Topline Trend Tuesday: Anti-inflammatory diets

October 6, 2009

anti-inflammatory-food-pyramid(click image for full size)

It seems like there’s always a new diet promising to change your life by making you slimmer and sexier. Most of them don’t work (trust me – I’ve tried them all!) and many of them make you feel pretty awful besides (remember the dreaded Slim Cleanse experience I wrote about?).

But the latest diet trend to get media attention has a new goal in mind: calming the immune system. Anti-inflammatory diets promote the inclusion of brightly coloured, high antioxidant foods (such as carrots, cherries and pomegranates), spices (such as turmeric and ginger) and fish oils to help reduce the amount of inflammation in our bodies. Theorized to alleviate symptoms of psoriasis and acne and to reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s, heart disease and cancer, anti-inflammatory diets sound like they could help a lot of people.

How does it work? Studies show that chronic inflammation in the body can throw the immune system off balance and cause it to spend time repelling pathogens instead of maintaining healthy tissues.

Looking for more info on this trend? Both Dr. Sears and Dr. Weil are on the bandwagon and have info to share.

Have you heard of this diet or tried it? If so, tell me what you think.

Reinventing grilled cheese

October 5, 2009

shrimp naanwich

Did I mention to you that I’m on a diet? Yes, again. I’m truly the poster child for yo-yo dieting. I even have a string in the top of my head.

When I diet, I fantasize about my favourite foods. In fact, all weekend long I was tormented by dreams of crunchy, buttery, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches!

As much as I love old school, aged Cheddar melted between slices of sandwich bread (these are the sandwiches that I grew up eating for lunch), I’ve been known to experiment with my grilled cheese, too. In fact, in my 2007 cookbook Dana’s Top ten Table (Harper Collins), I featured this suppertime sandwich that combines tender naan bread, molten cheese and crunchy, sweet shrimp. Decadent, fast, easy and comforting:

Shrimp Toasty Naanwhich

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes

1/2 lb (50 mL) thawed, frozen cooked shrimp, tails and shells removed
3 tbsp (45 mL) mayonnaise (light or regular)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 green onion, finely chopped
4 slices havarti cheese
4 slices naan bread, halved crosswise
1 tbsp (15 mL) melted butter

Pat the shrimp dry on paper towels and then chop coarsely if large. Blend with the mayonnaise with the garlic and green onion. Lay two large naan out on a clean work surface; spread the shrimp mixture evenly over one slice. Top with the cheese slices and remaining bread.

• Spread the butter evenly over the outside of the naan. Preheat a panini maker, hinged grill or a large skillet or griddle to medium heat. Add the sandwich and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until bread is golden on each side and cheese is melted. If cooking on the stovetop, turn the sandwich halfway through cooking. Makes 4 servings.

In case you’re uninitiated, naan is an East Indian, wheat flour, leavened bread that’s baked until pillowy, soft and golden in a tandoor oven. According to the Chicago Tribune, using naan for sandwiches is trending up. From Canada’s west coast chain Sabri Sandwiches that transform Indian entrées like butter chicken into hand held meals to old crocks like me, naan is a great way to perk up your sandwiches.

Do you use naan in non-traditional ways like sandwiches and pizza?

Rebellion at the restaurant – Healthy eating gone wrong?

May 15, 2009


Check out the surprising news in this recent Reuters article about the adverse effects of healthy menu items on people’s health. Although it discusses a small study of  70 undergraduate students, the results are surprising:

•    37% chose a bacon cheeseburger when the menu alternatives included a veggie burger (other options were a chicken or fish sandwich)
•    only 17% picked the bacon cheeseburger when the veggie burger wasn’t on the menu.
Dr. Gavan J. Fitzsimons of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina led the study and observed that “Because the healthy option is there, it somehow satisfies this healthy eating goal in them and then they felt liberated to sort of go crazy and choose something really, really bad for them.”

It’s like he’s been watching me. Seriously. I’ve ordered dessert with a ‘What the hell? We only live once!’ victory cry on numerous occasions when I’ve been out with the girls. Even at home, I rebel on occasion; for instance, I buy skim milk for myself but then sneak sips of my son’s homogenized milk. Shameful behaviour, I know.

Has this kind of rebellious impulse ever thwarted your good eating intentions?

No gym required — really!

February 11, 2009

img_2487 by Guest Blogger Amy Snider

Who has time to go to the gym? I’ve always believed in the philosophy that to be healthy, you need to eat nutritious foods and incorporate lots of physical activity into your lifestyle. But like so many other people, I find it challenging to practise what I preach. After a busy day at work, trudging out to the gym to fight for a treadmill has no appeal.

