Wednesday, 18 December 2013

WIAW- What I Ate Wednesday

I never got into playing games on my iphone (candy crush or whatever it’s called?) but I am extremely good at killing time on food blogs. I love looking for new recipe ideas, interesting ingredients and often some pretty sweet giveaways. A lot of blogs do What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW), and thought this could be a fun addition.

Note: This is not meant to show you how, what, or how much you should be eating because everybody’s life and nutritional needs are different. It’s more meant as a fun way to inspire you with some cooking ideas if you have nothing but an empty fridge and take-out for the past week, which is really easy to do here in Toronto given the hundreds of cheap and tasty restaurants. Further, I don’t believe in ‘shaming’ someone into making them change their dietary habits. Case and point, I was at the Whole Life Expo a few weeks ago when someone from a skin boutique approached me and asked what skin care products I use. When I gave my response, he went on to tell me how BAD these products were, how DAMAGING they were to my body, how I need to change IMMEDIATELY, and how his beauty line was the ANSWER. Do you really think I’m going to buy your product after you’ve basically told me I’m a terrible person? Same thing goes with food, you shouldn’t make someone feel ashamed or guilty about what they eat or what size they are. Instead, motivating and supporting them through change has been proven over and over to be significantly more effective in helping someone live a healthier and happier life.

I like my (read: small) 8oz cup of coffee in the morning, but its awkward to drink with a smoothie. Why not combine the two? I made a smoothie with coffee ice cubes, maca, vanilla protein powder, frozen cherries, and chocolate almond milk, delicious! Yes, my ice cubes are shaped like brains, I’m an anatomy nerd.

Post workout snack
I leave for the holidays in two days and I’m trying to get rid of any perishable items in my house, and therefore have not gone grocery shopping in over a week. I simply took a huge scoop of peanut butter and swirled it on top of some Greek yogurt I had put in the freezer for ten minutes. Voila, instant homemade fro-yo with peanut butter sauce.

I was lucky enough to have lunch at Hunter’s Landing today. It has a really cool vibe, and awesome menu that clearly labels which items are GF, lots! My steak salad with dressing on the side was huge and delicious, definitely coming back here to try more menu items.

I needed a little something to help me make it to dinner. I had a small handful of walnuts that I had soaked overnight then toasted in my oven for a few minutes for a nice warm and hearty flavour, goes great with pumpkin tea from Teavana. In fact, it was so good I forgot to take a picture, sorry.

People procrastinate studying different ways. For me, I cook. This meant cooking an entire 11 pound turkey on Monday night and eating leftovers for days. I already froze the carcass and tons of meat to make homemade soup in the New Year, yum! I also roasted a huge combination of onions, beets, mini potatoes and heirloom carrots in the oven (hello botanical medicine on a plate) and coated them with a simple molasses, coconut oil and grated ginger glaze. I sauteed the last of my boxed spinach and smothered it in some turkey gravy for extra flavour. The secret to a good gravy? When there is about 45 minutes left, take the turkey out of the oven, pour the pan drippings into a bowl in freeze. When you go to make the gravy, take out of fridge, remove all the fat from the top and heat with stock on the stove, along with the last pan drippings from the turkey. To make it GF, I made a roux (thickener normally made from flour and butter) with 1tsp xantham gum and a few tablespoon of chicken stock whisked together in a bowl, let it stand for five minutes, then slowly added to the gravy, whisking constantly for at least 10 minutes until it starts to thicken.

I hope I have now inspired you with some healthy and delicious eats for the week, Happy Wednesday, and good luck to all my fellow classmates on our last exam tomorrow

Saturday, 30 November 2013

What's in Your Shower?

Today is the last day of November, which means two very important things: it’s time to say goodbye to the flurry of nasty moustaches that have invaded our cities, and according to a special someone, I am officially allowed to play Christmas music in the apartment tomorrow. This morning I found myself scouring the shelves of Winner’s for some healthy foodie finds (side post, HomeSense and Winners are GREAT for organics and specialty health foods). I came out triumphant with a giant bag of Organic Traditions Holy Basil Tulsi Tea and Giddy Yoyo Maca Root! In making my way to the home section, I couldn’t help but noticed the rows of gift baskets and packaged spa sets at the front of the store. With so many Secret Santa, potlucks, and holiday gifts for co-workers or bosses to buy for, it can be tempting to pick up a generic gift basic filled with the usual bubble bath lotion ensemble. Since beginning my studies at CCNM, I have become much more aware of not only what I put in my body, BUT on it as well. When you eat something like McDonalds, you know you’re feeding you body crap, but are you aware of what chemicals you are putting on your largest organ, the skin? This list displayed on the websites and infographic below are by no means exhaustive but provide a good idea of ingredients worth avoiding in skincare, face, or hair products. Although the junk food in my house is minimal, the amount of junk in my bathroom is atrocious. In an effort to slowly convert over to all natural skin care and beauty products, I bought some amazing Green Beaver toothpaste, deodorant and lip balm at the Whole Life Expo last weekend. Tomorrow, I plan to look for some better body lotion and body wash products by Desert Essence or similar brands in Kensington Market.

