Thursday, 31 May 2012

Since when did a salad become worse than a burger?

Many of you have already seen my post about proper gym etiquette, now it’s time for me to get another pet peeve off my chest, restaurants that take healthy items and turn them into unhealthy disasters. I HATE this, you are out at a restaurant, trying to make wise choices, and the restaurant has converted what should normally be a very healthy choice into a trans-fat, sodium explosion, additive insanity, sugar laden alternative. Here are a few examples below of traps you need to be on the look out for when scanning the menu

1.     Salad- You’re at a fast food joint and you pick the salad because you think it’s healthier than the burger, WRONG!! Crumbled bacon bits, sugar coated candied nuts, excessive cheese, tortilla strips, fried chicken, fatty croutons and creamy dressings full of trans-fat and questionable preservatives can mean the salad ends up being a worse option than a plain single serving hamburger.  Prime example, Wendy’s Baja Salad with Jalapeño dressing= 720 calories, 17g saturated fat, Wendy’s ¼lb. single with cheese and condiments= 590 calories, 14g. saturated fat.
-       Look for salad that have spinach, arugula or mixed greens as a base instead of iceberg or romaine, these greens offer a lot more nutrients
-       If the salad has bacon, croutons or tortilla strips, ask for extra veggies on top instead
-       Chose grilled chicken, lean steak strips, egg or grilled shrimp over fried chicken as a protein
-       Instead of candied nuts, ask for plain toasted nuts instead
-       Ask the server for dressing on the side (so you can control the amount you put on) and vinaigrettes are generally better options than creamy dressings

2.     Sushi- when the sushi craze began, simple offering such as California rolls, salmon rolls and vegetable rolls were all great options for a healthy and light meal. And then, we decided to “westernize” and in my opinion, mass destruct this Japanese delicacy. Tempura this, Tempura bits that, huge globs of spicy sauce (aka mayo and chili paste), and other ingredients has made this item a calorie laden bombshell. Here are some betters options to stick with
-Avoid anything tempura, sorry I probably just pissed off a lot of people but I mean it, this is nothing but added ,empty carbohydrates and ruins the fresh taste of sushi fish
-If you simply can’t give up that spicy sauce, ask for it on the side so that you can control how much you are putting on your rolls
- Don’t order rolls with cream cheese, I’m pretty sure this ingredient is never used in Japan
- The best choices include: California rolls, rainbow rolls, plain fish rolls (salmon, tuna hamachi etc) and sashimi, futomaki, vegetable rolls (not the tempura kind), and bbq eel rolls
-Ask for brown rice rolls if possible 

3.     Fruit Smoothies- It seems like every fast-food joint these days is offering up their version of a fruit smoothie.  In reality, most are them are no better than a corner store slushy, full of processed empty sugar calories and very little nutrients. Because they use pureed juice/ fruit juice and not real fruit like they claim, these restaurants have stripped away anything good that was in the fruit. Whenever I see that McDonald’s commercial where the guy reaches down for the smoothie on the bench I wanna scream “NO….STOP!! You were better off eating that whole mango, what are you doing!?!?!”
-A medium fruit smoothie at Tim Horton’s has 43g of sugar, 0g of fibre and 0% daily intake vitamin C. (For comparison, a double chocolate donut has only 16g of sugar)
-Instead, try packing an actual piece of fruit (who’d ever though of that?!!?) in the car and buy an unsweetened iced coffee or tea as a refreshing cool treat on those hot summer days
-If you must have your smoothie fix, I recommend the Vivanno smoothies at Starbucks; each contains a whole banana and lots of protein (~17g) and fiber (~6g) to keep you feeling full. Ask for non-fat milk is watching calories or soymilk if dairy free ***if you use a registered card, they won’t charge you extra for soy! 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Looking for a cheap date night??

Like anyone, I enjoy going out for dinner and enjoying an elegant meal with family and friends. Eating out comes at its costs though. It costs both your wallet and your waistline as food prices are marked up and dishes are generally heavier than you would cook at home. If you are a starving student like me, here is an easy and beautiful entrée you can cook at home and serves two generous portions. I also included the estimated cost breakdown of this meal so you can see how much you can save by cooking at home. Trust me boys, this is an easy, elegant meal that will definitely impress the ladies.

