Angela St. Cyr shares her tips and tricks to truly live your life on a local diet.
Host: Gloria Tsang, RD
Guest: Angela St. Cyr
Ever wondered what it would truly be like to feed your family only foods that are grown and produced within 100-mile radius of your home? The Food Network Canada featured a 100-Mile Challenge Series in which several families signed up for the challenge of eating only local foods for 100 days. Angela St. Cyr and her family was documented by the Food Network show and shares her tips and tricks to truly live your life on a local diet.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Welcome to the Nutrition Tidbits Podcast. This is Gloria Tsang, Editor-in-Chief for HealthCastle.com. Ever wondered what it would truly be like to feed your family only foods that are grown and produced within 100-mile radius of your home? The Food Network Canada featured a 100-Mile Challenge Series in April, in which several families signed up for the challenge of eating only local foods for 100 days. Joining me today is Angela St. Cyr, whose family was documented by the Food Network show. She is here today to share her experience and talk about tips and tricks to truly live your life on a local diet.Thank you for joining me Angela.
Angela St. Cyr: You’re welcome, no problem.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Now, you stand out as one of the most creative and resourceful cook out of all the families featured on the show, how and from whom did you learn how to cook?
Angela St. Cyr: When we first got married, we couldn’t afford to buy pre-packaged foods. So I just started figuring it out on my own and decided that I really enjoyed it and have stuck with it ever since.
Gloria Tsang, RD: So did you just purchase recipe books, follow them and kind of change it to your way or did you actually go for a cooking class?
Angela St. Cyr: No, I actually purchased a few cookbooks but I have a very short attention span when it comes to reading so I would adapt to the recipes as I saw fit. I would really use them mostly as inspiration and an absolute love of creating food came from that.
Gloria Tsang, RD: One of the biggest shock to the system for all the families and also for the viewers was that when you were asked to purge your kitchen of anything that isn’t grown or produced within 100 miles radius of your home, what were some staples or ingredients in your house that was purged out?
Angela St. Cyr: The ones that people don’t normally think of, to be honest with you I wasn’t even thinking of how important they were and the fact that they weren’t local were simple things like baking powder, baking soda, sugar, which is far less expensive than honey. Just some very simple things that you wouldn’t normally connect as being pre-packaged foods which is what people immediately think of when they think of eating 100 miles. Well, all pre-packaged foods are gone. You are losing a lot of things that you require to bake also.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Yeah, like wheat and flour and instant noodles, things that we have taken for granted for a long time.
Angela St. Cyr: Yes, absolutely. I don’t think we realized how much stuff we were actually purging until that very day.
Gloria Tsang, RD: How did you manage without these ingredients and what are some of the major substitutions you’ve made?
Angela St. Cyr: At first without the ingredients, it was very difficult and food was really redundant. Again, I love cooking and love creating so I couldn’t leave it that way. We learn to adapt recipes to substitute the sugar for honey. Instead of making loaves of bread, which required lots of flour which I didn’t have at the time, we started using pancakes for a multitude of things. We even had grilled cheese sandwiches made from pancakes because pancakes took less flour than bread. As the flour became more plentiful, that wasn’t as much of an issue. At times, we found certain produce was either extremely expensive or not available so we had to search out products that were in season at the time, maybe things we had never cooked with before. So we had to figure out how to cook them and make them palatable for the children. It was actually a very good experience – probably our best 100 days of eating we have ever had, quite honestly.
Gloria Tsang, RD: That is enlightening to hear. In one of the TV episodes, you managed to cut your food budget by half, while abiding by the 100 Mile diet rules. Now that really debunks an assumption for many people that have about healthy eating – that local eating and healthy eating is expensive. So can you tell us how you cut your budget this dramatically?
Angela St. Cyr: Initially, my regular food budget at home was between $600 – $700 per month for a family of five people. That was eating all organic meat and some organic fruits and vegetables. Once we started the challenge, my budget ballooned to $1200 the first month. That was quite shocking and stressful so I had to figure out different ways to cook. By saying that, we would go to local farmers’ markets or to farm stands, which tend to be far less expensive than grocery store produce; especially produce that really shouldn’t be in season here at this time. You just learn to cook those foods. Once you stop trying to completely replicate the food that you ate non 100 Mile, your budget instantly drops because now you are buying what’s affordable, what’s in season and what’s the most fresh. And when things are in season, they are instantly cheaper than things that are out of season because we have not had to force them to grow. Just that simple measure really cut a lot off of our budget. So many people spend a fortune on pre-packaged foods and you are charged a premium for them.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Absolutely and I agree. Let’s talk about what your family meals look like these days. So what happened after the 100 days?
Angela St. Cyr: After the 100 days, we really mostly still eat local, in complete honesty. We definitely are drinking coffee now so that’s definitely not local. I have introduced some sugar here and there because it is difficult to replace the sugar with honey for certain recipes. But whenever we can, we definitely are still eating local. It’s less expensive, we feel much better when we eat that way and our diet was quite varied once we figured it out. It seems almost boring to go back to eating the other way again. An average meal for us will be a piece of lean, organic meat of some sort. And we have lots of local meat in the lower mainland especially. Maybe some grilled vegetables or some mashed potatoes. There are countless numbers of salads that you can make. I can’t even point it to a particular meal because we have such a varied diet it’s unbelievable. We probably eat a more varied diet than people that eat non-100 Mile because they get stuck in a rut and they just get used to cooking what they normally cook. Eating 100 Mile forces you to think outside of the box.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Most viewers were surprised in the last episode that at least some or at least half of the people on the challenge actually lost weight. And your mom lost quite a bit of weight. Why do you think this happened?
Angela St. Cyr: You know, I am still baffled by that myself. Really, it goes against what we as a society believe is supposed to be good for weight loss. We ate so much cheese and drank so much milk. Whipping cream was pretty much a food group for our family during the challenge. It still to this day baffles me. The only thing I can think of, and again, I am not a doctor or a scientist, is the lack of preservatives in the food could possibly play a part in weight gain and weight loss. I don’t know what studies have or have not been done on that. The other thing is it’s almost impossible to over eat when you are doing a 100 Mile diet because at this stage of it, there is no pre-packaged, quick, easy foods unless they are healthy foods like raw fruits and vegetables. So it’s almost impossible to mindlessly eat and over eat. Because there is so much involved in order to put that food in front of you, you are not going to just mindlessly grab something and eat it. Plus another thing that really has not been talked about very much is the energy of everyone and the lack of hunger. I have always been a thin person but I have a huge appetite and I eat a lot, and I’m always hungry. When I was on the challenge, I did not experience that. And the only thing that I can attribute that to is the vitamin content in the fruits and vegetables are that much higher because you are consuming so quickly after them being harvested that I think your body is getting the nutritional without you having to over eat in order to achieve that.
Gloria Tsang, RD: That’s very interesting to think about that. Thank you for joining me Angela. This has been interesting.
Angela St. Cyr: Thank you very much for having me, I enjoyed it.
Gloria Tsang, RD: We have been talking to Angela St. Cyr, a participant on the Food Network’s 100 Mile Challenge show. For more healthy eating tidbits and information about this show, go to HealthCastle.com.
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Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.