Posted on

Healthy Food Trends for 2017: What’s on the Menu?

2016 was the year of the avocado, seeds, nuts and mushrooms as well as ‘clean’ labeling of food and ‘clean-eating’ – the consumption of minimally processed, locally sourced, real, fresh, nutrient-dense foods.

2017 consumer trends continue to move in the direction of food-as-medicine and the prevention of chronic conditions.

Progressive consumers continue to redefine the supermarket landscape and the entire idea of health and wellness. With real foods, one doesn’t have to go down the road to self-denial or self-discipline. Real foods, combined in creative and innovative ways don’t require the self-denial that processed, highly sugared and corn syrup laden, synthetic foods do.

Here are some Health Food Trends for 2017 that I’m into:

  1. 2017 is the Year of the Viking. Eating like a Viking is all about eating seasonally available foods that are locally available. Nordic food choices and food preparation are making their presence known and include foods such as wild salmon, salted fish, beet root consumed either raw, smoked, fermented or cured. pexels-photo-96379
  2. Plant waters. Coconut Water, Maple Water, Birch Water, Cactus Water and Aloe Water all which are rich in antioxidants and natural minerals. Look out for Artichoke Water, Prickly Pear Water and Barley Water.drip-water-drop-of-water-close-55815
  3. Nutritional Yeast (aka Nooch). For those in the vegetarian or vegan community, this is nothing new. A great source of vitamin B12, nutritional yeast is great on and in everything that you could possible make. Get it at your local health food store. nutritional-yeast
  4. Plant-power. Make more room for vegetables. No longer content to be a side dish or a garnish, veggies are taking over serious real estate on the plate. pexels-photo-196643
  5. Avocado Oil. Rich in Oleic Acid, Lutein and heart healthy antioxidants that help in the absorption of many nutrients. Why not use it in your smoothies, salads, marinade, homemade mayo, hummus, or cold soups.avocado-oil-2
  6. Teff. This small grain from Ethiopia packs a whole lot of nutritional power. Gluten-free, high in iron and fiber and versatile. Some say it’s the new Quinoa and a ‘new’ Superfood.
  7. Sweet Potato Flour. Great source of beta-carotene (vitamin A) packed with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant nutrients. This is not just your average potato starch.sweet-potato-flour
  8. Plant-based Dinning Options: The rise of plant-based restaurants and more plant-based dishes in restaurants. I am so excited to hit Vancouver early in the New Year for the Gluten-Free Expo 2017 and to eat at ZEND Conscious Lounge.

Here are Resources and Food & Beverage Trends to look out for in the New Year – some are here to help you decide what to stay clear of:

  1. Healthy Food Trends 2017
  2. 9 Food Trends to Look out for in 2017
  3. Food & Beverage  Trends 2016-2017
  4. The 11 Hottest Food Trends for 2017
Posted on

Creating Food Security in Your Community – Is it on Your Vision Board for 2017?

“Food is a profoundly social urge. Food is almost always shared; people eat together; mealtimes are events when the whole family or settlement or village comes together. Food is also an occasion for sharing, for distributing and giving, for the expression of altruism, whether from parents to children, children to in-laws, or anyone to visitors and strangers. Food is the most important thing a mother gives a child; it is the substance of her own body, and in most parts of the world mother’s milk is still the only safe food for infants. Thus food becomes not just a symbol of, but the reality of, love and security.”  ~ Robin Fox from Food and Eating: An Anthropological Perspective

Why write about food security (having access to enough and good quality food) at this time of year?  As many people set about creating goals, vision boards or targets for the up coming year, it is my hope that in addition to focusing on the refinement and re-genesis of ‘me’, we also include ‘me’ as part of a larger community and incorporate goals that support and enhance that community.

One of my goals for 2017 is to grow and/or glean enough fresh fruits and vegetables to provide for my family and for those in our community who do not have regular access to fresh produce.


Why would people living in countries where food is ‘cheap’, available in mass quantities, and sold in convenient supermarkets, super-centers or wholesale club stores, often disposed of before expiring, want to grow their own food or glean food from a neighbor’s yard?

