March is Nutrition Month in Canada, and it’s a great time of year to take stock of what your family is eating. Once again, Dietitians of Canada are encouraging folks to think about where their food is coming from with the theme From Field to Table.
In addition to encouraging Canadians to eat locally produced foods, dietitians are also looking for ways to help folks overcome the barriers to home food preparation, something that affects almost everyone one way or another, whether the issue is time, know-how, finances or family foibles, such as picky eaters.
All those issues come down to two main problems, economic and informational, but of the two, the most difficult is economic, in part because it has the broadest impact, but also because it can exacerbate the informational aspect.
The politically current term for this is "food insecurity," and it covers availability and access to a secure food source. If income is a problem, it manifests itself several ways. For starters, a small budget makes it hard to purchase necessities. This can be compounded by geography. Finances can dictate where a person lives, and if reasonably priced grocery stores are not accessible by foot, then transportation becomes an issue. This can make it nearly impossible to use money-saving strategies such as buying in bulk, because it is difficult to transport the food. Bulk buying is also difficult because in order to buy the extra sale items or bulk items that will let you save money down the road, you have to have extra money up front.
If poverty has a generational cycle, the second and third generation will not have had the experience of cooking a variety of foods because they have not been available, and that means opportunities for trying new things may have to be passed up as well. It also might also mean less access to information available on the Internet or something as simple as a beginner cookbook.
Here are some tips from Dietitians of Canada that address some of the barriers to healthy eating.
Barrier: Healthy eating is too expensive
Solution: Many families in Canada struggle with food insecurity. Listed below are some tips and ideas to help people eat healthily while being conscious of cost.
1. Stick to your list to prevent or reduce impulse purchases.
2. Read flyers and look for weekly specials. Plan your menus around them or use them to stock your freezer.
3. Use discount coupons, but make sure they're for products you will actually use. If you don't need it, a sale item is an added expense, not a savings.
4. If freezer space allows, buy meat and bread on sale and freeze them for later use. Take the time to separate large packages of meat into meal-sized portions and date them before putting them in the freezer.
5. If you have extra shelf space, stock up on staples such as canned beans or fish when they are on sale.
6. Buy lots of in-season vegetables and fruits when they are most affordable and preserve or freeze them for later use.
7. Read flyers to see what foods are on sale to help with budgeting.
8. Make "planned extras." Get the most out of your time and money by cooking more food than you need. The extra can be used for another meal within the next couple of days.
Barrier: I don't know how to cook
Solution: Seek out a variety of resources.
1. Visit websites like www.dietitians.ca where you can find up to date information and tips. You can also order copies of Dietitians of Canada COOK! by Mary Sue Waisman, Msc, RD (Robert Rose, $29.95) a good basic cookbook filled with easy, healthy recipes and lots of cooking tips.
2. Watch cooking videos online from reputable cooking websites
3. Take a cooking class with your children from local reputable sources. Many grocery stores, community colleges and local high schools offer cooking classes. Ask a friend who cooks to share some basic skills and recipes. Or try cooking together for special occasions like potluck dinners.
4. There are lots of cookbooks to be found at your local library as well as magazines that feature many easy-to-make recipes.
These three recipes come from Dietitians of Canada COOK! You can find more tips and other useful links at www.dietitians.ca.
Hearty Tex-Mex Brunch Eggs
-- Bean Mixture
250 ml (1 cup) canned or cooked black beans, drained and rinsed.
500 ml (2 cups) frozen corn kernels
500 ml (2 cups) cherry tomatoes, halved
10 ml (2 tsp) finely chopped jalapeno pepper
5 ml (1 tsp) curry powder
5 ml (1 tsp) chili powder
60 ml (1/4 cup) water
-- Tortilla Crackers
2 large whole wheat tortillas
10 ml (2 tsp) butter, softened
5 ml (1 tsp) canola oil
125 ml (1/2 cup) shredded part-skim mozzarella or Cheddar cheese
1. Bean mixture: In a large saucepan, combine beans, corn, tomatoes, jalapeno, curry powder, chili powder and 60 ml (1/4 cup) water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
2. Crackers: Meanwhile, spread tortillas with butter. Place on baking sheet and broil for about 45 seconds or until golden and crisp. Set aside.
3. Eggs: In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Fry eggs to desired consistency (they may be left sunny side up or turned over).
4. Divide bean mixture evenly among four large soup bowls. Top each with 1 cooked egg and 2 tbsp (30 ml) shredded cheese. Serve each with a half a tortilla cracker. Makes 4 servings.
Maple-Glazed Pork Tenderloin
30 ml (2 tbsp) minced shallot
45 ml (3 tbsp) pure maple syrup
20 ml (4 tsp) Dijon mustard
10 ml (2 tsp) cider vinegar
10 ml (2 tsp) reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 pork tenderloins (each about 375 g/ 10 oz) fat trimmed
1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt
1 ml (1/4 tsp) fresh ground black pepper
60 ml (1/4 cup) reduced-sodium chicken broth
Preheat oven to 190C (375F).
1. In a small bowl, whisk together shallot, maple syrup, mustard, vinegar and soy sauce; set aside.
2. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. In ovenproof skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook for about 1 minute per side or until browned on all sides. Generously brush top and sides with some of the maple syrup mixture. Pour in broth, increase heat and bring to a boil.
3. Transfer skillet to preheated oven and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, brushing generously with maple syrup mixture three times, until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the tenderloin registers 68C (158F). Transfer pork to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes to allow juices to re-distribute and pork to reach an internal temperature of 71C (160F).
4. Meanwhile, bring pan juices to a boil over high heat. Add the remaining maple syrup mixture. Boil, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until slightly thickened.
5. Cut pork crosswise into thin slices and serve drizzled with sauce. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Lemon and Lavender Tea Cookies
Before you make this recipe, read the instruction at the bottom on how to prepare lavender sugar. You will need a couple of weeks ahead of your baking day.
500 ml (2 cups) all-purpose flour
60 ml (1/4 cup) lavender sugar (see tip at bottom)
15 ml (1 tbsp) baking powder
75 ml (1/3 cup) non-hydrogenated margarine
1 egg beaten
125 ml (1/2 cup) 2% milk
10 ml (2 tsp) lemon extract
15 ml (1 tbsp) dried lavender buds (optional)
250 ml (1 cup) icing sugar
22- 45 ml (2 1/2 to 3 tbsp) 2% milk
10 ml (2 tsp) non-hydrogenated margarine
5 ml (1 tsp) lemon extract
Preheat oven to 160C (325 F)
1. In a large bowl, combine flour, lavender sugar and baking powder. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in margarine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together egg, milk and lemon extract. Pour over flour mixture and stir just until a stiff dough forms. Do not over mix.
3. Drop by the tablespoonful about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake in a preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until bottoms are golden. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
4. Frosting: In a small bowl, combine icing sugar, milk margarine and lemon extract to form a smooth, thin frosting.
5. Drizzle frosting over cooled cookies and sprinkle with lavender buds (if using). Makes 30 cookies.
Tip: To Make lavender sugar, combine 250 ml (1 cup) granulated sugar and 30 ml (2 tbsp) dried culinary lavender (found at some bulk food stores and NOT the same as used for potpourri). Place in an airtight container for 2 weeks, shaking the container occasionally to distribute the lavender and infuse the flavour. Before use, strain the sugar to remove the lavender.