5 Steps to Improve Your Digestive System and Strengthen Your Immunity

I must admit, as an Integrative Nutrition Coach, two things that I am a smidge obsessed with are digestive health and immunity health. The greatest part is that they totally go hand in hand. The reason is because 70% of our immune system is found IN our digestive system. In turn, if you want a stronger immune system, (and really, who doesn’t?) the key can be found in your gut.

Digestive health is something I am super passionate about working on with my nutrition clients. It affects the way we feel physically – think bloating, gas, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea; it affects the way we are feeling emotionally – anxiety, depression and mental health are all connected to our gut health; it affects our energy levels – always feeling tired, sluggish, low energy or just not in the mood for life. If these are issues that you are dealing with, I am hosting a Virtual Digestive Health Workshop and would love for you to join. See here for more info! 

When the microbiome in our gut is balanced with good bacteria, it boosts immunity, prevents disease, and supports emotional well-being. There is such a strong connection with our digestive health and our brain, including overall emotional and mental health. In this week’s blog I wanted to give you my five best actionable tips to get your digestive system on track, and help you on your way to a healthier life!

  1. Take a good quality probiotic. This will provide good bacteria to your tummy setting you up for success. Taken first thing in the morning with water on an empty stomach is what I would suggest. Probiotics can be taken by babies, kids, adults and seniors and I would encourage probiotics to be the taken at all ages and stages of life. My favorite? Pearls Acidophilus by Nature’s Way.
  2. Increase your intake of probiotic and prebiotic foods. I am a huge fan of the concept of ‘crowding out’ when it comes to our nutrition. By this I mean not thinking of all the things that you CAN’T have, but rather all the amazing foods you can add in. In turn, the good food fills your plate and your day and there is no room left for the not-so-good stuff. You crowd it out! For probiotic, think kimchi, yogurt, quinoa, kombucha and artichokes…lots of that ‘pickled’ kinda vibe foods. When it comes to prebiotics, we’re loading up on fiber, fruit and veggies. Some of the best are onions, garlic, bananas and blueberries.
  3. Take Digestive Enzymes. In the beginning, you will want to take one of these before every meal, but once your digestive enzymes are all caught up and working for you, you’ll only need them once in a while. Before a heavy meal or before you eat something you usually don’t – like a dinner out or something off the beaten path of what you usually eat.
  4. Drink up the Apple Cider Vinegar – this is one of my favorite items to really help with your digestive system. While it is definitely a flavour to get used to, diluted raw organic apple cider vinegar will have your tummy and your immune system happy as a clam. A little goes a long way, so about an ounce diluted in water first thing in the morning will really help you out.
  5. Increase your intake of foods with Glutamine. These foods include beets (which by the way, are pretty much the Earth’s gift to humans in my books!), spinach, cabbage and parsley.

You may notice I didn’t talk about what to REMOVE from your nutrition plate to help with your digestive system. There are a few obvious ones such as sugar, refined carbohydrates, and soda. But there might be quite a few other foods that you may need to remove to improve your digestion. We are all bio-individuals, meaning what works for me might not work for you. For example, eating Greek yogurt might be great for my digestive system, but wreak havoc on yours. With so much in nutrition we have to do what works and feels best to us as individuals.

Remember, if you want to learn more about getting your digestive system on your side with the help of food, join me at my upcoming virtual Digestive Health Workshop! 

Binge Eating Disorder

Eating disorders is a near and dear subject to my heart. As a woman who is always doing my best to cheer women on, how could it not be something that is? In Canada, approximately one million women have an eating disorder, and it is one of the leading causes of mental health issues resulting in premature death in our country. It affects girls and women of all ages. Did you know that 81% of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat? And 51% of 9 and 10-year-old girls feel better about themselves if they are on a diet.

Recently, through my education at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York, I listened to a lecture by Amy Pershing, the Clinical Director at the Center for Eating Disorders and Founding Director of “Bodywise,” a comprehensive treatment program for binge eating disorder (BED). Binge Eating Disorder, or BED, is an eating disorder that I had personally never heard of before, and was shocked to find out that it is the most common eating disorder in North America by 5 times. This week’s blog is to share some of the knowledge I learned as it may be helpful to our readers both personally or for someone they love.

