Monday, 30 July 2012

Get your ZZZ's

SLEEP. Everyone needs it, but most people don’t get enough of it. 
As a student, I'm well aware of what it feels like to be time-crunched during exams and believe pulling an all-nighter is the only way to pass an exam. Sleep depreivation however, will only worsen your mental performance and make it difficult for focus. A lack of sleep has been linked to a number of negative effects including weight gain, increased cortisol levels (aka stress), weakened immune system, high blood pressure and more!

I am a sleep queen, and need at least 8 hours of sleep at night or I can’t function the next day. (Crabby would be the best word to describe me...)

 Here are a couple tips for getting a good nights rest 
1.     leave the technology out of the bedroom. Don’t bring your iphone, ipad, itouch, Macbook or other digital devices to bed, you need to unplug at night and clear your mind. A number of studies have also shown that looking at blue light-emitting electronics before bed suppresses melatonin levels, which can keep you awake
2.     keep your room temperature cool, this will make sleeping much more pleasant
3.     Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Going out to the bar until 2:30 on weekends then not waking up until 1 the next day will wreck havoc on your body and make Monday morning a nightmare. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, yes even on weekends when your body is screaming at you to stay in bed.
4.     avoid caffeine or intense exercise at night, both can leave you feeling “wired” and make it difficult to settle down
5.     aim for at least 7 hours of sleep at night, some people may need more, others less, but this is a realistic number to aim for

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Are you a gym-o-phobic?

Any girls out there who feel too fat/not skinny enough/good enough/not pretty enough to work out at their local fitness centre? 

I know a lot of girls who are don’t like working out in gyms because they feel insecure about their bodies and believe that others are watching/ judging them. However, this shouldn’t stop you from working out, feeling refreshed and reaching your personal fitness goals.
Take the mirrors at a gym for instance, people don’t use them to watch you, they are using them to watch themselves! Either they are making sure their form is correct (the intended purpose for having mirrors) or they are watching themselves workout (simply to envision how good they are going to look in that "shirt I wear as a dress" ensemble at JBR’s). Focus on you and forget about everyone else, being healthy is something you must DO for yourself. If you still prefer working out without others around, here are a few tips

-       Go in the morning. The gym is always less busy, and the true hard core gym rats are the only ones there at 7am. They don’t give a crap about what you look like or what you are doing unless you’re using a piece of equipment they want (I would fit this description)

-       A lot of gyms have women’s only sections or hours, go there if you don’t want any guys around

-       At the western gym, some cardio equipment is placed in random spots and corners. Whether or not they did this on purpose, this provides a great way to escape from the crowds and not feel like you’re being watched

I also know a lot of people who HATE gyms, they feel like the hamster in a cage on a wheel type thing. If this is you, try to live a healthy active lifestyle throughout the day instead. Walk or bikes places, go for runs outside, do push-ups and sit-ups in your home and try to avoid sitting for long periods of time. It's way better on your body to be moderately active for most of the day, then do a one hour boot camp and be a total couch potato during the rest of your waking hours. 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

If the Shoe Fits

Recently, I was experiencing a lot of anterior knee pain while running outside. Since my distance/intensity hadn’t change, I knew it was time. Time to put my faithful Mizuno running shoes to rest. A commonly asked question is “how often should I replace my running shoes?”

My old shoes, time to say goodbye!

After doing some research on the web, the consensus shows a new pair every 300-500 miles. Since I use my running shoes almost everyday, I replace my shoes every 6 months, which times perfectly with Christmas and my birthday!

When it comes to buying running shoes, its definitely not one size fits all. Everyone’s different, so don’t buy a pair of shoes because your housemate swears by them or you like the colour. Here are some general tips I can provide to make the shopping process easier.

1.     Don’t look at the price. No seriously, running shoes are the one shoe I don’t buy on sale or care about the dollar sign. I see running shoes as an investment in my health, whatever shoe works best for me is the price I will pay. Generally, I end up spending around $150 for a good pair of shoes.
2.     Go to a running store. There is a reason the Running Room is a successful chain. They have a huge range of shoes, very knowledgeable staff and reasonable prices. This doesn’t mean you have to shop at a Running Room, just don’t shop at a general shoe store where the staff are on commission and don’t care about your gait or stability needs. **Bring your old shoes so that the sales person has an idea of what you like and what you currently use.
3.     Try on LOTS of shoes- Running shoes are my favorite thing to shop for. I suggest trying on several pairs of shoes to compare different brands and styles, and get a feel for what you like. Walk around, take a short jog, do some squats and so on.
4.     Don’t get too attached to one brand -I used to wear Mizuno and was devastated when they stopped making my favorite style. I found the newer models way too wide for my feet and ended up switching back to a pair of Asics. Shoe companies change, your feet grow, so don’t worry about the brand or style, go with what fits.

My beautiful new shoes!!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Fatten your wallet, Not your waistline

First off, I have to apologize for the delay in writing this post. It’s the 100th Anniversary of the Calgary Stampede and I have been busy dusting off my cowboy boots! For instance, my famiy and I went to the grandstand show last night and had a fabulous time. Given the enormously high food prices and lack of healthy options on the stampede grounds, my mom packed our entire family, including me and my 25 year old brother, a picnic dinner to have instead. Not only did we save a ton of money, we had a way healthier meal and we're ready to cheer on the chuckwagons. If you are looking to save a couple bucks every day at work this summer, here are some great options for a packed lunch.