Given it’s exam time and I am feeling the crunch (homeopathy acutes have taken over my life) I decided not to paraphrase what I found online but instead direct you to some websites that offer sound advice on ingredients worth avoiding.

Monday, 18 November 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas....

While exercising on the elliptical this morning, I discovered much to my delight that 98.1 CHFI had started playing Christmas music.  I swear this made me workout harder as I’m a sucker for the holidays. The Christmas tree, snow, decorations, time spent together as a family by the fireplace, presents, eggnog and my favourite, opening the stockings!  The holiday season also means lots and lots of social gatherings, but remember, nobody wants to be ‘that girl’ at the company Christmas party who has one too many rum and eggnogs and starts spilling her entire relationship history in tears to her boss. The holidays can also be a source of stress for people with IBS, food allergies, intolerances or special diets. You want to enjoy yourself, but having to explain your dietary needs over and over, or grill the host over every single ingredient can be tiresome and annoying for both of you. To help avoid awkward situations or even more awkward bathrooms encounters the next day, here are some tips for navigating the holiday menu with style and poise.

1. Plan ahead and call the host- If the event if being catered by a specific company or individual, call ahead and explain your dietary concerns over the phone. Most catering companies are willing to accommodate dietary concerns these days, and if the host is a good friend, politely asking to leave a few dishes aside that don’t contains X,YZ can be extremely helpful. For example, if you are allergic to garlic or lactose intolerant, ask her to leave you a plain piece of protein and plain steamed veggies without any sauce, rub or marinade to ensure safe eating. The same goes for celiac disease as many proteins (chicken, fish, pork etc.) are coated with flour before frying, and flour is used as a thickener in many sauces.

2. But don’t expect the entire party to revolve around you- Just because you can’t eat dairy or gluten or think sugar is the devil doesn’t mean the entire party should have to eat a dairy-free, gluten-free, organic, often overpriced cake from a local bakery on your behalf. I always recommend eating a high fiber snack with protein before attending parties in case you do find yourself starving and with nothing to eat. A salad with egg, handful of nuts and some fruit, or a small serving a greek yogurt before a party are good choices. You can also use these special occasions to expose your friends to different food choices, by bringing specialty items such as almond flour desserts, gluten-free grains and vegan friendly mains. If the party is a potluck, ALWAYS bring a main you feel comfortable eating. At my last potluck, I made this delicious tofu and veggie and edamame quinoa salad with sesame ginger dressing from the Planet Organic market cookbook.

3. Start popping some pills- No I don’t mean copious amounts of Pepto Bismol, Tums or Zantac, but there are some great herbal remedies of there that can help your avoid tummy troubles and keep your digestive system happy. When eating out at restaurants, I always bring a peppermint oil capsule, and a broad spectrum digestive enzyme. I take the peppermint oil capsule about 20 minutes before my meal (usually right after I order) and my digestive enzyme when my meal arrives. I find this really helps reduces abdominal discomfort and GI issues.

4. Prep your elevator speech- In my experience, some people can be extremely judgmental of other people’s eating habits. Suddenly a fun holiday party turns into a debate about different diets and whether or not you’re sensitivities are ‘real’ or you happened to jump on the gluten-free fad bandwagon. If someone asks you why you eat a certain way, clearly explain your intolerances, without preaching, avoid any scientific jargon and then change the conversation topic if necessary.

One of my favourite bloggers, Chocolate Covered Katie, has written an excellent post on this subject that is specific to those who follow vegan diet.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

October Superfood of the month is.....Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are my latest pick for the  Superfood of the Month. Thanks to their beautiful orange colour, sweet potatoes are a great source of carotenoids, specifically a phytochemical called β-carotene, which is a precursor for the all important vitamin A. Compared to other potatoes, sweet potatoes contain almost twice as much fiber, and are low on the glycemic index, which is great for people with diabetes and will help you stay full longer. These antioxidant and anticancer spuds are also a good source of B6, manganese, Vitamin C and potassium.

