolutely loved the experience and would wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. For more details on the program click here to find out more.
Dietitians can Love Food (and it's ok that we do too!)
Normally if you say the word dietitian to me, I start to slowly back away. Folks I am just not one for restrictive diets. They make me sad. Straight up sad. And you know what? My whole conversation with Lauren Baker, the Loblaws in-store dietitian at Glen Erin Loblaws whom I had the privilege of meeting just made me happy. It was clear to me in the way she talked about food, when she described the crunch of a roasted lentil snack or the texture of a mushroom burger that she loves food (fresh and prepared!) just as much as I do. That is an attitude and enthusiasm I can get behind. Hearing another Food Lover describe foods that I wouldn't even know to try felt positively energizing.
Thinking about the Why
One of the best things to come out of my conversation with the Loblaws in-store registered dietitian was a serious amount of reflection on food and my diet. She asked questions about my goals and what stopped me from reaching them. These may seem like obvious things, but the reality is that I genuinely didn't know. We all want to eat 'healthier' right? But why.
Here are my whys: turns out I wanted to eat healthier because I wanted to boost energy levels to fuel increasingly busy days. I also want to develop healthier habits because I am acutely aware of how what I put into my body now is an investment in my body for the future. Like many South Asians I have diabetes and heart disease in my family. The Loblaws in-store registered dietitian was able to guide me in making choices that would help protect me from those diseases.
One of the key questions that the in-store registered Loblaws dietitian asked me was what stops me from eating the way I should. After some subtle head scratching, I realized it just wasn't convenient. You know what's convenient? Leftovers, slathering some cream cheese between two pieces of bread, etc. I have always joked about eating lunches like a forager, but in that moment, I realized that's not funny in terms of what it was doing to me. I also inevitably was not eating enough food and that meant a lot of thoughtless grazing. Lauren was able to help me identify several easy convenient lunches that required minimal prep. Since our conversation my meals have included
- Mushroom and Swiss Burgers on English Muffins - I love these with onion rounds, a handful of spinach, mustard and some hot sauce.
- Pre-Prepped Veggies: One of the dietitians suggestions was that I prep some salad/veggie bowls. I usually have a dark leafy green in the fridge but combining them with the tomberries that we are now obsessed with, fresh Ontario cucumbers, and some crunchy sweet peppers makes it so much more appealing!
- Daal WITH some fibre! Before talking to Lauren I had no idea that on their own daals are an incomplete protein and would frequently have some in a bowl with dollops of yogurt. Apparently that approach meant my body was not benefiting from daal the way it should. Now I am mindful of including some fibre-rich carbohydrates like mini whole wheat naans.
- Pre-Cut Sweet Potatoes that I roast in the oven with fat sprinkles of chaat masala. Btw friends I also learnt that since potatoes cook inside out you can put them in the oven while it preheats for faster and energy efficient cooking!
4-8-4: The Easiest Way to Identify Healthy
I always thought I was reasonably good at deciphering nutrition labels. After watching Lauren, the Loblaws in-store registered dietitian in action I realized I was only looking at three things: calories, sugar, and sodium. While those things are important for my goals for myself and my family, they were incomplete metrics. Lauren suggested that I look for foods that incorporate a 4-8-4 ratio of fibre-protein-sugar. Anything that happens to have more protein or fibre is obviously okay, but when the scale tilts dramatically in favour of sugar there is a problem!
Good Things Can Come in Packages
Armed with this 4-8-4 principle (and a dietitian!) I was able to figure out what snacks would be great for me and for the kids. Some of the my previous purchases turned out to not meet the mark, but I discovered many that day. Now late in the evening when I am working and snacking, I find myself reaching for Sweet Cinnamon Popcorn Puffs and a glass of milk. That's a huge improvement over the other things I should probably not confess to eating! I have also made changes to my kids' snacks like incorporating the PC Blue Menu Chocolate Chip Bars into school lunches.
The Best Foodie DIYs
Loblaws in-store registered dietitians are also Food Lovers, so they can help you figure out how to put together filling and fun snacks. I tend to shy away from trail mixes as they often have ingredients I don’t care for or sugar levels I’d like to avoid. Also, when I am hungry a few tablespoons aren’t quite going to hit the spot. Lauren suggested making my own mix and bulking it up with some popcorn. Popcorn, seeds of choice, the dried fruit I like, some almonds and a little sweet addition like butterscotch chips. Now that is a snack I - and that thieving little hand - can get behind.
Other fun ideas: using fresh seasonal produce which is clearly marked in Loblaws stores to make my own fruit salad. Quartered strawberries, juicy peach wedges along with some nectarine and you have a naturally delicious bowl you can enjoy. Feeling like a little extra? Drizzle on some maple syrup and adds some pumpkin seeds for extra crunch and nutrition.
When I walked out of Loblaws that day I thought of that experience as one of the best I have had. In all my subsequent trips to the store since my family and I have been benefiting from the knowledge I gained. The best part is that my enthusiasm and love for food has grown and not been diminished. If I can love food more and live better then folks that is a win-win situation.
Given you some food for thought? I know, my jokes blow you away! Hang on to this piece by pinning right here!