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Coconut Red Curry Vegetable Soup

Coconut Red Curry Vegetable Soup

It’s been raining all weekend here in Fort McMurray, and rainy days usually call for a big bowl of something warm and comforting. I was lucky enough to be gifted a package of red curry paste straight from Thailand from my friend, Na, and I’ve been savouring its delicious flavour and heat in curries and soups like this ever since. This Thai-inspired coconut red curry soup are bold and bright, and it makes for a filling plant-based meal whether you serve it as is or over Jasmine rice. It’s the perfect thing to make on a grey, drizzly day when you need something creamy, spicy, and soothing.

 

 

Coconut Red Curry Vegetable Soup

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Brooke McMillan

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons virgin coconut oil
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2" piece fresh ginger root, sliced into three pieces
  • 2 Tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced (can substitute with cremini mushrooms)
  • 796 ml (19 oz.) can diced tomatoes with their juices
  • 400 ml (14oz.) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-2 Tablespoons coconut sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 small head broccoli, chopped into florets
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Fresh limes
  • Fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. Melt the coconut oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, onions, and a pinch of sea salt to the pot and sauté for 5 minutes, until the onion becomes fragrant.

  2. Stir in the garlic, ginger, curry paste, and turmeric. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously to coat the vegetables.
  3. Add in the mushrooms, tomatoes and another pinch of salt. Cook for another 3 minutes, to soften the mushrooms. Add in the coconut milk, water, coconut sugar, and broccoli florets. Bring the soup to a low boil, then reduce the heat, cover slightly with a lid and simmer for 10-12 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked.
  4. Season to taste with salt, and adjust the sweetness by adding in more coconut sugar, if desired. Discard the three pieces of ginger. 

  5. Serve the soup garnished with fresh cilantro and fresh limes to squeeze over top.

Cheesy & Spicy Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

Cheesy & Spicy Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

I made these with my grade 7 students recently and they were too good not to share the recipe here! They converted quite a few sweet potato fries sceptics into believers. I generally find the addition cheese is a great way to convince kids to try new, unfamiliar, or less-favourite vegetables! The cheese also adds a delicious crispy outer coating to the fries, which is perfect since roasted sweet potato fries never get super crispy like regular potatoes. If you or your kids aren’t fans of spicy foods, then feel free to leave out the black pepper and cayenne pepper altogether for a mild and cheesy version.

 

And since I always like to share some sort of tip or advice with a recipe, here’s a good one that may come in handy if you ever find yourself in a spicy emergency: if you’re ever working with hot peppers (either fresh or dried spices) and happen to get some in your eyes or other sensitive area, then soak or rinse the area with milk not water! Chilies contain oil compounds called capsaicin, which is what causes the sensations of burning or heat when we eat them or when they touch our skin. Milk contains a protein called casein that binds with spicy capsaicin oil and then washes it away, which is why milk is often the beverage we turn to for relief from spicy foods! Since oil and water don’t mix, it seems obvious that the water would have no effect on the capsaicin oil, and it actually just spreads it around which makes the burning worse. In the past year I’ve had two students find themselves in this unfortunate situation, the first with a jalapeno pepper and the second while making this recipe with the cayenne pepper. In both cases we soaked their hands in milk and soaked a cloth in milk then gently held it over their eyes. It takes about 10 minutes but eventually the burning sensation reduces and all is well. Hopefully you don’t have to learn this lesson the hard way as some of my students did, but just in case you do now you know how to give yourself spicy pepper first aid! The other recommendation I have, which I usually do with my students if we are chopping fresh spicy peppers, is to wear rubber gloves so that the hands are protected and the capsaicin oil doesn’t get onto them at all.

 

Hopefully that little story didn’t scare you away from making these sweet potato fries spicy! The little bit of heat tastes delicious in combination with the sweetness of the potatoes and the salty, rich cheese. I hope you enjoy making and eating these bright and bold fries!

