OK so I could eat oatmeal like every day of my life, and actually that is mostly true (except for the past few weeks, we have been on a waffle craze!). But otherwise I think I have been eating oatmeal like every day for the last 7 years, No JOKE!
But…. it is nice to change it up every once in a while! So when GoGO Quinoa shared some of their amazing products with me I was up for the challenge of incorporating some of them into some of my staple recipes! Actually I wish I came up with this recipe a few years back when my son was reacting to oats. This oat-less recipe is perfect as a change to the normal oats for breakfast or if you are sensitive to oats. An the bonus is that it is SUPER packed with protein. Perfect after a morning workout or to keep you full and satisfied for a long day!
Hope you enjoy the recipe as much as we did, and don’t forget to share your creations with me if you try this recipe. I love and very much appreciate any comments or feedbacks you guys have!
Wow I could get a PhD just on this topic alone! There is just so much research on this and my nerd brain is both so excited and overwhelmed. So let me just state that this is a very simplified review of what I discovered after some digging around in the research literature. Even though I have a phD and am well versed in understanding sound research, I am not an expert on fungi or their biology. That being said the information and suggestions in this post are based on scientific facts and published papers.
If you are here just for the solution and not the nerdy stuff let me just leave this here… mold sucks, mytotoxins are worse. While most nuts will be contaminated with mold this does not mean they have mytotoxins present. It you take nothing else from this post it is this, PICK OVER, RINSE, HEAT, STORE your nuts and seeds!
OK let me start by stating that I eat, and will continue to eat, grains, seeds and nuts even after writing this post. I am not going to try and freak you out or convince you that you shouldn’t eat food and that everything is going to kill you. That’s just not helpful for anyone! I didn’t discover that the food industry is trying to poison us or has some cover up scheme. What I found was quite the opposite, there is a lot of research going on behind the scenes addressing this issue. Actually, the intended purpose of this article is to inform you on the dangers of consuming nuts that have been improperly handled and stored and the steps you can take to correct any mishandlings and safely store your food.
I started looking into this when I came across an article one day, ironically when I was eating some oatmeal slathered with peanut butter. The article stating that tree nuts, seed and grains can foster various microorganisms including toxigenic and pathogenic fungal species, AKA MOLD! Removing the spoon from my mouth and ending my morning meal I tried not to freak out and while I quickly hit up goggle… after coming to the same conclusion that goggle is not my friend, I went on to read some actual facts published by real scientists regarding mold infestation in our precious peanut butter!
Before I delve into what I found let me just clear up some terminology so we can all be on the same page. Mold (or mould) is a fungal species that require moisture to grow and organic material to produce energy. While there are over 100,000 types of mold spores, some of them can synthesize (or make) mytotoxins when under the right condition. When these conditions are met, fungi proliferate (or grow) into colonies and mytotoxin levels become high. While mold on its own can have determental effects to our health, the mytotoxins they produce are actually poisonous to humans. Their long term effects includes cancer and immune deficiency problems too name a few.
The fungi that produces mycotoxins in food fall into 2 groups: those that invade before harvest (field fungi), and those that invade after harvest (storage fungi). The field fungi disappear after harvest if handled correctly by the producer (by drying them). So field fungi in theory should not concern us because we are going to assume that our food is handled properly by the food producer and manufacturer. So what is partially in our control (because this also applies to grocery store shelves and bulk bins) is the storage fungi. That is the fungi we want to eliminate. Fungi growth in this state depend on physical factors, such as moisture (water activity), temperature, and damage as determining factors of whether storage fungi will make an appearance. So these are the things we need to address. But first the low down on mytotoxins…
The low down on Mytotoxins:
While there are many types of mytotoxins, there are 5 groups that occur in food, deoxynivalenol/nivalenol; zearalenone; ochratoxin; fumonisins; and aflatoxins. The table below summarizes some of the places they are found and their effects on our health (it is not a complete summary by any means and is missing many nuts and grains but you get the idea). Fumonisins and aflatoxins are of the greatest concern to our health and the most present in grains and nuts (Tournes et al., 2015). Aflatoxins was classified as a class 1 carcinogen by WHO, and interact with the function of the immune system, disrupt the digestive and urinary system, the reproductive systems, nervous system, are mutagenic in bacteria (affect DNA).. pretty much they suck!! Now before you dismiss this mytotoxin as rare let me just state that many of the research I read found positive results for Aspergillis, the mold that produces this toxin, when testing nuts for fungi. Meaning those beloved nuts you eat every day has the potential to make you seriously sick!
But are mytotoxins really in my nuts?
I do not need to sell you on the harmful effects of mytotoxins, most people get that they are bad and want to avoid them. So before I freak you guys out anymore I want to say that although mold produces mytotoxins, they are not always a packaged deal. So despite all the terrifying blogs and fear mongering going on just take a breath. Remember, like I said above in order for mold to produce mytotoxins the right conditions need too be met. In fact despite the vast reports of positive mold samples from grains, nuts and seed (Abdel-Gawad et al., 1993, Tournes et al., 2015, Jiménez et al., 1991), positive mytotoxin levels are much less common (Abdel-Gawad et al., 1993). But this is not a green light for enjoying your raw nuts. Rare does not mean zero and we still have the mold spores to deal with! Mold on its own can make you very sick! But the main idea is we want to eliminate the possibility of having food that ‘may’ contain or eventually produce mytotoxins! Aka remove the mold issue so there is no chance of encountering mytotoxins!