Mussels Marinara
2lb mussels
1tsp olive oil
½ cup diced red onion
1 cup sliced red pepper
2 tsp diced garlic
2 large plum tomatoes, diced
½ cup dry white wine, fish stock, or vegetable stock with 1tbsp white wine vinegar
2tsp each basil and oregano
fresh parsley or basil and lemon wedges to garnish

½ Whole Wheat Baguette
** for Gluten-free (GF) options, substitute oven roasted sweet potato fries for the baguette as a delicious and tasty alternative. Use 1 large sweet potato for two people.

1.     wash and scrub mussels under cold water
2.     heat oil in frying pan, add onion, pepper and garlic and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes
3.     add the tomatoes, white wine and spices, let simmer for 10 minutes
4.     add mussels and cook at least 5 minutes until all mussels are open. Any mussels that don’t open, discard
5.     arrange mussels in two large bowls, with a bowl on the side for empty shells. Serve with toasted pieces of whole wheat baguette

mussels – on sale 3.99 for 2 lb bag
onion and pepper- about $2
garlic and oil- stocked in pantry
2 tomatoes (plum are generally the cheapest)- $1.50
Stock- I used vegetable stock, bought on sale at No Frills for 1.88 for entire box, so probably used 50 cent worth
Dried herbs- in pantry, buy at bulk barn and look online for coupons
Lemon and fresh herbs- $2.50, optional if you are truly scraping pennies
Sweet potato- $1.50, gotta love those cheap tatters
Whole wheat baguette- half price, day old at $1.50. I always shop for bread in the reduced section of the bakery. Buy loaves of bread and freeze immediately to keep and they will taste like new in the toaster. Since this baguette was a day old, I placed it under the broiler for a few minutes and tasted great

Total cost for a gourmet meal for two- about $12, $16 if you added a pre-made garden salad from the grocery store. These savings mean more money to spend on booze at the bar!

Friday, 25 May 2012

Confessions of a Health Nut: Breakfast IS the most important meal of the day!

Confessions of a Health Nut: Breakfast IS the most important meal of the day!: Have you ever heard the quote “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” The answer most likely is yes, but...

Breakfast IS the most important meal of the day!

Have you ever heard the quote “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” The answer most likely is yes, but does the average citizen take this advice to heart? Apparently not, as a national survey conducted by The Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition showed that “less than two thirds of Canadians” eat breakfast daily. Translating literally to “break the fast”, breakfast is meant to kick start your metabolism after a good night’s sleep. An investigation into the National Weight Control Registry showed that seventy-eight percent of individuals enrolled (people who have lost and maintained a significantly amount of weight) say they eat breakfast on all mornings of the week. Many studies have shown conclusively that breakfast prevents overeating at nighttime, which is when people are most likely to consume unhealthy snacks. A common issue many people face is that they simply do not feel hungry upon wakening. The key to tackling this barrier is to start small and work your way up to becoming a “morning person” as your body slowly adapts. Start by trying liquids like a glass of milk,  yogurt smoothie, or unsweetened latte in the morning The reason I don’t suggest a glass of juice is because I see juice as empty calories with no fibre, very little nutrition and will only leave you with a huge spike in blood sugar like a can of pop (more to come on this later!).
Rushed for time? To make life easier, there are some simple solutions for breakfast on the go; a few slices of low-fat cheese and whole-grain crackers, one cup plain steel cut oats topped with dried fruit, a whole-grain granola bar and a glass of milk, an individual greek yoghurt sprinkled with nuts, a nut butter and banana sandwich, one boiled egg and an apple or a smoothie made from ½ cup each frozen fruit, low-fat milk or yoghurt and a splash of OJ. Go for frozen or canned fruit over fresh produce if tight for money, but check the labels for no added sugars. Leftovers can also make a quick and nutritious packed breakfast for the next morning; those last two pieces of whole-wheat vegetarian pizza provide carbohydrates, one milk serving and even vitamins from the vegetables.
Good sources of whole-grains to include in breakfast are cooked oatmeal, muffins baked using wheat germ, flaxseed or bran and breads or cereals made without refined or processed flours. One consumer trap to watch for is foods claiming to be whole-grain but in reality are extremely unhealthy. A perfect example of this would be Tim Horton’s whole grain raspberry muffin that holds a whopping 400 calories and 17 grams of fat!  Consumers should read food labels for total calories,  saturated fat content and sugars to check it’s not a health food impostor. Many restaurants also post nutritional information on-line, so review your favourite morning stop’s offering to see exactly how many grams of sugar or unhealthy fats are in that pastry or breakfast sandwich.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Oh S&*%! I forgot to buy....

