Hello everyone! Today’s post is a bit of a long one, and one that has been a long time coming. Today, I am going through definitions of all the nutritional buzzwords that we may hear all around us; in the media, on package labels and in health articles. The purpose of this article is to help you to an informed consumer of nutrition information both in person, and online.
We see fortified products all around the grocery store. Milk, orange juice and cereals are commonly fortified. To fortify means to add a micro-nutrient (vitamin or mineral) to a food product. This occurs with certain food products that have either lost micronutrients due to industrial processing, or added to a product that is commonly consumed within a population that typically has a certain deficiency. For instance, plant-based milks and juices can be fortified with calcium and vitamin D, in order to ensure proper calcium and vitamin D intake for those that do not typically consume dairy. Another common fortification that we see is with folic acid in cereal. Birth defects like spinal bifida were being seen in women in North America, and folic acid can help prevent these birth defects. Since cereal products were the highest consumed food product, it made sense to fortify cereal with folic acid to prevent spinal cord defects large scale. And, it worked!
This is a tough one, because it can mean so many different things. For most people, “natural” generally refers to an item that is as close to it’s form in nature. In food labeling, “Natural” typically means a food item that has been unaltered and does not contain preservatives, however this label is generally misused. To see the word ‘natural ingredients’ on a label means that the food product contains some items that have been unaltered, yet this food item can still contain preservatives and additives in the product as a whole. “Natural” is not an indication of health, and many foods that are “natural” can still contain high amounts of sugar, sodium and other ingredients that may not be the healthiest.
“Additives” and “Preservatives”
An additive is any substance that is added to a food product. This can be to enhance the flavour, colour or to preserve. Preservatives are a type of additive, and these substances help to prolong shelf life, as well as limit growth of microbes found in food. Preservatives are a huge part of food safely, however research continually comes out about the potential negative health effects of certain additives and preservatives. Since preservatives are an extra substance, and not one that our body metabolizes or utilizes, it is good to limit the amount of food that contains preservatives, and other additives.
Organic refers to the agriculture approach that certain farmers choose to follow. Organic also includes the way food has been processed and handled. To become a certified organic product (USDA), there are strict guidelines that must be followed. A few organic farming practices and principles include: using no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, covering the crops, not adding food additives or hormones and no genetically modified products. Many food products can be labeled organic including boxed goods like cake, cookies, cereal etc. Now, whether or not organic is healthier is debatable. We know from a basic nutrition level, that organic produce is not more nutritious in that is does not have more vitamins and minerals. Yet, non-organic food can contain chemicals from the pesticide and herbicides, which can accumulate in the human body. My opinion is that organic food practices can be seen as more of a social, environmental and political food issue, which is my personal focus on the matter. I also don’t think that organic necessarily means healthier, especially on boxed goods. I still think it is important to think of each food individually, and sometimes it may be worth purchasing organic, whereas other times it may not matter.
We often come across TV commercials and magazine ads that give us tips on how we can speed up our metabolism, yet we need to have a better understanding of what the word “metabolism” means. Metabolism is the general word that sums up all the biochemical processes that happen in the human body. Those biochemical reactions can be categorized into two significant reactions; 1) the building reactions and 2) the breaking reactions. The building reactions are called anabolic reactions, which are primarily responsible for building cells, repairing tissues and growth. Anabolic reactions consume energy in the process. Breaking reactions, are known as catabolic reactions and break down bigger molecules into smaller molecules to produce energy. In a nutshell, metabolism is the way our body utilizes all the macro-nutrients including, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats for us to maintain life.
Most of us have a baseline metabolism that is a mixture of genetics and lifestyle. For instance, athletes will have a higher metabolism due to their lifestyle and muscle mass. Certain foods and lifestyle factors may increase our metabolism, such as thermogenic foods ( like green tea, and chilli peppers, which raise our temperature and can help with the breakdown reactions), and exercise, but this is relatively very slight, and there is ultimately little we can do to truly change our metabolism on a day-to-day basis.
“Calories” or “low cal”
A calorie is the measurement of energy. One calorie is defined as the amount of the energy it would take to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius (33.8 degrees Fahrenheit). Calories can be used as a measurement of energy in food, but it is still complex. A food may have a certain amount of calories, but it does not mean we utilize all of this energy.
“Low Calories” means that it is a food item low in calories. On a food label, this means it contains less than 40 calories per serving size.
Calories are simply a measurement of energy in food, and not a measurement of nutrition or health. This is important to keep in mind. We need a certain amount of energy from food, and we generally try to get nutrient-dense foods.
We just learned that calories are the measurement of energy in food for our bodies. Empty calories are calories (aka energy) with little to no nutritional value i.e. does not contain vitamins, minerals, protein or fibre. Refined food like cakes, cookies, sweetened beverages, candy are often referred to as empty calories in that they provide the body with energy, but not a lot of nutrition.
Blueberries, red wine, coffee, chocolate…you may have heard these foods are rich in antoxidants- and they are! But, what are the benefits? Essentially, antioxidants prevent body cells and tissues from damage. Let’s break down the word – “Anti” means against, and “oxidant” means an oxidizing agent. An oxidation reaction is one that occurs in our body, and as a result produces something called ‘free radicals”. Free radicals can cause damage to cells and tissues, which may contribute to certain disease developments, such as cancer. Antioxidants are nutrients that counteract free radicals, essentially neutralizing their effect, and this can prevent and slow down tissue damage. Vitamin C, A, and E are all common examples of antioxidants.
