Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Giving Thanks for Fullness

This article is also available in Ara Wiseman's October 2011 Soul Nutrition newsletter. Sign up here for further updates from Nutrition and Healing, where I work as a holistic nutritionist and wellness program implementer.

Giving Thanks for Fullness
Sarah Reid, RHNC

Only a stomach that rarely feels hungry scorns common things. -Horace

When was the last time you felt hunger? Not the everyday, “I’d like a muffin with my coffee” hunger – the gut-wrenching pain that only comes from a stomach completely empty? Too often we use food as our “drug”, our pastime to fill a few minutes of boredom while sitting at our desk or rushing from place to place. Rarely do we have the time to stop and truly appreciate the bounty we have at our disposal. For most of us, a weekly shopping trip means a full cart of assorted fresh produce, meat, bread and dairy, “fancy” dry goods like almond butter, quinoa, organic snack bars and smoothie mixes, and even the occasional indulgence of a chocolate bar or cookie. On nights when we just don’t feel like cooking, we go to one of the millions of restaurants nearby, or call for delivery. We feel free to complain about our food too – the texture of a dish, the over- or undercooking of a vegetable, the fact that there are only apples in the fruit bowl when we wanted oranges. We don’t feel bad sending food back in a restaurant, or throwing out a quarter of a pepper because we only needed a certain amount. An astonishing amount – over 210 million kilos – of edible, healthy food is thrown out every year from Toronto residences (not groceries or restaurants), and in the rest of the country the story is similar.

Yet, in the midst of this whirlwind of excess, there are those who can’t fill a grocery cart with basic staples every week. Even goods like fresh vegetables, or a loaf of bread, are often out of reach. A single person on welfare has, by definition, under $570 of total assets – and food banks are rarely the stockpiles of good, healthy food we imagine them to be. Children’s breakfast or after-school programs in Ontario have only 17 cents per child per day to feed them, and it’s often the only hot meal they have that day. Yet, in my experience developing and serving balanced meals in those programs, never once was a complaint uttered about the food. Bean and rice soup with ancient, dollar-store dried herbs and a bag of frozen vegetables the store couldn’t sell was graciously slurped up. A glass of reconstituted dry milk and carrots from Second Harvest (with the rot and mould cut off) on the side were enjoyed with gusto. When the Second Harvest truck came by one week with 30 pounds of bruised and “unsellable” apples (rejected due to their poor aesthetics!), the children learned how to make applesauce and apple butter – treats that to them were out of reach before. Food that admittedly would have been scorned by my family and me at the supermarket was a true gift for the charity, allowing them the chance to bring healthy meals to those who knew what it felt like to wake up with hunger pains, never knowing where the next meal would come from.

This holiday season, as you sit with your family around a laden table, take a moment to step back and reflect on the gifts your life has given you. The ability to have a full shopping cart, fridge and belly every day is something to truly marvel at – and while we may not know the true meaning of hunger ourselves, remembering those who do is the first step towards really giving thanks.

Here is a low-cost, high nutrition recipe for you to try out this Fall:

Carrot-Raisin Muffins
Makes 18 standard or 36 mini muffins
½ cup low-fat milk (or milk substitute)
2 tsp vinegar
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup quick-cooking (not instant) oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
3 tbsp honey
1 egg
2 tbsp canola oil
3 tbsp applesauce
1 ½ cups grated carrots (2 carrots)
½ cup raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F and grease (or line with paper cups) 1-2 muffin tins.
  2. In a small cup, mix milk and vinegar. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg).
  4. In a large bowl, beat together the honey, egg, oil, applesauce and milk mixture.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Fold in the carrots and raisins.
  6. Bake 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  7. These freeze well.
Total cost for recipe: $2.10
Cost per standard muffin: $0.12

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About Me

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I started my "working life" as a holistic and allopathic nutritional consultant with a love of cooking. Teaching the value of wholesome meal choices to families became close to my heart after I battled a long history of struggles with weight and health, and the passion for teaching led me into where I am now. My blog, which focuses on "bringing good taste to healthier food" through creative use of whole grains, fresh produce and acknowledging the importance of the occasional treat, also features a wealth of "specialty diet" friendly recipes for gluten-, egg-, dairy- and sugar- tree nut-free items that everyone can enjoy without alienating those who need them.

Overall, I want to bring back the desire for good quality, homemade, (mostly) healthy food into the hearts and kitchens of families so that the next generation will be less box-reliant than mine. I firmly believe that any “homemade” food, even when labelled as "naughty", is a more wholesome treat than pre-packaged, cookie-cutter junk. With the knowledge of good food (and how to cook good food) as a base, a healthy lifestyle can follow, and then anything is possible!

Today, my love for teaching is branching out even further - I'm in Montessori training to solidify my love for the system and working with children and families!