How to Redefine and Enhance your Connection with Food

Your connection to food is something you will carry with you through the rest of your life. The foods we choose to eat and how they make us feel have such an impact on our lives. Improving our connection to food is something we can all commit to and strive for.  It is always evolving as we encounter new situations and gain new knowledge and understanding of ourselves and our world.

Although we live at a time like no other in our food history, when there has never been such an array of food products available and food transportation around the globe has never been so limitless, there simultaneously exists such a disconnection between ourselves and the foods we eat. A disconnection that is detrimental to our health and natural state of being. How do we rebuild our food connectivity?

Food_and_Connection_Picture 4

First, there is the question of how do we become disconnected with food? So many factors shape our lives and our identities. One would think in this age of incredible interconnectivity across the globe we would be more connected. However, when you consider the vast amounts of boxed, packaged, prepared and “ready in 90 second” meal options out there it is easy to lose sight of and connection to what exactly “real food” is. A lack of connection is noticeable if you learn how to look for and observe it.

Our assumptions about food are another factor that contribute to this disconnect. Assumption are our taken for granted beliefs that something is real, when it may not be. Assumptions influence our actions and behaviours–sometimes without us even realizing it. How about “Eating healthy takes too much time” or “Eating healthy costs too much”. Our assumptions can hold us back and impede living authentically and finding the solutions we need to live our best lives.

Food_and_Connection_Picture 2

Here are some ideas on how to find a new perspective and create a new level of connection with food.

  • The most important thing you can do is gain awareness. Realize what you are eating and why you are eating. What foods do you purchase and where do you shop? You will gain tremendous insight from taking a moment to reflect, pause and examine the interwoven connections of where food comes from and how it got to your table.

 

  • Following this is being honest. And this is the hard one. Be honest with how you feel towards the food you eat and how the foods you eat affect you. If something is not serving you can you be honest enough to acknowledge that and let it go.

 

  • Eat Real by enjoying food in its purest form – as nature intended and gifted it to us. Real food is a natural source of energy and nutrients which is more sustainable and empowering than processed alternatives. Change takes time so start gradually by making more and more wholesome, natural food choices when you can. It might not always be possible, and we need some flexibility in our lives, but it will amaze you at the shifts you see in your eating habits and how you feel.

 

  • Try something new! It’s exciting and refreshing to try a new food or a new recipe. When you are interested and excited about what you are about to eat you naturally will feel more connected to it.

 

  • Visit a local farmers’ market or find sources for local food options. Eating locally and meeting the people who grow your food builds bridges and connections.

 

  • Eat mindfully and be grateful to maximize your satisfaction and satiation with your food. The simplest act of respecting and being grateful for the food you have to eat compounds your connection with food. How can you show more gratitude and appreciation for the foods you eat? The practice of saying grace is eternal, it only takes a few words at the beginning of your meal to cultivate the feeling of compassion for yourself and the food you are about to eat.

 

  • Notice and build awareness of assumptions and the ways these influence actions and behaviours and, if necessary, change them. Doing so can help you become more in aligned with what is real and authentic. You will gain tremendous insight from examining the interwoven connections of where food comes from and how it got to your table. We often form assumptions. What assumptions do you make about food?

Food_and_Connection_Picture 3

Especially around holidays, we have the time to connect with one another and be grateful for and celebrate the food that we have. But in reality fueling your connection to food is something that will take more practice and persistence. At the end of the day deep down we all want to eat and feel good and building a healthy connection with food supports this. What are some ways you will nourish and improve your food connection?

Food_and_Connection

Getting Back on Track with your Nutrition or Life

It happens to all of us at one point or another in our lives. We lose focus, get “off track” and suddenly are feeling lost, limited and inauthentic to who we are or who we know ourselves to be.

I am just back from two glorious weeks on vacation in Greece, but I am noticing how I have slipped in some respects from where I was in my health and nutrition habits and now it is time to get back to reality and back on track. I’m ready to get back on track with blogging so that’s why I posted this now.

Now you may not be ready to get back on track, summer is only just getting started, and some might say this is a topic more suited to fall. However, summer has a way of slipping by all too soon and with fall we all will feel the rush of going back to school and back to routine. So why not look for ways now to start the process or even just reflect on what it would look like for you? Just remember, there’s no “right time” for anything and if we are always waiting for the perfect time or perfect conditions to “get back on track” then we may never do so.

Wherever you are in the journey to aligning with your ultimate self in your nutrition and life, here are some reflections on how to get back on track and suggestions to empower you with realigning your fitness and nutritional habits.

