Hey Boys and Girls,
Fit & Fed is proud to present to you a new segment called “Nutritionist’s Corner”. In this new series, Fit & Fed explores all over Toronto for fellow nutritionists, trainers and fitness fanatics to explore various issues within the health world and industry. Each topic is different and each perspective is unique, so don’t miss out on some really useful tips and tricks to living a healthier and happier you!
Fit & Fed is happy to present to you for this week’s Nutritionists Corner, Toronto’s very own Jessie Yang. She was previously the host for Rogers TV and is currently an independent model/actress as well as consistently flexing her nutritional knowledge when the time is right. Not only can you spot Jessie all over billboards and magazines and TV shows, but she is also currently working as a mediator for an up and coming online show that deals with specific topics requiring various fields of expertise, talk about busy!
FF: Hey Jessie, glad you could sit down with us today. Let’s start with what your nutrition background is as well as your ethnic background.
Jessie: Thanks! It’s great to have an opportunity to speak on a subject that is so convoluted. Well I actually just graduated from U of T with a double major in Nutritional Science and Psychology. My background is Chinese, and I have been in Canada for about 10 years now.
FF: That’s awesome! So as a Chinese woman growing up in Canada, what foods did you predominantly grow up with at home?
Jessie: My family was very traditional in the way we ate as a family. Whenever we had dinner, it was a time to talk and catch up and spend time with the family. We ate the same way the typical Asian family ate; communal. There were dishes out and each person would have a bowl of white rice.
FF: Ok, that’s pretty cool, so I guess you would say that you ate very traditionally. But growing up here in Canada, did you see any contrasts in western and oriental diets? Any pros or cons of either side?
Jessie: One thing that is apparent is the oriental diet offers a wider variety. The western diet I find is very restricted when it comes to the breakdown of food groups. When you think of vegetables, it’s just salads or steamed broccoli. However, the tough thing about the oriental way of eating is that it is communal which makes portioning very tough to keep track of.
FF: Ah I see. You actually brought up a very interesting point about the western views on vegetable consumption. Have you heard of the new Paleo-diet craze and if you have, what or how do you think it fairs against the Oriental approach to nutrition?
Jessie: Well that’s a very interesting topic because there are so many variations of the paleo diet. Some that allow for various modifications for foods while others are very strict. If we take the general premise of the paleo diet (that the diet is restricted to only foods that would have been accessible to people before the agricultural revolution), then you are pretty much taking out bread, wheat, refined carbohydrates, white rice, etc. I have never believed in completely cutting all of anything out of one’s nutritional regiment. There is an abundance of data and studies to back me up on my beliefs; moderation is most important when it comes to diet. Your diet should never have to feel ‘resistant’ but self control is necessary. In terms of how it fairs against the oriental diet, again it depends highly on your lifestyle. A lifestyle that is heavy in manual labour cannot function efficiently on such low glucose intake. If however your lifestyle is fairly sedentary, then limiting your carbohydrate intake is perfectly fine, but again the key here is to limit, not remove.
FF:Interesting, so in some cases the paleo diet could work, and in some the oriental approach works, there is no “correct” approach to nutritional health. Ok, my next question is do you think it is easier for East Asian culture or Western culture to switch to a healthier nutritional regiment and why?
Jessie:Wow, these are all really tough questions!! Um… Hmmm… well I would have to say that it is not a question of easier, but rather what the different goals are of each culture. Growing up, I noticed a lot of Chinese girls were already underweight and very thin, but they always wanted to be skinnier. I once had a friend who was hospitalized due to malnutrition. These girls would binge and purge or starve themselves – this isn’t dieting at all, it’s simply starvation! The western approach to nutrition is a little bit “better” in the sense that there have been numerous initiatives started in public schools to create awareness regarding nutrition and what a healthy balanced diet ought to look like. Even something as basic as the Canadian food guide gives a generalized approach to what a somewhat balanced and healthy diet is. So to answer your question, I think it would be easier for a typical Westernized individual to switch to a healthier diet than it is for someone from say China.
FF:Wow, I never would have imagined that it would be such a stark contrast between eastern and western approaches to nutrition. But if I can ask you a more personal question then, growing up as an Asian Canadian for majority of your life, what is your experience with food and nutrition at home?
Jessie:Hahaha, this may actually surprise you but I never learned anything about nutrition from home, my parents didn’t really teach me much about vegetables or why they were good. I didn’t learn much regarding nutrition until I went to U of T. When I was younger, I had gone to a doctor specializing in Chinese medicine and he had told me something vague when I was ill saying that I lacked Chi energy. I still don’t really know what it means haha. Nutrition growing up, especially with my family and even my friends, was more of a chore than anything else so I never really took the time to learn it until my later years.
FF:Chi energy huh? Somehow all I can think of now is DragonballZ and those senzu beans haha. Speaking of having the experiences of being an Asian Canadian, my next question is what is your personal and professional view of Westernized Chinese food?
Jessie:Saltier, sweeter, deep fried and bigger potions. Most typical Chinese food believe it or not does not have a lot of sauces, they are mostly seasoned with spices and herbs. The reason I believe Westernized Chinese food has been modified for the worse is because it appeals more to the stereotypical Canadian’s taste buds. From a nutritionist’s perspective these extra sauces, and overcooking of foods almost if not completely removes all the essential nutrients.
FF:Ahh that explains all those greasy looking Instagram pictures I keep seeing. Ok last question: If you had to prescribe elements of a healthy diet to an Asian family, what dishes would you recommend.
Jessie:The biggest tip that I have for the typical Asian family when making dinner is to modify the way they eat. What I mean by that is because their eating method is communal, the family members should try to either cook only what they plan to eat, or eat at a slower pace to reduce the chances of overeating. Another tip is to not add any salt or sauces to the dishes being cooked, replace canola oil with olive oil and cook with a medium instead of high heat. Last but not least, replace white rice with brown.
FF:That sounds awesome, thanks for all the tips and hopefully our readers will take some of them to the kitchen with them! Thanks again for taking the time to sit with us and talk about this topic!
Jessie: My pleasure!
For more on what Jessie Yang is up to, check out her Facebook page. If you have any nutrition related questions, simply shoot the Fit & Fed team an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and check back on our website and facebook page for more tips, interviews, and articles!!
Happy training everyone, and thanks for reading!
Team Fit & Fed