Those with Binge Eating Disorder are often viewed by outsiders as people with low self-esteem, a lack of willpower, depressed and that it is not a ‘real’ eating disorder. What is important to remember here is that shame does not create sustainable change. Shaming anyone into doing or changing anything simply does not work. In fact, it typically does the absolute opposite.

Approximately 30% of those diagnosed with BED are NOT overweight nor obese. I find this a really interesting point, as many would assume binge eaters would definitely overweight. But that is not the case. I feel it is important for our readers to know should they worry someone in their life might be dealing with this disorder. But what DOES it mean to have BED?

In a nutshell, there is a lack of control and ability to stop the food eating binge, and tremendous amounts of guilt and shame go along with the binge. To be diagnosed with BED, three of the following must also be happening:

  1. Eating more rapidly than normal
  2. Eating until uncomfortably full
  3. Eating large amounts of food when not hungry
  4. Secretive eating
  5. Feeling disgusting, depressed or guilty after a binge

The above actions must happen one or more times per week for three months, and is not associated with bulimia nor anorexia. This is an eating disorder in and of itself.

Other than the obvious negative feelings about oneself that comes with BED, there are also numerous health issues that can also happen. These include but are not limited to:

  • PCOS – Polycystic OvarySyndrome
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Over production of cortisol (‘stress hormone’)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Asthma
  • Stress
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Sleep deprivation

People who are suffering from Binge Eating Disorder see food in a different way, meaning they have a relationship with food that is not necessarily healthy. Often food is used for emotional regulation, self-punishment, distraction, boundary setting, soothing, rebellion, or using food subconsciously.

There are many reasons why BED can happen, and what I feel is really important to know is that it can happen to people of all ages and lifestyles. Young kids who are forced to ‘grow up quickly’ often use food as a sense of comfort and secretly eat to feel loved. Athletes after finishing a competition or are in ‘off season’ often binge eat as they are feeling the need to rebel or take control of food off the playing field or stage. People who restrict their food intake for what appears to be healthy reasons may binge weekly on a ‘cheat day’. All of these are examples of BED, and it is not simply ‘overeating once in a while’. It is an eating disorder associated with mental health that needs to be worked on with a professional.

A statement of assumption in the lecture that really stuck out to me was this:

            Thin is always better.

            Thin is always possible.

            Thin people are better people.

None of these three sentences are true. None of these three sentences have value. But they are seen as truth in our society all too often. Being thinner will not make all of your problems go away. And bullying someone based on their body size or weight is never okay. You never know what someone is dealing with behind closed doors, so I ask for you to move through your day with kindness and love, and know that it isn’t always sunshine and roses for everyone each day.

If you or someone you know may be affected by BED or any other eating disorder, please ask for help. Here is a great place to start:

How to Live Your Healthiest Happiest Life

Something I have always had a huge fascination with is centenarians and longevity. What can we all do in our day to day living to live a longer, healthier and happier life. This Spring I started my Integrative & Holistic Health and Nutrition Coaching certification and I was over the moon excited when one of the guest lecturers was Dan Buettner. Dan is the person behind the ‘Blue Zones’ which not only focuses on longevity secrets in terms of what you as an individual can do, but also how you can transform your community to live longer and better.

Dan, in partnership with National Geographic, has researched communities around the globe that have the highest life expectancy. Blue Zones are places in the world where people not only live longer, but healthier as well than anywhere else on earth – without medication or disability. To date, five Blue Zones have been identified:

  • The Italian island of Sardinia
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Costa Rica’s isolated Nicoya Peninsula
  • Ikaria, an isolated Greek island

So, what’s the secret? This is the part that I love. The number ONE indicator of how long you will live is how long you THINK you will live. It’s your attitude. Your positive spirit. Your optimistic outlook. And a close second? Your DAILY fruit and vegetable consumption.

In fact, 80% of the factors that determine your longevity are to do with lifestyle and environment, with the remaining 20% via your genetics. There are a few common denominators that they have found across the board with the five Blue Zones:

