What is Orthorexia Nervosa, aka Extreme Clean Eating Disorder?

I want to take a moment to introduce a serious, but important topic – Orthorexia Nervosa, or otherwise known as ‘Extreme Clean Eating Disorder’. We all do our best to eat healthy, or ‘clean’, whatever it is we want to call it, but there is a point where the obsession can cause one to overly restrict their diet to a point when there are serious health implications.
More and more every day I see people posting and commenting on just how confusing this whole healthy lifestyle thing can be. The determination of what foods are healthy and which foods are bad for the human body seems to fluctuate with the tides. One month coffee is deemed healthy, the next it is bad for our health. The same can be said for a multitude of other foods and drinks. Despite the ever-wavering evidence for and against the benefits of some foods, the common factor has always been that eating healthy is good for all humans and animals. However, Dr. Steven Bratman termed the phrase orthorexia nervosa in 1997, claiming that the obsession with eating healthy can actually lead to poor overall health. People in this situation can be so scared of certain foods that they are restricting their diet to where they are not getting the nutrients they need. They are either restricting to too little calories overall and/or over-restricting certain foods or types of foods (both of which can lead to malnutrition), and/or they restrict themselves from social situations, which can also have negative health effects. This of course would be the extreme side of this. If someone doesn’t go out for with their friends for one night but instead stays in, eats healthy, and exercises, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they may have orthorexia nervosa. It’s about the obsession, and how much it is consistently impacting their health in a negative way. A very interesting and eye-opening interview with a psychologist and two registered dietitians on this topic can be listened to here.
The Dr. that coined the term orthorexia, was affected by a tragic case where a vegan blogger had died as a result of this disorder. Her heartbreaking story can be read about here. She had been diagnosed with anorexia, but resisted the diagnoses and help because she didn’t feel that it fit her situation. She didn’t fear about being fat or obsessed with being skinny; she was obsessed with eating healthy. This unfortunately ultimately led to her untimely death due to malnutrition.
This is why I at least want to start a conversation about this and make people aware – because it is a real thing, and it does happen, and I care about the lives of women. Again, I also understand how confusing the health and fitness world can be and I see the confusion in some of the questions and posts.
There are also people who support the uptake of these fears by society, and this can be equally damaging. I won’t point any fingers or name names, however a popular blogger who tends to shame others’ food decisions is discussed in the interview mentioned above. What I will say is that people shouldn’t be constantly scared that what they are putting in their bodies, and their families bodies, is toxic. This can be psychologically harmful. They should be informed and educated on how to read labels, how to choose more healthy, less process items, but not that everyday food items are toxic. It’s all about balance and people need to know that that.
Not everyone is going to agree with me and that’s OK. I get that not everyone has to agree on everything all of the time (what a boring world that would be). But I thought I would post this in the hopes that it would be eye opening to some. Some of you who, like me, sometimes feel ashamed at some of the food choices that you make. Also, I believe that it is important for this topic to me more aware of and understood. If you, or someone you know, please seek help from an eating disorders specialist. Since the time of Kate’s death, the concept of orthorexia has become much better known, and there is help out there.
Thanks for reading!
 
Felicia Newell, BScAHN, MScAHN(c), RD(c)
Official NEM Nutritionist
For the past several years, Felicia has been working at a university research centre with a focus on food security (Food Action Research Centre), and has taught university level nutrition courses. Her passion lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has recently published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FeliciaNewellNutrition
Instagram: @felicianewellnutrition

20 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

Access to healthy food is a basic human right (at least it should be). Without access to healthy food, people are at a higher risk for conditions such as heart disease, type II diabetes, and obesity.
However healthy foods, along with many other basic costs of living, can add up quickly. These costs of living have increased dramatically over the years, and yet wage rates and income supports have not increased at the same rate of inflation. This means people have to spend more and more money on fixed costs such as housing, electricity, etc., and the most flexible basic expense is the food budget (you can’t pay half of your rent, electricity, or power, but you can sure cut your food bill). Does this seem fair? Many people blame themselves for not being able to afford enough healthy food for their families, when in fact it is more of a societal issue (when you look at the issue as a whole and not on an individual basis). Does this sound like your situation? Then throw away that blame and don’t being so hard on yourself. You are doing the best you can with the social circumstances you are given. And if you’re one of those people who say well people should do this, or shouldn’t do that…just try to be a little more understanding about the fact that everyone is doing their best with their given circumstances.
Most people will say that a healthy diet should be affordable to everyone. The truth for many is, if you have an extremely tight budget for food for the week for yourself and your family (I’ve worked with mothers that have $20 to stretch for the week for food), a few boxes of Kraft dinner and some hot dogs, or a $3 on sale pizza, go much further than an array of lean meats, healthy carbs and veggies. A bottle of pop you can get for 50 cents on sale, yet the same size carton of milk would run about five dollars. The examples are endless. The fact is that many of us have to make some tough choices that we judge ourselves harshly enough about. Healthy eating can be done on a budget, but it takes some time, patience, understanding, effort, and trial and error to figure out the best system that works for you and your family.
Here are some tips for eating healthy on a budget:
1. Buy Generic Food and Store Brands