That’s why I was excited to be asked to be a contributor in Key Porter’s recent fitness book  No Gym Required, Unleash Your Inner Rock Star by celebrity trainer Jennifer Cohen. Jennifer’s opinion is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money or time to improve your health. Designed to “unleash your inner rock star” Jennifer offers advice on how to adopt a healthier lifestyle by setting attainable goals, choosing the right foods and getting fit. I love the visual, step-by-step instructions for exercises that you do can anytime, anywhere!

As part of Team Jennifer, we developed a two-week menu featuring fresh, wholesome foods to make it easy to get a jump start on getting lean and fit. Unlike starvation diets, the 1,500 calorie-a-day meal plan is practical and designed to keep you fueled throughout the day. Two of our terrific interns Shirley Walsh and Melanie Chislett helped out with research and it was great to be able to include them in this project. Check out the book and the website at

Where do you work out? At home? Outside? Or at the gym?

Dieting declines…really?

October 7, 2008

I was a little dismayed to discover that, while I’ve come to accept that I have to live on a diet to ensure I don’t become a fatty four eyes, that the rest of the continent is ditching the whole dieting concept.

Regular readers here will know that I’m always gaining or losing 5 pounds. I’d like to call it an occupational hazard but weight gain wasn’t a problem for me 10 years ago and I had the same job then. No, I fear age is the culprit in my case. The old bod doesn’t burn off the bacon as fast as it used to.

I’m at the fringe of the aging curve. In fact, I was born about three years too late to even qualify as a baby boomer. The reason this info is important is that it makes the decreased dieting numbers even more puzzling. If I’m fat because I’m old, then why aren’t the older baby boomers in the same boat?

Here’s what the latest facts and figures reveal about how a group of 997 people who were surveyed by NPD feel about reshaping their own figures:

1990: 39 % of women and 29% of men surveyed were on a diet.
2008: only 26% of women and 16 % of men gave the same response.

This trend is confirmed by the Calorie Control Council (a group of diet companies, I believe) who report that in 2004, 33% of people were dieting while in 2008 the figure fell to 29 %.

Slow Food advocates like Alice Waters believe the change reflects more public interest in cooking and eating wholesome foods. I’m not sure if she’s correct (I’d love to see more people cooking and eating well so I hope she’s right), but the US Department of Agriculture does have research that shows that the more time people spend on food shopping, cooking and kitchen clean up, the more likely they are to be of average weight.

Do you find that you and your family diet more or less than in the past? And, if you are dieting less is it because you’ve given up your goal to be thin in dismay or because you’ve discovered the pleasure of scratch cooking and don’t need to diet anymore?

Proudly below average

September 17, 2008

A couple of weeks ago when I wrote about how I was a couple of pounds heavier than the average Canadian woman, I was a bit chagrinned with myself since last winter I had been thin, trim and happily below average. Just like every autumn of my adult life, I had gained weight.

Well, today I’m happy to say that I am once again below average! It’s been a couple of weeks of sacrifice and quite a few laps around my neighbourhood’s park trails but I’m now more than three pounds below average weight and still six inches taller than average. As a result I’m both above and below average at the same time. It’s a happy paradox!

While I’d love to celebrate with a donut, I’m smart enough to know that moderation will be my key to long-term victory. Or, it would be if I got a new job that didn’t require me to eat all day long, to develop 30+ holiday baking recipes each May, etc.. But, I digress.

What are my slimming food secrets? They aren’t rocket science, but here are three superhero snacks that I’ve found helpful as I’ve whittled my ass down to fit back into my skinny jeans:

• Green Giant Essentials Fibre (blend with pearl barley) makes a great lunch
• Soup at Hand Garden Tomato is my afternoon snack choice when I crave a mocha mid afternoon.
• Summer Fresh Salads Snackn’ Go Hummus is just the right amount of highly flavoured protein to make salad a satisfying lunch.
• Do you have any superhero skinny snacks you can recommend?

An open letter to the Slim Cleanse Company

July 8, 2008

Dear Slim Cleanse Company:

Allow me to congratulate you on your wonderful marketing campaign. Although I can’t speak for every woman my age, I can tell you that it effectively tapped into my insecure (and likely unrealistic) wish to totally rawk a bathing suit when I hit the pool this summer.

Your packaging claim that in just seven days this simple yet effective regime can gently purge my body of the unwanted toxins that cause midriff bloating is most seductive.

While I’ve only been using your product for two days, I must tell you that I think your copywriter may misunderstand the word ‘gentle.’ Unless, of course, by gentle s/he means that users of this product should like spending time in the bathroom and be able to bring their laptops into the bathroom if they want to get any work done.

Although I do so want to help you to achieve corporate success, I am sorry to advise you that I will be unable to complete your slim cleanse regime. I just don’t have the time or the toilet tissue budget to continue at this time and I’ll never get to the pool if I fall much further behind in my work.

Best of luck with your business.

~Dana McCauley