One of the things I love most about sweet potatoes is their versatility. You can roast them in foil on the barbeque, bake as wedges in the oven, puree into soups, zap them in the microwave whole for a quick side dish, or incorporate them into muffin, brownie, bread or pancake recipes. Perfect for both sweet and savoury dishes, sweet potatoes are a winner and very cheap and easy to find at grocery stores this time of year.

1.     Sweet potato fries: When dining out don’t be fooled into thinking that sweet potato fries are any healthier than regular fries. Sure sweet potatoes are better than white potatoes, but fries are still fries (just like a gluten-free brownie is still a brownie). They contain a high amount of unhealthy fats from the deep frying and are usually peeled, stripping the potatoes of all their fiber. Instead, make your own oven baked potatoes fries at home for a delicious and healthy treat, where you can also adjust the spices and flavouring options to taste. When I make sweet potato fries at home, I scrub the potatoes thoroughly but never peel them because I like the taste of the skins left on and is far more nutritious this way

2.     Sweet potato brownies: This paleo friendly brownie options is a sure winner. If you want to reduce the sugar content even more or have zero sweet tooth like me, replace the chocolate chips with unsweetened chocolate or minimum 85% dark chocolate. You can also replace up to half the oil in a recipe with applesauce, but coconut oil is a healthy fat and tastes delicious in baked goodies.

3.     Sweet potato Soup: I’m a big fan of anything curry and spicy, and this soup hits all those notes for me. The chickpeas are optional but they make a great garnish and are also delicious just as a snack on their own. For a lighter option, substitute half the coconut milk for organic vegetable stock in this recipe.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

A Healthier Thanksgiving Round 2

Thanksgiving might have been last weekend, but I was head down, nose in the books, in an all out midterm mode for school last week. Needless to say, I survived my first set of midterms at The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), which means I am one step closer to achieving my dream job! If you are like me and love turkey and thanksgiving eats and wish every other weekend could be thanksgiving, than here are some recipes ideas for the cool weather ahead.

Turkey. This might sound stupid, but check the ingredients list on the turkey before you buy it. You would THINK it would say Ingredients: Turkey but no! apparently we feel the need to add a chemical S$%#storm and copious amounts of sodium to our turkeys these days. Depending on the brand you buy, some will be a better choice. The best option would be an organic turkey (Blue Goose sells these) but I realize this is not always available.

For making gravy, take the pan drippings and put into glass liquid measuring cup and right away into the freezer when your turkey is done. I made a homemade stock using the giblets and leftover veggie tidbits (see image below), and then added this to the gravy drippings with xantham gum for a healthy and clean eating homemade gravy. The reason you put it in the freezer is that all the fat will rise to the top and you when you are ready to whisk your gravy together, you can skim all the fat off. I am not ‘fat-phobic’ but I find this helps you avoid having a terrible post turkey tummy ache after dinner from all the other rich foods you are consuming.

 I’ve made lots of different side dishes in the past and I think this roasted root vegetable medley is now my favourite. The colour is beautiful, it’s simple to make, and tastes fantastic with turkey. I cut down the maple syrup in the recipe because I don’t like really sweet things (CCNM folks, phosphorus much??) but you can adjust to taste. Feel free to use a variety of fall vegetables. I had sweet potatoes, heirloom carrots, parsnips, onions, and beets.

This stunning paleo apple pie dessert was the best part, I made it the day before and enjoyed it in the afternoon because I’m always so full after thanksgiving dinner. Personally, I don’t really enjoy the pie late at night and I find most people go for a slice, or two, of pie after dinner out of habit more than anything. It’s better to stop eating when you are full and realize the pie isn’t going anywhere, you can always enjoy it the next day! For this dessert, I combined two recipes from the amazing food blogger Elana Amsterdam at Elana’s Pantry. I also reduced the coconut oil slightly in the crust still came together perfectly.

And what do you do with all that leftover turkey when there's only two of you and? Make turkey soup of course?

Coming up next, an October Superfood of the Month, stay tuned!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Winter is Coming

Even I will admit, this past Sunday was COLD in Toronto. The sudden drop in temperature and bitter wind was a sad reminder that summer is over, or for all you Game of Thrones fans “winter is coming”.  Cold weather, dark mornings, and lack of sunshine can make anyone want to curl up and hibernate for the winter. It’s much harder to tell yourself ‘let’s go for a run’ when you step outside and are immediately freezing. However, bad weather should never be an excuse for being lazy, but dressing inappropriately for the weather is. To get you ready for Fall fitness here are some tips.

