I know that sometimes I don't find cooking fun and it can seem like a chore. And I can get into a rut just like everyone else.
So that's why I've listed my best fun cooking tips for you.Read More
The odds are that you or someone you know experiences heartburn. Around half of North American adults experience it at least once per month. Somewhere between 10-20% have it at least once per week!Read More
So let me ask you this: Have you looked at the ingredients on a food label lately? When was the last time you looked at the label of some of those famous brands of processed foods - cookies, cereals, or junky snack foods?
Do you have those ingredients in your house? Do you even know what all of those ingredients are? There are a ton of artificial, chemical, junky ingredients in foods these days.Read More
If you have have a food intolerance, then you know it isn't fun. It can cause abdominal pain, discomfort, and nausea. It also causes embarrassing symptoms like flatulence and diarrhea. Other symptoms linked to food intolerances include muscle or joint pain, headaches, exhaustion, and even skin symptoms like rashes and eczema. Dairy happens to be one of those foods that many people seem to be intolerant of.
So let’s talk about the main parts of milk that people react to: lactose, casein, and whey.
It’s estimated that up to 75% of adults are lactose intolerant. Lactose is the carbohydrate “milk sugar” naturally found in most dairy products. Lactose intolerance is so common you can buy lactose-free milk in your regular grocery store. Lactose-free products are treated with the enzyme “lactase” that breaks the lactose down before you ingest it. It’s this lactase enzyme that is lacking in most people who are lactose intolerant.
The lactase enzyme is naturally released from your intestine as one of your digestive enzymes. It breaks down the lactose sugar in the gut. When someone doesn't have enough lactase, the lactose doesn't get broken down the way it should. Undigested lactose ends up being food for your resident gut microbes. And as they ferment the lactose, they create gases that can cause bloating, flatulence, pain, and even diarrhea.
Lactose is in dairy but is in lower amounts in fermented dairy (e.g. cheese & yogurt) and butter. Steering clear of lactose isn't that easy as it is added to other foods like baked goods, soups, and sauces. And if you're taking any medications or supplements, check to see if it's in there too, as lactose is a common ingredient in them. If you have symptoms of lactose intolerance, keep an eye on food, medication, and supplement labels.
Milk is a known, and common, food allergen. In Canada, it is considered a “priority allergen” and must be declared on food labels.
So, what are the allergens in milk? You've heard of "curds and whey?" Well, these are the two main proteins in milk. The solid bits are the curds (made of casein), and the liquid is the dissolved whey. Who knew?!
Unlike lactose intolerance, casein and whey can cause an actual immune response. It’s an allergy. And this immune response can cause inflammation. In fact, we don’t know how many people have these milk allergies, but most estimates put it far below that of lactose intolerance.
Like lactose, these allergenic milk proteins can be found in other products too. They're not just in dairy but are often in protein powders as well (think of those Whey protein powders).
Some of the symptoms of milk protein allergy differ from that of lactose intolerance; things like nasal congestion and mucus (phlegm) are more common here. And casein seems to be linked with belly fat. Interestingly, people who have gluten intolerance are often allergic to milk proteins like whey and casein as well. These can go hand-in-hand.
Like lactose intolerance, if you're allergic to casein and whey keep an eye on labels so you can avoid these.
If you get gassy, bloated, or diarrhea after eating dairy, you may have a lactose intolerance. If you often get a stuffy nose and mucus, then you may be allergic to casein and/or whey.
While dairy may be an entire food group, it is NOT an essential nutrient. All the nutrients in dairy are available in other foods. If you experience these symptoms, you can try removing dairy from your diet. And you may find improved digestion and fewer gut issues, I know I sure did. Or you may find improved nasal congestion, or even less belly fat!
If you decide to (or have already) removed dairy from your diet, let me know your experience in the comments below.
And now for one of my fave non-dairy treats!
Place frozen bananas in food processor and blend until smooth (a few minutes). You may have to stop a few times to scrape the sides. Add cacao powder and almond butter and blend until mixed well.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can make this in advance and freeze in an airtight container.
Everywhere you look, there's some new, hot diet or weight loss product. Weight loss advice is so common (and contentious) now. And there are competing opinions everywhere.
I say, forget about "who's right" and let's focus on "what's right." Because what gets results is what I'm focusing on in this post. I respect you too much to make empty promises and try to sell you on something that doesn’t work. There are too many weight loss myths out there. So I’m going to tackle the top ones I come across in my practice.
