How To Improve Canadian Children’s Academic Abilities With Brain Food

Brain FoodIn this time of processed snack packs, lunchables and cheesestrings it comes as no surprise that 26% of Canadian schoolchildren are either overweight or clinically obese. Because of the way that we as a society are eating, more and more children are facing heart disease, diabetes and particularly cognitive and mental health issues such as ADHD decreased learning ability and poor concentration. For years there has been a close link between what we put into our bodies and our ability to learn, so with this in mind, here are some pointers on making your food intake work for you.

 

The brain/food connection

The brain although incredibly complex in its entirety also operates on a fairly simple principal, and that is that in order to function to its full capacity it requires nutrients. These nutrients come in the form of vitamins and minerals which we get from our food. It has been proven that even the smallest nutritional deficiency can have a massive impact on the way that we learn. Our ability to problem solve decreases and we become inattentive. When we skip a meal entirely or replace dietary requirements with saturated sugars and fats, then it has exactly the same effect.

 

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day

I’m sure that we’ve all heard this before, but this does not mean that we can give sugary cereals such as ‘froot loops’ the same kudos as a more healthy option of rolled oats. If you are going to give your child sugary foods, be aware that it will have the same impact on the brain as missing breakfast altogether. Instead try wholemeal or oat based bread and spread on some peanut butter for that protein intake and some sustainable energy. Also wholegrain cereals with added nuts and fruit works just as well.

 

Omega 3

This is one of the best sources of brain food a child could want and is naturally found in fish. Why not try making your own fish sticks out of salmon, and bind them with wholegrain breadcrumbs, or even roll them in oats. If your child doesn’t like fish, then why not substitute cows milk for hemp seed milk (hemp seed is also a great source of omega 3). Walnuts are another fantastic source of Omega 3.

 

Don’t be afraid of greens

Vegetables such as dark leafy greens, sprouts and algaes are bursting with essential vitamins and minerals that our brains need. If you cannot get your child to eat their greens, then why not try a smoothie. Blend leafy greens and bean sprouts with ripe fruit such as mango and bananas and you’ll be surprised at how good it really tastes. Another great suggestion is to use Romaine lettuce as a taco shell to hold healthy fillings. Failing this, pack up raw vegetable dips for your child to munch on.

 

By making small changes you and your child will be heading in the right direction, which will in turn promote  health, success and happiness.

Come and Join The Raw Food Revolution

Raw Food RevolutionThe term ‘rawist’ is much more common now than it was ten or twenty years ago and just like vegetarians or vegans twenty years ago, if you tell people that you follow a raw food lifestyle then chances are that you will be looked on as being ‘a little strange’.

 

For centuries we have been brought up to cook our food (although originally one suspects that this  was due to health reasons), but now subscribers to the raw food revolution are turning this theory on its head and are advocating that eating raw is definitely the healthy option. To us ‘non rawists’ this is unfathomable and can be hard to swallow (if you’ll excuse the pun) but is it really as far out as it seems?

 

In essence, the Japanese have been doing it for years and it is fair to say that the majority of us love sushi and sashimi  So why not take this a little further and apply it to all aspects of food. A raw food diet doesn’t have to be endless plates of nuts, seeds and dried fruit. Instead there are some very talented raw food chefs who have the ability to make the most amazing raw food meals that are not only filling, but also look incredibly appetizing.

 

So what are the benefits of following a raw food lifestyle?

 

Following a raw food lifestyle is said to give you more energy. The reasoning behind this is that certain foods when cooked lose their vital nutrients, and therefore eating them raw means that you will receive all the nutritional intake from the foods. Having said that, certain foods such as mushrooms and tomatoes have to be cooked to release their full nutritional value, but on the whole, the reverse is true as cooking in general does destroy enzymes which are good for our bodies. The simple act of replacing cooked unhealthy foods with a filling salad has to be a good thing right? The act of doing just this can be a very healthy option and  in a lot of people can bring about fat loss.

 

One of the main problems that people have when following a raw food diet is that they think that they are going to have problems when eating out. On the contrary, more and more restaurants are springing up which are dedicated to the art of raw food. Ontario Canada for example now has three very popular dedicated raw food restaurants all of which are based in the Toronto area. Rawlicious, Cruda Cafe and Live, are all doing great business and are becoming more and more popular. Other cities such as Los Angeles and New York also have their fair share of top class raw food establishments. Even if there isn’t a raw food restaurant near you, most restaurants will offer several different salads as a main meal option. If you don’t follow a 100% raw food diet, then you can use this as one of your non rawist days and can eat happily without feeling like you are cheating yourself.