 

Cheesy & Spicy Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Author Brooke McMillan

Ingredients

  • 2 small sweet potatoes, cut into French fry sticks (I usually use my pinky finger as a good measurement of length and thickness for the fries)
  • 2 Tablespoons avocado oil or olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more if you want them really spicy)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the cut sweet potatoes in a large bowl and stir in the oil, salt, pepper, and cayenne until the potatoes are evenly coated.

  3. Place the potatoes on the baking sheet, leaving room between each fry so that they are not overlapping. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender and browned on the outside.

  4. Turn the oven to Broil on High. Combine the Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses in a small bowl. Sprinkle the cheese mixture onto the sweet potato fries. Broil the potatoes until the cheese is melted and golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately!

Why I’m Going To A Weight-Loss Supplement Program Meeting

Why I’m Going To A Weight-Loss Supplement Program Meeting

I received an e-mail yesterday from a colleague that completely shook me. It was an invitation to an information session for a company called Xyngular (pronounced singular), pictured above. While this wasn’t the first time I’ve seen one of these ads or been invited to join a supplement program, health coaching, or weight loss program (I’m sure you can name at least two or three off the top of your head, such as Shakeology, Thrive, Whole30, etc.), this was the one that pushed me over the edge to say ENOUGH ALREADY.

 

According to their website, “The Xyngular way can truly change any individual’s health, wealth, and life. The Xyngular Way of Health is a combination of complete, simple systems designed to help you quickly and easily achieve your health and wellness goals.” All you must do is buy their products and weight loss/exercise/meal plan programs and apparently, your current pathetic existence will be transformed: you will become a happier, better person, and finally live the life of your dreams *insert dramatic eye rolls here.*

 

Not only that, you can start selling these supplement and meal replacement programs to your friends and then get them to sell it to their friends so we all become financially empowered entrepreneurs (read: become even sicker, more disillusioned with our health). You know, I could care less if people choose to be involved in MLM type businesses when all they’re selling are candles, leggings, and Tupperware, but when you start taking people’s health into your unqualified hands, promoting disordered eating, body shame, and a scientifically unsound “health program,” I have a big problem.

 

This e-mail convinced me to go to this Xyngular weight-loss and supplement program information meeting tomorrow.

 

I’m going to this meeting because I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of this culture of fear-mongering that we are never doing enough to improve our health, and that our health is something that is completely in our control if we only worked a little harder at it, spent a little more money on it, and listened to yet another “expert’s” advice a little more. I’ve had enough of the lie that the best indicator of our health is the number on a scale or the size of our jeans, and enough of the story that to live our best lives (you know, lives where we greet each day with endless energy, picture perfect health, a zest for life, and a “supermodel” body) we need to follow a strict supplement and exercise regimen, deprive our bodies of food, all while encouraging (read: shaming) other people to do the same for financial gain.

 

I am not going to this meeting to “improve” myself or find economic stability by becoming one of their “entrepreneurs” selling people the illusion of a perfect, healthy life via shakes and questionable supplements. I am going to this meeting to protest this company and everything that it stands for. And I would love to invite you to join me. Tomorrow night (May 10th) meet anytime between 6-6:30pm at MacDonald Island outside of the North Ballroom in Fort McMurray, AB. I’ll be bringing lots of signs, and would love to have some support in encouraging people to think differently about how we talk and feel about our bodies, how we view health, and the dangers of these diet programs.

 

Call it whatever you want, this “Xyngular Way of Health” is a diet. And an incredibly dangerous one at that. Whether you call it a cleanse, detox, lifestyle change, clean eating, a food plan, health program, tone up, etc. doesn’t change the fact that it is still a diet. It’s promoting calorie-restriction, extreme short-term weight-loss goals, food rules/guilt, and body shaming. It’s marketing and the intended of effects of its products encourages you to completely disconnect from your intuitive relationship with your body. These products include a variety of appetite suppressants, calorie blockers, laxatives, meal replacement shakes that allocate a mere 180 calories to replace a full meal and snack replacement shakes that provide you with 50 calories to help you achieve and maintain a “healthy weight”. Since you’ll essentially be starving yourself while on this plan, your blood sugar levels are going to be up and down like the wildest roller coaster you’ve ever been on, but don’t worry, because they also sell an instant drink powder designed to help control blood sugar to “manage cravings.”

