Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 3

Getting hungry? -Dietitianmom.com


Hello there! Previously, I had provided an overview of a whole foods plant-based diet and discussed the first 2 steps of transitioning to such a diet. These were “Step 1: Halve the Meat & Double the Veggies” and “Step 2: Switch to Whole-Grain Options” (see posts Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Introduction, Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 1, and Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Step 2). In this post, I would like to touch on Step 3: Choosing Smart Snacks.

Tahini Raisin & Flaxmeal Crackers – Dietitianmom.com

STEP #3: CHOOSE SMART SNACKS
Need something to tide you over until lunch or dinner? Children tend to need to eat more frequently than adults, so would often benefit from snacks between meals. There are a few key reasons why. Children, especially younger children, tend to have high energy levels and smaller stomach capacities. In general, a whole foods plant-based diet tends to consist of foods that have a higher fiber but lower caloric content. Hence, due to the higher fiber content of these foods consumed, it is possible that in some cases a child could feel full easily at meals with their smaller stomachs, but receive inadequate calories for overall optimal growth.

 

 

Fruit Wedges with Seed Butter & Walnut Dotted Banana Coins – Dietitianmom.com

For adults, you may also feel the need to have snacks in between meals, especially if you find you are becoming more active, and if your metabolism revs up with the switch to a whole foods plant-based diet. That’s the best part of a whole foods plant-based diet – on such a ‘diet’, you actually don’t need to watch your caloric intake or restrict yourself unnecessarily in terms of how many times a day you eat, AS LONG as the foods you choose to consume are ALL whole foods plant-based foods. So this does not mean you can snack endlessly on cookies, candies, cakes, biscuits and other processed high refined sugar and high fat commercial foods since they are ‘vegetarian’. As mentioned before, being a ‘junk food vegetarian’ will negatively impact your health and reduce your intake of phytochemical nutrient-rich health boosting foods which you could be eating instead.

So it’s alright to have snacks frequently on a whole foods plant-based diet, but choose your snacks wisely! Try these tasty more nutrient dense options:

*A handful of nuts and/or seeds (e.g., pumpkin seeds, sunflower, pine nuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts)
* A piece of whole fresh fruit (kiwi, apples, grapes, melon slices, oranges, grapefruit, pears…you name it! These also work great as dessert after meals!)
* Dried fruit (e.g., dried apricots, figs, dates, raisins)
* Vegetable or fresh fruit slices with spreads or dips (e.g., bell pepper slices, carrot sticks, celery sticks)
* Soy spreads, seed butters  (such as tahini, pumpkin seed and sunflower seed butters) and nut butters (examples include almond,  cashew nut, and peanut butters)
*Vegetable and/or bean based dips such as hummus and guacamole
*Fruit/vegetable combination smoothies
*Fruit salads
*Vegetable salads
*Whole-wheat bread/pitas/tortillas for dipping into hummus or spread with nut butters for quick easy sandwiches or burritos
*High calcium and/or high iron cereal
*Bean-based or vegetable soups with whole-wheat pasta
*Soy-based or other vegan cheese slices and whole wheat crackers

 

Banana Sunflower Seed Butter Sandwiches – Yum! Dietitianmom.com

You can mix and match the above to create lots of tasty combinations! My current favorite is a sunflower seed butter sandwich with sliced banana wedges! Other ideas are a bowl of a bean-based vegetable soup with whole-wheat pasta, or some soy-based/vegan cheese slices with whole wheat crackers. Or you could have a quick bowl of calcium and iron fortified cereal with fortified almond/soy/coconut milk (and sprinkled with nuts or dried/fresh fruit on top!). Don’t forget about home-made vegetarian baked and no-bake treats which also make great snack options! Many such easy recipe ideas can be found on the internet, which don’t require fancy ingredients or a lot of time. The possibilities are really endless!

 

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.)

Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet – Introduction

Ready to Transition? Dietitianmom.com

Ready to Transition? Dietitianmom.com

A New Year marks a new beginning, and the chance to try new things or make changes that had previously seemed daunting. Last Fall, I read the book ‘The China Study’ by T. Colin Campbell (The China Study) and it changed my whole perspective on health and disease. I wasn’t aware that there was so much research already done supporting a whole foods plant-based diet in reducing one’s risk for diseases like diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and in some cases even improving the health outcomes even if a person already has these medical conditions. Apparently, the lower one’s intake of animal proteins is, the lower the risk of these negative health outcomes. Our family of four has since decided to transition to a whole foods plant-based diet. This poses some challenges when you have a 4 year old, a nearly 11 month old, and a freezer packed with meat! But we have already made some (successful) changes to our way of eating and I hope to share what we’ve learned along the way and the experiences of our journey to help those who are also thinking about making similar changes but don’t know where to start.

