Montreal Nutrition’s intern Diane is back with some great Spring tips!

Here’s a quick update about my life this past semester at McGill in the Dietetics program:

I finished my first official semester as a Dietetics student. In January, I waited (im)patiently by the computer awaiting the news of whether or not my transfer was rejected or not. I promise I did not freak out, more than twice. I finished my finals a few weeks ago and I start my Level 1 Practicum/Stage in July. That’s where I’ll be interviewing patients, learning their story and their diet habits and see what I can do to help them, with the guidance of my supervisor. I’ll let you all know how it goes as it goes!

1. Don’t like water? TRY dipping some tea bags for some flavor.

Something that’s been really trendy with water lately, especially in the summer, is cutting up strawberries, mangos or cucumbers and letting them sit in ice water. Just TRUST me. OR try strawberry water at YEH frozen yogurt (various locations in Montreal).


2. Ease into exercise. Aim for consistency over one-time performance.

Disclaimer: This is from my personal experience, so don’t hold me accountable.

I’ve always been a pretty active-ish person. I did sports through high school, played soccer with the city league for a while, tennis and kickboxing lessons but always on and off. I’ve realized that right now, I’m the type of person that needs constant motivation and incentive to get my butt out the door and exercise. When I’m not on a team or taking a class, it’s the hardest thing for me to be active.

Lately, what has helped me, is to just START small. When you go running for the first time in 4 months, go for 15 minutes even if you used to be able to go for what seemed like forever. What I used to do was, pump myself up so much, I ran for 1.5 hours the first day back in the gym. The next day, I’d feel like I HAD to do at least 1.5 again. I wasn’t in the mood so I just never went until the next time I was super motivated. SO I realized, if I start with 10, it wont be so horrible, and I won’t feel too bad going out the next day as well.


3. Don’t give up!

Here’s my current addiction in music form:

What do you think?

AND also,

Show Montreal Nutrition some love and let us know what you want to read about this summer!

Stay tuned,


D the Intern

Deep Dark Chocolate Cake

I discovered this chocolate cake cake recipe with an interesting twist. The recipe uses beetroot as a sweetener which lowers the amount of sugar in it! I think the idea is great to use to practice reducing sugar use.

I have a list of things that I think are weird enough to be cool. (Like a platypus? How is it part duck, part frog, part beaver? That’s not the case of seals though…) Anyways, I think beetroot in cake was weird enough to be cool so I decided to try it out and see. Hope you all enjoy!

Dry Ingredients (Combine First!)
– 1½ cups self-rising flour (buy it! Or make it yourself!)
– 1/4 cup finely ground almonds
– 5 tbsps cocoa powder
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1/4 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients (Combine Second, Then add Dry Ingredients)
– 3 large eggs
– 3/4 cup sugar
– ½ cup beets, peeled and finely grated
– ½ cup buttermilk (buy it! Or make it yourself with white vinegar)
– 2 tbsps strong black coffee

For the icing, you need:
– ½ cup dark chocolate, cut into pieces (melted on a double boiler)
– 2 tbsps strong black coffee
– 2 tbsps honey

self-rising flour (can be bought pre-mixed or for every cup of flour, add 1.5 tsps of baking powder and 0.5 tsps of salt)

Notice the whole wheat flour? 😉

Make the icing in a double boiler, chocolate is really sensitive to burning.

Happy Birthday to me!

Some tips: Use an 8′ springform pan if you have one. If you don’t like really really dark chocolate, use milk chocolate in your icing! Or maybe instead of 3/4 cup sugar for the cake, use 1 1/4 cup. This cake rises a lot so it serves up to maybe 15 people or more, so it’s a lot!! And if whole wheat is too much for you, split it half whole wheat and half white flour!

Another idea: make a raspberry couli to go with the cake, all you need is fresh/frozen rapsberries, syrup/honey and a blender.

Hope the summer heat is bearable for you all and, for those of you who went out to see F1, hope you all liked it! 🙂 I love Montreal!!!!

– D the Intern

Ernie’s Success Story

I have a friend that I have known since kindergarten. Let’s call him Ernie.  As long as I have known Ernie, he has been on the pudgy side.  He was never obese but could always stand to lose a few pounds.

Earlier this year he started asking me nutrition questions.  He would call me, text me, email me and I started to realize that he was serious about changing his eating habits. Ernie is a bachelor and lives alone.  He didn’t used to cook for himself .  I am not really sure how he ate.  All I know is he had an epiphany and new he needed to make some changes. He was always semi active with golf, tennis and skiing but he suffered from back issues.  If his back was out then he was not active at all.  Since losing over 20 pounds his back is better and he enjoyed a lot of tennis this summer.  Actually, he is now active at least 5 times a week!