Calories are important for weight loss. If you eat and absorb a ton more than you use, then your body’s wisdom will store some for later. Calories matter.
But, they are not the “be-all and end-all" of weight loss; they're important, but they're the symptom, not the cause. Let's think about the reasons people eat more calories. Let's focus on the causes.
People eat too many calories, not because they're hungry, but because they feel sad, lonely, or bored. Or maybe because they're tired or stressed. Or maybe even because they're happy and celebrating. And all these feelings interact with our gastrointestinal, nervous and hormonal systems; all of which influence our calorie intake.
Well, then we're all in tip-top shape, right? Because people have been doling out this advice (myth) for years.
The premise of this is based on the above myth that calories in minus calories out equals your weight. So, eat fewer calories, and burn off more calories (because human physiology is a simple math equation, right?).
Even if people can happily and sustainably follow this advice (which they can’t!); it completely negates other factors that contribute to weight problems. Things like the causes of overeating we mentioned above. Not to mention our genetics, health conditions we're dealing with or our exposure to compounds that are "obesogenic.”
Can we please ditch this one already?
Science has confirmed several caloric components of food differ from others. For example, the “thermic effect of food” (TEF) is that some nutrients require calories to be metabolized. They can slightly increase your metabolism, just by eating them.
For example, when you metabolize protein you burn more calories than when you metabolize carbohydrates. Proteins and carbohydrates both have 4 calories/gram; but, the TEF of protein = 15–30%; and the TEF for carbohydrates = 5–10%.
Here’s another example of a calorie not being a calorie. Different fats are metabolized differently. Medium chain triglycerides (fats) (MCTs) have the same 9 calories/gram that other fats do; but, they're metabolized by the liver before getting into the bloodstream and therefore aren't utilized or stored the same way as other fats. #acalorieisnotacalorie
There is no magic pill for weight loss. No supplement, tea, food, or other potion will do the trick. There are products that make these claims, and they're full of garbage (or shall I say "marketing gold?"). The only thing you will lose is your money (and possibly your hope). So, please don’t believe this myth.
There is a reason most people who lose weight can’t keep it off. The real magic is in adopting a sustainable holistic and healthy approach to living your life. What you need is a long-term lifestyle makeover, not a product.
I hate to break it to you, but weight loss is hard! There's no quick fix and there are way too many people out there trying to make it sound like they have the simple solution (or the latest and greatest!).
Don’t fall for the myths that say:
Now check out my magical “weight loss salad” recipe below (just kidding!)
Cucumber Dill Dressing
Tip: Extra dressing can be stored in the fridge for a few days
You knew there was a bit of an over-emphasis (borderlining obsession) about cholesterol, right? But, before we jump into some myths let's make sure we're on the same page when it comes to what exactly cholesterol is.
Myth #1: “Cholesterol” is cholesterol
While cholesterol is an actual molecule what it is bound to while it's floating through your blood is what's more important than just how much of it there is overall. In fact depending on what it's combined with can have opposite effects on your arteries and heart. Yes, opposite!
So cholesterol is just one component of a compound that floats around your blood. These compounds contain cholesterol as well as fats and special proteins called “lipoproteins”.
They're grouped into two main categories:
And yes, it's even more complicated than this. Each of these categories is further broken down into subcategories which can also be measured in a blood test.
So “cholesterol” isn't simply cholesterol because it has very different effects on your body depending on which other molecules it's bound to in your blood and what it is actually doing there.
Myth #2: Cholesterol is bad
Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for your body to produce critical things like vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, your sex hormones (e.g. estrogen and testosterone), as well as bile to help you absorb dietary fats. Not to mention that it's incorporated into the membranes of your cells. Talk about an important molecule!
The overall amount of cholesterol in your blood (AKA “total cholesterol”) isn't nearly as important as how much of each kind you have in your blood.
While way too much LDL cholesterol as compared with HDL (the LDL:HDL ratio) may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease it is absolutely not the only thing to consider for heart health.
Myth #3: Eating cholesterol increases your bad cholesterol
Most of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your liver. It's actually not from the cholesterol you eat. Why do you think cholesterol medications block an enzyme in your liver (HMG Co-A reductase, to be exact)? 'Cause that's where it's made!
What you eat still can affect how much cholesterol your liver produces. After a cholesterol-rich meal your liver doesn't need to make as much.
Myth #4: Your cholesterol should be as low as possible
As with almost everything in health and wellness there's a balance that needs to be maintained. There are very few extremes that are going to serve you well. People with too-low levels of cholesterol have increased risk of death from other non-heart-related issues like certain types of cancers, as well as suicide.