Alright now for some scary before the solution, hang in there with me. The main conclusion I got from researching mytotoxins is that they are almost impossible to eliminate once a food is contaminated with them. However, most of the contamination seems to occur in the field, before the product goes to market and the contaminated food is discharded. While our food organizations regulate the amount of acceptable mytotoxins in foods that go to market, the detection is problematic because aflatoxins are not evenly distributed throughout a bulk shipment. Actually according to the USDA ” aflatoxins are considered unavoidable contaminants of food and feed, even when good manufactoring practices are followed”. Whaaaaa, ya no thanks! You know it’s times like these that I thank my stars that I am vegan. I wont even go into the amount of mytotoxins in animal feed and cow milk, guys it is scary!! So I know one HUGE way I am reducing my exposure is by eliminating animal products (for this and sooo many other reasons, you know sentient beings and all).
So what can we do about this, well we know that heat treatment works on mold spores, BUT mytotoxins can not be destroyed by heat. Research on the removal of mytotoxins during food preparation found that cooking, frying and roasting were unsuccessful at removing mytotoxins from food. In fact Kaminmura concluded that even after boiling at 100-120 degrees C for 45 minutes the amount of mytotoxins remained at 100%!!!! That’s because the decomposition temperature of Aflatoxins is 237-306 degrees Celsius (Jalili 2015). While some methods may be better then others (pressure cooking rice can reduce mytotoxins by 78-88 perecent) the main conclusion is that the removal of mytotoxins depends on many factors and is extremely hard to eliminate fully. So the biggest thing we can do is to eliminate and remove any storage fungi to reduce the POSSIBILITY of mytotoxins growing on our food. This means you want to buy fresh nuts, seeds and grans from a trusted company and store them properly, sorry bulk barn! While this still wont address possible mytotoxins that may be present in our food this is a huge start. We can not live life fearing food, our bodies are very good at detoxing and eliminating waste. If you are healthy and have good functioning detox pathways (gut, liver etc) then the odd trace exposure isnt going to kill you or make you sick. The issue arises with large or chronic exposure. In the end if you are concerned then do not make nuts, seeds and grains a huge part of your diet. This falls in line with having a well balanced whole food diet anyways!
But how much of an issue is this? Just how infected are my nuts?
Without going into to much detail and making this a review paper rather then a blog post what I found was that when researchers tested samples they almost always found some contamination of mold. The percentages and amount of mold they see vary with each paper and each nut but the general idea is that you can almost guarantee you will find some species present. As for which nuts are the worst, it seems like walnuts, peanut, pine nuts, almonds and cashews rank high on the board. Tournes er al., (2015 ) found Aspergillus (the mold that can produce the mytotoxin aflatoxin) in all the nut samples he tested, with walnuts and pine nuts testing the highest for both mold and yeast. But remember, mold does not mean mytotxins, yet!
Now for the good news…
Fungi can not grow or produce mytotoxins in dry foods. So drying will be your best friend here and this extends to how you store your nuts and grains after you dry or cook them as well. Moisture is your enemy. The great news is that mold is killed by heat so the removal of mold is actually very simple. Rinse, then cook or heat to dry!
You also want to pay attention to any physical damage as this is a contributing factor to storage fungi. If there is damage to the nut then moisture can get deep within making it harder to fully dry. This is a huge concern for nut butters because, lets face it companies will more likely use the damaged nuts at the bottom of the barrel that are too ugly to package and sell. While I was not able to find any research on the presence of mold in nut butter despite this idea I still feel safe consuming butters. Many brands use dry roasted nuts and seeds and or pasteurization which in theory should destroy any mold present. Plus these nuts and seeds should be fresh which further reduces the possibility of mytotoxins.
OK so what can we do at home to help reduce our exposure to mold (and possibly mytotoxins) from nuts, seeds and grains? Here are a few of the procedures suggested by researchers that we can implement fairly easily:
THE TAKE HOME MESSAGE: PICK OVER, RINSE, DRY, STORE
1.Handpicking: Carefully inspect your grains and nuts for signs of mold and dischard any that look moldy, discoloured or shriveled. Some additional steps you can take are to buy grains and nuts as fresh as possible, ideally from a local and trusted brand. Reach out to the company and ask them what their procedure is for testing for mytotoxins, how they prepare and select the nuts and if they pasteurize.
2.Rinsing and soaking: This information was harder to come by but the overall conclusion I found was that washing can reduce mold and water soluable mytotoxins by 65-69 percent in some foods. Without boring you to death, the take home is that this is a good step to take even though it wont eliminate or deactivate all the mold or mytotoxins that may be present. Researchers concluded that soaking in a 0.1 M solution of water and sodium carbonate for 24-72 hours seems to be the best practice for your chance of eliminating the most amount of mold. However, they also conclude that a simple water rinse is effective at reducing mold spores. Since the research on this is scarce, recommendations of soaking times per nut or grain just doesn’t exist yet. And while there are countless blog on the recommended soaking times for nuts, seeds and grains (link here )(and here), I believe these guidelines are based on soaking for the purpose of increasing the nutrient bioavailable (activating them) or reducing phytic acid and not for mold reduction.
HUGE cavet here, I will need to do some more research on this but my understanding is that too much water is not a good thing. This is a wake up call for me because just before writing this I soaked my cashews for like 24 hours…oooops! Remember mold loves moisture! So make sure to under soak rather then over soak if you are concerned and rinse a lot! The real mold reducer will be the heat treatment, aka dehydrating or cooking.
