This post is in partnership with Your Independent Grocer. All images and opinions expressed are solely my own. Thank you for supporting brands that help make Sift & Simmer possible!
Did you know that Your Independent Grocers have registered dietitians in their stores?
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Nolan, a registered dietitian at my local Your Independent Grocer store. In my 1-hour consult, we covered my nutritional goals set for myself and my family.
For those of you who are not familiar, many Your Independent Grocers have an in-store registered dietitian, who works alongside pharmacists in the Pharmacy section.
Setting up an appointment with a dietitian is easy
All you need to do is head over to the Pharmacy department and ask to make an appointment or visit bookadietitian.ca.
The Initial Nutrition Consultation is 60 minutes long and is personalized to your health and nutritional goals. You’ll begin the consult with signing a consent form that will allow the dietitian to share information with your family doctor if you wish to do so.
For my consultation, I wanted to focus on getting my two picky boys to eat more vegetables, and more food in general, while eating more whole foods/plant-based meals for my husband and myself.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that my sons are the main source of inspiration for my foray into recipe creation. And you’ll also know that in general, we opt to eat organic, fresh, healthy, local, homemade food daily. So even though I thought I knew a fair bit about healthy eating, I was surprised at how much I didn’t know. That’s where my local in-store registered dietitian, Nolan came in.
Nolan and I began our nutritional consultation in the produce section, pointing out the local, organic items, and where he asked me about my kids and what they liked to eat, and what challenges I faced with getting them to eat vegetables. As any Mom can attest to, getting kids to eat vegetables can be an uphill battle, but Nolan suggested a few things to help pique the kids’ interest.
- Try sneaking in vegetables into foods (e.g. mashed sweet potatoes into mac and cheese)
- Offering different textured vegetables (e.g. steamed broccoli vs. raw)
- Cutting up vegetables into fun shapes (e.g. spiralized carrots, zucchini)
- Offering a dip to go with the veggies (e.g. yogurt or hummus dip)
- Blending leafy greens into a smoothie
The most important thing is to keep offering vegetables, and that it may take them many tries before they’ll take to it. I can attest to this as my eldest is finally coming around when it comes to cucumbers. He’ll take a small bite and leave the rest in his lunch box, but at least he’s taken a bite of it! Hooray! Baby steps!
Next, we moved over to the bakery aisle and we talked about types of bread that the kids eat. I mentioned that I usually bake my own bread and add in chia seeds and flax seeds, which are a great source of omega-3s. I also mentioned that I sometimes sub in whole-wheat flour into my baking.
Differences between "whole wheat & whole grain"
Nolan told me in the United States, there’s no difference between “whole wheat” and “whole grain” and that in Canada, a distinction exists.
- Whole wheat needs to contain at least 95% of the original kernel
- Whole grain contains 100% of the original kernel
Whole grain contains the entire kernel (including the endosperm, germ, and bran), and has a higher nutritional value.
When reading ingredient lists, a good idea is to check if the beginning contains the word “whole.”
Next, we stopped at the frozen aisle and Nolan asked if I knew whether fresh or frozen vegetables/fruit were better. It’s a trick question because in both, the nutritional content is the same. I thought fresh would be on top but was surprised to learn that frozen can be just as good or even better because the vegetables or fruit is frozen at its peak freshness. And that it can be economically sound to purchase frozen if the vegetable or fruit is out of season and can be convenient (already washed and chopped).
Making our way through the store, we stopped at the canned beans and legumes section and Nolan went through how to read a Nutritional Food Label
How to read a nutritional food label
- Basically, anything under 5% DV [daily value] is not a lot,
- and anything over 15% is a lot.
We went through a quick overview of the revamped Canada’s Food Guide. Are you like me and grew up with the rainbow version of Canada’s Food Guide? Its different number of “servings” of various food groups made it a little cumbersome to comprehend, at least for me. The new one is updated and simple with an easy-to-understand visual photograph of a plate to represent how much to eat from each food group.
- Half the plate is colourful vegetables and fruits
- One quarter of a plate is proteins (which include legumes, tofu, eggs, and meat)
- The remaining quarter is whole grains
Including more plant-based options
My nutritional goal is to include more plant-based items in our diet, Nolan pointed out that foods such as canned beans and lentils are great choices. One thing to watch out for is sodium in canned beans; giving beans a quick rinse will significantly decrease your salt intake.
If you’re watching your budget, it’s noteworthy that buying dried beans or lentils will be much cheaper than buying canned. You’ll have to plan ahead if you’re working with dried beans since most of them require a soak overnight. However, if you’re in a pinch, lentils are easy to prepare (they don’t require soaking), inexpensive, and heart-healthy, which is a definite win in my books!