Ernie made and continues to make small dietary changes.  Each change that he makes is something that is manageable for him.  For example, he switched from white refined pasta to whole wheat.  He did the same for all breads and other grains like rice. He believes one of his keys to success was cutting out all refined processed white foods. Whole grain is more satiating than white resulting in less calories consumed which leads to weight loss.

Ernie started to scrutinize his portions.  This was a significant step in reducing his calories. Ernie started cooking more and learning how to prepare food in a healthier way.  He had a few cooking disasters along the way like burnt sweet potato fries but that is part of the learning process.  Cooking mistakes always lead to greater success later on.

I guess the biggest change that Ernie made was developing an awareness of what he put in his mouth.  I don’t think he ever thought much about it before.  He was at my house over the weekend and it got to be supper time but he didn’t want to eat with us because he was expected at his parent’s house for supper.  I could tell he was hungry and Richard offered him some homemade wrap pizza he had just made.  Ernie took 3 small slices equivalent to one bread serving just to tide him over.  In the past, he probably would have eaten a lot more at our house and then gone for supper anyway.

Why is Ernie so successful?  You can read about all of his changes here in his own words. But, in my opinion the reason he doing so well is simply because he was ready!

In Ernie’s own words

-My LA friend told me about his weight loss experience and I immediately brushed it off as “undoable ” for me
-it helped to have bought a designer shirt that made me look pregnant and kept me motivated.
-One day, I was at a business lunch and people noticed I was eating salad… they said “what are you on a diet?” I said “yes, I just started yesterday”, we all laughed and took it as a big joke, but it committed me to the idea and that day was day one! Announcing your intention to people publicly keeps you committed to the cause (it’s a Tony Robbins thing…)
-My focus was purely on eliminating white carbs and sweets also (not adding) sugars to my food…calorie count, etc… was not my focus.
-I think by focusing on one thing (in my case 2 ) I was able to keep disciplined.
-I have never been a “scale ” person, but did a weigh in every 2-3 months….good things were happening and undoable became achievable
-Over the summer, I was very motivated to keep a healthy lifestyle, the goal was 4-5 activities / week (tennis,  swimming , hiking , walks…keep it fun & light )
– I lost 20 pounds between Jan-June, then put on 7 pounds in the summer….and since September that weight is off !
-the weight loss was steady, nothing drastic, and except for the summer glitch (which was due to mom’s pasta, which I have since got her to buy whole wheat) everything is back on track.
-another friend recently came over and warned me about the dangers of sodium. He went through my fridge and cupboards and told me how everything was a killer! Now I can spend 5-10 minutes in a grocery store comparing sugars & sodium content in granola cereal!!!!
-As you take the first step and get a comfort zone with it, you will be ready to add to the mix…first sweets then carbs, then sodium, then calories…until eventually I’ll be a pure vegan one day, Never !!!
-I am reading more articles and more keen to learning about nutritional/ health….and slowly you try to implement those lessons learned
-I’m not that obsessive, nor consider myself a detail oriented person, but I started to get it
-nutrition is also a great ice-breaker conversation topic…I find people latch on to the topic and more often than not people are concerned and taking steps to improve their health through nutrition & fitness. People want to let you know what they’re doing and want to talk about it…
-cheats: at first I went “cold turkey , but came to understand that the body can take small doses and restrictions are negative, so on the odd occasions a slice of cheesecake or tiramisu is in order, but a small piece !
-success leaves clues….people have noticed a change and are impressed, they want to know what I did , how I started and hopefully they find their own motivation and their own tricks for getting into better shape, for their reasons…

Junk Food Pantry: Good or Bad?

Caryn and Suzanne
I was visiting
last week for a family wedding. The drive along the 401 was excruciating with 3
kids and a bubby. Every single rest stop from here to TO and back was closed.
Luckily, when I got there I got a chance to visit with my oldest friend Suzanne.  Our kids get along very well and we all spent
one evening just hanging out.  We ordered
some delicious healthy-ish pizza and of course after supper my kids wanted
dessert.   They had been there before and
knew exactly which pantry Suzanne kept the junk food stash in.  This lead to a junk food discussion that
Suzanne and I have had many times. 

Suzanne is an only child and when we were young all the
neighbourhood kids wanted to go to her house because her mom had the best junk
food pantry ever.  If you ask anyone who
was friend’s with Suzanne back in the day what they remember about her house,
they will all say the yummy snacks.  We
kids would gorge ourselves on whatever was there. Our moms never kept that kind
of stuff.  The funny thing is, Suzanne was
always slim and healthy.  She never ate
that much junk food.  Suzanne is a high
school phys. ed. teacher now and she believes that keeping a pantry full of
junk will actually help kids maintain a healthy weight.  I completely agree with her.  When you deprive kids of junk food all you
are doing is making them want it more. 
What Suzanne has managed to do is teach her own 2 kids about self
control.  Really, isn’t that what it is
all about? 

Personally, I cannot keep as much junk in my house as
Suzanne does because Richard and I do not have that same self control.  My mom rarely kept it in the house and so
when it was available to me, like at Suzanne’s house, I would over indulge.  As it turns out my own mother told me today
that my dad would eat all the junk food so she was forced not to keep it in the

One day Trevor and Jason helped themselves to ice cream,
serving seriously large portions.  Then
they dumped about a cup each of chocolate powder and chocolate syrup over
it.  My first reaction was to pull it
away.  Instead, I encouraged them to eat
it the whole damn thing.  As expected,
they could barely finish it and they both got stomach aches.  This is the way I teach my kids about junk
food.  I have on several occasions let
them eat as much as they want until they turned green.  The consequence to this is they have developed
self control and the ability to recognize an appropriate amount to feel
satisfied but not sick. 

The fact is, junk food is everywhere and it’s fun to eat but
if you eat too much too often it results in health issues. Whether or not you
believe stocking up on junk food or making your kids sick with sweets is
appropriate, it is important to figure out a way to exercise that self
control.  If we can teach it to our
children then hopefully they will grow up consuming less than nutritious foods
only in moderation. 

June 2010 013

When I got back to Montreal
I had this craving for the yummy homemade meringue cookies Suzanne’s mom
makes.  Luckily for me, but not for
Suzanne, Estelle lives in my ‘hood .  So
I called her up and asked her for a batch. 
Sure, she said, as long as I share them with my kids and don’t hoard
them all to myself.

Are your kids eating too much dessert?

Mrs. Obama unveiled
a nutrition initiative south of the border a few weeks ago.  Its purpose is to combat the growing problem
of childhood obesity.  One point really spoke
to me.  Mrs. Obama recommends that dessert
become a once a week treat rather than after every meal.  I couldn’t agree more.

When did
dessert become so common place anyway? The cult of dessert for grownups must
have begun when coffee houses and dessert places started popping up all over
the universe.  I remember this place in
Monkland Village called Franny’s that I would
frequent with friends.  That is where I
learned about cheesecake.  Before the
coffee places it was the donut shops but we knew that was junk food and didn’t eat
it regularly.  We just hung out here.

When I was
a kid we never had dessert on a daily basis.
We were considered lucky if we even got it once a week.  It is so strange to me that my kids demand
dessert every night of the week.  I am
not really sure when this started happening but it is so irritating.  I really don’t get it.  I still think of dessert as a once in a while
thing.  My mom used to occasionally bake
mandel bread. (Here’s a great mandel bread recipe from Norene Gilletz) My
mother’s mandel bread was terrible.  It
was as hard as a rock and could be used a weapon.  It would sit there on the counter for a week
unless my father would devour it.  Maybe
my mother was using a tactic to turn her kids off dessert!  At some point, my brother and I told her to
add triple the chocolate chips and then we had no problem eating it.

March 2010 001I do not
know where my kids learned about dessert.
I am guessing it comes from the TV.
We can pretty much blame anything on TV right, so why not blame bad
eating habits on it.  There’s enough food
and snack commercials plus cartoons and live action shows depicting desserts.  If you see it enough I suppose it just
becomes the norm.  I am guessing that’s
what happened with the kids unless they picked up the habit at someone’s house (maybe at Grandma Toby’s?).

question now becomes what do I do about it?
Here are my techniques.  First I
use the tried and true “if you don’t finish your supper then I will think you
are not hungry and won’t offer you any dessert.” Once that strategy has been
employed I use some trickery.  I keep
Chapman’s frozen yogurt in my freezer (It’s the least offensive frozen treat
that I have found) and tell the kids that it is ice cream.  They can take a ½ cup after they are finished
supper.  Of course if I have done my
calculations right and I realize they haven’t eaten enough fruits or vegetables
during the day, I will insist they have a fruit before a dessert.  Other tried and true methods are the “eat as
much as you want” trick.  I find this strategy
great for teaching kids how to manage the serving sizes of sweet foods.  I have on occasion let my kids take as much
as they want of a dessert.  You can
imagine the excessively large portion size a kid with big eyes will take.  At some point during the exercise my sons
have turned to me looking a bit green, and said that their tummies hurt and
cannot eat anymore. I have observed that the next time they go for that same
dessert they self monitor their portion.
Trevor sometimes enjoys chocolate for dessert.  I allow him to potion out some chocolate
chips and he seems pretty satisfied.  My
baby (almost 2 year old Ian) is starting to want dessert too.  I have asked Trevor to give Ian an
appropriate serving size of chocolate chips or ‘ice cream’.  I am impressed to say that Trevor knows the
right amount to give his brother.  Jason (middle
child) thinks that sugarless gum is the greatest food on earth.  Surprisingly, he is quite satisfied when I
give him a stick of gum and tell him that is his dessert.  I write all this to say that it boils down to
moderation.  I seriously prefer Mrs.
Obama’s recommendation but would experience a mutiny in my house if I tried to
implement that one.