The reasons are varied: food contamination (pesticides/herbicides), food modification, food insecurity, increasing prices of produce that is shipped into local stores due to drought conditions in food producing regions such as California, and the increasing cost of shipping.  Carolyn Herriot, author and local farmer in Central Vancouver Island, defined food security as ‘making sure your neighbour is fed’. Her words resonate deeply with me.



Food security and safety elicit a particularly strong reaction in me. I grew up in eastern Europe in the 1980’s. My grandparents and parents grew their own food due to food shortages. We often reminisce (still 30 years later) about ‘standing in line for toilet paper’. The reality was, people in communist countries ‘stood in line’ for everything.

We immigrated to Canada in late 1986. In those early days, we used the food bank several times when income was tight. We picked up day old food at a local grocery store every Saturday on behalf of a local church. The food was distributed to those in need and we were lucky to get a share.

Although it has been many years since I’ve had to visit a food bank, I am compelled to contribute in some way and to pay-it-forward.

According to Canada Without Poverty:

  • 1 in 7 people in Canada are currently living in poverty.
  • These people are our neighbors, persons with disabilities, single parents, Aboriginal persons, the elderly and racialized communities.
  • 540,000 children across Canada live in conditions of poverty.
  • 20.4% of children in British Columbia live in poverty.
  • 1 in 8 Canadian households struggle to put food on the table (2.4 million households and almost 1 million children).


The United Nations Economic and Social Council noted the following in Article 11 (May 1999) on the Right to Adequate food:

“The Committee observes that while the problems of hunger and malnutrition are often particularly acute in developing countries, malnutrition, under-nutrition and other problems which relate to the right to adequate food and the right to freedom from hunger also exist in some of the most economically developed countries. Fundamentally, the roots of the problem of hunger and malnutrition are not lack of food but lack of access to available food…”(1)

Could food insecurity and limited access to high nutritional quality foods be alleviated (at least in part) by growing and/or gleaning fruits and vegetables instead of green lawns and colorful flower beds?


Would growing your own – on a balcony in a bag of dirt or in a raised garden bed – provide a passive example to neighbors and strangers alike of how easy it can be? Check out this 4 minute video and get inspired.

Make some of your New Year’s goals about how you can be a part of the food security solution in your community. Here are some resources to get you started:

  1. Start your own Food Is Free Project: (a) Collective Evolution: How to start a food is free project & (b) Food Is Free: How to Start a Food is Free Project Guide
  2. A Farm in a Shipping Container: Wouldn’t it be amazing if whole neighborhoods and/or school districts got together (and perhaps acquired government funding) to purchase Green Leafy Machines to grow their own food with a low carbon footprint all year round? Since publishing my article about Tamara Knott’s Shipping Container Farm, I have had many inquiries about it. It is inspiring to see how many people are re-thinking food and consciously choosing to have a direct hand in what they eat and how food is distributed.
  3. Gleaning: Let’s manage what we grow and be responsible with the food that is already available. Here are some organizations that can pick fruit and distribute it to those in need. Perhaps you can volunteer or start your own such organization in your area.
    1. Farm to Cafeteria (Canada) – Farm to Cafeteria Canada (F2CC) is a pan-Canadian organization whose vision is  “vibrant and sustainable regional food systems that support the health of people place and planet.” F2CC works with  partners across Canada to educate, build capacity, strengthen partnerships, and influence policy to bring local, healthy, and sustainable foods into all public institutions.
    2. Zero Waste Canada – The Fruit Tree Project rescues fruit from backyards. They have volunteer organizations all over Canada, including Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal as well as in smaller communities.
    3. Cowichan Valley FruitSave Program (Central Vancouver Island, Canada) – the FruitSave Project is a local gleaning program that organizes volunteers to harvest backyard fruit that would otherwise go to waste.  This naturally grown fruit is shared between the homeowner, the pickers, and the Valley’s many emergency food providers.
    4. FarmFolk CityFolk (all over British Columbia, Canada) – Fruit Tree projects enlist a great group of volunteers who will assist with the picking of fruit in your backyard, fruit tree care, and preserving workshops. Fruit is distributed among homeowners, volunteers, community groups and food banks.
    5. Gleaning Abundance (Kamloops, BC, Canada) – Home owners with too much fruit on their trees or vegetables in their garden contact us to share their abundance.
    6. Food Secure Canada – check out their Relocalization Network Project proposal so you can start your own
    7. Village Harvest (US) – This website provides a list (in progress) of groups which glean, harvest, collect, rescue, or recover fruit or produce for charitable purposes in the US.
    8. FeedBack (UK & Europe) – The Gleaning Network coordinates volunteers, farmers and food redistribution charities to salvage the thousands of tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables that are wasted on farms every year across the UK and Europe, and direct this fresh, nutritious food to people in need.



