Baru Rubs & Sauces

With Barbeque Season officially here, the timing could not have been better to try what is now my new favourite seasonings! I had been so bored with my regular “go-to” menu and was looking for something to “spice things up” without going completely off what I know how to cook. 

Here’s where Baru Rubs and Sauces steps in! Baru is a Vancouver-based company started three years ago by two BFFs – Zeta Newis and Nina Lafleur – as a spin off of the successful Kitsilano restaurant – Baru Latino.   Part of what makes their products so unique is that they are a small batch, handmade producer based out of an award winning restaurant.  Who wouldn’t want to bring this deliciousness home for their own daily consumption?

I think I may personally love the business for the fact that the co-owners are women, BFFs, foodies and Canadian.  Nina Lafleur attributes their success to their belief in  “fresh, healthy, tasty ingredients and a commitment to our customers”

The friends’ love for food and cooking is evident in their products.  They want to make healthy, fresh and delicious food for friends and family. This is something I completely relate to. “Food is family, friends, and community. It is something that unites us all. With our products, you are able to sample foods which are inspired from different areas of the world, take them home and try new things.”

Having tried all of the rubs and hot sauces, I have to say that they are as unique and diverse as my own family.  Their “Hot’R Sauce – Even Hotter” is, by far, my husband’s favourite he’s ever tried.  Having spent 6 years in the Caribbean, the flavour takes him back.  He LOVES hot sauces – but this one isn’t just hot, it’s packed with flavour.  He said “it’s the habenero…I can taste it in the sauce”.  When I asked him more about what he thought, he said “it’s all gone. We NEED to get more!” For this discerning hot sauce fan, this is the greatest compliment.

Now for the rubs… I have a mixed crew of test subjects and palets … I like spice and flavour, my husband likes HOT and flavour and my daughters like flavour packed spices without the HOT.  The girls favourite was the Chimichurri Rub.  I marinated chicken in the recommended mix of (olive oil) and rub before cooking.  They actually fought over the last piece and asked to have it for lunch!  Success!

I love the fact that these rubs are packed with flavour, not just sauce or salt. I also love that they give suggestions to how to use them – I didn’t even think of using it as a marinade! Baru hit the nail on the head with their focus on putting ethnicity and global tastes into a product.  It goes outside my own personal usual “go-to’s” – which I love!  I can’t wait to try these rubs on fish!  And steak is a “no-brainer”.    

Currently their products are only sold in retail stores in BC but they are wanting to expand outside of the province. Luckily for me, five of their products (including the coveted Hot’R Sauce!) are available online and can be shipped anywhere in the world. Currently their offering free shipping in Canada for orders over $30. Yippee!

I’m happy that I was able to try Baru’s products – not only to have a future Father’s Day gift idea, but also to help me break out of my usual fare of seasoning-free kid cooking to a kid and adult-approved cooking environment!

If you are interested learning more about or trying the Baru Rubs & Sauces yourself this BBQ season (or anytime really!), please visit their website: https://www.barurubsandsauces.com.

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!

Immunity Health – What You Need To Know

Winnipeg is experiencing one of the worst flu seasons in over two decades. A strong immune system can play a detrimental role in keeping the flu at bay. I often make myself a bit of a guinea pig to test the books and articles I read on health, and immunity is no exception.

To begin, why is the immune system is important? In short, it is the key to maintaining overall good health. The healthier your immune system is, the better chance you have at warding off illness and toxins. The immune system is the defense force against invaders from both outside and inside the body that can cause disease or death if not stopped. Personally, I feel that the key to a long, healthy life is a strong and clean digestive system and immune system.

According to the book “The Immune System Cure” by Lorna Vanderhaeghe and Patrick Bouic, (which I would highly recommend reading) there are ten important nutritional supplements to boost your immune system. They are:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Magnesium
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Reduced L-glutathione
  • DHEA

Many of the above should be found in a high quality multi-vitamin. It is really important to choose a multi-vitamin that is absorbed well by your cells. Cheaper multi’s won’t be absorbed and you will just end up peeing out the nutrients.

