Food Restrictions and How to Incorporate Alternatives


I have been seeing a Naturopath for over two years now. She has helped me avoid foods that do not benefit my body, and to incorporate foods that will assist my mood, my body and my mind. She is able to pin point how many servings of each category of food I should eat on a daily basis. With my food intake slowly becoming under control, we noticed irregular pain patterns in my body that were triggered by food. It was then that I decided to take a food restriction test. This test is administered by naturopaths and sent to a lab where your blood is tested in accordance to over 95 different foods. The results are displayed on a graph to see how much each food item has a negative impact on your body ranked from “very low” to “extremely high”. Luckily I didn’t reach “extremely high” on any of the food items.

The results were shocking. It seemed almost all of the foods I ate ranged from low to high on the food restriction scale. The main foods I was expected to avoid included whey, crab, tuna, cranberries, egg whites and egg yokes, coffee, honey, bakers yeast, almonds, spinach and whole wheat. I ate eggs on the regular for either breakfast or dinner (not to mention many baked goods such as cupcakes or muffins are made with eggs). Almonds were my go to nut and I drank almond milk regularly. I ate spinach every day either in a shake, salad or omelette. And don’t even get me started on coffee. I drink coffee at least twice a day. And no baker’s yeast? That means no bread or pita, no treats like danishes or cakes. This was going to be difficult.

I then had to try and find substitutes for these foods. This is what I came up with:

1. Eggs – As a morning meal I had two options: a protein shake or greek yogurt.

*Protein shake:

1 scoop protein powder

½ scoop chia seeds

½ avocado

1 cup kale

½ cup greek yogurt

1 cup frozen fruit (berry mix)

1 tbl agave nectar



*Greek Yogurt:

1 cup greek yogurt

½ scoop chia seeds

1 tsp agave nectar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup frozen or fresh berries

Sprinkle cinnamon

2. Almonds – My naturopath suggested organic soy milk (organic soy milk does not have the same hormone content as regular soy milk)

3. Spinach – This was hard because I LOVE spinach salad and I am not a big fan of iceberg or romaine lettuce. So instead, I would eat mixed greens, which has a similar texture to spinach without the crunch of iceberg and romaine.

4. Coffee – This was a hard one. I have now gone a whole week without coffee and I have switched to tea. To make tea more enjoyable, I picked up some loose-leaf tea from David’s Tea. Try Red Velvet Cake or Chocolate Chai tea. Those are my favourites!

5. Baker’s yeast – For baking ingredients you can try barley, buckwheat, corn or rice flour. Basically any flour that is not white flour. A lot of products found in the gluten free isle would contain these alternative ingredients.

It’s going to be hard to make these adjustments, but at the end of the day it is for the betterment of my body. Eating properly will reduce pain and increase proper digestion, which will lead to optimal health and energy. Like the old saying, “my body is a temple”, let’s treat ours like one.

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Hold on to your hot dogs! Get the facts on processed meats

Healthy eating is important, but sometimes it can be confusing! For example, are deli meats a healthy choice for lunch? Should you avoid bacon and sausage? Before reaching for that hot dog stand, read on to learn more about different kinds of processed meats and how they may affect your health. 

What are processed meats?

Processed meats are usually red meats that have been smoked or cured, seasoned and packaged. Processed meats include:

  • Bacon
  • Sausage
  • Hot dogs and
  • Deli meat (or luncheon meat/cold cuts) like salami, bologna, roast beef, prosciutto and ham

Deli turkey, deli chicken, turkey bacon and chicken bacon are also processed meats.

Processed meats are often preserved by the use of nitrates. Nitrates help prevent harmful bacteria from growing and give processed meats a certain flavour and colour.

Although convenient, hot dogs are processed meats that should be avoided or eaten only on special occasions.
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Processed meats and your health

Eating processed meats has been linked to a higher risk of colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum.

It is not yet known if the nitrates found in processed meats are the reason why processed meats are linked to a higher risk of colorectal cancer.

Should I avoid eating processed meats?

Yes. Since eating processed meats has been linked to a higher risk of colorectal cancer, it is recommended that you avoid them or have them only on special occasions.

Any food that contains nitrates should also be avoided since it is not known if the nitrates found in processed meats are in some way responsible for the higher risk of colorectal cancer.

