Category Archives: Health

#CookingWithKids – an easy #recipe for Polenta Lasagna

polenta lasagna recipe - photo credit - Karen Anderson

Polenta Lasagna – photo credit – Karen Anderson

This month on CBC Radio One’s Alberta at Noon I’ll be talking about the importance of cooking skills for children. I believe cooking is a basic life skill that determines how healthy an individual and in turn a family will be.

A lack of ability to cook from scratch leads to a life dependent on processed foods. Processed foods are more likely to contain excess salt, sugar and food additives and a diet filled with processed foods is more likely to cause obesity.

Harvard University says the health consequences of obesity include heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, asthma, some cancers, susceptibility to depression due to discrimination and the emotional impact of that. Thirty per cent of youth are now obese.

We are three generations since the norm was a stay at home homemaker and cook for each family. Many parents (let alone their children) lack cooking skills beyond reheating, microwaving and combining packaged foods. Women in the 1960s were told cooking was a chore and they needed to be emancipated from the kitchen. Women did go out to work but instead of “freedom” they now work outside the home and still do the majority of household work as well. Equal partnerships are slow to evolve. Reframing cooking as a family activity and a creative way to nurture, care and ensure health for ourselves and our children could go a long way to correcting our society’s obesity epidemic.

I developed the Polenta lasagna recipe in this post to act as a cooking skills bridge from reliance on highly processed packaged food to cooking with healthier choices. The result is a fun assembly of quality ingredients with delicious results. Older children can make it on their own. Parents and younger children can make this together. Continue reading


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Updating the candy bowl – #food #exercise and #health

Gull Valley Growers tomatoes - photo credit - Karen Anderson

Gull Valley Growers tomatoes – photo credit – Karen Anderson

When I was a little girl every time I visited my paternal Grandmother she let me pick a sweet from her candy bowl. It sat on one end of her gleaming coffee table in the heart of her completely neat and tidy 1970’s bungalow. Depending on the season Grammy filled the soft green depression glass vessel with Werther’s caramels, Ganong’s peppermints, liquorice all sorts, ribbon candy or my favourite – humbugs.

Grammy’s exercise program was her housework. She’d waited over 40 years to own a home and she washed walls, baseboards, curtains and every knick knack off every shelf twice a year. She did the laundry and hung in on the line on Mondays. She vacuumed and dusted every few days. She grocery shopped, cooked and set a perfect table for every meal. She looked after my grandfather and her beloved pets – cats, dogs and a bird. She doted on her only son, grandchildren, friends and neighbours. She also worked as a sales clerk in a shop until she was 60. Every Sunday afternoon she sat at her kitchen table to write letters to her family “over the river” in Maine and to me and my siblings when we were away at college. She sat everyday after work to watch her “stories” as she called the soap operas she adored. She savoured this life she made and it was really sad when she died of renal failure due to adult onset diabetes at only 74 years of age.

I miss my Grandmother but I don’t really miss her candy bowl. I think I inherited my sweet tooth from her well-intentioned gesture of hospitality. I’m determined to live healthfully and contribute to life well beyond 74 years of age.

I haven’t watched television since 1994 but I have a different kind of screen time issue as I sit and write for hours at my computer daily. That’s why I keep track of how much I move and walk at least an hour each day. It’s raining and cold right now but I’m going to drag my butt out the door and go for that walk now. I want to be around to savour it all with my only son and hopefully my grandchildren and friends until my 100th birthday.

The photo you see above is my update on a candy bowl. Hopefully my grandchildren will love having me around more than they’d love humbugs.

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January Detox Naturally – take care of your liver and feed your body

Juice, Juice and more Juice – photo – Karen Anderson

A brief scan of headlines under New Year’s Diets for 2016 revealed the following diet fads: the master cleanse lemonade diet, all kale and chewing gum, no sugar at all – no carbs ever, the bulletproof coffee diet (a coffee filled with butter and MCT oil – synthesized medium chain triglycerides), super elixirs, super trim pills, veganism, paleo diets  and “all juice –  all the time”. We’ll also see kelp replace kale as the new superfood, people soaking in epsom salts to “remineralize” and an increase in matcha green tea drinks and bone broths instead of fruit and vegetable juicing according to the always trendy Harper’s Bazaar.

A recent article entitled “A Healthy Diet’s Main Ingredient: Best Guesses” in The New York Times cautions away from these “one true path” regimens because ultimately our bodies are as complex as they are individual. Some researchers feel it could take another 200 years before we truly understand the human body well enough to prescribe diets and they will most likely be highly individualized when we do.