In my personal regime to keep my immune system strong, I include the above, but have also found a few other really important pieces to the game. First, are phytonutrients and phytosterols. These are basically immune system boosters. You can get these in your food by eating organic vegetables, fruit, seeds and nuts. If your daily nutrition regime isn’t up to par, there are two things I would strongly recommend. First, a supplement called Immuno-First by Health First. You can purchase this online or at most health food stores. The second recommendation I have is to add a greens supplement to your day. I personally take PhD Pharma Greens Whole Food & Cleansing Herb Blend. I mix this with water at the gym, which gives me added energy while working out, is a natural cleanser for your cells, and an immunity booster.

Next, part of my morning ritual is a few spoonfuls of goodness. I take a liquid iron supplement by a brand called Lorna Vanderhaeghe (which by the way, tastes like caramel sauce – it’s delicious!), Lily of the Desert Aloe Vera Gel (antioxidant and overall good health maintenance), Progressive High Potency Fish Oil, and Organic Hemp Oil by Manitoba Harvest. I know this might sound high maintenance, but it takes less than one minute to do and I feel terrific. All in all, worth the 60 seconds.

I would also suggest taking a probiotic. These good bacteria help promote both a healthy digestive system and immune system. It is important to switch up your probiotic though – your body will get used to the good bacteria and it will start to become less effective. So be sure to switch up the brand or particular one you are taking every couple of months. Another great way to add good bacteria to your body is through organic, raw, fermented Kombucha. Kombucha improves alkalinity, digestion and detoxifies and maintains a healthy intestinal tract. There are lots of great options out to there choose from.

When I feel myself coming down with something, the first thing I do is double my dose of my multi-vitamin, vitamin D and vitamin C. This seems to work for me. We have all heard that vitamin C can chase a cold away, but in fact, once you have a cold vitamin C can’t help you. That said there have been many studies surrounding the concept of high-dosing vitamin C. In W. Gifford-Jones MD’s book “90+ How I Got There!” he talks about high dosing vitamin C and lysine, and their potential to prevent and help with various diseases from the common cold to cancer.  Jones takes 10,000 mgs of vitamin C and 5000 mgs of lysine every day. I take about a quarter of that via supplements, plus what I get from my food, which is much higher than most people. The average multi-vitamin only has about 100 mgs of vitamin C. Definitely worth some personal research and speaking with your health practitioner if this is something you are interested in.

Then there is food! I touched briefly on the idea of fruit, vegetables, seeds and nuts earlier, but there are also some great flavors to add to the mix to help with your immune system boost. First is garlic. Garlic has potent healing properties due to its antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-bacterial properties. Onions are right behind garlic with their immune system help. Fresh is best when it comes to these two.

Avocado and tomato are also high up on the list of immune system boosting foods. Tomato is absorbed best when eaten with a little bit of oil. Try flaxseed or olive oil with a salad for a great, healthy tasting snack.

Then there is the berry family. Berries, including blueberries, raspberries, cranberries and strawberries are packed with vitamin C and phytonutrients. Grapes are also a great fruit choice as they are full of antioxidants and resveratrol that has shown in some studies to have anti-cancer and anti-aging properties.

Last but not least I have to promote the idea of flushing it out. Clean water and green tea can be your best friend when it comes to immunity health. And do you know what is the worst thing that you can do? Eat sugar! When we eat sugar our immune system becomes upset, which can lead to numerous health issues including diabetes, cancer, obesity, heart disease and many more. Everyone loves a sweet once in a while including me, but try to keep the sugar intake to a minimum, especially when you’re sick.

Holiday Health Tips

It’s that time of year again – the holiday season! There is a festive feeling in the air, the lights make everything look so alive, and parties are well underway. With all of the chocolates, sweets, dinners, parties and drinking going on, it’s really easy to pack on a few extra pounds over the holidays. Now I am one to indulge and enjoy too, but have a few handy tricks of the trade to make sure I stay on track with my health goals throughout this time of year.

