Friday, 21 December 2012

'Tis the Season

Thanks to Apple Care, my new hard drive is working beautifully and I can get back on track with my blog posts! ‘

Tis the season to be merry, full of holiday parties, Christmas cheers and most of all….excessive consumption of treats and booze!

I love a good party, especially if it involves an ugly Christmas sweater, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely abandon ship and give up your fitness or healthy eating routine. It is possible to enjoy yourself, indulge a little and still feel great during the holidays. To do so, consider following some of the simple guidelines I have listed below. I’ve also included three of my favorite recipes (appetizer, entrée and dessert) if you’re looking for a new and nutrient filled dish for your next holiday endeavor.

1.     Eat something ahead of time- this may sound counterintuitive, but if you show up ABSOLUTELY starving, people will start giving you weird looks as you stuff your face with every single piece of food in sight. A salad with lean protein, some veggies and hummus or a piece of fruit ahead of time can keep hunger at bay and prevent you from over eating.
2.     Be picky- You look forward to your Grandma’s chocolate dipped shortbread all year and have to have one. Before filling your plate with everyday items, do a scan of the food table and pick out which items you  enjoy most. Choose foods that you don’t normally get, and say no to those you can make at home anytime. My guilty pleasures? I head straight for the red wine (hello merlot) and anything chocolate at the dessert table
3.     Watch the liquid calories- a HALF-CUP (yes literally a tiny half-cup measure) of eggnog contains a whopping 220 calories on average. Since most people pour at least one cup and top if off with a shot of rum, you’re looking at over 500 calories per drink. Limit yourself to one small rum and eggnog, cut the eggnog with skim milk if watching your fat intake and go easy on the rum for a rich and tasty treat. Alternate each alcoholic drink with a glass of water to stay hydrated and avoid being “that drunk girl” at your office Christmas gathering.
4.     Make wise choices- Choose a smaller plate if possible, and load it up with raw veggies to start. I always go for the “expensive” stuff, aka shrimp cocktail, the meat and cheese platter, and you’ll find me heading for seconds if there’s a roast of lamb or beef being served. The worst fingers foods tend to be: creamy dips or spreads, puff pastry, breadcrumb coated or deep-fried anything. Save room for dessert, but limit yourself to small portion sizes, think one of two pieces, as most Christmas cookies, pies and bars are full of butter and refined sugar.
5.     If you’re looking for recipes for your next potluck, I’ve had great success with all three listed below

Spinach Salad with Cinnamon Almond, Strawberries and Goat Cheese,
This nutrient filled salad that is very festive looking and a delicious combination of flavors. I usually cut the brown sugar for the almonds in half and they still taste fine.

Wild and Brown Rice Pilaf with Dried fruits and Pecans
I made this dish at my last Christmas party and it was a huge hit. Feel free to mix up the dried fruits and nuts you use depending on what’s in your pantry.

Chocolate avocado pudding
I made this vegan friendly chocolate pudding at another Christmas party and used it as a dip for a fruit platter my friend brought. It has a delicious, rich taste and is full of healthy fats from the avocado and coconut milk. 

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Can you spot the gluten?

These days, it seems like every other product is labelled “gluten-free” and there is a fast growing trend for restaurants to post separate gluten free menus. While this is great for people who have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity ( there are still tons of hidden sources of gluten out there. If you are on a strict GF diet for medical or health purposes, you really need to read your labels and become aware of what does and doesn’t contain gluten.

A lot of people also ask me the question “should I be on a GF diet?” Since I’m not a regulated health professional (four years until I get my N.D.!) This is not something I feel comfortable commenting on. I will say this; should you think you suffer from celiac disease of have gluten sensitivity or other food allergies, this is something you should see your family physician or a licensed naturopathic doctor about. They can run further tests and assess your symptoms to determine the best course of action. As well, cutting gluten and filling your diet with sugary starchy, gluten-free snack foods and bread will certainly not improve your health OR lead to weight loss.

