Fad Diets? No Thanks. VictoriaMom talks to a Registered Holistic Nutritionist

Paula Scromeda graduated from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist.  She now works at Synergy Wellness Centrein Victoria, BC. Paula has always stood by the philosophy that eating well is one of the most important components to living well.  By applying a wholesome approach to food and enhancing the joy and pleasure that good food choices can deliver, she provides the knowledge & techniques that are essential for ensuring that her clients love what they eat and achieve their health goals. Here she talks to VictoriaMom.
A balanced diet. With so many fad diets and different opinions on what constitutes healthy food intake, it can be confusing for the everyday momma and woman. Can you give us the basics of what constitutes a healthy and balanced diet i.e how much of each food group we should be eating everyday.
It’s going to sound obvious, but I really believe that eating a diet rich in veggies & fruit, and low in processed refined foods is really the foundation to great health. Avoiding non-foods (such as artificial sweeteners, most margarines, pop, etc.) and focusing on high-quality, whole foods is key. The best guideline I’ve found so far is the Harvard Medical School’s “Healthy Eating Plate,” which can be found online at
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/.

For those of us struggling to lose the baby weight or carrying some extra pounds, what’s the best route to losing weight? Do we need to modify our diet?
Two litres of pure water daily, lots of fiber (meaning lots of veggies, fruit, nuts & seeds & some whole grains), breastfeeding, & quality fats such as flax seed oil (never heated) and extra virgin olive & coconut oil. Eat small, frequent meals to keep your energy up. Including some  fat or protein to snacks will keep you from getting hungry for longer, and will keep your blood sugar steady (eg. an apple with 2T nut butter). Also, integrate some stress management techniques into your day. Yoga, meditation, aromatherapy baths, & walking are all good examples.

If there is one food we should eat everyday what would you say it is and why?
Lacto-fermented veggies, such as fresh sauerkraut. The live bacteria & enzymes in fermented foods do wonders for digestion & the absorption of nutrients. Other beneficial fermented foods include Miso, Tempeh, & Kombucha.

What foods should we keep to a minimum?
Dairy, Sugar, (even “good sugar like pure maple syrup & raw honey) deli meats & smoked products, refined carbohydrates (flour, bread, pasta).

Dairy? Yes or no?
Dairy is a tricky one. If you’re sensitive to lactose or casein, I’d remove dairy altogether. Dairy is a very common allergen, and it is also linked to certain hormonal imbalances, such as estrogen dominance.  I like plain, organic yogurt for its pro-biotic benefit, and artisan cheeses (preferably raw & unpasteurized). Other than that, I consider most dairy a “treat” and I recommend staying away from low-fat & fat-free dairy products. Removing the fat throws off the balance of protein/sugars/fats. It also takes away richness, which is usually replaced with unwanted fillers.

What’s the best way to cook or prepare our food?
This time of year, I highly recommend slow-cooked soups & stews, as they are very warming, and if loaded with veggies & legumes, can be very nutrient-dense.  In the warmer months, I suggest more raw & sprouted foods, as well as lightly steaming & sautéing. Choosing the right oils to cook with is very important, and avoid super high heat (smoking hot is NOT good.)

Any meal planning tips for the busy mom?
Multi-task your meals! Make enough dinner to double as your lunch the next day!
Always have some plain, cooked grains or beans standing by for a quick salad or side-dish. I like to cook extra brown rice for dinner, and turn it into the next day’s breakfast by pouring some almond milk over it & sprinkling it with nuts & seeds.
Make a big batch of your favorite soup, stew, or chili & keep it in jars in the freezer for a quick dinner in a pinch.

How do you know if you or a family member suffers from food allergies? How would you diagnose and treat food allergies?
Visit a naturopathic doctor or an allergist to guide you through the process of identifying food allergies. An elimination diet is a very common approach, where you eliminate all but 5 or so foods, then slowly re-introduce foods & distinguish allergic reactions. This can be a difficult process, and I recommend working with a professional.

Give us your top five superfoods. (not necessarily in order)
1. Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines.
2. The Brassica family of veggies, which includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (I can’t pick just one).
3. Yams & sweet potatoes.
4. Garlic.
5. Apples & apple cider vinegar.

Any tips for getting healthy food into our picky kids?
Well, that’s a funny one for me because I don’t have kids, but I was a kid once, and I have a few thoughts about this topic:

  1. If they feel deprived, they will seek it elsewhere. I used to eat carrot sticks at home, then spend all of my allowance on 5 cent candies at the corner store. Try to strike a balance.
  2. Try not to make a big deal about “healthy” vs. “unhealthy” foods. Just provide good nutritious choices, and call it FOOD. Kids will start to pick up on the forbidden aspect of “bad” or “unhealthy” foods and want them, more!
  3. Don’t keep treats hidden away. Again, it feeds in to the forbidden mentality. Only bring food into the house that you feel ok about your kids eating.
  4. Don’t panic. Allow your kids’ palates to evolve naturally, without pressure or stress from you. It will only make them resist more!
  5. When introducing solid foods for the first time, start with veggies, not fruit. Babies can develop a sweet tooth if they get too much exposure to fruit when they’re really little.

What’s your favourite meal?
Turkey dinner.

What’s your favourite local restaurant?
Café Brio. I spent some time in the kitchen there recently and I was utterly swept off my feet by the quality & care that they put into their food.