The main tenet of a whole foods plant-based diet is to consume primarily plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, while minimizing as much as possible animal-based proteins, excess oils as well as refined and processed foods high in fat and sugar. If you can remove all sources of animal proteins from your diet, even better! One reason behind reducing refined and processed high sugar/high fat foods from one’s diet is the tendency for these foods to take the place of more healthful nutrient dense foods that you would otherwise be consuming, so reducing your body’s intake of important nutrients, phytochemicals and minerals necessary for optimal health. A key reason for reducing excess oils in one’s diet, including vegetable oils, is so that a more desirable ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids intake can be achieved for optimal health.

It is best to go slow and make gradual changes to one’s diet. Of course you could go off meat and other animal protein products immediately cold turkey, but our family has found it more successful to make the changes gradually, as small successes empowered us to make further changes. You may find that this approach also helps your family transition more successfully to such a diet, especially if you are a busy household and don’t have much time right away to try or create completely new recipes. This method also helps you use up all that meat in the freezer anyway!

So where should you start? Successful transitioning to a plant-based diet involves five basic steps:

Step 1: Halve the Meat & Double the Veggies
Step 2: Switch to Whole-Grain Options
Step 3: Choose Smart Snacks
Step 4: Increase Beans & Other Legumes
Step 5: Try New Plant-Based Foods & Recipes!

In upcoming blog posts, I plan to touch on each of these steps in a bit more detail, and hope to also discuss a few tips for feeding children plant-based whole food diets. Stay tuned!

Qn of the Month: Intakes of Baby-Led Weaning Infants & Traditional Spoon Feed Infants – Are There Nutritional Differences?

Pureed or Baby Led? - Dietitianmom.com

Pureed or Baby Led? – Dietitianmom.com

A: Yes, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. Led by Morison and colleagues, this New Zealand based study looked at the intake of 51 age-matched and sex-matched infants at 6-8 months of age. One to three day weighted food records and questionnaires were collected from those in the baby led weaning (BLW) group and those in the traditional spoon feeding (TSF) group, which were then analyzed. The result? It was found that while infants in both groups had relatively similar caloric intake, those in the BLW group may be consuming higher fat and higher saturated fat intakes, along with possibly lower iron, zinc and vitamin B12 intakes.

Although the research finding results are exciting, it is important to note the strengths and limitations of the study. Strengths include analysis done by a registered dietitian blinded to which group an infant belonged to, the use of weighted food records and detailed questionnaires, and the age and sex matching of infants. The limitations of this study however include the fact that a small sample size was used, the use of estimated breast milk volumes, and the fact that there was no standard definition or classification used in the study of what constituted a baby led weaning infant.

As mentioned in my previous post on BLW (Qn of the Month: How is Baby Led Weaning (BLW) Really Defined?), research on BLW is complicated by the fact that there is no standardized definition of baby led weaning, with research studies using different definitions. In this study, parents self-reported and classified themselves which group their infant fell into. Also, the lower iron intake levels observed in the BLW group compared to the TSF group may be due to the fact that the BLW infants consumed less iron fortified infant cereals, and were breastfed for much longer (approximately 8 more weeks) than TSF infants. Hence infants in the BLW group would have received less iron fortified infant formula.

It is unclear whether this study looked at the potential differences in nutrients contributed by use of iron fortified infant formula and breast milk intake, which could have a big impact on the final nutrient intake of infants in either group.  Also, since estimated breast milk volumes were used, this study cannot accurately determine the exact differences in caloric and iron intake levels between the BLW and the TSF groups. A future study needs to not only control for potential confounding in terms of the length of breastfeeding in both groups, but may also need to include biochemical tests to determine more accurately the iron status of infants in both groups.

 (Sources:

  1. University of Otago. “Dietary intake differs in infants who follow baby-led weaning.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 May 2016. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160517094206.htm. Accessed Nov 26, 2016.
  1. Morison BJ, Taylor RW, Haszard JJ, et al. How different are baby-led weaning and conventional complementary feeding? A cross-sectional study of infants aged 6–8 months. BMJ Open 2016;6:e010665. http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/5/e010665. Accessed November 26, 2016.)

Yum! Toastie Corn Black Bean Soup

Have you ever tried combining some toasted corn kernels with black beans? It’s a fantastic combination of health, taste, colors and texture. Our family tried out and modified a recipe we found a few years ago and it became a family favorite meal option. It’s super easy to make because it builds on a ready to heat can or carton of black bean soup as the base, with more added beans and veggies to pump up the taste and nutrition. Try it out and see for yourself!

Ingredients:

  • 1 can or carton of ready-to-heat black bean soup (e.g., Campbell’s Red Pepper Black Bean Soup)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can of black beans, drained and rinsed well
  • 1-2 cups of water
  • 1 cup of frozen corn kernels (toasted first)
  • 1/4 to ½ cup of chunky salsa or salsa fresca (or to taste)
  • Pepper as desired
  • 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • Can be served with avocado wedges or guacamole and tortilla chips

Directions:

  1. Add the rinsed and drained black beans into a pot with the ready-to-heat commercial black bean soup. Add in 1 – 2 cups of water (or more depending on how thick you would like your soup). Cook over medium heat until the beans soften further and the mixture thickens.
  2. Add additional vegetables if desired (see notes below).
  3. Heat a separate saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 – 2 teaspoons of olive oil and heat the frozen corn kernels, stirring frequently until a toasted corn smell begins and the kernels begin to brown. Remove from the heat. Stir these kernels into the soup pot with black beans.
  4. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of salsa (homemade or store bought) in and stir well.
  5. Serve soup with tortilla chips, guacamole or avocado wedges (see additional notes below) a sandwich or side salad.