First, let me define what “dairy” means. Dairy is any foods that contain milk or milk products coming from mammary animals such as, cows, camels, and goats. So dairy-free” is a food that does not contain any animal-based milk products. Foods that are typically labeled “dairy free”, are foods that otherwise contain dairy. For instance, dairy-free milk, cheese, sauces or dressings.
Any person who is vegan, plant-based, lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy would generally consume “dairy-free” predicts. Once again, dairy-free does not mean healthy
The term “dairy-free” can often get mixed up with “lactose-free”. Lactose is sugar that is found in milk and its products. Lactose is broken down by a digestive enzyme called lactase. Individuals may be deficient in lactase, meaning they can not break down lactose. This causes digestive disturbances.
However, if you have an intolerance or allergy to dairy, it may be other components of the dairy that are impacting your health. Lactose-free products may not be particularly helpful and you may need to avoid dairy as a whole.
A paleo diet is one of the ancient nutritional approach and a diet that is popular. This diet is to mimic an ancestral diet, and is void of grains, legumes, packaged items and dairy.
Gluten is the name of the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats. It makes dough stretchy and gives bread its sponge-like texture. Celiac disease is an allergy to this protein, and can cause an array of symptoms. Individuals may also experience digestive issues from gluten, even without a celiac diagnosis. Gluten-free products are more popular, and can even be considered a trend. Gluten-free does not mean healthy and often labeled “gluten-free” items contain other refined starches such as tapioca starch and potato starch. Yes, this maybe necessary if you are celiac, but if you avoid gluten it is often best to enjoy naturally gluten-free items.
Anti-inflammatory foods are foods that are linked to reducing the inflammatory response in the body, or foods that are connected to lowering inflammatory markers in the blood. Many foods are said to be anti-inflammatory, and these are basically otherwise healthy foods such as healthy fats, fruit and vegetables.
I hope you found this blog post informative! When we see these buzzwords plastered throughout food products at the grocery store or mixed into articles, it can get overwhelming. Knowing what these words actually mean can help you make healthy choices for yourself and your family, which is what I am all about!
COMMON HURDLES + HOW TO OVERCOME THEM
Today I want to provide some tips for overcoming hurdles, especially as you are making a change to your diet. If you are a client of mine, you know that we always discuss your hurdles, or what you feel is preventing you from making a change you want to make.
In my experience, nutrition information and education is incredibly necessary and important, however change does not happen if we do not figure out how to apply the information into your daily life.
If you are experiencing a hurdle, that is preventing you from making a change, we can usually get to the bottom of it!
Below I outlined some main hurdles that my clients face, and a starting point for how to overcome them.
This is for sure the biggest hurdle that comes up in 1:1 sessions. It is very common to feel that we do not have the time to make a change that we want to make. Or feel that in order to be “healthy” we need a lot of time. I think this can come for having the expectation that change has to be massive, or all encompassing. It can also come from the expectation that healthy choices and healthy eating is time consuming.
What I do first with my clients, is try to break it down. We focus on what they are realistically doing now, and how we can change things up with something that does not take more time. For instance, if a client is eating lunch out every meal, we find a healthier alternative that is equally as close/easy. If someone already allocates time to cook every week, we keep the pattern consistent but change up what someone is making.
I am a big advocate for scheduling in meal planning time, which can include scheduling in time for grocery shopping and cooking. Actually adding in the time to your calendar or day planner means that it is a non-negotiable. Eventually, allocating time to grocery shop, plan meals, cook some things etc. becomes second nature and ultimately saves time. I am also a huge proponent of optimizing your time in the kitchen. This includes the idea of “cooking once eating twice”..or three or four times, cooking enough for leftovers and/or cooking a big batch of something for the week or to freeze for another date.
I am also mindful of the time it takes to cook, and believe it is important to seek out recipes that specifically say they take under a certain amount of time. Being realistic with the time you have, and the time you want to spend cooking (even if it is zero), can be helpful in figuring out what will work for you.
2. “ACTUALLY JUST DOING IT“
This is another common hurdle that I hear, and often in these exact words. Sometimes my clients do not feel something tangible (i.e. time/cost etc.) is preventing them from making a change, but they just feel they may not do it. They have perhaps tried things in the past but have not kept up with the changes. They may feel that they will fall into old habits, or find the change too difficult to make, or feel defeated easily.
I have two main tips for overcoming this hurdle. One tips is find your “why”. Find, understand and focus on your true motivation for wanting to make a change. Find your reason why, and keep this front and centre in your mind. The second tip is to be realistic. Change does NOT have to be all-or-nothing, and you can make small changes a little bit at a time until it becomes habit. Make things as easy and simple as possible for yourself.
3. BORED/NOT ENOUGH VARIETY
Another common hurdle or fear is that making a change will be boring, and will not include enough variety. A lot of my clients love food, love trying new things and get bored with food easily. They fear changing their nutrition will prevent them from experiencing a cool new food or recipe.
Healthy does not have to be boring. Healthy food does not mean boring blends meals. Again, taking away this all-or-nothing mindset can be helpful. I always say that what you eat the majority of the time will dictate how you feel the majority of the time. Health does not mean being strict, it is about finding what you can do in a realistic way.
Many foods and recipes can be healthy, and there is an abundance of recipes that are both flavourful, exciting and nutritious. Check out my Pinterest boards for inspiration.
Another tip is to buy new healthy cookbooks (I have lots of recommendations if you need them) and actively choose 1-2 new recipes every week. You can see how food can be exciting and new, yet healthy at the same time.
4. FEELING RESTRICTED
A big hurdle is the fear of feeling restricted, or that you can’t live your life while trying to be healthy. The first thing I say to this is that changing your lifestyle will NEVER work if you feel restricted. If you are not enjoying your food, and enjoying your life, it is unlikely that you will maintain a healthy lifestyle.
You need to ensure that you are eating enough, and eating in a way that is filling. A lot of this comes down to simple nutrition and enjoying enough protein, fibre and healthy fat throughout the day. If you feel full and satiated from a pure nutrition perspective, you likely won’t feel restricted.
I believe it is also important to indulge, and enjoy food as part of celebrations (if you like this!) and going for dinner with friends etc. Your life does not have to revolve around food, or eating healthy all the time – it is all about the balance. A huge part of a healthy lifestyle is moderation, and enjoying different foods for different reasons.
Include foods that are flavourful and delicious. Another tip is to enjoy healthy food with friends. Instead of going out to eat one night, invite friends over for a home cooked meal and include a bunch of healthy things for everyone to enjoy. This is one way to enjoy company, feel you are still living your life, yet eating in a way that makes you feel good.
5. MANAGING DIETARY PREFERENCES FOR MANY PEOPLE i.e. WHOLE FAMILY
I have many clients who cook for their whole family, and need to manage their own health goals, with the dietary preferences of their family. Perhaps you have a partner and children, and everyone eats differently. This is pretty common, and quite a tough hurdle.
One tip is to make a list of any common ground foods. Sometimes this is difficult but create a physical list of foods that everyone will enjoy- and cook based off of this.
Another tip is to make a dish that can be altered for specific taste preferences. I.e. A vegetarian meal for a vegetarian in the household, but then cooking some meat for any meat eaters to have on the side. Or a dish that can include sauce on the side, instead of mixed in.
One last tip is to have “build-your-own” nights, where there is a main focus or theme but then everyone can top or build their own. Common ideas include pizza or taco night!
Thinking that healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle is expensive, prevents some people from attempting to make a change. This comes from the misconception that health is expensive. And yes, it very much can be portrayed that way, specifically on social media. Many health influencers promote expensive products and you may feel you need those to be healthy. Sometimes it is true that a “higher quality” item is more expensive. For instance, In the case of organic vegetables versus conventional vegetables, the organic vegetables are often significantly more expensive. As well, a healthier packaged good, like a cracker or cookie, is oftentimes more expensive than the alternative.
However, you you do not need 12 dollars juices, a $20 dollar almond butter or $12 paleo crackers to be healthy. A lot to his comes down to personal preference and priorities. I say to set out a budget, and grocery shop accordingly.
I do have a few tips to keep cost down. First, is to shop at grocery stores with lower prices. For instance, in Toronto we have No Frills, Food Basics or Cosco, which typically have lower prices on things like vegetables, meat and packaged goods. Another tip is to shop at bulk stores for things like flours, nuts, seeds, grains, beans, lentils and even snacks. Dried goods are generally less expensive than packages or canned goods. A third tip is to choose nutritionally equivalent, yet less expensive option for certain foods. For instance, seeds and seed butters are less expensive than nuts. You can also try frozen vegetables and fruit, which is nutritious and often less expensive than fresh produce. My last tip is to revisit and rethink your portion sizes of more expensive food items. For instance, many people eat double or triple the portion of meat or dairy than is nutritionally necessary, and these are the items that are generally more expensive.
On a final note I think it is important to say that you are not alone. Change is VERY difficult. Changing your diet and your lifestyle is NOT easy. It is important to be kind and patient with yourself as you embark on a change, or improvement, of any kind.
I hope you found this post helpful. Do these hurdles resonate with you? Try these tips out and if you need extra coaching please do not hesitate to reach out!
Here is a recipe for vegan/plant-based meatballs. This recipe is full of protein and fibre, and is a hearty plant-based alternative to meat. You can enjoy these the same way you would traditional meatballs- top pasta, polenta or a vegetable like spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles.
I’ve been trying to limit my meat intake over the last few months, but still very much crave hearty meals. I find this recipe satisfying, filling and one that can be enjoyed by meat eaters and non-meat eaters alike!
I hope you enjoy this recipe!
2 cups cooked lentils
1 tbsp ground flaxmeal, presoaked in 2 tbsp water
1 tbsp almond flour, or oats * may need more if the batter is too soft/liquidy
2 cloves garlic
Handful fresh herbs: handful fresh herbs (parsley, basil, oregano)
1 tbsp dried herbs: basil, oregano etc.
Salt, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Blend all ingredients together in a blender or food processor, until uniform.
- Check the consistency of the batter; it should form into balls. If it is too liquidy add more almond flour or oats, if it is too dry add olive oil or water.
- Form into balls and arrange on oiled caste iron skillet. Heat stovetop to medium heat and brown all sides of the meatballs.
- Once browned, add to oven and cook for ~20 minutes.
- Once cooked, take out of oven and add to whatever dish you are making. For this particular recipe I added tomato sauce, and baked it a bit longer and then topped with cheese and added it to pasta.
I hope you try this recipe, and please let me know if you make it!
Today I am posting a super easy creamy cauliflower soup recipe that contains a great amount of fibre and protein, along with a wide array of vitamins and minerals.
Cauliflower is the main vegetable in this soup and a few potatoes are added for some creaminess. White beans offer a great source of protein, and additional fibre. A plant-based cream leaves this soup creamy and satisfying, and all together this a great warm meal for the end of winter!
I hope you enjoy this recipe!
Creamy Cauliflower Soup
1 head of cauliflower, chopped
5-10 baby potatoes
2 heads garlic, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
1 can white beans
6 cups broth of choice
1 cup almond, cashew or coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil, to cook
1. Add chopped onions and garlic in a soup pot with a drizzle of olive oil. Simmer until cooked.
2. Add chopped cauliflower and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Add potatoes and broth. Bring to a boil and then let simmer until the cauliflower and potatoes are cooked.
4. Once the vegetables are cooked, add can of white beans and then blend all together either in a blender or using an immersion blender.
5. Once blended, continue to heat/add back to pot to heat. Add salt, pepper, spices and the milk.
6. Top with fresh herbs and a drizzle of milk/cream and enjoy!
I hope you like this recipe. Let me know if you make it!
Experiencing food cravings, that feel almost uncontrollable, is something that I hear so often as an issue with my clients. A powerful desire for food, or feeling like you just can’t get over your cravings is very common. It can feel stressful and overwhelming and you may feel these cravings dictate many of your food choices, or that that they are preventing you from working on a certain health goal.
Cravings can be very normal, and I think it is super important to enjoy your food and eat what you crave. However, I think it is also important to think about your relationship with those cravings. Do they feel like an everyday occurrence? Do you feel you have to exert willpower all throughout the day? Does food, or your cravings, take up a lot of mental energy and space? If this is the case, there may be something else going on, and these tips may be helpful for you!
The #1 reason we crave foods is because we are hungry! If you are hungry you are way more likely to experience cravings, and eat whatever food you are craving. This is often baked goods, fries or chips. Whenever you are experiencing a craving, first think about when the last time you ate was and just ask yourself if you are simply hungry. You can also take note of when you generally experience cravings and see if it corresponds with general lulls in meal times.
If you are experiencing cravings but know that you are just hungry, my tip is to eat a meal first before eating the food that you are craving. No food is off limit at all, but making food choices from a more cognizant place and with intention, as opposed to pure starvation mode is likely going to be more in line with your health goals and help you feel better.
Another big tip for these types of cravings is to prevent hunger. A little bit of planning goes a long way when we are trying to prevent hunger. Bringing protein-rich snacks with you throughout the day can be super helpful for this!
Along with being hungry, cravings can come from being too thirsty. If you are not hungry, and know you ate recently, think about whether or not you are thirsty.
Hydrating our bodies adequately throughout the day is vital and sometimes we can feel hungry when we are really thirsty. Before eating whatever it is you are craving, drink a big glass of water and see if that helps.
A Balanced Plate
If you frequently find you are craving food, but not hungry or thirsty, the next step would be to look at your plate and ensure it is well balanced. A balanced meal will keep you full but also satiated. There is a difference between fullness and satiation, which I often discuss in my practice. Fullness is a physical feeling of fullness, while satiation is a chemical/hormonal reaction that basically tells your body you ate and you can move on to the next activity. If you ate a meal and feel like you need a little something extra, think about whether or not you satiated from your meal. Here are three components to include at every meal:
Fiber is one of the most important nutrients for promoting optimal health, and to help keep us full and satiated. Fibre allows food to move through our system slowly, and for sugar to be released in our blood stream at a slow pace. This can prevent blood sugar spikes and thus hunger and cravings. High fibre foods are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans/legumes and seeds.
Proteins are an essential macronutrient, and helps improve fullness, as well as regulating our blood sugar. Healthy protein choices are chicken, meat, fish, nuts, plant seeds, legumes like beans and lentils, eggs, and dairy.
Healthy fat can help you manage your cravings and promote the feeling of fullness and satiety. Many people limit their fat intake when trying to lose weight, which can decrease fullness, satiety and can in itself lead to constant cravings. Healthy fat sources include olive oil, nuts like almonds and walnuts, avocados, seeds, such as hemps seeds, flax seeds and chia seeds, and fish like salmon or mackerel.
The Salty and Sweet Back-And-Forth
Craving something sweet at the end of a meal is also very common. Again, this is A-okay! I often feel like dessert after lunch or dinner and I think it is great if it makes you feel good. However, if you feel overwhelmed by a constant sweet craving after dinner, or in the afternoon, it may be something to look into. Now, enjoying enough fibre, protein and fat throughout the day can be helpful here, excessive salt can also cause sugar cravings. From a taste perspective, the extreme in salt and sweet can cause a craving for the other. Therefore, I think it is important to think about your salt intake, if you experience regular sugar cravings.
If you ate a salty meal, try drinking a glass or water and enjoy tea with a bit of milk/plant milk with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Sometimes this is enough to curb those post-meal sugar cravings, when you don’t want dessert.
Aerobic exercise, or cardio, is a type of exercise that pumps your heart rate up. Studies have shown that those who engage in 30 minutes of cardio in the morning have higher satiety levels throughout the day. Going for a run, a swim or dancing around your living room can help you feel good, but also help with your cravings throughout the day.
Eating our favourite food is definitely encouraged around here, and can be one of life’s greatest pleasures. However, if we feel out of control, or that you have cravings that take over your life, it may be something to look into further. We experience cravings for many other reasons that I did not talk about in this article, this is simply a starting point. One common reason for women is due to hormonal changes around their period or at different types in their hormonal cycle. Another reason may be out of habit or routine. I hope this post is helpful and I hope that you approach your cravings with curiosity, kindness and patience with yourself. Please let me know if these tips have been helpful, and if you need extra nutrition support or coaching, please do not hesitate to reach out!
NUTRITION VERSUS DIET CULTURE
‘Diet culture’ versus actual nutrition/nutrition advice is something that I’ve wanted to discuss on my blog for a while. In my experience, the two are so intertwined and often confused. I will start by saying I love nutrition. As you probably know, I think food is super cool and I really think it can make you feel great, and is a component of a total healthcare system. However, food is majorly complex. How, what, when, where and why we eat is influenced by so many factors; availability, access, education, personal preferences, culture, economics, societal pressures, mental health and more. The study and practice of nutrition is vast, but in practice much of it takes into consideration these various factors, influences and the individualized nature to eating. Many practicing nutritionists often know that food is not simple.
In comes ‘diet culture’. Caring about nutrition, talking about nutrition and advocating for proper nutrition can often be confused with dieting and ‘diet culture’. Nutrition education and information, especially what we see through media, is also heavily influenced by ‘diet culture’. But what is ‘diet culture’?
From my understanding, ‘diet culture’ is a culture in which dieting, or eating a certain way is seen as morally better than other ways of eating. Diet culture values thinness as the ideal, and is unsupportive of all body sizes. Diet culture is literally everywhere, and constantly sending us the message (through magazines and advertisements etc.) that we are not enough – that we need to look a certain way and be a certain way to be “better”.
Many things fall under the category of ‘diet culture’. For instance, wanting to lose weight is often influenced by diet culture. Now, I am not saying you shouldn’t lose weight if you want to, but truly think about why you feel that way and what is influencing you. The language we use when we talk about food also falls under ‘diet culture’. Using language like “good” and “bad”, or “falling off the bandwagon” is all connecting a certain morality to food- you are good if you eat a certain way and bad if you do not. When we use language like this we are often comparing ourselves to some non-existent ideal of a perfect diet, that simply does not exist.
To offer their insight and to help us understand a nutritionist’s approach a bit better, I asked some of my nutritionist friends and colleagues to include their thoughts.
“As a nutritionist, I like to offer a realistic approach to eating that honours the mind and body. The body knows best when it comes to food, eating, nutrition, movement, rest, weight and self-care. Encouraging someone to follow a restrictive diet leaves that person isolated from society and unable to honour their natural hunger cues or cravings. It promotes a disordered mindset that can lead to food guilt, food anxiety and feelings of unworthiness. The moment you let go of food being “good” or “bad” is when you find that all food has it place. Some foods make your body feel amazing and some foods nourish your soul. It’s all about honouring how you feel in your body, living in balance and letting go of guilt and negative feelings around food.”
Holistic Nutritionist and Skin Therapist
“As a nutritionist, I strongly believe in taking small steps towards making lasting changes to your eating habits rather than jumping into extreme, restrictive, and often dangerous short-term diets. A big issue with fad diets is they are too generalized and claim to work for everyone. We are all distinct beings with individual genetics, from different cultures, with unique lifestyles and specific health concerns. These variances are crucial in determining nutritional needs from one person to the next. One size doesn’t fit all! That’s why I believe in slowly incorporating better eating habits. Incremental nutritional adjustments and lifestyle changes are habit forming and offer lasting results. It becomes less stressful on the body and better for one’s overall mental health. This slower adaptation to healthier eating choices wins every time. It lessens food cravings due to fewer restrictions and, as a bonus, you have less guilt when treating yourself to a favourite dessert every so often. Slow and steady wins the race!”
-Marina O’Connor, CNP
“Diet culture can create unhealthy patterns in your life, not just through what you’re eating. There is usually a desire to look a certain way and a sense of wanting to belong. Because of this, people become fixated on everything they put into their mouths, which is like a form of disordered eating. You begin to categorize foods into “good” vs. “bad” and when you have a “slip” and eat a “bad” food, you are hard on yourself. This creates negative relationships with food. My philosophy relies heavily on a “non-diet” approach. Your body is very intuitive and knows what it needs. This can mean eating when you’re hungry instead of forcing yourself to eat at specific times. It means eating whole foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, quality fats like avocados and olive oil, quality protein like grass-fed chicken, beef, turkey, etc. It means nourishing your body with foods that make you feel good! And lastly, this means eating a burger because you feel like it!”
