Super Green Smoothie Bowl Recipe

Week 2 of the March smoothie bowl series. Smoothie bowls are simple, satisfying, and delicious nutritional powerhouses! They provide a solution for an easy nutrition boost whether it is starting your day, getting a mid-day energy boost, or powering up with pre-workout snack.

Eating green leafy vegetables is important. It is recommended for good health to eat one dark green leafy vegetable every day1. but it can be challenging to find enjoyable ways to incorporate them into meals, as they are often bitter and need to be cooked or broken down before being consumed. You can easily achieve the recommendation for a dark green vegetable with this smooth, creamy and very tasty smoothie bowl – you will not even notice the greens!

Kale is a dark green leafy vegetable that has risen to popularity as a widely recognized super green. Kale provides fibre, vitamin C, calcium, and vitamin B6 and phytochemicals and antioxidants which may help reduce free radical damage and protect against some forms of cancer.

Avocado is a nutrient dense super food. Avocados are usual in that they are one of few fruits and vegetables that contain fat. However, the fat found in avocados is the good kind of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Bananas provide a significant amount of potassium, which is important for maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance – something that is especially important if you are physically active. Potassium is also important for regulating blood pressure. Bananas also provide vitamin B6 and soluble fibre which helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels in the body by lowering the “bad” LDL cholesterol.

Add sliced banana and shredded coconut for a garnish.

If you would rather make this smoothie “bowl” into a regular smoothie, just increase the volume of liquid by doubling the milk.

Be sure to check out last week’s Berry Bliss Smoothie Bowl recipe and stay tuned for next week’s smoothie bowl recipe!

Berry Bliss Smoothie Bowl Recipe

Smoothie bowls are easy to make and when using real, wholesome ingredients, super nutritious and delicious! If you are short on time but looking for options to eat well and nourish your mind and body, I highly recommend giving them a try! This is the first in a smoothie bowl series I have created and am excited to share!

This Berry Bliss Bowl will help you start your morning in a state of serenity! No matter what the day has in store for you – a healthy and nutritious breakfast will set you up strong and put you in the right frame of mind to have you ready to take on anything and everything!

Some feature ingredients to highlight in this recipe are:

Berries are extremely nutritious. Their dark colour indicates they are rich in antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, which can protect the body from cell damage which may lead to aging and certain diseases.

Flax Seeds are a great source of fibre and omega-3 fatty acids which may help reduce heart disease risk. The fibre in flax is responsible for supporting intestinal health and functioning and may also lower blood-cholesterol. Flax seeds also have lignans which are a phytonutrient which may protect our bodies from certain cancers.

Cinnamon is a spice and beneficial for many reasons, including it’s properties as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

For this recipe I used coconut milk and coconut yogurt. This will make it a vegan option.

Top your smoothie bowl with some extra berries, bananas, cereal or granola if you want a more wholesome meal.

Alternatively, if you want to make this smoothie “bowl” into a regular smoothie, just increase the liquid by doubling the milk.

Stay tuned for next week’s smoothie bowl recipe!

Heart Healthy Chocolate Mousse Recipe

Looking for a sweet treat that is simple to make this valentine’s day – or any day! February is heart health month and nutrition plays an important role keeping our hearts strong and healthy.

The secret ingredient that makes this recipe so rich, creamy and heart-healthy is … avocado! Avocados are an unusual fruit. Unlike other fruits they are high in fat – but this is a good kind of dietary fat! Avocados are a source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids – a healthy fat which helps lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and cholesterol levels which lowers the risk for heart disease. Potassium is another nutrient found in avocados which may prevent or lower blood pressure which reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease. Avocados are also a good source of fibre which is also important for heart health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.

Make It A More Empowering Eat Tip: Serve with sliced fresh strawberries of sprinkle with unsweetened shredded coconut or slivered almonds for a flavourful nutritional boost!

The Basics of Batch Cooking

Even with a great routine in place, who wouldn’t like to save time, money and energy and still eat healthy?

Batch cooking refers to the process of preparing recipes in a large enough quantity to have several portions left-over. These extra portions are saved for future meals. Cooking this way speeds up meal planning and preparation, making it easier to follow healthy eating habits. Some examples of recipes that are good for batch cooking include chili, soups, pasta sauces and casseroles.

Batch cooking is a great way to simplify your meal planning, save time and money by shopping and cooking less and help the environment! Weekends are a great time to cook up a big batch of one of your favourite recipes so you will save so much time during the week.

