Consious Eating: Should I or shouldn't I?

The foods you eat affect all aspects of your life. If you listen to your body, it will give signals as to the best nutritional choices for you. Notice how certain foods affect you.

Do certain foods affect the quality of your sleep?

Are you waking up in the middle of the night?

Are you having trouble falling asleep?

Do your food choices affect how you feel first thing in the morning?

Do you wake up feeling rested?

Are your joints stiff?

Do you have a stuffy nose?

How do you feel the rest of the day? Physically, Mentally, Emotionally and Spiritually

How do you feel before, during and after a meal? Energy level before and after eating, level of hunger, stress level, bloating, gas, fatigue?

How are your bowel movements: Frequency, quality, ease of elimination?

Practicing conscious eating is one of the very first things I teach my clients and the biggest challenge most of them face. I do this by asking them to keep a Food and Mood Journal. In your Food and Mood Journal use the questions above and track what foods you are eating, when you are eating them and where you are eating them (in your car, at the table, over the sink). Before you eat that double cheeseburger, again, you can look back a few days before when you ate the same thing and see how you felt before, during and after the meal. You may be surprised to see similarities of how you felt before eating it. Chances are if you experienced indigestion, fatigue, emotional instability, constipation after eating the burger you will probably experience the same symptoms again.

Take the time to bring awareness to your food choices and notice how they are affecting you as a whole. You may be surprised to find out some of the foods, which are considered healthy, may not be for you. In addition, you may notice you are eating too many of the foods or shall I say, non-foods, that are satisfying while you are eating them but in the end give you that yuck feeling. Your conscious eating will bring insight on your choices, which than will bring you a sense of clarity, well-being and a balance of the body, mind, and spirit.

The information presented here is not intended to replace professional medical care when needed. Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner for disease diagnosis, therapy choice, medicine selection and dosage. 

5 Guilt-Free Halloween Treats

Halloween is just a few days away. The bowls of candies and chocolates have already made their way to staff lunchrooms, board rooms and desks. You’ve been working hard in the gym and you deserve a treat gosh darnit!

Here are my 5 favourite guilt-free Halloween (or anytime) treats to enjoy, without feeling bad, all coming in under 150 calories.

5) 150 calories – 16 Sour Patch Kids. Also my favourite movie snack, you’ll gobble up 16 fairly quickly as they are quite small and the sourness is highly addictive. Have a glass of H2O along with this to avoid going over board.

4) 84 calories – 2 Dove Dark Chocolate Promises. You get the benefit of dark chocolate’s antioxidants all while satisfying that sweet-tooth.

3) 100 calories – My favourite chocolate, two and a half mini Reese’s cups (hate to admit I have eaten an entire tray of the big-size one too many times) or two mini bite-size Snicker’s bars.

2) 50 calories – Pucker-up for two Hershey’s kisses (plain or almond) or get your tootsie roll on with two mini Tootsie rolls.

1) 125 calories – Trick-or-Trail Mix. A DIY treat that you can put together on your own. I make enough for the entire month (you can prepare weekly if you prefer) that way I always have a healthy treat in my desk, purse, gym-bag and even in my son’s diaper bag.

Recipe: Mix 10 raw almonds, 1 tbsp raw sunflower seeds, 1 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds, 1 tsp cacao nibs, 1 tbsp goji berries and 1 tsp unsweetened shredded coconut. Bundle them up into individual snack-pack bags. Delicious, nutritious and guilt-free anytime of year!

The information presented here is not intended to replace professional medical care when needed. Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner for disease diagnosis, therapy choice, medicine selection and dosage. 

VIDEO: Tips on Healthy Snacks

Trail mix
Look for a healthy mix that includes nuts, seeds and dried fruits; avoid varieties with high-sugar ingredients such as milk chocolate chips and bad fats such as vegetable oil. The dried fruit will provide you with healthy sugars for a quick energy boost, while the seeds and nuts will prevent your insulin level from dropping, giving you a long sustained energy level. For a healthier sweet alternative include dried fruit, shredded coconut and cacao nibs. Be sure to include almonds as well. The monounsaturated fats found in almonds provide energy-boosting essential fatty acids such as omega-3s and omega-6s.

Recipe in video: 2 tbsp Raw almonds, 1 tbsp Raw pumpkin seeds, 1 tbsp Raw sunflowers seeds, 1 tbsp Goji Berries, 1 tbsp Cacao nibs and 1 tbsp Unsweetened Shredded Coconut.

The magnesium in yogurt activates enzymes that are involved in the metabolism of protein and carbohydrates giving you an energy kick. This explosive source of energy is best used before physical activity (example: cardio or weight lifting). Choose plain yogurt over the fruit bottom/stirred kind as these tend to be packed with sugar. Missing the fruit? Add your own! I like: 1 cup Plain Greek Yogurt, ½ cup fresh raspberries, my trail mix (see above recipe) and a drizzle of agave nectar. Yum!
Energy bars
There are many types of energy bars out there. Some contain mostly protein, whereas others are composed largely of carbohydrates. For a quick boost in energy choose a bar that leans more toward carbohydrates, such as Kashi granola bars, Larabar and Vega Energy and Vibrancy Bar. Bars are an easy on-the-go snack packed with a balance of essential nutrients.

Hummus is a great source of carbohydrates, protein, fiber, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, calcium, and copper. It will provide you with a great energy boost all while being low in fat and calories. Pair it with your favourite raw veggie combo and/or whole grain cracker or pita. 

The information presented here is not intended to replace professional medical care when needed. Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner for disease diagnosis, therapy choice, medicine selection and dosage. 

My Favourite Stress Busting Snacks

Blueberries are extremely high in vitamin C and high in fiber. Vitamin C is important to helping our body reduce tension, while fiber helps to regulate our blood sugar levels. Drastic changes in our blood sugar can cause us to have mood swings, which may contribute to anxiety.  I add a handful of blueberries to my Morning Glory Oatmeal every morning and have oatmeal as a snack especially before a workout. Have you tried my oatmeal recipe yet?

Green Salad containing Spinach, kale, broccoli, kale and other dark green vegetables are great stress reducing foods. They are packed with vitamins that nourish our bodies. They are also high in potassium, which is especially good for calming our nerves. Like blueberries, these are also high in fiber, which not only controls blood sugar but aids in digestion.  I have a salad a day. Whether it be part of my lunch or dinner or just a snack. Try my Pralines Salad you'll be happy you did. 

Oranges contain high amounts of Vitamin C which helps to reduce tension and stabilize blood pressure, but also helps to boost our immune system, which can suffer under stressful situations. Go for the whole orange as opposed to orange juice. A whole fruit will provide you with the dietary fiber you need to give you sustained energy levels. Fruit juice on the other hand will spike in blood sugar giving you a quick boost of energy followed by a crash. 

Sweet potatoes Chips satisfy those of us who crave carbohydrates, while also satisfying one's sweet tooth. They are rich with beta-carotene and other vitamins, and again, the fiber helps your body process the sugar and carbs more slowly. You can easily make your own or buy ready-made ones. 
I like Terra They also make a killer beet chip as well!

Can of Tuna Fish is high in omega-3 essential fatty acids protect against heart disease, keep the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline from peaking. Go for tuna packed in olive oil for extra omega-3. 
My favourite Clover Leaf Solid Light Tuna - Yellowfin in Olive Oil because is contains 19 grams of protein in one can.

Turkey Slices contains an amino acid called L-Tryptophan, which releases serotonin - a feel-good chemical - into our systems. L-Tryptophan has been proven to provide a calming and relaxing effect. Try to avoid cold cuts which contain nitrite/nitrates and sulfates. You can read more about the effects of Food Additives here: Food Additives to Avoid I have bought the natural cold-cuts in specialty shops up until Maple Leaf released their Natural Selections. It tastes just as good, contains no preservatives and is cheaper by 50% on most brands.  

Apricots are rich in magnesium, Vitamin C and fiber. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant, which can help reduce tension in our muscles. Include some in your post-workout to lessen muscle soreness. This time of year you won't find apricots in your supermarket. Go for dried unsulphured apricots. The unsulphured kind are brown whereas the sulphured are bright orange.

Almonds, Pistachios and Walnuts are great stress reducing foods. Almonds, specifically, are loaded with both Vitamins B and E - known to boost your immune system, and walnuts and pistachios help reduce tension and lower blood pressure. 

Avocados provide a healthful dose of monounsaturated fat and potassium, which help reduce tension and lower blood pressure. Believe it or not avocados have more potassium than bananas. My favourite way to enjoy an avocado is making my own guacamole than purchasing store-bought. Recently I was lured in by the Mad Mexican with their unique packaging. The guacamole was fabulous! Completely natural, no additives and fresh. You can find the Mad Mexican  in such retailers as Rowe Farms, Loblaws and specialty shops.   

The information presented here is not intended to replace professional medical care when needed. Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner for disease diagnosis, therapy choice, medicine selection and dosage. 

Breakfast: Why is it SO important?

Morning Glory Oatmeal - see recipe below

It has long been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but is it really true?

I certainly know that when first meeting with my clients they confess they rather sleep-in than grab some grub in the morning.  I certainly have been guilty of neglecting my breakfast on many occasions and believe me when I say I do not function to the best of my ability without it.  In fact, I am a complete space cadet sans my breakie. It has become a habit, like all things, the breakfast ritual. I mean if I am feeding it to my son and preaching how important it is to him and my clients than why wouldn't I eat it myself? You simply have to make time for it just like you make time to brush your teeth in the morning. It's of the same importance!

So why is it so important to eat breakfast?

Filler up
Breakfast is breaking the fast because after sleeping for eight hours and being without food during the night, our brain and muscles need energy to function. You've basically been starving your body the entire time you were in dreamland.  Eating breakfast within 1 hour of waking to break the fast will give your body the much needed glucose found in your food to give you energy. Food is your energy like gas is a car's fuel. Without it you will stale (unable to concentrate), break down (mental and physical fatigue) and perhaps end up in scrap yard somewhere not knowing how you got there (confusion). Hey, you never know! With this rush of nutrients and glucose to your brain, you are better able to concentrate, focus, be productive, have a better short-term memory and be in a better mood! Your family, friends and colleagues will appreciate it and so will your body!