Everyone's been there, you're baking a batch of muffins for your team or cooking up a storm to impress a special someone when you realize you missing an ingredient. It can be frustrating, especially if you have already started all your kitchen prep and don't have time to run to the store. I thought about this post at my cottage this weekend since the nearest grocer is an half an hour drive down the highway. For future reference, here is a list of kitchen substitutions I have kept on my computer and used to for years that will certainly come in handy at some point in your kitchen adventures!

1 cup Buttermilk
1 cup regular milk with 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar (let sit for 5 minutes)
1 egg
1 tbsp ground flaxseed plus 3 tbsp water
or two liquid egg whites 
1 cup sour cream
1 cup plain yogurt, or 1 cup pureed silken tofu (dairy free)
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup lard
1 cup shortening
1 cup pureed cottage cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp corn starch
2 tbsp flour
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup cracker crumbs grinded in food processor
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar plus 2 tbsp molasses
1 cup honey
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar plus 1/4 cup liquid
Juice of one lemon
3-4 tbsp of bottled lemon juice
Canola oil
Corn oil, safflower oil or soybean oil, (use sesame oil to replace peanut oil)
Udon or soba noodles
Whole wheat linguini or spaghettini

**For the dry white wine, I have also substituted 1/2cup vegetable stock with a few tablespoons of white wine vinegar but the apple juice or vinegar is good if you want a completely alcohol free recipe

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Finding the Balance

After polishing off an entire steak dinner with bread at the Keg, the boyfriend commented, “it’s shocking how much you are able to put back”. To prevent me from slapping him across the table right then and there, he hurriedly explained that he meant how it never ceased to amaze him how much I was able to eat considering my waist size. This is not the first time I’ve been told this (YOU ATE THE WHOLE THING!!), but let me explain how I have found a balance between my foodie personality and staying in shape.

 Workout. No I didn’t say workout and then go treat yourself to the double down sandwich at KFC, because hitting the gym is by no means an excuse to gorge and be a couch potato for the rest of the day. Make exercise a constant habit in your life. For me, I alternate cardio days (run, bike, figure skate) with strength training days (arms, legs, abs) so that I am doing at least 50 minutes of planned physical activity each day. 
Live active. Try walking to school instead of taking the bus, bike to get groceries instead of driving, make it a routine to go for a walk each night after dinner. By fitting in these bouts of leisure time physical activity, your caloric burn each day will quickly add up.
Eat high nutrient, high fiber foods. Fruits and vegetables are great snacking items, aim for five serving of EACH per day. To limit unnecessary calories and bad fats, avoid piling on high calorie condiments and use healthier methods of cooking like steaming or grilling instead of frying with excessive amounts of butter. This way you can have your dessert, and eat it too 

Monday, 14 May 2012

Meatless Mondays

I love vegetarian food. When I lived in Nepal, I didn’t eat meat or seafood for an entire month and enjoyed dhal baat (lentils and rice) and curried vegetables at least twice a day. Reducing your meat consumptions is good for both you and the environment. The energy costs to “make” a cow is way higher than grain or plant based foods, and excessive meat consumption has been linked to high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and a variety of cancers. Here is one of my favorite recipes for Meatless Mondays, Mushroom and Swiss Quiche. It uses polenta in place of a traditional pie crust to cut calories and saturated fat down tremendously, and makes this dish gluten free for those who suffer from celiac disease. For those hardcore vegetarians out there, I suggest purchasing Rose Reisman’s Light Vegetarian for easy, delicious and nutritious recipe

Mushroom and Swiss Quiche (makes two servings)

½ cup cornmeal
1 ½ cups water or low sodium vegetable stock
3 eggs
3 slices reduced-fat swiss cheese
½ cup skim milk
½ cup diced mushrooms
¼ cup diced onions
1tsp. basil and oregano

1.  preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
2.  bring water or stock to boil. Slowly, whisk in polenta, constantly stirring to avoid lumps
3.  once cornmeal is thick and pulls away from the sides (5-10 minutes), press into bottom and up sides of 8-inch prepared pie pan and bake for 20 minutes
4.  meanwhile, in bowl combine eggs, cheese, milk, mushrooms, onions and spices, beat well
5.  pour egg mixture on top of polenta crust and bake for another 30 minutes.
6.  Let cool before serving. I like to serve mine with salsa for extra flavour!

