Is Snacking Good or Bad for Me?

Is snacking good or bad for you? Well wait, what is a snack any ways? Do you mean late night snacking, chips and double-stuffed oreos? Or are we talking about a quick snack before I go to spin class? Well, I guess that depends on how YOU define snacking. I never like to classify anything as “GOOD” or “BAD”, but I want to answer this question for you, and give it to you straight!

One of the MOST common questions I receive from my IG community, and clients — “What can I have for a Healthy Snack?” So this blog post will review snacking from a few different view points, but mostly focus on the practical tips and answer the questions–what can you snack on? Let’s get started.

What is snacking?

There are many different ways to define snacking, but the way I think of snacking, is consuming small amounts of food between meals. This can include both food or drink, but the key is smaller portions, ie snacks are not meals! This is different for everyone, and it seems to be the busier we are, the less time we have for “sit-down” or conventional meals, and therefore we rely on snacking to get all the fuel and nutrition we need for the day. When we use snacks to replace our meals, we have to be strategic, as it is far too easy to overeat, choose highly processed foods, and then just continuously graze, and many of us actually consider ourselves grazers.

Is there a difference between snacking and grazing?

Yes. I grew up on a farm, so if you don’t get this reference, I apologize, but I’m sure you all have seen a cow before….think of a cow in a field…sauntering along leisurely, munching on the grass here and there, walking a bit, eating some more, chewing, walking, eating…for hours on end. This is grazing. You can imagine the challenge that this brings for humans. It encourages us to eat MINDLESSLY and when we are not mindful (ie mindless) about what we eat, we tend to eat more than our body needs, and we tend to ENJOY IT LESS, and why would we ever want to eat more, and enjoy it less, shouldn’t it be the other way around? Snacking on the other hand is more intentional and deliberate, almost strategic and doesn’t blur into one long eating event. Snacks are timed to bridge the gap between your meals.

Bottom Line: Grazing encourages mindless eating, snacking is intentional, so do your best to eat with intention on your journey to living your best life.

When is the best time to snack?

In a perfect world, we would all eat very intuitively, meaning, eat when we are hungry, stop when we are full, but to be honest, I can only think of ONE person that I know who does this…the rest of us tend to fall somewhere between the spectrum of totally starving and uncomfortably full. Actually, if you have any kids, or are around kids, you will notice that they are quite good at eating according to their body and how they feel/what they need. But as we grow into adults, we tend to fu*% things up by going on weird diets, trying to lose weight, gain muscle, trim up, tone up etc. It is through this process of up and down, erratic food intake that we lose our sense of proper hunger and fullness cues, and our intuitive eating becomes less reliable, and we need to train them again.

So to keep it simple, I like to follow some general rules of timing for snacks/meals that will also help you plan your day, and plan your snacks. As a rule, to avoid that extreme hunger, meals can typically be spaced 4-6 hours apart, of course there is variability here, but I’m trying to be concise and give it to you straight okay? If you eat breakfast at 8am, then you would want to have lunch by 12-2pm. If you eat lunch at 1pm, then supper no later than 7pm, you get the idea. But GUESS WHAT? We are not robots, and try as we may, life will get in the way of our perfect meal timing, and that’s where snacks save the day! Yassss!

Snacks can be strategically eaten to bridge the gaps between meals and to keep you from becoming that hangry beast…and I will admit, I am the MOST beastly when hungry, and not living my best life at all. To keep you living your best life, use snacks when you have large gaps of time between meals. Snacks are also very important when we do any time of exercise or activity, they will help you push through! Here is an example of timing, if you eat at 8am, and plan to eat lunch at 1pm, but you have a last minute conference call or meeting that doesn’t end until 3pm. YIKES- 8am-3pm (7 hours) you will be ferociously hungry and will eat everything in sight at your next meal, you have no willpower when you are this hungry. As a solution, plan for a snack at 1pm when you would have your lunch, this will keep you in check until you can eat your actual lunch. Same thing when you leave work or school, if you have running around to do, try to fit in a workout, chances are you will need that snack to get you through.

Bottom Line: Have a snack if your meals are too far apart, but don’t forget to eat your meal.

What about LATE NIGHT MUNCHIES?

