Happy and Healthy

katepark

Kate Park, our newest Go Cooking instructor, is a Registered Dietitian, a Certified Diabetes Educator, a Certified Personal Trainer and Cooking Instructor. She is also very human.

“Everyone assumes that I eat perfectly,” she laughs. “I do eat very well about 85% of the time. But food is more than just nutrition — it is also a celebration — it makes us happy or sad. So I have French fries for dinner sometimes, cake for my birthday and chocolate on Valentine’s Day. The point is to balance happy with healthy.”

Park is teaching two sessions at Go Cooking, sessions which will be devoted to living the happy gluten-free life. “Gluten free” is a regime that she doesn’t recommend for anyone unless they have celiac disease or are allergic or gluten sensitive. There is a lot of misinformation out there, she acknowledges, and people are using gluten free diets for weight loss or to be healthier. There is not a lot of strong evidence to support either of these ideas, unless people happen to be allergic or are not digesting gluten very well.

Gluten intolerance and the avoidance of gluten, Park notes, is one of the most difficult acts to follow. It’s a very tough programme for those who need to eat this way — which is why she is trying to help.

But gluten sensitivity is only one of the areas that Park deals with in her role as a member of the Hamilton Family Health Team <http://www.hamiltonfht.ca/&gt;. In Family Health Teams, family doctors work together with other health care professionals such as nurse practitioners, nurses, mental health counsellors, dietitians and pharmacists to see patients and to keep them healthy. Park speaks to both patients and health care professionals about subjects such weight loss, diabetes, heart health, high fibre diets, low sodium eating, and so on, from the perspective of a professional dietitian.

Her personal initiative for the Team is a series of cooking demonstrations which take place at the downtown Farmers’ Market.

“I found out,” she says, “that cooking was an easier and more effective way to get through to people, than by just sitting and talking to them.”

A list of her up-coming sessions, along with more about Kate and some recipes, can be found on her blog site, The Sensible Foodie <http://www.sensiblefoodie.ca/> The name of the site is descriptive. Park, who grew up in a small town called Petrolia, near Sarnia, has always been a “foodie”. (She defines a “foodie” as someone who thinks about food a lot, travels to places specifically for the food and goes out a lot just to eat.) Her “foodie” characteristics appeared at a very early age and she laughingly tells a story about a pencilled original recipe that she had composed when she was 7 years old that a relative passed on to her. (It was a dish which was based on toast and Parmesan cheese.)

“I remained a foodie but became more “sensible” about food when I was a teen,” she recalls. “I saw how eating certain things could affect your energy and weight and make such a difference to your life.”

In her work as a professional dietitian she meets a lot of people who are confused about healthy eating habits.

One of the biggest mistakes they make, she says, is falling for gimmicky advertising.

“There are small novels now on packages. Pictures of trees and flowers and fields, “all natural” and “low in fat” emblazoned in big letters. People should be more cautious and read the fine print. The food could be low in fat or all natural but may have other things that are harmful.”

She ponders the “organic” food message.

“Well, with certain foods — leafy greens or apples, for instance — organic is better because of the residues that they retain. But I also understand that organic is expensive and it’s not reasonable to require it in certain circumstances. Often proper washing and cleaning can fix the problem. The term “organic” is ambiguous at best …”

On avoiding excessive amounts of salt:

“People tend to cut out table salt. But 80% of the excess salt comes from packaged, processed food — especially condiments, sauces and soups. That’s where the most salt really is.”

Kate’s first session at Go Cooking was cancelled due to our inclement Hamilton weather. It will be held on February 12th, same time, same place(the Go Cooking kitchen). In the meantime, here’s a recipe of Kate’s which I shamelessly cribbed (along with the photo) from her own blog site.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
from Kate Park’s blog site

Ingredients:
6 portobello mushroomsportobello
5 shallots, diced
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp. red wine
8 large cremini mushrooms, diced
1.5 cups cooked brown rice
3 oz. plain goat cheese
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. oregano
1 tbsp. panko bread crumbs

Method:
1)Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2) In a small bowl combine tomatoes, oregano and lemon juice. Set aside.
3) In a large skillet, heat olive oil and shallots on medium heat. Cook shallots until translucent, about 5 – 7 minutes.
4) Add garlic, wine and mushrooms. Reduce heat slightly and cook for another 5 minutes.
5) Add rice. Stir until mixed.
6) Add in cheese. Remove from heat. Mix until cheese is coating the whole mixture.
7) Place portobellos top side down in a greased baking dish. Spoon rice mixture on top.
8) Place tomatoes on top of rice mixture and sprinkle with panko crumbs.
9) Heat mushrooms in oven for about 10 minutes until cooked through.
10) Serve warm.

My Notes

Park suggests serving this as a vegetarian main course, with a green salad.  Sounds like a plan for the weekend.!

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