This list is by no means exhaustive but a good place to start

                Barley (flakes, flour, pearl)
                Breading and bread stuffing
                Brewer's yeast (if leftover from making beer)
                Durum (type of wheat)
                Deep fried anything that is coated in bread crumbs or panko crusted
                Farro/Faro (also known as spelt)
                Graham flour
                Hydrolyzed wheat protein 
                Kamut (a type of wheat)- better tolerated in some individuals
                Malt, malt extract, malt syrup, and malt flavoring
                Malt vinegar
                Malted milk
                Matzoh, matzoh meal
                Modified wheat starch
                Oatmeal, oat bran, oat flour, and whole oats (unless they are from pure, uncontaminated oats) you must be non-contamined certified wheat AND gluten free oats (wheat free doesn’t mean gluten free, they could still be processed on the same manufactoruing equipement as barley, it would be like a kid with a peanut allergy eating a chocolate bar processed on the same equipment at Reese’ pieces)
                Rye bread and flour
                Seitan-A meat-like food derived from wheat gluten used in many vegetarian dishes, and fake meat products such as Tofurky or veggie ground round
                Spelt (A type of wheat also known as farro or faro, dinkel)- certain people can tolerate spelt better other types of gluten containing grains
                Wheat bran
                Wheat flour
                Wheat germ
                Wheat starch
                Atta (chapati flour)
                Dinkel (also known as spelt, a type of wheat)
                Einkorn (type of wheat)
                Emmer (type of wheat)
Fu (a dried gluten product made from wheat and used in some Asian dishes)
                Beer, ale, lager- along with this certain hard alcohols such as different vodka gbrands are made from wheat, NOT potatoes, and even though the distillation process should technically remove this, it’s probably better to stick with clear gin or wine instead. There area few brands of GF beer available, but I haven't personally tried any of them
                Broth, soup, soup bases- look for barley malt extract
                Some chocolates, some chocolate bars, and licorice
                Flavored coffees and teas (certain brands)
                Imitation bacon bits and imitation seafoods- California rolls at sushi restaurants are usually NOT GF, because most use imitation Pollock, which contains wheat and not real crab
                Medications (check with your pharmacist) and certain lipsticks and other makeup contain gluten
                Salad dressings
                Sausages, hot dogs, deli meats- added at toasted wheat crumbs, same with burgers where breadcrumbs are usually added
                Sauces, marinades, gravies (flour is added as a thickener, use cornstarch or xantham gum at home instead)
                Pre-mized Seasonings
                Worcheshire sauce, hoisin sauce and a numerous condiments, your best bet, READ THE LABELS
                Soy sauce- most soy sauce contain wheat, you need to purchase gluten free Tamari or Bragg’s liquid aminos (my personal fav)

Friday, 30 November 2012

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Overtraining Syndrome

I know most of my blog posts are happy and motivating, but I felt overtraining syndrome was something I needed to highlight and educate individuals on. I see a lot of people at the Western Gym, who looks healthy, fit and following a training log, and other who looks like they are about to pass out on the treadmill. It is very important to be aware of overtraining syndrome, and look for signs and symptoms in yourself and your teammates or peers.

Numerous studies have documented the favourable effects of physical activity on mental health. Along with physiological adaptations to training, physical activity interventions have been shown to reduce depression and anxiety, increase self-esteem and lead to improvements in mood across a wide variety of populations. Right from the start, physical activity can promote self-esteem and positive body image in children. During pregnancy, staying active can mitigate the uncomfortable and exhausting physical and mental effects of pregnancy and parturition. With aging, physical activity helps maintain quality of life throughout the later years.

However, too much exercise may potentially develop into overtraining syndrome and severe mental distress in both high-performance athletes and physically active individuals. Simply put, “the overtraining syndrome is a condition of fatigue and underperformance, often associated with frequent infections and depression which occurs following hard training and competition. The symptoms do not resolve despite two weeks of adequate rest, and there is no other identifiable medical cause.”