DUN.DUN.DUN. What is it about the witching hours when the sun goes down that we get sooo peckish and just wanna go ape on all the food in sight? I honestly don’t know. But what I do know, is that most people struggle with evening mindless snacking, myself included. I start off with good intentions. My Peanut Butter Yogurt Whip maybe with an apple. Then I will have a melba toast or regular toast with peanut butter…then after that….I still want more, I will sometimes find myself just eating peanut butter straight from the jar–WTF? Am I even hungry? No. For whatever reasons we snack (and there are many reasons and rarely is it hunger) the problem is, it becomes a habit, a habit that would be good to break, but will take time, however here are some of my go to snack options for sweet or salty cravers:

SWEET:

  • Peanut butter whip yogurt

  • Ryevita cracker with almond butter and honey

  • Yogurt with granola

  • Energy bite (click here for FREE enery bite masters guide)

  • Fruit with yogurt or nut butter dip

  • Small amounts of any dessert is OK, just watch that portion

SALTY:

  • Que pasa tortilla chips and salsa

  • Thin triscuit crackers with cheese

  • Trailmix (portions please)

  • Chee cha puffs — great replacement for chips

  • Popcorn

  • Chip/Popcorn: my favorite trick is taking 3 cups of popcorn, and then a handful of your favorite chips (just a handful) and crushing them into your popcorn, tossing it all up and wam bam, thank you mam’ your entire bowl of popcorn, tastes like your favorite chips.

Bottom Line: Mindless snacking in the evening is rarely fueled by hunger, so rather than focusing on what you’re eating, maybe you should focus on what’s eating you?

What is a good snack anyways?

I am going to share with you, my perfect snack formula, it makes the ideal “between meal” fuel. Snacking on the right type and combination of foods will give you that energy boost that we demand from our snacks, you know to get you through that mid-day slump. To understand that “right” combination, let me #throwback to Canada’s Food Guide concept of food groups, because most of us have at least seen this before. Don’t roll your eyes at me! A dietitian referencing the food guide, YES! Now, CFG identifies 4 unique food groups distinguished by the nutrients that group provides for our body. Meaning, each food group provides a unique set of nutrients that are important for our overall health. As a reminder….the 4 food groups are: Vegetables & Fruit, Grain & Starches, Milk & Alternatives, Meat & Alternatives. The RIGHT snack combination should balance 2 of these food groups, so keep that in mind. Let’s get into it.

The Perfect Snack Formula

  1. Should contain 2 or 3 of the 4 food groups. The simplest combo would be a protein and carbohydrate (tuna & crackers, apple & cheese) as some examples. But the point is, any ONE item will likely not satisfy you or fill you up, like just carrots, just apples, just cheese, just nuts, combine two and get that synergistic benefit and a variety of nutrients.

  2. Should range between 150-250 calories per snack. Remember, snacks are smaller portions of foods and using a calorie range will help you determine how much of your favorite snack food you might eat, this will also discourage you from eating half a jar of peanut butter or a whole brick of marble cheese with your crackers as a snack.

  3. Should containt fibre and protein because they are your friends, try to get enough of both at a snack (5g of protein, 3g of fibre)

  4. Should be low in added sugars, if you can keep it single digits then you are a rockstar (less than 9 grams)

  5. Should contain “clean” ingredients that you might find in your own pantry. This is easier if you are making it at home, but for pre-packaged stuff, look for short, simple ingredient lists and no artificial ingredients.

  6. Snacks should be easy to Assemble and portable–like energy bites, balls, or bars!

Some Favorite Snack Recipes

Here are a few of my favorite snack recipes to help you along your way and keeping the above tips in mind. You may also want to try some pre-packaged snack products— I am working on a blog for this so stay tuned!

To answer the question from the start…Is snacking good or bad for me? Snacking is good for you, in fact we rely on snacks for fuel and energy. MINDLESS snacking, is not good for you, snacking for the sake of eating satisfy other needs, that go beyond our nutrition needs. Here is a recap:
  • Plan for snacks! Have a snack if your meals are too far apart, but don’t forget to eat your meal.

  • Avoid grazing as it encourages mindless eating, snacking is intentional, so do your best to eat with intention on your journey to living your best life.

  • Re-think WHY you snack when you’re not hungry– Mindless snacking in the evening is rarely fueled by hunger, so rather than focusing on what you’re eating, maybe you should focus on what’s eating you?

  • Try the perfect snack formula above!

About Jessica Wylychenko our GUEST Blogger! 

Jessica is a registered dietitian helping runners eat smarter, to run harder. She works with you to become a more well balanced, well-nourished runner so that you can hit your PR’s and reduce your risk of injury. Jessica believes food is fuel and should be used to nurture the body, but food is also enjoyment, more importantly enjoyment than anything else.

www.saladsaresweet.com 

My Favourite Greens

In this week’s blog, I wanted to explore the concept behind ‘greens’. When grocery shopping this past week, I looked down at my cart and noticed that everything I had put in so far was green. I definitely eat a very healthy and balanced diet (including other colors of course!), although that’s not necessarily everyone’s jam. So this week I decided to blog about my favorite green foods, why I love them so much and why you should consider adding them to your daily nutrition routine.

1. Broccoli – this high fiber food truly is a super food. Broccoli lowers cholesterol, aids in digestion and naturally detoxes the body. Packed with Vitamins D, K and A this tasty vegetable has enormous anti-inflammatory benefits. Some people find it difficult to digest raw, so a light steam can help with that. I eat this daily with hummus or on its own.

2. Avocado – loaded with nutrients, this healthy fat is great for your heart, kidneys and overall cell function. Its ability to reduce inflammation, has shown links to cancer reduction and help with arthritis. It is also high in fiber which can help with weight loss and keep your digestive system on track. Avocados also help your body absorb nutrients from other vegetables, meaning it works for you! I put avocado on my morning eggs. It’s also a great topper on salads, chicken, toast, or salmon. Half an avocado per day is what I eat. 

3. Spinach – this delicious one is full of vitamins and minerals – everything from A, C, E and K, to protein and flavanoids to calcium, iron and magnesium. It’s basically loaded with good things for every part of your body. Great for your heart, brain, skin, hair and bones. I put spinach on top of my morning eggs to give them a slight steam which adds even more benefits to spinach. A spinach salad for lunch is also a frequent occurrence in this household. Add with your favorite veggies, a few Hemp Heartsand some extra virgin olive oil…you are set. Added bonus? Eat spinach with a high vitamin C fruit such as berries to help pack even more of a punch.

4. Brussels Sprouts – everyone probably remembers having brussels sprouts as a kid and hating them. But they seem to have made a comeback in my kitchen in more recent years. Packed with vitamins and minerals, they are noted as one of the top 20 healthiest foods by the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index. Studies have shown links to fighting cancer, preventing diabetes, obesity and heart disease. They also increase your energy – so really how can you go wrong? After steaming these veggies I love to either roast them or toss them in a pan with extra virgin olive oil or raw organic coconut oil. It’s important to remember the foods we choose are important, but equally important is the way and in what we cook them.

5. Kale – with three grams of protein per serving, this high antioxidant super food is making its way to my fridge every week. It is said to be one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. Studies have shown links to cancer fighting properties, cardiovascular strengthening and can help you lose weight. I find it a harder one to digest so a light steam or baking them in raw organic coconut oil in the oven is a great way to add this one to your day. It also is really easy to grow in your garden if that’s your summer vibe. I will warn you – it grows like a weed so plan to eat A LOT of it at harvest time! 

6. Bok Choy – as part of the cabbage family, bok choy is loaded with nutrients, omega 3s and anti-oxidants. Cancer prevention is often tied in studies to bok choy and other green leafy vegetables. I find this one great to chop up and add to stir fry. I also make a great cold salad with chickpeas, bok choy, yellow and red pepper and cucumbers. Delicious!

7. Aloe Vera – there are numerous health benefits to taking aloe vera. A spoonful in the morning helps with digestion, antioxidant support, healthy immune system, reduces harmful toxins, increases nutrient absorption, balances stomach acidity and helps sooth muscle and joint discomfort. 

8. Chlorophyll – liquid chlorophyll is an easy one to add to your water to dash into your day. It helps keep your red blood cells clean, healthy and plentiful by rebuilding and replenishing those cells. In such, our energy levels are boosted. Other benefits include detoxifying your liver, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-candida and promotes healthy iron levels. It helps build your blood. And if you think about that statement, your body completely depends on it.

9. Green Tea – I’m not a huge fan of the taste, so when I find I’m ‘over it’ I simply supplement. This way I ensure I get the health benefits on the days I’m not drinking it. Numerous health benefits from this anti-oxidant super star include improved brain function, burns fat, lowers your risk of certain types of cancer, lowers your risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s by protecting your brain, lowers your risk for cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes, and promotes longevity. All that for a cup of tea? Do it!

10. Supplementing – now at the risk of this all sounding overwhelming, I wanted to give two suggestions of how to get your greens in when you don’t manage to eat them all. I would recommend the Amazing Grass brand. It comes in a few flavours – my favorite is the antioxidant berry flavour. I found the wheatgrass flavour to taste a bit like grass (and not in a good way) and the lemon lime one way to sweet. 

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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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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.

Don’t Let the Door Hit You on Your Way Out!

Before I had my third child, I admittedly used to (quietly) mommy shame a few moms out there that were super excited about the first day back to school. I wondered why they didn’t want to spend as much time with their kids as possible. Because before you know it, they’ll be too cool for you and busy with friends, school, sport and everything but you. 

Didn’t they enjoy making all of those special summer memories with their kids? Ice cream runs, trips to the beach, water balloon fights, lazy days, camping, picnics, movie nights? I secretly thought that maybe they shouldn’t have had kids if they didn’t want to spend time with them.  

Well that was then.  My opinion on this topic has since changed – drastically!  After having my third child things have changed in my mindset on it all.  I am now on the other side of the fence. I understand why businesses market to parents with the comparison of back to school with the joy of Christmas – “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”  I now get it.  It really IS wonderful.  Don’t get me wrong – I love my kids more than I could have ever imagined AND I love spending quality time with them. It’s wonderful because at the end of the nine weeks (but who’s counting?!) of summer break, I’m totally exhausted and dreaming of getting back into a normal schedule and routine.  

Summer break is amazing because we get to do all of those super fun things with our kids that we can’t normally do throughout the cold depressing winter. But the fun times are in between days of anxiety, stress and exhaustion.  It’s a job in and of itself juggling what the plan is for childcare while you work or finding things to keep them busy and entertained so they don’t and spend 12 hours a day on their electronic devices. 

Whether you are working full time and have your kids in daycare or sport and activity camps, or you’re a stay at home parent who now needs to be a nine-week full time entertainer, the struggle is real. Sunday Mimosas seem to be a bit of a need to help you from going bonkers – and don’t worry, there is no judgement on that or on the parents who sneak in a cooler to the splash pad. I get it. Big time. 

Even for those parents with teenagers – they are still having to drive here and there and make sure that they’re not either burning the house down, having people over or spending 25 hours a day on their phones or gaming device.

Then there’s the whole food thing. I remember being so excited at the end of the school year about not having to make lunches for July and August. This was an illusion because since the first day off, I started to wish I had to make ONLY one lunch and two snacks for school.  This summer felt like I was making morning snack, breakfast, brunch, snack, lunch, snack, another snack and then dinner – and then two more snacks!!  Seriously?! Where do you put all this food?! You’re 50 pounds…do you have a hollow leg? 

So this September, I joined the moms I secretly shamed and honestly didn’t even care that it was the end of summer.  I was just so excited to be able to get us all into a normal routine. I’m now singing the praises of Back to School!

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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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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.

Rishona Hyman – Making a Splash in Winnipeg

 

What would you say if your son or daughter wanted to make a career out of teaching swimming lessons?
Would you be excited or disappointed? Now what would you say if your son or daughter wanted to be an entrepreneur, and be a leader and role model to hundreds of staff and students? What if he or she wanted to teach people how to save lives? What about teaching people a life-skill? Well, Rishona Hyman is that daughter and she’s doing it all and killing it!

Rishona Hyman has always loved teaching swimming lessons. It is her passion. She started teaching swimming lessons twenty-one years ago and started Aqua Essence Swim Academy fifteen years ago. This was during a time when “private swimming lessons” were really few and far between and were really flying under the radar. Rishona has changed the way people view private lessons and swimming. Rishona prides herself on providing positive and quality programs to her students. She has small teacher/student ratios and tailors to individual learning styles so that each student is “seen” and given the attention they deserve.

“I truly believe that swimming lessons should be a priority. It is a life skill and more than that there is so much goodness that can come from a swimming lesson. I am motivated to change the way we, as a society, view swimming and first aid/CPR. The benefits on poverty, injury prevention, fitness and overall health are incredible.”

Aqua Essence Swim Academy has evolved from swimming lessons to now include triathlon training, a swim club, CPR, first aid and even babysitting courses. This is a far cry from the start of Rishona’s business – her self-created part-time job. Becoming an entrepreneur and making a business out of her passion was a bit of a “learn as you go” process. She is a self-taught entrepreneur who has had to figure it along the way. “I am a leap of faith person” – she believed in herself and her goals and just knew it would have a way of working itself out.

As a female entrepreneur, Rishona admits that sometimes people don’t take her seriously – maybe because she’s a woman, maybe it’s because of her business’s industry – maybe a bit of both. She says that people tend to think that this is just a “hobby” for her. That is so far from the truth. Although she loves it, it’s beyond a full-time gig. Imagine running swimming lessons, CPR, first aid and babysitting courses (planning, programming, hiring, registration, finances, website maintenance, marketing) for hundreds of students across ten City of Winnipeg swimming pools, multiple private pools and even a hotel! Not to mention managing and inspiring a staff of 40 plus (many of whom are students!!). They run courses seven days a week and twelve hours a day! This doesn’t sound like a very relaxing “hobby!”

With a mostly young staff, Rishona has proven to be a great employer by taking time to know each individual and motivate each one. “I really try to have an open-door policy and really want to get to know them as people. I feel that once you know someone and know what makes them tick and share stories you can then motivate them. It is definitely getting harder to motivate but I just keep trying. I also believe that motivation comes from within and that we can try to motivate people but you need to know what does it for them. One way, I try to motivate them is by continuously adding a growing what we do and giving them opportunities to try new things and have a new experience. For example, we teach babysitting courses, so anyone that wants to do this needs to take some additional training adding to their skills and abilities, they also get a compensation increase for having more certifications. Teaching courses like babysitting, first aid or CPR gives my staff a great opportunity to go out into the community, teach out of the water and share their leadership skills while passing on valuable knowledge.”

On top of it all, Rishona is a wife and mother of 2 young children. So how does she do it? She admits to being very fortunate to have a great husband. Like every working mother, Rishona struggles to find balance. With her family, she has made a pact to not be on her phone in the evening until her children are in bed. She wants to be present with her kids and “devote my attention to them.” This isn’t always the easiest especially when she is potentially “on call” until lessons end at 9pm. In addition to making quality time for her family, she also sees the benefit to taking time for herself. She realizes that is a role model to her children, staff and students. As a result, she does much to stay in shape and live a healthy lifestyle. In addition to swimming (not shocking!), Rishona also goes to 9-Round boxing and kickboxing five times a week, “Saikels” and rides her bike often. Like most female entrepreneurs with families, the question is when does she sleep?

With such a busy schedule why does she do it ALL? “I am inspired by my staff and our families and students. I love the connections and relationships to people throughout the city. I love peoples’ stories. I still get excited knowing we have made a difference in someone’s life. I love hearing how happy people are. These stories and the people inspire me to keep growing and adapting. Swimming has so many lifelong benefits that I just get excited when I see it working and benefiting someone.”

“I love what I do so much! I love that I have been able to continue to do what I love the most, teaching people to swim and be safe in and around water including first aid.”

So what are Rishona’s words of wisdom for female entrepreneurs? “”I can do hard things!” I would tell someone to make sure that they really passionate about what they want to do. You don’t have to think of everything right away but you need to be an excellent problem solver as inevitably problems will arise. And to always like to treat people as you would like be treated.”

If you are interested in learning more about Aqua Essence Swim Academy and the terrific programming they offer, please visit them online at https://www.aquaessence.ca.

 

 

Top 7 Reasons to Have a Healthy Lifestyle

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the CanFitPro World Expo with one of our Fit Communications clients. He was looking to connect with the best of the best in fitness trainers for his business, so what better place than to head to Toronto for the biggest show of its kind in Canada.

We honestly didn’t know what to expect in terms of who was really going to be there, what they would be looking for, and what was going to happen over the course of the six day expo. But I was truly blown away by it all. There were sessions for trainers to learn new classes, new techniques, about new equipment and nutrition. There were classes ran by some of the biggest names in the fitness industry like Tony Horton, The Brutes and Jillian Michaels. Walking the aisles of the expo you would see all shapes and sizes of people, from all walks of life, with all different fitness goals in mind. It got me thinking more and more about what motivates me to live a healthy life. In this week’s blog, I wanted to give my top seven reasons why I live a healthy lifestyle, with hopes that one or two will inspire you to live the same.

  1. There is a saying in yoga, ‘if you can, you must’. While at first I was taken back by this sentiment, I grew to love it. Perhaps I am putting my own spin on things, but my take is that if your body is able – you are able to run, walk, jump, swim, dance, kick – then do it. Do it as well as you can. Do it because your body is able. Do you know how many people wish they could that can’t? Maybe they are in a wheelchair, or perhaps dealing with an injury, or maybe just their age has limited them on what they can do. They WISH they could run, walk, jump, swim, dance and kick. Do it because you CAN.
  2. The healthier I am, the more energy I have. This sounds obvious, but how often do we hear people say the reason they don’t go to the gym is because they don’t have the energy? Or perhaps the reason they eat an unhealthy diet it because they don’t have the energy to cook? The cleaner I eat and the more consistent I am with my workouts, the more energy I have. This past weekend I spent with Sharon Delbridge who is over the age of 50 and has more energy than any human I have ever met. She teaches about five classes a day and is an absolute energizer bunny all the time. Healthy moves energize you!
  3. I set a goal in my twenties to live into my 100’s. I read a lot about centenarians and find their habits to be quite fascinating. Two things they always recommend is a lot of sleep and staying active. Maybe 100 isn’t for you, but I bet you want to live as long as possible in a healthy body. Treat your body right and you will.
  4. It’s fun! Running for an hour on a treadmill is my personal version of hell. Definitely not my thing! Instead, I do activities that I find enjoyable and fun so that it doesn’t seem like work to do it. Whether I am walking my dog, lifting weights, hitting pads at kickboxing or stretching it out at yoga, I truly enjoy it. Many activities I do solo, but I also have a few terrific friends that like to try new activities. Instead of doing the typical hang out sessions of drinks on a patio, we head to a fitness class, get sweaty, have fun and enjoy life. It really is what you make of it.
  5. Physical appearance. I can’t say I mind the benefit of the way it makes my body look. Of course it is more than that, but it sure is a terrific bonus. When you look good, you feel good. I can be proud of my body at the age of 40 in a bathing suit, and am not shy about it. I work hard at the gym and am mindful and consistent with my healthy nutrition. Whether you have a six pack at forty or not, you should be happy with the way you look when you look at yourself in the mirror. And that is different for everyone. Just be happy with where you are. It’s not a competition.
  6. I honestly think the biggest reason for me working out and eating healthy is because of the benefits to my mental health. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, it was the hardest time of my life. I maintained going to the gym every single day. I had to. It was the only place for 45 minutes that I could feel good. Sometimes I left there and cried my eyes out in the parking lot, but for 45 minutes I was doing something positive. It keeps my stress levels low and my happiness high. No matter what is happening in my life, when I finish a workout I always feel better about things and have a clear sense of the best next steps.
  7. To set a good example for the people in my life. Practice what you preach I suppose. Whether it is the little girls in my family, a close friend or even just a social media friend, I want to help inspire people to live their best lives. Part of that is to exercise, eat nutritionally dense food, sleep lots and laugh more. I love hearing that something I posted on social media or said in a conversation with a girlfriend inspired them to make a healthy life choice. Be the change you want to see – and I want to see everyone living their healthiest self.

What is your favorite reason for living a healthy life? Comment below and help those in your life stay motivated to live their best and healthiest life!