3.Dehydrate: while mytotoxins are heat resistant this will be a important step to reducing mold spores and their ability to proliferate. Remember mold loves moisture so you want to eliminate as much moisture as possible! Again the procedure for dehydrating nuts, seeds and whole grains are well published (like here). I wouldn’t worry much about the exact procedure but more on getting them as dry as possible! 12 hours at 150 degrees seems like the gold standard.
The dehydrator I use is from Salton that I got off amazon (here) . It is easy to use, good quality and fairly inexpensive. For our family this is a good size however we are not over consumers of nuts.
4.Proper storage: After buying good quality nuts, seeds and grains, picking thru, rinsing and drying make sure to not undo your work! You will want to continue to minimize exposure to moisture, temperature fluctuations and damage. If possible store them in a glass jar in the freezer or a cold dark place.
So the biggest take away is to rinse (or soak) and DRY your nuts, seeds and when possible grains. So that is it for now, if you made it this far thanks for reading. There are also debates and research going into nut allergies and mold but that would be for another post. If you are interested in that leave a comment below!
PICK OVER, RINSE, HEAT, STORE
Abdel-Gawad KM1, Zohri AA.(1993) Fungal flora and mycotoxins of six kinds of nut seeds for human consumption in Saudi Arabia. Mycopathologia. Oct;124(1):55-64.
Kamimura, H. (1989). Removal of mytotoxins during food processing. Mycotoxins and Phycotoxins ’88, Amsterdam: Elsevier Science Publisher pp 169-176.
Karlovsky, P., Suman, M., Berthiller, F., De Meester, J., Eisenbrand, G., Perrin, I., Dussort, P. (2016). Impact of food processing and detoxification treatments on mycotoxin contamination. Mycotoxin Research, 32(4), 179–205. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12550-016-0257-7
Jiménez, M., Mateo, R., Querol, A., Huerta, T., Hernández, E..(1991) Mycotoxins and mycotoxigenic moulds in nuts and sunflower seeds for human consumption.
Locksley. Trenholm, H & L. Charmley, Lynne & B. Prelusky, Dan & M. Warner, Robert. (1992). Washing procedures using water or sodium-carbonate solutions for the decontamination of 3 cereals contaminated with deoxynivalenol and zearalenone. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry – J AGR FOOD CHEM. 40. 10.1021/jf00023a021.
Mahoney, N. and Molyneux, R.J., 2004. Phytochemical inhibition of aflatoxigenicity in Aspergillus flavus by constituents of walnut (Juglans regia). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 52: 1882-1889.
Ok so the rice part of this dish is like the easiest dish to make! It was actually one of the first dishes I made regularly in grad school. Back then I use to smoother it with cheese making it super gooey but honestly, I don’t miss it one bit! Now I can enjoy this meal without feeling like crap afterwords (physically and emotionally ….because of the whole baby cow thing and all!)
The falafel part of this dish is a newer recipe for me. I have been developing this recipe all summer. It started as a bean burger recipe actually, but I quickly discovered that it works amazingly as a falafel or meatball recipe as well. The secret is the cassava flour which helps make it crispy and give it the ‘burger’ texture. So whatever you do don’t sub this ingredient.
Actually I came into this recipe by accident (like most of my recipes actually). I was up at the cottage for the first time as a vegan and forgot that we barbecue on Saturdays. I didn’t want to be that vegan that BBQs tofu so I was trying to think of something that wouldn’t make me stick out more then I already was, lol. Anyways, I had brought up some cooked beans and thought I could try and make something out of it. The only gluten free flour I had brought up was cassava (for my crispy tofu) and I was craving pickles (I was very pregnant at the time) and out popped the beginnings of this recipe! It was super yummy but I have been tweaking it to be perfect! SO I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
Make sure to try it as a burger or meatball and let me know if you do, I would love the feedback on what you think. This makes an amazing base recipe as well so feel free to experiment by adding things like mushrooms or kraut or spicy ketchup into the mix!! Tag me with your creations I would love to see that!!
A perfect meal that comes together quick and easy for those rushed nights
2 cups of cooked basmati rice
1 can of black beans (14 oz) rinsed or 2 cups of cooked rice
1 cup of frozen corn
1 cup of raw spinach, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 white onion, minced
1 cup of salsa (I love the Neils Brother mild)
1 bunch of fresh cilantro
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl mix all the ingredients, except for the cilantro. Mix until well combined.
Pour rice into a oven safe dish and bake for 25 minutes or until the top is crispy.
Top with cilantro and plate to enjoy!
Cassava Bean Falafel
2 cups of cooked chickpeas or 1 can. Reserve 1 tbs of the liquid (aquafaba) to add in.
1 1/2-2 cups of cassava flour
2 medium pickles, minced
2 tbs of dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbs ground cumin
A pinch of ground saffron and ground sumac (Not necessary ingredients but it makes it extra delish if you have them to add)
1. In a medium mixing bowl add in all the ingredients and using your hands (or a spoon) mash it all together.
2. Form into falafels or burgers and add to a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat. Bake for 40 minutes flipping half way
Enjoy! And don’t forget to tag me if you make this recipe (@at.my.table)! I love to see your creations.
OK so when I make ‘curry’ I just make it with the flavors that I enjoy. I have actually never really followed a curry recipe so I am not even sure if this is considered a curry hahaha. But I find curry and stews so easy and simple to make. The prep is the only thing that takes some time, otherwise these types of meals are so perfect for busy nights. You can even prep the veggie ahead of time so it is less work. And the bonus is that it is a great recipe to use when you need to clean out your fridge. Perfect for scraps or veggies that need to be used up. Because let’s face it food waste is a serious issue now a days!