Dress Warm. The MEC store on King Street is one of my favourite places to shop downtown. They have EVERYTHING you need to stay fit and active under all weather circumstances. I managed to go for a long bike ride Sunday, with a little help from my neck warmer, fleece lined vest and winter biking gloves from there. Without these items, there’s no way I would have ever left my cozy apartment. If you go and feel lost in the sea of overwhelming products, snag a staff member ASAP as they are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. My latest find? An awesome front light for my bike that is USB rechargeable, great now that the days are getting shorter.

Prepare yourself mentally. This may sound a little silly but seriously, telling yourself ‘you can do it’ and setting a fitness goal pre-workout (ie. I will bike for one hour or run 5 miles) can help you stay on track and forget about the fact you can no longer feel the tips of your fingers.

Be safe! Coming from experience, there are countless ways you can injure yourself biking in this city. If you are new to cycling and unsure of how to navigate within the city, here are two super nerdy but helpful links from the City of Toronto listed below. The first one talks about general bike safety in the city, and I personally wish I had read the part about crossing street tracks before I wiped out and destroyed my elbow this summer. The other is a cycling map of bike friendly routes and location of bike lanes in the city. You can also use the bike route function on Google maps to find bike friendly roads and planned routes when inputting directions. Guess you no longer have an excuse to drive that car huh??

Safe and happy workouts :)

Sunday, 8 September 2013

A Girl's Gotta Eat: Toronto Edition

I officially survived my first week of medical school. And although I already feel completely overwhelmed, I also feel a calming sense of knowing that I made the right decision. I feel right at home with my classmates and can’t wait to start learning more and more about naturopathic medicine. It’s hard work, but I know all this information will be of great benefit to my patients one day. While I’ve been living in Toronto since May, a lot of my classmates have moved here for the first time. Since I LOVE exploring and try new restaurants and food, I though a blog post on some of the best hole in the wall and hidden treasures would be a great choice.

Best sushi lunch special- Sushi on Bloor
This is not my own opinion, but the opinion of several other blogs and critic reviews online. There is a reason Sushi on Bloor has a line up at lunch every day. Their sushi is cheap, fast, good quality and incredibly delicious. My fav, #S7, hold the spicy mayo. There are vegetarian option as well.

Best dine-in sushi- To-ne Sushi
To-Ne Sushi on Queen west is the place to visit for sushi downtown. The restaurant (and bathrooms) are clean and nicely decorated, the staff friendly and the green tea is always hot and comforting. They have a good menu with lots of interesting roll combinations and appetizers. I love their seaweed salad, always beautifully presented and twice the size of most other restaurants. Prices are slightly higher, but 100% worth it for the quality and portion sizes. Try the Blue Jay Roll or Boston roll.

Best Korean- Ka Chi (St. Andrew Street location) 
This little restaurant is both the best Korean and my favorite restaurant to visit with my special guy. We discovered it walking around Kensington one afternoon, and now make weekly visits to the friendly staff at Ka Chi. The prices are ridiculously cheap; we still don’t understand how they can serve such good quality filling meals at small prices. Unlike some Asian restaurants that are rice (read carb) heavy, their dish actually contain huge quantities of fresh and flavorful vegetables, meat and seafood. I love the grilled mackerel and spicy stew combo, and the spicy stir-fried squid with vegetables. Be adventurous and try all the side dishes as well.

Best Indian- Mt. Everest
Mt. Everest on Bloor makes me feel like I’m back in Nepal whenever I visit. Their food is cooked from scratch and they will modify menu items (ie. no added cream) if you ask. The service is slow, but the food is worth the wait. My favorite is their lamb vindaloo, perfectly tender cooked lamb and great spice. The Himalayan Hunting platter is also great for sharing and one order of rice is PLENTY for two people.

Best Vegetarian- Fresh
Fresh has two convenient locations in Toronto, one at Bloor and Spadina and one at Spadina and Richmond. They have an extensive vegetarian and vegan menu that even true meat eaters will enjoy. Their ace of kales salad, and soup, salad, cornbread combo are two of my favorite items. They have tons of GF options, and really interesting combinations of veggies and sauces. Try their sweet potato fries for a yummy indulgence.

Best GF friendly lunch spot
Arepa Café located on Queen west is a celiac’s haven. Their sandwiches are all made on grilled cornbread, and they offer a variety of meat and vegetarian fillings. The meat is fantastic and the sandwiches are huge enough to fill you up for the afternoon.

Best Dessert
Menchies in the Annex beats out all other fro-yo places in the city. Their frozen yogurt simply has more flavor, and they have tons of different healthy (fruit, nuts) and less healthy (chocolate, candies) toppings to choose from.

