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THANKSGIVING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A METABOLIC WRECK!

When it comes to social gatherings and family feasts, the opportunities to indulge seem endless. Often, it’s the increased consumption of sugar, alcohol and refined carbohydrates that encourage those excess pounds to stick around. For many of us, it only takes one or two meals to lose complete momentum with our healthy-eating routines. If you know you are one of these people, this article is for you.
Regulating your blood sugar is one of the best ways for you to maintain your health and prevent cravings. This balance enables you to make clear decisions, burn body fat and avoid those low-energy episodes and mood swings. If you are eating out of balance, calorie restriction will never do you any favours. Protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats in the correct balance help to reduce inflammation in the body. If you want to continue feeling comfortable in those pants, consider these seven strategies at your future holiday meals:

DON’T SHOW UP STARVING
Going to a spin class and starving yourself before the “big meal” should not be your strategy. If you are hungry, your blood sugar levels are low and that means you are at risk for some poor food decisions. A small snack with some protein will take the edge off and allow you to think clearer and choose healthier options. It’s never a good idea to show up ravenous to any event, especially when you aren’t sure what’s being served.

CHOOSE YOUR TREAT
Decide before you portion your food what your high carbohydrate or sugar treat will be. The key here is to make your choice—keep in mind you will be plating this LAST. Carbohydrates in the form of sugar, grains and wheat raise your blood sugar levels and promote fat storage. Vegetable-based carbohydrates such as carrots and sweet potatoes offer more nutritional benefits and don’t impact your blood sugar as much as breads or desserts. Whether it’s the famous mashed potatoes, garlic bread or pumpkin cheesecake—choose the one you really want. If you want full portions of all three, maybe you take two single portions home to add into another meal. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing!

PICK YOUR PROTEIN
Turkey, ham, roast beef and chicken are all popular holiday proteins. Protein slows the rise in blood sugar— keeping you balanced and satisfied longer. If someone cooked the turkey into jerky, don’t feel bad about adding some gravy! Although gravy isn’t ideal on a regular basis, when it comes to these feasts it’s not even close to your biggest problem. Make sure your protein covers about 1/4 of your plate.

PILE ON THE VEGGIES
Broccoli, cauliflower, green or yellow beans, spinach, Brussels sprouts, kale, celery, zucchini and cucumber are all examples of excellent non-starchy vegetables to add to your plate. Find these right away and cover half of your plate. That’s right, I said HALF! Just get them on there because these little guys have fibre and nutrients that satisfy your hunger, so you don’t overeat on the treats!

COMPLETE YOUR BALANCED PLATE
Now that you have your protein and vegetables on your plate, you can now add your treat. Your carbohydrate dense choice should not take up more than 1/4 of your plate. If you chose desert as your treat, you can leave this space empty until dessert is served. Depending on your goals, it’s okay to have spoonful or two of something else here in addition to a controlled portion of dessert.
The end result might look something like this: turkey with gravy (1/4), combination of sweet potato and mashed potato (1/4), broccoli and Brussels with butter (1/2).

WATCH THE ALCOHOL
Alcohol raises your blood sugar just like sugar does. If you choose to enjoy a couple cocktails, it may be in your best interest to go lighter on the carbohydrates. Alcohol should never be consumed on an empty stomach—ideally with snacks and meals containing proteins and quality fats.

DRINK WATER
Hydrate with plenty of plain, clear water during the day. If alcohol is involved, this should increase by one cup for every beverage you consume (see previous article to calculate your daily water requirement). Water helps remove toxins from the body—an absolute necessity during these holiday meals.

CONCLUSION
This is NOT your last meal! I’ve never heard anyone announce how pleased they are with themselves after overeating. The stuffed, uncomfortable feeling isn’t worth it. Instead of telling yourself how deprived you are, focus on the smiling faces of friends and family—that’s what this time of year is all about.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

~Ashley

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Is your healthy back-to-school food routine a SUGAR NIGHTMARE?

