Qn of the Month: What is in Rhubarb?

It is interesting how in every place one lives in, there are certain foods found more commonly in that location. In the Southern part of the United States, this might be okra, iced tea and hush puppies. In the United Kingdom, this might be minced pies and mulled apple cider. In this part of Canada where our family is living now, I’ve noticed that the rhubarb pie seems to be featured at nearly every potluck or dinner event. I’m not complaining as it’s delicious, but it has caused me to look more closely into this delectable vegetable.

Yes, that’s right. Even though rhubarb may have a ‘fruity’ taste and is often found in desserts, jams, jellies and sauces, it is actually a vegetable. But beware, only the stalks of this plant should be eaten, primarily because the leaves contain a high oxalic acid content.

So what’s in rhubarb? It turns out that rhubarb is rich in many nutrients such as protein, calcium, potassium, vitamin K. Just one cup of diced raw rhubarb (122 grams in weight) provides 26 calories, 1.1 grams of protein, 2.2 grams of total dietary fiber, 105 milligrams of calcium, 0.27 milligrams of iron, 351 milligrams of potassium and 35.7 micrograms of vitamin K. It also provides small amounts of vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin E, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium. Its calcium content is equivalent to nearly two and a half cups of raw chopped broccoli! To compare, one cup of broccoli (91 grams in weight) provides 43 milligrams of calcium.

Since rhubarb has a tart acidic flavor, it is often sweetened with a lot of sugar or honey before incorporating into desserts. However, instead of adding a lot of sugar or honey, try combining this vegetable with sweet fruits like apples, pears or strawberries to add to ice-cream or baked desserts. Alternatively, use unsweetened rhubarb to make into sauces for savory dishes.

(Sources:

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov. Accessed July 26, 2017.
  2. Ipatenco S. Can You Eat Rhubarb Leaves? http://www.livestrong.com. http://www.livestrong.com/article/491897-can-you-eat-rhubarb-leaves/. Updated July 18, 2017. Accessed July 26, 2017.
  3. Kerns M. How Many Calories Are in a Cup of Cooked Rhubarb With No Added Sugar? http://www.livestrong.com. http://www.livestrong.com/article/302281-how-many-calories-are-in-a-cup-of-cooked-rhubarb-with-no-added-sugar/. Updated November 9, 2015. Accessed July 26, 2017.)

Qn of the Month: You Say ‘Yam’, I Say ‘Sweet Potato’…Which Is It?

 

Are You a Yam or Sweet Potato? – Dietitianmom.com

A: A sweet potato! Although both yams and sweet potatoes are edible starchy root tubers, there are differences in their outer and inner appearances. Plainly speaking, the red-skinned and orange fleshed tubers we find commonly labelled as ‘yams’ in grocery stores in the United States are actually sweet potatoes! How did this happen? These ‘yams’ were labelled so originally by shippers and producers to distinguish them from the white potatoes, using the English form of the African word “nyami”. And that name stuck. Today, the United States Department of Agriculture requires these sweet potatoes to be labelled with both terms ‘yam’ and ‘sweet potato’. Personally, I think that makes it more confusing…Depending on the specific variety of sweet potato, the flesh of sweet potatoes can actually be anywhere from pale yellowish to a rich orange hue. In the United States there are two common types of sweet potatoes sold: a firmer pale yellow flesh with a golden skin and a soft sweeter kind with a deep orange flesh.

What about real yams? According to the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, “A true yam is a starchy edible root of the Dioscorea genus, and is generally imported to America from the Caribbean. It is rough and scaly and very low in beta carotene.” So as it turns out, there is more than just a name difference, and the dish we frequently serve at special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas is actually made from sweet potatoes, not yams!

(Sources:

  1. North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission. What is the difference between a sweet potato and a yam? http://www.ncsweetpotatoes.com/sweet-potatoes-101/difference-between-yam-and-sweet-potato/. Accessed June 20, 2017.
  2. Sweet Potato or Yam? Endurance Magazine. Endurancemag.com. November 2013.
  3. Foster K. What’s the Difference Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes? http://www.theKitchnn.com. http://www.thekitchn.com/whats-the-difference-between-yams-and-sweet-potatoes-word-of-mouth-211176. Published October 6, 2014. Accessed June 20, 2016.)

 

Qn of the Month: Do Different Brands of Baby Cereal Provide the Same Nutrition?

A: No! Although there are some similarities, there appears to be more differences between different brands of baby cereal products, even between different brand products of the same type of cereal.  How so? Read on.