Still to try
There are two restaurants in Kensington market that are on my radar. Hibiscus Café is vegetarian and GF friendly, offering huge buckwheat crepes with sweet and savory fillings. Seven Lives apparently has amazing tacos with creative fillings and long line-ups to match.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

What's your Excuse??

People are full of excuses for everything in life. Whether it’s a work, school, or other various commitments, there always seem to have a different excuse for why they can’t accomplish something they set out to do. I’ve heard everything from ‘I don’t have time”, “that’s too much work”, “I can’t”, “I’m too tired/frustrated/PMS/insert word of choice” to the classic “I’m too hungover”.

When it comes to healthy living, there is no shortage of excuses here either. I’m here to tell you though that making excuses for your behaviour is a poor substitute for the real problem. Are you scared of failure? Are you worried all your hard work at the gym won’t pay off? Are you afraid of trying to be healthy all over again only to give up and quit after two weeks? Let me tell you, living life to your fullest is NOT easy, I’ll admit that, BUT I believe there is always a way!

Let’s look at my life for a minute. I BROKE MY ARM (stupid streetcar tracks) and I’m still at the gym on a regular basis. I can use the recumbent bike and also do core work on mats. I can walk around downtown instead of taking the bus in this beautiful summer weather. I can do squats and lunges and lower body workouts no problem. Sure I need to buy a new bell and helmet, but I will be right back on my bike when I get the A Okay from the doc. If I am still able to maintain my fitness goals, what’s stopping you?

The top excuse for not eating healthy, that ‘it’s too expensive’, is a flat out lie. All of this fresh produce, complements of Kai Wei grocery on Spadina Avenue, cost me $23 dollars. Yup, that’s it, all three cucumbers were $1 and I ‘splurged’ on a container of kimchi for $2.50. Don’t shop at the overly expensive, under-stocked Sobeys at Front street, get some exercise, walk the extra ten minutes and buy your groceries in Chinatown. You will do your wallet and your health some food.

It’s time to take CONTROL of your life, stop the excuses and start living for real!

p.s. if you wonder what the kimchi is for, I made homemade enoki mushroom and kimchi soup. Delicious.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

July SuperFood of the Month is.....

Happy Belated Canada Day!

To honour this great nation, I wanted the July Superfood of the Month to be something red, and couldn’t think of a better food than Strawberries.

Strawberries are delicious, nutritious and currently in season, making them a cheap and fun snack to buy. Now that I’ve officially moved to Toronto, I’ve taken full advantage of all the health-related benefits of big city living.  I can bike or walk to practically anywhere, tons of great, fresh ingredient restaurants to choose from (this will be mentioned in a future post!), cuisines and produce from all over the world, and most importantly, Chinatown groceries stores within ten minutes of my new place. These are the BEST places to buy your fresh groceries in the downtown core. Last week, I bought two pints of strawberries for $2 dollars, three avocadoes for $1 and three cucumbers also for $1, talk about saving money! Yes the groceries stores in Toronto’s Chinatown aren’t ‘attractive’, well-lit, or the cleanest and nicest smelling, but these typically cash only joints offer a huge variety of interesting produce at dirt cheap prices.

Back to strawberries. When it comes to fruit, any berry is the best bang for your buck. Berries are lower in sugar/fructose/carbs than most other fruits, low glycemic index  (great for diabetics), chocked full of antioxidants, low calorie and high fiber. A cup of strawberries has only 45 calories, by comparison a medium (read: not GMO gigantic) banana has around 105.
People always associate vitamin c with oranges, but strawberries are actually an excellent source of vitamin C, their antioxidants help protect you against cancer, certain diseases of the eye, inflammation, and their fiber to promote good digestion.

One of the things I like most about strawberries is their versatility. They add flavor to both sweet in savoury dishes, and can be used in appetizers, salads, mains, breakfast staples and lots of different desserts. I have attached some recipes that I highly recommend trying as a great way to incorporate this superfood into your diet.

This recipe below features classic ingredients for a strawberry spinach salad. I often avoid these salads at restaurants because the nuts are candied meaning they are coated in unhealthy oils and excess sugar. Toasting nuts brings out their flavor without any added calories.  I would also suggest adding some red or green onion, and you can always sub avocado for the cheese to make this salad paleo friendly.

This is one of my favorite food blogs. I haven’t made these muffins yet, but after my next trip to bulk barn to stock up on more cornmeal, I will definitely give this recipe a try.

Strawberry and Rhubarb is one of my favorite combinations, the PC blue menu strawberry rhubarb jam is delicious on almost anything. This dessert recipe is allergy friendly, easy to make, and you can always adjust the amount of sugar/honey you add to taste.

You can buy giant bags of frozen cherries at Costco. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, just Google how to make ice cream without an ice cream maker and there are some blog posts on this topic.

Got an abundance of strawberries? Dice, freeze on a cookie tray so they don’t stick and then keep in the freezer and add to smoothies throughout the summer.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Some food for thought

This is by far the LAZIEST post I have ever written. Although there are plenty of things I want to blog about, these past few weeks have been filled with moving, cleaning, organic chemistry (the WORST), job training and a billion lists of things I need to get done. Therefore I decided not to write an actual post, but direct you to some fabulous articles I came across on the Internet this week.
On the plus side, I finally became a real resident of Ontario last week after waiting for hours in line at the Service Ontario office. I guess its sort of symbolic that I sold my mountain bike and bought a hybrid bike instead. Goodbye Alberta, hello crazy traffic in downtown Toronto.

I have attached what I think are some of the top stories this week that will make for an interesting read.

I really shouldn't post this because I want to win a copy of her beautiful new cookbook, but was feeling extra generous today and thought I would share this fabulous giveaway with all my readers

I love baking with coconut flour because of it's great taste and quality nutrition. The problem is that is absorbs a huge quantity of liquid, which requires lots of eggs in recipes. I have a few friends who are allergic to eggs and wanted to share this recipe so they could enjoy these delicious goodies!

This article is something everyone should read and take a minute to think about. My favorite line is "My mother used to constantly say “Worry about yourself." I couldn't agree more. Quit judging people around here, instead focus on yourself and making your life the best and healthiest it can be.

A great article for all women who have a fear of lifting out there to read. I am a huge fan of strength training, and anyone who is a slave to the cardio machines should really think about adding some strength and conditioning components into their workouts. 

Happy Reading, Stayed tuned for June Superfood of the Month 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

You're out for dinner and......

I LOVE to travel. If I wasn’t going to be an N.D., I’d want to be a travel writer or have my own travel TV series. I’ve been very lucky to travel to all ends of the world (Ecuador, Kenya, Nepal, Australia) and always looking for my next adventure.

Having said that I HATE the process of travelling itself. The line-ups at security, long flights with crying babies, jetlag, time zones and I always seem to be that ‘random’ who gets subject to the pat down or full body scan. On the plus side, travelling to new countries means experiencing new foods, cultures and culinary cuisines. On the down side, it can also mean fast food or restaurant meals that cause some serious tummy troubles, and usually a gluttony of sodium, sugar, scary additives and calorie overload.

While I could write this post for several different restaurant types (Mexican, Japanese, Indian, Korean etc.) I’m going to focus on typical restaurant meals you could find at chain restaurants like East Side Mario’s, Kelsey’s or Jack Astor’s to name a few. If you want information on how to chose healthy at specific restaurants or cuisines, send me a message and I can help you you out!

Before we begin, below is a picture of the bistro shrimp pasta entrée from the Cheesecake Factory. I want you to guess how many calories, grams of saturated fat and milligrams of sodium it contains. Scroll down to the bottom of the post to see the actual numbers and understand why it’s easy to overeat at restaurants. With a few simple suggestions and a couple substitutions, this doesn’t have to be the case.

1. Appetizers may seem like a quick snack, but these can be one of the worst things to order at chain restaurants. Avoid anything breaded, fried, crispy, or that comes with a creamy dipping sauce. Same goes for soups; a clear vegetable based soup is a better choice than a cream based. If you think anything with the word ‘salad’ is healthy, think again. Check out my previous post about salads for some tips.

2. Don’t be shy about making changes to the menu. Ask for double veggies instead white rice, order plain steamed veggies with marinara sauce instead of pasta, get a salad with dressing on the side or see if the item can be prepared without any added salt. For all your Oakville folks, one of my favorite restaurants is Stoney’s. Many times I have ordered a sandwich served on a field of greens instead of bread and never had an issue with this request.

3. When ordering entrees, look for the words grilled, baked, steamed, broiled, poached, roasted, or blackened. These are some of the healthiest ways to prepare meats or seafood items. Stay clear of things like breaded, buttered, fried, creamed, scalloped or au gratin.

4. Watch the add-ons. Sweet potatoes and seasonal vegetables themselves are very healthy, but if loaded with sour cream, butter, bacon, cream sauces, mayo based dips or coated in cheap cooking oil, you are quickly adding calories without any added nutrition.

5. Wait at least 20 minutes after eating your meal before thinking about ordering dessert. Your stomach needs time to signal to your brain that you’re full. If you must order dessert, split one item between two or more people.  Don’t be fooled by buzz words like ‘vegan’, ‘gluten-free’ or ‘organic’. A vegan, gluten-free chocolate cake can still be chocked full of empty calories from sugar and high-carb gluten-free flour blends.

6. Before heading to dinner, check online and see if there is a menu or nutritional information available. Most chain restaurants these days will post both nutritional and allergen information online for all menu items. This is very handy in helping choose a healthier option, but also great for people who have allergies and can avoid having to be 'that person' who grills the server on how the food is prepared and what potential allergens are in each dish. (I've been's not fun...especially in foreign countries)

Thirsty? Plain old water or soda water with lemon is your best bet. If you feel like hitting the bottle, a glass of red wine is always a good place to start 

Answer: that past dish contains 3,120 calories, 89 grams of saturated fat and 1,090 milligrams of sodium, way over the amount you should eat in an ENTIRE day!!!!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

My Love Affair with Costco

Time and time again I hear people say “I want to eat healthy, but its too expensive". I completely agree that eating healthy sometimes isn't feasible on a budget, particularly if you are shopping at specialty health food stores. No I don’t want to or can afford to spend $4 on a cucumber at Whole Foods, but there are ways to eat healthy without breaking the bank.

Especially as a student, it's easy to let your health take the back burner when exams, school stress and other commitments begin to pile up. Let’s be honest though, it’s a lot easier to spend $80 at the bar (pre-drink, taxi, tequila shots, Smoke’s poutine, drunk text messages, new lipstick, dress from Aritzia etc.) than it is to buy $80 worth of quality fresh produce at the grocery store.

In comes Costco. How I love going here with my mom and her membership card. Yes Costco sells a TON of junk food, or health food in ‘disguise’ (think protein bars filled with HFCS and soy-protein isolate, that's a whole other blog...), however they also have done an amazing job stocking their shelves with healthy, organic food, full of real ingredients, and a good selection of fresh fruits, veggies, frozen foods and meat.   These are my go-to items I buy at Costco that will have you tons of money compared to if you buy them as single products at Loblaws.

Taste of Nature Bars
Unsweetened Almond Milk
Fresh fruits and veggies & frozen stir-fry mixes and berries
Eggs and/or egg whites
Boneless skinless chicken breasts, beef/pork tenderloin and boneless lamb
Frozen shrimp, turkey burgers and salmon burgers & canned wild salmon 

Here are some new items I found on the shelves that made great additions to my kitchen

 Starting from the top left, yes snack sized packs of almonds aren't exactly eco-friendly, but they came in handy when I was in Boston for a week long conference. You can stuff one or two 100-calorie packs in your purse and that way you always have a healthy snack on hand
Hemp hearts and flaxseeds are both great sources of healthy fats, I mix them with buckwheat grouts and chia seeds to make my own homemade version of holy crap cereal. If you're allergic to eggs, you can also use 'flax eggs' as a substitute in baking.
This is the biggest pack of sun-dried tomatoes I have ever seen and will probably take me an entire year to get through. Sun-dried tomatoes make a tasty addition to homemade hummus, salads, appetizers and sauces.
Costco is great for bulk nuts. I made homemade Nutella using these hazelnuts, and I also saw a giant bag of sliced, blanched almonds that would be great for making homemade almond flour. Medjool dates make a tasty, nutritious alternative to sugar when baking. They are also great stuffed with goat cheese as a party appetizer. Try this recipe from Elana's Pantry to see how you can incorporate dates into your baking, and dates are also fantastic for making healthy desserts and homemade Larabars. 

Stayed tuned for my next post. Although my week in Boston for the EB conference was fabulous, I was tired of eating out for all my meals and couldn't wait to get home and be back in my kitchen. While the seafood was delicious, restaurant meals and portion sizes tend to be heavy, salty and not always the healthiest. Have you ever had trouble deciphering the menu when looking for something lighter to eat? I'll have some easy solutions to help you out next week! 

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A Healthier Breakfast Cookie

I’ve officially been back on Canadian soil for two weeks now and experiencing the classical ‘reverse culture shock’. I have to remind myself that I can open my mouth in the shower and brush my teeth with tap water, I forgot how fast Internet really was, and I am learning to use my iPhone all over again. One thing I am really enjoying? The reliable hot water and electricity in my apartment, makes me appreciate Canada so much more!