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It’s back to CRAZY time, and everyone is ready to get back in routine.  Providing your kids (us big kids too) with nutritious and tasty snacks is more important than you think.  Nutrition is not just about eating green vegetables for vitamins—it is also crucial when it comes to stable moods, behavior and focus.  This healthy foundation must come from parents, and it’s not an easy one to tackle if your kids are already hooked on sugar and refined carbohydrates.  Examples? Cereal, baked goods, granola bars, crackers, chips, donuts, fruit snacks, candy, bread, pasta, juice, pop and most packaged snacks.  Why not use back to school as a time to start fresh with healthier habits?

It seems the more food allergies there are, the more we see the latest and greatest processed foods.  Below is a sample of a very common meal plan for a child that may appear to be healthy.  It doesn’t include soft-drinks, chips, or candy.  As a reminder, all carbohydrates convert to sugar in the body.  Breaking it down into teaspoons (or sugar cubes) instead of grams is the easiest visual for people to understand. Keep in mind, a healthy ADULT shouldn’t be exceeding 20 tsp of sugar per day. This might blow your mind…

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BREAKFAST

PLAIN TOASTED O’S CEREAL, MILK, ORANGE JUICE- 14 tsp sugar

SNACK

ORGANIC CHEDDAR BUNNIES- 5 tsp sugar

GLUTEN-FREE GRANOLA BAR- 4 tsp sugar

LUNCH

PB&J SANDWICH ON WHOLE WHEAT BREAD-8 tsp sugar

1 CUP GRAPES– 8 tsp sugar

ORGANIC JUICE BOX – 6 tsp sugar

AFTER SCHOOL SNACK

MEDIUM BANANA- 7 tsp sugar

2 ORGANIC GLUTEN-FREE RICE CAKES- 4 tsp sugar

DINNER

ORGANIC MARINARA SAUCE WITH WHOLE WHEAT SPAGHETTI & MEATBALLS- 12 tsp sugar

ORGANIC 60% CHOCOLATE- 4 tsp sugar

GRAND TOTAL- 72 TEASPOONS OF SUGAR

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Aside from the extreme amount of sugar, the obvious issue I see with this meal plan is the lack of healthy fats, vegetables and protein.  Additionally, there seems to be a lot of packaged, processed foods.  Each of these meals and snacks can easily be improved by substituting one of the carbohydrates with a protein or fat.

Breakfast- eliminate orange juice, add an egg or sausage. -7 sugar cubes 

Snack- eliminate crackers or both items, add a single serving of Greek yogurt (even if it’s flavoured!) –5 sugar cubes

Lunch- replace the juice with water, reduce grapes by ½, add raw carrots or celery. -10 sugar cubes

Snack- reduce banana and rice cakes by ½, add a handful of nuts or seeds

-5 sugar cubes

Dinner- reduce amount of noodles, add a vegetable and sprinkle a good quality cheese on the pasta  –5 sugar cubes

TOTAL SUGAR DECREASES BY 32 TEASPOONS OF SUGAR!

By making these adjustments, the sugar is reduced by about 40%!  Believe it or not, this makes a HUGE difference.

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Remember…

FAT STABILIZES SUGAR. If you aren’t willing to work on adequate protein for your child, the next best step to take is increasing healthy fats.  Instead of doing an organic overhaul on your household, you should focus on balance first.  Excess sugar in ANY form will never result in a positive, healthy foundation for children or adults. Balanced Foods = Balanced Moods!

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AVOID THESE 5 FAT-STORING INGREDIENTS HIDDEN IN BOTTLED SALAD DRESSING

ranch dressing

Does your salad need a makeover? Warm summer months are a great time to eat cold salads and dips.  Unfortunately, salads aren’t always a healthy choice. If you’re putting the effort into assembling a lovely salad, why drench it with inflammatory ingredients?  Check out these these damaging ingredients, and assess if your salad is in need of a makeover:

1. MSG (MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE): Too many negative health effects to count. This flavour enhancer sneaks into many packaged food items, and has the ability to induce hunger. Migraines and brain damage have also been linked to MSG consumption.