  1. Natural Movement – moving every single day. Not a specific type of ‘workout’ but natural movement like walking and yard work.
  2. Daily Ritual of Prayer – this doesn’t have to be faith based. Meditation or naps to help reduce your stress can also work. I think the key here is that it reduced your stress. We know that stress can cause everything from weight gain to cancer, so ensuring we do what we can to keep it low is really important.
  3. A Strong Sense of Purpose – I love this one. Do you have a strong sense of purpose? Do you wake up every single day with a positive intention or goal? Are you tuned in on why you are here on earth? And pardon the cliché, but do you know what your why is?
  4. Eat Wisely – the interesting thing about the diets of the five Blue Zones is that there isn’t a magic item that everyone was eating. They were eating mindfully. They were eating until they were 80% full. They were eating plenty of fruits and vegetables every day.
  5. Plant-based Diet – the five communities that were studies all had this in common. Very little meat, lots of beans, nuts, fruit and veggies. They ate their biggest meal in the morning. They pre-plated their meals rather than family-style, which had them eating less.
  6. Connection – while we can have the healthiest food on our plate, if we don’t have healthy and strong connections, we are not ‘getting it’. With all of the Blue Zone communities family was NUMBER ONE. Who you spend your time with is a key factor in your health and longevity.

I think this is some really good food for thought (insert obvious nutrition joke here). While what we are eating and how much we are exercising are important, they are not the be all and the end all. My favorite take-aways? Your attitude is the number one life expectancy indicator, so wake up happy, grateful and optimistic. And of course, the common denominator about connection and community. It is wonderful to have a positive attitude for your own health and wellness, but when you can take it one step further to those you love, you are really winning at the health and wellness game. And for parents, pre-plating your kids food can help ensure they are eating enough fruit and veggies at every meal.

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Eating Nutrient Dense Food – What It REALLY Means

A few years ago, I made a significant shift in my thinking as it relates to my health. When we think about health long term and making sustainable decisions that can last a life time, the idea of constantly counting and measuring our food can be not only overwhelming but exhausting in its own right. Rather, making decisions about the food that you eat should be simple. Eat nutrient dense real food. Food should be something you enjoy cooking, eating and digesting, not something that you and your body have grown to hate.

But what does it mean to eat ‘nutrient dense food’? This is simply the amount of nutrients you get for the amount of calories you take in from a given food. High level of nutrients with low levels of calories is the goal. And ‘nutrients’ are macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).

The easiest way for me to think about this is how much processing has to go into this to make it something I can eat. Is it a fairly simple food? Can I pick it from a tree or garden? If so, it’s usually bang on. When I am making decisions at the grocery store I think to myself – is this going to help me on my healthy journey or create issues or blocks for me? Think about how eating this food is going to make you feel – is it easy for me to digest? Will it support a strong immune system? Will it help me with my energy and sleep? Nutrient dense food will do all of this and more.

So, what are the best of the best? Here are my top nutrient dense foods:

  • Salmon
  • Kale
  • Garlic
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Berries, especially blueberries
  • Eggs
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Green Veggies, especially Broccoli
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Quinoa
  • Spinach
  • Avocado
  • Seeds, especially Chia Seeds and Hemp Seeds
  • Red Peppers
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Beets

Equally as important to WHAT we’re eating is what we’re cooking it in and topping it with. You can have great intentions by eating salad every day, but if you’re deep frying a piece of chicken in corn oil to put on top of your salad and dousing it is high sugar, high calorie dressing, you’re missing the health boat. When I look at the calorie count for restaurant salads I am blown away. Many are over 1500 calories…FOR A SALAD!! Yes, you’re getting you veggies in, but need to be mindful of how you’re getting them in too.

Making at home salad dressings is a great way to keep things on the up and up. Using apple cider vinegar, healthy oils such as avocado oil, coconut oil, hemp oil or extra virgin olive oil are a great base. Adding seasoning that is low in sodium is a great way to pack in the flavour. And you can never have enough Turmeric by the way…it’s loading with tons of health benefits.

When cooking meat or veggies, the same rules still apply about what we’re cooking things IN. Cooking spray or corn oil are crap. Stick to any of the above suggested oils or try ghee or butter. Remember – real is good, fake is bad.

When you’re adding sauce to your food, be sparing. Especially with store-bought sauces. Did you know that BBQ sauce has on average 12 grams of sugar per serving and ketchup has 8? These are HIGH! Same goes for salad dressing – you take away your ‘good meal’ idea when you cover it is sugar. Four grams of sugar is approximately one teaspoon of granulated sugar. And who only puts one serving of something usually on things? Portion control is key for sure here too.

