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. http://myvega.com/products/vega-one-shake/features-benefits
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.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The von Hagen vacation

You did it. You woke up early every day this week and met with a buddy to workout. Or you packed your lunch so you had time to workout during your lunch hour AND avoid the line at Tim Horton’s. You are proud of your accomplishment then WHAM, you go on vacation, let loose, and completely fall of the bandwagon.

A break in routine can wreck havoc on someone’s diet or fitness regimen. Having strategies to overcome these barriers and coping mechanisms to deal with unexpected setbacks can mean the difference between staying fit OR falling into a vicious cycle or yo-yo diets, weekend warrior workouts and feeling of failure.

This past weekend, I enjoyed a beautiful one-night getaway to Niagara Falls as a special anniversary gift. If you are serious about your workouts to want to have an active vacation, here are some tips for staying fit and keeping in a routine when away on holidays. As a follow-up to this, I promise the next post will be focused on healthy road trip foods!

1.     Pack comfortable shoes. If you feel good and your feet don’t hurt, you will automatically move more. I planed on walking up and down the Falls parkway, and this was much easier in my Birkenstocks than if I wore heels like some of those crazy tourists. Before you know it, you will spend the entire day walking around and taking in the sights, or burn some serious calories carrying shopping bags around the mall.
2.     Plan ahead. Does the hotel have a fitness centre or pool? If not, do they offer discounts to hotel guests at a nearby fitness club? Knowing what facilities are available can make it easier to enjoy exercise while away. I like to check out hotels online before booking, and if given the choice, I will choose one with a fitness center.
3.     Are you a runner? I have gone on some serious runs in all ends of the earth (except for when I almost died in Singapore due to humidity overload and walked around with an umbrella all day after some nasty heat rashes ensued, long story….).
Ask the hotel concierge for a safe path to go for a morning run. Or pick up a map at the front desk and see if there are any marked trails nearby. Likewise, many cities offer bike rentals, which makes for a great active and eco-friendly way to get around.
4.     Use your hotel room. Anyone who has roomed with me in the past knows I’m a big fan of Pilates and yoga in my room. Jumping jacks, squats, standing lunges, push-ups crunches, are all things you can do inside your room to stay fit. Check on Health and Fitness Pins on Pinterest for workout ideas that require no gym or workout equipment and very little space.

Keep watching for the next post 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

A Healthier Thanksgiving

This was the first year I attempted to make Thanksgiving dinner all by myself. Usually back home, I try to help my mom with the dinner, but she is so organized and has food prep timed to the very last minute, meaning I end up being more of a nuisance than an extra hand in the kitchen.

If you want to enjoy your turkey and not go into a food comatose/ not be able to fit in your pants the next day, here are some suggestions for making your own healthier, and nutrient filled turkey dinner.

1.     Portion control, Before we get into the food, one of the biggest issues people in North American struggle with is portion control, did you really need to eat BOTH turkey legs in one dinner setting (yes, you know I’m talking about you….). This is NOT your last meal, instead of feeling completely overstuffed, nauseated, bloated and totally guilt tripping yourself the next day, limit your dinner to normal portion sizes, the leftovers will still be there tomorrow when you’re hungry at lunch

2.     A better gravy- my mom taught me this trick where you take all the pan drippings, put them into a heat safe container and store in the freezer while the turkey is finishing cooking/resting before carving. After about 30 minutes, all of the fat will have risen to the top, which you can now easily skim off for an equally delicious, but lighter turkey gravy. If you want to make gluten-free gravy, substitute cornstarch for flour, or use xantham gum. Based on my extremely thick and lumpy gravy results, a little xantham gum (1/2 tsp- 1 tsp) will go a long way. (I used 2 tsp FYI)

3.     Chose nutrient rich and colorful sides. Since you have so many flavors going on, a simple green vegetable such as steamed green beans, asparagus or roasted Brussels sprouts makes a nice side. To increase the nutrition and flavor from the usual bland mashed potatoes, I boiled cubes of sweet potato (not peeled to increase fiber) and peeled butternut squash until tender, drained and mashed together in a bowl. They were flavored only with cinnamon, nutmeg and a splash of orange juice, and I didn’t notice any of the missing cream or butter.