2. VEGETABLE OILS, AKA “MEGA TRANS”: Soybean, canola and corn are all examples of pro-inflammatory oils–potentially causing more harm than trans fat! Most are genetically modified, causing even more damage.

3. HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP AND SUGAR: Both of these are inflammatory and cause a spike in blood sugar and cravings. Elevated blood sugar will cause fat stores to accumulate, particularly around the mid-secction.

4. MALTODEXTRIN: Just another hidden sugar derived from genetically modified corn.

5. ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS: Fake sweeteners are linked to cancer, Alzheimers, and disrupt hormones which can increase cravings and fat storage. Sucralose and aspartame the popular ones that end up in diet drinks, and many sugar-free products. As always, steer clear of these as much as you can.

Here is an example of a “light” ranch dressing nutrition label:

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Doesn’t look very light to me!

Now that I’ve completely destroyed your desire to eat a salad with bottled dressing…

GOOD NEWS! I have a very simple recipe to share with you. In less than five minutes, you can whip up a much healthier salad dressing that doesn’t include ANY of the above ingredients. Since ranch dressing is popular for both kids and adults, this is a great basic recipe that can be modified to suit your tastes.

Basic Ranch Dressing

¾ c. Plain Full Fat Yogurt or Greek Yogurt
1 tsp each: parsley, basil, dill weed
S & P to taste
1 small clove of garlic
2 T parmesan or feta cheese (optional)
4-6 T olive oil
Put yogurt, garlic and spices in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
Very slowly, add the oil so that it emulsifies.
Add more yogurt to thicken, or a dairy-free milk to thin out. Vinegar and lemon juice may also be added. It is best to consume within 7 days.

Optional:
-add fresh herbs instead of dried
-skip the cheese, and use avocado and coconut milk instead of yogurt, for a dairy-free version (1/2 c. avocado, 1/4 c. coconut milk)
-you can skip the olive oil, and use the remaining ingredients to make a dip–handy for cut vegetables.

CONCLUSION: The minutes it takes to make your own salad dressing or dip is 100% worth it! It is important to read labels very carefully–even the “olive oil” salad dressings are usually blends of mostly vegetable oils, with a tiny portion of olive oil. Olive oil is more expensive; therefore these companies will trick you whenever they can. Keep in mind, many restaurants and fast-food establishments are likely using the same poor ingredients. Make your own at home, and keep the quantities moderate when you are not in control of the ingredients.

What is your favourite summer salad?

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Temporary or Permanent Weight Loss? You Choose.

image If you aren’t seeing results by now, there may be some barriers that haven’t been brought to your attention. Sometimes the simple steps to maintain a healthy body can start to slide, even when we think we are eating healthy. Frustrating, isn’t it? If you are having a difficult time with permanent success, one (or more) of the following may be the culprit:

LACK OF NON-STARCHY VEGETABLES

You need to increase those green, non-starchy vegetables! Why? They support your body by providing necessary vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They also work to naturally detoxify the body. A toxic body is a fat storing machine! Non-starchy vegetables also have the added benefit of fiber, keeping things moving nicely and filling you up! Neglecting vegetables usually means you are overloading on starchy carbs.
PLAN YOUR MEALS AROUND VEGETABLES INSTEAD OF ADDING THEM IN WHEN THEY SEEM TO WORK. PLAN YOUR VEGETABLE, PROTEIN AND CARBOHYDRATE TOGETHER.

TOO MUCH FRUIT

You’ve heard it, “Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables every day.” We have been told this for decades, but the problem with fruit is fructose because fructose is sugar. Excess sugar, particularly when consumed alone, can have a negative impact on health and weight loss goals.
TRY TO COMBINE FRUIT IN MEALS OR SNACKS, AND AVOID EXCEEDING 2 SERVINGS DAILY. ADDING A FAT TO YOUR FRUIT SUCH AS RAW ALMONDS WILL WORK TO STABILIZE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR.

