5 Terrific Side Dishes for Summer Potlucks

Wondering what to bring to a summer potluck? The side dishes below are easy to make, tasty, and complement many main dishes.

Roasted Potato Salad with Vegetables

This is a beautiful potato salad that is a great side dish to take along to a barbecue. Roasting brings out the flavours of the potatoes, and adding corn, tomatoes, peppers, and onions lightens up the salad while adding great taste, colour, and good nutrition.

This is a much healthier option than traditional mayonnaise-laden potato salads, which are often calorie-dense and nutrient poor: some traditional deli potato salads have almost 500 calories and more than 20 g fat per cup, with few protective nutrients.

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Rice Noodle Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

This is a light and refreshing salad that is a tasty and eye-catching side dish for almost any meal, and a perfect potluck dish. This salad combines rice noodles, sweet peppers, fresh herbs, tomatoes, and feta cheese in a lime dressing, giving this dish Asian, Mediterranean, and Mexican influences . . . sounds odd, but the flavours blend together beautifully!

Don’t be dissuaded if you are, like me, not typically a fan of cold pasta-salad style noodles. Rice noodles make an entirely different type of salad; they are lighter than pasta or wheat-based noodles, and are better at absorbing flavourful and zesty dressings like this one.

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Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

This is a terrific salad with vibrant colors and a great combination of flavors. It’s also quite versatile:  it’s a great side dish to bring to a pot-luck or BBQ, a nutritious meal you can pack for tasty lunch, and stuff any leftovers into a pita for a nutritious sandwich.  Exact measurements aren’t important, so feel free to add more or less of what’s listed.

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Beets & Arugula in a Curry Vinaigrette

This beet and arugula salad is great anytime, but terrific when fresh beets and apples are in season. It takes a little longer to prepare than my typical salads, but if you cook the beets in advance it is pretty quick to put together.

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Orzo with Kale, Artichokes, & Chickpeas

This dish is a terrific and pretty side salad that’s versatile enough to bring to a summer BBQ or winter potluck; with the chickpeas providing protein it’s a nourishing main course. If you have leftovers, you’ve got a tasty ready-made lunch on hand.

This recipe magically transform 12 cups of kale into 1.5 cups of kale pesto/puree. All that good nutrition and it doesn’t really taste like kale . . .

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Nutrition & Health Experts You Shouldn’t Trust – Updates

With the growing amount of misinformation on nutrition and health, it’s getting more difficult for people to figure out what is based in good science.  And if you’re wondering if a certain individual, program, or website is legitimate, it is not straightforward to find out . . .

The prefix “Dr” can’t be trusted (hello Dr Oz, Perlmutter, Davis, Lundel, Berg . . . ). Many of these health gurus cherry-pick studies – that is, they cite  the research that supports their opinion without considering the body of scientific evidence.  Also, they often promise their diet/supplement/program will cure whatever ails you and provide alluring anecdotes to sell their stories (and often dietary supplements . . .).  Another common narrative is a conspiracy focus, or telling readers that decades of nutrition/health research is wrong . . .

Check here for my growing list of Nutrition & Health Experts You Shouldn’t Trust.  Here are some of the latest additions . . .

David “Avocado” Wolfe

David Avocado Wolfe VaccineThis pseudoscience peddler has a thing for names – beyond using “avocado” as his middle name (which places him above David Perlmutter on my list), he calls himself “the rock star and Indiana Jones of the superfoods and longevity universe.” If that is not enough to get your pseudoscience spidey senses tingling,  there is plenty more.  His stories and scams  prey on science illiteracy and he makes plenty of money from his followers. For example, he claims that high frequency radio waves are “unnatural” and dangerous (but you can buy expensive pillow cases and sheets at his online store to protect you); and invents food scare tactics so that you can buy his “superfood” supplements; and discourages vaccines and effective cancer treatments in favor of his woo.  He is very good at marketing and draws people in with cute memes – he has a popular facebook page (723K fans)  and at least seven different websites.

Dave Aspey – Bulletproof Executive

BulletproofDave Aspey, the bulletproof executive, is an entrepreneur, blogger, and paleo proponent who is good at selling things but doesn’t know much about health or nutrition (but tries to sound sciency by citing cherry picked studies to back up his dubious claims).  His main claim to fame is Bulletproof® coffee, which I wrote about here.  Claims for bulletproof coffee include that it helps burn fat, provides lasting energy, improves focus, helps gain muscle, increases mental acuity, helps digestion, and improves heart health.

But  . . . you need to buy his special  Upgraded™ coffee  that is low in mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are a form of mold found on coffee beans and in greater amounts on many other foods (e.g., raisins, peanuts, beer, wine, pork, corn, sweet potatoes): most mycotoxins on coffee beans are destroyed by roasting, and there is no evidence that low levels are harmful to health.

Bulletproof coffee is not a healthy breakfast: it provides about 460 calories and about 47 g fat (mostly saturated), taking the place of protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health. There is no good evidence that a breakfast of coffee with large quantities of saturated fat (butter and oil) delivers any of the laundry list of benefits beyond potential short-term cognitive or long-term health benefits of coffee.

 
READ  Healthy or Hype? Buttered/Bulletproof Coffee

Why stop at coffee when you can make so much money? Beyond his bulletproof coffee Aspey sells books and a variety of products (supplements, foods, technologies, coaching) claiming to improve health.  And of course, there is the bulletproof diet (a “revolutionary” weight loss plan. . . but works best with his products), described so well by health and science writer Julia Beluz as follows:

“The Bulletproof Diet is like a caricature of a bad fad-diet book. If you took everything that’s wrong with eating in America, put it in a Vitamix, and shaped the result into a book, you’d get the Bulletproof Diet.

The book is filled with dubious claims based on little evidence or cherry picked studies that are taken out of context. The author, Dave Asprey, vilifies healthy foods and suggests part of the way to achieve a “pound a day” weight loss is to buy his expensive, “science-based” Bulletproof products.”

Dwight Lundel

Dwight LundellYou may have seen a viral post “World Renowned Heart Surgeon Speaks Out On What Really Causes Heart Disease.”  In the post Lundell proclaims that decades of research and guidelines for heart disease prevention are wrong (the “we’ve been lied to” narrative that is so popular . . .) , and the he has the answer in his books “The Cure for Heart Disease” or “The Great Cholesterol Lie.”

Heart disease is complex, as is the science of how different kinds of foods affect our bodies and the role that different kinds of fats play in disease.  The evidence-based to date does not support Lundel’s oversimplified ideas.

Eric Berg

Eric Berg is a popular health and wellness “expert” (actually a chiropractor who has ventured beyond his realm of expertise). He has a website and many videos promoting unscientific health advice, and books including  The 7 Principles of Fat Burning: Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Keep it Off! and Dr. Berg’s Body Shapes Diets.  Some of  his bogus health and wellness treatments have included Body Response Technique, Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique, Contact Reflex Analysis, and testing with an Acoustic Cardiograph. His unsubstantiated claims for his therapeutic treatments have been the subject of disciplinary action by the Virginia Board of Medicine.   Some of his treatments relate to “adrenal fatigue” – a term not recognized by any endocrinology society and a syndrome that experts have confirmed does not exist.

Some of his diet advice is extremely and unnecessarily restrictive (anti-wheat; anti-carbohydrate); he advocates weight loss based on a bogus hormone body type (adrenal, ovary, liver, thyroid); talks about “fat burning” hormones (they don’t exist); and includes a “detox phase” in his diet plan (a term that should raise your quack alarm).

As typical with many of these so-called health experts, his website includes a shop with unproven supplements (e.g. adrenal body type package, estrogen balance kit) that beyond being a complete waste of money, could quite possibly do you more harm than good.

Kris Carr

Kris CarrKris Carr is a self-proclaimed cancer-lifestyle guru with a very large following. She is not an oncologist, an expert in nutrition, or a scientist who knows how to interpret research.  All cancers are different and respond to different treatments.  Her advice about diets is not accurate, and she recommends detoxes and cleanses.

For example, she advocates juicing because ” alkaline juices help to detoxify your body.  They raise your pH and help pull out old waste from your colon and tissues.”   First of all, detoxing is a myth,  as is the influence of acid or alkaline foods on health.  The environment in which foods are digested is complex, and many scientists question the accuracy of methods used to calculate the acidity of foods (more about alkaline diets here).  She recommends fasting because it “removes stored toxins and excess waste” a statement that makes no sense.

Lifestyle habits and nutrition can certainly play a role in the incidence and survival of some cancers, but Kris Carr is not a good source for this information.  For terrific free science-based information on this topic, visit the American Institute for Cancer Research.

For more Nutrition & Health experts you shouldn’t trust, see this page or the list below.

I will keep adding, but am limited because . . .

The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.” – Alberto Brandolini

 

 

 

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Ski Nationals in Canmore

I just got back from a week of racing at XC Ski Nationals at the Canmore Nordic Center.  As the host site of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games Nordic events, the fantastic venue, spectacular scenery, and challenging courses impress everyone.  Along with the impeccable organization, I’d have to say it’s one of the best xc ski racing events that I have ever attended.

Nationals2017 Canmore Venue Doug Ranahan

It was a terrific week of racing, with some of the best Canadian nordic skiers vying for national titles. As an athlete I raced 5 events (team ski cross with my XC Ottawa teammate Kyla, 5k skate, 10km classic, classic sprint, and 30km skate), and was proud to watch athletes I coach at Nakkertok Nordic lay down many inspiring races and win the overall all Club Aggregate title for the 8th year in a row.

Nationals2017 Doug Ranahan5

Pre-fueling for a challenging 30k race!
Pre-fueling for a challenging 30k race!

Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers of the event and Doug Ranahan capturing the beauty of Canmore and nordic ski racing in his many great photos!

Sheila Nationals2017 Doug Ranahan

Nationals2017 Doug Ranahan6

Beyond the event organizers, tremendous support crews of coaches and volunteers from clubs all over Canada help make this trip possible for a great number of athletes.   Thanks to the crew from Nakkertok Nordic for taking care of my skis and making the experience a memorable one for all Nakkertok athletes.

Nationals2017 Nakkertokwax2

I also had a chance to explore a bit more of Canmore beyond the Nordic Center with friends, and couldn’t believe the incredible outdoor opportunities this community offers.

Nationals2017 Sue Kelsey Run Small

Beyond racing, the week included events such as Fast & Female, and in the last few years has included a session to promote post-secondary options to encourage athletes to keep skiing .  Unfortunately few options exist for skiers, and many leave the sport (over 80% of athletes stop competing after high school).

As a health promotion specialist, I recognize the far reaching benefits for students to stay active and engaged in sport, and as a coach and athlete know that for Canada to achieve excellence in the sport of Cross Country skiing, providing multiple options and pathways for athletes to stay involved beyond high school and University is critical.

On that note, I am helping efforts to bring a varsity ski team to UOttawa.
Please consider adding your name to THIS LIST of supporters!  

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Good Morning Muffins

I love muffins. They pair so well with coffee or tea, are a terrific pre- or post- workout snack, or a quick grab-and-go breakfast.  But I try to keep in mind that most versions are really cleverly disguised cupcakes.Mammoth Muffin

A sprinkling of oats on top and clever marketing claims create a health halo effect, and many people believe that the standard muffin is a healthy choice.  But most muffins are made with refined flour, plenty of sugar, and don’t provide much nutrition.  Oversized muffins and large amounts of fat also mean hefty calorie counts (some large muffins have almost 500 calories).  And low-fat labelled muffins often aren’t a healthy choice either.

Making your own muffins is a good way control the ingredients.  This recipe is a healthier version of “Morning Glory” muffins, attributed to Chef Pam McKinstry of the Morning Glory Cafe on Nantucket island. You can tailor the recipe to the fruit, dried fruit, and nuts that you have on hand.

Ingredient swaps for better nutrition (& flavour!)

A generous amount of fruits and grated carrots add moistness and great flavours while providing many important nutrients;  the nuts add healthy fats; and whole grain flour has the minerals and fiber that have been stripped out of refined white flour (and you likely don’t need to worry about the gluten . . . ).

These ingredients also improve the fiber content, something that is lacking in most diets.   I’ve cut down on the sugar, but these muffins are still sweet thanks to the fresh fruit, dried fruit, and brown sugar. You may be tempted to use a “more healthful” sweetener than sugar, but don’t be fooled: although some believe that “natural” sweeteners are better for you,  sugar is sugar.  The overall calorie count is lower than traditional muffins as well, which is good for those who don’t need the excess calories.

You’ll find some other good tips for adapting your favourite muffin recipes here.

Morning Glory Muffins Against Wall

Are muffins a healthy breakfast?

Traditional muffins definitely aren’t a good breakfast, since they provide few nutrients and should really be considered as dessert or a treat.  Although this recipe is much more nutritious, it would be best paired with other foods for breakfast (e.g., nonfat  yogurt, nuts, fresh fruit) for added protein and nutrition.

I would consider these a perfect pre or post workout snack . . . rich in carbohydrates that you need for exercise, and your body will use the sugar in the muffins for a good purpose!

Ingredients

MUFFIN BATTER

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk (dairy or plain soymilk)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup canola oil or melted butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

MIX-INS

  • 1.5 cups grated carrots
  • 1.5 cups chopped fruit (apple, pear, or canned drained pineapple are all delicious)
  • ½ cup dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, chopped dates)
  • ¼ cup walnuts or pecans

GARNISH (Optional – but highly recommended!)

  • Oats
  • Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 deg F, and prepare 12-cup muffin tin with butter and flour (or line with paper muffin cup liners).
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. In another bowl, combine egg, milk, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla.  Stir in carrots, chopped fruit, dried fruit, and nuts.
  4. Stir wet ingredients into dry, mixing just until combined.
  5. Dividing batter into muffin tins and top with oats/nuts/seeds for garnish if using.
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes (or until tester comes out clean).

Makes 12 Muffins

Nutrition Per Muffin

  • 185 calories
  • 4 g protein
  • 7 g fat
  • 16 mg cholesterol
  • 31 g carbohydrate
  • 3.5 g fiber
  • 215 mg sodium
  • 133 mg potassium
  • Iron: 3 % Daily Value
  • Calcium: 6.5 % Daily Value

Muffins Cake

 

Other Quick Bread Recipes

More Healthy Recipes

 

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