(1)  Substantive issues arising in the implantation of the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights committed on economic, social and cultural rights; Twentieth session Geneva, 26 April-14 May 1999, Agenda item 7 pp. 2-3)

Posted on

An Update on Food Labeling & Health Claims Litigation in the Food & Beverage Industry in the USA

The Food & Beverage Industry has been around for some time and they have been ruling the supermarket aisles, our pantries and bellies. However, in the last several years, they have seen their large profit margins and their ability to tell the consumer what is good for them shrink. They have been forced to adapt their products to fall in line with growing consumer demands.

Change is hard. It is easier to change labels and add ‘functional’ ingredients to ‘clean up’ labels and make them more appealing to consumers than it is to change the fundamental operation of multi-billion dollar companies. So it is not surprising that their choice to respond to consumer demand by changing labels, NOT their products, has been met with animosity.

Food labeling and health food claims have been under much scrutiny via litigation. This ‘Food Politics‘ blog post gives a clear and comprehensive overview of what is happening and what you need to know as a consumer.

Food and beverage companies have faced a tsunami of false advertising lawsuits over the past five years. But how big of an issue is this for the industry, who has been targeted, and what strategies are working, both for plaintiffs and defendants in these cases? In this special edition, we also look into labeling issues and trends, from healthy, Paleo and grass-fed claims to NuTek’s potassium salt petition….

Please read the rest of Food Politics’ ‘Food-Navigator-USA’s special edition on food labeling and litigation blog post here.

Marion Nestle is a Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is a writer of six prizing-winning books and long-time blogger about all things related to the food system. Her blog, ‘Food Politics’ is well worth bookmarking.



Posted on

Be A Part of the ‘Re-Generation’ – Inspiring Examples of Urban Agriculture Today

Example isn’t another way to teach, it IS the way to teach.”

~Albert Einstein~

Urban agriculture, urban farming or urban gardening, according to Wikipedia, is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around a village, town, or city. Urban agriculture can also involve animal husbandry, aquaculture, agroforestry, urban beekeeping, and horticulture.


Urban agriculture, where food is produced and consumed locally, with minimal to no input (pesticides, herbicides) is the way of the future. Here’s why: food security, food safety as well as ecological and human health depend upon it.

True revolution – that is change in the current food system – will occur on the plate.


Each time we buy food, we vote. Voting is not just an every-4-years-phenomenon. It is a daily reality. We vote to either keep the current and unsustainable status quo or we vote for change in the food system by purchasing local or growing our own.


Here are some amazing examples of people banding together and voting (with money, attitude, and action) for change. What affects one, affects everyone.

Inspiration for the Gardener’s Soul

Use the Soil

There are many reasons to grow your own; climate change is one of those reasons. There are 880 gigatons of carbon floating in the atmosphere right now throwing the earth out of balance. One of the ways that we can bring this basic building block of life back into balance on our planet is to grow. Simply put, the plants we grow take carbon out of the atmosphere (using photosynthesis), turn it into sugars and starches and put it back into the soil.


December 5th was “World Soil Day“. Watch ‘The Soil Story’ below – take 4 minutes to watch, learn and share what you can personally do to be an active part of the climate change solution and a part of ‘regenerative agriculture’.

“On World Soil Day, I call for greater attention to the pressing issues affecting soils, including climate change, antimicrobial resistance, soil-borne diseases, contamination, nutrition and human health.” — UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon


Get Growing

It is exciting to read about the various community organized food growing projects and food growing initiatives that are happening around the world today. These are the people who are part of the climate change solution. They are paving the way for a vibrant ecological future now.


The purpose of these projects is to get fresh and organic produce to as many people as possible.

The amazing thing is that they center around and involve entire communities of people. Together they are setting the example: the positive actions of a few are benefiting larger communities and addressing significant needs.

Here are just a few examples of what collectively conscious communities can do:

1. Food Is Free Project

This project started with one front yard garden. Now, over 300 cities around the world have started a Food Is Free Movement.  The idea to grow gardens and community began to spread after three months and hasn’t stopped. Check out these Food Is Free Websites:

Start Your Own Food Is Free Project with this Guide.


2. The Female Farmer Project

Audra Mulkern is a cook, writer and photographer. She writes about and photographs “The Female Farmer Project”   – a chronicle of in-depth stories about the rise of women working in agriculture around the world.  Check out her “Visual Story Telling from the Farm” project. Inspiration abounds here.


3. Green Lawns to Urban Farms in Florida 

Chris Castro is the founder of Fleet Farming. He believes in growing food not lawns. Chris, along with a group of volunteers, are on a mission to turn Florida’s perfectly green laws into urban farms. Check out his amazing website and his visionary mission statement.


4. An Urban Food Street in Australia

What started out as planting and growing lime trees due to the high cost of limes in 2009, has now become an 11 street urban agriculture project. This ‘Urban Food Street‘ produced 900 kilograms of bananas and 300 cabbages in 2015. Although not everyone grows food on their lawns in this neighborhood, everyone contributes assets and/or skills for the greater good of the community.


5. ‘Agrihood’ in Detroit

If you need an alternative neighbourhood growth model, here is one for you. The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) has created a two-acre garden with trees and a ‘sensory garden’ for kids. MUFI, a non profit organization, hopes to tackle issues such as ‘nutritional illiteracy’ and ‘food insecurity’ in Detroit.


6. A Planned, EcoFriendly Neighborhood with integrated Agriculture

This Davis, California neighborhood is located close to downtown making walking and biking easy. It features solar powered homes equipped with led lighting, tankless water heaters and other energy saving features. It also has a 7.4 acre organic working farm that grows and sells organic food to its residents.


7. Re purposing with Real Impact

What can be done with abandoned schools or other such buildings? Caroline Hadilaksono designed an all-in-one urban food center. She dreamed up a space where the local community can come together to grow, harvest, prepare, sell and eat food, all in an abandoned school building. Her idea centers around the notion of community building and won the GOOD Competition which called for ideas on how to re purpose old, abandoned school buildings across the US. This is something all communities could get behind.


Call to Action

Dear Reader, write to me. Share your urban gardening stories and innovative food security solutions – I would love to compile and feature all such stories here with all credit given.


Featured photograph and vegetable harvest photograph by Jane Grueber

Other photographs courtesy of

Posted on

Better Yield Next Time? Start Planning a ‘Grow-Your-Own Food’ Project Now

Happy December Everyone!

With the New Year just around the bend and a new growing season to plan, I am so excited to flip through some beautiful seed catalogs I recently received in the mail (online and paper). Inspiration abounds in the beautifully photographed pages. It summons the taste and smell of homegrown food that is still warm from the hot summer sun. If it isn’t already apparent, I am looking forward to another growing season and the hot summer sun.

Invest in Living a Life Well Nourished

To take my already overflowing garden dreams to the next level, I invested in a lovely new cookbook: Life in Balance: A Fresher Approach to Eating by Donna Hay.  My preference is to invest in cookbooks and garden seeds over gym memberships. Cookbooks and garden seeds nourish, revitalize and teach; my gym memberships just collect dust after a about a month. Donna’s cookbook contains wonderful plant-based recipes (it contains meat-based recipes too and it’s what I would consider a ‘Paleo’ cookbook) but the thing is, vegetables aren’t just side dishes here, they are front and center in simple, creative and delicious ways. I am heartened to see more and more plant-based cookbooks hitting the market. See Cookbooks for a Plant-Based Diet for a list of my favorite plant-based cookbooks.

