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Obesity rates in Canada continue to rise. In 2015, 25.8 per cent of Canadian adults were considered obese, making us one of the most overweight countries in the world. Clearly, we have some work to do. We can start by learning from other countries, like Japan, where only 3.7 per cent of the population is obese. Registered dietician, Stephanie Clairmont, shares some of the healthiest eating habits from around the world and recipes to go with them.

Japan

Japanese cuisine focuses on the food’s appearance. Small portions and colorful vegetables make meals visually appealing. The portion size of foods not only affects how much we eat (i.e. smaller servings means we eat less and feel full sooner), but it also affects how we respond to various sensory and cognitive cues, as well as to hunger and satiety. When you take the exact same meal but actually break it up into smaller bits, research shows that you will actually eat less! Using chopsticks The use of chopsticks in both Chinese and Japanese cuisine allows for smaller bites compared to spoons and forks and more time between bites. Eating slowly and mindfully, with this extra time between bites, actually allows us to bring focus and attention to the present moment and limit distractions.   japanese-dish-624x351.jpg

Cooked Tuna and Cucumber Sushi Roll

Makes 2 servings

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 2 cans line-caught tuna in water
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • Salt & pepper
  • 4-6 pieces pieces nori (seaweed)
  • 1 cup sushi rice, cooked
  • 12 thin, long sticks of cucumber
  • Low sodium tamari or soy sauce for dipping

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Add the tuna to a small bowl and flake with a fork. Add a little salt & pepper to taste and add the green onions.
  2. Lay your sushi mat down and place one piece of nori on top. Scoop 1/4 cup of the hot rice from the pot or rice cooker onto one side of your mat. Smooth it out so it covers 1/3 to 1/2 of your nori.
  3. Add 1/4 of the tuna mixture and 3 sticks of cucumber to the rice and slowly roll the rice side of the nori towards the side with no rice.
  4. Squeeze tightly with your mat and set aside. Slice when ready to eat.
  5. Make the other three rolls. Ensure the rice stays hot while making these rolls so they can warm up the nori which allows it to stick.

Ethiopia

Ethiopian food focuses on high-quality carbs that also seem to be mostly low on the glycemic index like teff flour, which is naturally gluten-free, root vegetables and pulses (beans and lentils). That means that the carbs you do have are high in fibre, full of nutrients, keep you full sooner and longer and have less of an effect on your blood sugar. The cuisine focuses on little bites of a large variety of flavours and colours so it makes the meal fun and interesting! Meals are offered “family style” in a social eating setting. Eating this way and sharing meals can have more health benefits than eating alone.   ethiopian-dish-624x53-12.jpg

Simple UnFermented Injera

Makes 4 servings Injera is traditional bread where you pile all these delicious little dishes on top and instead of using cutlery, you use your hands to scoop and eat. It’s a thin, spongy, flatbread that’s pretty simple to make with teff flour, water, baking soda and salt! Traditionally it sits on the counter for days to ferment and get sour, but you can also cook it right away using a frying pan in under 10 minutes

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 1 1/2 cups teff flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Mix the flour, baking soda, salt and water in a glass bowl and let it sit while you make your stew.
  2. When you’re ready warm a large non-stick skillet on medium-high heat, add a little olive oil and with a big ladle scoop the batter into the pan moving it around to cover the pan. The injera should be very thin.
  3. Partially cover with a lid and let cook 4 minutes. Then remove the lid and let cook an extra 2-3 minutes until cooked through.
  4. Continue to cook batter until it is used up and you have 4 lovely round injera.
  ethiopian-dish-624x351-1.jpg

Ethiopian Berbere Lentil Stew

Makes 4 servings

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups or 1/2 head cauliflower
  • 1 cup or 2 large carrots
  • 1/2 cup fennel bulb, diced
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup green beans, diced
  • 1 can lentils, drained
  • 1 tsp Berbere spice mix
  • 2 cups water

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Put a large, heavy-bottomed metal pot on medium-high heat and add oil.
  2. Toss cauliflower, carrot and fennel in the pot and cook stirring occasionally 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, green beans, spice and water.
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes until done. Add lentils in with 5-7 minutes left in cooking time. Serve with injera.

France

Food in France focuses on satisfaction and enjoyment along with high-quality fat that can be very satiating and help to fill us up at a meal. So often our meals are full of refined carbohydrates, which don’t keep us full for very long, and we can eat so many more calories of! When food is more flavourful, using natural ingredients and fats it can be more satisfying and we can eat much less. Fat adds flavour and is important to include in your meals— low fat diets will be full of carbs and not as satisfying, filling or good for our bodies. Fat-free and reduced fat foods can leave us feeling deprived and wanting more! So the goal is to not worry so much about low fat choices and include good fat as much as possible like olive oil, nuts and seeds, fish and avocado.   french-dish-624x351.jpg

Remi Inspired Croque Monsieur

Makes 1 serving

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 1 slice sourdough or 4 inches of a baguette sliced in half
  • 2 oz quality cooked French ham
  • 1 slice gouda, gruyere or Emmental cheese
  • 1 cup washed and chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 avocado sliced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 lemon, juice only

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Turn on your broiler and place the rack on the second highest level.
  2. Pill the ham & cheese on top of your bread. NOTE: You can also add some lovely steamed or cooked kale or spinach leaves for extra green goodness under the cheese.
  3. Place the sandwich under the broiler for 1-2 minutes until the cheese starts to brown.
  4. Meanwhile, place the romaine and avocado on your plate. Drizzle oil and lemon juice on top. Serve with your hot sandwich.

Mexico

The Mexican way of eating is pretty interesting, putting most of the calories mid-day when we are generally the most active. It starts with a light breakfast of pan dulce, fruit and café de olla, followed by a second breakfast around 10 a.m./11 a.m - for almuerzo, egg dishes are very popular, as are things like chilaquiles and enchiladas.Then, a large lunch around 2 p.m., followed by the lightest meal late in the evening around 9pm. This is a great way to plan our days, and often the opposite for so many of us as we tend to eat more through the day in North America. However, if you think of the way you use your energy, you’re probably needing most energy in the morning and at lunch. Research shows that eating more calories at breakfast and having less at dinner is beneficial for prevention and management of obesity and metabolic syndrome. By shifting your calories to breakfast and lunch, you may be more successful in losing weight or keeping your weight where you want it!   mexican-dish-624x351.jpg

Crockpot Chicken Carnitas

Makes 6 servings

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 2 lbs chicken breast
  • 2 whole tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup fennel bulb or white onion, diced
  • 2 whole cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp red chile flakes
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • Pinch of ground cayenne, jalapeño and/or chipotle peppers
  • Salt and pepper
For the Avocado Cream
  • 1 whole, ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 lime, juice only
  • Handful of fresh cilantro leaves, washed and chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Place all ingredients in a crockpot and turn on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. Cook until chicken is tender and pulls apart.
  2. Blend together the avocado, coconut cream, lime, salt, pepper and cilantro in a food processor until smooth and serve on top of the chicken.
  3. Serve with fresh limes, fresh cilantro, corn tortillas and/or salad