Guys don’t be afraid to cook without a recipe. Make a few or read a few recipes to get an idea of the flavors you like. Then try just cook adding in the spices you like. Take out the veggies or foods you need to use up, lay them on the counter and come up with a dish. I promise you will surprise yourself!
Also don’t be aftide to awap out veggies, spices, or grains from a recipe. Experiment! Some of my best recipes happened because I had to substitute for an ingredient I didn’t have. Actually the vast majority of my recipes happened while I was ‘winging it’ ! And I don’t think of myself as a chef or even someone with a good palate or knack for what spices taste good together. Cooking doesn’t have to be stressful! When you make a recipe your unsure of then make a small amount and dont have high expectation, that way your not setting yourself up for failure…. I never expect my kids to love a recipe that I am unsure of! As you get use to what works you’ll get better and better at winging it and start surprising yourself with some amazing recipes!
OK on to the recipe…
Oh wait one more thing, I recently got a mortar and pestle and it has been a game changer in the taste department. I bought seeds instead of the ground spices (like cumin, cardamon, and fennel…) and started grinding them myself. The flavor is so much better. It is way stronger and richer and I highly recommend this extra step. Plus it’s fun to grind up!
For the salad
–1 white onion
-5 garlic cloves
-1 cup lentils
-2 tsp curry seeds
-2 tsp fennel seeds
-10 cardamon pods
-2 tsp paprika
-2 tsp curry powder
-1/4 tsp of chili flakes
-1/2 inch of ginger
dash of salt and pepper
-5 brown mushrooms, minced
-1 large russet or white potato, diced
-3 medium carrots, diced
-2 stalks of celery, diced
-1 zucchini, diced
-1 broccoli crown, cut small
-1 cup of green beans, quartered
-2 tbs tomato paste
-1 can of coconut milk
-2 limes, juiced
In an instant pot or medium sauce pan add in the lentils, half the onion, 2 garlic cloves and 4 cups of water. Cook until lentils are soft but firm, about 15 minutes in the instant pot or 20-25 minutes in the pot.
While the lentils cook, chop up the other half of the onion. In a large pot heat up some olive oil or water and sautee the onions and garlic.
Meanwhile, add in all the spices, ginger and remaining garlic cloves to the mortar and pestle and grind into a paste. Once the onions and garlic are translucent, add in the spice paste and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add in the mushrooms and cook for and additional 2 minutes then add in the tomato paste, coconut milk, half the lime juice, potatoes, carrots, celery, and zucchini and cook for 10 minutes.
If lentils are finished cooking remove most of the liquid and discard the cooked onion and garlic.
To the curry, add in the broccoli, green peas, and the lentils and cook until broccoli is at desired texture, 2-5 minutes.
Add in the remaining lime juice and serve over steamed rice or buckwheat grouts.
Enjoy! And dont forget to tag me if you make this recipe (@at.my.table)! I love to see your creations.
I was at the farm the other day and they had so many beautiful asparagus and peas! With the inspiration of these veggies the recipe for this salad came together surprisingly easy as I found myself in the kitchen wondering what to make for dinner. With these hot days I have not been craving much in the way of a hot meals and I wanted something fresh. What I was craving was a nice taboloui salad but, as we are a gluten free household that was not possible. We have also been eating so much rice lately that I wanted to try a different grain.
Luckily, I had some buckwheat grouts in the pantry from when my son was rice free (glad those days are behind us). I even made sushi with buckwheat grouts before and they are surprisingly very delicious! Let me know if you would like that recipe in the comments below.
In addition buckwheat has some amazing health benefits:
-Naturally gluten free (a plus in our household)
-Stabilizes blood sugars due to its low glycemic index. Thus it is released slowly into the blood stream helping to keep blood sugars from spiking and keeping you feeling fuller longer.
-Provides highly digestible protein!. Buckwheat actually contains twelve amino acids and has the highest protein content per gram when compared to most other grains (besides quinoa).
-Rich in the phytonutrient rutin, an important antioxidant to the cardiovascular system. This along with it’s high fiber content helps fight high blood pressure and cholesterol.
-Great source of B vitamins, manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron and folate.
OK so I wont waste any more time on here, on to the recipe….
A fresh, light, summer salad perfect for hot nights.
A delicious fresh summer salad with farm fresh ingredients. Perfect fro hot summer nights or to bring for a picnic or BBQ
For the salad
1 cup of buckwheat grouts
2 cups of water
1 white onion, minched
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
1/2 cup of fresh peas
roughly 2 cups of fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
15 baby tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup green olives, chopped
For the dressing
1/2 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup ACV
Juice from 1 lime
1 tbs mustard
1 tbs dried dill
2 tbs maple syrup
1 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
Dash of salt and pepper
In a medium sauce pan add the buckwheat and water with a dash of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Remove from heat, uncover and let it sit until cool enough to handle. Alternatively you can cook the grouts in an instant pot under the rice setting. Once cooked transfer to a bowl and refrigerate. ( For easy digestion you can soak the grouts overnight first)
While the grouts are cooking can prep the veggies.
In a medium pan add the onion and garlic and about 1/4 cup of water. Cook over medium heat until the onion are soft. Add in the fresh peas and asparagus along with some salt and pepper. You can also add extra spices here if you wish.
4.While the veggies cook whisk up the dressing. Add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix together.