 

It’s not just us mere mortals that are following the raw food revolution, Celebs too are also embracing the rawist lifestyle. I know that’s not always the best recommendation but when you have people like Demi Moore and Uma Thurman championing the cause, they really don’t look too bad on it.

 

At the end of the day, you are always going to get your ‘nay sayers’ and objectionists, but more and more people are looking to eat healthier, and a raw food eating plan is a lifestyle choice and not simply a fad diet. It gives people the opportunity to take control of what they put into their bodies and ultimately makes them feel great in the process.

Green farming – Never Bite The Hand That Feeds Us!

Green Farming in OntarioThe province of Ontario Canada has vast farmland particularly in the south where general farming and livestock are extremely prevalent. Also Ontario is one of the largest producers of soy beans, shelled corn and mixed grains in the whole of North America. Many Ontario farmers realize that people are looking for healthy produce and that means green. So it probably comes as no surprise that farmers are now at the cutting edge of the green movement.

 

In the past, farmers have always had a battle with producing affordable food stocks as cheaply as they can and this has resulted in the use of sprays and chemicals to enhance the speedy growth of stocks and to keep them pest free. However nowadays, farmers in Ontario are waking up to the fact that more and more people are attuned to healthy/organic eating and as a result will pay that little extra for good quality food that has been organically farmed.

 

How easy is it to sustain a green farming program?

 

When you talk to anyone about going green, it is fairly easy to make a concerted effort to recycle, use non plastic grocery bags and to turn off lights when we go out of a room. However for farmers, the whole bar is raised as they have to question every part of their farming methods. Variations in the type of soil and the weather meant that a type of farming that worked really well a year ago may well be useless the next. In essence there is no simple written down instructions for producing the perfect organic crop and it all boils down to the farmer’s experience and how well they know the land.

 

Things to take into consideration when considering green farming are good crop rotation, buying or producing animal feed that contains no harmful or non organic substances, using only organic pesticides and good composting practices all have to come into play, if one is serious about green farming methods. It is clear that green farming takes around 3-4 years to set up, but once everything is in place it is most definitely sustainable.

 

In a way it makes sense that the very people who make their living off the land should be looking to protect it and this means growing crops or rearing livestock in a healthy and sustainable way.  According to Forbes, studies in 2007 showed that around 61% of Canada’s population are either overweight or obese, so healthy eating is definitely high on the governments priority list  Therefore it probably comes as no surprise that the government is in support and has recently pledged $27 million dollars to help farmers who are looking to go green.

 

The bottom line is that green farming isn’t easy, and a farmer really has to evaluate every aspect of their business. However once fully set up, a farmer has to take pride in the fact that they are helping to make their country a more healthy place and if that means us folks having to pay a few cents more for produce, then so be it.

If We Want To Eat Healthy Then Why Not Eat Kosher

Eat KosherAs Ontarians are becoming more conscious about their health they are willing to try products  which a few years ago they wouldn’t probably have tried. In a province that houses nearly half the population of Canadian Jews (around 165,000), kosher produce is just such a choice and is easy to obtain.

 

But what is Kosher, and why should we eat it?

 

In Hebrew, the word kosher means something that is ‘proper’ or ‘fit’ indicating that all kosher foods produced meets the dietary requirements under Jewish law. This law divides foods into three different categories:

 

Poultry and meat

An animal is considered ‘kosher’ if it has a split or cloven hoof and chews the cud. Poultry such as chicken, ducks, turkey and geese can also be considered kosher. To be certified and have the official kosher stamp, trained people called ‘Sochet’ must slaughter the animal. After slaughter the animal is examined to make sure that the carcass remains kosher and that no defects are in place to make it non-kosher.

 

Dairy and milk products

According to kosher law, all milk and dairy products cannot be prepared, cooked or indeed eaten with meat products. Separate pans and utensils must also be used for preparation. On top of this the milk must come from an animal that is itself kosher.

 

Pareve

This is the name given to other products that are not of the above. These include fish, all non animal manufactured products and all produce, grown in the ground or on trees.

 

In essence, kosher produce is in general purer, safer and often considered much tastier. It is a method by which people understand exactly where the product has come from, and that it has passed strict kosher law. Knowing just where the produce you are eating has come from can’t be a bad thing right!

 

In Ontario, kosher produce is becoming so poplar that large grocery chain stores such as Loblaw’s has increased its kosher department to around 40%. Other department chains have followed suit and Sobey’s in Thornhill tripled its kosher floor from 5,000 to around 15,000 square feet. In fact latest figures show that approximately 65% of all food in Ontario supermarkets is kosher based.