The Nutrition Winning Sandwich
Opt for leaner cuts of meat (sliced turkey, chicken breast, ham) instead of fatty, highly processed meats like bologna, salami or bacon
A great money saver for sandwiches- buy an entire raw chicken on sale, roast it and freeze half the meat for next week
Try mustard in place of regular mayonnaise or choose light mayo
Include veggies like tomatoes, grated carrots, cucumber and pepper slices for a crunchy addition
If you’re bored of whole-grain bread, go for 100% whole wheat pita bread or a flax wrap for a change
If watching calories, buy reduced-fat cheddar cheese (made with 2% milk) or slices of light Havarti or Swiss cheese, try goat cheese if you have trouble digesting cow’s milk
Make tuna and egg salad sandwiches using greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise
Update the PB&J sandwich- try using natural peanut butter with no added sugars, salts or hydrogenated oils and buy reduced sugar jam or use natural apple butter
If you are GF, the quinoa pumpkin pancakes from Quinoa 365 are delicious topped with nut butter as a sandwich alternative
Super sides
Baby carrots with hummus
Cucumber slices with tzatziki
Apple/ pear slices with nut butter (try natural almond butter for a twist!)
“Ants on a Log”: Celery sticks with 1 tbsp peanut butter and raisins on top or light cream cheese with cranberries
If the office is nut/peanut free, try pumpkin seed butter, tahini or pea butter instead
Pack whole fruit (orange, apple, pear) over fruit juice or canned fruit for added fiber and fullness
Snack Attack
Look for granola bars: made with whole grains, contain fiber (at least 4g per bar) low in sugar (6g of sugars or less per serving) and NO trans fat. Try Kashi Chewy granola bars or All-Bran bars
For GF products, Larabars are the gold standard
Be wary of ingredients like rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup; they’re all just sugar in disguise!
Pack a small Ziploc bag with a healthy breakfast cereal (Cheerios, Shreddies, Life) with a small handful of dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, apricots) and unsalted, dry roasted nuts (walnuts, almonds or pumpkin seeds) for a quick energy option

**Reduce the morning havoc by preparing your lunch the night before so you can't use the excuse "BUT I don't have the time...."

p.s. this presentation was initially intended for children, please don't mind the cheesy titles :)

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

What's Cookin' Good Lookin'???

Anyone who’s had the DISTINCT pleasure of living with me knows I like to cook up some rather strange and unorthodox dishes in the kitchen (Thank you S and J for putting up with my cooking binges in the kitchen at Queen’s). And, I have become accustomed to people asking “what the F%&# are you eating?” in the office when I pull out my lunch. Yes my food doesn’t always look super pretty, but it’s tasty and extremely healthy. I love international cuisines and spend a lot of time searching for new recipes. If you also share my love for cooking or want to try cooking more in the kitchen, here are my best picks for online food blogs, recipes and cookbooks.

For online recipes

Go to I like this website because you can search by food magazine, key ingredient and cuisine. I usually use this website when I am looking for international cuisine and has lots of Cooking Light recipes.  I made this coconut-curry recipe using shrimp for my family this weekend and it was absolutely delicious

For online dessert recipes

I have two favorites, Elana’s pantry and Chocolate Covered Katie. Both blogs are well organized, the recipes are delicious and the instructions easy to follow. Elana’s pantry is good for special occasion dessert recipes, especially if you have guests with food allergies, and Chocolate Covered Katie has great vegan dessert recipes to satisfy your sweet tooth. I made her snickerdoodle blondies this morning and they turned out great.

For cookbooks

If you are looking for some cookbooks to add to your collection, or are new to cooking and don’t know where to get started, here are some of the best in healthy cooking

1.     Any Rose Reisman Cookbook. This woman is amazing at taking family favorites like mac and cheese and turning them into lighter, healthier fare without cutting the flavour. I own her Weekday Wonders and Light Vegetarian, and have made almost every recipe. Her books are excellent for students, because she offers lots of substitutions, make ahead instructions and her recipes freeze well, which means yummy leftovers! If you are GF or DF, her books may not be the best since she tends to use both gluten and dairy in a lot of recipes. Also check out her website for great recipes and general health advice
2.     Quinoa 365. Probably my favorite cookbook. Easy recipes that always taste good, and shows off the diversity of cooking with quinoa in the kitchen.  I have made everything from entrees to soups to desserts using quinoa and quinoa flour in this cookbook.
3.     Planet Organic Cookbook.
Awesome cookbook from Alberta that my aunt gave me as a birthday gift. If you are from Calgary/Edmonton and have ever eaten at their store (cosmic cookies!) I definitely recommend getting this cookbook. The Best Dal Ever recipe really is the best, and this is coming from someone who lived in Nepal and ate this 2-3 times per day for a month.
4.     Slice: Health inspired food Another great birthday present from my beautiful Aunt. Features extremely healthy and tasty dishes with lots of nutritional and health tidbits throughout the book. This is my go-to cookbook for dips, spreads and breakfast recipes. Some of their ingredients are a little difficult to come by (nutritional yeast, Sucanat, sprouted grain wraps etc.) in your local grocery store, but any health food store should have them in stock.

Happy Cooking