I don’t “count calories”, I count food groups to make sure I get enough fruits, veggies and milk servings every day, but a rough estimate of calories per serving for this meal would be 380 calories. 

Saturday, 12 May 2012

I Scream, You Scream, WE all scream for ice cream!

Ice cream is by far my most favorite dessert. With summer and warm weather rolling around, there is nothing more satisfying than a big scoop of this creamy, delicious food. Unless you have a true allergy, I don’t believe in eliminating or putting certain foods off limit in the same sense that I don’t believe in crash diets that force you to give up all your favorite foods. When you deprive yourself of certain foods, this only results in bouts of binge eating when your willpower is low. (Think of going for food after the bar, do you really need eat that entire large Oreo Mcflurry, or that large poutine at Smokes?). Instead, proper portion sizes and making ice cream a once and awhile treat, is a great way to still get the things you love without ballooning in your bikini this summer. Here’s my tips on for smart choices:

1.     Watch out for premium flavours, a half-cup of Haagen–Daaz Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream has 360 calories and 24 grams of fat! And you can’t tell me you only eat half a cup at a time…
2.     Instead hop on the fro-yo craze and get a cup of non-fat chocolate frozen yogurt and add a FEW pieces of Reese’s peanut butter cups on top to satisfy your sweet tooth with way less calories
3.     Don’t drink your ice cream calories, milkshakes can have just as many, if not more calories than a single serving of ice cream, if you going to indulge at least make it something worthwhile
4.     Think like a kid. Order the kiddie cone of my ultimate pick the mini blizzard or snack size Mcflurry. This way you still get all the deliciousness you want, but in a better controlled portion size
5.     If that tub of ice cream in your freezer appears to empty faster than your gas tank, try buying individual portion sizes of ice cream or ice cream bars limit yourself. I LOVE Presidents choice Blue Menu Greek Yogurt Smoothie Bars. They are super creamy and only 100 calories each. Any of the Skinny cow products (cones, ice cream sandwiches, ice cream cups) are good too, believe me I’ve tried them all! 

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Proper Gym Etiquette

Where am I? Is this the Victoria's secret fashion show, or a body building competition? No, it's just the gym at The University of Western Ontario

Now don't get me wrong, Western built a BEAUTIFUL gym facility, that is extremely well stocked with fitness equipment and well laid out. Combined with some of the best looking students in all of Canada, and it becomes an extremely attractive place to work out. My only issue is that a lot of people seem to have very bad gym etiquette. Here are some of my biggest pet peeves that need to change.

1. People who don't wipe down equipment. I go to the gym to workout, not to catch a cold. After your done with that bench or treadmill, please have the courtesy to go grab a fresh wipe and clean off your eqipment. As well please throw out your wipe DO NOT leave it in the waterbottle holder of the treadmill. Seriously, you just ran for half an hour, are you that tired that you can't take the extra five steps to the garbage can

2. People that hog equipment. I once saw a girl who had all her stuff (blackberry, jewellery, waterbottle, sweater) laid out across the bench. I asked her politely if she was using it (which she responded yes) but it was clear to me this was a lie since she never actually worked out on it, just continued to use it as a personal locker. If your not physically breaking a sweat with someone, get your S%$# off of it and let someone else use it!

3. Super loud music: dear person doing abs work on the mat next to me. No I don't want to listen to my music and your hardcore techno beats at the same time. Do us both a favour and save your hearing and turn down your ipod.

4. Girls that don't wear clothes. No I mean it, I know this is hard for some girls but honestly those booty shorts, sports bras and an obscene amount of makeup aren't true workout attire. Cover up your body, not your face and actually get a workout in instead of just going to the gym so guys can gawk at you. 


Hello Everyone!

For those of you that know me, you already know that I am a huge health fanatic who is passionate about eating right and exercise. What you don't know is that it's been a dream of mine to create about about healthy living for the past few years now.

Well, no more procrastinating. It is my goal this summer to start up my blog and provide with the latest and greatest tips for healthy home-cooked recipes, best bets for dining out, fitness tips and all around strategies for living your life to the fullest.

As a busy graduate student, I can't guarantee the blog will be updated daily but will try my best to blog a few new items each week.

Happy Reading and Healthy Living

Coach Vons :)