Constantina Gravalos, Hon.B.A., CNP, RNCP/ROHP
“Part of nutrition is being intentional with the food you eat. Ask yourself (without judgement): “What is this particular food serving me right now?”
It’s connecting to what your body, mind and soul need right now while letting go of all the food rules we been taught throughout our lifetime that have distanced ourselves from our own intuitive senses.”
Thank you for reading! As always, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments or privately!
Today I invited my friend Kara to the blog, who is the founder of Living Apothecary. Living Apothecary is a small-batch herbal tea company. Kara makes amazing blends, and I fell in love with her teas at first sip! I carry them in my office, and my clients love them, too! Kara is here to talk about her company, and also provided us with a tea infusion. Oh, and at the end of the post I am including a link to our upcoming workshop in Toronto! For now, here is Kara!
Let’s start right at the beginning. During my time studying naturopathic medicine, I was introduced to botanical medicine and taught how different botanicals could help ease anxiety, insomnia, and painful periods. Ailments that I had been struggling with for years. Was this finally the answer I had been craving? I had then started experimenting with different botanicals and creating my own herbal tea to target my personal ailments. I liked that these botanicals were gentle enough to be consumed everyday, so it truly became a ritual I leaned into. I started to feel that shift. I started to have consistent restful nightsof sleep, my stress lessened, and my periods weren’t so debilitating month after month.
Through years of experimenting with different botanicals and herbal teas, I was looking for a brand that essentially would take the work off me blending my personal concoctions. When I came up with nothing, I decided to launch Living Apothecary. A brand of herbal tea that is high quality, therapeutic, and really encompasses a self-care lifestyle for us modern women. This was all so important to me. Now, having been in business for a year, it’s been incredible to see and hear stories from women who have experienced improvements, whether that’s with their cycles or their sleep.
The benefits of drinking herbal tea are truly endless. In our herbal tea blends, the botanicals used are chosen based on their therapeutic + nutritive value. They are able to provide nourishing amounts of vitamins and minerals, and provide specific targeted actions that are meant to improve your well-being.
Each and every one of our tea blends have been curated with purpose. No botanical goes unused, and they are prepared to truly target what ails you most.
If you are looking for support with sleep, I’ve created our Snooze Brew that contains valerian and passionflower to ease you into rest, along with oatstraw and lavender to ease your anxiety that may arise as soon as you slow down for bed.
If you’re looking for digestive support, I’ve created Bye Bloat, which contains ginger, peppermint and fennel to improve digestion following your meals. But, it also contains licorice root and marshmallow root, to help curb any sweet cravings you may have following meals.
Beyond the nourishment each of our tea blends provide, it truly is the ritual that comes with having a healing cup of herbal tea. With our crazy schedules, we tend to mindlessly weave ourselves through each day. Having a cup of herbal tea is a time you’re able to check in with yourself, to slow down, to become mindful of the moment.
I’ve provided a quick (yet powerful) recipe for an oatstrawinfusion. I’ve been sipping on these endlessly to help soothe my nervous system during these trying winter months where I feel I need all the support I can get. This infusion is a bit different than steeping my other blends. This infusion contains a lot more botanical and sits for an extended period of time before consuming, preferably up to 4 hours.
+ 1 large mason jar + lid
+ 1 ounce oatstraw
+ hot water
Scoop 1 ounce of oatstraw into your mason jar (depending on where you buy your botanicals, you may be able to buy it already weighed out for you). Boil your water, once it comes to a boil, let stand for a couple minutes. We want the water to be hot, but not boiling when we add to your oatstraw. Pour the hot water over the oatstraw, being sure to saturate the botanical completely and filling your mason jar. Cover and let sit. Let this infusion sit for a minimum of 4 hours to a maximum of 12 hours. I prefer to let this sit overnight. Strain the oatstraw, and consume cold or re-warm. Sip + enjoy throughout your day.
Thanks Kara! Kara and I are excited to be hosting a workshop in Toronto. Check out the event here, and let us know if you have any questions!
Today’s post is all about coffee! I LOVE coffee so much and anyone that knows me personally knows that it plays a big role in my life. I wake up excited for my morning coffee, and if I am ever going away or on a trip I always scout out the coffee scene beforehand.
Coffee and caffeine intake is debated topic within nutrition, and today we are looking at the health effects of coffee. Just like most areas of nutrition, coffee does not impact everyone in the same way. Some people feel wonderful drinking coffee, while others feel jittery, nauseous or just simply not great. The quality, quantity and timing of coffee can also make a difference with how we feel and even the health outcomes.
Below I outlined some main topic:
COFFEE + HEALTH
Coffee consumption has been linked to gastritis and acid reflux. Coffee may increase the risk for gastritis, as well as irritate the esophagus and trigger acid reflux. The stimulating effect of coffee may also be a trigger for IBS or any inflammatory condition of the digestive lining. If you feel coffee may be making your digestive systems worse, try both decaf and omit coffee for one week to see if you notice a difference.
Coffee has been taken out of World Health Organization as a carcinogenic, and there is actually a potential antioxidant benefit. Substances in coffee called chlorogenic acid and polyphenols, may act as an antioxidant, which can help protect cells in the body.
Coffee has been known to potentially increase blood pressure, but interestingly the evidence is conflicting and it may have both effects. The effect of coffee on blood pressure, may not come from caffeine but from other various substances in coffee ( of which there are many!). The effect of blood pressure may also be impacted by how frequently you drink coffee. Habitual coffee drinkers, who drink a bit of coffee every day may be affected by caffeine less than those who drink coffee infrequently or large amounts at a time.
Cholesterol may play a role in raising cholesterol levels, however it may be due to a substance called cafestol, not the caffeine. Cafestol may affect our LDL (low density lipoproteins – what we want to try and decrease). Interestingly, paper filtered coffee and instant coffee have the least amount of cafestol, compared to french press and Turkish coffee.
Coffee can interfere with sleep, especially when we have it after noon. Adenosine is a hormone that helps to regulate sleep. The build up of adenosine can increase arousal in our brain (aka feeling awake). Adenosine and caffeine have the same structure, and each of their molecules fit into the same receptors. When we consume caffeine, this can block the adenosine molecules from properly binding to the receptors, leading to a higher amount of adenosine floating around the brain. This can contribute to us feeling awake, even with a lack of sleep.
Another way that coffee can interfere with sleep, is explained below.
In addition, caffeine has incredible effects on other neurotransmitters and hormones in our body, such as dopamine and adrenaline. The production of both chemicals is stimulated when caffeine enters the body. Dopamine, which falls under the “happy brain chemicals” group, makes us happy and improves our mood. Whereas, adrenaline, the “super hero hormone” or the “fight or flight” hormone, causes many physiological changes, such as an increased heart rate, an increase in blood pressure, an increased respiratory rate, and an increase of blood supply to the muscles. As you can probably tell, too much adrenaline contributes to anxiety.
Coffee can inhibit the absorption and increase the excretion of certain vitamins and minerals. Most known are B6, iron, calcium and magnesium. This can have an impact for those with anemia/low iron and crease an increase risk for osteoporosis. Moderation is key here, and the risk generally lies in those who drink more than 3 cups of coffee per day.
A NOTE ON QUALITY AND QUANTITY
It is generally recommended to stay under 400 mg of caffeine per day. It is also generally advised that pregnant woman drink no more than 300mg per day, but generally recommended to stick to 100 mg per day. To give you an idea, one cup of coffee contains roughly 100 mg. This compares to a cup of black or green tea, which has about 50 mg of caffeine, and chocolate, which has about 20 mg of caffeine.
As stated earlier, coffee metabolizes at different rates for everyone. However, the average adult metabolizes caffeine within 3-5 hours. This means that drinking coffee in smaller amounts, at different times throughout the day can be better than all at once.
The quality of the coffee is another thing of note. Coffee beans are typically known as a highly sprayed crop, meaning that you are potentially ingesting pesticide/herbicide sprays with your beans. Organic coffee may be better for you than conventionally grown coffee beans.
‘Fair trade’ is another phrase that is used when talking about the quality of coffee. Coffee beans are a highly exported agriculture product, and fair trade means that the farmers were paid fair wages, and treated properly (which is a big issue within the farming industry, especially in certain countries).
The last thing to talk about is what we add to coffee. Generally the highest risk when talking about coffee consumption, is the added sugar. I would generally recommend to limit or reduce added sugar in your coffee, if possible!
Thank you for reading this post all about coffee! I personally try to practice moderation, but I also believe it is important to indulge in things that you enjoy and that bring you happiness- for me, coffee is one of these things.
As always, if you have any questions do not hesitate to reach out!
Today’s post is all about healthy snacking! Here are some of my personal favourite snack ideas. I will provide tips along with each snack to help you adapt to your taste and personal preferences.
1. SLICED VEGGIES AND HUMMUS
This is a long time favourite of mine, and something that is difficult for me to get sick of. Hummus contains protein and healthy fat (chickpeas, tahini) and veggies add fibre, vitamins, minerals and water. For a snack, I will have a handful or two of veggies with a few dollops of hummus- around 2 TBSP. Sometimes, I will add crackers, corn chips or olives to make it a more hearty snack.
Tip: Cut up vegetables at the beginning of the week, to have for the week. I often do celery and carrots, and add to a container with water. If you get bored of this snack, try different types of dips. I have a blog post here, but Pinterest is always a good option.
2. CHEESE AND CRACKERS
Another simple snack, one that is reminiscent of childhood. But why can’t we enjoy it? Cheese is a good source of protein and contains fat to keep you full, and you can get a good amount of fibre from a healthy cracker. Again, you can buff this plate up with veggies, olives and a dip to make a full on snack plate.
TIP: Make sure crackers are whole grain for better nutrition. I love Ryvita, Mary’s Crackers, Finn Crisps and Kii crackers. As for cheese, I opt for a sheep or goat cheese, as it is often easier to digest.
Popcorn may not be the most filling snack, in that it does not contain protein, but it can be a healthy and satisfying snack when you want to munch. Popcorn is actually quite high in fibre, which can keep you full for longer than a potato chip. I love popcorn as a study snack, or when I am working after dinner. Of course, it is the best movie snack, too!
Homemade popcorn is your best bet ( I follow this tutorial), but I also buy popcorn from the store and like Neal Brothers, Boom Chicka POP, Buddha Bowl Popcorn, and Skinny POP.
3. APPLE OR BANANA WITH NUT BUTTER
This is the best energy booster for me, and I enjoy it when I am feeling like I need a burst of energy in the afternoon. It is also a good pre-workout snack. I slice up an apple, or banana and slather nut butter on each piece. Sometimes I sprinkle hemp hearts for some more nutrition.
Tip: Keep a jar of nut butter at work, in the fridge. This way you can just bring fresh fruit with you every day.
4. HANDFUL OF NUTS WITH CHOCOLATE AND DRIED FRUIT
This is a sweeter snack, and great when you are in need of something sweet. I will have a handful of nuts, with a few pieces of dried fruit like figs, apricots or dates, and a few pieces of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate actually contains minerals like magnesium and iron, while the nuts provide protein and fat. Dried fruit contains fibre, and more vitamins and mineral, as well as a sugar boost.
Tip: This is a great snack for the office, or to keep in your bag as it is all non-perishable.
5. CHIPS AND SALSA
Again, this snack does not include protein, so may not keep you full for very long, but it does contain fibre and vegetables! I love chips and salsa, and again it is one of my favourite snacks. You can add a black bean dip and guacamole to this snack to make to more complete, if you like!
My favourite corn chips are Neal Brothers and Que Pasa Chips. As for salsa, I love a fresh salsa from Mad Mexican ( a Toronto company) or the Neals Yard salsa.
I hope you like these ideas for healthy snacks!
Are you interested in a personalized meal plan instead? Click here!
Today’s post is all about iron! I am personally trying to get my iron levels up a bit, and so I thought it would the perfect time to speak about this important mineral.
Today I am going to go over the importance of adequate iron intake, signs/symptoms of deficiency, the recommended daily intake of iron based on age/sex and then I will discuss ways to ensure adequate intake of iron through diet and supplementation.
ALL ABOUT IRON
Iron is a mineral, and it’s main role is to move oxygen into cells. Iron is a main element of hemoglobin, which is a protein found in red blood cells that specifically carries oxygen from lungs into different parts of the body.
Iron deficiency leads to an inadequate production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells in the body. You may have heard the term ‘anemia’ when you hear about iron deficiency, which is a result of iron deficiency. Anemia is a condition marked by a deficiency of hemoglobin in the blood.
Typical signs of iron deficiency and anemia include feeling fatigued/low energy, pale skin, brittle nails and hair and cold extremities.
Those who are most at risk for developing iron deficiency include menstruating women, vegetarians or those with digestive concerns like IBS or IBD.
If you feel you may be deficient in iron, it is best to speak to your family doctor to get tested. When you get tested for iron, they look at something called serum ferritin and hemoglobin. Ferritin is a protein that stores iron and releases it when you need- if you are low in ferritin it is an indicator of low iron levels. Hemoglobin tests measure the amount of hemoglobin in your blood, which can indicate anemia if ferritin levels are also low.
How Much Iron Do You Need?
Based on your sex and age, these are the following recommendations for iron intake per day. These numbers are all to indicate mg/day.
Children, 1-3; 7
Children, 4-8; 10
Children, 9-13; 8
Teens, 14-18; m= 11, f = 15
Adults, 19-50; m = 8, f = 18
Adults, 51+ ; 8
Pregnant women (19+); 27
Breastfeed women (19+); 9
Food Sources of Iron
There are animal and plant based sources of iron. Animal sources contain heme iron, which is a bit easier to digest compared to vegetarian or non-heme forms of iron.
Meat i.e. beef, pork ~3-7 mg/serving
Seafood i.e. muscles, oysters ~ 20 mg/serving
Eggs ~ 2 ,g/serving
Tofu ~ 4mg/serving
Beans/legumes i.e. chickpeas, black beans ~ 7 mg/serving
Green veggies i.e. kale, spinach ~ 4 mg/serving
Seeds i.e. pumpkin seeds ~ 4 mg/serving
If you iron deficient and feel you are not getting enough iron through your diet, you can talk to you health care practitioner about potential supplementation. Do not start a supplementation without speaking to your healthcare provider first!
I am personally a bit low in iron and along with focusing on high-iron foods, I decided to continue with an iron supplement (I typically take one on and off). I am currently trying the MegaFood Blood Builder Formula. MegaFood is a whole food supplement company, which means they use real foods ingredients (i.e. vitamin C comes from oranges). I like that this company works closely with the farmers to ensure a high quality product. I have tried MegaFood supplements before, and really liked them.
The Blood Builder formula is an iron supplement, that contains 26 mg of elemental iron. It contains Vitamin C ( which helps with absorption of iron), along with folate and B12. Iron supplementation is known for having gastrointestinal side effects such as constipation and nausea, but this supplement has great feedback that it does not contribute to gastrointestinal side effects. I also like that there was a clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine that used this specific supplement in a controlled environment to study improvements on iron levels, along with side effects. Iron levels significantly increased, with little to no side effects noted, which is pretty cool!
I encourage you to find a supplement that works for you, as this is often quite individualized. I have tried a bunch of different iron supplements, and I am looking forward to seeing how this supplement works, and if taking it helps to increase my iron levels. I will keep you posted!
Now, I would love to hear from you! Have you tried to increase iron levels before? What worked for you and what didn’t?