Under normal training conditions, athletes or gym rats go through periods of progressive overload followed by recovery to improve performance. However, if recovery phases are inadequate or the training overload and intensity is excessive, this can lead to high fatigue and underperformance. Common psychological symptoms that present at this point include fatigue, disturbances in sleep patterns, feeling “unrefreshed”, loss of libido and competitive drive, emotional instability, weight loss, anxiety, irritability and depression.

Hence, early detection by coaches, peers and family members is essential to prevent further and potentially dangerous physiological harm or complete burn out. REST is the most important thing an athlete can do at this point. Depending on the severity of the situation, further treatment options are varied and range from: vitamins supplements and dietary changes to address any nutritional deficiencies, increased recovery days, hydration and sleep, deep tissue massage and counseling. To avoid chronic re-occurrences, coaches and individuals should incorporate cross-training methods, and optimize rest periods between workouts. 

Remember you need to “listen to your body”. There is a difference between feeling the burn and being in pain, and you should NEVER feel guilty for taking a day of rest from the gym if necessary. 

Saturday, 24 November 2012

But I just CAN'T live without.....

Healthier Substitutions to the Rescue!! 

People always say I could never live with out ____________fill in with your favorite food (potato chips, fettuccine alfredo, poutine etc.) and I can totally understand that. I could never give up chocolate, no matter how hard I try! I firmly believing having an all-or-none mentality can do much more harm than good. For example, if you tell yourself ice cream is completely forbidden, you have a bad day, wind up at the grocery store and end up purchasing and consuming an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s, in one sitting which you definitely DIDN’T need. It's much better to have balance in your life and treat yourself everyone once and awhile with moderate portion sizes to avoid deprivation. Note, this is not okay for people who have severe allergies or intolerances. A true celiac disease individual must avoid all forms of gluten as it can be extremely harmful to the lining of their gut and cause permanent damage. For people with allergies or those looking  for healthier subtitutions I have offered some suggestions below.

For lower carb/ gluten-free options for many common dishes.

1. Spaghetti squash for pasta noodles- this is one of my favorites! Spaghetti squash has an amazing texture, a fraction of the carbohydrates, GF friendly and chocked full of nutrients. Here I substitute it in a spaghetti dish, and in a tomato and mushroom pasta dish as a side to my grilled beef tenderloin.  I cut in half and roasted in the oven for the best flavour and texture. 

2. Riced cauliflower for rice- Rice is naturally GF (except certain boxed mixes that sometimes contain barley as well), however riced califlower makes a nice change. You can also substitute mashed califlower for mashed potatoes in many recipes. she also has a link to her riced califlower recipe on this page

3. Cauliflower crust for pizza or breadsticks- this is really good and super easy to make. A great alternative and you can always sub the parmesean cheese for nutritional yeast.

4. Chia seeds, hemp hearts and buckwheat grouts instead of cereal – Way higher in protein, healthy fats and fiber than most breakfast cereals, Skinny B and Holy Crap cereals are great tasting, allergen friendly alternatives. If the price of the small bag sends you running, use this link to make your own.

5. Whole fruit for fruit juice- Did I mention how much I hate juice? Skip the juice aisle, shop the produce section

6. Lettuce wraps for bread- Use romaine letteuce, or even steam kale, collard greens or swiss chard instead of bread or wraps.