Eat more weigh less
Research has shown a connection between skipping breakfast and being overweight?  People who skip breakfast are more prone to being overweight or obese than those who have their breakfasts regularly. I have been a Nutritionist and Fitness Professional for almost a decade. Almost every single person who has walked into my door who is overweight or obese had a habit of regularly skipping breakfast. Fact.  Until they meet me and I convinced them to take their breakfast seriously. Fact. They lost weight. Fact. Felt more energized. Fact. Made better choices throughout the day. Fact. And were in a better mood. Fact.

I challenge you to eat breakfast, within 1 hour of waking up, every morning for 1 week and report back to me. Deal? You can start by trying my very own, Morning Glory Oatmeal. Quick, hearty and wholesome. You'll love it! Fact. 

Morning Glory Oatmeal

What you'll need:

1/2 Quick Oats (the quicker, the better.  I'm a busy mom. I like PC Organics Quick Oats )
1 cup Water
1 cup Soy Milk (I like PC Organics Original Fortified Soy beverage)
1 tbsp Ground Flax Seed
1 tbsp White Chia Seeds
1/3 cup combination raw almond slivers, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and dates (or try a prepackaged combo such as: JK Gourmet Hazelnut and Date Granola or ShaSha Co. Buckwheat Snack)
1 tbsp Pure Canadian Maple Syrup (I like PC Organics 100% Pure Maple Syrup)
1/3 cup Fresh Berries
Cinnamon to taste

What to do:

1) In a small saucepan bring 1 cup of water to a boil.
2) Add quick oats and let simmer while stirring until water is absorbed.
3) Add soy milk and stir until preferred consistency.
4) Stir in flax seed, maple syrup and cinnamon.
5) Remove from heat and pour in bowl.
6) Top oatmeal with raw nuts, seeds and date combo, chia seeds and berries.
7) Serve and enjoy!

Cook time approx. 5mins

The information presented here is not intended to replace professional medical care when needed. Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner for disease diagnosis, therapy choice, medicine selection and dosage. 

The photograph in this blog post belongs to Melissa Macchione. Unauthorized use is prohibited. 

Recipe: Cranberry-Apple Kiki Sauce

What you'll need:
2 small packages (approx 4 cups) fresh cranberries

4 small tart apples (Cortland, Mutsu, Granny smith, Honey Crisp), peeled, cored and diced.

1 bottle Kiki Maple Sweet Water - Lemon Ginger 

What to do:

 Bring the cranberries, apples and Kiki Maple Sweet Water to a bowl. Reduce heat and simmer until desired thickness.

 Give it a taste. If it is too tart for your liking add 1/2 cup organic cane sugar while still on stove. Stir and serve.

The information presented here is not intended to replace professional medical care when needed. Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner for disease diagnosis, therapy choice, medicine selection and dosage.

Recipe: Butternut Squash and Apple Soup (with a bite!)

I made this today, Canadian Thanksgiving, for my family. I've made a similar recipe last Thanksgiving but this year I added apples and made a few tweaks in the recipe. By far this is the best batch I have made to date. We enjoyed the soup for a light lunch with olive foccacia which I picked up from the farmer's market. 

What you'll need:

2 medium butternut squash, each cut lengthwise in half, seeds removed
3 medium sized tart apples (Honey Crisp, Cortland, Granny Smith)
2 medium stalks celery, chopped
1 medium cooking onion, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder or dried chili flakes
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
4 cups of chicken or veggie stock
2 cups water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Toasted pumpkin seeds and fresh chives for garnish

What to do:

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line cookie sheet with foil. Place squash halves, cut sides down, in lined pan, and roast about 45 minutes or until very tender when pierced with knife.

During the last 10 minutes of baking place the apples, whole, on baking sheet. Continue baking until the 10 minutes is up. Cool until easy to handle, then, with spoon, scoop squash from skins and place in large bowl. Discard skins. Keep the peel on the apples and simply cut into large slices.

2. Meanwhile, in 5- to 6-quart saucepot, heat oil on medium until hot. Add celery and onion, and cook 10 minutes. Stir in cumin, chipotle chili, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; cook 30 seconds, stirring.

3. Add broth, water, and squash to saucepot; cover and heat to boiling on high. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes. I made this today, Thanksgiving, and was busy making other things so I simmered the soup for an hour. The longer you simmer it the better it tastes!

4. In batches, ladle squash mixture into blender. With center part of blender cover removed to allow steam to escape, blend squash mixture until pureed.

Pour soup into large bowl. Return all soup to saucepot and heat through. Garnish each serving with pumpkin seeds and chives. Makes 10.5 cups (great for freezing).

The information presented here is not intended to replace professional medical care when needed. Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner for disease diagnosis, therapy choice, medicine selection and dosage.