 

The most popular products are what are known as ‘portable’ foodstuffs and can be eaten on the run. Produce such as bagels, wraps, enchiladas and breads are always in demand. Convenience foods are also in demand as mainstream kosher diners are looking for healthy, nutritious and convenient snacks and meals. Chinese, Japanese and Thai products are the latest to hit the kosher market. Finally nutritious snacks play a big part in the consumer market and energy bars, granola bars and dried fruit snacks can all be found under kosher produce.

 

Kosher is not just a type of food, it’s a way of life, and a healthy one at that. This is why more and more people are turning to kosher foods and this is why it is certainly worth considering, the next time you are in the supermarket.

Ontario Schools Healthy Eating Program – Setting The Standard

Ontario School Healthy Eating ProgramAs at September 1st 2011 a new healthy eating initiative came into play in schools in the Ontario province of Canada. This was brought in after some pretty worrying statistics found amongst the young people of Ontario. According to the Canadian Community health survey carried out in 2004  twenty eight percent of children between the ages of two and seventeen are either overweight or clinically obese and less than half of the children surveyed ate the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables. This rate is currently increasing at around 10% per year, so clearly something had to be done. Enter the healthy eating initiative.

 

So what does this mean for schools and school children?

 

Governmental nutrition standards were laid down in schools meaning children could no longer be served items such as candy, fizzy energy drinks or any type of fried food. In addition to banning the above foodstuffs, school menus had to be made up of at least 80% of products such as those that give the highest levels of essential nutrients, and the lowest amounts of sodium, fats and sugar. This includes products such as fresh fruit and vegetables, brown rice and wholemeal bread. The remaining 20% can be made up of products that have a slightly higher sodium, sugar and fat content like cheese and bagels. All foods, whether they be sold in tuck shops, vending machines, cafeterias or catered events such as lunch programs, sports events and bake sales, have to conform to this criteria.

 

Obesity costs the health care system in Ontario a staggering  $1.6 billion dollars every year and this is something that the government is looking to reduce drastically. It has been well documented that healthy eating is related directly to a better performance and when this is combined with daily exercise (of which 20 mins per day has now become mandatory in Ontario schools) then this is going to bring the best out of the child.

 

As a guide to what can and cannot be sold in schools the nutrition standards board list all foodstuffs under three categories and they are as follows:

 

Not to be sold

Foods that fall within this category contain little or no essential ingredients that a child needs in their diet and include fried foods such as hamburgers, Coca Cola and chocolate bars/candy.

 

Healthy

This category   makes up twenty percent of the total dietary regulations of Ontario schools and include those foodstuffs which are slightly higher in fat, sodium and sugar but not excessively so. These include healthier drinks which still contain sugar and dairy products such as cheese and bread that’s not wholemeal such as bagels.

 

Healthiest

These make up the bulk of the entire food menu (80%) and are foods which contain all the essential nutrients and ingredients that make up a healthy diet. Items such as extra lean meat and fish, green vegetables, brown rice and wholemeal bread.

 

As well as sticking to the above guides, cooking staff are to prepare all foods in a healthy way that mean little or no added fat. Methods that are good are baking, barbecuing, grilling poaching, stir frying and steaming.

 

As you can see, the government are serious about cutting down obesity rates and it starts with children. Only time will tell as to whether this initiative works, but one would suspect that the results will be dramatic.

Organic Beef Production In Ontario – Why Buy Organic?

Organic Beef Production in OntarioUnless you are vegetarian, I would suggest that there is nothing more mouthwatering than a thick  juicy, medium rare steak, seasoned to perfection and sizzling away on a grill. However I guess you could say that it all depends on what type of beef you use. More and more people are cottoning onto the fact, that not only does organic taste the best, it’s also really good for you. Thankfully organic beef production in Ontario Canada is on the increase. However in order for beef to be classed as truly organic, there are certain criteria that have to be met.

 

The Canadian food inspection agency has stringent rules that constitutes what is and isn’t organic and some of these rules are as follows.

 

  • All cattle must be fed a balanced diet with the essential nutrients required to maintain the animals health and general well being.

 

  • They must be fed with purely organic feed which in itself must also live up to the regulations and standards

 

  • All young cattle must be fed natural milk, and not a powdered supplement

 

  • For an animal to be classed as organic, they must also have access to pasture (weather permitting) and should get a minimum of 30% of their dry matter intake from grazing this pasture.