Here’s what I think it really comes down to. When you are choosing your food, you are choosing for health or not for health. It’s not a statement of judgement. It’s simply the truth. That doesn’t mean you’re never allowed to have a piece of cake again. But when you are making your meals and choosing your food, be mindful of is this healthy for me? And even more specifically, is this going to support my immune system strength and my digestive system health? If yes – put it in the cart. If not, make another choice. It really is all about our choices and how they affect the way we feel inside and out.

10 Best Foods for Brain Health

Our brains. What an interesting place they can be! Our brains take messages from the world and give them meaning for us. They store so much information in our memory – from the way it feels to have a hug from your mom to what chocolate tastes like to what you learned in grade 12 Algebra. The brain controls our thoughts, memory and speech, movement of the arms and legs, and the function of many organs within our body. Treating our brain as best we can is imperative for long term health.

When I first started Intermittent Fasting one of the things that attracted me most to it was the idea of helping to clean our body and brain for more optimal health. Essentially, when we sleep, our brains and body cells are being cleaned. We wake up feeling fresh and energized after a good night sleep. When we continue to fast for a little bit longer, it allows our body to continue to clean its’ cells rather than jump right into digestive mode. I really like that concept.

But other than intermittent fasting, what can we do from a nutrition side of things to help our brains be the healthiest they can be? There are a few foods that are known to be great for boosting brain health. These foods include:

  1. Berries – a strong antioxidant, berries help our memory stay sharp as we age.
  2. Dark Chocolate – this powerful antioxidant helps support cellular aging.
  3. Broccoli – high in antioxidants and vitamin K, this super veg is a winner on all fronts for your big brain.
  4. Avocados – this good, healthy fat is great for your brain and your mood by helping release the ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain.
  5. Oily Fish – What makes oily fish so good is that they contain the active form of Omega 3 fats, EPA and DHA, in a ready-made form, which enables the body to use it easily. The less work our body has to do to use the nutrients, the more energy we have for other body tasks.
  6. Seeds and Nuts – another win for omega 3 fats and antioxidants with these powerhouses.
  7. Kale – this veg promotes great gut health. There is a HUGE connection between our gut health and our brain health. We would suggest reading more on this here.
  8. Eggs – vitamins B6 and B12, folate and choline are all found in eggs which are great for brain health and boosting memory.
  9. Coffee – the caffeine and antioxidants in coffee are great for brain health. So maybe it’s not just our imagination that we feel sharper after our first cup of joe!
  10. Turmeric – according to Healthline.com, Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning it can directly enter the brain and benefit the cells there.

Reducing our sugar intake, switching white carbs for better sources of carbohydrates such as whole grain bread or quinoa, and not over doing it with alcohol, are all things we should make note of when we talk about our brain health. Staying physically active is also really important, as is staying mentally active – doing brain games, crosswords and sudokus for example are all great for our brain and overall longevity and health.

It’s really important to remember that we are our own best advocates for our health and wellness. It is up to you and you only to ensure you are making good choices when it comes to your nutrition and overall health. You need to make YOU a priority, and part of this is eating a nutrient dense diet and staying active through all stages of your life.

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Intermittent Fasting: An Ancient Practice for a Modern World

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, famously said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. Hippocrates and many of his contemporaries were proponents of long term fasting as a powerful way of healing the body, heightening mental acuity, enhancing spiritual connection and promoting longevity.

Fasting is currently gaining a buzz in the media, but this ancient therapy has been used for thousands of years to reverse health conditions and reset the body and mind. The question is, does one have to do a long and difficult fast in order to reap the benefits of this amazing therapy.

The answer is No. Science is showing the increasingly popular lifestyle of Intermittent Fasting to be just as effective as long term fasting in receiving the myriad health benefits. Intermittent fasting or “IF” is easy to fit into your busy modern schedule and it promotes healthy and sustainable body composition by stabilizing blood sugars and burning fat while improving energy levels, mental clarity, muscle and skin tone and helping people reach their health goals much quicker.

The secret lies in taking an insulin and digestion break for 12-20 hours at a time so that the body can become insulin sensitive once again and tap into fat reserves as fuel as well as allowing the body to go into repair mode, which can only happen when not digesting food.

There are a few different methods of IF, one of the most popular being the “16:8” ratio. The faster typically stops eating after 8:00pm, fasts while sleeping, skips breakfast, then has lunch around noon when they begin their 8 hour “eating window” from noon until 8:00pm achieving a 16 hour fast. The point of IF is NOT calorie restriction, but rather, to shorten the “window” of eating so that the body can flip from digestion mode into repair mode. You may find you will naturally eat less, yet feel very satisfied. This is due to the stabilization of blood glucose levels and the restoration of proper singling of the hunger satiety hormones.

“The HOW”: during the day…

It is recommended to first begin by consulting a health care practitioner to decide if IF is right for you and then to begin by slowly increasing your fasting window each day until you are at the desired ratio of hours spent fasting versus eating. When fasting, drink plenty of spring or mineral water, and even some tea or black coffee if you choose. I recommend using “Fasting Days” by Innotech Nutrition, as a supportive supplement made in Canada which is a doctor formulated, nutrient complex powdered drink mix specifically designed for intermittent fasting that acts as an all-natural low calorie drink to prevent hunger while maintaining your electrolytic balance. (read to the end of this article for a PROMO CODE for this supplementing option).

At Noon Eat a healthy lunch with a balance of protein, complex carbohydrate and fats. My favorite choice to gently break the fast is to consume a blended protein smoothie with a scoop of high-quality protein powder, coconut milk, a cup of frozen berries and a big handful of greens or a greens powder.

At 4pm Snack on a handful of trail mix, veggies and hummus or a piece of fruit with almond butter.

At 6pm Have a satisfying dinner with a serving of protein, plenty of leafy green salad and/or steamed veggies with healthy fats such as grass-fed butter, coconut oil or avocado, avoiding excess grains, starches and sugars.

7pm Another healthy snack if you’re feeling hungry.

8pm Stop eating and begin your fast.

“The WHY”: Some of the benefits of this “insulin and digestion break”:

    • Autophagy – when insulin production is turned off a mechanism called Autophagy gets turned on. Autophagy means, “self-devouring”. Your body searches out and consumes “bad cells” and recycles the materials to produce new and healthy cells. This is showing promise in reducing the risk of many types of cancer and to slow cellular aging.
  • Stem Cell Production – fasting stimulates stem cell production which allows for self-renewal and reversal of many cellular and mitochondrial diseases. Studies are showing an increase in longevity and reduction of inflammation with IF.
  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH) Production – studies show that fasting triggers the youth hormone known as “HGH” which improves sleep, increases muscle mass, improves skin tone and joint strength, as well as energy metabolism and fat burning.
  • Healthy Sustainable Weight Loss – IF is much different than calorie restriction diets. Calorie restriction shuts down then spikes glucose making the dieter feel deprived and fatigued causing a rebound effect and the inevitable “falling off the wagon”. Fasting however, uses up stored glucose and shuts down insulin production thereby allowing us to become sensitive to insulin once again, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and gaining more energy without the crashes. With fasting we become “fat-adapted” or fat burning, which is the body’s preferred source of fuel because it is stable, plentiful and sustainable.
  • Digestive system and gut microbiome rest and reset: studies show that IF restores microbe diversity in the gut, increases our tolerance to “bad” bacteria, and restores the integrity of the epithelial lining allowing us to absorb nutrients better, all of which has a beneficial outcome for our immune system which is 80% or more found in our gut. This in turn can elevate our mood due to the Gut-Brain Axis and the fact that our neurochemicals are mostly produced in the gut.

In summary, intermitting fasting is a modern take on the ancient therapy that is an extremely beneficial and sustainable lifestyle for both your body, your wallet and the planet. Imagine that the simple answer to our health woes was not found in the pursuit of what we needed to do more, but in what we need to do less. And as we allow the inner physician to do its work, we are also allowing this natural force of well-being to aid the planet in healing too.

About Natalie Reimer Anderson, our Guest Blogger!

Natalie Reimer Anderson was a former professional athlete and high school teacher before being sidelined by a debilitating autoimmune condition that caused her to pursue recovering her health full time. She is now known for her inspirational personal story of overcoming her

illness through cultivating the mind-body-spirit connection to optimal health. As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Fitness Trainer and Life Coach for over a decade, she combines her expertise of intermittent fasting, cellular nutrition, and fitness hacks along with mindset training and cognitive therapies to transform lives from cell to soul.

W: Nataliereimeranderson.com

E: hello@nataliereimeranderson.com

IG: @blondesovereign

If you would like guidance to properly begin your Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle contact Natalie today! Use this Innotech Nutrition Coupon Code to receive 10% off Fasting Days or any of their products: Nat10

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.