When the veggies are soft but still firm remove from heat and add to the buckwheat.
Add in the remaining ingredients and dressing and toss until well combined. If you have time you can refrigerate the grouts and the cooked veggies before you add in the raw veggies to ensure the parsley and cilantro do not wilt.
Enjoy as a side salad or as a simple fresh dinner. Great for picnics or BBQs
I think this is the number one question I get from just about everyone! How is it that I have time to make fresh healthy meals and mostly, how do I get my kids to eat it.
I have thought a lot about this because this is not something I think a lot about 😉 We eat what we eat and I don’t stress much about it. I think if you are relaxed about food your kids will follow suit. Actually my biggest stressor comes from my kids wanting what other kids are eating when we are out. Or from their crazy ice cream and chocolate obsession! But then I remember that they are 6 and 3 and that is pretty normal.
So how do I have time to cook such fresh healthy foods. Well, right at this moment I am on maternity leave with my third baby boy. However I cooked this way even when I was working full time. And really 3 kids is pretty equivalent to a full time job and then some! For me, meal plans have never worked very well. Mostly because we are a bit spontaneous regarding seeing friends or wanting to go out of the house for an outing. So what are my tips and tricks for making healthy meals and how do I get my kids to eat them… read on!
Tips for healthy food for busy parents:
Buy foods you like to eat. If no one eats swish chard don’t buy it. Food waste is a serious issue nowadays.
Now that you have food, my next tip is to LOOK INSIDE your fridge, yes thats right! Before i decide on dinner I always look inside my fridge and see what veggies need to be used up. Then I build a meal around that. This always helps with the dinner idea and reduced food waste. This also brings me to the next few steps to make easy dinners….
Have a few good recipes for protein. For us thats baked tofu (find recipe here), or roasted or spiced chickpeas, or cooked lentils. There are a few recipes I know well and cook often. This also helps with picky eaters because they know what to expect (more below).
Have a few carb recipes you love. For us that is steamed rice, oilless french fries (recipe here), rice noodles or just plain pasta.
Figure out what veggies your family love. This can be tricky for picky eaters but I have a few pointers below.
Build your meals around points 2-4!! Mix it up, that way it doesn’t get boring. This will also be good because as you get comfortable with your staple recipes you can experiment slowly with switching flavours or adding in a new ingredient.
Don’t try and complicate your life with elaborate meals. Like I said simple but flavourful is key. You don’t need to cook up 5 different veggies, or an elaborate curry or casserole, do you really have time for that. If you do great but if your coming home after a long day then some steamed broccoli, frozen peas and carrots over rice with a side of baked tofu topped with avocado is just perfect.
Start simple. Learn these staple recipes on the weekend or on weeknights where you don’t have other activities. Healthy fresh meals don’t have to be complicated. They also don’t have to be boring or flavourless. Have a few yummy pasta sauces in the pantry, even if that is store bought. When you have time make a few delicious sauces to add to a rice or noddle bowl. This works well for us because my husband, and my kids have different preferences for flavour. So I can make a spicy sauce for my husband, a sweeter sauce for my kids and a savoury one for me. I keep them in the fridge and then when we have rice or noodle bowls it is easy to drizzle on top.
Stick to number 6! Figure out what works for busy days. For me that is putting all I can in the oven or using my instant pot because I don’t have to watch the stove. You can get a full meal by throwing tofu (or chickpeas), fries, and beets in the oven and making rice in the instant pot. In the winter I love one pot curry or stews (check my instagram (here) for tons of recipes). You literally throw it all in the instant pot and it cooks itself. Here is the instant pot I use (here).
Tips for picky eaters, how to get your kids to eat veggies:
Ok so a bit of a disclaimer, we have always been big veggie eaters. Even after we had our first kiddo, despite eating loads of animal products and unhealthy packages or processed foods, we still consumed a lot of salad and cooked veggies. So our kids grew up watching us eat veggies and always had veggies on their plates. This will be the BEST thing in terms of getting your kids to eat and enjoy veggies. The term monkey see monkey do applies here even if they are not super interested right away. Jaden would not eat a salad until he was 3 years old despite us offering it to him at every dinner.
If however this is not your current situation that’s OK. Your not doomed and it is never to late to change or adapt your child’s diet. My son Avery is still the picker eater of the group. He can flat out refuse to eat something and will pick out a minuscule piece of onion from any dish.
Ok so here are tips that I found helpful:
Explain to them why eating veggies and fruit is healthy. They may not seem interested at first but most kids are curious. They like to know WHY we are making them yucky veggies and asking them to eat it. I tell my kids how spinach and broccoli helps to build bones and how beans build muscle. Sometimes this sparks conversations into the food-body connection. I love this because it gives me a chance to make an impression on the relationship my kids have and will have with food.
Take you kids grocery shopping! I love this one because you can give your child some control over what they eat. I always stick to the produce section when I bring my kids that way they only pick fruits and veggies. Avery always gets super excited about picking his own food. To maximize this I also let me kids help me cook dinners on some nights. Or I make tacos or bowls and as them which toppings they would like. The rule is you have to have a protein and 2 veggies. This always works well because when kids have a choice they feel empowered.