 

How about we examine language use here. First, your “cravings” and “appetite” are not signs of your body betraying you and foiling your quest for health, these are your body’s biological signals to you that it requires nutrients – food – to keep all your basic bodily functions running smoothly. Yes, your body requires regular fuel to power your brain, heart, lungs, muscles and joints, to produce hormones and secrete them at appropriate times, to balance your mood and maintain your energy levels, you know…all that keeping-you-alive stuff! Secondly, let’s examine the phrase “healthy weight,” which appears numerous times in their product benefits statements, with little to no explanation. One can assume that “healthy weight” is code for “the weight that our culture has arbitrarily deemed socially acceptable, attractive, and worthy, or the body size that doesn’t face discrimination, shaming, or stigmatization.” There is no such thing as a universal healthy weight. Every single individual person will have their own healthy weight, which no company can determine for you or sell to you.

 

Fad diets that promote extreme weight loss and deprivation (ex. “Lost up to 15 lbs in 8 days!) are not sustainable nor are they promoting good health. Here is what you can actually expect from these diets:

  • Metabolism slowing down as your body fights to maintain a stable weight during the period of starvation (diets slow your metabolism so that even if/when you go off the diet your metabolism will be less efficient than before you started the diet).
  • Increase in binge-eating and feeling out of control around food, leading to rebound weight gain (your body’s protective mechanism against future periods of starvation).
  • Insulin resistance and increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes (due to fluctuating, unstable blood sugar levels).
  • Muscle atrophy (your body begins to break down your muscle proteins for energy) and heart problems (your heart is a muscle) such as heart arrhythmia, sudden heart attacks or heart failure due to electrolyte imbalances.
  • Nutritional deficiencies and malnutrition (a diet deprives your body of the fuel it needs to function properly and limits the diversity in your food intake, contributing to poor gut health and an inability to absorb a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals).
  • Increased release of your stress hormones (cortisol), brain damage and decreased brain growth, and greater risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
  • Dieting is the number one predictor of eating disorders, which are life-threatening mental illnesses. Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness – it is estimated that 10% of individuals with Anorexia Nervosa will die within 10 years of the onset of the disorder.

 

Now those side effects aren’t what you’ll hear being promoted in their pushy marketing meetings, but they are the truth behind what they are trying to sell you!

 

The idea that weight equates health is based on our cultural obsession with thinness, not on any clinical evidence. A fat individual isn’t necessarily unhealthy, and a thin individual isn’t necessarily healthy. People of all shapes and sizes can experience chronic disease and other health problems, because health entails so much more than physical size and appearance. It encompasses your mental, emotional, spiritual, and social health as well – which cannot be measured by your waistband. Determinants of health include lifestyle, stress levels, genetics, resources, education, and accessibility (ex. healthcare, food security). Your experience of health does not come down to your diet, yet we spend so much time and energy just focused on this one small detail of the big picture. There is absolutely no way you could ever “change your life” for the better without working on yourself in every aspect of your life. We must stop promoting the myth that if you simply weigh a certain number, or if your body is a certain socially acceptable size, that you are a healthy individual. We must question the narrative that if you’re focused on losing weight that you are somehow improving your health. A “healthy weight” is going to look different for everybody, and the healthy weight for you is the one that doesn’t require restriction, obsession, or intense diet and exercise regimens. Your body has a genetically determined weight range that it is happy to be in, and will fight to stay in, no matter how many calories you restrict or how much you suppress your appetite with pills. Your healthy weight is the place that your body will naturally return to, diet after diet, time and time again. You do not need to micromanage your body to experience health, and any company attempting to convince you that you need a cocktail of supplement pills to be truly healthy is looking out for their bottom line, not for your well-being.