Life in Balance

As I sit here dressed in a warm sweater sipping a hot morning coffee, my mind wanders to the warmest days of summer when we can use the harvest from our garden to host al fresco feasts for our neighbors and friends.  It’s never early to start planning feast menus, is it?


However, long before we can enjoy our harvest, there’s got to be some serious planning. I have several goals to achieve in the garden this year:

  1. expand the garden and increase crop yield
  2. try different growing media (organic dirt vs. hay)
  3. set up an ecosystem that supports native and honey bees as well as other beneficial bugs
  4. use companion plants to naturally ward of pests
  5. grow juicy, plump tomatoes, zucchini, and cucumbers (see resources at the end of this post)

Inspiration from the Homesteading Summit

A few weekends ago, I watched some of the presentations from the  Online Homesteading Summit. Topics centered around permaculture and included an introduction to permaculture principles, water conservation, bee keeping, and home gardening among others.



I don’t come from an agricultural background by any stretch of the imagination. But one key piece of information that permeated all the presentations was that one does not need to be a biologist or geological expert. In fact, if one is a keen observer of nature and comes to understand its patterns and cycles, achieving nutritional and ecological sustainability by growing your own (with minimal effort) is an attainable-not lofty-goal.

Feeling inspired to grow more of our own food next year, I ran outside to put stakes in our front yard. These stakes are the beginning of an expanded home garden and a new project. I love projects!


Lessons from Last Year’s Growing Season

Last year was our first year of growing food in British Columbia. We grew our own vegetables and herbs on 80 square feet. This gave us enough fresh produce for 22 weeks in a row but the process was much like walking through a corn field in the dark – unpredictable. We never knew what was coming next and it was either feast or famine – a crop came all at once, inundating us for a week or not coming at all.

I planted trees and berries bushes without knowing how much spacing they required or that we already had a fig tree in the backyard and didn’t really need to buy another one. I learned that mint takes over the garden. In summary, I learned a lot about timing, spacing, and using the microclimates around our house to plant accordingly.  Chalk this up to necessary experience for a perennial city dweller.


Growing Your Own is on the Rise

Growing food in the yard is not new but the way it is being done now is a bit revolutionary. It’s the re-ruralization of the urban and suburban centers.  48 million households in the US and 43 million in Australia are attempting to grow their own produce in whatever space they have.  It seems like many of us are on the same journey so let’s support each other.

Geeking Out on Garden Planning

I was particularly inspired and moved to action by Stacey Murphy, backyard gardener, backyard geek, author of children’s books and recovering engineer. It was her simple and systematic approach to home gardening that really revved up my desire to replicate and extrapolate. Because the circumstances – climate, soil conditions, amount of space – are as unique as the people who choose to grow their own, this variability opens the door for guesswork but also a lot of creativity.

In summary, Stacey addressed 4 key ideas to take the guesswork out of backyard gardening:

  1. recognize patterns
  2. improve yield
  3. adapt/optimize patterns
  4. streamline effort

When Stacey began her backyard gardening project, she had a decent vegetable harvest but noticed that her garden could have produced better with better space utilization and a little planning ahead. This sounded a lot like us. The following year she got busy planning and put together her own road map for greater yield as well as to save energy, time and resources. All this by analyzing trends, patterns, and crunching some numbers.

Here are some wonderful resources from Tracy that anyone can use to increase their crop yield and to make their home garden a much more efficient and streamlined endeavor.

  1. Garden Geek Garden Template
  2. Your Guide to Understanding Growing Zones (sign up on Stacey’s Facebook Page and get this guide)


Other Resources to help you create a vibrant ecosystem in your yard with minimal effort:

  1. Permaculture Principles
  2. Creating a Bee Friendly ecosystem in your backyard
  3. Secrets to Growing Plump Tomatoes
  4. Companion Plants that Ward Off Unwanted Pests (including mosquitoes)
  5. City of Vancouver Urban Garden Agriculture Guidelines