Lower fat options
1.     Leaner cuts of meat- look for things that contain the word “loin” i.e. tenderloin, siroin. Rib eye, T-bone and bacon wrapped anything will automatically increase the fat content
2.     White meat over dark when it comes to poultry
3.     Baked sweet potatoes fries instead of regular white potato French fries
4.     Fresh rolls over spring rolls at asian restaurants
5.     Entrees that are poached (in water, not butter) steamed, seared, grilled and roasted, not deep-fried, panfried or contain the word “crispy” and “lightly battered”
6.     Extra lean ground beef, chicken, turkey or lamb at the grocery store
7.     Make an omelet using two eggs and two egg whites, I vouch for these over a 100% egg white omelets because you lose all the nutrients contained in the yolk
8.     Homemade popcorn, kale chips or packaged Popchips/ baked lentil chips instead of regular chips

1. Salsas over sour cream, butter, or anything ending in aioli (means oil) or naisse  (béarnaise, hollandaise, dijonnaise is a fancy way of saying mayo like sauce)
2. Dip your veggies in hummus (preferably homemade) or tzatziki instead of ranch dressing

Healthier Baking substitutions
1.     Beans for flour- try chickpeas for cookie or blondie recipes or black beans for brownies. I know this sounds weird but I’ve made both and they are delicious

2.     Applesauce, mashed banana or avocado for oil or butter. Or substitute a healthier oil like coconut oil in the recipe
3.     Reduce the sugar by 1/4 in the recipe and I promise you won’t even notice a difference
4.     Whole frozen berries over sweetened dried cranberries in muffin recipes for reduced sugar and increased fiber and nutrition
5. Dark chocolate for milk chocolate. Instead of those cheap tasteless semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips, spend a little more money for a good quality dark chocolate (minimum 70%) when baking desserts. 

Like I said about treating yourself, pizza is my all time favourite food, and something I could never live without. Since gluten and lactose don't seem to agree with me, I treated myself to a homemade pizza using Bob's Red Mills Gluten Free Pizza Crust mix topped with an organic, raw aged cheddar. Instead of the usual high-sodium, preservative laden tomato sauce, try using Simply Natural Organic Tomato and Basil Pasta sauce from Costco. Life should never be about giving up the things you love, just findings ways to re-invent and make them better :)

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

What blogs do bloggers read?

Let's Be Honest. 

No blog these days is 100% original since the Internet allows for rapid sharing of information…..for better or for worse.

I have seen LOTS of amazing blogs online, tags on Pinterest, and infographics, but probably twice as many bad/incorrect ones. While most of my blog ideas are ones that happen to pop into my head, I also get ideas from reading other peoples’ blogs and pins.

I wanted to highlight some amazing blogs from my fellow Phys-ed/Kinesiology students who graduate with me from Queen’s University. These are a great place to start if you are looking for healthy recipes, have questions about the gym, or need some rehab advice

This beautiful blog is the product of Michelle, an awesome gal who is now living in Kingston. She has great recipes with easy to follow pictures, excellent advice/tips on CrossFit, and overall a really good outlook on health and life. I definitely recommend checking out her blog.

Wanna get jacked at the gym? Or don’t know where to start if new to working out? Jeremy is your guy. He is a gym guru, and posts some really good information on fitness, health and workouts on his blog. Worth checking out if your workouts are starting to bore you.

David studied both physical education and physical therapy at Queen’s, however his knowledge of functional anatomy extends way beyond the classroom and traditional textbooks. His innovative blog offers insight into exercises to target specific muscles and dispels many myths about rehabilitation practices.

Okay I didn’t go to school with this guy, but I think he’s awesome. He provides extremely well written and scientific articles on many common health topics and health conditions. His YouTube videos and Ted talks are also worth watching. I subscribe to his weekly newsletters and they are always is full of interesting and helpful information. 

Please enjoy!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Freezer Queen

I am the Freezer Queen. One because I am ALWAYS freezing (hello Africa next semester) and Two because I freeze everything! Living alone makes it hard to get through entire packages of certain food items before they go wrong.
 Not only does spoiled food mean wasted money, it also puts you at risk for food poisoning if you constantly consuming foods that are well past their best before date. My housemates in university used to laugh at me because I always had little tid bits of everything frozen in the freezer, however it saved me money an I always had meals or food around during crazy exam time. While this list is not exhaustive, below I have compiled foods that do and don’t freeze well. If you buy something and are uncertain of how long it will last for, a great website is, I use it all the time and find their information to be highly accurate.