You don’t have to like it but you have to try it. This doesn’t always work but I try. I explain to them that sometimes we wont be eating for taste but for nourishment. Food wont always taste amazing. I try my best to make dishes my kids like but as their palate changes and develops this wont always align. So when they try it even if they just lick the veggie or food it is enough for me. The important thing is to get them to be confident and adventurous with food. It is also critical that you do not overly force them. I strongly believe in this because you will teach your child to trust their bodies and also respect their own boundaries. If you make a battle out of eating broccoli you not only show your child how much power they have over not eating food but you create a negative environment around food. You do not want to cause a connection between stress, anxiety, and food. This leads me to my next point…
I never force my kids to finish food. This connects to the above point. We need to trust that our children know what is best for their bodies. Some kids like to eat smaller meals more times throughout the day. My son Avery is like this. So save half their dinner for a later snack. OR better yet give them small portions so it is not a battle. HOWEVER, I am not referring to kids that eat 1 spoonful (see the next point for that), my kids know they have to eat enough so they are not asking for a snack 5 minutes later. It is important to let your child self regulate with food. The point is to create a healthy relationship with food and this starts at a young age. You dont need to waste food to make this point, be smart about portion size, leftovers and compost.
If your child wont eat more then a spoonful this could be very frustrating. Avery went thru this phase for a short time and the key for us was to not make a big deal out of it. As frustrating and aggravating as it was we tried to not give him power over dinner. What we did was save his dinner and offer only that for the rest of the night. Your child wont starve. The main point here is to not make a big deal out of it food. I never saved their dinner for breakfast or got super mad (althouh I did have to take a break in the bathroom or get my husband to take over). Another important point here is to make their portions small enough that they finish quick and get the message. Once they ate enough I would followed up with a healthy snack a bit later to make sure he was getting enough good food in. Again try not to make any of this a big deal, if you stay calm and cool your child will see that food is not a battle and move on. Trust your child and their cues.
If all else fails make a smoothie. Start off by making it with fruit they love. Frozen banana and some berries or even a plant based yogurt. Add it into their daily routine. For us that’s when my kids get home from school. I actually bring it to the bus stop so he walks home drinking it (also helps distract him if I add a weird flavour). Car rides also work well. Then slowly start adding in some veggies like spinach, kale, spirilina, dates, etc.. Start with a small amount and work to your child’s desired flavours. Jaden hates spinach in his smoothie but loves kale. This doesn’t need to happen overnight. Take your time.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, don’t worry so much about this! All my kids went thru a ‘picky’ phase. I tried my best to not get overly emotional or upset by this. I made dishes they liked (to a point, you are not going to cater to them all the time) and I served them smaller portions and made sure to give them healthy snacks during these fussy times. The main idea is to teach your child to trust themselves and have a healthy connection to food. It is not what they eat in a day but what they eat in a week that matters!
Follow me on instagram for easy simple meal recipe and ideas.
Hello! I am Patricia, a 35 year old mama of 3 spunky boys and a loving husband living in Toronto, Canada.
I am passionate about making and enjoying delicious easy recipes, eating intuitively, packing healthy food to go, gardening, and healing our bodies with whole plant based foods. I teach and educated our children on the power that fresh whole foods have over our bodies and the importance of trusting ourselves to eat intuitively.
However this was not always my passion. I began on this journey after my son became sick. He was suffering from eczema, multiple food allergies, stomach pain, slow sluggish digestion, and behavioural issues. We were lost as to how to help him and frustrated having to watch him live in pain and irritation. His abdomen was always swollen and he was alway close to threshold with his emotional state. With no clear answers we began on a journey of healing and recovery using whole plant based foods (read more on this here, and our eczema story here).
I initially began an instagram account as a way to gain inspiration and recipes for our new lifestyle. I was feeling very frustrated and overwhelmed with all the cooking and changes that we were making in our lives and needed some guidance and direction. Over the first year it evolved into something beautiful. A supportive community that has inspired and fuelled my love of simple, easy meals that heal and nourish our bodies. This first step opened my eyes on the power of healthy eating.
I hope to share what I have learned through these past few years on here. I want to share the recipes we make and the journey we are still walking to hopefully inspire and educate those seeking their journey to health.
My third pregnancy was actually my first vegan pregnancy. To this day when I look at Micah I am still blown away that I made this human entirely out of plants. Maybe because I have been told my entire life that you need animal products to be healthy and grow properly, or maybe it’s because I let the fears and anxieties of others influence my thought! Or maybe because I was insecure at the beginning as well. But when I look at my son I see a healthy, happy, chubby little man and seeing him today makes me realize how wrong I was about what health can be. I wanted to share my experience because I think it is important to communicate that it is very possible to have a healthy vegan pregnancy and postpartum!
I know that a vegan diet is not for everyone, heck I NEVER thought it was for me. Before I had Micah I was a full blown carnivorous paleo. I ate meat or some form of animal product with EVERY meal. We had eggs for breakfast, chicken for lunch and beef for dinner. I made my coffee with butter and we had cheese and yogurt all the time for it’s probiotics. I was what I thought to be ‘healthy’. I was not overweight or outwardly sick. But I did have thyroid issues, low energy, brain fog and I just never felt full of energy (but anyways that is for another post). What I wanted to discuss here is my experience having a vegan pregnancy. Was I healthy, was I deficient, did I have any problems and how healthy is my baby compared to my other 2 children?
Ok so my pregnancy! I transitioned into a plant based diet a few months before I became pregnant. So I was very nervous when I became pregnant because I was still so new to veganism. I wanted to make sure my baby was receiving all the nutrients he needed and that I was not depriving my body or my baby of anything (echo the protein and iron debate) . SO, shortly after I discovered I was pregnant I asked my doctor to do some blood work to check my iron, calcium, B12 and folate. I was not on any prenatals at this point so I was very nervous about the state of my nutrition. It is one thing to make a decision for yourself, but it is an entirely other thing to decide something for another, especially a growing child. My decisions when pregnant could affect him for life! So I was very happy to see that my blood results were all normal or in the high range of normal, except iron. However I must mention that iron has always been an issue for me. When I was paleo eating red meat every single day I was still low on iron. So I didn’t concern myself to much with that and started a vegan supplement plus b12 right away. I now know that my issues with iron is my poor absorption of iron and I am taking the steps to help correct this.
As my pregnancy continued I got my blood levels checked every few months to check my the main nutrients that are suggested by many to be deficient in a vegan diet. They always came back normal, except iron which was slightly on the low end of normal.
Ok now for the bad news (sorry but it was not all roses and sunshine). This third pregnancy was a very hard one for me. This shocked me because I had easy, movie type pregnancies with my other two boys. No vomitting, no major nausea and I worked until a few days before they were both born. With Micah (this vegan pregnacy) that was not the case. At 10 weeks I had to start nausea medication just so I could make it to work. I stopped throwing up but I was so drowsy that I had to take a nap in my car, yes that’s right, in my car at lunch and then again when I got home so I could find the energy to make dinner. So that was short lived and I stopped the medication at 15 weeks. I eventually had to go on medical leave at 21 weeks because I felt so incredibly sick. At first I chalked it up to finally having a girl, so imagine my surprise when I found out it was another boy hahaha. Then I thought it was because my iron was so low. In fact my hemoglobin had also dropped a bit by this point. But this corrected itself when I switched to a stronger dose of iron (I used floravit, which is a vegan brand) but the sick feeling remained. It wasn’t until Micah was born that we realized why I may have been so sick (complications with his placenta). But throughout my entire pregnancy I was worried that my dietary choice could be the reason I was feeling so bad. I’ll be honest there were a few times when I was so sick and feeling so horrible that I questioned my decision to become vegan while pregnant. But then I thought logically! How could eating plants, beans, and fruit make my body deficient or sick! I tracked my macros- and micro-nutrients on cronometer and followed up with blood tests, and spoke to my midwife which all helped me relax a lot. Mostly because I saw that I was receiving all my baby needed. Being a researcher by training I spent many hours reading peer reviewed articles about veganism and it’s safety (Check this blog post for the resources ). HOWEVER, one thing I must mention is that just being ‘vegan’ does not mean you are eating well or even healthy. A bag of potato chips are vegan, and so are many processed foods! So I took the time and effort to make healthy choices and eat a WHOLE FOOD plant based diet!
Ok so how was my baby, was he healthy and is he growing? My son Micah was born on Christmas day after a short labor weighing in at 6 lbs 13 oz. He was my smallest baby (the other two were 7lb 13oz, and 7lb, 6oz) but healthy and just perfect. He is a very calm, patient, happy little 6 month old today (as I write this). And despite being my smallest (but still a very good birth weight) he is a CHUNK! Weighing in at almost 22 lbs at 6 months! I have no issues nursing him, and I have an amazing milk supply. I make sure to eat enough calories from whole plant-based foods and stay hydrated to allow my body to make enough milk! I think a huge part of successful breastfeeding has to do with hydration and caloric intake.
SO, was I healthy, yes I believe so. Was I deficient, absolutely not! And how healthy is my baby compared to my other 2 children? Well so far he is healthy and happy. The only difference…. he has NO gas or digestive issues!!! Both my other two boys had MAJOR stomach cramps, gas, bloating and reflux as babies! So I will just leave it here that I think the main reason for this is my very clean diet. I especially kept my diet free from many irritants during the first 3 months postpartum. I didn’t consume caffeine, chocolate, gluten, or heavy spices (and obviously eggs and dairy) and minimal to no alcohol.
Today I am so grateful and happy I trusted myself and did the research to make sure I was on a healthy track. If you are considering a vegan pregnancy, heck if you are just plain pregnant, regardless of your diet choice, make sure you are receiving all the nutrients you need from WHOLE foods. Download cronometer and track your food intake and ask for a few blood tests along the way to make sure you are hitting all your macros- and micro-nutrients (carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals)! Don’t rely solely on your prenatals! If you are super sick, like I was, then try your best with soups, veggie stock, smoothies and fresh juices and supplement with high quality supplements where you need it.
If your interested in my birth story comment below!
These granola bars are super easy and have been a staple at our house. The best thing about them is that this recipe can be a base recipe for a variety of flavours. You can change up the type of seeds or add dried fruit or even a chocolate coating if you wish. They also dub as a granola ball recipe. Instead of cutting them into bars you can roll them into small balls and bake. Alternatively you can eat them raw as energy balls. Trust me this is a versatile one!
These bars are perfect as a healthy snack on the go or in a lunch box.
My boys love these in their school lunch box or as a healthy treat at home.
-2 medium bananas
-3 tbs sunflower seed butter (you can use any nut butter instead but they wont be school safe)
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-Dash of salt
-1/4 cup of sunflower seeds
-1/4 cup hemp seeds
-1/4 cup chia seeds
-2 cups of thick rolled oats
-1/2 cup of your fav chocolate chips
-(optional)1 tbs of your fav protein powder, we use the garden of life RAW oragnic brand.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor or blender blend up the banana and butter until very smooth.
Add in the vanilla, salt, and seeds and pulse until well combined.
Add in the rolled oats and chololate and pulse again until a dough starts to form. You want the batter to still be slightly wet but hold together if you make a ball.
Turn out into you silicon or non stick baking sheet and press down to form a large rectangle (about 1/2 inch thick). Alternatively, you could roll the dough out into small balls (will make about 24 or 30 depending on size).
Cook for 15-20 minutes of until the oats turn a golden brown.
Once it has cooled a bit, take a sharp knife and cut into small rectangles to form into granola bars. You can make them as big or small as you like.
I have gotten this question so many times. We vegans already have an almost instinctual response for when we tell people we are vegan. There is always a protein or iron comment. How many times have we heard ” oh I can’t be vegan because we need more protein” or ” oh no I have low iron”!
The goal of this post is to present the very well researched studies that have lead me to the conclusion that a plant based diet is not only adequate but can be just as nutritionally complete as a healthy omnivores diet. Although many studies suggest that a plant-based diet can address many types of chronic diseases (I have included some of those studies below), that is not my goal here. I will not try and argue that a vegan diet is superior or a ‘cure-all’ diet.
The main thing I want to address here is the argument that is made about veganism being a deficient diet. Any diet can become a deficient one. There is no strong evidence to suggest that a healthy vegan diet is a deficient one, no more so then what can be said for a healthy omnivores diet (references below).
A comment I hear a lot is that if a vegan diet was adequate then we shouldn’t need to supplement. Now while I agree that the ideal diet should require no supplementation, we live in a modern world, we work, we eat out, we don’t own farm land or get enough sunlight. That is why cereal is fortified, dairy is fortified (preventing many deficiencies in the standard diet) and why supplementation is sometimes needed regardless of whether you are vegan, pescovegatarian, lactovovegatiarian or a meat-eater (references below, just to many to add here). As an example breast fed infants need vitamin D, that does not mean breast milk is inadequate and we should all switch to formula.
During my ongoing research this past year (I find nutrition very interesting and read about it often) I have come across some articles that talk about certain risks associated with plant-based diets. The risks are always in deficiencies if the proper steps are not taken to ensure a complete diet ( but this is also concluded in non-vegatarian diets as well). Just like omnivores, vegans must take care to make sure they get enough of the vitamins and minerals they are at risk for (mostly B12, a simple pill or spray you take once a week). My research is not one sided and I actually started reading up on veganism almost as an anti-vegan, if you can believe that. After watching plant pure nation I had many questions because I did not feel like the researchers in the documentary, and of the China study, explored all aspects of a plant based diet and asked enough questions about why they see benefits. I was a very strong meat-aterian, following the paleo diet never the less, so I set out to prove that veganism was not ideal and that we are in fact meant to eat meat… But as a good scientist I accepted that my research lead me to conclude that my ideas about veganism were essentially wrong and based on fear not on actual data.
What I have learned in my graduate studies and by getting a PhD is that research is not simple. You can not read 1 paper or even 10 and make strong arguments for something. It takes many scientists to publish many unbiased papers so one can review the overall literature to get an idea. This is why I make sure to read many papers and look at many different sources. Recently, plant based diets have received a lot of attention so it will be interesting to see all the studies that will come thru in the next 10 years. For now, did my research lead me to believe that we are not meant to consume animal protein…NO! Did my research lead me to believe that only vegan diets are healthy…A BIG FAT NO!!! But it did lead me to conclude that a vegan diet is healthy and in some cases preferred based on the circumstances of that individual. For me it eradicated my lingering GI issues, bloating, skin problems, and extremely low iron levels (I only supplement with B12 once a week).
A great place to start to understand vegan diets and how it may influence overal health and longevity is to look at the section on the Adventist Health Studies, some of the largest longest set of studies conducted. Countless studies over almost 100 years (see section below)
*NOTE: My definition of vegan is a plant based diet that includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and grains. I am not referring to a raw diet or a low-fat-high-carb (LFHC) diet or any other extreme forms of veganism that restrict how you can consume your plant based food.
Three great papers:
A great review summarizing the findings from the Adventists studies. They specifically look at the vegan population and the effects of this diet on health. Additional more comprehensive studies are below in the Adventists health study section
The seventh day Adventists participated in some of the biggest health studies conducted which are longitudinal and have over tens of thousands of participants. Not to quote Wikipedia but it’s a quick review to the study. Importantly they have a wide range of diets (omnivores, pesco- vegetarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, and vegan) with some studies looking at over 90,000 subjects (link).
Here are some more (pubmed ‘Adventists health study, so many studies)
Ströhle, Alexander, et al. “Diet-dependent net endogenous acid load of vegan diets in relation to food groups and bone health-related nutrients: results from the German Vegan Study.” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism2-4 (2011): 117-126.
Hu, Frank B. “Plant-based foods and prevention of cardiovascular disease: an overview.” The American journal of clinical nutrition3 (2003): 544S-551S.
Ferdowsian, Hope R., and Neal D. Barnard. “Effects of plant-based diets on plasma lipids.” The American journal of cardiology7 (2009): 947-956.
Hafström, I., et al. “A vegan diet free of gluten improves the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis: the effects on arthritis correlate with a reduction in antibodies to food antigens.” Rheumatology10 (2001): 1175-1179.
Barnard, Neal D., et al. “A low-fat vegan diet improves glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in a randomized clinical trial in individuals with type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes care8 (2006): 1777-1783.
Kaartinen, K., et al. “Vegan diet alleviates fibromyalgia symptoms.” Scandinavian journal of rheumatology5 (2000): 308-313.