Myth #5: Drugs are the only way to get a good cholesterol balance
Firstly, don't start or stop any medications without talking with your doctor.
And while drugs can certainly lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol they don't seem to be able to raise the “good” HDL cholesterol all that well. Guess what does?
Nutrition and exercise, baby!
One of the most impactful ways to lower your cholesterol with diet is to eat lots of fruits and veggies. I mean lots, say up to 10 servings a day. Every day.
Don't worry the recipe below should help you add at least another salad to your day.
You can (should?) also exercise, lose weight, stop smoking, and eat better quality fats. That means fatty fish, avocados and olive oil. And ditch those over-processed hydrogenated “trans” fats!
The science of cholesterol and heart health is complicated and we're learning more every day. You may not need to be as afraid of it as you are. And there is a lot you can do from a nutrition and lifestyle perspective to improve your cholesterol level.
Recipe (Dressing to go with your salad): Orange Hemp Seed Dressing
Makes about ¾ cup
Blend all ingredients together until creamy. Serve on top of your favourite salad and Enjoy!
Tip: Store extra in airtight container in the fridge. Will keep for about a week.
And...it's making you fat and tired! Seriously.
HOLY COW...nutrition and diet info is everywhere! And each expert and association tries to lead you in their direction because they know best and their advice is going to help you. Right? Well, maybe…
Everyone has heard (and maybe lived through) the intense focus on how much you eat. This has gotten way too much attention because while this does affect your weight and energy level, it's certainly not the “holy grail” of health.
Let's focus a bit more on the often overlooked (and proven) benefits of what you eat and drink and how you eat and drink it.
The whole “calories in, calories out” philosophy (i.e. how much you eat) is being drowned out with research on other factors that may be just as important. Don't get me wrong limiting calories, carbs or fat can certainly help you lose weight but that's simply not the only factor for long-term weight loss and maximum energy for everyone.
When the intense focus on how much we ate didn't work in the long-run it wasn’t really a surprise. We kinda knew that already, didn't we?
You can certainly still continue to count your calories, carbs, and fat but don't forget to also pay attention to what you eat.
Ideally, you need a varied diet full of minimally-processed foods (i.e. fewer “packaged” “ready-to-eat” foods). This simple concept is paramount for weight loss, energy, and overall health and wellness.
Every day this is what you should aim for:
A colourful array of fruits and veggies at almost every meal and snack. You need the fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. (Eat a rainbow!)
Enough protein. Making sure you get all of those essential amino acids (bonus: eating protein can increase your metabolism).
Healthy fats and oils (never “hydrogenated” ones). There is a reason some fatty acids are called “essential” - you need them as building blocks for your hormones and brain as well as to be able to absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins from your uber-healthy salads. Use extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, chia, hemp hearts and eat your avocados. You don't need to overdo it here. Just make sure you're getting some high-quality fats.
Also pay attention to how you eat and drink. Studies are definitely showing that this has more of an impact than we previously thought. Are you rushed, not properly chewing your food, and possibly suffering from gastrointestinal issues? Do you drink your food?
When it comes to how you eat let's first look at “mindful eating”. Mindful eating means to take smaller bites, eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and savour every bite. Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture. Breathe. This gives your digestive system the hint to prepare for digestion and to secrete necessary enzymes.
This can also help with weight loss because eating slower often means eating less. Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full?
We also know that more thoroughly chewed food is easier to digest and it makes it easier to absorb all of those essential nutrients.
And don't forget about drinking your food. Yes, smoothies can be healthy and a fabulously easy and tasty way to get in some fruits and veggies (hello leafy greens!) but drinking too much food can contribute to a weight problem and feelings of sluggishness.
Don't get me wrong a green smoothie can make an amazingly nutrient-dense meal and is way better than stopping for convenient junk food – just consider a large smoothie to be a full meal not a snack. And don't gulp it down too fast. If your smoothies don't fill you up like a full meal, try adding in a spoonful of fiber like ground flax or chia seeds.
Consider not only how much you eat but also what and how you eat it.
Add ingredients to blender in order listed (you want your greens on the bottom by the blade so they blend better and have the chia on the bottom to absorb some liquid before you blend).
Wait a couple of minutes for the chia seeds to start soaking up the almond milk.
Blend, Serve and Enjoy!
Tip: Smoothies are the ultimate recipe for substitutions. Try swapping different greens, fruit or seeds to match your preference.
Bonus: Chia seeds not only have fiber and essential omega-3 fatty acids but they contain all of the essential amino acids from protein.
Sometimes those holiday feasts, birthday dinners and potlucks are just amazing!
And it's not just the abundance of delicious food but also the people, the decorations, and the ambiance. It is way too easy (and common) to indulge on those days. But it doesn't always stop there. Sometimes we overeat on regular days. Or at regular meals. Or All. The. Time.
Here are three tips to avoid overeating at meals:
(Psst, turn these into habits and ditch the willpower!)
When your stomach is growling and you smell amazingly delicious food it's too easy to fill a plate (or grab some samples with your bare hands) and dive into the food.
But did you know that it's possible to sometimes confuse the feeling of thirst with that of hunger? Your stomach may actually be craving a big glass of water rather than a feast. Some studies have shown that drinking a glass or two of water before a meal can help reduce the amount of food eaten. And this super-simple tip may even help with weight loss (...just sayin').
Not only will the water start to fill up your stomach before you get to the buffet, leaving less room for the feast but drinking enough water has been shown to slightly increase your metabolism. Win-win!
You may have heard of mindfulness a lot lately, but have you applied that to your eating habits? This can totally help you avoid overeating as well as having the added bonus of helping your digestion.
Just as being mindful when you meditate helps to focus your attention on your breathing and the present moment being mindful when you eat helps to focus your attention on your meal.
Do this by taking smaller bites, eating more slowly, chewing more thoroughly, and savouring every mouthful. Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture. Breathe.
This can help prevent overeating because eating slower often means eating less. When you eat quickly you can easily overeat because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full. So take your time, pay attention to your food and enjoy every bite.
Bonus points: Eat at a table (not in front of the screen), off of a small plate, and put your fork down between bites.
You may be yearning for that rich, creamy main dish. But don't start there. (Don't worry, you can have some...just after you've eaten your salad).
Veggies are a great way to start any meal because they're full of not only vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and health-promoting phytochemicals but they also have some secret satiety weapons: fiber and water.
Fiber and water are known to help fill you up and make you feel fuller. They're “satiating”. And these secret weapons are great to have on your side when you're about to indulge in a large meal.
Have your glass of water, eat mindfully, and start with your salad to help avoid overeating at meals.
If you're not much of a plain water drinker or need your water to be more appealing to your senses here are five delicious (and beautiful looking) fruit combos to add to your large glass of water:
Slices of lemon & ginger
Slices of strawberries & orange
Slices of apple & a cinnamon stick
Chopped pineapple & mango
Blueberries & raspberries
Tip: You can buy a bag (or several bags) of frozen chopped fruit and throw those into your cup, thermos, or uber-cool mason jar in the morning. They're already washed and cut and will help keep your water colder longer.
As a working mom, I will be the first to admit that feeding a family of four on a budget and on a tight schedule is no simple task. Yes, I love to cook and I take pride in the fact that I make almost all our meals from scratch. (notice I said ALMOST) But let's be honest, feeding a busy family a balanced and nutritious meal isn't always easy.
Sometimes you just gotta grab that frozen meal from the store just to make it through a Wednesday night, and that's OK. But did you know every can, box, and package in your grocery store has a handy label to help you make better choices when it comes to feeding your family? Yup, there's an entire chart with loads of useful nutritional information on just about everything.
So if you thought reading those nutrition labels was out of your league or that they were written in some alien language, I figured I would share a couple simple steps on how to read them and use them to make healthier choices for you and your family.
3 Simple Steps to Reading Nutrition Facts Tables
And there you go... the simple way to read a Nutrition Facts Table! But that's just the beginning. Those tables can give you a wealth of information when it comes to selecting foods and making informed choices. By keeping those bad fats in check and maximizing your fibre and nutrient intake, you'll help keep your family happy and healthy.
Want to know more? Click here for more great information on how to interpret those labels, compare products and make food choices that you can feel good about. So don't be frightened of those labels, with just a few simple clicks and a little research you too can become a Nutrition Fact Finder!
Want to test out your Nutrition Fact Finding skills? How about a sweet giveaway for some free groceries? Enter below for your chance to win a $100 Grocery Gift Card! Woohoo! Contest is open to Canadian residents only, excluding Quebec.
Disclaimer: I was compensated for this post as a joint effort by the Food &Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC), Health Canada, Retail Council of Canada (RCC), the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG), the Nutrition Facts Education Campaign (NFEC). As always, the opinions expressed are my own.