  • Generic versions of raw foods such as rice, pasta, eggs, milk, cottage cheese, and frozen fruits/veggies taste like brand name foods (or at least comparable), and they’ll save you money on packaging & advertising.

2. Buy in Bulk

  • Especially when there are sales. Foods like pasta, rice and oats are easy to stockpile. If they’re on sale, buy as much as you can afford and store to last you until the next sale.

3. Invest in a Deep Freezer

  • Even if you have to buy one second hand and clean it. It will save you tons of money in the long run because you can stock up on fruits, veggies, meats, etc., when they go on sale.

4. Buy Only What You Need

  • “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. The best way to avoid impulse buying is to prepare yourself before you do the grocery.
  • Plan your meals ahead, including portion size. List all foods you need for the next 7 to 14 days. Go the grocery store, get what’s on your list and get out.
  • Eat before you go shopping. This prevents buying foods not on your list because you’re hungry. Eat a solid meal before doing the grocery.
  • Shop alone as it prevents impulse buying from the significant other and/or kids.
  • Keep a list in the kitchen to write down items that you need to buy for your menu or to restock your pantry.

5. Prepare Your Own Food

  • Cook all your meals for the day on waking up or before going to bed (place ingredients in a slow cooker, or cook and then store in the fridge/freezer). It takes 30-40mins, saves you stress about what you’ll be eating the rest of the day and you eat healthy while saving money. Or choose one afternoon or evening a week to prep some meals for days when you know you will be busy. There are many websites where you can get ideas on family meal prep, such as this one.
  • Reduce processed foods: Buy oats instead of cereals, make home made protein bars, home made tomato sauce, home made pizza (recipes can be found online).
  • Keep it simple: make double portions, take leftovers with you, use cans of tuna & mackerel, rice, pasta, and frozen veggies.
  • Learn to cook from scratch: Learn to work with spices & herbs. Invest in a budget-friendly eating on a budget cookbook, or free sites such as this one for recipes. Note: it takes time, patience and practice to learn new cooking skills (as with learning any new skill). Don’t get frustrated if you burn something or don’t get it right the first time. You will slowly start to develop your skills over time.

6. Make One Meal for Everyone

  • Try to offer everybody the same foods at mealtimes. As tempting as it is to please everyone, avoid making something special for ‘picky’ eaters. Children will learn to like many different foods only if they are encouraged to try them. Making only one meal also saves money and prevents waste. (Disclaimer: this might not be true for some households with picky eaters, so I do understand that sometimes you just ‘gotta do what you gotta do’ with a very picky eater).

7. Offer Water Instead of Juice for Kids

  • Or try diluting juice with water. It’s better for their teeth and also helps reduce the risk for childhood obesity (through drinking too many calories).

8. Plan for Leftovers

  • Make larger amounts of food and plan to use leftovers for lunches or suppers the next day. Add leftover vegetables, meats, fish, or poultry to salads, pastas, soups or spaghetti sauces.

9. Use Community Gardens or CSAs

  • Community gardens offer people the opportunity to grow their own vegetables and fruit. A group of people come together to grow food, maintain the garden and share the harvest. Ask your local community centre or public health department if there is a community garden that you could join.
  • ‘Community Supported Agriculture’ (CSA) refers to a particular network of individuals who provide money to support one or more local farms. CSA subscribers pay at the beginning of the growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest; once harvesting begins, they receive weekly shares of vegetables and fruit. Often, CSAs also include herbs, honey, eggs, dairy products and meat, in addition to produce. Check if there is a CSA in your area.