Stop blaming yourself. It’s nobody’s fault. Things happen in life, sometimes they are in our control and sometimes (more often) they are not. Everything happens for a reason and it’s up to us to notice what happens and then decide upon the best course of action that takes us from where we are and move us toward where we want to go. Forgive yourself and move on. Forgiveness sets you free.

Be honest with yourself. It is one of the hardest things any of us will have to do but to get back on track you must be honest with where you are at and get clear on where it is you want to be. Also, realize that things are not necessarily as negative as they seem. Look for the good things too! At first you will probably be able to make a list of a multitude of unhealthy eating habits or practices but try to look beyond that and create a separate list and space to consider and recognize all the good practices you are doing regularly and think about how those practices make you feel.

Acknowledge the uncomfortable and unfamiliar feelings that change brings and then move forward. As human beings, our instinct is to stay in our comfort zone. But when it feels unfamiliar be forward thinking and remember why you have started on your journey to change and why it matters. Everyone must go through this and experiences the same feelings when entering foreign territory and unfamiliar ground.

Think of the long term and trust in yourself. Change is not always easy. Results take time. The most important thing is to believe in yourself and believe in what you are doing and what you are working towards is worth it. Writing a long-term vision or goals and looking at them every day is a motivational reminder to help you get back on track and keep you on track.

Be patient. When we think about where we were or where we want to be, we may get impatient and want to be there right now. Often improving our habits and well-being will take a lot longer than we would like or even plan for. Real and lasting changes take time and consistency. The work you do day by day is worth it. Just keep reminding yourself that. What would that look like and how would you feel?

Get over the overwhelm. When considering a big change, it can intimidate and even frighten us a little. This is probably the biggest thing that keeps people from changing their nutrition and lifestyle, no matter how important and worthwhile the change will be. When working on getting back on track, it’s important to have a goal, but also be realistic in what you are trying to achieve and where you are trying to get to? If it is a big goal, try breaking it down into more manageable sub-goals. That can make it more manageable and build your confidence. So maybe rather than a complete overhaul of your diet, try making one change this week and focus on that. For instance, adding new healthy foods to your dinner every day. Once you’ve accomplished that, move on to the next thing and so on.

How will you know you have arrived? For me, I think of it as a state of flow, like life is moving forward and I’m making progress while living each day at an optimal state of well-being. So, what does “getting back on track” mean to you?

 

Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake

Still looking for the perfect holiday desert? Look no further! Cheesecake is one of the world’s most popular deserts! It’s a hallmark to any desert table. From simple beginnings the evolution of a basic cheesecake has morphed into the creation of multitudes of variations in flavour combinations. Cheesecake is thought to have originated in Ancient Greece. And almost as soon as the recipe was born so too began the quest for the perfect cheesecake – a universal endeavor the spans countries, continents and centuries. The Romans are said to have brought cheesecake to the rest of Europe. From there is spread to the Americas.

Regrettably, this delicious dessert is a lost hope for many, owing to various food allergies ad intolerances. That’s why I created this recipe. This ‘cheesecake’  can be made gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo-friendly as well as vegan so it is more inclusive than most other cheesecakes could ever be. There’s more to it than that. With the tweaks I’ve made not only does this cheesecake taste rich, delicious and creamy but it is also high in protein, contains healthier fats and is more nutrient dense than the standard cheesecake.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some ingredients to highlight that make this an empowering eat are:

Pumpkin is a vegetable very high in cholesterol-lowering fibre and rich in Vitamin A which is important for maintaining normal vision and keeping the immune system at its best. Pumpkin adds texture to this cheesecake – without extra fat and calories.

Almonds, pecans and walnuts are all nuts which give the graininess to the crust. Nuts are a source of healthy polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fatty acids which are good for your heart and may help reduce the risk of developing heart disease. They also are a vegan source of protein and source of fibre.

Flax seeds add texture and a heap of nutrients to the crust. Flax is a source of omega-3 fatty acids, important for heart health, and fibre which helps achieve healthy cholesterol levels.

Cashews are the major ingredient in the filling, providing creaminess and texture. Cashews, like other nuts, are a source of vegan protein as well as fibre. In addition, cashews are rich in Vitamin E, magnesium and zinc.

Coconut milk is a dairy-free milk which gives creaminess to the cheesecake but keeps it vegan friendly.

Maple syrup is a natural sweetener used to give flavour to the filling. It is a source of antioxidants, which are important for helping the body cope with free-radical damage and may help reduce your risk for disease such as cancer and heart disease. Maple syrup also contains important minerals like zinc and manganese which keep you healthy by boosting your immune system.