- Plant-based proteins include beans, lentils, soy, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, hemp seeds, chia, nuts, legumes, nut butters
- Pair proteins with leafy greens for optimal absorption
- If you’re eating meat, you’re getting essential amino acids, however, on a plant-based diet, you’ll need to eat a variety of nuts, legumes, vegetables and whole grains to get a “complete” protein source
Don’t worry about eating complimentary proteins at each meal. If you’re eating a variety of nuts, legumes, grains, and vegetables, you’ll get your amino acids.
It’s an exciting time for people who are choosing to be on a plant-based diet. Some of the new President’s Choice products that Nolan pointed out to me were a new Cashew Dip, Lima Bean Cheesecake, and Beefless Beef Patties. However, Nolan stated that “plant-based” doesn’t necessarily meant “healthy.” His example was Oreos and French fries… both plant-based, but not at all healthy. But the plant-based options are great for people who want to have a plant-based treat.
We wrapped up the consultation at Nolan’s dietitian booth, and he explained that there are events that are put on every month, ranging in a variety of health and nutrition topics.
Overall, my consultation with Nolan was a very informative hour that was actively engaging and practical. He was knowledgeable and sincere in helping me with my family’s nutritional goals and provided useful strategies. Follow-up nutritional services are available, and I recommend seeing a registered dietitian for any nutritional/health questions that you may have. It’s good information to have just in general, regardless of what type of “diet” you might be on.
Get the kids involved in cooking
So, taking in Nolan's advice, I wanted to create a kid-friendly plant-based dish that would get the boys involved in the entire process through grocery shopping, prepping the food, and ultimately eating the food.
I knew the only way get chickpeas into their diet was to sneak it in. But how to also make it fun for them?
The answer: make it into a fun shape and put it on a stick!
These Skewered Falafel Balls with Tzatziki and Avocado are made with PC Organics Canned Chickpeas, that I air-fried to make super crispy.
The boys had a blast scooping the chickpea mixture onto the baking sheet. And then they took turns placing the air-fried falafel balls onto sticks. (Because food's always fun on a stick!) Cut up some fresh local cucumbers and tomatoes and leave extra for the kids to snack on.
Serve the falafel balls with a yogurt tzatziki dip or mashed avocado and you've got an easy, healthy dinner full of vegetables that's also fun to eat. Both my kids ended up eating the falafel balls, and although my youngest didn't touch the tomatoes, he loved pairing the falafels with the yogurt dip. My eldest ate them with the mashed avocado and all the tomatoes. So, whether you're on a plant-based diet, or aren't a fan of vegetables, we're all food lovers. #FoodLoversUnite
Thanks again to Nolan and the team from Your Independent Grocer for setting me up with this complimentary nutritional consultation!
Skewered Falafel Balls with Mint Yogurt Tzatziki & Mashed Avocado
For accuracy and precision in baking recipes, use weight (metric) measurements when available.
- 1 can PC Organics Chickpeas rinsed & drained
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ onion chopped
- ¼ C cilantro roughly chopped
- ¼ C water more or less, depending on how moist the mixture is
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- juice of ½ lemon
- 2 tablespoon avocado oil
- ½ C chickpea flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoon potato starch
- ¼ cucumber sliced
- handful of grape tomatoes
- bamboo skewers
Mint Yogurt Tzatziki Dip
- 2 tablespoon finely diced cucumber
- 3 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- a few mint leaves chopped
- 1 ripe avocado pit removed
- juice of ½ lemon
- pinch of salt
- Combine the drained chickpeas, garlic, onion, cilantro, cumin, salt, and lemon juice in a food processor. Pulse together until a coarse mixture forms. Don’t over process or it will turn into a gooey paste.
- Transfer chickpea mixture into a large glass mixing bowl. Stir in the avocado oil.
- Add in the chickpea flour, baking powder, baking soda, and potato starch. Mix everything to combine.
- Use a small ice cream scoop (get your kids to help) and scoop into small balls, about 1" in diameter. Place the balls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining batter.
- Place the baking sheet into the freezer to harden for 2 hours.
- Heat your air fryer to 350°F.
- Lightly mist the tops of the falafel balls with some oil. Place a couple of falafel balls into the air fryer and air-fry for 12-15 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly mist the tops of the falafel balls with some oil.
- Place tray of falafel balls in the oven and bake for 22-25 minutes, until crisp and golden brown.
- Remove from air fryer or oven. Let cool slightly.
- Carefully let the kids thread the sliced cucumber, tomato, and falafel ball onto the bamboo skewer.
- Serve with Yogurt Tzatziki Dip or Mashed Avocado (recipes below).
Mint Yogurt Tzatziki Dip:
- Combine everything together in a small bowl. Mix well and store in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Scrape out the avocado into a small bowl. Add in the lemon juice and salt. Mash everything together with a fork. Keep covered until ready to serve.
The nutritional information provided should be considered as approximate and is not guaranteed. Please use your best judgment to ensure food is safely prepared and/or a good fit for your diet.