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When it comes to healthy eating, nutrition research doesn’t hold all the answers.

Nutrition is amongst the hot topics in health and wellness these days, and like any trending issue, it is subject to much (sometimes heated) debate. The gluten-free and Paleo trends seem to have taken the field of nutrition by storm, along with the recent rise in popularity of high protein diets and a growing body of research on healthy fats. Lots of questions and hypotheses have been raised, and much research is being done, which is all great news! After all, this is just the type of scenario which sparks progress, and progressing towards a healthier population is just what we need. However, we have a tendency to get too preoccupied with the research and what the numbers are telling us, and we forget to consider the translation of this information to the real world; our daily lives. We all eat, every day, multiple times per day. So what ends up on our plates and in our bodies? Do we prepare a balanced meal of whole grains, veggies, and protein from scratch at home, or do we stop by the drive through on the way home after a busy day at work? Do we purchase chips and dip as a snack while grocery shopping, or do we pick up a few apples and the ingredients for a tasty Greek yogurt dip to go along with them instead? Ultimately, it comes down to the many competing factors which influence our everyday food decisions.

As a nutrition student, I am definitely learning a lot about the science behind food and how it can help or hinder our overall health. Although we are taught to look to the research to avoid spreading false information, our learning isn’t limited to food in isolation. One of the ideas that we focus on is the connection between our current state of declining health, increasing levels of obesity and chronic disease, convenience food culture, and the removal of home economics education from our school systems. Knowing how to cook, that is  knowing how to transform raw, real, whole ingredients into a finished product, knowing about hygienic food safety and storage practices, and being comfortable working in a kitchen environment and using the necessary tools and appliances, may sound like a waste of time in this day and age of fast-paced innovation, but if you don’t know how to prepare vegetables, how to cook a roast, how to make foods taste good while limiting fat and sugar intake, how healthy are your food choices going to be, how healthy are you going to be, and how is your health going to impact the rest of your life? Being a good cook these days is considered a valued skill, because the truth is, if you’re a great home cook, you’re the exception. Maybe home economics education is a little more important than we thought it was when it disappeared from our schools.

Along with home economics education comes food literacy, which includes knowledge of how foods grow, seasonality, how to cook, and food preparation skills. Programs like Grow Cook Learn do just this; teach people about our food systems from farm to fork, and all the steps in between. Grow Cook Learn is a wonderful example of a community nutrition initiative which is helping to alleviate some of the gaps in our educational system. It’s never too late to learn a new skill, especially one which can help you lead a happier, healthier life! So, the moral of the story is that we need the numbers and the research, but they serve as only a starting point. It’s one thing to know exactly how much protein we need to incorporate into our daily meals, but it’s another to get someone who isn’t comfortable in the kitchen or who was never taught how to properly cook meats, to meet their protein requirements from anything other than processed meat products, prepared meals, or restaurants. A divide exists between knowledge and practical skill, and the practical skill is what will bring our vast body of knowledge surrounding heathy eating into our homes, and into our tummies.

So, I’ll leave you with a recipe. This simple but elegant savoury snack or appetizer can be served any time of year, and is sure to impress! Of course, it would be best in the late summer or fall when Ontario pears are in season! I hope you’ll give it a try, and let me know your thoughts in the comments. Cheers.

Prosciutto and Herbed Goats Cheese on Pear Rounds

(yields approximately 10 pieces)

What you’ll need:

  • 2 pears (firm, but ripe)
  • 1/3 cup herbed goats cheese
  • 2 slices prosciutto
  • 2 tbsp. honey

What you’ll need to do:

  1. Wash the pears, and slice into discs about 1/4 inch thick. Use a paring knife to remove a small section of the core in the middle of each disk if preferred. Arrange on a serving platter.
  2. Slice the prosciutto into thin strips, lengthwise, about 6 strips per slice.
  3. Place 1-2 strips of prosciutto in a neat bundle on top of each slice of pear.
  4. Crumble the goats cheese and divide between your slices of pear to top each slice.
  5. Finally, drizzle honey over top of each piece, and enjoy!

[About the Author] Alida is a nutrition student, aspiring dietitian, lover of food, lifter of weights, and wearer of fluorescent gym attire. She shares her recipes, kitchen adventures, and some insight into the world of nutrition on her blog Fandangoed Foodie.

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