10. Buy Frozen Fruits & Veggies.

  • Unfreeze berries in microwave and eat warm with cottage cheese. Buy large bags of spinach and freeze half of it so it does not go bad; use the fresh spinach in salads and the frozen in cooked recipes. Try frozen beans, broccoli, carrots, corn, etc.
  • Benefits of using frozen fruits and veggies: Saves Money – often half the price of fresh and almost infinite shelf life when kept in freezer; Saves Time – frozen fruits & veggies are pre-washed and pre-cut, which saves preparation time; Nutrient Dense – if frozen right when picked, frozen fruits & veggies can contain just as much or even more nutrients than fresh ones.

11. Plan Easy Meals Around Whole Grains

  • Add meat, chicken or dried beans, peas or lentils and vegetables to brown rice, quinoa, bulgur or barley. Follow the directions on the package to help you cook the grains.

12. Healthier Cereal Options

  • Buy unsweetened whole grain cereals when you can. Sweetened cereals are higher in sugar and are often lower in fibre.
  • Hot cereals like oatmeal and multigrain cereals are the best buys. Instant flavoured hot cereals in single serving packages are easy, but they may cost more and are higher in sugar and salt.
  • Add your own toppings to cereals to make them more flavourful: banana slices, berries, canned fruit, dried fruit (raisins, apricots, dates, dried cranberries), nuts, yogurt, applesauce, chopped apples or cinnamon.

13. Buy Discounted Meat

  • Grocery stores often discount meats by up to 70% as they approach expiration date. Buy several pounds and store in your freezer.

14. Buy Less Expensive Types of Meat, Poultry and Fish

  • Stewing meat
  • Outside, inside or eye of round
  • Blade or flank steak
  • Regular or medium ground meat
  • Pork shoulder
  • Chicken pieces (legs, thighs) or whole chicken (or buy breasts when they are on sale and freeze)
  • Plain frozen fish fillets such as salmon, tilapia, sole, haddock and Pollock
  • Canned fish like salmon, “light” tuna, sardines and herring

15. Keep Portions Small

  • A serving of meat, poultry or fish is just 75 grams (2.5 oz) or about the size of a deck of cards. Have 2 to 3 servings per day. Enjoy meals that use small amounts of meat and lots of vegetables, pasta or rice. Try stir-fries, casseroles, curries and pasta dishes.

16. Lower priced meats can be less tender because they are lower in fat. Try these ways to make meat more tender:

  • Marinate meat overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Pound the meat using a mallet before cooking.
  • Cook meat slowly for a few hours in a liquid such as water, broth or tomato juice.

17. Explore meat alternatives like eggs, dried beans, peas and lentils, soy products and nuts and seeds. Try eating a few meatless meals each week:

  • Curried chickpeas and rice
  • Vegetable cheese omelette
  • Vegetarian bean chilli
  • Lentil casserole or soup
  • Tofu stir-fry
  • Egg salad sandwich
  • Hummus and vegetable pita

18. Ways to Save Money with Dairy Products:

  • Buy milk in 4 L bags or jugs instead of cartons. Milk can be frozen for up to three months. Thaw bags of milk in your refrigerator and shake it before you open it.
  • Skim milk powder costs less than milk and is just as nutritious. Once skim milk powder has been mixed with water, try mixing it with an equal amount of milk from the bag or carton for a creamier taste. You can also use it for cooking or baking. Buy yogurt in a larger container instead of single serve portions.
  • Buy cheese in blocks when it is on sale and slice or grate it yourself.
  • Freeze grated or block cheese to help make it last longer. It will crumble when you thaw it, but it will be just as nutritious.
  • Buy yogurt in a larger container instead of single serve portions. Note: plain yogurt can be used as a much healthier substitute for mayonnaise.
  • Low fat cottage cheese can be a good substitute for regular cheese in some recipes
  • Compare brands and the price of cheese per kilogram.

19. Try These Budget-friendly Meal Ideas

  • Make a stir fry and serve it over brown rice.
  • Toss leftover pasta with diced canned tomatoes, canned or frozen vegetables and cooked meat. Put in a casserole dish and top with grated cheese. Heat in the oven or microwave.
  • Add chopped vegetables and dried fruit to quinoa, bulgur or barley and toss with oil and vinegar salad dressing.
  • Add cooked brown rice or barley to soups.
  • Cheese, bean and vegetable quesadillas on whole grain tortillas.