 

There are several ways you can make this cheesecake. You can use a spring form pan for a traditional cheesecake.

You can also use a square 9-inch baking dish and cut up the cheesecake into squares and make cheesecake bars.

If dairy is not an option you could use a plain Greek yogurt instead of the non-dairy alternative.

If you want to be decadent, try drizzling with a spoonful of maple syrup then sprinkling with walnuts. You can also us a dollop of yogurt on top to replicate whipped cream.

Adding a sprinkling of cinnamon over-top is a really great addition too!

Sunbutter cookies

How to Eat Healthy and Still Be Happy Over the Holidays

The holidays are here! How does that make you feel? Excited? Anxious? Overwhelmed? The holidays full of stresses in one shape of another for all of us. Especially when it comes to holiday eating and festivities. The anticipated holiday weight-gain from eating too much or eating the wrong foods is probably one of the biggest stresses there is.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. With just a few shifts in attitude you can make a whole lot of difference to how you feel coming out of this holiday season. These how-to’s, habits and hacks are here to help make your holidays healthier, less stressful and a whole lot happier so you can start the New Year feeling empowered and ready for action!

christmas-dinner-1926937_1920

Listen to your body. Stop eating when you are no longer hungry vs. when you are full. If you have choices make switches and substitute healthier options. Try and fill your plate with as many vegetables as you can and look for preparation methods such as baking, steaming, and braising. Meats that are baked and grilled are better than fried. Avoid heavy cream based sauces which add extra fat and unwanted calories.

It’s important to have a healthy breakfast every day and eat regularly throughout the day to curb hunger and keep your blood sugar stable so you can function optimally. This will keep your energy level steady throughout the day, making you feel better and decrease the likelihood that you will overeat at any specific meal. Have snacks that have a good source of protein to promote satiety levels.

Out of sight and out of mind is what they say. And it’s a good way to control temptation and practice moderation to put extra holiday treats out of sight in a cupboard or pantry. This way you will have to go to more effort to get to them and it will give you more time to consider if you really are hungry and really want to have that treat or not.

christmas-791142_1920

Remember to stay hydrated! This means drinking water throughout the day as well as when you are at social functions. If at a party try alternating alcoholic drinks with water. Alcohol is a diuretic so can lead to a dehydrated state. This is also a great strategy to keep you from drinking excess calories. Dehydration can lead to overeating because we are looking to fulfill a physiological need, but go about it the wrong way. Also, staying hydrated reduces bloating which is another effect that often comes on from holiday eating – which is a contributing factor to perceived holiday weight-gain.

Stay active! Just 30 minutes a day is all you need. Physical activity helps decrease stress and increases your metabolism so you are burning more calories throughout the day. Make physical activities a part of your celebrations and time together. There are many great winter out-door activities like going for a walk, tobogganing, skiing and snowball fights! This takes some focus off the food and gives you a chance to enjoy time with family and friends.

celebration-315079_1280

You can best buffets with a few simple strategies. Choose a seat on the other side of the room from the food table and sit with your back to the food. The more food we see the more likely we are to eat. Use a smaller plate so you will have less room to fill . Be a picky eater – you don’t have to eat everything that is offered. Pick and choose those few things that you think you will really enjoy.

If you are going to a party or potluck bring your own food – this gives you some control about what options you have to eat and you can make sure you have something that you will enjoy eating.

When eating at a restaurant look for menu items that are prepared using healthy cooking methods – i.e. baking, braising, steaming – and minimal sauces. You can always take half of your entrée home as leftovers. Ask if you can get a take-out container brought to the table with your meal so that you can package up your meal as soon as you have eaten enough.

At parties it’s easy to munch away on little appetizers and hors d’ouevres, not realizing how much you have eaten. Limit mindless eating by holding a drink in your dominant hand so that you are less likely to unconsciously pick up food (it takes more concentration and effort to use your non-dominant hand). Get into a good and engaging conversation. When you are talking you can’t be eating and a good conversation will make the time go by much more quickly with less time to eat.

christmas-table-3011503_1920

Remember healthy eating is not about total denial. That is no fun and definitely not empowering! Food is an important part of our existence and something that has been intrinsic to celebration and festivities since the beginning of time. It’s part of our culture and who we are. You can still eat things you enjoy. If you have a favourite holiday meal or treat, go for it! But maybe you could have a smaller portion size or try and make the same recipe but with healthier ingredients and less fat and sugar? Or why not change up your traditions? Look for ways to make your family favourite recipes using healthier cooking methods or try incorporating some new healthy recipes.

