Our new addy: http://blogs.landfood.ubc.ca/elephus/

New post (“The Future of Learning”) just up (Nov 26th, 2007).




Just read a good article on the CNN website about boosting your immune system with food. A good point made: while we can’t eliminate colds/flu viruses with food alone, we can certainly try to improve our defense systems (a.k.a. our immune system) through eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. What, exactly, does a “balanced” diet look like?

This article very concisely summarizes the food groups that we all should include in our diet, and even cites the following visual:

“Cover two-thirds of your plate with vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and beans, and one-third with lean protein.”

An alternative “plate visualization” I’ve used in the past as a Dietetic intern is: fill half of your plate with vegetables, 1/4 with starch (e.g. rice, potato, grains), and 1/4 with meat/protein…like so:

Plate Method

…Here are a few other tips and tidbits I’d like to add:

Fruits and Vegetables

If anything, I would emphasize the need to eat more fruits and veggies! Most people today just don’t get enough (I, myself, am guilty….) 😦 How much is “enough”? Check Canada’s Food Guide (or in the U.S., the MyPyramid guide). These 2 are excellent resources – print one out and stick it on your fridge as a good reminder!

Colorful Vegetables Remember…the more colourful, the better!

Protein (Meats and Legumes)

Being a foodie (and meat-eater…sorry vegetarians!), I can certainly appreciate a good piece of marbled steak, or deep-fried-anything! However, it’s a good idea to incorporate some lean meats at least 2-3 times a week (that’s not asking too much, is it?). For example, try a chicken stir-fry…you obviously wouldn’t stir fry chicken with its skin on. Pork is nice and lean as well! Fish is my favourite, and doesn’t always have to be boring (I like to steam mine like they do in Chinese restaurants, or in most other cases, I get my fish fix when I go out for sushi!).

Tofu, beans, and lentils are excellent sources of non-animal protein! (would love to hear about any good vegetarian recipes you have!)


Isn’t it confusing enough with all the terminology out there? What are trans fats? Saturated fats? If you’d like to know more, check out Dial-A-Dietitian’s handout on Dietary Fat. All I need to remind myself is:

Animal fat: BAD….Plant fat: GOOD!

So anything like butter, fatty meats, etc…try to consume these less often. “Plant” fat such as margarine, vegetable oil, the oil from nuts and seeds…try to consume these more often!


No further comments on the rest of the article…it really is a good summary! Read it for yourself! If you’re looking for more handouts on healthy eating, check out Dial-A-Dietitian’s website. If you live in B.C., you can even call them up and speak with a Registered Dietitian for sound nutrition advice (find their phone number on their website).

Well, munch on, exercise on, and stay healthy! It’ll otherwise be a loooong winter (especially here in Vancouver!)


* pictures from: http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/diabetes2/subsection.cfm?SubSectionID=14 and http://lancaster.unl.edu/food/ftjul06.shtml


Alas, October is behind us, which means a little less than a month to go before the Santa Shuffle! santa-shuffle.jpg

I haven’t done much training, but am rather interested in knowing how to optimize nutrition for performance…ok, confession: it’s only 5k, so hardly anything to worry about!

Nonetheless, just out of curiosity, I asked a couple of our nutrition professors for some sports nutrition tips:

  • Nutrition: for a 5k race, there’s not much to it. Basically, eat well (balanced diet) throughout the day (as one should every day) and keep well hydrated. No need for any special supplements or dietary products.
  • Hydration: some things to consider are 1) climate, and 2) distance. Given that this run will be in December (i.e., not humid) and it’s only 5k, runners need not be too concerned about appropriate hydration. Sports drinks (e.g. Gatorade) are also (likely) not required.

However, anything more than 5k that requires intensive training and involves considerable loss of body water (i.e., through sweating) would require careful hydration. Dr. Susan Barr in our faculty recommends reading up on the American College of Sports Medicine’s stand on Exercise and Fluid Replacement.

Basically, it’s very difficult to give a single, general recommendation for hydration in sports, since every individual loses body water at different rates, depending on a variety of factors – pages 384 and 385 of the above article has some handy tables to give readers an idea of water loss for runners, depending on body weight and climate. Again, every athlete/runner is different.

That said, be sure to hydrate yourself ~ 4 hrs prior to activity. Rule of thumb: if your urine is dark, you can drink a little bit more up to 2 hrs before the event. During activity: for me, I probably won’t need to worry too much…drink periodically as opportunities allow. After exercise: for me, I would simply consume my regular amount of fluid and food. Note that while dehydration (not the severe type) may cause decreased performance in most athletes, be careful not to over-hydrate yourself as that could lead to serious illness.