What should I look out for on packaged foods?

  • Avoid foods that have ‘smoked’ or ‘cured’ on the package
  • Avoid foods that have nitrates (or nitrites) in the ingredient list

What if a processed meat is nitrate-free?

Since it is not yet known why processed meats increase the risk of colorectal cancer, even nitrate-free processed meat should be avoided.

What are some alternatives to processed meats?

There is good news! There are many alternatives to eating processed meats.

Try these tips:

  • Cut up leftover chicken or turkey and use it in a sandwich for lunch
  • Enjoy eggs, whole grain toast and some fruit for breakfast and skip the bacon and sausage
  • Try tuna or egg salad in sandwiches instead of deli meat
  • Have a homemade lean beef hamburger, chicken burger or vegetarian burger instead of a hot dog on the barbeque
  • Try meat alternatives like beans, lentils and tofu

Take home message

Avoiding processed meats is recommended to help lower your risk of colorectal cancer. Enjoy protein-rich foods like eggs, tuna, unprocessed chicken and turkey, lean beef and meat alternatives like beans, lentils and tofu instead. If you want to enjoy a hot dog or piece of ham, have it only once in awhile.

Students honoured at FCS Recognition Event – An Outsider’s Perspective

Guest Blogger: Samantha Sim
Ontario Work Study Program (OWSP) employee for the Faculty of Community Services and 2nd-year Journalism student

Last Wednesday’s first-annual FCS Student Achievement Event reminded me just how interconnected our world really is and how important it is to use this interconnectedness to give back to the communities around us who’re in need. The event showcased 23 presentations split into two categories: students presenting on conferences they had attended and students presenting on their experience at an international placement.  Being a journalism student I’m essentially an outsider to the faculty, so it was interesting for me to see the variety of countries students visited and the range of topics that had been presented at conferences. The event showed me that no matter your age you can make an impact on the world around you and it really got me thinking about the one I want to make before I leave this school.

Award recipients Ying-Mei Liang (left) and Marian Mohamud (right) with Dean Dr. Usha George.

The event also honoured three students who were recipients of Faculty of Community Service awards. Nursing student Ying-Mei Liang was the winner of the FCS Full-Time Undergraduate Award. “Thank you to FCS for recognizing students who go the extra mile outside of class,” she said. Disability studies student Stacey Simmons won the FCS Part-Time Undergraduate Award. Social work student Marian Mohamud was the recipient of the RBC Community Services Award. “[FCS] recognizes our hard work. [Winning this award] tells me that I’m doing something good and that I should continue doing it,” said Mohamud.

Here are a few of the presentations that caught my eye:

Tina, a fourth-year ECE student who recently visited Tanzania, Africa.

Tina, a fourth-year early childhood education student, spent three weeks in Tanzania, Africa this past May working as a team lead for Child Reach International, a U.K. based charity that provides community based development to children worldwide. She helped renovate a local school, teach children, and recruit team members for the charity. Her stay also included a cultural experience where she was able to visit and explore local African communities. “It was an incredible experience and I’d recommend other students to go,” she said. “I’ll definitely be going back within the next five years.”

Denice (right) speaking with an event attendee.

Health science graduate Denice Koo showcased her presentation “An examination of knowledge, beliefs and perceptions about the plant-based diet among women attending breast cancer risk assessment clinics” that she presented at the American Institute for Cancer Research Annual Research Conference in October 2010. Koo credits the conference support grant as being a major advantage for helping her to secure her current and past jobs. She currently works as a corporate patient education specialist at St. Michael’s Hospital. “Without [the conference support grant], which allowed me to showcase this level of research, I may not have been able to get the types of employment opportunities I’ve had.”

The New Orleans Project and its participants.

A group of students travelled to New Orleans to work with the St. Bernard Project, which is helping to rebuild the St. Bernard parish after Hurricane Katrina. In addition some of the students travelled to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to volunteer at a donation centre sorting goods for the victims of the recent tornadoes. I spoke with Iryna Muzyka, a fourth-year food and nutrition student, and Daphne Paszterko, a continuing education student, who both agree that the trip really opened their eyes to the scope of the damage these natural disasters inflicted. “Even if you can see these things on T.V., [this project let us see firsthand] the people who’ve been affected,” said Paszterko.

Katarzyna (left) with Dean Dr. Usha George (right).

Katarzyna Tupta, a masters nutrition communication student, presented the findings of her presentation titled “Expectations and perceptions of first-year students in Ontario food and nutrition undergraduate programs” at the Dietitians of Canada National Conference in Edmonton this past July. This was the first conference Tupta attended and she encourages other students to take advantage of the conference support grant. “There’s a whole world outside of school with lots of interesting research going on. The [conference support grant] gave me an opportunity to see this and make lots of professional contacts,” she says. For her project Tupta surveyed 104 first-year nutrition students about what they expected out of their program and whether they were interested in becoming dieticians. She found that 97% of students were in the program with the objective of becoming dieticians.

Feeding the Children: Hungercount 2011

Food Banks Canada released the Hunger Report in October and the news is bad. Really bad. Surprisingly bad when you consider new housing continues to grow and consipcuous consumption doesn’t seem to be on the wane. Food bank use remains stubbornly fixed at near record levels established in the darkest depth of the 2009 recession.

The snapshot picture is that food bank use is 26% higher than it was prior to the recession and is currently at its second highest rate of use on record. Food Banks Canada maintains that the rate of food bank use is very closely tied to the unemployment rate. I am not well researched enough to challenge whether this is a causal relationship or merely correlative. I am sure however that the structural inequities that are built in to our Capitalist systems of food production and distribution will keep people hungry even in the boom years and I hope that most Canadians, should they stop to think about it, would find this reprehensible. We live in a country with a food surplus, where we scrape 40% of the food we have into the garbage (Bain, 2011) yet 2 of every 5 children in Toronto are hungry.

Food Banks Canada, without alienating the corporate or public sponsors that float the boats of its member agencies, outline the fact that poverty costs more than possible solutions might. They touch on affordable housing, social assistance, protecting seniors, EI, maintaining a strong Canada Social Transfer and the issue closest to my heart: Invest in Early Learning and Child Care. They give a brief but effective outline citing that every $1 invested in early learning and care will boost the economy by $2.40 in the long term.  I pause here to contemplate the power that good early years experiences might have on all children but in particular on families at risk.

What if there was a place for a single mother to drop her children off so she could go to work? This might just enable her to raise her small family out of poverty. What if there were healthy groceries and a blender at that school where young children could make a smoothie with yogurt, fresh fruit and protein supplement for breakfast (don’t laugh – I’ve done this with two year olds in our co-op daycare)? They would have a balanced breakfast and be set up for learning for less than a dollar. If another tired round of Wheels on the Bus at circle time were replaced by a themed discussion, a probing question, an instrument workshop and jamboree, they might have a nice time and build some self esteem. What if the learning environment was enriched with stations such as you might find in a Montessori school instead of the play depots you so often find in public kindergarten rooms? What if those kids were served fresh homemade lunches made for them by their older peers and those that couldn’t afford to pay would still get to eat and no one would know who was who? What if those kids stayed at school until their parents could pick them up after work for a nominal fee (since the facilities are idling once the school bell rings) and they got outside to run around and play and be free instead of wasting away in front of a television set because parents don’t feel safe letting them run free on the city streets?

Maybe some amazing things would start to happen. In the short term, their interest in school might pick up. The schools could act, like they once did, as clinical contacts for the Healthy Child Screening Programme and community gathering places. Maybe the kids and their parents would feel engaged. Maybe once a week the kids would invite their parents to a stone soup party, where everyone brings something and makes a meal together. This might be a chance to share experiences and learn some cooking and nutrition tips and maybe even take home some leftovers. The ideas are there to nourish the child and the family and we cannot afford not to do it.

All stats and facts pulled from

Food Banks Canada (2011). HungerCount 2011. Toronto: Food Banks Canada. Downloaded from (downloaded October 30, 2011)

except food waste

Bain, Jennifer (January 14, 2011). Food Waste: an Unappetising $27B Problem. Toronto: Toronto Star.Downloaded from–food-waste-an-unappetizing-27b-problem (October 31, 2011)



Five Things to Do with a Chicken in Your Residence Room



If you’re like me, when the crunch begins in November and you have a deadline every day for the next month, you might be tempted to let your nutrition needs slip. Grabbing a slice of ‘za on the way back to Res might indeed be a quicker faster option but it is not nutrition to sustain you. Your body needs wholesome food and fresh vegetables and protein in particular to keep you going. One simple way to do that is to put in a little extra effort at the beginning of the week and doing a bit of planning. While I could have given you my standard 101 Ways to Use Tofu lecture, I suspect I would have missed the mark. So despite the fact that I am a vegetarian, I’m putting myself out on a limb to find five meals you can make with a rotisserie chicken in your residence room.

Despite the fact that we stress the importance of Sunday night dinners in our home, I’ve absolutely no idea how to roast a chicken so I can’t help you there. The only time such a bird has been stewed in our oven was a few Christmases ago when my mother and husband decided they’d like to have a bird on the table for the holiday. I watched in horror as they violated the poor thing by shoving My Mother’s Famous Stuffing up its backside, stitched it up in a crude fashion with some awful purple thread, slathered it in butter and parked it in the oven, licking their chops. Not long afterward, smoke came billowing out of the oven and they figured they must have done something wrong. Eventually, they got it right. I had to admit it smelled pretty homey in our place when we returned from our Christmas Day walk. The next day, however, I opened the fridge and the smell of day old gravy nearly knocked me over.

So I suggest you pick up a free range organic bird from Whole Foods for $11. This may seem extravagant but it’s going to feed you for five nights. The first night, take a few slices off it and serve it with some mashed sweet potatoes and some steamed peas on the side. If you want to get crazy, you can add a squirt of lime and dash of cayenne pepper to the potatoes to jazz them up. If you really want to impress your roommate, steal a nip of Drambuie, whisk it together with some honey and butter and drizzle a few teaspoons over the chicken. Called Prince Charles sauce, this is way better and easier than gravy.

The next day, you will be hitting the books hard so slice up some of that chicken to put on a salad for dinner. Just wash up some greens, toss in a handful of chopped almonds and a few cranberries or slices of orange. Drizzle over with a mixture of balsamic and olive oil.

Next, you’ll need to think of a quick and easy dinner to get yourself over the midweek hump. Then take a few slices of chicken, chop it up coarsely and add a tablespoon of yogurt. Mix in a dash of curry and some salt. You can also chop in celery, mango and cashews if you’re feeling crazy. Similar to Coronation Chicken which was served to the Queen, slather this on some granary bread and make Wednesday an occasion.

Next you will be in need of a hearty dish to see you through the week. Chop up all the remaining chicken. Steam some rice and stir fry some broccoli, carrots and red peppers. Add half the chicken and top with your favourite peanut sauce.

For your last meal,  boil a veggie or chicken boullion cube with two cups of water. If you have white wine on hand, drop in a splash or brighten it up with a squeeze of lemon juice. Chop the leftover veggies from your stirfry and add them to the pot with some of the rice and chicken and season it with salt, pepper and thyme. Call your parents and amaze them with your capabilities.

Escape From the City…In the Middle of the City

Last weekend my family joined the High Park Nature Centre on their Wild Edibles tour. I had just finished a busy week chock full of deadlines and time spent careening around the city. I was looking forward to heading out into the comparative wilds of High Park forest but my family seemed reluctant. My husband was tweaking some artwork for a client and my kids were engrossed in turning their train set into a roller coaster, incorporating pretty much everything we own into a jumble in our front room. Finally, I cajoled them into boots, coats, backpacks and headed out to the park. We spent the next two hours rambling through the park tasting various natural delicacies. Here are some of my favourite finds.

Toronto is about as far north as you will find the aromatic sassafras tree which is native to Carolinean forest of High Park. If you run your fingernail along the back of the leaf and inhale, you will think it’s the best darned scratch and sniff you’ve ever encountered. Although the US government has banned its internal use, the leaves are ground into gumbo in the southern states. It is also used by herbalists and in Native medicine for its antiseptic and dilation properties and it was combined with molasses to create the first root beer.

Next we were shown something called Jewel Weed. My daughter attended the Pine Camp this summer (a naturalist camp for children) so we were already familiar with its usefulness as an antidote for poison ivy and red ant bites. You merely chomp up a bunch of its leaves and slap them on your affliction as a kind of magic poultice. Our guide Jon let us know that the poison and its antidote often grow right near each other which I think is a beautiful example of what a balanced individual mother nature really is. What we didn’t realize is that it also has little pods that react to the heat in your skin and kind of recoil, curling its leaves back. I could have meditated over this little bit of natural animation for the rest of the afternoon but we were quickly on the hunt for wood sorrel. We are also well familiar with this plant having enjoyed many “sour candy salads”. Sour candy, as wood sorrel is commonly called, is an apt description of its pleasant flavor. Just be sure not to mix it up with St Johns Wort which is not tasty but is useful as a natural treatment for depression and its bright orange “blood” makes great tattoos too.

My favourite find of the day though was the sumac. We love the stuff ground up and rubbed on fish. We resisted the temptation to fill baskets with it and instead left most of it for the birds who rely on red coloured wild edibles to feed them and keep the pigment in their feathers. I looked over at my family happily sipping from the Sumache-aid brew Jon had pulled from his pack. No more grumpy faces. Just relaxed people communing with nature in the middle of a big busy city. When I got home, my pockets were overflowing with mustard seed, marshmellow root and hemlock tips. My daughter retreated to her tree house in the garden to log it all in her science diary.

At the end, we were invited in for some warming Hemlock tea. For those of you who are widely read of Socrates you may think this is a spectacularly dangerous way to spend an afternoon however you will be relieved to hear that hemlock trees here are not the poisonous plants of Greece. In fact they are lovely and aromatic and make delightful tea when blended with maple syrup.

Natural Food in Your Local Park

Some of the natural goodies we found on the trail

From Ryerson, walk up to Carleton and grab the College Streetcar 506. It will drop you off in the Howard Park loop of High Park which is a short five minute walk north to the High Park Nature Centre:




October 16th: World Food Day

I would like you to think back over the last 48 hours and recall all the food you have consumed. How many meals did you eat? How much food did you eat? Did any of the foods that you ate provide you with essential vitamins and minerals to nourish your body? We are fortunate to live in a country where there is an abundance of food available and there are no shortages. What if this food was not available? How would you be affected? Maybe you would feel tired all day, not have enough energy to carry out your day-to-day activities, have difficulty focusing or find your health starting decline? We live in a country where the economy is relatively thriving, we are not at conflict or war, nor do we experience severe environmental conditions – all of which affect the food supply. But not every one in Canada gets the luxury of at least three meals per day. Even more so than Canada, other countries are affected to a greater extent.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that globally, there are 925 million hungry people and the greatest concentration is found in sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, here are the top four hunger statistics according to the World Food Programme:

  1. Hunger is the world’s number 1 health risk. Every year killing more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis!
  2. One in seven people in the world will go to bed hungry tonight!
  3. One in four children in developing countries are underweight!
  4. There are more hungry people in the world than the combined populations of USA, Canada and the European Union!

From these hunger stats you can see the severity of this circumstance and to generate awareness on this issue, each year October 16th has been designated WORLD FOOD DAY!! WORLD FOOD DAY commemorates the founding of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations and their efforts to reduce global hunger. This upcoming WORLD FOOD DAY, a non-profit organization called CPAR (Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief) has launched a campaign, the United Against Hunger in Africa Napkin Campaign, to raise awareness about food security and hunger.

I am proud to announce that I am a volunteer for this campaign. My job is to distribute custom-designed napkins to restaurants and cafes free of charge throughout the community. The establishments that agree to participate will use these napkins in place of their regular ones on October 16th – WORLD FOOD DAY, and the days leading up to the event. These napkins bear an important message and what is even better is that they are printed on 100% recycled paper. I also have bookmarks to distribute to libraries, and postcards and brochures with more information for customers at participating establishments.

So you will probably see these napkins around the Ryerson campus and maybe even in some of the surrounding restaurants or coffee shops.

To support the hunger needs of the Ryerson Community, we have a Community Food Room right on campus that offers a free food bank to all students, faculty and staff. To use this service all you have to do is bring in your student card and proof of enrollment and fill out a quick registration from. Tuition and living expenses can cause a lot of strain and stress on students, so if you or you someone you know are on a tight budget and have limited access to food this is a great resource for you. The Community Food Room is always looking for volunteers as well. I encourage you to become involved and support the cause in reducing hunger – spread the word to create awareness on WORLD FOOD DAY!!!