I’ll talk about how the trend for Designer Juice Cleanse companies is currently growing by 4 – 8 per cent annually and some of the pros and cons of juicing on Alberta at Noon today. I’ve posted on the very January tendency to want to “detox” here.   Turns out we don’t need to detox because our brilliant liver does that for us on a continual basis.

This post will discuss specific ways you can support your liver and feed your body with guidelines from Canada’s Food Guide, The Canadian Liver Association, The British Liver Trust and some sound thoughts from Dr. Mark Swain, Head of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University of Calgary.

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#Salad #Recipes for my January @AlbertaatNoon food column and to help you eat more fruit and vegetables – always a good resolution

Alberta produce

Here you’ll find 2 new recipes I developed for my Alberta at Noon food column for CBC Radio One. I hope they’ll inspire you to eat more fruits and vegetables. The current recommendations are 5 – 9 servings each day or about 4.5 cups. Are you getting enough? Are you getting any? (nudge, nudge – wink, wink)

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In Keeping with a January Detox Theme – Alcohol And The Liver | via Videum – Health and Wellness Videos and The British Liver Trust

We all know that too much alcohol is bad for you, but not everyone is aware of how damage is actually caused. In this short video, Dr. Mark Wright of the British Liver Trust discusses liver disease and how many alcohol units you should stick to per week for optimal health. One thing that’s obvious from the video is that most people don’t have a clue how what the health recommendations for alcohol intake are.

Source: Alcohol And The Liver | Videum – Health and Wellness Videos …

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Yes, it’s January – But Do You Really Need to ‘Detox’? – A Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter Article

stinging nettle, mint and orange smoothie - photo - Karen Anderson

stinging nettle, mint and orange smoothie – photo – Karen Anderson

I’m doing some research for my January Alberta at Noon Food Column and just came across an article that takes a lot of weight off claims made by the increasingly popular trend for “detox” or “cleansing” juice diets.

The designer juice industry is grossing about $5 billion annually with people paying between 60 – 90 dollars daily for their dose of “detoxification”. None of these companies tell you exactly what their product intends to “detox” in your body. They don’t have to because they don’t manufacture drugs and therefore don’t fall under the scrutiny of FDA sanctions.

As with all great product advertising, designer juice manufacturers are really good at understanding human frailty. They know what cue to give you, to cause you to change your behaviour (buy their product) for the reward you desire. In the cases of January and juices, they know you’ve indulged over the holidays and that you’d like to cleanse yourself of your edible “sins”, to feel “energized” and “light”. You may have indulged in a bit too much alcohol along with all the chocolate and mince pies, so they throw the word “detox” in their as well.

After you read the article that follows, I hope you’ll rejoice in your body’s miraculous ability to purify and detox itself daily all on its own. If you were tempted to join the juicing craze, pay close attention to the risks like lack of protein and vitamin deficiencies in these diets. Save yourself a lot of money and stay tuned for upcoming posts where I’ll update you on some best practices that will let you eat, drink and be merry for years to come.

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The Gastronomic Meal of the French – a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Value and my CBC @AlbertaatNoon food column for May

I’m just back from Paris.

I had the opportunity during my visit to spend a day shopping and cooking a multi-course French meal with my friends Marion Willard and Aurélie Mahoudeau of Succulent Paris. For my Parisian friends, this is a daily occurrence. They have culinary skills that have been passed down through the generations of their families. They learned to cook both at extensive family gatherings and in the day-to-day preparation of meals with their parents. They enjoy shopping daily for what is fresh and in season and they use their culinary skills to pull together meals to celebrate those ingredients.

While this is la vie quotidienne (daily life) for my two friends in the food business, cooking a multi-course meal is no longer taken for granted by French families. Families in France also have two partners working outside the home, just like other families around the world, and here in Alberta. This means that their children and ours have less access to cooking mentors than previous generations.

The French government nominated The Gastronomic Meal to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage values in 2008 (it was accepted in 2010) in an effort to preserve its essence – taking time to care and enjoy family and life through gathering at the table to share a thoughtfully prepared meal. The traditional preparation of Kimchi in Korea is currently being considered for UNESCO’s list and Japanese and traditional Mexican cuisine have also already been accepted to the list.

The French realize future generations will need help to sustain this part of their culture due to the evolution of modern family life so they are working with UNESCO to save this intangible part of their heritage. As children’s health advocate Jamie Oliver puts forth in his Food Day Revolution, the life skill of cooking is necessary to the health of future generations. Suddenly, the intangible values surrounding a culture’s way of eating become very tangible supports for a healthy lifestyle when their manifestation has this outcome.

This post will talk a bit more about what’s involved in The Gastronomic Meal of the French and how the values it embodies translate to resilience needed for daily life.

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Filed under Alberta at Noon, Health, Heritage cooking skills, Travel