And of course, never start a training program without consulting your doctor or getting sound advice from a certified trainer! SportMedBC is also an excellent resource for sports-related information. I used their Beginning Runner’s Handbook when I was first starting out and found it absolutely helpful!

If you have any tips or advice, by all means, please leave a comment!

Good luck out there and stay healthy!


(*Santa Shuffle picture from http://www.salvationarmy.org)

Halloween Pumpkins

Halloween’s coming up in a few days! If you’re looking for ways to be more environmentally-friendly this Halloween, Larry West has an excellent Green Halloween Tips article, offering 8 tips on how to:

  1. Trick or Treat with Reusable Bags
  2. Make Do-It-Yourself Costumes
  3. Give Eco-Friendly Treats
  4. Walk, Don’t Drive
  5. Make Your Halloween Party Eco-Friendly
  6. Reuse and Recycle
  7. Keep Halloween Clean
  8. Keep it Going

Here are additional tips from our own Land and Food Systems community:

  • Waste Not! When carving your Jack-O-Lantern, Duncan, in our Learning Centre, recommends keeping the seeds and roasting them as a healthy and delicious snack! I like to soak mine in a bit of salt water first, drain, and then bake at 300 F for about 45 minutes. How do YOU like to roast your pumpkin seeds?
  • Not sure what to do with your leftover Jack O’Lantern? Recycle it! Though your pumpkin will be a bit scorched after Halloween, it’ll still taste good in soup! Just remember to use a dish to catch the candle wax when it’s lit. Shannon, one of our faculty members, has offered her recipe for (Vegetarian) Jack O’Lantern Soup!
  1. Take the candle out of the Jack O’Lantern and keep cool until cooking time (max. 24 hours from Halloween night, ideally).
  2. Cut the pumpkin into 5 or 6 pieces roughly the same size, leaving outer skin on.
  3. Place pieces on baking sheet (the ones with an edge, or use an oven safe dish or pan) and put at least 1 inch of water in the bottom. Pieces can be skin up or skin down – I usually put skin up so the flesh gets “steamed” from the hot water and cooks faster.
  4. Put baking dish in 350 F oven for about 45 min – 60 min.
    To test doneness, pierce a pumpkin piece with a fork. If the fork goes cleanly through without any resistance, your pumpkin is done.
  5. Cool. While cooling, chop garlic, onion, celery and ginger (or any other spices and vegetables you want in your soup).
    In a medium sized pot with heavy bottom, saute the garlic, onion and spices in about 2 Tbsp oil (I use organic canola) until translucent.
  6. Remove flesh by scooping it off the skin (this is super easy once cooked and cooled). If you want a smooth pumpkin soup, it does not matter what shape or size your scoops are. Place them directly into the saute.
  7. Add other vegetables for your soup. Add approximately 1 cup water to 1 cup pumpkin.
  8. Cook on medium heat until the soup “boils”, then turn to a low simmer for about 10 minutes. Blend (hand blender works best, or use a counter top blender, but be careful if the liquid is hot!).
  9. Garnish and serve. Garnish ideas: fresh grated cheese (parmesan, feta, whatever!), toasted sesame seeds, toasted pumpkin seeds, grated apple or raw beet, cilantro chopped finely, sauteed mushrooms in garlic and butter (yum!)…the list is endless!

Note: You can use chunks of pumpkin and other vegetables like zucchini, sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, beet, etc. In this case, your chunky soup will be done when all veggies are soft but not overcooked. More spices and some seasalt can be added in the 10 min final cooking. Omit the blending.


  • Gwen, another faculty member, likes to puree her leftover pumpkin for future use in muffins, loaf, pies…etc.