On the other hand, there are some things I miss about Africa. When it was ugly and snowing outside this weekend, I longed to be back in the sunshine and ditch my winter coat and gloves. I also miss the abundance of fresh and healthy produce available at all street corners for unbelievably cheap prices (juicy pineapples for less than $1, umm yes!!!)

My first trip to Starbucks was a huge reality check with their gleaming display of giant, overpriced, non-allergy friendly and unhealthy food selections. Now that I finally have a functioning kitchen again, I was so excited to get back to baking and the first thing I did was make a healthier version of Starbucks’s Fruit and Nut Oatmeal Cookie. According to their website, one of their breakfast cookies has 360 calories and a whopping 29 grams of sugar. I find their prices for food ridiculous, especially because it leaves you with nothing but a sugar coma and hungry tummy. This recipe below was adapted from several different blogs online and offers a much healthier way to enjoy a coffee and morning treat at your desk. Best of all? This recipe is gluten, soy, egg and dairy free, making it allergy and vegan friendly (unless you use a protein powder containing whey or soy protein isolate). If you’re allergic to nuts, try using Sun-Flour (made from sunflower seeds) as a substitute for almond flour, and try using Sunbutter or pumpkin seed butter instead of almond butter.

I don't know the nutrition or calorie count for these cookies, but you could always use an online calorie counter to figure this out. All I know is that they are much higher in protein, fibre and vitamins and minerals, and much lower in fat and sugar than the ones you get at Starbucks. The original recipe made 1 dozen, but I decided to only make 9 since I like my cookies big :)

1 cup rolled oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill GF)
½ cup Almond Flour (JK Gourmet)
2 scoops vanilla protein powder
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon each ginger, nutmeg and allspice

1 very ripe mashed banana
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 tablespoons almond butter (I like MaraNatha Almond Butter)
2 tbsp sweetener of choice (agave, honey, maple syrup etc, I just added a few spoonfuls of uncut stevia)
1 chopped granny smith apple

1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line a cookie tray with parchament paper
2.     Combine all the dry ingredients (oats through spices) in one bowl
3.     Combine wet ingredients and sliced apple in another small bowl
4.     Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until just combined
5.     Form into balls and press down onto cookie sheet
6.     Bake for 25 minutes if you make 9 large cookies like me, or 20 minutes if making one dozen
7.     Remove and let cool

These cookies freeze well and I’m looking forward to finishing the batch when I get back next week from my conference in Boston. A teaser for the next post, look at all the great, healthy products I found at Costco!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Asante Sana Africa

This afternoon I will be leaving Rwanda and returning to a sense of normalcy with life back home in Canada. Overall, my three month internship here in Africa has been one of my best life experiences so far. I have learned SO much, met some truly amazing people, and managed to skip another cold and snowy winter!

If given the opportunity to travel, I can’t stress enough how important and worthwhile it is to get out there and try living somewhere outside of your comfort zone. Although this blog is centered on fitness and healthy eating, I strongly believe that traveling to foreign countries can give you a more positive outlook on life, and increase your understanding of the world around you.

People back home love to complain, but let me tell you life in Canada is pretty cushy. The simple things I take we take for granted (running water, reliable electricity and internet, access to quality health care) are things that so few people in the developing world have, but desperately need.

No, my time here was not all rainbows and butterflies; there were some struggles and moments of ‘culture shock’ I had overcome. There were times when I really wanted to go home, like when I was projectile vomiting after a bad bout of heatstroke and food poisoning, or when there was no running water, electricity, internet or toilet paper at the hospital. Those were the times I longed for the conveniences of my apartment in London. However, these feelings would pass, and I learned to make do like everyone else here, the flashlight on my cheap Nokia phone turned out to be the best and most used feature!

Overall, travelling abroad, especially to developing countries, really gives you a different perspective on life. You finally learn what it means not to ‘sweat the small stuff’ and appreciate everything your home country has to offer.

My best tips when traveling abroad?
Learn a few words of the local language, this is very appreciated and will be helpful if visiting rural areas
Allergies aside, try to sample as many new foods as possible. I had some tasty goat stew, ugali, kachumbari, dodo greens, cassava, fish eyes (by accident), African eggplant, sorghum and millet porridge, matoke and large quantities of various tropical fruits during my stay here. Some things tastier than others, but always worth it to say “yah I tried that” and get a feel for the local culture and flavours
Smile, be friendly and greet people! In Rwanda, it is very common to say hello to strangers on the street, wave at all the school children, and shake hands before beginning a conversation with anyone.

If your Department Head ever calls you into her office and says “how about going to Africa next semester?’ do yourself a huge favor and say yes