It's that time of year when my dinner inspiration comes from comfort food cravings and a bottle of wine. And then good intentions, a day of green smoothies, and then more wine. Did I mention I'm an extremist? Luckily, I got some tips from two lovely holistic nutritionists, who are also busy moms, food bloggers not to mention food lovers, and have a way more balanced approach than me: Michelle GB & Danielle Binns.
Danielle specializes in baby and toddler nutrition and feeding strategies, while providing health-boosting and stress-busting solutions for worried moms. Although her strategies are tailored to individual situations, her focus is on incorporating real food with simple solutions to encourage picky eaters.
Michelle’s mantra is EAT MORE VEG! Her food philosophy is based on the simple premise that people don't eat enough plant-based food: vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts and seeds. Michelle says focusing on the EAT MORE VEG slogan simplifies change, and helps clients reduce the amount of junk and processed foods they consume. "Perhaps it means replacing one of their meals with a large salad with a leafy green of choice, a protein such as lentils, black beans, fish or meat, some other veggies, a nut or seed with a light dressing."
Of course, it's not an easy time to follow this philosophy: just when local produce is dwindling, the price of imported fruits and vegetables is soaring due do the weak Canadian dollar. On the other hand, with such limited selection, it's the perfect time to get creative with spices. Here's 4 strategies to Eat More Veg and real food, with some spice hacks that will get you through the next month of winter fun:
1. Support Local Farmers: in Ontario, the price of imported lettuce was up 18% year over year in January, but local sprouts are available year round and make fantastic salads. Beets, cabbage, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, and squash are all available throughout the winter months and are delicious roasted and thrown into salads, cold grain bowls, or hearty soups. Change things up by roasting veggies in coconut oil and curry powder or add a mix of spices to your onion base when making soups. Get the recipe for Michelle's Carrot Cumin soup here.
2. Incorporate One Vegan Night a Week: if you're saving by cutting out meat you can splurge on vegetables. Danielle's dairy-free broccoli cauliflower casserole is a healthier spin on the traditional creamy one but still hearty with coconut milk adding healthy fats. Get the full recipe here. The turmeric not only adds a punch of antioxidants, but it also give your casseroles that cheesy colour that we all seem to gravitate towards in the winter. Did you know that even Kraft has gotten rid of their Mac & Cheese dye and is using turmeric for colouring instead?
3. Throw in Frozen Veggies: fresh is best but frozen veggies still retain most of their nutrients and are pretty convenient for a quick dinner. Michelle recommends using them in stir fries with garlic, ginger and your favourite spices to make up for any lost flavour. I have Indian friends who swear by frozen cauliflower in their Aloo Gobi and with all those spices you may not notice the difference.
4. Double the Onion: onions are cheap year round and loaded with anti-oxidants so double, no triple the onion in your base for everything in the winter. While you're at it, double the garlic too, and crack open the wine, because those onions are going to take some time. My biggest curry-making mistake was never the spices I used (which many people hesitate to modify/adapt - just go for it!) but in rushing the onions. You want to really draw out the flavour so let the onions caramelize slowly, throw in some chillies and spices, take another sip of wine and snack on the sizzling onion spice delciousness. Add some seasonal and frozen veggies, and you've got a veggie-filled curry that would make Michelle & Danielle proud :)
*Michelle GB is a holistic nutritionist who promotes living a balanced life, encouraging a healthy mind and body. Michelle has also created the EAT MORE VEG, SWEAT & BREATHE program. Learn more here.
Danielle Bins is a certified nutritionist (CNP) who provides holistic health solutions, evidence-based feeding strategies, and mommy sanity support. Click here to get her free e-book with the 5 Best Foods to Help Children Thrive.