Generally all infant cereals are fortified in certain nutrients such as iron, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. Baby cereal products also contain (per serving) similar amounts of macronutrients such as calories, carbohydrates, fats and protein. However, major differences exist. For example, in Canada, Nestle Gerber’s® baby oat infant cereal provides in a (5 tablespoons or 28 grams) serving the following: 15% Daily Value (DV) of calcium, 60% DV of vitamin B12, 100% DV of iron and 0 grams of fiber. But a comparable (1/3 cup or 30 grams) serving of Heinz’s baby oat cereal provides more iron (110% of DV iron), 4 times the amount of calcium (60% DV of calcium), 2 grams of fiber but absolutely no vitamin B12! Not only that, Nestle Gerber’s® baby oat infant cereal contains in a serving 30% DV of biotin, 15% DV of iodide, 15 % DV of zinc and 30% DV of magnesium. However, a similar serving size of Heinz’s baby oat cereal contains no biotin or iodide, only 6% DV of zinc and halfthe quantity of magnesium (15% DV)! It appears that Heinz’sbaby oat cereal is a really good source of iron and calcium per serving, but not so much of the other nutrients.

So the next time you go shopping, make sure to check the nutrition facts panel of the infant baby cereal you are planning to buy, to see what nutrition your baby will really be getting from consuming that particular product!

Qn of the Month: Are Legumes & Pulses Just Different Terms for the Same Thing?

 

A: What exactly are legumes and are they the same as pulses? The terms ‘legumes’, ‘pulses’ and ‘beans’ can certainly all be very confusing. A helpful way to keep these straight is to remember that ‘legumes’ is the overall umbrella name, just like ‘fruits’ is the umbrella name for a huge category of different types and varieties of fruits. Legumes simply refer to all plants whose fruit is enclosed in a pod. However, pulses only refer to the dried seed itself. So under legumes are 3 main subcategories: soybeans and peanuts, pulses and fresh beans/peas. I like this graphic from Pulse Canada which illustrates these categories aptly (see source citation for more details):

 

Pulses include dried beans, dried peas, lentils and chickpeas. Pulses are cheap, nutrient dense, low in fat, available throughout the year, and are high in protein and fiber. Soybeans and peanuts are separated out into their own separate subcategory due to their higher fat content. Legumes are also super versatile, as they can be cooked to the age appropriate texture in a variety of forms (e.g., pureed, mashed, or whole/halved but in soft cooked forms) for infants, toddlers and children of varying ages depending on their stage of oral motor development.

 

(Source: Pulse Canada. http://www.pulsecanada.com/about-us/what-is-a-pulse. Accessed March 15, 2017.)

Qn of the Month: What Are Key Infant & Toddler Feeding Transitions?

A: Have you ever wondered whether your baby or child is meeting or progressing well in terms of his or her oral motor development? For new mothers, it can be especially daunting knowing when to introduce a different texture or when to start teaching your baby how to drink from a cup. The following are key infant and toddler feeding transitions that are important for a child’s optimal growth and physical as well as oral motor development:

Feeding Transition Age of Occurrence
Establishing breastfeeding Birth to 1 month
Introduction of solid foods 4 – 7 months
Finger foods 6 – 8 months
Introduction to the cup 6 – 12 months
Introduction to table foods (texture) 9 – 12 months
Weaning from breast or bottle 12 – 18 months
Rotary chewing 2 -3 years

Even though it is true that every healthy baby develops differently and often at their own pace, it is still good to keep these general key infant and toddler feeding transitions in mind as you watch and help your baby progress.

[Source: Milano K. How Infant Feeding Transitions Relate to Feeding Difficulties in Young Children. PNPG Building Block for Life. Spring 2016, 39(2): 1-6]

 

 

Qn of the Month: Do Kids Have Stress?

A: Apparently! This as an issue that never crossed my radar until I recently received some resources from a community liaison on this topic. One of the sentences on the website I was pointed to was this “The signs and symptoms of stress can often be seen in challenging behaviours. Children may be reprimanded for actions that are really stress reactions, rather than intentional misbehavior or poor cognitive ability. Lantieri, L. 2008.”  Suddenly it clicked. Sure my child has had a pretty vivid “terrible 3s” phase, so much so I was happy to celebrate her fourth birthday and leave the “3’s” year behind. But reflecting on my child’s behavior made me realize there were many times when she would stop cooperating and start fussing when she got frustrated at something, or when we were stressed ourselves as parents.

In the Kids Have Stress Too! Booklet targeted for parents of preschoolers, it was stated that “Children can experience stress at home, in child care settings, or even in play with

others. In the course of an average day, preschool children experience stress when they have to wait, when they want something they can’t have, or when they lose or break one of their toys.” The following were listed in the booklet as examples of common sources of preschool stress:

  • Early or rushed mornings, being hurried
  • Exposure to new situations
  • Too many expectations or demands
  • Separation from parents
  • Difficulties with peer friendships
  • Fights or disagreements with siblings
  • Transitioning from one activity or place to another
  • New beginnings such as starting kindergarten or child care
  • Frequent change of caregivers

Hmm, rushed mornings, feeling hurried, too many expectations? Sounds a lot like our household. This information has caused me to re-evaluate the way our household is run, and whether my child is expressing some unneeded stress with having a busy daily schedule – something that may not be totally necessary for a 4 year old.

And what can be done if a child is stressed? Apparently one simply measure is just to allow the child to have some more down time. According to one resource handout “Kids also need time to themselves – just to relax and do nothing! Sometimes the best cure for stress is just to have some quiet time. Kids need some time on their own. Listening to music, reading or playing quietly may help them feel better. Doing nothing is fine too!” Hmm, sounds like this advice is applicable to adults too. Don’t we all wish we had more down time to relax and unwind in the midst of our busy and hectic schedules? I know I do!

For this and other great resources on how to help preschoolers and kindergarteners cope and deal with stress, see this link: KHST Preschool and Kindergarten

(Sources:

  1. Kids Have Stress Too! KHST! The Psychology Foundation of Canada. https://psychologyfoundation.org/Public/Public/Programs/Kids_Have_Stress_Too/Kids_Have_Stress_Too_.aspx. Accessed February 22, 2017.
  1. Kids Have Stress Too! KHST Preschool and Kindergarten. Psychology Foundation of Canada. https://www.psychologyfoundation.org/Public/Resources/KHST_Download_Resources/Copy_of_Download_Resources.aspx?WebsiteKey=7ec8b7ce-729b-4aff-acd8-2f6b59cd21ab&hkey=0e18b555-9114-49b4-9838-084fab967f0e. Accessed February 22, 2017.)

Qn of the Month: What Kitchen Equipment Is Needed On A Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet?

A: The best part of transitioning to a whole foods plant-based diet is that you don’t need much fancy equipment! This is because most of the foods included in this lifestyle can already be consumed in their natural raw state (like nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits and many vegetables). In fact, the two pieces of ‘equipment’ I have found the most useful so far as our family is transitioning to a whole foods plant-based diet are simply these:

* A plastic colander (without legs) with a mixing bowl that fits underneath
* A slow cooker

These plant-based kitchen friends are indispensable! Get a metal or plastic colander with a corresponding bowl that fits its size to use together, or simply purchase a plastic mixing bowl or other bowl that fits its size underneath. Why? This will allow you to fill up the colander with water and then you can easily lift it up to drain out the water quickly and easily. This makes it SO easy to soak and rinse vegetables, fruits like blueberries, canned and dried beans, split peas, lentils…you name it! Your prep work time will be quickly reduced and you can then get to cooking right away.

And the slow cooker? If it has been sitting dusty in a remote corner of your kitchen, it is time to bring it back out into the limelight again. There are many easy wonderful slow cooker recipes using plant-based foods that are hearty, filling and delicious. And the best part is that because the beans and legumes used in the recipes often need to cook for many hours in the slow cooker, I’ve found that they ended up being easier on my digestive system and we have been able to rapidly ramp up our vegetable and fiber intake without problems. You may not have such an issue but for those with sensitive intestinal systems, this is a factor to consider when transitioning over to a whole foods plant-based diet.

Eventually, as you begin to try more and more new plant-based recipes, you may find a hand immersion blender or food processor handy for whipping up vegan based desserts or bean dips or bean based soups.

Note: To those (like me) who are relatively new to the world of kitchen appliances, there IS a difference between blenders and food processors. According to a 2012 Consumer Reports news article, “A blender is better at mixing drinks and whipping up smoothies, while a food processor is ideal for chopping, slicing and shredding. You can puree foods in either appliance but crushing ice in a food processor can damage the plastic container.”

I happened to have both an immersion hand blender and a Ninja kitchen system at home. The Ninja has suddenly come in so useful (after collecting dust on the kitchen shelves the past 2-3 years as a long forgotten birthday present from my hubby). So far, I have made peanut butter and cashew nut butters, hummus, chickpea and black bean patties as well as flaxmeal muffins from the Ninja without problems. For split pea soups and making hummus and batches of baby food, I have also sometimes just used the hand immersion blender for easy and quick clean up.

You may already possess a blender or a food processor at home, which is more than adequate for your needs if you are just starting out in the world of plant-based foods. Eventually, as you try out the myriad of delicious healthy plant-based whole foods recipes out there, you may decide to fork out a little more money to purchase another food processor or blender. If so, there are many models and options out there!

(Source: Janeway K. Do you need a blender, a food processor or both? Consumer Reports News. June 20, 2012. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2012/06/do-you-need-a-blender-a-food-processor-or-both/index.htm. Accessed February 1, 2017.)