 

  • A large proportion of the cattle feed should consist of fresh or dried fodder, silage and roughage

 

  •  There must be no drugs, hormones or antibiotics which promote growth in the animal.

 

  • There should be no feed formulas containing manure or other animal waste

 

  • An organic beef producer is not permitted to use any preservation or coloring agents, or flavor and appetite enhancers.

 

  • They should use only natural methods of breeding, with no artificial insemination

 

As you can see, there are quite a few regulations which have to be followed and it does make organic methods expensive due to higher production costs, therefore pushing up the price of the beef. Other challenges for the farmer include sourcing organic feed, crop and pasture management, alternative animal welfare methods as well as a 2-3 year turn round for getting everything in place. An example of this is crop production to organic methods. However when all said and done, there is evidence to suggest that more and more people are concerned about what they are putting into their bodies, as well as the welfare of animals and as a result are willing to pay more for organic produce, including beef. In fact, recent studies by the organic trade organization showed that sales of organic products in the US and Canada topped 16.7 billion dollars in 2010 and over two thirds of supermarkets are now stocking these products. So if statistics are anything to go by, it seems that we really do prefer to eat organic,

 

Of course the best way to purchase organic products including beef is at your local farmers market, where you can meet the producer in question and get the facts about their products, straight from the horse’s mouth

 

So the next time that you are in your local branch of Metro, take a look at the label and buy organic. Yes it may well cost a couple of bucks more, but you’ll be glad that you did!

Ten Great Tips for Eating Out Healthily In Ontario

Eating Out Healthily in OntarioWith the fast paced life that most of us now lead it comes as no surprise that eating out is becoming more and more popular. In fact, according to the Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association  recent figures show that Ontarians eat out at a rate of 1 meal in 10. Eating out can be a great treat and is a convenient option when you simply don’t have the time to cook a meal. However if you do eat out regularly, the calories can soon build up if you are not careful. So with this in mind, here are ten great tips for healthy eating when dining out.

 

Keep it regular

Yes, we’re all guilty of a little fast food now and then and in moderation it isn’t all bad, but avoid the temptation to ‘supersize’. Instead keep it regular and enjoy.

 

Think nutrition

On many occasions restaurants will have a special on that is good on price, but not necessarily on your waistline. If you can think nutrition over price, then you are well on your way to eating out healthily.

 

Pay attention to cooking methods

Order foods that have been steamed, grilled, stir fried or baked and avoid foods that have been fried or deep fried.

 

Lower your sodium intake

Try to avoid foods which have been smoked or have been made with Teriyaki or soy sauce. These generally contain high levels of sodium. Instead keep a look out for ‘light’ versions of these sauces and if you need a soy or Teriyaki fix, then ask for them on the side.

 

Side dishes are okay

If you are feeling extra hungry, then side dishes are okay, but try to order extra vegetables or salad. Avoid extra fries or foods that have been deep fried like onion rings.

 

Fibre intake

if you are going to eat pizza, pasta or wraps etc, then find a restaurant that offers a whole wheat version. There are many restaurants in the Ontario area that offer this, it’s just a case of knowing where.

 

Drink with your meal

Clearly this is not a statement to drink loads of alcohol with your meal, although one small glass of wine or a beer probably isn’t going to do any harm .However if you are in a fast food joint it is always best to avoid the fizzy drinks and settle for bottled water. If you drink plenty of water with your meal, it will fill you up, so you won’t feel quite as hungry.

 

Think balance

Okay so we all may over indulge from time to time, but the secret to retaining a healthy lifestyle is to try to balance that out. If for example you have eaten more than you should have, then cut back the next day.

 

Check out nutrition values

If you have gone out on a whim, it might pay to ask to see the nutritional value of your menu. More and more restaurants are placing this on their menu’s. Or alternatively, if your night out has been planned, then why not try to surf the restaurant’s website for any information.

 

If you are on the go

If you know that you have a busy day ahead, then try to pack healthy snacks such as granola bars, fruit cups, and low fat juices to keep you going throughout the day.

 
There you have it, ten great ways in which you can still be healthy even when faced with the dilemma of eating out.
 

The Increasing Popularity In Pick Your Own Farms – 5 reasons Why You Should Give It A Go

Pick Your Own FarmThere is no getting away from it, pick your own farms are more popular now than they ever have been and Ontario Canada is no exception. So whether you live in London, Barrie, Hamilton, Niagara, or Toronto there is a pick your own farm somewhere near you. If you are looking for seasonality and ‘out of the ground’ freshness, then there is nothing finer.

 

When it comes to healthy eating, then by using a PYO farm you know that your food has absolutely no carbon footprint. Whereas a chain store supermarket on the other hand will ship in fruit and veg from all over the world that probably would have travelled hundreds, if not thousands of miles to arrive on the shelf at your supermarket. So PYO reduces those air miles.

 

With the increasing popularity of pick your own establishments let’s have a look at 5 more reasons, why you really should.

 

Saving money

Yes you may have to put a little more gas in your vehicle to get to a pick your own establishment , but you don’t have to pay the added costs of someone else picking the fruit or vegetable, plus packaging, storage and shipping costs. This means that the farmer can pass that saving directly on to the consumer.

 

Picking perfect produce

How many times have you got your container of fruit or vegetables home from the supermarket to find an over ripe or under ripe one lurking at the bottom. This is not only annoying, it’s also wasteful. When you pick your own, you control what goes in the container so this means that every single fruit contained within is going to be at it’s very best.

 

Getting back to nature

Even if you’re not a compete outdoor lover you have to admit that being out in the open, getting your hands dirty, listening to the birds and admiring the scenery on a lovely sunny day, is a great way to purchase fruit and veg. Besides, if you have kids, then they too can discover what a strawberry or potato plant looks like. On top of this they’ll learn how to pick the finest, and to tell when something is ripe and you can’t teach that in the branch of your local Metro store.

 

Keeping the farmers in a job

As you are probably aware farmers are under heavy competition from foreign imports and often cannot compete with the big boys in terms of price. By supporting local pick your own farms you are keeping them in business. It may well be true that local food costs that little bit more, but when you think about all the painstaking work that goes into growing, watering, harvesting and packing the produce for the supermarkets, you probably wouldn’t mind paying that little bit extra for top quality fresh produce.

 

Knowing where your food comes from

A great thing about pick your own is that it is easy to understand where your food has come from, you’ve probably met the grower and the staff who work for them. You will know whether they use pesticides or not and you will know their farming practices. You just don’t have that connection with foods bought from the food store.

 

If you haven’t tried to PYO then might I suggest that you give it a try, you’ll be surprised at how much fun it really is.

Why Are Farmers Markets So Popular In Ontario Canada?

Ontario Canada FarmerWith an area comprising of over 1 million square kilometers it probably comes as no surprise that Ontario has a large farming community. At the epicenter of these farming communities is the farmers market. It may also come as no surprise that farmers markets in Ontario are booming and it’s no wonder when you consider that they offer organic produce using healthy farming practices and are a great source of food which is actually good for you.

 

If you are planning  a visit, then here are some of the finest farmers markets on offer in the Ontario area

 

St Jacobs Farmers Market

This is one of the largest farmers markets in Canada and is open all year round. It has over 100 food and craft vendors selling a variety of local home grown organic produce. St Jacobs is situated in the Waterloo area of Western Ontario and is home to over 4,000 Old Order Mennonites who farm the surrounding areas using organic methods.

 

Cambridge farmers market

This market was established way back in 1830 and as a result is the third oldest market in Canada. It has remained at the same venue since then and has maintained its status as a true ‘farmers market’. If you are looking for organic meats, organic fruit and vegetables or general organic produce, you can find it here. All the vendors reside within 100 kms of the venue giving this market a truly local flavor. With close to 100 stalls it is constantly ranked in the country’s top ten markets to visit.

 

Carp farmers market

Carp is one of the largest producer based farmers markets in eastern Ontario and offers a wide selection of of seriously great organic foods. Whether it be the best locally produced maple syrup, or some of the finest organic vegetables that you will see, it is well worth a visit. They also hold an annual garlic festival which can draw crowds of up to 3,500 people.

 

This is merely a selection of some of the best farmers markets that Ontario has to offer. The main reason that shoppers tend to really love these markets is because they can purchase first class products directly from the person who has produced them. This means that when it comes to food, the purchaser doesn’t have to worry about any additives or preservatives contained within. The producer can answer any questions about the product and they can be rest assured that they are buying healthy produce.

 

There is no getting away from the fact that farmers markets are also good for the community as a whole. They bring people together in a way like no other and will attract extra business for restaurants and stores in the surrounding areas. Finally the farmers love them because it gives them a way of connecting with consumers who are willing to buy healthy organic produce. On top of this, it can be an important source of income for the farmer, who might otherwise struggle.

 

Given the sense of heritage, community and support, that farmers markets bring to Ontario is it any wonder that we love them so?