On a side note, a HUGE pet peeve of mine is that people don’t realize the best before date ONLY, I mean ONLY applies to unopened items. For instance, you buy a container of sour cream, says its best before December 1st 2012, but you opened it in September, it will probably only last a few weeks once opened. You cannot use the best before date to determine is food is still good once the seal it broken, that’s where comes to the rescue!

Fruits and vegetables:-
Generally produce that has a lower water content freezes better than high water containing fruits and veggies. This explains why things like cucumbers and iceberg lettuce don’t fare so well in your freezer.
Bananas are awesome, and make great vegan “ice cream” blended frozen in your food processor, make sure you cut before freezing
I have also frozen sliced peaches, nectarines, berries, pineapple, pear and grapes. When freezing things like strawberries, cut up and freeze on a cookie sheet before placing in a bag so all the pieces don’t stick together
I’ve also frozen vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and carrots in the past. Best to blanch them first to remove excess water before freezing
I also love all types of squash (spaghetti, acorn, butternut) but again, very difficult for me to consume an entire squash before it goes bad! Best to cook, cube and then freeze

Sauces and condiments-
Whenever I make a big pot of stew, spaghetti sauce or soup, I always freeze at least two portions in the freezer for quick meals down the road.
I know my mom has also frozen ketchup in the past, however most condiments are so cheap that is you’re concerned about food safety, chuck them and buy a new bottle
That being said, whenever I buy Nuts to you Nut Butter Tahini to make hummus, I can never get through the entire jar before it goes rancid, now I’ve learned to use half and then freeze the rest.

Dairy and dairy alternatives-
Hard cheese like cheddar and mozzarella freeze well, softer cheese like brie, goat and feta are okay, however the texture will change when unfrozen so better to use them grated and heated in a recipe like a pizza or casserole dish
Milk freezes extremely well, just be sure to lay the bag flat and careful when defrosting as it expands and sometimes will crack the plastic bag and cause huge spills
Almond milk and soy milk can also be frozen, you will just need to shake them well before serving once defrosted
I believe you can also freeze tofu, but it will change the texture significantly so when defrosted consider using in a stir-fry where the texture could be masked
Sour cream apparently does not freeze well (although I’ve never tried), however cream cheese in the block form does, and I’ve never frozen yogurt for long periods of time so I don’t know what it would be like
Another thing that freezes great is butter, if it’s on sale, buy two and freeze one for a baking session down the road, I never buy it hard margarine (because it contains hydrogenated oils) but I’m assuming it would also freeze well
I’ve never frozen eggs because I eat them all the time and they last a long time. I did some research on the internet and people suggest cracking them first, whisking together a big bowl and then freezing the mixture in an ice cube tray or poured into a big container.

whole chickens are cheap, hard to eat as one person. I will often buy and roast and entire chicken, de-bone and freeze half the meat, same can be said for big portions of cooked ribs, pork, beef or fish for that matter, I would freeze in small portions so that you have a serving size ready to take out and defrost in the fridge (NOT kitchen counter) when needed.
FYI most meats and fish need to be taken out the night before you want to eat them for dinner in order to fully defrost

Bread and bread like items-
Generally any baked good will freeze excellent, great way to prevent your bread loaf from growing moldy on the shelf, same things goes for muffins, cookies, banana bread etc. I make a huge batch of muffins, keep a few in the fridge and then freeze the rest immediately. I will take it one out the night before when I pack my lunch in the fridge, and by the time I go to eat the muffin the next day, it only needs a couple seconds in the microwave.

Canned goods-
You’re making a pot of spaghetti and the recipe calls for 1 tbsp. tomato paste, what the heck do you do with the rest of the can? I have frozen leftover cans of tomato paste, 100% pure pumpkin, tetra packs of vegetable stock, coconut milk, and diced tomatoes. Make sure you take the item out of the can and put in a new Tupperware before freezing 

Things like nuts and dried fruits are best stored in the freezer, where they will last much longer than at room temperature.