 

Your body is designed to be able to keep you alive and take care of itself. You don’t need to detox or cleanse – you have a liver, let it do its job! You don’t need to restrict your food intake – you can slow down enough to eat a meal with attention to your natural hunger and fullness cues, and enjoy your food! You don’t need a fiber supplement to expand in your stomach to trick your body into feeling the fullness of eating a meal if you incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds in your meals that have actual fiber and actual nutrients – which, by the way, is what our bodies need to feel satisfied since our bodies function on nutrients, not on “feelings” of fullness. Furthermore, maybe you wouldn’t need to suppress your appetite and control your blood sugar if you were eating something other than 50-calorie powdered drinks. Through this approach of appetite suppression (your body’s natural request for food) and calorie restriction, you are depriving yourself of vital nutrients, slowing down your metabolism, and will likely wind up with nutritional deficiencies. It’s also worth mentioning that your “symptoms” of poor health the company claims it will cure you of with the nutrition supplements it sells you along with its weight loss shakes are actually symptoms of malnourishment. How’s that for a hypocritical, self-fulfilling prophecy twist of business savvy? I’d like to suggest that you probably wouldn’t feel so lethargic, have hormonal imbalances, sleepless nights, mood swings, low libido, brittle hair and nails, poor gut health, etc. if you weren’t starving yourself on a limited liquid diet and were eating a variety of real food instead.

 

Nothing will ever do what real food does! A key word in “superfood” is FOOD. Supplements are meant to be just that: supplemental parts of an overall nutrient rich diet. They don’t replace the nutrients of whole foods or the synergistic way that nutrients are packaged by nature into whole foods. If you consider the definition of processed foods, then these supplement powders, meal-replacement shakes and bars are actually heavily processed foods!

 

If you feel like you need these supplements just to function on a daily basis then there are likely some underlying nutritional deficiencies, health issues, or general lifestyle practices that you should probably address to get to the root of your health issues. While some supplements may temporarily help to fill in the nutritional gaps or support the body during a time when real food is not available, or during a period of recovery from a deficiency, illness, or injury, they do NOT need to be an everyday necessity just to survive or to achieve optimal health!

 

“Meal replacement shakes” are an oxymoron. Our bodies are not meant to absorb nutrients from dehydrated powders, synthetic forms of vitamins or minerals, and highly processed and concentrated forms of proteins. These shakes are NOT the same as eating real food, and they are not an adequate form of vitamins and minerals to support daily nutritional requirements. There’s nothing wrong with having a smoothie as a meal or a snack, but you can make a far more nutritious and affordable smoothie with basic, real food ingredients like fresh or frozen fruit, leafy greens, milk or water, nuts and seeds. Nature has packaged vitamins and minerals into foods in the forms that our bodies can understand and process, in ways that our bodies absorb them best. The phytonutrients, enzymes, and different combinations of macro and micronutrients are in the ideal ratios for optimal absorption by our bodies.

 

If you took the money you invested in supplements, protein powers, meal-replacement bars, etc. and instead invested it in quality, organic, fresh food, then you’d be getting WAY more nutrition for your dollar and supporting a much more sustainable food system. If you invested the time and energy you spent hating your body and wishing it looked different, obsessing about calories and portion sizes, and comparing yourself to other people, and instead invested it in the people, activities, and causes that you feel passionate about and engaged in meaningful work that brings you joy, then you’d be able to truly live the life of your dreams, at any size or shape!

 

What I am hoping to convey is that companies and programs like these are so incredibly destructive to your health. They teach you to disregard your basic biological need for food and continue to promote an intense focus on weighing less as the main determinant of health. They view the body as a simple machine that merely requires the right combination of calories, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and “superfoods” to function perfectly, rather than considering the body as an incredibly complex system, of which no two are the same, and the health of that system is affected by more than just caloric intake. These companies consistently fail to address health holistically or show any respect for our natural body diversity.