Happy Holidays!

 

Peas Pack a Powerful Nutritional Punch!

Small and delicate but not to be underestimated, peas are a signature food for springtime. Don’t be deceived by their small size. Peas offer a powerful nutrition punch!

In Ancient Egypt peas were stored in the tombs of pharaohs and mummies because the Egyptians thought them valuable for sustain them on their journey through the afterlife.

There are a few different varieties of fresh peas. These include green peas, snow peas and sugar snap peas

peas-16803_1920

Peas are low in fat and high in fibre. They offer a good amount of protein and some valuable nutrients including Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K. Vitamin K is particularly important although often found in green leafy vegetables it is involved in wound healing and maintaining blood vessels as well as contributing to bone health by assisting with bone formation thus strengthening bones which may help prevent fractures and the risks associated with osteoporosis. Different varieties have slightly different nutritional compositions. Green peas provide more riboflavin, niacin and zinc than snow peas but snow peas offer more Vitamin C, Vitamin E, folate, lutein and zinc.

textures-1938301_1920

Fresh peas are available from June to July. Always refrigerate your fresh peas to preserve their freshness. Wash peas well. You may have to shell your peas before using if eating green peas. Snow peas and Sugar snap peas do not need to be shelled but you should remove their tips at both ends before you eat them.

Meal Ideas for Fresh Peas

There are so many ways you can use peas to power-up your diet and make your meals more interesting! They are easy to add into many different recipes like soups, salads, pasta sauces or served on their own as a side dish. You don’t need much – one serving of peas is only 1/2 cup (125 mL).

  • Fresh sugar snap peas or snow peas make great healthy portable snack foods. Serve with hummus for extra flavour.
  • Make snow peas part of the vegetable mix for a stir-fry.
  • Steam fresh peas for 1-2 minutes. They make a simple but satisfying side to meats and fish. Be careful not to overcook your peas or else you will have mushy peas.

 

Note: Fresh is best where peas are concerned. Frozen peas are better than canned peas though because the retain more of their flavour and nutrients than canned peas. You can substitute frozen peas for fresh.

peas-390679_1920

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Strawberries and rhubarb are one of my favourite combinations! The sweetness of the berries and the tartness of the rhubarb are the perfect match.

Strawberry rhubarb crisp is a timeless recipe. I look forward to making it every Spring when these two foods come into season. It’s a versatile recipe. You can serve it on its own – hot or cold. You can have it as a snack or serve as desert. It also makes a great snack any time of day – easy and quick to eat.

I took my own twist on recreating this classic recipe to empower-it-up, so to speak. Not only does this version taste amazing, it also has some extra nutritional nuggets to make you feel amazing for having some.

You can read up on all the cool things about strawberries and rhubarb in two previous posts.

Oats are a good source of dietary fibre which may improve blood cholesterol and help control blood sugar levels. Oats are also a whole grain and source of B Vitamins and Vitamin E.

Almonds provide extra protein and fibre as well as Vitamin E and heart healthy monounsaturated fatty acids fatty acids.

Hemps seeds are my super special addition. These tiny little seeds are nutrition powerhouses, offering extra protein boost as well as a good dose of Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Not to mention a delightful sweet nutty flavour.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp (1)

Note: you can certainly use another type of flour for this. I chose coconut because I like that it adds a little extra sweetness and nuttiness. You could also substitute butter for the coconut oil in the recipe or a different sweetener for coconut sugar.

Meet the Superheroes in Your Diet

Super heroes are an important part of our culture. We all love our super-heroes. And for our bodies their superheroes are called antioxidants. The main function of antioxidants is to protect our cells from oxidative damage. Antioxidants may also improve immune function and help prevent chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Oxidation is a natural process of life, it’s one of the contributors to aging. It is a reaction that occurs for various reasons, and results in the production of free-radicals.

The free radicals produced by oxidation are like the villains, they damage the cells of our bodies because they are what we call “unstable” meaning they are missing an important part of themselves – an electron (special sub atomic particle) from their outermost electron orbital. As a result, they are always looking to steal an electron from any innocent cell to complete their orbitol.

It follows that free radicals will produce more free radicals which will do more damage to our bodies. So it’s important we find ways to defend ourselves and stop the destruction before it goes too far. There are many reasons the free radicals get produced in the body, some of them you can avoid like smoking, others not so much like air pollution, sun exposure. EVEN exercise produces free radicals.

Your mission is to counteract the destruction caused by free radical production and save our cells by choosing foods which provide antioxidants to support our systems.

