Is Flu Really a Season?

By Deanne Wiseman, RD, CHN

We often refer to this time of year as “flu season” – when the weather gets colder, the days are shorter, and the number of influenza outbreaks increase. We spend less time outdoors and being active, have less access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and tend to crave and eat more sugar (hello Halloween and Christmas parties!). Is it by coincidence? I think not. With these assaults to our immunity, taking care of our bodies (and our children’s) is even more essential at this time of year. Here are some ways to keep our immune systems strong naturally:

1. Eat more vegetables, fruit, herbs and spices – green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits are high in Vitamin C, which is necessary to support immunity. Garlic and onion contain antibacterial, antiviral, and immune boosting properties. Spices like ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne are warming and grounding. Our popular Vegetable Makhani in Creamy Cashew Sauce is a dish that combines vitamin-rich veggies with comforting spices!

2. Reduce sugar – consuming too much added sugar suppresses the immune system. This negative effect can begin less than 30 minutes after ingesting and can last for four hours or more.

3. Stay well hydrated – although you might feel less thirsty than in the summer months, our bodies are still two-thirds water! Staying hydrated keeps our protective mucosal membrane barrier healthy and strong.

4. Wash your hands – after using the washroom, coughing/sneezing/blowing your nose, being in public places, and before and after eating.

5. Manage stress – when cortisol (the stress hormone) increases, immunity decreases. Let Dashing Dishes help keep those cortisol levels in check!

6. Get enough sleep – go to bed and wake up at the same time each day if possible. Aim for eight hours – this is when your immune system replenishes. Again, let Dashing Dishes help make mealtimes easier so you can rest and restore!

May you and your family stay healthy and strong this “season”!


Back to School and Back to Basics

By Deanne Wiseman, RD, CHN

I love the summer months – spending as much time as possible outdoors and soaking in the sun and abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. As a Dietitian and Holistic Nutritionist, I encourage eating locally and seasonally as much as possible. This way of eating makes so much sense because it allows Mother Nature to guide the way we eat. Foods are fresher, unprocessed, tastier, and provide higher nutrients and variety. Eating seasonally and locally is more powerful than trying to stick to a diet, eating a few particular foods because we hear they are “good for us,” or eating the exact same thing every day all year.

But let’s be real. We live in Calgary (or at least Canada) and we all know that with back-to-school come cooler days, changing colours and oftentimes, bringing out the winter gear. So how can we take advantage of the current produce wealth before the white stuff is on the ground and nothing really grows? Get back to basics with food preservation, which has been around for many, many years. In particular, let’s focus on FREEZING YOUR FOOD!

You can find a plethora of information and how-to’s on the Internet for preserving food. Although I love the processes of canning, pickling, and dehydrating, sometimes I simply don’t have the time. Freezing foods is quick, easy, and can be done while re-loading your freezer with Dashing Dishes meals! A few tips about freezing:

  • Veggies and fruits contain important enzymes that continue to break down (i.e. spoil) food after it has been picked/harvested. Inactivate these enzymes by blanching vegetables (placing in boiling water or steam for a short time) or adding ascorbic acid/vitamin C (lemon juice for example) to most fruit.
  • Use appropriate freezing packages and materials. This is a great way to reuse extra plastic freezer bags from your Dashing Dishes meals.
  • A full freezer (at least ¾ full) uses less energy than an empty one. Keep your freezer stocked with frozen berries, herbs, sauces, and of course, Dashing Dishes!

Berries are full of anti-aging and immune-boosting antioxidants. Including berries in smoothies, breakfast bowls, or baking is a great way to get these powerful antioxidants all year round. Buy them fresh from local farmers’ markets (or better yet – pick your own) while you still can!

Cooking with herbs like basil, parsley, cilantro, and oregano is a great way to flavour foods without salt. Herbs are also another source of those wonderful antioxidants! We were lucky to receive TONS of fresh basil grown by our lovely next-door neighbours.

It’s apple season! Did you know over 150 varieties of apples grow in Calgary alone?! Everybody knows someone with an apple tree. If you don’t have a tree of your own, see if you and/or your kids can help pick for a friend, neighbour or elder in your community and share the wealth! I like to chop them up and cook them down with a touch of maple syrup and squeeze of lemon juice. Then I freeze in batches to use in baking, as a topping on yogurt or oatmeal, or to use as an accompaniment to the many Dashing Dishes pork meals (Apricot & Ginger Glazed Pork Tenderloin, Maple Glazed Pork and Roasted Pork with Delicious Date Sauce, to name a few).

We’re already half way through September but most of us can use simple food preservation techniques, like freezing, to enjoy the taste and nutrition of my favourite season, well into the winter. I hope you’ll do a little freezing of your own this month!

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