INSUFFICIENT PROTEIN

Plain and simple, inadequate protein will slow your metabolism. Having the right amount of protein for your body will keep that metabolism going at least two hours after a meal. People who tend to eat protein sparingly are still convinced that meat is “bad” for you (a little education can correct this in a hurry!). The plate feels lonely with very little protein and likes to fill up with plenty of carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, etc.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE 3-5 SERVINGS OF QUALITY PROTEIN DAILY — EGGS, CHICKEN, FISH, BEEF, PORK, QUALITY DELI MEAT AND PEPPERONI, GREEK YOGURT, COTTAGE CHEESE OR A GOOD PROTEIN POWDER!

AVOIDING HEALTHY FATS

Healthy fats are essential, and if carbs are your problem, fat needs to become your best friend! Fats create satiety and basically extend the “life” of your meal. When you skip them, your blood sugar will increase, you will be hungrier sooner, and the carb cravings begin again.
STOCK YOUR KITCHEN WITH HEALTHY FATS LIKE COCONUT OIL, OLIVE OIL, RAW NUTS AND SEEDS. EAT THEM AT THE BEGINNING OF THE MEAL OR COMBINE THEM WITH OTHER FOODS TO GET THE MOST BENEFIT!

LACK OF WATER

You know you need to drink water! When other liquids become part of your day, sometimes the water intake slacks off. You may be suffering from chronic dehydration and not even know it. I’ve met many clients who have been suffering from this for years; not recognizing the damage it was doing. It’s such an immediate difference when you hydrate!
DIVIDE YOUR BODY WEIGHT IN HALF (POUNDS), AND THAT NUMBER WILL BE THE AMOUT OF WATER (IN OUNCES) THAT YOU SHOULD BE CONSUMING DAILY. **If your water intake is really low at the moment, work on increasing slowly!
EX: 160LBS/2 = 80
80oz = 10 cups daily

If you are having a hard time, start by addressing the above and make sure you seek support. You are probably already doing a lot of things right! Sometimes it just takes a little more, but change is possible. If you are a yo-yo dieter, you probably need to reset your metabolism sooner than later, because there is nothing permanent about starvation diets. Real food in the right combination for your unique body is always the best solution to quality health and weight management. As I’ve mentioned earlier, we can’t wait for the perfect conditions. Start now!

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You are Struggling. What is Getting in the Way?

‘Tis the season. Where do you lack the motivation? Is it a battle with your weight? Are you tired all the time? Do you want to feel better and prevent disease?
Somehow, no matter what the goal is, we find it SO difficult to prioritize our health and give ourselves the chance to FEEL GOOD. What is getting in the way?

1. NOTHING IS WRONG, YET 
You haven’t had a heart attack or huge medical scare. Everything must be fine, and if something happens there will hopefully be a cure. Unless some big health crisis occurs, you have no motivation to be healthy. Some of us are fine and will always be fine. Others may have a scary wake up call when they least expect it. Unfortunately, those disease resistant genes we all wish we for are not that common. image

2. MONEY
It is too expensive to live a healthy lifestyle, right? It’s interesting how we don’t blink an eye at all the luxuries we insist on having in life. The pretty SUV, latest iPhone, and even the daily beverage fix we require. You can’t buy fresh vegetables and healthy protein, but pizza night every weekend and Starbucks five days a week is completely manageable. As long as they are small purchases here and there, they aren’t substantial. Trust me, they add up more than you think.

3. YOU KNOW IT ALL 
You know exactly what to eat and what to do, you just aren’t doing it. No person will be able to help you because you know nutrition front and back. I hear this ALL the time. I assure you, there are things that you don’t know. There are things I don’t know. Often when we think we know it all, it’s really that we’re scared to learn that what we’re doing may not be the ideal approach for our individual body. If all that you know is working so well, why are you struggling? It may be that you just don’t want to admit that something has to change. After all, that could mean breaking an addiction that you think you don’t have.

4. MISINFORMED
This is a big one. We have been taught for so long by the media and health professionals that we need to eat less and exercise more. If we reduce our calories and get a gym membership, we will be invincible. The reality is, it isn’t calories that are making us fat, sick and tired. It is what makes up those calories, and some of the most unhealthy food choices are in fact, “low calorie” options. Those strict 1500-calorie counters continue to struggle, and in some cases, are the most unhealthy people.

5. IT’S HARD
If anyone says it is easy, they are lying. There are strategies to makes things easier, but it still doesn’t make it easy. Some people have it really hard – beyond your imagination hard! They can’t be in a room where there are nuts, or can never enjoy a meal out because of such severe allergies, or maybe need to take insulin multiple times a day. Believe me, we all have it hard to a degree, but you probably don’t have it that hard right now.

6. YOU ONLY BUY HEALTHY FOOD
“I don’t understand why I am not feeling better. I never buy cookies, Coke or chips. We never bring that junk in the house!”
Many clients and other people I know face the majority of their food battles outside the home. Just because you don’t bring it in the house doesn’t mean the temptations are there every hour you aren’t in the house. Every single day you can find an opportunity to celebrate or cope: birthdays, anniversaries, retirements, promotions, STRESS, company over, graduation, Sally’s homemade cookies, luncheons, a student made you brownies, STRESS, the week is over, your child received a good report card, Christmas party, STRESS — should I continue? You get the drift. The “no junk in the house” crowd sometimes have the most difficult time because they feel deprived and look for an excuse anytime, anywhere – even if it means loading up at Costco on Halloween candy when you know you only get four trick-or-treaters at the door every year. There are SO many exceptions to your no junk rule.

Bottom line is that we all struggle to some degree. Not one nutrition expert, gluten-free blogger, or health professional has it easy. Don’t wait for the perfect time financially, or the next lightning bolt health scare. Recognize where you are struggling and address one thing at a time. Also, realize there is no perfect time.

My genes are not that strong and my battles exceed what many would assume. I remain in this field because I see how powerful food can be, not only for my clients, but for my own health as well.

I don’t get paid by anyone to tell you to nourish your body, or that sugar has the potential to kill you. What I enjoy about my job is finding ways to make these struggles easier for people because I understand.

What is your main struggle? What can you do TODAY to make a change that will benefit your health? Maybe you need to take a closer look at your budget and expenses? Perhaps it’s recognizing that you aren’t invincible and there are people that love you and need you to be healthy. There are a lot of people out there that can help with that first step.

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*SIGH* They Cut the Fat Again!

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Is the cut getting you to where you want to be?
With all these low-fat options, somehow we aren’t looking any slimmer or healthier.
If you are a client of mine, you definitely eat plenty of fat every single day. You continuously look healthier and shed unwanted inches and weight.
Did you know that the FAT added to COFFEE can actually help stabilize your blood sugar, versus drinking black coffee or lattes?
Did you know that Starbucks has now discontinued 18% cream? Apparently, not enough people use it.
In short, caffeinated coffee will raise your insulin levels to an extent. This varies on the person and the quantity consumed. Carbohydrates such as sugar, syrups, 2% milk, honey, skim milk, and Splenda will all contribute to an even higher increase. Those sugar-free syrups are actually worse than you think and can spike blood sugar HIGHER than some regular forms of sugar. The more carbohydrates that are added to coffee, the higher the spike and the more INTENSE the crash. You know what I am talking about, that feeling of sleepiness and inability to function or work efficiently.
Adding higher-fat, lower carbohydrate condiments such as REAL cream will help to stabilize blood sugar and weight loss. If sweetness is needed, stevia is a good choice.
I am by no means suggesting you go out of your way to drink coffee if this is not a habit of yours. I am telling you that the real cream- 18% or higher will benefit you and NOT make you fat. Before noon, a cup or two of coffee with a couple teaspoons of real cream is not the end of the world.
It saddens me that Starbucks has taken this away entirely, and will not even offer it on request. For the amount of money they charge for coffee that is not even organic, I think this is an unfortunate move.
I will bet as the years go on and more people realize that NATURAL FAT IS GOOD FOR YOU (always has been), we will then see cream making a comeback. In the meantime, you can either take your business elsewhere or bring your own cream. Oh goodie! — Another condiment to put in your pocket or add to your purse stash!
Starbucks does have a good selection of herbal teas that are tasty and count towards your water intake! Herbal teas don’t impact blood sugar whatsoever so you can have these black all day long if you like. Less caffeine is always better.
Slowly, our food supply is changing and getting back to how it should be. The “Fat War” is improving and we are now seeing many healthy fats available such as varieties of virgin coconut oil, organic butter (mmmm), ghee, avocado oil, quality yogurts , cream cheese, sour cream and cottage cheese.
Get those good fats back in and start feeling and looking better!
For more info on the Starbucks cream cut, you can visit this page: http://o.canada.com/life/food-drink/starbucks-canada-war-on-cream

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Battling the Bulge with GREEN

Eat your vegetables. Mother told you, you hear it from doctors, professionals, and in magazines. Are you doing it?

For many people, the struggle of eating vegetables seems to be an endless battle.
When we omit vegetables from our diets, clearly we are missing out on key vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help with our health and aging.

In addition to this, lack of vegetables often causes weight gain or diseases such as diabetes. The reason for this is when we skip vegetables we often replace them with less nutritious food items – typically refined flour, sugar and starchy carbohydrates (AKA HIGH SUGAR FOODS).

For example, imagine going to an Italian restaurant and ordering a pasta dish. Back in the day my pick would have been Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo. If you were to request a side steamed vegetable medley and starter salad, could you finish that entire bowl of pasta? Without those two vegetable additions, you likely wouldn’t feel satisfied with a smaller portion of pasta and it would be difficult to leave any behind. The bread basket also begins to tempt you.

The overload of carbohydrates would cause your insulin to spike, therefore your fat storage switch will turn ON.

As you can see, it’s all about balance. You don’t have to give up your favourite foods – adding vegetables just allows you to naturally eat more balanced.
If you are like me and enjoy food without being shy with the portions, vegetables are a great way to add volume to your plate and fullness to your stomach – without packing on the pounds.
Vegetables are full of fibrous nutrients that take time to digest and will stick with you longer, keeping you satisfied. This also turns that fat burning switch ON.

An easy rule to follow is try to get something green on your plate at every meal. Green coloured vegetables are typically always very low in carbohydrates. By eating these, this ensures you are eating a vegetable with a lower amount of sugar, allowing you to still have another portion of a starchy carbohydrate such as rice, pasta, quinoa, fruit or a baked potato.

Some examples of green vegetables include: broccoli, green beans, celery, cucumber, zucchini, spinach, green pepper, kale, chard, parsley, arugula, sprouts, cabbage and many forms of lettuce.

Here are two meal examples that demonstrate how to construct your plate:

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GREEN-Garden Salad and Steamed Broccoli
RED-Chicken
ORANGE-Fettuccine Noodles

GREEN-Spinach and Cucumber Salad with Olive Oil
RED-Turkey Burger without the bun
ORANGE-Baked Potato Wedges

This is a balanced plate including all main macronutrients, with plenty of vegetables to fill you up and nourish you! Often, I see individuals with ORANGE making up 75% of their plate which can promote weight gain and diseases.

In Summary…

We hear all of these words: organic, local, farm grown, genetically modified, grown in California/Mexico.

Remember that ANY VEGETABLE IS BETTER THAN NO VEGETABLE. Avoid that all-or-nothing mentality where, if you can’t get the best of the best, you don’t do it at all.
Get some green on your plate today!