 

At the Office

I have worked in office spaces before where all of your clients want to send a sweet something to the team to say happy holidays. Next thing you know there are twenty different boxes of chocolates, candy canes galore, and enough shortbread cookies to feed an army. The temptations are endless. A chocolate here and a cookie there can really add up throughout the day. I find the easiest way to avoid this is to not see it. If your work area is close to the ‘snack table’ see if anyone minds if you move it. That way every time you get up you don’t grab a treat. Not possible? Give yourself a daily maximum. That might be three treats a day, and you can have them all together or throughout, but make sure you’re not grabbing for a goodie every time you leave your desk.

Potlucks at this time of year are also a big office favorite. Everyone likes to bring their favorite holiday dish which usually consists of something sweet, something rich, or something fattening. Make your dish something healthy. And if that turns you off, make one healthy and one not-so-much. I always like bringing a great vegetable dish. You might be surprised by how many others also crave something with some nutrition to add to the table. Pick and choose between the unhealthy items – try to pick only your favorites rather than one of everything.

 

At Home

Our family has always been one to get together around the holidays and enjoy each other’s company surrounded by delicious food and drinks. It is a time that everyone tends to have a bit of a break from work, school and life. Similar rules from the office potluck would apply to eating at your favorite cousin’s house. Yes – the food is delicious. But you don’t have to walk out of there feeling like you’re going to explode. Be mindful of your choices and be mindful of your eating. Eat until you are no longer hungry rather than until you are stuffed. Choose two types of desserts rather than one of each. And get up and move around. I find right after a big meal playing with the kids or dogs around the house takes your mind off of having another plate, and helps your body digest your food better rather than sitting motionless.

Around your own house, try to best maintain your nutritional routine. If this time of year brings more guests around, and perhaps in turn a few more alcoholic beverages, choose wisely. Try to keep it to a realistic number and don’t drink high calorie drinks. Everyone loves a Bailey’s and coffee or a Rum and Eggnog on Christmas morning but those are loaded with calories. One or two might be a great festive move, but drinking them like they are water will have your caloric intake through the roof.

 

Holiday Parties

Work holiday parties are always fun. It gives the team a chance to get together outside of the office and connect on things other than work. Whether you are a team of ten or 500, the camaraderie that can develop at these events is terrific. I always find that there is so much food to be had. Finger foods and appetizers while people are first arriving, followed by a soup and or salad, followed by the main course and then dessert. I definitely encourage everyone to indulge once in a while, but remember you are eating for one. The appetizers can really put things over the top. Eat the same amount of food that you would normally eat. At home, I don’t have six or seven appys before dinner. Try to make smart choices about the options you choose and the number of them that you choose.

Another great tip is that if you know you are going to be eating a large meal that night, be mindful of your meals throughout the day. Perhaps have a salad for lunch, and stick to fruit and eggs for the morning. Try your best to keep your caloric intake as it normally is.

 

The Gym

No, there are no holiday parties happening here but that doesn’t mean forget about your workouts for a couple of weeks. This time of year can be really busy with events, shopping and having fun. And because we are all eating a bit off of our usual program, sticking to your gym routine is really important. Find the time. Make it a priority throughout the holidays. It is as important in December as it is when you are making your New Years’ resolutions in January. Remember – summer bodies are made in the winter!

 

I hope this gives you a few things to consider when you are out and about this holiday season. I encourage you to eat well, be merry and enjoy your time with your family and friends.

 

 

Top 14 Foods I Would Never Eat

I am a firm believer in the idea of the 80-20 rule when it comes to your nutritional health. Meaning, 80% of what you put into your body should be nutritionally dense, healthy food, which leaves room for 20% to be ‘other’. The more I learn about nutrition, and how it effects everything from disease prevention, our moods and energy levels, not to mention our waistline, I find myself getting closer to a 90-10 rule. At Fit Communications we have blogged often about super foods, how to have a healthy kitchen, food swaps for a healthy kitchen, and so this week we wanted to take a look at the foods we would never, EVER eat. Everyone has different goals and ways of getting there, so we hope this article is an eye-opener to a healthier direction for you.

1. Fast food burgers – I don’t eat red meat. I personally feel it is bad for your blood. It absolutely slows down my digestive system and makes me feel lethargic. The quality of the meat that is used is often really low and full of fillers when buying it from fast food chains (with the exception of A&W). This is something that tops the list of no go for me.

2. Fake cheese – this would include ‘Cheez Whiz’ or Cheese in a Can. It is a completely processed food with sometimes ZERO actual dairy products within. I try to avoid chemicals in my life – whether it be with food, house hold cleaners, skin care…natural is the way to health for me.

3. Pop – I cut out pop a few years ago. I wasn’t really a heavy pop drinker, but the odd one would ‘pop’ in every once in a while. It has literally zero goodness in it for you. And if you think ‘diet’ drinks are okay, think again. They are made with ingredients that actually have you craving more sugar. Moreover, they rot your teeth and your digestive system. I want no part of that.

4. Sandwich meat – “The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified processed meat as a carcinogen, something that causes cancer. And it has classified red meat as a probable carcinogen, something that probably causes cancer. IARC is the cancer agency of the World Health Organization.” That’s enough for me to say no thanks! Source: Cancer.Org

5. White bread – I honestly don’t like the taste of it. I didn’t eat white bread as a kid, as whole grain bread tasted better to me. And I also feel I have trained by taste buds over the years to enjoy health food over garbage. Traditional white bread (think WonderBread) doesn’t have one ingredient that brings anything good to your body. With so many other healthy options out there, an easy pass for me.

6. Sweetener – A good friend of mine who happens to be an incredible Health Coach, once looked at me as I emptied a sweetener pack into my coffee and said “You would be better off with white sugar. That is white sugar covered in chemicals to get the calories out.” Not exactly a statement with an appetizing vibe! When you start to understand WHAT your food is, and WHERE it comes from, some decisions are easier than others. That was the last coffee with sweetener I ever drank.

7. Pop rockets – What even is this? Let’s think about this – it’s a sugary candy that makes a popping sound and feeling on your tongue when it is mixed with your saliva. What do you think that is does on its way down through your digestive system? Don’t you want your digestive system to be clean and working as efficiently and effectively as possible? If so, this should be on your hit list too.

8. Microwave dinners, including pizza pops – A year ago I decided to try living microwave free for one month. Research has not yet proven that microwaves cause cancer or any other direct issue with the human body, but I personally don’t trust the idea of sending waves into your food and that it wouldn’t cause any change to your food’s make-up, and therefore be an issue within your body. Moreover, the ingredients of many microwaveable foods tend to be highly processed, lots of salt, and words I can barely read let alone understand what they really are. When grocery shopping for packaged goods, if there are ingredients that I don’t know what they are, I put it back on the shelf. I simply want to know exactly what I am eating. If someone offered you a plate of maltrodextrin, disodium inosinate, xantham gum and sunflower oil, would you eat it? Because that is what is in many frozen dinners…check the ingredients!

9. Microwave popcorn – Although popcorn can be a healthy snack, it can also be dangerous to your health, even exposing you to cancer-causing chemicals. For all the nitty gritty details and facts, check out this link.

10. Canned meat, for example spam – I am not a big meat eater. I eat seafood and chicken, and that’s about it. As mentioned above, I don’t personally think it is good for your blood, your digestive system or disease prevention. And really…what IS spam?? The major ingredients are:

• Pork ‘with ham meat added’ (whatever the hell that means)
• Salt
• Water
• Potato starch
• Sugar
• Sodium nitrate

And just so you know, the sodium levels are over half of what your daily intake should be. And if that’s not enough to get you off this can-o-meat, check out this link to see how it’s made. Yuck!

11. Orange ‘drink’ (versus orange juice) – this could easily fall under the category of ‘sugary beverages’…either way, I’m not into any of them. If a beverage is sugar packets, add water, stir and voila…it’s not for me. I’d rather get my calories from something tastier. I would like to point out at this point that I am NOT a calorie counter. The premise for the amount of food I take it is answered by asking myself two questions. First, am I hungry? Second, is this a nutritionally dense food choice? If I say yes to both, I eat it.

12. Mozzarella sticks – The idea of eating a basket of mozza sticks hurts my stomach. I have a sensitive stomach to crap what can I say! I will be either running to the toilet right away or be ‘bunged up’ for a day or two when I eat items on this list. No exception here.

13. Processed baked goods with a long shelf life – eating a fresh piece of pastry, cake or pie is amazing. You should definitely indulge in your favorites. But quality here is key. If you have a home-made torte, it’s not staying good for long. A couple of days in the fridge max until things just aren’t quite looking, or smelling, right. Baked goods such as Twinkies or brownies at your local convenience store, that have a six month or longer shelf life should make you worry. Why is this not going bad? If you made it in your home kitchen it would be bad after 2 – 3 days! It is covered with chemicals to keep it from going bad faster. Is that really something you want to be eating?

14. Convenience Store hot dogs or a hot dog on a stick – My first question is how long have those things been sitting on the warmer? And even if all food safety measures are being fulfilled, what is INSIDE that dog that you’re about to get into? Many are packed with pork and preservatives – and not with the ‘high end’ of the pork. It’s the bottom on the barrel, we were going to throw it out levels of meat that are squished into a casing and served. There are definitely healthier meat options for hot dogs – please choose wisely!

Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids

It’s back to school time for kids, which means back to schedules for parents. Organizing backpacks, after school activities, school supply shopping and of course – making lunches. With so many allergies in today’s classroom, packing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or tuna wrap is a definite no go. It can have parents feeling out of ideas quickly. As a parent, you want to ensure you are sending your kids to school with healthy lunches, that are easy to prepare the night before or morning of, and perhaps most importantly – lunches your kids are going to actually eat.

Gone are the days of picking up a ‘ready-to-eat’ package lunch for your kids. They are loaded with sodium, sugar and simply aren’t enough nutrient dense calories to keep them full all day. If you are a working parent, I understand the struggle with time. You just don’t have enough time to cook, make and bake homemade everything. Who does really? But that doesn’t mean your kids nutrition should take the back burner. Here are five ideas on how to make delicious, healthy lunches your kids will be sure to enjoy.

  1. Leftovers – if they liked it at dinner, they’ll like it at lunch. My sister, the super-hero mom of three, ensures that every lunch and dinner meal has vegetables in it. Be it raw veggies and dip, steamed broccoli, honey carrots or roasted vegetables, her kids love them. Finding a vegetable or two that your kids enjoy is the key to this working. Don’t be scared to send them with the same thing every day – if they like it and it’s healthy, that is what counts. I think I ate the same lunch every single day in twelve years of grade school and never got bored. Taking them grocery shopping (which yes I know, can be a nightmare at times) may help them understand the variety of vegetables they can choose from. Making it a game by having them find and pick out veggies for the cart is a great way to make them feel part of the process. And when they feel like part of the process, they are more likely to eat what you are making.
  2. Wraps – there are lots of options with what to put inside these. I would suggest choosing a whole grain wrap that typically comes in smaller sizes for kids. Dice up some chicken, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, red peppers – whatever they like. Add brown rice or rice noodles from last night’s dinner, and for condiments try mustard or hummus for a healthy dash of extra flavor. Superhealthykids.com has a great article on top ten healthy wrap ideas for kids.
  3. Pita Pockets – the mini-pita pockets are great for kids’ lunches. Use cream cheese as a base, and add fresh cucumber and tomato. This takes less than 60 seconds to prepare and are delicious.
  4. Pita, Hummus and Veggies – kids love to dip – have you seen them eat fries and ketchup? Here’s a healthy spin on it. Pack them a bento box with healthy options like hummus, pita and veggies.
  5. Pasta – assuming your kids classroom has a microwave, send them with whole wheat pasta and marinara sauce. Not only is this healthy, but it’s a cost effective meal that can feed your whole family.

When it comes to snacks, most schools now encourage you to pack healthy snacks – they don’t want to see kids coming with a chocolate bar and a bag of chips to help them get through the day. They too understand the value of nutrition and how it can affect learning and energy levels. Instead, try packing fruit, cheese and crackers or veggies and dip. I loved having something sweet as a kid in my lunch, so if your kids do too, try to provide them with homemade goodies over processed treats.

Lastly, when it comes to packing lunches, be mindful of what you are packing them in. Plastic sandwich bags and brown paper bags that are thrown out every day are terrible for our environment, and the cost adds up quickly. Instead, send lunches in re-usable containers like Tupperware, and pack it all in a re-usable, washable lunch kit.

How to Eat Healthy During Summer BBQ Season

We are well underway with summer in Winnipeg – the weekend getaways to the lake, the countless festivals in the Exchange District, enjoying the incredible patios our city has to offer, and spending time with friends and family at the ever-popular BBQ. But summer indulging can take its toll on our health and on our waistlines. I think most of us drink a little more and eat a little more that is outside of our regular regime in the summer. It’s time for enjoying the weather, getting outside, and in turn, indulging. But we don’t have to go overboard. Here are a few tips on how to eat healthy next time you’re out and about in barbeque season:

  1. Reach for whole-wheat buns rather than white buns. Personally, I like the taste of whole wheat much better, and feel that everyone can acquire the taste buds to enjoy this option. Whole wheat is rich in fiber, is a plant-based protein, and is higher in phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals than is white bread.
  2. Stick to veggie or turkey burgers or boneless skinless chicken breasts instead of hot dogs or hamburgers. The World Health Organization last year linked processed meats (i.e. hot dogs and sandwich meat) and red meat to cancer. “A risk of several cancers may be associated with high consumption of red meat or processed meat. Although these risks are small, they could be important for public health because many people worldwide eat meat and meat consumption is increasing in low- and middle-income countries.” (Source: World Health Organization). So if an increased risk of cancer isn’t enough of a reason to reach for a secondary option, I don’t know what is. Boon Burger makes amazing vegetarian options that are sold both in their restaurant (79 Sherbrook Street) and at the grocery store.
  3. Go easy on the sauces. Everyone loves the toppings that come with burgers. Pile them on veggie style. Add tomato, onion, hot peppers, pickles and lettuce. With regards to condiments, try to stay away from high-sugar ketchup or mayo. Mustard and hummus are great substitutions.
  4. Don’t drink your calories. When it’s hot outside it’s important to stay hydrated. Whether you are drinking alcohol or non-alcoholic beverages, try to cut out high sugar options like pop or fruit juices. Try infusing your water with oranges, raspberries or mint for a fresh summer flavor without all the calories.
  5. If it’s a potluck, bring a healthy dish like a spinach salad or fresh or roasted vegetables. Summer is a great time in Winnipeg for fresh fruit and veggies, purchased locally at many of our Farmer’s Markets around the city. Adding berries to a spinach salad is a terrific way to increase the vitamin C while having a delicious summer salad.
  6. Don’t over indulge. The best way to do this is simple – get a plate, put your food on it and stick to eating just that. Try to avoid grazing all night over the finger food and snacks.
  7. If there are lots of starchy side dishes like pierogies, potato salad or pasta salad, try to pick just one. Think of it as prioritizing your food and pick just your favorite. Try to fill up on the healthier options around you.
  8. Stay active. The great thing about BBQ season is that is it so nice outside. When you’re done eating go for a walk, toss a football around or play a round of tag with the kids. This avoids the heavy feeling after you eat.

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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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