Notes:

You can adjust the amount of water you add, depending on how thick you would like the soup. You may also decide to add the salsa individually at the table according to each person’s taste preference.

It is very easy to modify this recipe especially if you would like to add in more vegetables. For example, you could add in  ½ cup of chopped button mushrooms, a diced orange bell pepper  or a 1/4 cup of chopped mini zucchini wedges into the soup at the beginning when heating up the black beans with water. Another delicious alternative is to cook pasta separately then add some into the final soup before serving. Makes a hearty meal!

To adapt this to a toddler’s meal: You can set aside some of the black bean corn soup for your toddler, prior to adding the salsa. This is so that you can decide how much to add of the salsa (if any) before giving to your toddler. Then you can put some cooked pasta and/or broken up tortilla chips (allow the chips to soften into the soup before offering to toddler) into the soup to serve as an all-in-one meal. Alternatively, offer the black beans, pasta and corn on a plate as delicious finger food pick-me-ups!

Constipation Matters (Part 2): Prevention Tips for Toddlers

potty-1-frog

Constipation Prevention Tips – Dietitianmom.com

To prevent constipation in adults, the 3 ‘Fs’ are usually recommended: Fluids, Fiber and Frequent Exercise/Activity. Well, it’s the same for babies and toddlers as well. Some time ago, I had posted an entry on some tips for combating constipation in babies (see post Constipation Matters (Part 1): Prevention Tips for Babies). Here is the follow on post with more tips for toddlers:

Fluids
Even if a toddler is already established and used to drinking water, as a parent you can still encourage frequent water intake by offering fluids at meals, water with snacks and making sure water is readily accessible with a water bottle or cup at hand in the play area at all times. The toddler will then know that there is always water available when she wants or needs it, and can regulate his/her own intake. Some days I go into the play area and see the water cup untouched and other days a third or more of the water in the sippy cup (non-spill of course) gone within a few hours! So it is really difficult to predict when or how much your toddler will want to drink on any given day. But reminders to drink water throughout the day and role modeling lots of water drinking yourself definitely helps! Sometimes I also have little water drinking competitions with my daughter, to see who can finish a cup of water faster. She enjoys this but of course you need to make sure she doesn’t drink so fast she chokes on the water!

Fiber
Some recommend not giving a toddler too much bran and bran containing foods as the high fiber content may possibly fill the child up more and make the child less hungry for other foods, compromising his/her nutritional intake. Personally I don’t think this is true. When my toddler was 17 month old, she ate Shredded Wheat squares, Total Cereal flakes, brown rice, whole wheat pasta and whole wheat bread, and still had room for foods like milk, fruits and vegetables. So I think it is safe to switch completely to whole grain products and breakfast cereals. The key I find is to watch the amount of crackers and Cheerios a child can get at snacks as well as his/her overall milk intake during the day, as these have a greater likelihood of filling the child up and making him/her less hungry to eat properly at meals. In fact, at around 15 months of age, I cut out giving milk at snacks (but I still give 3-4 ounces at meals) as I found that it was affecting her intake at lunch and dinner. Don’t forget that fiber comes from providing lots of fruits and vegetables into the diet too. These can be fresh, frozen or dried (examples are dried figs, raisins and apricots). Just ensure your toddler has a higher fiber intake with an intake of plenty of water!

Frequent Movement/Activity
I don’t think parents need to worry about this one! It’s probably more about how to restrain excessive activity and movement…Toddlers with their newfound freedom and independence love to move and explore on two feet the surrounding environment, not to mention climb, crawl, dance and play. So let them!

Qn of the Month: Which Type of Salmon –Wild or Farmed- is Best?

A: As it turns out, it depends on which nutrient you are looking at. In terms of omega 3 fatty acids content, farmed Atlantic Salmon tends to have a higher content than wild Pacific or Atlantic Salmon. This correlates with a higher fat content in farmed salmon compared to wild salmon. The actual omega-3 fatty acid content may vary depending on the type of feed the fish receives. When comparing protein content, however, wild salmon has a slightly higher protein content per serving over farmed versions. Besides omega-3 fatty acids and protein, salmon is also a good source of B vitamins (especially B12), selenium and potassium and vitamin D.

No matter which version you choose, take note how you cook your salmon. Omega-3 fatty acids can be destroyed by excessive heat so avoid deep-frying and pan-frying fish at high temperatures. Instead, it is better to bake, broil, steam  or poach fish to reduce the loss of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Lastly, make sure the fish you eat is caught or farmed in environmentally sustainable ways.

(Sources: