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Pregnancy Foods to Avoid – A New Mom’s Must Read!

oysters

As someone who wants to start a family one day, I’m often weary of just how many foods an expecting mom has to avoid. Many of these foods may be a routine part of the female’s diet, which makes 37 weeks (or up to 42 weeks) feel excruciatingly long. But, as you can imagine, “better safe than sorry” is a good rule to abide by if you are a mommy to be.

Following a well balanced diet, such as the one outlined by Canada’s Food Guide, is the first step to eating well for your pregnancy. However, today we’ll focus on what foods to avoid during pregnancy. Here’s a simple list of what pregnant women should avoid to protect their own and their unborn baby’s health:

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

  • Unpasteurized cheese and dairy products
  • All soft cheeses, even if they are pasteurized (such as Brie, Camembert, Feta)
  • Deli meats
  • Cured meats (such as salami, prosciutto, uncooked hot dogs)
  • Raw and undercooked meat and eggs (such as steak tartar, raw egg, runny egg whites or yolks, food dishes with undercooked eggs)
  • Raw and undercooked fish and seafood (such as sushi, raw oysters)

Listeria Bacteria

The reason why you should avoid the above foods during pregnancy is because they may contain the listeria bacteria, which grows on foods we often do not cook. Women who experience a listeria infection (also known as listeriosis) have an increased risk of stillbirth, premature labor, spontaneous abortion, and neonatal infection. If you’ve had any of the foods lists and are experiencing the symptoms of listeriosis (fever, headache, nausea, and vomiting), visit your family doctor immediately.

What About Other Food Bugs?

While listeria gets a lot of bad press (and rightfully so!), we must not forget that other bacteria (such as Salmonella, and E.coli) can be equally as devastating. Therefore, expecting moms must be diligent when preparing meals to ensure their food safety practices are up to par.

Food Safety Rules

  1. ALWAYS separate raw foods (meat, poultry, seafood, eggs) from other foods while cooking AND in the fridge. Keep raw foods at the bottom of the fridge where they cannot drip onto other foods. If this isn’t always possible, place these raw foods onto a bowl or plate with a raised edge to catch all the drippings and make sure they do not touch cooked or ready-to-eat foods nearby.
  2. USE a separate cutting board and knife for raw foods and cooked foods. If you don’t have two sets of cutting boards and knives, you may use the same board and knife ONLY IF you wash both of them thoroughly with hot soapy water between uses. If you’re using a wooden cutting board and you notice it’s got cracks in it, replace it with a new one. You want to avoid using cracked cutting boards because bacteria may be dwelling deep within those cracks, which are hard to clean properly. Consider using  plastic or glass cutting boards to avoid this issue or simply replace your wooden cutting board once it begins to crack.
  3. BEWARE of keeping foods within the DANGER ZONE of 4-60 degrees Celsius (40-140 degrees Fahrenheit) where bacteria can grow very rapidly. Keep cold foods in the fridge below 4 degrees Celsius (40 degrees Fahrenheit) and hot foods above 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit). Defrost frozen foods in the fridge overnight (or over several nights for large items like turkey) instead of on the counter at room temperature. After meals, cool hot foods down quickly and refrigerate as soon as possible. Remember that bacteria grows most quickly in room temperature, and more slowly at cold and hot temperatures.
  4. PRACTICE good hand hygiene by washing your hands with warm soapy water for AT LEAST 20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” in the your head twice) before and after handling food, touching pets, cleaning or working, and using the washroom.
  5. COOK all foods to their safe internal cooking temperature before consumption to kill off bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Using a food thermometer will be the easiest and safest way to check whether you’ve cooked something until it’s hot enough for food safety.

 

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Is Frozen the New Fresh?

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When it comes to fruits and vegetables, many people would argue that fresh is best. If you are a member of this school of thought, take a seat before reading any further. The truth is, frozen and canned produce can be just as nutritious as fresh produce. How is this possible, you ask? Well, it’s because frozen and canned produce is picked at the peak of ripeness when nutrient levels are highest. This means that you can enjoy all the goodness of nutrient rich produce all year round. Seal in the best of summer this year by freezing or canning all that delicious local produce from the farmer’s market so you can enjoy it all year.

Here are some reasons to celebrate!

  1. Convenience: Frozen and canned produce is usually peeled, pitted, and sliced, which means a lot of the work involved with cooking has already been done for you!
  2. Cost effective: Fresh fruit can be more expensive when it is sold outside of the local growing season.
  3. Year-round supply: Sometimes, transporting fresh produce to remote living areas can be difficult, so canned and frozen produce are a practical way for people to enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables all year round.

Now, I realize that the skeptic in you may be wondering whether frozen or canned produce is higher in sugar and salt. The answer is – not always. With today’s demand on healthy living, you can just as easily find frozen and canned produce without any added sugar and salt. Specifically, look for no-salt-added canned vegetables, fruit canned in its own juices instead of sugar syrup, and plain frozen fruits and vegetables. If you want to be extra careful, try rinsing your canned produce to remove additional sugar or salt before eating.

Jump start your way to having more fruits and vegetables!

Now that you know fresh, frozen, and canned produce can be nutritionally the same, there’s no hiding behind the excuse of “it’s too hard to enough fruits and veggies.” Sneak more produce in your diet with the following tips:

Toss a handful of frozen berries into fresh yogurt or hot cereal in the morning

  • Blend milk, yogurt, and frozen fruit together for a yummy smoothie treat
  • Build a tasty fruit salad with canned fruit mixed with some fresh seasonal fruit
  • Liven up your favorite soup, stew, or pasta sauce with a splash of color from canned or frozen vegetables
  • Power up your comfort foods by adding antioxidant-rich vegetables like frozen broccoli and cauliflower to macaroni and cheese
  • Tantalize your taste buds by adding fresh basil and ricotta cheese to canned tomatoes for a quick and easy pasta sauce 
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Best Tea for Your Health

tea

When it comes to drinking tea, every culture in the world has its own opinion of what’s the healthiest. So among all the varieties out there – black, green, white, red, herbal, oolong – plus the mixes and blends at gourmet tea shops, which one TRULY offers the most health benefits?

Overall, studies have found that different types of tea offer similar and unique health benefits. Here’s why:

Polyphenols – Some studies have shown that the polyphenols present in tea may reduce the risk of certain cancers, prevent blood clotting, and lower cholesterol levels. There’s also been support that drinking tea improves our body’s immune system, helping us to fight off colds and viruses.

Did You Know?

Black, Green, White, and Oolong teas are all derived from the same tree known as Camellia sinensis. The difference between these four varieties is simply the amount of processing it goes through. The more processing, the darker the leaves, the darker the tea. Not surprisingly then, white tea is the least processed and it is derived from young leaves that are silvery white because they are too young to have developed chorophyll, the component of plants responsible for their signature green color. Don’t be mistaken though, just because black, green, and oolong teas go through more processing that results in a different taste profile and color, all of them contain polyphenols. This means you’ll experience the same health benefits no matter which type you choose!

What About Matcha?

Personally, I LOVE Japanese matcha because of the rich depth of flavor and it’s vibrant color. And while a hot cup of traditionally brewed matcha green tea is incredible in its own way, I have welcomed the addition of matcha in modern delights such as lattes, ice-creams, and baked goods too. The unique health benefit of matcha is that is contains an antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (short name=EGCG). This EGCG compound is over 100 times greater in Japanese matcha than in brewed Chinese green tea because matcha powder is produced by grinding entire tea leaves from the Camellia sinesis plant. The EGCG compound not only performs as a free radical fighting antioxidant in our bodies, but it’s been shown in some studies to improve weight loss by increasing the body’s ability to metabolize fat.

How About Rooibos and Herbal Tea?

Interestingly, rooibos tea and herbal teas are not technically teas. This is because they are brewed infusions made with herbs, flowers, roots, spices, or other plant parts that are not derived from the leaves of the Camellia plant. Therefore, these two types of “tea” (actual technical name would be “tisane”) do not have polyphenols and their associated health benefits. Having said this, rooibos and herbal “teas” are plant-based, which means they have their own naturally occurring antioxidants that protect themselves against extended sun exposure. This means rooibos and herbal teas are still a great choice, especially in comparison to juice or pop when it comes to quenching thirst.

Decaf or Regular?

When it comes to caffeine, a healthy rule of thumb is to have no more than about 2 cups of coffee or tea a day (1 cup = 250mL = 8 ounces). The reason for this is because caffeine can interrupt sleep, make us pee more frequently (which can make us lose important minerals and electrolytes such as calcium, chloride, potassium, and sodium).

A cup of tea can provide about 20 – 87mg caffeine.
A cup of coffee provides about 173mg caffeine.
The recommended daily limit for caffeine is 300mg per day.
Note: Don’t forget that caffeine is present in chocolate, soft drinks, and energy drinks too. So if you’ve been told by your physician that it’s really important to watch your caffeine intake, always read the ingredients label of your food product to make sure. This is especially important if you’re pregnant and have been told by your doctor to limit your caffeine intake. (Caffeine can interfere with the mother and the fetus’ sleep and high intake has been associated with higher rates of miscarriage even though there’s not enough evidence to know for sure at this time.)

Iced Tea or Hot Tea?

Expert researchers have found that the healthful polyphenols in brewed tea are consistently many times higher than bottled tea beverages, which sometimes contain no polyphenols after processing. So whenever you can, choose to drink hot teas. And don’t wait until it cools too long because polyphenols degrade and disappear as it is steeped in hot water, so drink it while it’s hot (without burning your tongue, of course!) to enjoy the highest level of benefit.

This post is dedicated to Miss Iris Chau for her thoughtful question of “Which Tea is the Healthiest?” on our Facebook fanpage. Thanks Iris!

Tips on How to Boost Your Immune System

build up your immune system

In beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, we have been experiencing an incredibly beautiful autumn season. The sun has been shining and there’s been very little rainfall. Even still, the temperature drop has triggered many children and adults to get sick.

 

If you’re one of such people or know someone who is under the weather, be sure to share the following tips on how you can boost your immune system fast and build up your immune system so you reduce your chances of getting sick again.

 

How to Boost Your Immune System Naturally

 

Ever heard that taking vitamins to boost your immune system really works? Current research tells us that Vitamin C is not our remedy for how to get rid of a cold. However, it can protect you from infections by keeping your immune system healthy. Vitamic C also helps to prevent cell damage and may reduce your risk for certain cancers and other chronic diseases. As a bonus, it helps your body absorb iron from plant based foods and also contributes to the healthy growth and repair of bones, teeth, skin, and other tissues.

 

Some people experience digestive problems from taking high doses of Vitamin C, so instead of taking a high dose supplement, increase your intake of vitamin C rich foods instead. Adults typically need about 75 to 120mg of Vitamin C per day. Smokers need to take an additional 35mg/day. Do not exceed 2000mg per day.

 

Vitamin C – Rich Foods, Courtesy of the Dietitians of Canada

 

Food Serving size Vitamin C (mg)
Vegetables and Fruit
Vegetables
Red and yellow peppers, raw 125 mL (½ cup) 101-144
Red and yellow peppers, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 121-132
Green peppers, raw 125 mL (½ cup) 63
Broccoli, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 54
Cabbage, red, raw 250 mL (1 cup) 54
Brussels sprouts, cooked 125 mL (4 sprouts) 38-52
Kohlrabi, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 47
Broccoli, raw 125 mL (½ cup) 42
Snow peas, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 41
Broccoli, frozen, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 39
Cabbage, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 30
Caulifower, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 29
Kale, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 28
Cauliflower, raw 125 mL (½ cup) 26
Rapini, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 24
Potato, with skin, cooked 1 medium 17-24
Bok choy, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 23
Sweet potato, with skin, cooked 1 medium 22
Asparagus, frozen, cooked 6 spears 22
Balsalm pear/bitter melon 125 mL (½ cup) 22
Turnip greens, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 21
Snow peas, raw 125 mL (½ cup) 20
Collards, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 18
Tomato, raw 1 medium 16
Tomato sauce, canned 125 mL (½ cup) 15
Fruit
Guava 1 fruit 206
Papaya ½ fruit 94
Kiwifruit 1 large 84
Orange 1 medium 59-83
Lychee 10 fruits 69
Strawberries 125 mL (½ cup) 52
Pineapple 125 mL (½ cup) 39-49
Grapefruit, pink or red ½ fruit 38-47
Clementine 1 fruit 36
Cantaloupe 125 mL (½ cup) 31
Mango ½ fruit 29
Avocado, Florida ½ fruit 26
Soursop 125 mL (½ cup) 25
Tangerine/mandarin 1 medium 22
Persimmon 125 mL (½ cup) 17
Berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries) 125 mL (½ cup) 14-17
Honeydew melon 125 mL (½ cup) 16
Juice
Orange juice 125 mL (½ cup) 43-66
Pineapple juice, vitamin C added 125 mL (½ cup) 58
Apple juice, vitamin C added 125 mL (½ cup) 54
Grapefruit juice 125 mL (½ cup) 36-50
Fruit and vegetable cocktail 125 mL (½ cup) 40
Vegetable juice cocktail 125 mL (½ cup) 35
Grape juice, vitamin C added 125 mL (½ cup) 23-33
Guava nectar 125 mL (½ cup) 26
Cranberry juice 125 mL (½ cup) 12
Grain Products This food group contains very little of this nutrient
Milk and Alternatives This food group contains very little of this nutrient
Meat and Alternatives
Chestnuts (Japanese, Chinese), without shell 60 mL (¼ cup) 23-24
Liver (pork, chicken, turkey), cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 17-21
Clams, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 17

 

 

How to Boost Your Child’s Immune System (works for adults too)

 

Step 1) Practice good hand hygiene. This cannot be overstated. When it doubt, wash hands.

 

Step 2) Include vitamin C rich foods in their diet as well.

 

Step 3) Boost your antioxidant intake by taking in fruits and vegetables with vibrant colors such as bright red bell peppers and tomatoes, luscious blueberries and plump blackberries.

 

Step 4) Practice food safety when preparing meals. Use separate cutting boards for raw and cooked meats and wash all produce very well. Use serving utensils at shared mealtimes when dining with someone who is sick.