4.     Dessert can also be a great way to sneak in an extra serving of fruit or veggies. Try making your own pumpkin pie and reduce the sugar in the recipe, or make an apple crisp and cut down on the sugar as well. I made a gluten-free crisp using only a squeeze of honey on the apples, and almond flour and gluten-free oats crumbled together with coconut oil for the topping. I’m sure you could remove the oats and use more almond flour/coconut flour to make this dessert paleo friendly
5.     As you know from my previous posts, I think fat get a bad rap, but if you are watching calories, the white meat in the turkey is lower in fat and calories than the dark meat, and removing the skin off the breast will also cut fat and calories.

Yes Thanksgiving is over, but keep these tips in mind and Christmas will be just around the corner. If you are a “turkey virgin” like I was, the Butterball website was valuable tool this weekend. http://www.butterball.ca/index.php/pages/recipes/show_static/top_ten_questions

Got lots of turkey meat leftover? Make sure you save the turkey carcass to make your own homemade turkey soup! Simmer the carcass in water with vegetables (onions, celery, carrots) and herbs (garlic, thyme, dried basil etc.) for a couple hours on your stove for a tasty and healthy stock. This is a great way to make homemade broth without any added salt, preservatives, MSG or yeast/ barley yeast extract (a source of hidden gluten in many soups/broths). I added my leftover turkey along with some chopped tomatoes, spinach, celery, spices and a splash of lime juice for a mexican turkey soup I ate for lunch all this week. 

Friday, 5 October 2012

Ain't Karma a B#%&@

Following a quick search on the Internet, I came across the following definitions of Karma.

karma (kahr-muh]

1.Karma is the universal principle of cause and effect. Our actions, both good and bad, come back to us in the future, helping us to learn from life’s lessons and become better people.
2. Karma is basically energy. One person throws out energy through thoughts, words and actions, and it comes back, in time, through other people. Karma is the best teacher, forcing people to face the consequences of their actions and thus improve and refine their behavior, or suffer if they do not. Even harsh karma, when faced in wisdom, can be the greatest spark for spiritual growth. The conquest of karma lies in intelligent action and unemotional response.

You’re probably wondering why I am writing a blog about Karma. This is a health blog isn't it? I wanted to stray from my usual posts a bit because I believe that your mental well-being and how you perceive yourself as a person is just as important as your physical health. As many of you know, I had my bike stolen a few weeks ago. Money aside, I was extremely saddened because I had many wonderful memories on that bike, and I have taught hundreds of children how to ride a bike using mine as an example. When it was taken from me, I felt anger and sadness, which gave way to pity for the person who felt the need to steal from others.

Through sheer luck, random chance, and one phone call from a Good Samaritan, I am one of the few lucky people who managed to actually get my bike back. (On a total side note, make sure you register your bike, take lots of pictures, keep the serial number in a handy place, and buy a heavy duty U-lock to avoid getting your bike stolen/making it easier to get back). I was elated to have my bike back in working condition, and can’t thank the anonymous caller enough who tipped me off.

This brings me back to Karma. Karma is all about action and reaction. If you do good, good will be brought upon you. I’m not sure exactly what I did to deserve this good deed, but I do try hard to be a friendly, caring and empathetic person on a daily basis. No I am not saying bad things only happen to bad people, since I know MANY amazing, strong and beautiful people who have uncontrollable, bad things happen to them.

What I am suggesting though is try and create good karma for yourself, and do good upon others around you. This Thanksgiving weekend is the perfect time to start. Besides stuffing your face with “Gobble Gobble”, there are simple things you can do to make the world a better place.
Donate to a food bank, give your seat to the elderly on the bus, return that lost phone, help your mom clean up in the kitchen without asking, give your dad a hug and treat your siblings with respect. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll get a bike out of it….