Nutrition Inspiration

March 28, 2018

Women Talk Food with Desiree Nielsen

To finish off National Nutrition Month I am featuring yet another amazing dietitian entrepreneur doing incredible work. I have been following Desiree’s blog for a long time. Desiree is a registered dietitian based in Vancouver, Canada. She is a very busy, incredible entrepreneur specializing in plant-based recipes with a focus on healthy gut and anti-inflammatory diets. Her website has delicious plant-based recipes, as well as research based and helpful nutrition information. She is in the process of creating a cookbook with 100 plant-based recipes, and shares some details with us today. For more information and inspiration you can visit her website here. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did!

What made you realize you were first interested in becoming a dietitian?

I actually came to dietetics via an interest in Integrative Medicine. As a teenager, I stumbled upon the book Eight Weeks to Optimum Health by Dr Andrew Weil and it kind of blew me away. This was a long time ago: a doctor telling you to buy yourself flowers or take vitamin C was revolutionary! It was the first time I had read such a holistic, yet evidence-based approach to health. I had recently become a vegetarian and that transition really opened the door for me to think of health and food as intertwined, in a way that had literally never occurred to me previously. So I went into nutrition as a way of complementing my medical knowledge but the more I dove into the coursework, the more I realized that becoming a registered dietitian would actually allow me to practice in the way I had envisioned for myself. So I gave myself five years to see if dietetics was for me, or I would go back and apply for medical school…and it’s been (almost!) ten.

 

You focus on plant based and anti-inflammatory diets. What is something people can start doing today to incorporate more of these foods into their meals?

My favourite plant hack is to try and make half your plate vegetables and fruit at every meal. It’s a stretch goal…I don’t get there at every single meal!
I love this ‘rule’ because it is so flexible. It doesn’t require you to change how you eat. If you are a protein-starch-veg kind of eater, you can simply upsize the veggies and downsize the other components. If you eat a lot of mixed meals like stews and casseroles, you can easily double the veggies in almost any recipe. This one action has the power to transform how you feel too. I think we often underestimate the power of vegetables, at the same time we acknowledge that they are good for us. Vegetables are nutrient-dense, and take up a lot of space due to their water and fibre content. Eating whole vegetables helps you to have a comfortable relationship with your appetite so you can eat to feel satisfied, unlike hyper-processed foods which are so easy to overeat. Their fibre also helps feed beneficial bacteria in the gut, which help fight inflammation – because 80% of your immune activity is centred around the gut. Even more, vegetables contain critical phytonutrients like anthocyanins that modulate inflammatory responses in the body.

You mention it took you 5 years to get your son to finally like kale. For all those parents out there what is your advice on getting your kids to eat more vegetables?

I will start by saying that I am not an expert on feeding anyone’s children but my own…but I certainly have a few opinions on the topic!
The easiest way to get your kids to eat more vegetables is to start them on veggies from day one. Quite literally, vegetables were first foods for my kids, before grain-based cereals. I wanted to nurture their tastebuds so they appreciated real flavour before giving them super bland and palatable ‘baby foods’. We eat one family meal at dinnertime; I feel like my role as a parent is to help my children grow into adults who cook and eat well. My kids are served the foods that the adults want to eat; I ask that they taste everything but it is up to them how much they choose to eat and if there is one component they don’t like, they don’t have to eat it. You bet we have nachos or veggie burgers sometimes, but we eat those as a family too! Of course, if your child has already had years of chicken strips and macaroni, I totally understand that it is a bit more difficult to adjust their tastebuds. My recommendation is to get them involved in the process. For example, if you’ve been having trouble getting your kids to eat broccoli, you could search for a family friendly recipe with your kids and get their help making it. Ideally, it’s a recipe style that they already like like a broccoli nugget or creamy pasta – as that will help with the introduction of a new taste. And if they don’t love it right away, don’t stress…and don’t stop serving it either!

You have been working on a cookbook. Can you give us a little sneak peak into what we have to look forward to seeing in it?

I am so very excited to share Eat More Plants with the world! It’s been an absolute labour of (plant) love. My clients are always looking for recipes to help them live a more plant-centred, anti-inflammatory lifestyle and soon I will have a whole book of them to share! All 100 recipes are vegan, gluten free, whole food (no frankenmeats!) and most take 20-40 minutes to make. My sincere wish is that this will be a book that people actually cook from so I wanted to keep recipes simple. This is the food I actually make at home: flavourful, inspired by my travels and fun to eat. Expect plenty of turmeric…and green veggies!

I am passionate about creating a better food system, what do you hope to see change in the future of food?

I hope to see more food manufacturers taking their role in ensuring a sustainable and equitable food system more seriously. I want to see companies supporting farmers who work to improve the soils so we can continue to grow food here at home for generations to come. I want to see companies who import food from overseas ensuring that their farmers are paid living wages and that the communities benefit from the producer-exporter relationship. Food manufacturers should offer transparency in where food is sourced and how much waste is generated in the manufacturing process. In addition, I hope that we as consumers will vote with our dollar and support the companies that do good. Life is getting very expensive; however, in Canada and the US, we spend far less of our available budget on food than most other countries. I would love to see people who have the privilege of having enough to go around re-prioritize their food budget because it will benefit their health and the health of the planet.

Can you share one (or a few) of your favorite cookbooks or food books at the moment?

I have been lusting over the Plantlab book; it’s a very fine-dining approach to plant-based cuisine so definitely not a weeknight cookbook but I have pulled some great ideas from it. One of my standbys is Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi. I have made – or veg-adapted – many recipes from that book; the flavours are incredible. I am also super excited to get my hands on Kintsugi Wellness by Candice Kumai, it’s a Japanese-inspired book.
Cheers ~ Amanda

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