Got a big batch of basil leaves or cilantro growing in your garden? Trim the leaves from the stem, freeze on a cookie sheet, transfer to a bag, and voila fresh herbs in the middle of winter

Apparently you can also freeze pasta but I’ve never tried, and for people on a gluten-free/paleo diet, I’ve heard that almond flour freezes well!

Happy money saving and safe tummy 

p.s. love this movie!!!!!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Road Trip for the Healthy Foodie

Think it’s impossible to eat healthy on the road?

 Think again! To feel great and save money, it’s best to pack your own snacks for the road and be prepared when hunger strikes. Not only is fast good generally less healthy, it is also way more expensive, making it an all around bad option on a student budget. Here are some of my go-to items I pack when heading out in my car for a weekend getaway.

1.     Fresh fruit and veggies- you can’t go wrong with fresh produce. I always bring a couple pieces of fruit (apple/pear for eating in the car, bananas for breakfast) and LOTS of veggies. For a quick energy snack, veggies sticks and hummus, or fruit slices with nut butter offer satisfying and healthy treats. I also save takeout containers/ clamshell boxes of lettuce and use this to pack salads in for road trips. This way I know I’m getting my 5-10 a day even when away from home.  I always recommend fresh fruit or veggies over processed, which is why I am not a big fan of trail mix, especially the pre-mixed kind. The nuts and seeds are often roasted in oil and excess salt, and dried fruit are usually also coated with unhealthy hydrogenated oils and sugar. Any trail mix containing M&M’s sort of defeats the purpose of this being a "healthy snack" Trail mix is very nutrient dense and high in calories, so if you plan on doing strenuous activites are your destination, it can make a good option if you make your own using dry roasted nuts/seeds and unsweetened dried fruit.
** NOTE if you are traveling to the USA this is not really an easy option. I have taken fruit across the border before and make SURE you declare when they ask and bring fruit that is product of USA (the sticker on the fruit will tell you) but this will slow you up at airports as they will pull you into a special room and inspect the fruit, this is when is might be worth it to suck it up and pay the $1.50 for that apple past security. I usually tell them I’m a student and I was emptying out my fridge and took what was left, I’ve never had food taken away if I declare ahead of time, it just adds time at security.
2.     Healthy granola bars- My favorite our homemade or store bought larabars (made using dates, nuts/seeds and spices), taste of nature and be kind bars. I find most other brands contain way too much sugar, trans fat and preservative. Kashi granola bars also make a good non-gluten free option. Store bought muffins/ scones/ cookies are the worse thing you can get. That McDonald’s/Starbucks muffin is stuffed full of refined flours and sugar, which will only leave you feeling hungry shortly after consuming.
3.     Do some research and if your hotel room has a fridge, this can also make it easier to bring your own food on a road trip. Hardboiled eggs, small tubs of unsweetened Greek yogurt, leftovers from last night’s dinner, fresh veggies etc. can all be stored in the fridge, saving you money and empty calories. If the hotel doesn’t serve breakfast, bringing a container of “overnight oats in a jar” with some fruit is a quick and easy option for the morning.
4.     If you’re vegan or have food allergies, Vega all in one nutritional shake or Vega protein smoothies are a great to go option because they don’t require refrigeration and can be mixed with water.
5.     If the hotel serves breakfast, don’t be embarrassed to bring some of your own healthy items in the morning! I hate regular peanut butter, so I always bring my own small container of natural nut butter to breakfast, and I know my dad never travels without a Ziploc baggie of his favorite Nature’s Path organic cereal. This way you can mix and match items at the breakfast buffet, and start your day off on the right foot. 
6.     If you get to your destination absolutely famished but don’t want to waste money on expensive restaurants, ask your concierge for directions to a location grocery store. Especially if you’re in a city, grocery stores might offer healthy to-go items such as salad bars, sushi and soup stations, which will often be cheaper than those sold in fast food chains.