With the holidays coming, which are all about cooking great meals–often in large quantities – it’s a great time to use these strategies to learn and apply to save your leftovers to reduce food waste.

To make this work, it is important to know how to store your leftover food properly. Before storing leftovers make sure you allow food to cool slightly (do not leave out of the refrigerator for more than two hours) but once cooled you can package and store it. Store leftovers in clean, airtight containers for a 2-3 days after cooking or freeze for up to 2-3 months (i.e. make your own “frozen dinners”–minus the added calories, fat and salt). Defrost leftovers in the refrigerator the night before you want to eat them to make reheating them easier.

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Worried about getting bored? It’s understandable. Everyone is different in their food comfort and preferences. Some of us are fine with eating the same thing over and over again, day after day and that is fine.  It does take a lot of the thinking out of what we will eat. Others may need more variety and shaking things up their meals. With batch cooking you can meet both needs! The secret is to pick a basic recipe that can be easily reinvented into something else. For example, make a basic chili recipe which you can have chili one day, a taco salad the next day, use as a pasta sauce the day after… Eat roasted vegetables on their own. Add the leftovers to cooked quinoa to make a vegetable pilaf or layer them in a salad with a handful of fresh greens. Keep it simple and you will not only save yourself time and energy but can have some great, empowering meal combinations!

Looking for more ideas to save time, energy and make the most of your meals at home? Eating at home has swiftly become the new normal, whether we like it or not, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. There are benefits to this if you take the opportunity to cook from scratch and take more ownership of your meal preparation, but there can also be a feeling of being limited, running out of ideas on what to cook and even becoming bored with your options. Even more of a challenge is not having enough information and skills to be able to make the shift from dependency on eating out to eating at home every day for every meal and not knowing where to start. Whether you are in need of some help with your transition to at home meal preparation or just looking to add variety with fresh ideas and perspectives while not having to worry so much about what you are cooking, a meal delivery service could be a highly viable and supportive option to help you with eating healthy at home. There are many meal delivery service options, which may easily make deciding on the right one and feeling confident in your choice overwhelming. ConsumersAdvocate.org created this comprehensive and in-depth guide on meal delivery services that will facilitate meals for those who simply don’t have the time to cook for their family or for those who are searching for options that will minimize their exposure to Covid-19. 

 

Vegetarian Diets Explained – What Are the Advantages and What You Need to Know to Make It Work for You

The trend for following a plant-based diet has boomed recently. Just look at all the options for plant-based burgers on menus these day. What does this trend mean and why is this significant? No matter the type of vegetarian diet you follow, or even if you are a veterinarian or not, we can all enjoy and benefit from incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables into our diets. Plants are powerful and they provide many known and as yet to be fully discovered and understood benefits for our health. Some of these known benefits include the high fibre content, which is important for digestive health and function. There are many studies on the effects of vegetarian diets and decreased risk for various types of cancer. Part of this is that Fruits and vegetables are natural sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants are important for many reasons in the maintenance of good health and prevention of many chronic diseases. Fruits and vegetables are also lower in calories and fat than other foods. Part of this is because of their high water content which means they will also help with keeping you hydrated which is so important for health, well-being and feeling your best.

Besides health, there are many other reasons individuals choose a vegetarian diet. Some of these include food preferences, religious beliefs and environmental concerns. Plant-based diets are being promoted for how they can support and reduce the effects of climate change, as the energy requirements for growing and supporting animals is much higher than it is for plants, and eating more plants can help us with sustainability measures.

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Something that is not very well or often known is that there are different types of vegetarian diets. When most people say they are vegetarian they are following a “lacto-ovo” vegetarian diet so they do not eat any animal meat, but they still eat dairy products and eggs. A semi-vegetarian or “flexitarian” will eat dairy, eggs and sometimes eat meat, poultry and fish. A “pescatarian” is a vegetarian who eats eggs, dairy and fish but no other meats. And a “vegan” is a vegetarian who does not eat any kind of animal foods (i.e. no eggs, dairy and honey). There are lots of options and approaches to following a vegetarian lifestyle to make it work.

Regardless of the reason or motivation, fruits and vegetables are an essential part of every diet and learning to incorporate a balanced variety of them into your meals will do much to support your overall health, vitality and longevity.

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There are some important considerations if you follow a vegetarian diet include. Otherwise, there is a potential for nutrient deficiencies. With the proper planning, however, these concerns can be addressed.

Protein is often a concern for people following a vegetarian diet, especially those who are physically active and looking to improve strength and stamina. What you need to know about is called protein complimentation. While meat offers the advantage of having all the essential amino acids in one food, it is not  impossible to achieve this with plants. With plant-based foods, which don’t often have all the essential amino acids in the same food, you just  have to make sure you eat a variety of different foods which combined together make a complete protein. For instance, grains have an amino acid that beans and legumes are lacking. A misconception is that the two foods have to be eaten at the same time in the same meal. Provided we eat them within the same day your body will break down the proteins into their amino acids and properly use them in your body. Some plan-based foods already come with all the essential amino acids. These special foods include quinoa and edamame or soy products.

On a vegetarian diet there are more than enough ways to meet your body’s requirements for protein. Ensuring that there is variety in protein sources with foods that collectively cover all the essential amino acids is the key.

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Some vitamins and minerals that are more easily available to the body from animal products. They are important for the health and functioning of the body, so it is important to know what they are and make sure you are incorporating them into your diet from plant-based sources as much as possible.

Iron is a particularly important mineral. We need iron for production of haemoglobin and the transportation of oxygen in our blood. Heme iron is the iron available from animal products while non-heme iron is the iron available from plant sources. Heme iron is naturally easier for the body to utilize. A quick tip is to combine the food containing iron with a food containing vitamin C because Vitamin C helps with iron absorption. Another tip is not to eat a food containing iron with a food containing calcium or with coffee or tea. Give a few hours between the two as calcium and coffee/tea interfere with iron absorption. Plant-based sources of iron include; fortified breakfast cereals, soy-based foods, dried prunes and apricots, beans and legumes, pumpkin seeds, eggs and fortified whole-grain breads.

Another important nutrient that it’s challenging to get enough of on a vegetarian diet is Vitamin B12, which is naturally found in animal products. A deficiency in Vitamin B12 can lead to anemia and muscle weakness. There are some fortified cereals, soy beverages or some fortified veggie mats or you may require a supplement to ensure adequate Vitamin B12.

Calcium is a mineral found mainly in milk and dairy products. Some vegetarians who consume dairy products may not need to worry about the amount of calcium in their diets. Vegan vegetarians will want to look for plant-based sources of calcium such as edamame, almonds, calcium-fortified non-dairy beverages (i.e. Almond Milk), spinach, collar greens, and more.

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Awareness is key to developing healthy eating habits and eating to empower you. Whether you feel like following a vegetarian diet or maybe having vegetarian meals more often there is tremendous power in plants to nourish and sustain us. Following a vegetarian diet definitely does not have to be blah! Vegetables are versatile and the options and combinations of foods is infinite.

How will you harness the power of plants?

 

Summer Squash Salad Recipe

Summer may be almost over, but summer squash is available well into September so I took advantage of that fact to create this recipe. This is a simple but tasty and easy to prepare salad. It is rich in a variety of different vegetables and features quinoa, a well-known super-food and plant protein powerhouse.

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Summer squash and quinoa are the stand-out ingredients I find in this recipe.

The benefits of summer squash are that, like many fruits and vegetables, it is low in calories and provides a good amount of fibre, vitamin C, and potassium. Zucchini is a specific summer squash and a great source of the carotenoid pigments lutein and zeaxathin which can protect our eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration. Did you also know zucchini is the most popular type of summer squash available?

Quinoa is an incredible source of high-quality plant protein. It is one of the few plants that is a complete protein source (i.e. contains all the essential amino acids). It also offers riboflavin, vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and fibre.

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This recipe can make a stand-alone meal on its own or try serving it as a side dish with a grilled chicken breast. What’s even better is how quick to serve and portable it is. It is a great option for packed lunches. Because the recipe yields a good number of portions you can make it at the start of the week and enjoy for several days. Perfect for meal planning!

Summer Squash Salad Recipe

Power Fruit Popsicle Recipe

Popsicles are a fun and refreshing summer treat. I created this recipe to upgrade the traditional versions, which are mostly just a lot of sugar in water, by using wholesome, real food ingredients.

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Berries are a nutritional superstar and one of nature’s richest sources of antioxidants. Like many other fruits and vegetables, berries are a good source of Vitamin C and because of their small size and large surface area they are an excellent source of fibre.

The four berries I used in my recipe were blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries.

Blueberries are probably the most researched berries and are renown for their antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, which can protect the body from cell damage which may lead to aging and certain diseases. Pectin, a type of fibre found in blueberries, may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and is good for the functioning of the digestive system.

Raspberries contain pectin and quercetin, the latter may slow cancer growth.

Blackberries may have the highest antioxidant content of any berries!

Strawberries are the berry with the highest Vitamin C content!

Using coconut milk and coconut yogurt (or another type of yogurt) gives these popsicles a little more substance and additional nutritional benefits. If using a dairy-based yogurt, you will add calcium to your diet. Calcium is important for bone health.

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If the natural sweetness is not enough for you, consider adding a natural sweetener like a tablespoon of honey to the recipe.

For a slightly different taste and a more interesting version add a teaspoon of cinnamon.

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What is the Mediterranean Diet and What Can You Learn from It?

Many things influence the way we eat; where we live, our cultural norms and values, our personal experiences, history and preferences. There is no one “right” way to eat but we can learn from styles of eating and food preparation so that we can fashion for ourselves a balance, healthy, enjoyable eating habits.

The Mediterranean Diet refers to a way of eating that fosters healthy eating practices in combination with the traditional foods and flavours of countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Lebanon and Turkey, to name a few. You may have heard of it before but may wonder what it means, read on!

Rather than a hard and fast “diet” the Mediterranean Diet offers suggestions on what to eat and how to live an active and healthy lifestyle. It has gained a lot of prominence for the evidence that supports it as a “heart-healthy” way of eating. There is evidence that those living in Mediterranean have lower incidences of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.

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What does the Mediterranean Diet look like and how can you incorporate strategies and recommendations it brings into your way of eating?

Eat lots of fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are the foundation of any good meal plan and nutritional practices for a reason. Fruits and vegetables are a high source of antioxidants, important for not just your heart health, but your overall health and well-being as well! Try this recipe for a Traditional Greek Salad also on Empowering Eats for a dish with lots of veggies and Mediterranean flavours!

Have Whole Grains

Whole grains are a much more nutritious choice than white and refined grains which is why they are a better choice for a healthy diet. They contain many more nutrients and fibre. Not all of grain choices need to be whole grains but try to have whole grain products most often.

Eat fish twice a week

As many of the Mediterranean countries boards the Mediterranean Sea, it is no surprise that fish is a menu choice! Fish like salmon, tuna and sardines have many healthy fats like Omega-3 which are important for heart health.

Reduce the amount of Red Meat You Eat

Red meat, which is higher in Omega-6 fatty acids can increase levels of inflammation in the body. Red meat is also higher in saturated fats than other leaner protein source and too much saturated fat can accumulate in the body leading to health problems such as excess weight gain and coronary heart disease. Therefore, you can still have red meat (like this delicious recipe for Greek Stuffed Eggplant!), just not every day.

Opt-in for olive oil!

Olive oil is one of the most well-recognized staple in Mediterranean cooking methods. Olives and olive oil have monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), found to decrease levels of total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol. Nuts and seeds are another source of MUFAs and they also recommend these as part of the Mediterranean Diet.

Wait … did someone say Wine?

Yes, according to the Mediterranean Diet allows red wine in moderation. In fact, red wine contains resveratrol which is an antioxidant that may act to protect you from heart-disease and some cancers. Moderate consumption of alcohol means. Remember to be responsible when you indulge because if over consumed alcohol can easily add excess calories to your diet and affect liver function and health.

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Notice how the Mediterranean Diet is not restrictive. It offers flexibility and guidance to encourage developing healthy habits.

Which habits do you already follow? Which one (s) do you want to try?

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The Almighty Olive – Historical Significance, Nutritional Benefits and Top 10 Tips to Enjoy Olives

I was on a tour of the Acropolis when I heard the story of how Athens got its name. My tour guide Alexia told us this story at a specific point at the foot of an olive tree. According to legend both the Goddess Athena and God Poseidon both desired to be the patron of the city and named the deity of the city. So, they had a contest to see who should have control of Athens and its surrounding area and gave the people of Athens the choice of who they wanted as their patron by choosing based on the gift that Poseidon and Athena had to give them. Legend has it the contest happened on Acropolis Hill. Poseidon threw his trident at the earth and from it sprouted a stream of water. However, as Poseidon was the god of the sea, it was saltwater, which was not judge particularly useful. Athena stuck the ground with her spear and from the spot grew an olive tree.

Which do you think the people chose? It was the olive that won favour, since they judged it much more useful, and chose Athena as their patron and deity. In the first place it was a versatile food more useful and which provided a good source of energy and nutrients. Besides olive oil was a valuable commodity for cooking and for other uses. The olive trees also provided wood with many uses for building or firewood. The olive was fundamental to the Athenian economy and still is to Greek culture.

This story shows just how powerful and important food can be.

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Nutritional Benefits of Olives

What makes olives an empowering eat? Olives are a signature part of a Mediterranean Diet. One of the olive or olive oils claims to fame is the mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). Fats and oils are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. MUFAs are a healthy fat and it is encouraged that you try within the balance of fats to replace saturated fats and trans fats with MUFAs wherever possible. MUFAs are a healthy fat and have improved blood cholesterol levels. Olives and olive oil are sources of Vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin with powerful antioxidant properties. Olives are low in carbohydrates, making them a good food choice for anyone following a Keto Diet. Though they come with many nutrient benefits olives should be enjoyed in moderation given their high fat content and that they are relatively high in sodium.

Olive oil contains phytochemicals with antioxidant properties which may help protect against breast cancer, clogged arteries and high blood pressure.

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Consumer Tip:

Olives have many nutritional benefits, but they do have a high sodium content. Before using olives try to rinse and drain them to wash away the salty brine, they are preserved in. This will decrease their sodium content.

Did you Know?

The colour of an olive is because of it’s ripeness? Green olives are just less ripe than black olives which are fully ripe?

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Top 10 Ways to Use Olives and Olive Oil

  1. Eat an olive all on its own as a snack.
  2. Sliced olives are a great addition to salads (Greek Salad of course!), sandwiches and wraps.
  3. Include olives as part of an antipasto tray.
  4. Add olives into a pasta dish to give it a Mediterranean flavour.
  5. Use olive oil as your main cooking oil – provided you do not cook at high temperatures.
  6. Choose olive oil as the oil in salad dressings and marinades.
  7. Have you ever tried olive bread? There are many different types of breads where olives are actually baked into the bread itself i.e. Focaccia.
  8. Incorporate olives into pilafs with rice or quinoa as a base and variety of vegetables.
  9. Try olive tapenade. Top fish or meat with an olive tapenade. An olive tapenade also makes a great spread for bread and you can serve this as an appetizer.
  10. Have some hummus! Olive oil is one of the staple ingredients in hummus and you can double it up by adding actual olives into your hummus and as a topping. They are a great ingredient to add a unique and distinctive flavour variation.

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Traditional Greek Salad Recipe

Greek Salad has to be one of the most iconic dishes known to the culture both within Greece and around the world. I really looked forward to having this dish when I was in Greece. In all seriousness, almost every meal I had while there featured a version of it! In Greek the word for Greek Salad is “horiatiki” which means “village salad”.

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Cool, crisp and refreshing this dish is super simple to make but there is something so satisfying in it. It is also full of healthy and empowering food combinations that taste good and are good for you too! With only some basic ingredients (no lettuce is not one of them!) you can have a substantial side dish perfect to accompany many main dish options (check out my recipe for Greek Stuffed Eggplant or chicken souvlaki). It’s always best to pick the freshest ingredients for flavour and nutritional benefit.

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Here are some key ingredients that make this salad health and nutritious and tastes amazing.

Cucumbers are one of the lowest calorie vegetables because of their high water content. This also makes them a great hydrating food.

Tomatoes are a popular vegetable for a variety of different cultures and cuisines. One of their greatest claims to fame is that they are a great source of the plan pigment “lycopene” which possibly helps prevent heart disease. Like many other fruits and vegetables, they are a great source of vitamin C and potassium. They are also a good source of fibre.

Red Onions are low in calories and like other types of onions provide a variety of nutrients such as fibre, vitamin C, potassium and some phytochemical which may raise levels of a protective enzyme which in activates and eliminates cancer causing agents.

Green Pepper provide vitamin C and are a good source of fibre.

Olives & Olive Oil are signatures for many Greek dish. These are ingredients embedded not only in the cuisine but in the very history and culture of Greece. Olives and olive oil are a source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) which are healthy fats found in our diets that may lower the risk of heart disease and reduce levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. They also contain vitamin E which is an especially powerful antioxidant.

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What I love especially is how easy it is to make this salad. The vegetables are roughly chopped so they can be thrown together quickly.

It’s recommended to serve the salad in a shallow dish and don’t mix the dressing into the salad before you serve it. Put all the vegetables in the bowl, drizzle with the olive oil and vinegar and layer with the feta cheese.

Traditional Greek Salad