Super hero veggies

But where do we find antioxidants? Fruits and vegetables are the number one go to source for antioxidants. Eating the right number of servings of fruits and vegetables everyday is the best way to get your antioxidants. Other sources include: whole grains, nut and seeds, coffee, tea and even chocolate.

Here are some examples of nutrients that may function as antioxidants and where you can find them:

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is considered one of the, if not the greatest antioxidant.This is the primary function of the vitamin. Nuts and seeds (especially sunflower seeds!), vegetable oils and avocado are very high in vitamin E.

Vitamin C

Most fruits and vegetables, but especially citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit, will give you Vitamin C. Where Vitamin C is concerned, fresher is better, and you don’t want to overcook your veggies because excessive heat and oxygen destroys Vitamin C.

grapefruit-1485881_1920

Vitamin A

Vitamin A has many functions and one may be to act as an antioxidant. Vitamin A is particularly important in keeping eyes and skin healthy. Find Vitamin A in meat, specifically liver, as well as dairy products and fish.

Selenium

Selenium is a mineral that functions as an antioxidant. Brazil nuts are very high in selenium. Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans and grains products also provide selenium.

brazil-nut-638972_1920

Carotenoids

Carotenoids are a group of compounds that act as antioxidants. They include beta-carotene, lycopene (found in tomoatoes), lutein, and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids are pigments which give colour to many fruits and vegetables dark green, orange, yellow and red. Beta-carotene is a carotenoid may have additional benefits because it is converted to Vitamin A, another antioxidant, in the body.

Flavonoids

Flavonoids are another group of compounds, many of which have been shown to have antioxidant properties. Flavonoids are found mainly in berries (especially dark coloured ones like blueberries), onions, apples as well as cocoa (think chocolate!) tea (particularly green tea) and wine.

Antioxidant Supplements

There are many supplemental forms of all of these nutrients available. However, as long as you follow an adequate, balanced and nutritious diet and have all the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, in every colour, you should have no trouble meeting your body’s antioxidant needs and therefore not require supplementation. More research is needed into the validity of antioxidant supplementation. You can have too much of a good thing and some antioxidants, like the fat soluble vitamins A & E can be toxic if you exceed the recommended amount.

kapow-1601675_1920

Why are Strawberries Red?

Petite, plump and juicy … that’s the making of a perfect strawberry. Strawberries are one of the most popular fruits in North America, with over 70 varieties being grown. There is nothing quite like local fresh strawberries in season. Strawberries are available from June to July, on the edge between spring and summer. Looking for a fun activity and an excuse to enjoy some beautiful weather? Go strawberry picking!

Rich in nutritional benefits, strawberries offer a good amount of dietary fibre and potassium. What’s more, they actually offer more Vitamin C than any other berry! They are low in calories and make one of the best snack foods not only because of their nutritional value but also because how easy they are to transport and consume.

strawberries-829271_1920

Generally, the first thing that draws us to pick one strawberry over another is its deep red ruby colour. Strawberries should also be firm, plump and well-shaped with fresh—looking green leafy caps. Give the strawberries a “sniff-test” to see if they have a nice sweet smell to them, that’s another factor to determine which strawberries to buy. Size is not a key determining factor when choosing strawberries. Always check your strawberries carefully before buying them. Examine the package from all angles, not just picking one up and taking it because the berries on top look good; you want to see if you can that none of the fruit hiding below the surface or at the bottom has gone bad. If you get home and find there are some mashed or bad berries discard them immediately.

Store your strawberries intact (with caps on), unwashed, in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat them. Rinse gently, drain, and remove the stems before you use them.

You can make use of your strawberries in so many simple and different ways: enjoy them as they are, cook with them, bake with them, make jam with them, add them to muffins, make yogurt parfaits and smoothies. They make a great addition to a spring-themed salad, to say nothing of all the strawberry deserts that are out there! One of my favourite uses has to be chocolate covered strawberries. The possibilities are endless!

yogurt-1442034_1920

So what does make a strawberry red? Strawberries contain a molecule called anthocyanidin which is the anthocyanin precursor. Anthocyanins are an important kind of antioxidant, and they are also responsible for giving red fruits their colour. Anthocyanidin however is colourless. When the anthocyadin reacts with a sugar molecule to become anthocyanin, the antioxidant, it becomes red. This explains why unripe strawberries are unsweet and colourless and the riper the strawberries the redder in colour it will be. The ripening process is key to the colour change. We infer that to find the best berries look for the deepest, darkest red berry to get optimum taste and nutrition.

Enjoy strawberry season!

strawberry-629180_1920