Saturday, 25 January 2014

January SuperFood of the Month is....... Black Beans!

It’s cold outside. Very cold. Cold enough to make you wanna curl up on your couch all day and avoid contact with anyone in the outside world. These past few weeks I haven’t left the house without hotpaws in my ski mitts, wool socks, a huge blanket scarf, boiling tea and occasionally tights underneath my pants. To escape the freezing temperatures, I have been indulging in more comfort foods lately and been emptying my cupboard of all canned goods to avoid the two minutes dash to Sobeys across the street. One of my favourite finds has been canned black beans. Extremely nutritious, versatile and yummy, black beans are great for vegans and meat eaters alike.

Note: to my knowledge, black beans are not Paleo or GAPS diet friendly, but are allowed on the SCD.

First lets start with the numbers: One ½ cup of black beans contains 110 calories, 1 gram of fat, and a whopping 6 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein.  Here are some of the health benefits of black beans

Black beans are a great source of iron, ½ cup contains 15% of the recommend daily value, which is great for vegans and vegetarians who are often lack iron in their diet.

Adding black beans to main dishes is a great way to boost the fiber content of your meals.

Black beans are also an excellent source of other important micronutrients, including folic acid, and high in cancer fighting antioxidants

If eating black beans raw in a salad, be sure to soak ahead of time to reduce their phytic acid content (binds important nutrients) and raffinose content (the reason beans are called the magical fruit)

What to do with that lonely can of beans? Black beans make a great addition to salads, soups, and casseroles. Especially good with Mexican flavors (think taco salad), I love adding black beans to Mexican style soup or egg scramble with spicy salsa. I’ve also made a delicious chipotle black bean dip before. Black beans also make GREAT desserts. The best part is that canned beans last forever. When on sale, I'll always buy a couple cans at time and that way I never run out or pay full price. 

Here are some of my favourite black bean recipes



Vegan Black bean brownies

Vegan Brownie Batter Dip
(sub black beans for garbanzo beans)

For all the above recipes, don’t be afraid to adjust seasoning to taste. I always cut down the amount of sugar I add to recipe (I don’t have a very big sweet tooth) and usually replace any sort of vegetable oil with coconut oil and applesauce in dessert recipes!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

How to Make Friends with Salad

Anyone who’s ever travelled with me knows I always bring enough food to feed an army in my suitcase. I never leave for a trip without packing a few granola bars, peanut butter, almonds, and some veggies sticks and fruit (unless I’m going to the USA where they are strict with produce)

The other day, I packed up, left my apartment and was a good 20 minutes away when I realized I had forgotten my lovely homemade turkey soup that was supposed to be my dinner in the fridge. I immediately cursed myself for this silly mistake. Fortunately, there are TONS of dining options in the Toronto underground PATH system. Unfortunately, there are tons of unhealthy and expensive options to choose from.

Here to save the day, the Longo’s salad bar. I know a lot of people that ‘don’t make friends with salad’ but given that it’s the New Year, I felt this would be a good post to include for people who are looking for better lunch options at work. The BEST option is of course to pack your own lunch, but I realize this isn’t always possible and it’s nice to treat yourself every once and awhile.

The biggest downside to the salad bar? Not knowing how much your lunch costs until you reach the checkout. I once made a delicious salad at whole foods, and enjoyed every bite of my $20 creation, but I would rather keep the price down if necessary. I don’t have a picture, but this time I managed to make a salad of mixed greens, peppers, onions, artichokes, zucchini, chicken pieces, and some seaweed salad with tofu and shrimp for just over $10, pretty reasonable considering the ingredients and ample portion size.

Here are some tips for avoiding sticker shock at the till and ensuring a nutrient packed lunch

1. Best, and Cheapest Portions
Spinach or mixed greens
Plain peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini
Sunflower seeds, plain nuts and dried fruit
Plain shrimp or tofu cubes

2. Good, but Heavy Water Weight and Expensive
Fruit- very expensive when paying per weight, better off buying a whole piece and chopping it up
Chicken- I read some blogs that say shrimp and tofu is lighter by weight
Beans and chickpeas- healthy, just heavy, way cheaper to bring a small container of your own and add

3. Worst- Avoid
Croutons- empty carbohydrate calories
Anything marinated or slathered in mayonnaise- adds weight and often made with cheap processed vegetable oils
Crumbled bacon- enough said
Pasta salads- cheap, heavy and not filling
Cheese- if dairy intolerant or watching your weight, cheese is a good thing to avoid, a serving of cheese if the size of two dice and easy to overeat

Most salad bars will put the heaviest and cheapest items (pasta salad) at the front, and the most expensive and lighter options (shrimp) at the end of the salad bar so that you load up on the cheap stuff and don’t have enough room at the end. Do a scan of the entire salad bar and decide what you want before filling up.

I’ve also bought a salad before and added my own hardboiled egg for added protein at a fraction of the price. Also bring your own dressing or skip altogether as dressings can add a lot of weight (especially creamy ones) to the salad.

What's your favourite thing to put on a salad? I go through phases; sometimes I'm all about a mixture of spinach with fruit, other times I like a more asian inspiration with kimchi and seaweed salad 

Thursday, 2 January 2014

What's your New Year's Intention?

My New Year's Eve was relatively uneventful. I cooked this delicious PaleOMG recipe for my family, where I replaced the coconut oil with coconut milk and SunButter with almond butter, yum!.  A small gathering followed where I happily consumed my parents’ leftover wine and chocolates (student budget here), enjoyed some champagne and battled the snow in Calgary. Looking back, 2013 wasn’t the greatest year for my family. The people I care about most in my life battled major flooding in Calgary, the ice storm in Toronto, health scares, job losses and other unnecessary stressors. Needless to say, we are all anticipating 2014 being a healthier and happier year. I’ve now read numerous articles on New Years Resolutions, and found an interesting and rising trend. Instead of setting resolutions, many life coaches, and health bloggers are opting for setting intentions. Taken from the Huffinton Post, “Intentions simply ask that we go through our day, hour-by-hour, being as mindful, conscious, aware and awake as we are able to be in that moment. Intentions invite us to do our personal work on becoming more of a human-being, and less human-doing or a human-thinking.”
I like this trend because I believe giving up the rigid constraints of the typical ‘lose five pounds’ or ‘drop one dress size’ goal can help you focus on what matters most in life. Ask yourself, am I present? Am I happy? Am I surrounded by loving friends? Then set an intention to wake up and make the most of your life. 
After my own collection of health scares and hospital visits last summer, I’m not setting any specific goals, but focusing on an overarching theme of better physical and mental health for the new year.

To quote another article in the Calgary Herald, "This way, rather than trying to push, force and drive toward a goal, we allow our life to unfold by noticing what would make it great and what we can still do and become."

What are your intentions for the New Year?