 

Our current culture is saturated with weight-loss based MLM’s touting the life-changing benefits of their “superfood” powders, “proprietary blends” of miracle supplements, and “guaranteed” weight-loss results. Our communication channels are being flooded with before-and-after results photos, diet/weight loss/exercise social media accounts posting inspirational quotes and encouragement to love yourself (once you’ve bought and completed their 21-day program of course). More often than not, these products and programs sold by people who have very little to absolutely no nutrition education or health credentials (other than whatever dieting dogma their MLM culture has coached them to regurgitate as a sales pitch. What they do have a very vested interest in making money off you.

 

These weight loss companies prey on our cultural insecurities about body size and health, andon innocent people’s financial struggles. They are emotionally and financially manipulative, and a hazard to public health. Despite the feel-good messages and grassroots marketing tactics, the diet industry is not a humanitarian movement. It is a multi-billion-dollar industry whose goal is not the betterment of society or helping individuals improve their lives. Its primary motivation is plain and simple: increasing profits and staying in business. And it’s doing this by teaching people to be dissatisfied with their bodies, using weight stigma as leverage, selling us the story that happiness, health and a fulfilling life always lie on the other side of those “last 10 pounds,” the “21-day cleanse,” or once you “lose the belly rolls.” The problem is not with you or your body, the problem is with this culture. You don’t need a “new you.” We just need a cultural shift where body diversity is accepted, where size doesn’t measure your worth or happiness, and where food is a source of pleasure and nourishment, not a source of fear, deprivation, and guilt.

 

To quote one of my body positivity heroes, Kaila Prins (also known as The Performing Woman)

“MLM’s are a symptom of a broken economy, they are not the solution. MLM is not the answer, it is a band-aid on a gaping would and it is infected with body shaming, fat phobia, naturalistic fallacies, and predatory marketing tactics. Something has to change so that hardworking [people] who are building their dream businesses don’t have to also buy shakes and obsess about thinness and body shame themselves and their friends in order to make money.”

 

Losing weight does not change who you are. It doesn’t make all your problems go away and it doesn’t give you happiness or confidence. Don’t buy into the story that a fulfilling life is waiting for you at that next goal weight. Happiness and confidence are inside jobs. If you have poor self-esteem and struggle to find joy or purpose in your life before changing your body size or appearance, those issues will still be there for you after. You can be happy right now, just as you are – you don’t have to lose weight to lead a life you love! Your body is not holding you back. The beliefs that society and the weight loss industry have taught you about your body is what is holding you back from living the life you want to, from finding true freedom and happiness.

 

We’re really missing the mark when it comes to health promotion and making healthy lifestyle choices. My message is one of love and compassion, not one of confrontation or blame. This is not an individual problem, it is a cultural problem that requires a drastic cultural shift. But this shift won’t happen if we continue to accept things as they are and allow companies like this one to continue manipulating people. Dieting is a system of oppression. It keeps people preoccupied from realizing their true power and inherent worth, and it acts as a system of control. Change and freedom won’t happen until these current power systems are challenged! Please come out and join me to spread the messages of body positivity, size diversity acceptance, eating disorder awareness, and a holistic view of health! If you’re in Fort McMurray I hope to see you tomorrow night between 6-6:30pm outside of North Ballroom at Mac Island.

 

Love,

Brooke xo

 

To read even more evidence of why diets don’t work and how harmful they are to health in every sense of the word (physical, mental, emotional, social, and financial), check out the following organizations, professionals in the field, and journal articles:

National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA)

National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC)

Health At Every Size Community (HEAS) Health At Every Size Curriculum

Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH)

Dr. Linda Bacon

Dr. Arya Sharma

Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

“Exposing the Diet Myth: Diets Make You Eat Less” by Randi E. McCabe, M.A.

“The defence of body weight: a physiological basis for weight regain after weight loss.” By Priya Sumithran and Joseph Proietto

“An Inconvenient Truth About Obesity.” by Michael W. Schwartz

“Weight science: evaluating the evidence for a paradigm shift” by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor

“A review of interventions that promote eating by internal cues.” by Julie Schaefer and Amy Magnuson

“What Happens To Your Body When You Go On An Extreme Diet.” By K. Aleisha Fetters