Our Must-Haves for a Healthy Kitchen

When first starting out on your journey to a healthier you, 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. We need to start thinking that living a healthy lifestyle isn’t about deprivation rather it is about finding an abundance of healthy things you can ADD to your life – food included! Here is our 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 Amazing Grass Greens Superfood Antioxidant, 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.

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Why Girls Are Dropping Out of Sport

We have a really big issue in Canada with respect to girls in sport. They aren’t participating in organized sport, and those that do, leave early. In fact, girls are six times more likely to drop out of sports than are boys in Canada by the age of 15. And if a girl is not involved in sport by the age of 10, she has a 10% chance of being an active adult. Let that sink in. 

Now let’s start with the basics. Why is sport so important for kids, especially girls, to be involved in? First, there is the health aspect. Children need 60 minutes of exercise per day to be healthy. If you think your child is getting that at school, think again. They are not. Physical education programs are being cut year after year, and recess does not mean active play time. When girls participate in sport, they have a decreased rate of starting smoking, using drugs and alcohol, a lower rate of teen pregnancy rates, a reduced risk of being overweight, and lower rates of disease including cancer.

Second is confidence. A new report that surveyed more than 10,000 girls across the country has found a positive correlation between playing sports and increased confidence, body image, academic performance and personal relationships. Girls are more confident in their body image and looks, abilities and personalities when they play sports. This correlation is huge, and should be thought of every time you sign your child up for activities. And another cool stat? Over 90% of women who are CEO’s in North America played high performance level sports growing up.

Other than health and a more positive mental state, there are so many things that we learn from sport. We learn how to win, how to lose, teamwork, time management. We can meet new friends, travel across our country and around the globe. But even with all of these positive elements, girls are still dropping out. Why?

Research says there are six major reasons as to why: 

  • Lack of positive female role models in the media. In fact, less than 5% of all sports coverage is given to female athletes. 
  • Transportation and safety issues. 
  • A perceived lack of options for girls versus what is out there for boys 
  • Cost 
  • Social stigma for being a female athlete. Think ‘tomboy’ or ‘butch’ terminology 
  • A decrease quality experience 

But is there more? We think so. In 2018, we worked with hundreds of girls ages 5 – 21 who are currently involved in sports or have been involved in the past. When asking them why they or their friends drop out, we heard a few other concrete reasons that need to be addressed. 

First, was time. When speaking with girls in junior high and high school, they only have so much time on their hands. They have school full time, community and/or family obligations, social or friend obligations, and perhaps other activities that are not sport (i.e. band, art, etc). One thing we heard over and over again was they needed to choose between sports and having a part time job. They want money to buy $20 mascara or new jeans every month, and parents don’t have the means to do this. And when you’re a teenager, these things can end up taking priority. We hear this from both the parents and the girls. We do our very best to encourage the girls and parents to think long term on this. Sports can bring you scholarships to university, work as a coach or mentor in the community, and an overall balance in your life! The long term gain far out weights the short term results of a minimum wage part time job. 

Next, we hear an issue with regards to cultural differences. When speaking to a group of 30 high school girls in Winnipeg, girls were telling us that they felt awkward having to be the only person wearing a Hijab underneath their basketball or volleyball uniform. At a time in their lives where they want to blend in, this could bring attention to them they do not want. And it is not an issue of lack of cultural pride, but rather the sports not thinking about cultural norms that they may need to adjust to. 

Lastly, is a sense of belonging. The number one thing that girls look for when being involved in sport and activity is that they feel a part of something. Be it a team, a club, an organization. They yearn for this feeling of togetherness, acceptance and inclusion. Without that, it doesn’t matter how much they are winning or losing, they are not going to be fully engaged. That is something that everyone needs to ban together on to make it work – coaches, parents, teammates and themselves. 

At Fit Communications and FIT Women and Girls we are doing our best to help tear these blockades down for girls in Canada. From our Confidence Workbook, to our FITGirls Directory to the work we do in the media, we are in constant pursuit to make things terrific for girls in our country. Our goal is to have increased participation rates for girls in sport, and to see the future of our country happy and healthy. Thanks for joining us on this journey! 

Not Your Dad’s Disease Anymore

I used to think that Heart Disease was a “man’s disease”. Perhaps it’s because the only people I had ever heard about having heart problems were men. My uncle, both of my grandfathers, friends, friends of my family… had either heart attacks, bypass surgeries or some other equally as scary heart trauma.  Perhaps it’s because you always hear women telling their husbands – “slow down or you’re going to have a heart attack” or telling their kids “don’t show your Dad, he’ll have a heart attack”.  Usually this is said in jest, but it stems from a legitimate history of health problems in men.

This is obviously a valid issue for men, however I’ve recently learned that it is even more of a concern for women.  According to the Women’s Heart Foundation, 6.5 million women have some form of Coronary Heart Disease.  It is the leading cause of death in women in North America. Here are some additional shocking statistics with regards to women’s heart health:

  • 42% of women who have heart attacks die within one year! Compared to 24% of men.
  • Under age 50, women’s heart attacks are twice as likely as men’s to be fatal.
  • Heart attacks kill 6 timesas many women as breast cancer.

So who is “at risk”?

  • 71% of women experience early warning signs of a heart attack with sudden onset of extreme weakness that feels like the fluand often with no chest pain at all.
  • Nearly 2/3 of the deaths from heart attacks in women occur among those who have no history of chest pain.
  • Women who smokerisk having a heart attack 19 years earlier than non-smokers.
  • Diabetesdoubles their risk for women to have a heart attack.

The good news is that women’s hearts respond better than men’s to healthy lifestyle changes.  Although coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death in women, it is also the MOST preventable.  So let’s start changing these statistics!  Here’s how:

What can you do to prevent CHD?

  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco.
  • Exercise for about 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. (See below)
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get enough quality sleepof 7 – 9 hours per night.
  • Manage your stress.
  • Get regular health screenings including checking your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and diabetes screening.

Key Nutrition Tips Are:

  • Avoid too much salt and sugar in your diet.
  • Limit or avoid saturated fat (red meat, full-fat dairy, palm oil)
  • Cut out trans-fat (deep-fried foods, packaged snack foods, margarine, bakery products). If the nutrition label has the term “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated”, it means that product contains trans-fat.
  • Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet – GOAL: 5 – 10 servings/day
  • Eat salmon and tuna – two or more servings a week.
  • Limit your alcohol to one drink per day.

If this is the leading killer of women andwe can prevent it, then let’s take action to change the statistics. I think most of us know that we should follow items in the list for prevention, but how many of these do we actually do?  I know that I try, but can’t truthfully say I meet all of the checks on the list. Maybe it’s time to take a real look at the list and see how we measure up.  I’m not a doctor, but I think any positive changes we make to get closer to having all of these things on the list checked off will not only prevent CHD but will also prevent particular cancers, other diseases and contribute a healthier and happier you.  If you are so far away from doing everything on this list, then take baby steps.  Start with one.  Pick one that is realistic for you to tackle now. Set a goal for yourself – to do it by a certain date.  Ask for help – from friends, family, your kids, your doctor – whoever you think can help you make this positive change.

The Top 5 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight

 

 

 

 

 

We often have people ask us for advice and resources on how to get to their goals in health and wellness. A big piece of this is often surrounding weight loss. I think it is really important to stress that first and foremost, if you goal is centred around a number on a scale, you might always lose the battle. That number that you see staring back at you can shift so much from day to day. Water retention, hormones and even the weather all play a part, and can have you up and down day to day in a 10-pound cycle. Not only that, but sometimes we are gaining muscle and losing fat, and in turn, the number stays the same or even goes up. Rather, it is better to focus on goals like how your clothes fit, how you feel when you look in the mirror, or health numbers such as blood pressure, resting heart rate or blood sugar levels.

All that said, we know that sometimes you just want to shed some pounds. You feel like you’re eating well, working out lots but you are still in the same boat as you were three months ago. This week’s blog we’re going to shift your mind on five of the biggest mistakes we hear people doing and how to get them back on track.

  1. You’re drinking your calories. PLEASE stop telling me that you ‘only drink diet pop’ or the drink you drink ‘only has 100 calories’. First, to the diet cola debate. “The epidemiological studies looking at the association between people who consume diet soda and weight and those who don’t consume it typically show that consuming is associated with higher rates of obesity and higher rates of other metabolic complications,” Allison Sylvetsky Meni, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University. Here’s why:
  • It raises your cravings for sugar
  • Your brain registers it as real sugar, confuses the brain and in turn has you craving more calories
  • It may promote insulin response, meaning your body treats it like sugar
  • You use diet drinks ‘zero calorie’ ideology to eat more because that was zero calories

And don’t even get me started on why these artificial sweeteners are bad for you in a million other ways.

As for the ‘my drink only has 100 calories’ – check the sugar level. I recently looked at a ‘green tea’ beverage that boasted it only contained 100 calories. The problem? There were 25 grams of sugar in it!! Let’s do the math. 4.2 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar. That means SIX TEASPOONS of sugar are in this drink! Let THAT sink in.

  1. You’re not working out properly. Now this could be a book in and of itself. But if you are not getting your heart rate up, you aren’t giving your body the cardio-vascular workout it needs to be healthy and in turn shed a few pounds. I love yoga and weight lifting, but if I am looking to lose weight, a sweaty cardio session needs to happen 2 – 3 times per week at least. And please don’t think that hot yoga is you sweating that much. I mean a 45 – 60-minute session of bootcamp, running, kickboxing. Get your body really moving hard.
  2. You’re not getting enough sleep. Research shows that too little sleepmesses with your metabolism and contributes to weight gain. I know this is easier said than done. I am a really good sleeper and have no troubles falling asleep nor staying asleep. But it really is imperative for so many health reasons including weight loss. There are lots of great natural aids to help you including Melatonin and CBD Oil.
  3. You’re way too stressed out. When we’re stressed out, our levels of cortisol in our bodies increase. In turn, overeating turns into a habit. Not only that, but because your increased levels of the hormone increase your insulin levels, your blood sugar drops and you crave sugary, fatty foods. Pretty much the worst combination for weight loss. Taking a walk, doing a yoga class, mindful breathing and meditation are all simple ways to keep your stress levels in check.
  4. You think you’re eating clean and you’re totally not. This one can be a bigger battle. There are so many factors involved here, but here are a few of the top things we hear people THINK are okay and really aren’t:
    • No consideration for what their food is cooked IN. Stick to raw organic coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil or hemp oil
    • Ease up on your intake of big carbs. By this I mean bread, rice, pasta, flour. It really doesn’t matter if they are ‘whole grain’ or not if you’re eating three cars a day. Stick to one. If you have toast in the morning, no more for the day. Especially at dinner if you plan to not do much activity in your evening. It will be stored as fat in your body if you aren’t burning them up…and you’re not!
    • You’re not eating enough good protein. You need to eat it at every meal. Wonder why you feel hungry by 10am when you JUST had breakfast at 8? It’s because you’re eating things like bread and muffins instead of things that will sustain you for longer like eggs, vegetables, lean meats and fruit.
    • You’re scared of fats because of the word. That needs to stop. GOOD fats like avocados and nuts are your friend. Don’t go bonkers on them but eat them daily.
    • You’re eating at the wrong time of day. “I go all day without eating and have a clean dinner and a late-night snack and I can’t figure out why I can’t lose weight!”. Ummmm…this is the opposite of what you need to do. Eat. 3 times per day. Largest meal in the morning, smallest at night. Or try intermittent fasting to really get things rolling
    • You’re not supplementing. There is no way you’re getting it all in, especially 8 serving of veggies a day. You need to supplement with vitamins, minerals and a greens replacement.

Some food for thought (pardon the pun) for you to think about what you’re doing or maybe not doing to help you reach your goals. If you enjoyed reading this blog, let us know what you want to hear more about in the comments section below!

Shannon Jones – Our Summer Inspiration

Do you ever meet someone and right away want to learn so much about them and from them? This is was the case for me with Shannon Jones. I first met Shannon at a fundraiser for Winnipeg youth from the inner city about five years ago via her husband Miles, and a long-time friend from the University of Manitoba ‘Arts’ degree days. She just had a vibe about her that resonated with me. We became friends on social media soon thereafter and that vibe has rung so true. Shannon is a strong, kind, loving soul of a human being doing an exceptional job raising her three young girls. In this week’s blog we wanted to feature Shannon to spread the word about her incredible story.

Shannon grew up as a competitive gymnast, and it gave her the very happiest moments of her childhood. The gym was her second home, providing a source of stability that was lacking at home. After retiring from gymnastics she missed the exercise, building a strong body and mind, and as she says, “burning off the crazy!”. As past national and international level athletes, we absolutely positively can relate!

Shannon tried a few things to invigorate her fitness love again, but it took some time. At the age of 38 she tried CrossFit for the first time and has never looked back. It’s proven to be exactly what she needs as both a physical and emotional outlet for this mom of three.

Keeping up with the Jones’ is no easy task. Their three girls, London (11 years), Hartley (9) and Parker (4) are all super busy and beyond motivated. London is often reluctant to try new things, but with a little prodding she always finds something to love in every activity! She plays hockey and trains CrossFit, loves going to camp, and wants to study to be an Architect.

Hartley is a force to be reckoned with! She is strong, intense, self-motivated, and fiercely determined in all that she does. She is a competitive gymnast, has been selected for the High Performance training path, and confidently tells them to start saving our money for the LA 2028 Olympics, “because you definitely have to come watch my first Olympics!!”

Parker is 4 affectionately nicknamed BammBamm. She is ridiculously strong, and not at all concerned with being delicate! Parker loves to swim, and bounce on the trampoline, and do just about anything active! Last year, Parker was diagnosed with Autism with Language Impairment, which clarified a lot of issues, but also made clear that structured sport is likely not in the cards for her. However, through the amazing people and programs at the Canucks Autism Network, she has since started to learn to participate in swimming and skating, albeit on her own terms.

As both former athletes themselves, Shannon and Miles were very clear on wanting to have their girls experience as many sports as possible growing up. They felt so many tremendous benefits from a life with sport, and wanted to ensure they gave their girls the same opportunities for growth, strength and confidence they received. With London playing hockey, it has at times been a struggle playing on co-ed teams, not because of unfair treatment more so regarding an unfair culture. Girls being ‘tolerated’ rather than accepted, in turn making it difficult to develop a sense of a sport community for the young girls.

“We believe that sport participation is just as important for kids as school. Through training and competition they learn so much more than just a game; they learn to set short- and long-term goals; to be a great teammate; to manage their feelings in the face of both success and defeat; to be proud of their effort first, results second; to develop a healthy relationship with their Coaches; and most importantly, that at all stages success is earned, never an entitlement,” says Jones.

It hasn’t been an easy road for the family. Together they have faced a housing disaster, multiple life-threatening illnesses, uprooting to move across the country, Shannon’s medical retirement, and now trying to help their littlest to develop. Building resilience was the only response to it all while remaining honest about life. That it is not easy, it is not fair, and it is not predictable, but they can lean into each other and rise above it. Shannon often says ‘life is hard, love it easy’ and that rings in my ear every time I personally face any challenge.

The strength of their family runs deep in their veins. Hartley was diagnosed with Epilepsy as a baby, and has been through hell and back…and back again. From the endless medical procedures to the mind-numbing medications, this nine-year old is a pint-size super hero. But that along with her fierce love for gymnastics has made her set goals, crush them and set new ones often. Couldn’t we all just put her in our pockets as a reminder to be such a badass?

The Jones family moved from Winnipeg to Kelowna for a host of reasons two years ago. While they miss so much about Winnipeg, it has been a great move. When they arrived 2 years ago, Hartley required so much medication that she was unable to complete a full day of school, and was not developing academically. By changing their lifestyle, her treatments, and their surroundings, this child is now thriving academically, is medication-free, and is training in a national gymnastics development program. I’m sure they would have moved to Mars for results like this if they had to! Because THAT is what love and family are all about. Sticking together, rising above, and doing it with endless love and dedication in your heart.

I asked Shannon what her biggest dream for her girls is. It’s a tough question to pose to any parent, but she nailed it. “Honestly, that they truly know that they are loved. If we get that right, the rest will be easy.”

5 Motivational Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle

Like any journey in life, the first step can often be the hardest. Perhaps a friend or loved one has recently put on weight – it happens. Babies, stress, falling off the wagon, too much time at work – there are lots of reasons that we let our healthy lifestyle take the back burner. Helping your loved ones get back on track is one of the best gifts you can give, but it can be tricky. Here is a list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to motivating your friends and partners to start eating right, working out and putting their healthy lifestyle back as a priority.

  1. DON’T try to shame them into working out! Telling someone they have ‘really let themselves go’ or they would‘look a lot better if they lost 20 pounds’is not only mean, but it is counter productive. This is way more common that you may realize. A spouse gains weight and it is causing an issue in the marriage. Or your golfing buddy packed on a few extra pounds over the winter. Telling someone they are fat is not helping – in fact, it will most likely hinder their progress because their self-esteem will be lower, and they won’t think they are worth it. STOP the shaming!

DO talk honestly about your feelings regarding their health. Your concern for the ones you love should not be about how much they weigh or their waistline measurement. Rather it should be about how healthy they are, and how you want them to be the healthiest and best version of themselves. Remind them of how much more energy they will have, how they will sleep better, how they truly will feel better in their own skin. Ensure the focus is on their HEALTH and not their appearance.

  1. DON’T nag. Having someone nagging in your ear ‘you really should go for a run’or ‘are you sure you should be eating that’is rude, annoying and counter productive to their healthy lifestyle motivation. Even if your intentions are really good, teasing someone doesn’t work.

DO give positive feedback when they make a healthy choice. If they reach for a bottle of water instead of pop, they start eating a salad with chicken for lunch instead of a burger and fries, they hit the gym after work three times this week. Praise them for it in an honest and real way, and avoid sounding condescending or preachy. Tell them you are proud of them and notice when they have more energy or have lost a few pounds. Positive feedback is something we all crave.

  1. DON’T compare your loved ones to others. ‘Your sister doesn’t have a weight problem’ or‘your friends all go to the gym’are definitely ones to avoid. It may seem innocent enough – you are trying to show that people in their circle are living a healthy lifestyle, but believe me, this will not work. The focus needs to be on this person – their needs, their wants, and their desires. Comparing them to others will simply not work.

DO give positive reinforcement when they do healthy things with their friends or family. If your husband typically goes for pizza and beers on the weekend with his friends, and instead this weekend they go hiking – praise this! Healthy habits with the people in your life really make a huge difference. On a personal note, a huge part as to why I have such a healthy lifestyle is due to those I surround myself with. My family and best friends are all very health conscious, and it motivates me to continue to be so, and to constantly learn more on my healthy journey.

  1. DON’T preach ‘do as I say, don’t do as I do’. ‘Hey sweetie – you should really go work out. I’m going to sit here and scarf down a bag of chips and binge watch some TV’. So not fair! Be the example that you want to see and walk the talk. Who wants to be barked at on any level, moreover by someone who isn’t living it himself or herself. Don’t tell someone to do something that you yourself wouldn’t do. It’s like the dad telling their son to quit smoking while he lights another cigarette. It just doesn’t work.

DO be on this journey with them. Get a membership at the same gym, go grocery shopping together, take them around to a few classes or facilities you think they may like. They need to find their own spark for a healthy lifestyle. That is not something you can ignite, but you can show them options to hopefully spark their health passion. Two huge suggestions I would have on this would be to first, go grocery shopping together and teach them what to look for and why. My second suggestion would be to do drop-in classes together to find what he or she enjoys most. Most Winnipeg fitness facilities have either a drop-in rate or will let you try the gym for free your first time. Try kickboxing, cross fit, yoga, and weights together. This way it will be less intimidating, and feeling like they have a partner in this healthy journey is really helpful.

  1. DON’T give up. I know this can be a struggle. The person you love most isn’t putting their health as a priority. You feel you’ve tried everything. Don’t give up on that person – you might just be one motivating day away from helping them bounce back.

DO congratulate yourself when you hear that you inspire someone to live a healthy lifestyle. To be inspired is one thing, but to be the inspiration to others is another. Feel good about your successes and celebrate them. If you are the reason someone is eating healthier, working out again, or putting their health to the forefront – you have given them the best gift imaginable. Well done!

It is really important to note that before any of these do’s and don’ts begin, your loved ones need to come to you first. Allow them to start the conversation. Perhaps they are complaining about how their summer clothes don’t quite fit anymore, or their energy is constantly feeling depleted, or maybe they ask you for help. Wait for them to come to you to start this journey of health with them.

Posturing Up

 

I remember being a teenage girl and always hearing ‘Andrea! Stand up straight!’ from my parents, teachers and coaches. To say I had poor posture was an understatement. I think young girls are shy about getting taller, so in turn do everything they can to appear shorter. Now as an adult I pride myself on standing strong – both physically and figuratively. But that’s not to say every so often I don’t find myself hunched over in front of my computer. I try to do ‘posture checks’ to make sure my shoulders are back, my chest is out and my backbone is straight. Believe me – it’s rare that I am sitting straight these days.

I recently received an email from a 55-year old woman who has been reading our blog and let me know that as she has grown older and had a few health challenges along her journey, she has found her posture to be suffering. As our muscle mass decreases as we age, our posture tends to decline which can cause chronic pain. According to Dr. Michael Gleiber, MD, there are three major reasons why people start to hunch over as they age. These reasons are osteoporosis, wedge compression fractures, and spinal stenosis. But poor posture doesn’t mean you have one of these three issues. In fact, posture can be improved by a few simple exercises and stretches throughout the day, and strengthening you core.

1. Shoulder Rolls –Bringing your shoulders up to your ears and slowly rolling them back while you push your chest forward. Repeat ten times, three times per day.

2. Chest Stretch – my massage therapist always recommends this one to be done at least five times per day. Simply raise your arms to your sides, palms facing forward, keeping your elbows straight and your arms completely level at shoulder height. Next, bring your arms backwards so that you are bringing your shoulder blades together. It will be a very slight change but you should feel a stretch across your chest muscles and through your upper back.

3. Wall Sits – this is a great reminder on how to keep our spine straight. Sit with your backbone against the wall, your knees at a 90-degree angle, and your feet shoulder width apart. Try to hold this for thirty seconds, three times a day. Be mindful of how your body feels when your spine is straight.

4. Standing Side Bends – this one is great with or without weights. Remember when you were a kid and used to sing the song “I’m a little teacup”? It is the same movement! Simply keep your feet shoulder width apart and your hips squared. Bend 10 times to your right, squeezing your oblique muscles each time. Repeat on the left side.

5. Kneeling Quad and Hip Stretch – for this one, I would suggest putting a mat under your knee that is on the ground, and doing it beside a wall for balance. Put your right leg in front with your knee bent and your foot flat on the ground. Your left leg behind with your knee on the ground and your left toes pointed. Next, ever so slightly push your left hip flexor forward. This will give you a stretching feeling throughout your hip. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat three times on each side.

The other major piece to bettering your posture is strengthening your core. Taking yoga or Pilate’s class at one of Winnipeg’s exceptional studios is a great way to help with all of this. But if going to the gym or workouts at home is more your style, here are a few sample core workouts you can add to your regime.

Workout #1:

20 Criss Crosses (each leg for a total of 50)
20 Cross Over Crunches (each side)
20 Crunches
20 Flutter Kicks
20 Heel Touches (each side)

Workout #2:

20 Bicycle Crunches
30 Second Plank
20 Windshield Wipers
20 Full Sit Ups
20 Russian Twists

Workout #3:

20 Leg Raises
20 Crunches
20 Oblique Crunches (each side)
20 Pelvic Thrusts
20 Bicycle Crunches

With all of the above routines, repeat 2 to 3 times if your fitness level allows it. And with all of the above recommendations, consult with your healthcare practitioner before starting on any new exercise routines to ensure your health and safety is always top of mind.

Cacao Now – My New Favourite Nutrition Secret

 

 

 

 

On the advice of my brilliant nutritionist, I started to add more raw cacao to my health regime earlier this year. I purchased raw cacao powder and planned to put it in my morning concoction, which is a mixture of a green supplement, maca powder and now this. I found the combination worked really well to get me through my workouts, as I do intermittent fasting and need a boost. But the mixture was far from tasty. I could get it down, but figured there must be another, tastier option for the cacao. I wanted to find something that was raw, real, organic, and tasted awesome. Sounds impossible right? Wrong.

I stumbled across a company called Cacao Now founded by Tove Redeby and found a plethora of options to try. As I read more about the products and business, I found myself pretty fascinated with the woman behind the company and thought she would be a perfect person to interview and highlight in our FIT Women & Girls blog and social media. A super strong, healthy, environmentally-conscious woman…just our type!

“I have been interested in optimal eating and whole foods, as well as organic living and the environment for as long as I can remember. I have a diploma in nutrition, and I have always been fascinated by the power of food, REAL food. I believe that the foundation of most of our modern health issues are connected to what and how we eat, and that we can ultimately heal ourselves through our eating choices. As an avid all-around athlete, the connection between great food and great performance has also always interested me. My most important education has taken place in the mountains and in the kitchen, and my work is in service to both,” says Tove.

Let’s take a look at the health benefits of cacao:

  1. Cacao contains the highest concentration of ANTIOXIDANTS of any food in the world!
  2. Cacao seems to be the number one source of Magnesium.
  3. Cacao contains enough CHROMIUM to help reverse deficiencies in this mineral.
  4. Cacao is an excellent source of MANGANESE and ZINC.
  5. Cacao has an very high value of Vitamin C.
  6. Cacao is high in FIBER.
  7. Cacao contains essential omega-6 fatty acids. Once the cacao bean is cooked, the chocolate product automatically contains rancid omega-6 fatty acids (trans fat).
  8. Cacao contains Phenylethylamine (PEA). PEAs are a major class of chemicals that our body produces when we fall in love. This is one of the main reasons why love and chocolate have such a deep relation (this relation is not merely a myth). But, as PEAs are heat sensitive, they are not as present in cacao that has been heated.
  9. Cacao is rich in serotonin.
  10. Contrary to popular belief, Cacao is a poor source of Caffeine. Cacao contains Theobromine, a close relative to Caffeine.

Starting to sound like gold isn’t it? But how does it taste?

I have tried three of Tove’s Buddha Bars – Raw Chocolate Vanilla Bean, Raw Chocolate Peppermint and Raw Chocolate Orange Zest. The orange zest reminded me of the Christmas orange chocolate you get at the holidays. If that flavour is your jam, you’ll love this one. The vanilla bean is a subtle hint of vanilla, and if you are a big dark chocolate fan this one is for you. But that peppermint option – whoa! It’s delicious.

So here’s the cool part. I honestly felt the effects from eating this bar almost immediately. It gave me an energy boost, but not a jittery shakey boost. It seemed to just uplift me. This might be the most perfect pre-workout snack I can imagine. I at times workout twice a day with how my schedule is, and find that I need something to give me that extra umph! I completely avoid any sort of pre-workout supplements as I find them often riddled with chemicals and make me feel jittery and gross. I don’t like to eat too much before a workout as I find it makes me nauseous. Behold the solution! And here’s why this particular brand company is where it’s at:

There are absolutely zero refined sugars in Cacao Now products. Everything is sweetened with dates and/or raisins. Sugar is seriously the devil – avoid it as best you can. The cacao comes from raw cacao nibs, not a processed cacao mass, and therefore no fillers or ingredients we can’t pronounce are included. And Tove genuinely cares about what she is making and who she is making it for. She “deeply believes in the energetic connection between human and food” and in such energetically cleans her space before making her products.

Made in Squamish,BC, much of her product line is only available to the rest of Canada on her website. But don’t think for a minute that this woman plans on stopping there. With an upcoming expansion of her product line, she hopes to be in health food stores across the country soon. She is on a mission that I feel many of our readers can relate to. “My mission is just as much to share my knowledge and my passion for conscious living; to share the wisdom and healing powers of food and specifically of cacao; to spread good vibrations and LOVE; and ultimately to do my little part in making this world a “better” more loving place,” says Tove.

We love supporting strong, entrepreneurial women doing great things across our country. Eating real food, listening to your body, and eating mindfully are the words of wisdom Tove and Cacao Now want to share with you.

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My Love Affair with Broccoli

I literally eat broccoli every single day. It’s to the point that I crave it around 3pm. I love it raw with hummus – it’s my absolute go to afternoon snack. I love the taste, love how it fills me up just at the right time and is loaded with tons of nutritional benefits. I strive for my nutrition to be at the 90-10 rule. 90% of what I eat to be healthy, nutrient dense food, and the remaining 10% I give myself some slack. And the addition of a daily dose of broccoli allows me to get there. Here are the best nine reasons why broccoli should be in your every day routine:

  1. Broccoli is loaded with vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant and protects the body from free radicals. This has been shown to be a solid defense against cancer.
  2. Broccoli has sulforaphane, which researchers believe gives broccoli a particularly strong ability to fight cancer properties. This sulforaphane switches on the genes that prevents cancer development and switches off those that help it spread. WOW!
  3. Broccoli also has the ability to help restore your immune system as you age, and in turn helps your liver detoxify. Your liver plays a huge role in how clean you entire system truly is, and ensuring it is pumped full of detoxifying agents is key.
  4. Broccoli has loads of omega-3 fatty acids that are known to be anti-inflammatory. We have all heard that we want to have an ‘anti-inflammatory diet’ but what does that really mean? Chronic inflammation can cause numerous issues including mood disorders like depression and anxiety, issues with your cardiovascular system such as heart disease, swelling and pain in your joints, issues with your digestive system. Personally, all things I would like to avoid.
  5. It is good for your heart. Broccoli has been shown to reduce and even reverse damage to blood vessels. It has tons of soluble fiber that helps cholesterol leave your body.
  6. That soluble fiber? That helps you feel full longer. I love it at 3pm because when I’m hungry I need to eat! I can’t wait until dinner time for my next meal, but don’t want a full meal at that time either. Broccoli and hummus fills me up just enough to make me feel satisfied until dinner time. If you’re trying to lose weight, eating foods high in soluble fiber is key to reduce your appetite.
  7. It keeps you super regular! Did you know a healthy digestive system has you going poop at least once if not twice a day? If you aren’t, try adding broccoli to your day to keep things moving quickly.
  8. Broccoli is great for your bones and skin. It is a solid source of folic acid and potassium which help build collagen, and keep your tissue and bones strong. This can also help you avoid osteoporosis as you get older.
  9. You want to try to keep your body alkalized, meaning less acidic. Broccoli is great for that. It can get a bit complicated on how to, so if you are interested, we would suggest you reading this terrific article from Real Food For Life.

Are you sold on broccoli? There are tons of options in the grocery store for ready-cut broccoli to take the chore out of food prep on this one. If when you first try it hurts your stomach, lightly steam it. Adding real butter or honey is a great trick too to help you enjoy the taste. It’s so great when the planet gives us such a remarkable food…enjoy it!

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This Not That – For Kids

I’m a working Mom of three kids. I know first hand how hard it is to always make the healthiest choices for our kids. Life is busy.  Between work, school, activities, driving, cooking, cleaning and volunteering, there needs to be about 5 more hours each day to fit it all in.

The choice of foods we make for our children not only affect their health now, but also for their future.  Their little bodies are in a constant state of building and their future health depends on what we put in those bodies while growing. Providing good nutrition is also the way to set them on a path of healthy eating for their adulthood.  We know that kids learn their eating habits and views about food from their homes.  Let’s teach our kids to not only enjoy nutritious food, but also to view food as fuel that can help make them make their bodies do great things.

All this said, I know how hard it is to raise a healthy eater. Every kid loves French fries, pizza, candy and ice cream. I admit that my kids eat these things too!  However, when they do have them, it’s infrequently and a treat – not a regular occurrence.  I’d like to share a few ways you can make simple changes to provide better (not perfect) nutrition for your kids.  It’s basically about swapping one thing for another.

 

FOOD BETTER BEST
White Bread Rye Bread Whole Grain Bread
McDonald’s (Fast Food) A&W (no antibiotics) Freshii, Jugo Juice
White Pasta “Smart” Pasta (tastes exactly like white but added veggies or fibre Whole Grain Pasta
No veggies 1 – At least once per day of any vegetable – their favourite

2 – Serve veggies with dip

3 – Cooked with butter and honey (my secret weapon)

A variety of vegetables with lots of different colours –  maximize nutrition intake.
Margarine Butter Ghee
Store Bought:

Cookies, Cakes, Granola Bars,

Store Bought but “all natural ingredients/no artificial ingredients or preservatives” Homemade or other healthy snacks – fruit, vegetables…
Pop or Fruit “drinks”, Slurpees

(all packed with sugar and without nutrients)

Real Fruit Juice ½ water, ½ juice OR
Water
Gatorade/Powerade/

Sport Drinks

Chocolate Milk Water
Processed Chicken Fingers or Nuggets or Fish Sticks Homemade Chicken fingers or Fish Sticks – Baked Grilled or Baked Boneless Skinless Chicken or Fish
French Fries – Deep Fried ½ size Fries and salad/veggies or fruit, mashed potatoes Baked potato, sweet potato
White Rice Basmati or Jasmine Rice Brown Rice, Quinoa
Candy, Chocolate Bars Snack Size/Halloween Size Fruit
Potato Chips Veggie Chips, Baked Chips, Pretzels, Popcorn Nuts, Fruit, Raw Veggies
Waffles, Pop Tarts, High Sugar Cereal (all processed) Homemade pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, whole grain cereal, whole grain toast Add fruit and protein…

Eggs, peanut butter, orange juice, yogurt, bowl of berries

To summarize, stay away from processed foods, deep fried foods, sugar (except that naturally found in fruit), white starches/carbs.  There is always a substitute.  Don’t worry if you’re entire menu is currently on the “stay away from” list.  The good news is that you can only improve from here.  Start today with things you think will work for your kids and then slowly incorporate more.

If you found this information useful, have a look at some of our other blogs on nutrition and health and subscribe to our newsletter!