Top 10 Items for a Healthy Kitchen

When first starting out on your healthy journey, your kitchen cupboards and fridge might need a makeover. Taking out the high-sugar, high sodium and processed foods is a great start, but there are some really healthy additions to make as well. Here is my list of top 10 favorite staple items that every healthy kitchen should have.

  1. Turmeric – Turmeric has many benefits to your body and brain. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, is good for your heart, and has been shown in some studies to prevent and sometimes even treat cancer. It is also great for your brain as it helps with depression, helps prevent Alzheimer’s, and aids in warding off age-related diseases. I find the taste quite mild, so I put it on everything – toast, eggs, chicken, and in health shakes.
  2. Raw Organic Coconut Oil – I am mildly obsessed with this one. It has tremendous benefits to your insides and out. I have used it with various skin issues including sunburns, eczema and cradle cap. I put it all over my body once a week for a deep moisturizing effect, and it does wonders for fine lines in your face. I cook with it constantly, or just eat a tablespoon of it. In terms of internal health, coconut oil is good for your brain, can help your body burn fat, can help prevent infections, and can help improve blood cholesterol levels.
  3. Ground Flax Seed – With so many seeds out there to choose from, it can be hard to figure out which one is the best for you. As each of us has different needs and goals, I would suggest incorporating flax, hemp and/or chia seeds into your diet. You can sprinkle them on cereal, into a shake or in your eggs. I personally choose ground flax seed because of it is high in anti-oxidants, has cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory benefits, potential cancer prevention and digestive health promotion.
  4. Organic Hemp Oil – Years ago I had issues with allergies that had me focus more on my liver health. A few things were suggested, including organic hemp oil. A tablespoon in the morning really seems to make a difference to keep my allergies in check and provide additional support for overall liver health. In addition, hemp oil is great for your brain, heart, hair, skin and nails, all while supporting the immune system and maintaining hormonal balance.
  5. Cayenne Pepper – I love spicy food. The hotter the better! So this one is an easy addition for me. I sprinkle cayenne pepper on my eggs, chicken, roasted veggies – everywhere! Spicy food is a great way to boost your metabolism, and in turn lose weight. What else is great about it? It has antibacterial qualities so can help your body avoid infection, is great for your digestive system, and keeps your blood pressure in check. Pretty terrific for a little spice!
  6. Beets – definitely one of my favorite summer time foods. I grow beets in my garden, and purchase them at the farmers markets throughout the summer until it is time for my garden to harvest. Other than the fact that they are a tasty vegetable, they are really great for you too. The have high immune-system boosting qualities due to their high vitamin C and magnesium content. They can boost your stamina in the gym, fight inflammation, are terrific for your digestive health and have anti-cancer properties. They are a high-sugar vegetable so if you are diabetic, definitely talk with your doctor before consuming too many beets.
  7. Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar – this one can be a hard one to swallow. Similar to coconut oil, this one is great for you inside and out. It can be used to treat sunburns, acne, and other skin conditions. Drinking this every day can help detoxify your liver, help with weight loss, help balance your body’s pH level, and can help keep candida at bay. It is important to use only raw organic versions. My favorite is Bragg’s Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar that you can purchase at most major grocery store chains. Two tablespoons with a full glass of water to dilute it is key.
  8. Greens – oh how I love my greens! When grocery shopping, my cart can sometimes be mistaken for a leprechaun. Some of my favorite green veggies are spinach, bok choy, avocado, kale, brussels sprouts, and broccoli. I eat them every single day. If you are worried about not getting your greens in every day, but want to ensure you reap the benefits, there are some terrific supplement options you can try. My two favorites are Green Envy, which is a quick shot in the morning, and Magnum Performance Greens that you mix with water and tastes delicious.
  9. Garlic – Garlic has been used for centuries to treat colds and infections. Fresh, raw, crushed garlic is the best way for it to be absorbed by your body. Garlic can reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and reduce your risk of heart disease. Studies have shown it to be good for your brain while fighting off dementia and Alzheimer’s. Other health benefits include being good for your overall bone health, help you live longer, and recently studies have shown it can help with erectile dysfunction. Garlic can be used when cooking vegetables or meat, and to pack some extra flavor when making salad dressings and soups. If you’re getting sick, I would suggest taking 1-2 crushed garlic cloves before bed. It really does help!
  10. Berries – Summer is definitely the season of berries. Blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries – so many to choose from with tremendous health benefits for each. Berries taste great on their own, or adding them to a shake, yogurt or cereal. I like to freeze them in the summer months so I can have delicious flavorful ones all winter long for snacks or shakes. Berries are high in antioxidants, vitamin C, are great for your skin and can boost your immune system.

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Ladies – Are We Hurting Our Girls?

Ladies. We have a problem. A BIG problem. We are unhappy with our bodies. And not just a little bit. And not just a few of us. 91% of women have an ‘I hate my body’ moment every single day. And if we hate our bodies that much, how dare we tell the little girls in our lives to love their bodies if we can’t do it ourselves. And could you imagine hearing an eight year old say ‘I hate my body’? Neither can I. But it’s happening. Every day. In every city. In almost every home.

Let’s be honest. Are you dieting right now? Have you put yourself on a ‘diet’ at all in 2017? If you are trying to lose weight to be a healthier version of you, good for you. That’s awesome. But the reality of it is that most women are dieting to achieve their ‘ideal body shape’. However unfortunately, only 5% of women naturally possess the body types we see in the media. So if that’s your goal, let’s start over.

You’re eating healthy and exercising often as part of a healthy lifestyle, NOT a diet. Now here’s my next question. Who knows that you’re on this kick? If you phrase it in ways such as ‘I’m eating healthier for more energy’ or ‘I’m heading to the gym for my heart health’, you’re doing terrific. But if you’re using phrases like ‘no cake for me…it’s bathing suit season!’ or ‘I’m taking my fat ass to the gym so I can fit into my clothes again’, then you are not only doing it for the wrong reasons, but you are bound to fail. The number one reason you should be living a healthy lifestyle over being on a diet is because you LOVE your body not because you HATE it.

So who’s hearing you? I have three little nieces who I would walk on fire for just for a hug. I feel I play a very important role in all of their lives for a host of different reasons. Do I think my body is perfect? Nope. But I sure wouldn’t dare talk about my imperfections or my desire to change anything about my body around them. They look up to me. If they hear me say ‘I feel fat’ or ‘I wish I could have a more toned ______’ they would then start to look at their own bodies as anything but perfect. They mirror what they see and what they hear. I would die if I heard any of them say they feel fat.

Here’s the thing about body image. It’s all in your head. It’s the way we perceive our own bodies and the way we ASSUME others perceive us. It has to do with our emotions, perception, imagination, and it is ever-changing. Where you are in your menstrual cycle, what you have been eating, what your mood is like, are all factors that relate to our body image.

Have you ever woken up in the morning and looked in the mirror and thought, ‘UGH!’? But then two days later you look in the mirror and think you look super good? Well your body didn’t body swap in 48 hours. One day you love it, one day you don’t. Unfortunately you’re not alone in this thinking. Almost ALL of us do it. And I bet that there is someone out there that thinks your body is a ten out of ten. Or there’s a woman out there that would give her left arm for a butt like yours.

How do we make it better?

I think the first step is being conscious of the fact that body image is not the reality of how your body looks. We need to start to love our bodies – the rolls, the scars, the stretch marks, the short legs, the small boobs – all of it. And really love it. Know that what makes your body unique is sexy AF. It’s not about perfection. There’s no such thing. I bet you Victoria Secret models have days that they wake up and wish they didn’t have the thighs they do too and as crazy as that sounds, it’s true.

Second, know the signs of having an eating disorder. “Eating disorders are not just about food. They are often a way to cope with difficult problems or regain a sense of control. They are complicated illnesses that affect a person’s sense of identity, worth, and self-esteem.” (Source: Canadian Mental Health Association).

This is a SERIOUS problem for women in our country. We need to help each other and support one another when it comes to eating disorders. When you see a woman who is obsessively working out or dieting to an unhealthy level, or simply not having a positive relationship with food, exercise and her body, don’t shame her. ‘She’s sooo skinny’ isn’t a helpful statement. It’s body shaming. Instead, reach out and provide assistance. The Canadian Mental Health Association is a great starting point for more information here.

Next, and a bit lighter…find that picture that you look amazing in. Put it in your bathroom, on your fridge, as your screen saver or on your mirror. Remember every time you look at it that THAT is how you look all the time! Even on the days you haven’t had time to have a shower, get out of your sweats or even brush your hair, that woman is still the same woman! And don’t be ashamed to say ‘Daaaaaaamn I look good’ way more often! It’s infectious. There will be haters out there who say you are cocky or full of yourself or whatever else they can come up with. But who cares? Let them think that you loving yourself is cocky. In fact, give it a little giggle. Because YOU need to be with YOU every single second of every single day.

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Sources: www.DoSomething.org and www.about-face.org

 

7 Biggest Excuses For Not Working Out…and the Solutions For Each

We’ve all heard them…and in fact we’ve all made them. Great excuses for why we can’t work out. It’s costly and time consuming and energy draining. Sound familiar? Well I am here to combat the seven biggest excuses for not working out by giving you tactical solutions for each.

Excuse #1 – No Time.

I get this. You have kids, a full-time job, a relationship, a social life, and family commitments. Sometimes you wonder how you get it all done in a 24-hour day. But working out for one hour each day is only 4% of your day! It takes me one hour, from start to finish, to get in and out of the gym. I stay focused and come with a written out plan for each of my workouts so I don’t waste time chit chatting or wondering what to do next while I am there. There are numerous classes at gyms across Winnipeg where you can be in and out in 45 minutes, or even 30 minutes if need be. And if you concern is when in the day are you going to make this happen? If you are working full-time – your lunch hour. If you are at home with kids – when you partner comes home or when the kids are napping or at school. If your social life is too busy – make time. This is your health and eventually your life at stake. Working out for 60 minutes five times a week is imperative to a healthy lifestyle, and in turn a long-term healthy life.

Excuse #2 – I Don’t Know How to Workout

Everyone has to start somewhere. If the idea of lifting weights and hitting up cardio machines is what you are interested in, most gyms in Winnipeg will offer your first personal training session for free. From there, if you want to continue with a trainer and can afford this luxury, terrific. But that is not the case for everyone. The Internet is full of amazing FREE workout videos, circuits and tips. I have been working out for over twenty years and I still go to the Internet for ideas on how to keep my workouts fresh. Expertrain.com, OxygenMag.com, Bodyrock.tv and FitFabCities.com are all great online resources.

If that sounds like a lot of work, and if time is not on your side, join a circuit gym or a gym that has classes. Impact Fitness on Waverley has terrific options for circuit training, or try one of the exceptional cross fit, yoga, kickboxing or spin facilities. Finding something that you love is key to ensuring you stick with it.

Excuse #3 – The Gym is Expensive

As mentioned above, finding something that you love is key to ensure you stick with a solid exercise program. If you aren’t using your gym membership, then it is throwing money to the wind. It is important that you give the facility a try before you sign up. Most gyms in Winnipeg will offer a free day or even a week to see if you like the facility. Once you have determined a cost, make sure you don’t pay their ‘enrollment fee’. I honestly don’t think these are fair for gyms to ask for, and it is easy to simply ask them to waive it. You can purchase a monthly membership in Winnipeg for as little as $40/month. That’s the cost of about seven Starbuck’s coffees. Also, look into if your workplace offers a fitness program cost break – many offices are splitting the costs of their employees fitness programs as they see the benefits of their staff being active. If that still seems like a stretch, luckily it is summer time and you can do activities for free. Going outside for a brisk walk or a jog every day or perhaps doing some of the workouts you find online in your home or at the park. If this is the case, search ‘workouts at home’ when looking for workout routines. There are plenty to choose from to get your heart pumping.

Excuse #4 – Gyms Are Too Intimidating – I need to be in better shape before I get started.

I definitely understand this one. If you are new to working out, or it has been a long time, walking into a gym with buff guys lifting big weight, or seeing shredded girls wearing short shorts and sports bras can be intimidating. In fact, it can be down right scary. In this case, I would suggest bringing a friend. Anytime to have your friends by your side, the world seems a bit nicer. And honestly, of course there are some jerks out there that might be judging, but I can confidently say that the majority of people who are in shape in the gym are proud of you for being there. Remember – everyone has to start somewhere, and your ‘somewhere’ is today. And for those of you who are in great shape at the gym, let’s do our best to make new people feel welcome.

Excuse #5 – I Don’t Have the Energy

Of course you don’t – you’re not working out! Your energy levels are low because you’re not working out. Exercise is proven to improve energy levels by strengthening your circulation and heart muscle, and increasing your metabolism. Scientists have proven the best way to combat fatigue and boost your energy levels is to in fact exercise more not less. I can truthfully say there is not one workout I have ever completed and regretted. Sometimes you need to make yourself get up and get moving. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

Excuse #6 – Injury

Injuries are going to happen – it’s called getting older! Your body isn’t going to be necessarily as capable to do certain activities as it was 20 years ago. But if you don’t workout at all, it is going to be even worse. Injuries are a setback – they aren’t game over. I am not suggesting by any means to work ‘through’ an injury or to ignore pain. The concept of ‘pain is only weakness leaving the body’ is a complete farce in my mind. When you have pain, stop. When you have injury, work around it. Work with your athletic or physiotherapist on ways to strengthen that injury, but work around that injury. For example, two years ago my sister had a stress fracture in her femur. Many people would have sat around for six months while it was healing. Not her. She was still in the gym five times per week but doing different exercises. She was concentrating on her upper body muscles and core. The strength she gained over the six-month period, and the overall blood flow to her injury helped with her healing. With proper counsel from a doctor or therapist, you are still able. As they say in yoga, ‘if you can, you must.’

Excuse #7 – I’m Already Thin

Well good for you! Perhaps weight loss is not your goal in the gym. But what about improving your strength, balance, cardiovascular, body shape or your overall health? I workout to be strong not skinny. I workout to be healthy not skinny. I workout so that I can have the energy to do things that most of our population does not have the energy to do. I workout so I can have a long, healthy life. And most of all, I workout because I love it. And when you find the right kickboxing class or swimming instructor or yoga studio, you’ll get the fitness bite too. I promise your body and your mind will thank you for it.

Are you ready to get started?

Sharon Delbridge – My 2017 Inspiration

In January of 2017 I was lucky enough to head to the Mayan Riviera to work with LATravel Group on their 6th annual Health and Wellness retreat, lead by fitness fanatic and all around incredible human, Sharon Delbridge. It may have honestly been one of the very best ways I have ever started out a new year. Sharon was accompanied by Heather Sanderewich (owner of The Yoga Barre – one of the BEST new fitness spots in Winnipeg located at 6640 Roblin Blvd) for the week that I was there. In addition, the LATravel Fitness Hero Contest winner from 2016, Jody McIntyre, came down to teach piloxing on the beach. There was Zumba, Aqua Zumba, Cycling classes, piloxing and sunset yoga on the beach every day. You could do as many or as few classes as you wish. There was a group of approximately 40 all-star women who came down, all of different ages, fitness levels and life experience. I truly felt surrounded by positive vibes and great energy. I sat down with Sharon to chat with her about fitness, food and life for our Fit Communications blog.

Sharon is so inspiring. Spending five minutes with her you will feel amazing – she is so full of energy I seriously have no idea how she does it. I guess when you’re living your true dream life, the energy comes easy. “I get to live half a year in Winnipeg spring and summer and teach at my fave studios and inspire people everyday and see how their lives change through fitness. As well, since my husband retired, we are now living in Puerto Vallarta for half the year and continue to do this going forward. I get to teach here daily my favorite classes at the best studio in PV and meet another phenomenal group of people that are loving my classes. This is truly living the dream.”

Sharon started teaching aerobics in the 80’s and after taking a few years off for family and business, returned to the scene in 2005. She constantly keeps things new and fresh because this isn’t just a job to her, it’s a lifestyle. At Fit Communications we often talk about this concept – it’s not a diet or a fad rather health and fitness are a way of life. Sharon beyond ‘get’s it’. And she comes by it honestly. Both her parents, at age 90 and 92, still work out every single day. If that’s not inspirational, I don’t know what is.

Sharon finds such a thrill in seeing the people who take her classes reach their goals. Be it to lose weight, recover from illness, get stronger, or increase their confidence, Sharon is by their side every step of the way. So when LATravel Group owner Chris Lucas approached her to do a Zumba trip in Mexico, she jumped at the chance. This was totally up her alley – fun and fitness combined. Again…she’s living the dream.

In 2018, Sharon will be coming into her 8th year doing this retreat. The awesome thing about it is the repeat attendees. You know an event is good when it’s sold out and it has the same people coming back for more. When chatting with the women you feel the admiration they have for the entire situation – for Sharon, for the trip, and for the chance to connect with their friends, old and new, for the week. I honestly can’t begin to describe how inspiring it is to surround yourself with women for the first week of a new year who are on a mission to make themselves the best version of themselves they can be.

“In 2018, we are switching to a new city and taking the trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (previously in the Mayan Riviera). This is where I have been living with my husband for the winter and it has become our home. This city has a passion and a pulse like no other. In 2018 the resort is right in the town. You can walk out of the resort and be in the most beautiful city with ocean and mountains and the most incredible weather. It’s the safest area and has the best sunsets in the world. We will be taking people on walking tours and showing everyone around. As well, we’ll be having a get together in our home for everyone to come and see where we live,” says Delbridge.

Sharon will be back in Winnipeg teaching her energizing classes around the city in April. Until then, Sharon has a few words of advice on how we can all find a little more balance in life:

  1. Find a way to disconnect from your everyday crazy life: find quiet time, where you recharge your batteries. Spending quality quiet time with family and watching a movie or a show. Disconnect from your phone, computer and social media. Quiet time is the best!
  2. Take care of your health. No matter what is going on in your life, find the time to do something for yourself that is active. Walking, cycling, dancing whatever it is. When you have crisis in your life or even if you don’t, we all need to get the blood flowing and moving to feel better.
  3. Avoid toxic people. We all need to remove the negative people in our lives that bring us under. Surround yourself with people that make you feel good.
  4. Treat yourself to a treat – spa and yummy lunch, mani or pedi!
  5. Laugh everyday. Life is about attitude. No matter what, try and see the humor in everything that goes on in life.
  6. Positive attitude. Life has a way of pulling us under. We can’t let it. We must fight it and move forward. It’s all about moving forward and looking ahead. Send out positive vibes and you will get it all back.

Follow Sharon on Instagram @FreshSoulFitness or on Facebook Fresh Soul Fitness with Sharon for added inspiration, health and fitness tips. She is truly one of a kind and I feel honored to call her my friend. Or for more information about the 2018 Health and Wellness Retreat, contact LATravel Group at 204.988.8441

Do you know a woman who should be featured in our Fit Communications blog? Email us at Info@FitCommunications.ca today!

Let’s Talk About Menopause!

They say there are two things you can be sure of in life – death and taxes. However as women, we get a bonus third thing we can be sure of – menopause. Yay! Lucky us! Menopause is defined as “occurring 12 months after your last menstrual period and marks the end of menstrual cycles.”

Such a simple definition obviously doesn’t capture the scope of this “change” women endure. Menopause can happen in your 40s or 50s and even into your 60s and beyond.

Some women are thrilled about the idea of no more monthly periods including cramping, headaches and inconvenience. They can also have copious amounts of sex without having to worry about pregnancy. It is a time where we have earned our womanly stripes and are more proud, confident and sure of ourselves than ever before. However some women are saddened by the idea of going through menopause because they feel like they may no longer be vital, fertile and sexual. I would argue this with the fact that Christie Brinkley is 61, Elle Macpherson is 51, Sofia Vergara is 44 and Jennifer Lopez is 48 this year! This is a sexy group of potentially menopausal women!

Besides having to come to grips with the idea of menopause, there is also the “in your face” physical symptoms that can sometimes be nearly unbearable. The physical symptoms include the infamous hot flashes, irregular periods, vaginal dryness, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, mood changes, weight gain and slowed metabolism, thinning hair, dry skin and loss of breast fullness. Sounds fun right?! OMG!

Here are some symptoms (listed below) that you may experience in the thick of menopause and some ideas for relief. The reliefs listed are ones outside of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). MHT is an option that may alieve many symptoms of menopause. Be sure to discuss any of these options with your doctor prior to implementing them.

Hot flashes – Be cognizant of what trigger these – spicy food, alcohol, caffeine or stress – and avoid them if possible. Also do whatever else you would do in the middle of a heat wave of summer – fans, relaxing and “breathing”, dressing in layers etc… Consider taking black cohosh. It is said to be beneficial in easing feelings of depression as well as regulating body temperature.

Vaginal dryness – As mentioned above, just because you are menopausal, doesn’t mean you can’t or don’t want to get it on! So if you do experience dryness, there are lots of great lubes out there. I would suggest buying one at a sex toy store rather than the pharmacy – they have way more options there for you to use. Using a water based one is also where it’s at. If the over the counter variety don’t do the trick, talk to your doctor.

Problems sleeping – Everything’s better with a good night’s sleep. One of the best ways to get a good night’s sleep is to be physically active. But don’t do this close to bedtime as it might make you more awake. Also, avoid working or “screen time” right before bedtime, caffeine after noon, and avoid alcohol close to bedtime.

Mood swings – Great! So as if we weren’t hormonal enough before menopause!?! If you are experiencing mood swings, getting enough sleep, reducing your stress and staying physically active will help ease your stress. Depression is another common side effect of menopause. If this is a new condition for you or is exasperated by menopause, talk to your doctor.

Here are a few other ideas that could help…

Healthy lifestyle – Menopause is another instance when proper nutrition and exercise are paramount in achieving benefits to your body and relief of symptoms.

Support – Consider joining an “in person” or online support group for women who are going through the same things as you.

Yoga – Continual evidence supports the notion that yoga can help relieve irritability and depression brought on by menopause. Women report that yoga relaxation and stretching techniques help stabilize their moods while improving their overall well-being.

Mindful Breathing – Another great idea to incorporate into your life is meditation (menopausal or not!). Meditation and “mindful breathing” can help calm your mind and any anxiety you feel including during times of hot flashes. It will also allow you time to decompress, destress and relax.

Acupuncture – Some women swear by acupuncture as a great treatment and alternative to hormone therapy for menopausal depression and hot flashes.

Supplements and Herbs – In addition to Black Cohosh, you may want to incorporate St. John’s Wort and Ginseng into your regimen. St. John’s wort is said to be an effective treatment for menopausal mood swings, improved sleep, relaxation, and reducing mild depression and anxiety. Ask your doctor before you begin taking St. John’s wort, as it might interact with other medications. Ginseng may be used to treat menopausal symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, and stress.

Luckily we are in the best time in history to go through menopause. We know more about menopause now than ever – including best ways to relieve symptoms!

Everyone’s journey through the “change” (for the better) is different. For some, it’s hell and for others it’s a cake walk. Hopefully yours is the latter. If not, hopefully this blog will help you find some relief or at least have some solid options to consider and talk about – with your circle of “people” and with your doctor. I also hope you to consider the notion that menopause isn’t a curse, but rather it’s an end to cramps, bloating, tampons and headaches! That it is a path to freedom! Let’s all see this as a graduation – you made it through the trenches and now you can soar.

15 Super Foods

We have all heard the term ‘super food’. Every time you read something about nutrition you are told to increase the number of super foods in your diet. Many restaurants now use it as a catch phrase for their salads and healthy meals. But what does it really mean? By definition, a super food is “a food (such as salmon, broccoli, or blueberries) that is rich in compounds (such as antioxidants, fiber, or fatty acids) considered beneficial to a person’s health. Super foods increase energy and vitality, regulate cholesterol and blood pressure and may help to prevent or fight cancer and other diseases.” (Source: Marriam-Webster Dictionary).

The issue then becomes what ARE the actual super foods? Depending on whom you ask, there can be up to 100 different foods on a super foods list. I find that almost impossible to remember, let alone work into your daily nutrition routine. The idea of eating nutrient dense food, and the ones that are the absolute best for your health is what I find super intriguing. So I have compiled a list of fifteen super foods below that I feel are easy to incorporate into your day, taste delicious, and bring tons of benefits to your overall health.

  1. Berries – berries are on every super food list I have read. This includes acai, goji, cranberries, blueberries and strawberries. Each one of these berries brings different vitamins and minerals, but all are high in antioxidants, polyphenols and vitamin C. These sweet bundles of goodness help fight chronic disease and cancer.
  2. Cacao – you may have seen cacao nibs or powder at your favorite health food store. I find the powder terrific to add to a shake. Cacao is high in antioxidants that helps slow down the aging process. It is also high in magnesium and iron, which can be beneficial especially for women.
  3. Chia Seeds – chia pudding might be one of the easiest and healthiest snacks to make. A few major benefits of chia seeds include diabetes prevention, increased fiber and omega-3’s, strengthens your teeth and bones, high in protein, fights belly fat and has been known to improve heart health. A spoonful into a shake, on top of your oatmeal, or in a salad are all easy ways to incorporate chia into your day.
  4. Hemp Seeds – Hemp seeds contain high amounts of protein, which helps in strengthening the immune system. This reduces the instances of disease and helps excrete toxins from the body. Hemp also produces phytosterols, which helps reduce cholesterol. Lastly, these super seed contains all 20 amino acids, including the 9 essential amino acids (EAAs) our bodies cannot produce.
  5. Turmeric –Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and will do wonders for your joints. An anti-inflammatory diet is suggested for almost every ailment today from cancer to high blood pressure to Alzheimer’s to heart disease. Turmeric has been shown to not only help prevent these diseases but also help treat them once they attack. Turmeric is also great as an antioxidant, and has been suggested to be an anti-cancer agent. It has been shown to lower risk of brain disease and boosts brain function in the meantime. It has been shown to lower depression, help delay aging and fight age-related diseases.
  6. Cayenne Pepper – hot peppers have been known to boost metabolism and in turn, help you lose weight. It also helps to boost circulation and neutralize acidity. It’s great for keeping a cold or fungus at bay, on headaches, allergies, for joint pain and inflammation, good for digestion and heart health, and some studies have shown it to be anti-cancer.
  7. Garlic – nicknamed the ‘world’s healthiest food’, this one packs a punch! Garlic has been used for centuries to treat colds and infections. Raw, crushed garlic is the best way for it to be absorbed by your body. Garlic helps reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol, and reduces your risk of heart disease. It is also said to be good for your brain while warding off dementia and Alzheimer’s. It has been found to be good for your overall bone health and help you live longer, and recently studies have shown it can help with erectile dysfunction.
  8. Broccoli – this is one of my favorite foods. Broccoli has been shown in studies to prevent cancer, reduce cholesterol, is high in antioxidants, reduces inflammation, is great for your bones and heart and helps detoxify and alkalize your body.
  9. Beets – another one of my absolute favorite vegetables. According to OrganicFacts.net, the health benefits of beets include “treatment of anemia, indigestion, constipation, piles, kidney disorders, dandruff, gall bladder disorders, cancer, and heart disease. It also helps to prevent macular degeneration, improve blood circulation, aid in skin care, prevent cataracts and mediate respiratory” They are nutrient dense and filled with vitamins and minerals.
  10. Spinach – spinach salad or popping some into a green smoothie is how I best incorporate this vegetable into my day. Spinach is full of vitamins and minerals – everything from A, C, E and K, to protein and flavonoids to calcium, iron and magnesium. In turn being great for your heart, brain, skin, hair and bones. For an added healthy bonus eat spinach with a high vitamin C fruit such as berries.
  11. Avocado – loaded with nutrients, this healthy fat is great for your heart, kidneys and overall cell function. Its ability to reduce inflammation has shown links to cancer reduction and help with arthritis. It is also high in fiber, which can help with weight loss and keep your digestive system on track. Avocados also help your body absorb nutrients from other vegetables, meaning it works for you! I put avocado with my eggs every day. It’s also a great topper on salads, chicken, toast, or salmon.
  12. Kale – with three grams of protein per serving, this high antioxidant super food is making its way to my fridge every week. It is said to be one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. Studies have shown links to cancer fighting properties, cardiovascular strengthening and can help you lose weight. I find it a harder one to digest so a light steam or baking them in raw organic coconut oil in the oven is a great way to add this one to your day.
  13. Eggs – eggs have received a bad rap over the years. We were once told to ease up on our egg consumption due to its ability to increase your cholesterol. That is no longer the case. It is recommended to eat up to 12 eggs per week. That said, if you have high cholesterol you should speak with your doctor or health practitioner first. The yolk of an egg is loaded with nutrients. Eggs contain all 9 essential amino acids, are highly concentrated with vitamins and minerals, and are rich in Omega-3s.
  14. Salmon – it is important here for me to note that I would only recommend wild caught salmon, not farmed salmon for consumption. Salmon is high in Omega 3s, is great for your brain and heart health, is anti-inflammatory and is an excellent source of vitamin D. So get fishing – and bring me some back too!
  15. Sweet Potatoes – this delicious, good carbohydrate is loaded with vitamin A, fiber and potassium. Studies have shown sweet potatoes decrease the risk for diabetes, heart disease and obesity while increasing your energy, are good for your skin and can help lower your weight.

My Top 10 Items for a Healthy Kitchen

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When first starting out on your healthy journey, your kitchen cupboards and fridge might need a makeover. Taking out the high-sugar, high sodium and processed foods is a great start, but there are some really healthy additions to make as well. Here is my list of top 10 favorite staple items that every healthy kitchen should have.

1. Turmeric – Turmeric has many benefits to your body and brain. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, is good for your heart, and has been shown in some studies to prevent and sometimes even treat cancer. It is also great for your brain as it helps with depression, helps prevent Alzheimer’s, and aids in warding off age-related diseases. I find the taste quite mild, so I put it on everything – toast, eggs, chicken, and in health shakes.

2. Raw Organic Coconut Oil – I am mildly obsessed with this one. It has tremendous benefits to your insides and out. I have used it with various skin issues including sunburns, eczema and cradle cap. I put it all over my body once a week for a deep moisturizing effect, and it does wonders for fine lines in your face. I cook with it constantly, or just eat a tablespoon of it. In terms of internal health, coconut oil is good for your brain, can help your body burn fat, can help prevent infections, and can help improve blood cholesterol levels.

3. Ground Flax Seed – With so many seeds out there to choose from, it can be hard to figure out which one is the best for you. As each of us has different needs and goals, I would suggest incorporating flax, hemp and/or chia seeds into your diet. You can sprinkle them on cereal, into a shake or in your eggs. I personally choose ground flax seed because of it is high in anti-oxidants, has cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory benefits, potential cancer prevention and digestive health promotion.

4. Organic Hemp Oil – Years ago I had issues with allergies that had me focus more on my liver health. A few things were suggested, including organic hemp oil. A tablespoon in the morning really seems to make a difference to keep my allergies in check and provide additional support for overall liver health. In addition, hemp oil is great for your brain, heart, hair, skin and nails, all while supporting the immune system and maintaining hormonal balance.

5. Cayenne Pepper – I love spicy food. The hotter the better! So this one is an easy addition for me. I sprinkle cayenne pepper on my eggs, chicken, roasted veggies – everywhere! Spicy food is a great way to boost your metabolism, and in turn lose weight. What else is great about it? It has antibacterial qualities so can help your body avoid infection, is great for your digestive system, and keeps your blood pressure in check. Pretty terrific for a little spice!

6. Beets – definitely one of my favorite foods. Other than the fact that they are a tasty vegetable, they are really great for you too. The have high immune-system boosting qualities due to their high vitamin C and magnesium content. They can boost your stamina in the gym, fight inflammation, are terrific for your digestive health and have anti-cancer properties. They are a high-sugar vegetable so if you are diabetic, definitely talk with your doctor before consuming too many beets.

7. Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar – this one can be a hard one to swallow. Similar to coconut oil, this one is great for you inside and out. It can be used to treat sunburns, acne, and other skin conditions. Drinking this every day can help detoxify your liver, help with weight loss, help balance your body’s pH level, and can help keep candida at bay. It is important to use only raw organic versions. My favorite is Bragg’s Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar that you can purchase at most major grocery store chains. Two tablespoons with a full glass of water to dilute it is key.

8. Greens – When grocery shopping, my cart can sometimes be mistaken for a leprechaun. Some of my favorite green veggies are spinach, bok choy, avocado, kale, brussels sprouts, and broccoli. I eat them every single day. If you are worried about not getting your greens in every day, but want to ensure you reap the benefits, there are some terrific supplement options you can try. My two favorites are Green Envy, which is a quick shot in the morning, and Magnum Performance Greens that you mix with water and tastes delicious.

9. Garlic – Garlic has been used for centuries to treat colds and infections. Fresh, raw, crushed garlic is the best way for it to be absorbed by your body. Garlic can reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and reduce your risk of heart disease. Studies have shown it to be good for your brain while fighting off dementia and Alzheimer’s. Other health benefits include being good for your overall bone health, help you live longer, and recently studies have shown it can help with erectile dysfunction. Garlic can be used when cooking vegetables or meat, and to pack some extra flavor when making salad dressings and soups. If you’re getting sick, I would suggest taking 1-2 crushed garlic cloves before bed. It really does help!

10. Berries – Blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries – so many to choose from with tremendous health benefits for each. Berries taste great on their own, or adding them to a shake, yogurt or cereal. Berries are high in antioxidants, vitamin C, are great for your skin and can boost your immune system.

The Clean and Dirty

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I am sad to admit that summer is over. We are settling into fall – back to school, cooler nights and leaves falling. Pretty soon the local farmers’ markets will come to a close for another season. I absolutely LOVE the markets – fresh and local produce, baking, eggs, chicken and meat. I won’t be able to buy organic, non-GMO, local produce from the men and women that care for and cultivate these tasty treasures.

So now what? Living in the prairies, if we want to buy organic and non-GMO produce we will be paying a big price. Unless you have won the lottery, you probably can’t fill your fridge with everything that is organic and not covered in pesticides. We have to make choices.

Luckily, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has made our winter shopping easier. They have compiled the “Dirty Dozen” and “The Clean Fifteen” for 2016.

The Dirty Dozen consists of the top twelve produce with “most” pesticides – i.e.: the produce on this list should be on your “organic” section of your shopping list. This year the list includes…

  1. Strawberries
  2. Apples
  3. Nectarines
  4. Peaches
  5. Celery
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Spinach
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Sweet bell peppers
  11. Cherry tomatoes
  12. Cucumbers

Some of the EWG findings are shocking – including…

  • More than 98 percent of strawberry samples, peaches, nectarines, and apples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue.
  • A single grape sample and a sweet bell pepper sample contained 15 pesticides.
  • Single samples of strawberries showed 17 different pesticides

EWG’s Clean Fifteen is a list of produce least likely to hold pesticide residues. So the following 15 items don’t necessarily need to be “organic” – you can save some money on the produce on this list…:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Frozen sweet peas
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Papayas
  10. Kiwis
  11. Eggplant
  12. Honeydew melon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Cantaloupe
  15. Cauliflower.

In case you need some evidence that pesticides on your produce are dangerous to your health, the EWG (and so many more organizations and governmental agencies) have found that “pesticides have been linked to a variety of health problems, including: brain and nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone disruption, skin, eye and lung irritation and impairment of children’s brain development”

So keep these Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists in your wallet or screenshotted on your smartphone. You can reference the lists when you are contemplating buying those organic or non-organic strawberries! You may find that when you spend a few extra dollars per package, it is balanced out by not only your non-organic onions but the benefit to your long-term health as well. If you found this blog interesting and helpful in making you and yours healthier, you may be interested in reading some of our other blogs on health and nutrition and signing up for our newsletter here. For more information on EWG – what they do, why they do it and how you can help, check out their website!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Stay Active Going Back to School

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School is back in session! Many, ok likely all of us, parents are relieved that the pressure is off to keep our kids entertained and active. Chances are that your kids, as a part of a camp or not, have been pretty active this summer. Whether it was playing at the park, biking, swimming, soccer or canoeing with friends, they’ve been moving lots to stay healthy.

Now that school has started, what’s your plan to keep that activity level up? Did you know that Health Canada recommends that children need to do 60 minutes of activity per day for optimal health? Did you also know that only 2% of girls and 8% of boys are achieving this number?? This is a shocking statistic!

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your kids are getting the 60 minutes a day at school or daycare. Gym class is likely only twice per six day cycle and when they do have the class, it will at most be 20 minutes of continuous activity. Although recess totals 60 minutes a day, what are the chances that your kids are sweating it out at all recesses? Could they be that kid trying to catch that frog they saw at the end of the yard or hitting a stick against a tree or sitting chatting about Shopkins, YouTube or which Marvel character rules the roost? Or they may be learning the latest hand shake or “stella ola ola.”  Chances are they aren’t running amok for even 20 minutes, let alone 60.

I know that in my house, I have things planned for the kids to stay active. There is, of course, the fear that you are over-scheduling your kids with after-school classes and activities. However, I would argue that if the kids aren’t doing something scheduled that is active, they will be sedentary – vegging out on their iPad, TVs, smartphones or video games. So one hour of activity a day is not going to be interfering with incredibly important intellectual developmental progress! In fact, kids that are involved in sports will gain much more than being fit. They will do better in school, learn time-management, and build confidence.

I am sure by now you are thinking that scheduling all of these activities must cost a fortune. To be honest, yes – some classes and activities do cost a big chunk of change. However, there are so many opportunities for free activities that you can take advantage of. Whether you only do free activities or add them as a compliment to your weekly fitness schedule, there are many quality and fun programs available.  Here are some examples of some good ones:

Free Swims: There are free swims at every City of Winnipeg swimming pool. Have a look online or call 311 to see when your local pool hosts theirs. Take advantage of Tuesday free swim right after school from 3:30-5:00 pm at Pan Am.

Free Skate: There is a free skate every day of the week at various City of Winnipeg facilities. No skates? Buy used skates! Try looking online on a buy and sell website, Play It Again Sports or garage sales!

Go for a walk or a run with your kids. It’s free and there is no scheduling required. Just get up and go! Not only will this be good exercise, but it will be an opportunity for you to connect and actually “talk” with your kids. Just make sure you leave your smart phone at home!

Go for a bike ride – until it snows! Same as the walk – no advanced preparation required! Ensure you are properly equipped with safety gear. i.e.: helmets and reflectors and bright clothing.

Fitness Journal for Girls – The Journal has loads of discounts for year-long or term sessions for new participants. There are also lots of free classes to take advantage of. Try a sport that you or your girl may not have considered. There are free boxing and CrossFit workouts, free basketball sessions, 50% off snow tubing, free teen fitness classes or kickboxing workouts, BOGO diving and many more discounts! You can get your pass here – they are BOGO this week too!

Take advantage of first FREE classes – do a mother/son, father/daughter or cross fit, kickboxing, or yoga! Not only will it be free, but it will be a fabulous way to spend quality time with your kids! If you both love it, you can sign up for a session! Kids see their parents as role models for life. It is a proven fact that if a parent has an active, fit lifestyle then their children are more likely to adopt the same habits for life.

Faith groups are “getting it” too. Youth for Christ on King Street has numerous of Free – $1 and $2 single sessions and $10/year activities for kids including drop in skateboarding, fitness programs and soccer. Amazing value!

School activities – There are a slew of before school, lunch break or after school activities to sign up for. Most are free for the kids that go to the school. Think gymnastics club, Zumba, running club, cross-country skiing, etc…

Finally, there are many associations and gyms that have special pricing for kids and families that want to join but may be in financially difficult positions. Best bet is to simply ask your local facility to see if they have such offers.

So if you haven’t book or scheduled your kids to the max this fall, don’t worry. As you can see, there are so many activities you can take advantage of so that your kids (and you too!) can get fit and make this the best and healthiest school year ever!

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Food Swaps for Healthy Living

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When we think about eating healthier and more nutritionally dense food, often people think about it being restrictive. They think about all the massive changes they need to make to their current eating habits, and all the things they can no longer enjoy. There needs to be a major shift in mentality if you truly want your food habits to become healthy long-term. You need to think about all of the things you are adding to your body to nourish and care for your cells. You need to think about how great you will feel from eating healthy – increased energy, better mood, and slimmer waistline. I would suggest that for anyone who wants to put their nutrition at the forefront, to do away with the word ‘diet’, as this constitutes a concept of it being temporary and restrictive. Rather, change the wording and mentality to eating healthy – because your body deserves it.

When first starting out, there are some simple changes you can do that can make a huge difference. Here is my list of ten food swaps to get your nutrition working for you today!

  1. Ditch the Soda. Both regular and diet soda can wreak havoc on your health. Soda is loaded with sugar or aspartame, phosphoric acid and caffeine all having various adverse health effects. Drinking soda can lead to obesity, is bad for your teeth, and can lead to dehydration. Swap it for infused water, which is simply water with fruit, lemons and/or herbs such as peppermint or cilantro. There are tons of recipes online for different flavors, or just put your favorite berries or citrus flavors in your water bottle.
  2. Ditch the Flavor Shots in Your Water. Staying hydrated throughout the day is very important, especially in the summer. But adding a quick squeeze of high sugar or aspartame-loaded flavor combats the goodness of the water. Instead, opt for infused fruit water or consider adding a splash of chlorophyll, apple cider vinegar or kombucha. All of these additions have different health benefits and can be purchased at your favorite health food store.
  3. Buy Ready to Eat Veggies. Do you ever throw out vegetables that you haven’t got around to eating? If you’re anything like me, this drives you nuts! It is literally throwing money into the garbage. Although ready to eat veggies (pre-cut, pre-washed) are slightly more expensive, if you eat them instead of tossing them in the trash, it ends up working out. With busy schedules sometimes we don’t have time for a lot of food preparation, so if you can grab some carrots or broccoli that are ready to go, you may tend to eat more of them.
  4. Swap Your Dips. Who doesn’t love a great dip with their snacks? These are often loaded with unwanted calories, sugar and bad fats. But the idea of dry broccoli is definitely not winning me over. Instead, try using salsa or hummus. If you really have a craving for something creamier, swap your sour cream for Greek yogurt.
  5. Swap the Whites for Browns. This one is huge! If you are currently eating white rice, white bread, white pasta, white flour, crackers, cereal…its time has come to an end! Loaded with sugar, these trigger a release of insulin and an hour or two later your hunger returns. This can lead to diabetes, obesity and issues with your heart health. Instead opt for whole grain foods such as whole grain bread, pasta, flour and cereal.
  6. Swap Your Cooking Oils. Sometimes it’s not just about what you’re eating but what you’re cooking it in. If you are currently using margarine or any type of vegetable oil (canola, soybean, corn, sunflower, safflower, peanut oils) it is time for change! Swap any of these out for either raw organic coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil.
  7. Swap Your Flavored Yogurt. Often flavored yogurt is full of sugar in the fruit mixture at the bottom. Instead, opt for plain yogurt and mix in your own fresh fruit. Adding blueberries, raspberries or even banana brings the same amount of delicious flavor and has the nutritional benefits of fresh fruit, without the same sugar content.
  8. Swap Out the Creamy Soup – I love soup! In fact I could probably have it every day and never get bored. Processed soups are often loaded with sodium and items I have never heard of in the ingredient list (I mean really, what is ‘monosodium glutamate’ anyway?). If you are having soup, try swapping out cream-based soups for tomato-based or broth soup. Making soups at home is a great way to bring a healthier soup to the dinner table.
  9. Swap Out Your Sandwich Meat. I gave up processed deli meats a few years ago when learning about the adverse health issues that have been studied on the effects of eating this food long-term. Studies have shows eating deli meats can cause cardiovascular issues and an increase risk for certain types of cancer. Swap out your bologna, pepperoni and turkey breast for pieces of meat from the bone such as chicken or turkey.
  10. Swap Out Regular Ground Beef. An easy switch when strolling through the meat aisle is choosing extra lean ground beef opposed to regular ground beef. If beef is not on your menu, try extra lean ground chicken or turkey.

Remember it is not about denying yourself the things you love, rather making slight adjustments and adding healthy and nutritionally dense food to your plate.