I always cook ours. Shortly after Halloween (hopefully the next day), I cut the Jack-o-Lanterns into large chunks (cutting out any bits that havebeen charred by candle flames), and put them in an uncovered baking dish. I bake them in the oven at about 325 degrees until they are totally soft. This probably takes over an hour — maybe 1.5 hours? I let them cool until I can handle them, peel them, and puree the pumpkin flesh. I put the puree in a colander lined with a coffee filter to let some of the water out, then freeze the pumpkin puree in ~2 cup batches. I use it throughout the year for pumpkin muffins, pumpkin soup, pumpkin loaf, pumpkin pie…anything that calls for canned pureed pumpkin. I hate to see all those jack-o-lanterns rotting in the street in November — there’s lots of good food in them! [Gwen‘s one of our nutrition professors, by the way!] 😉

  • Buy pumpkins from Local Farmers! Buy a pumpkin from the UBC Farm for just $2! This Saturday (Oct 27th, from 10am to 3pm), you can even carve that pumpkin on site, make a scarecrow, or learn how to make pumpkin pie…all for a minimum donation of $5! Come out to the Scarecrow & Pumpkin Festival and support the UBC Farm!
  • While you’re out at UBC, be sure not to miss UBC Botanical Garden‘s Bootiful Botany Haunted Halloween! It’s a fun (FREE) family event, and kids get the opportunity to learn about spooky plants!


According to this morning’s CBC article, you may as well be sitting next to a smoker if you’ve got a printer sitting on your desk! A UBC professor, Stephen van Eeden says, “Just per mass, the amount of small particles that you inhale if you sit anything from two to three feet from the printer is about the same as sitting next to a person that smokes.”

How does this story relate to Land and Food Systems? Well it doesn’t, really, but I just might be on a long leave-of-absence 😉 Check out this photo of my desk area!


I spoke briefly with our team of IT experts, and they say that only the laser jet printers are harmful. Unfortunately for me, that’s a laser printer sitting on my desk. 😦

Panic! Panic! ….Panic??

Nah…In the end, I think I’ll still be here, working away. At most, MAYBE that printer will be moved (if I’m lucky). Oh well, the good thing is: we don’t print that much (as mentioned in my previous post, we’re a “paperless” office), so hopefully it’s not as harmful when our printer’s not in use.

In the meantime, I’m gonna go grab my super cancer-and-heart-disease fighting snack: Spartan Apple
Photo courtesy of East Kelowna Cider Company (http://eastkelownacidercompany.com/spartan.html)

Planet Earth Photo courtesy of NASA (http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap050102.html)

Doh! Missed out on Blog Action Day! On Oct 15th, bloggers the world over talk about one issue – this year’s topic: our environment.

Oh well, regardless, it’s never a bad time to share ideas on how to be more sustainable! Here’s what our faculty is doing to help save the earth!

  1. Eco-friendly Research
    An organic bug spray was developed by our very own Dean (Murray Isman). It’s harmless to human health because it’s made of stuff you can find in your own kitchen! Marketed under the EcoSMART brand, check out the complete story here.
  2. Food Security
    Agora is a student-run café in the basement of our MacMillan building at UBC. Volunteers are contributing to food security by buying local and fair trade products wherever possible. They are responsible stewards of the environment by composting and producing as little waste as possible. These young global citizens are definitely worth applauding! Check out their website to see how one group project became one of the favourite spots for yummy and healthy food among our faculty and staff!
  3. UBC Farm
    Can anyone think of a better way for students to learn about sustainable agriculture and the connection between land and food than to get hands-on at our very own farm-within-the-city? Although Market Garden season is over now, you can still read up on community gardens, school field trips, and our upcoming Scarecrow Festival at the UBC Farm website!
  4. Courses in Sustainability
    Our faculty offers a handful of courses related to sustainability and the environment. Check out our website for more details!
  5. Paperless office
    Historically, all communications with students were recorded on paper. A student’s degree progress was also checked against a paper checklist. However, since UBC purchased new software (Degree Navigator), and improved its existing Student Information Service Centre, our faculty has become virtually a paperless office. For more information, check out the interview earlier this year with Lynn Newman-Saunders.More recently, we purchased new fax machines that have the option of forwarding all incoming faxes to email. Money-well-spent! If anything, it’s satisfying to know that spammers aren’t wasting our precious paper for their junk faxes! Score: Faculty 1, Spammers 0!

Are we there yet??

Not quite – but by taking this Blogging course, I think we’re off to a good start! I’m learning all about blogging in 4 sessions through my UBC Continuing Studies course – I love it!! All I need is to get some faculty and students on board with this project and we’ll hopefully get some interesting stories up soon!

In the meantime, allow me to summarize the Apple Fest at the UBC Botanical Gardens this past weekend. Weather: amazing! Turnout: incredible! (did we have a record attendance this year?? Hmm, will have to ask someone from Bot Gardens) Apple pie: dee-LISH! I will definitely be back next year with camera in hand (this year, I’ll just have to direct you to the website for photos: http://www.ubcbotanicalgarden.org/events/applefest.php)