20. Last but not least – Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

  • Everybody has rough times for various reasons. People are usually too embarrassed to ask for help because there are judgements and stigma out there around this. Try to look past that and understand that no matter what people will always judge. Don’t refrain from seeking help just because there is a lack of understanding around who should and shouldn’t need it.
  • Community Kitchens: are small groups of people who prepare low-cost meals together to divide among their families. Ask your local community centre or public health department to connect you with a group.
  • Food Buying Clubs (e.g. The Good Food Box): The Good Food Box is a non-profit food buying club that makes fresh vegetables and fruit available at an affordable price. Community organizations and volunteers help pack and distribute the boxes. Go to www.foodshare.net to find a Good Food Box program near you.
  • Food Banks and Food Cupboards: provide basic food items to help when you do not have enough money for food. They try to offer healthy foods, but the types and amounts of food you will get depends on what is available. When you find a location, be sure to ask about the hours of operation and what information you should bring with you when you go.
  • Meal Programs: Sometimes you need a place to get a meal when money is tight. Nutritious meals that are free or at a very low cost may be available where you live. Ask about meal programs at local places of worship, community centres and other non-profit organizations in your community.
  • Student Nutrition Programs: Many schools offer breakfast, lunch and/or snack programs for their students. Ask the principal at your child’s school if they offer a nutrition program.

Felicia Newell, BScAHN, MScAHN(c), RD(c)

Official NEM Nutritionist

For the past several years, Felicia has been working at a university research centre with a focus on food security (Food Action Research Centre), and has taught university level nutrition courses. Her passion lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has recently published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.

 

Healthy Cooking Tips!

Let’s face it – it’s a new era where some of us have basic cooking skills, and some of us don’t. It’s not our fault really – it depends on how we were raised and other factors (We all have strengths and weaknesses right?).
 
 
Try these ideas to make some of your favorite recipes a little healthier. 

  • Blend a handful of spinach or kale into a fruit smoothie
  • Mash cooked cauliflower together with potatoes
  • Add puréed butternut squash to homemade macaroni and cheese
  • Shred carrots, zucchini or onions into spaghetti sauce
  • Stir canned puréed pumpkin into whole grain pancake or muffin batter
  • Sprinkle berries onto breakfast cereal or yogurt

Balance your baking with simple swaps.

There are lots of tasty ways to make your baking a little bit healthier. Experiment by using these simple substitutions in your favourite baked goods:

  • Replace at least half of the enriched white flour (if you normally use white flour) with a healhier type of flour (e.g., whole grain, coconut, brown rice, millet, buckwheat, oat, etc.)
  • Replace a quarter or more of the sugar with a healthier alternative (e.g., stevia, truvia, agave nectar, honey, skim milk powder)
  • Replace half of the fat in muffins, quick breads and cookies with mashed fruit or vegetables, such as unsweetened applesauce or puréed sweet potato
  • Use milk (regular, almond, coconut, etc.) instead of water

Get delicious results with good-for-you ingredients. 

Cooking at home lets you control the taste, nutrition and cost of your meals. Try these simple swaps to fill homemade food with flavour:

  • Use whole milk (or another milk alternative) and cream cheese instead of cream and butter for a luscious pasta Alfredo
  • Substitute greek yogurt for mayonnaise to make a creamy salad dressing
  • Sweeten whole grain hot cereal/oatmeal with fruit, such as bananas, apples or peaches, instead of sugar
  • Use lemon juice, garlic, herbs and spices instead of salt to flavour savoury dishes

Add some zing!

Think healthy cooking is bland? Healthy cooking is all about good taste. Add some zing with these mouth-watering flavor boosters:

  • Garlic is perfect for pasta, potatoes and peas, and it makes a tofu-and-veggie stir-fry’s much more flavorful
  • Fresh lime juice is a tangy addition to fish, avocado or fresh tomato salsa
  • Red pepper flakes deliver delicious heat to lightly sautéed greens
  • Ginger spices up butternut squash soup and adds depth to beef and pork dishes
  • Cinnamon pairs sweetly with apples, squash and sweet potatoes

*Notes:

  • There are many more ‘cooking basics’, these are just a few tips.
  •  Please keep in mind that people have varied skills and habits when it comes to food. As a nutritionist I meet people with all different levels of cooking skills, and many use white flour, sugar, etc. all of the time, so for many people cutting out half of what they use would be a step in the right direction.

Felicia Newell, BScAHN, MScAHN(c), RD(c)
Official NEM Nutritionist
For the past several years, Felicia has been working at a university research centre with a focus on food security (Food Action Research Centre), and has taught university level nutrition courses. Her passion lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways.