Totally Addictive Popcorn Tofu

Totally Addictive Popcorn Tofu

So back in the day, I used to eat a fairly steady amount of fast food. And yes, I even ate KFC! AAAK! Does anyone remember Popcorn Chicken? Those tiny little bites of chicken, breaded and deep fried? Nothing but terrible for you, but tasted pretty good? Well, I may have stumbled upon the ultimate, vegan substitute for popcorn chicken! Yep, POPCORN TOFU!

And it’s actually kinda good for you. No meat, no deep frying and makes an amazing addition to so many dishes, plus it tastes great on it’s own! Give it a try for yourself and see what you think!

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Vegan Banana Coconut Protein Waffles

Vegan Banana Coconut Protein Waffles

Who doesn’t love a good waffle? Especially one that’s simple, delicious, homemade and vegan??

I’ve become a bit of a waffle addict lately. But who can blame me? Crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy in the middle? Warm and comforting and when you toss in some extra protein then they’re super filling too!

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3 Common Preservatives You're Eating Right Now

Preservatives.jpg

So what's the big deal about preservatives anyways?  Well, let's talk about a few common ones and why you may want to avoid them.

A food preservative is a substance added to foods to make them last longer, you know, preserves them. Preservatives are added to foods that go bad quickly and have found themselves in all kinds of products in our grocery stores.

Preservatives work to preserve food in a few different ways. Some prevent the growth of
bacteria and mold. Others prevent delicate fats from going rancid. And there are so many preservatives out there. While preservatives added to foods should be
“approved,” this doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to be safe for everyone always. And it doesn’t mean that the food is healthy either.

Foods with preservatives are more-processed, less-nutritious foods to begin with - not exactly
health foods. So, even if you don’t mind preservatives, you probably should cut down on these
kinds of foods, anyway.  So, let’s learn more about a few common food preservatives.

Salt

That’s right - salt. Salt was the original preservative.

FUN FACT: The term “salary” is from the Latin word for salt. It’s thought that it came from the
ancient Romans who would pay employees, allowing them to buy salt. Either that, or it was for
their work conquering and/or guarding salt mines/roads. Either way, salt was sought because of its ability to preserve food before the advent of refrigeration. Even things like fish and pork were salt cured  in order to prevent them from going bad.

In today’s day and age, with fridges and freezers in every home and grocery store, and
refrigerated trucks, salt is not needed for food preservation as much. But our taste buds still
seem to crave it on an epic scale. The average American eats over 3,400 mg of sodium per
day, well over the recommended 2,300 mg/day. Much of that is because it’s found in processed
foods.

According to Harvard Health:
"reducing dietary salt (table salt that is only sodium, chloride and iodine) will lower
blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, and save lives." So, salt is one of those all-too-common food preservatives that most of us will do better with
less of.

Nitrites (nitrates and nitrosamines)

Now you may have heard of these guys in the news lately. Nitrites are preservatives added to processed meats. They're not bad in and of themselves, but they do turn into harmful chemicals called nitrosamines.

Nitrosamines are carcinogens found in cigarette smoke. Nitrites form nitrosamines when they're cooked at high heat, and sometimes even when exposed to the high acid environment of the stomach.  Nitrites are added to meats to keep the pink-red colour and prevent “browning.” Mostly in bacon,ham, sausages and lunch meats. Since nitrites can change into nitrosamines, nitrites are one-step away from being the “bad guys.”  Another interesting thing is that processed meats have been linked with colon cancer. Because
of the nitrites? Perhaps, but either way, nitrosamines are a confirmed health-buster.

Since nitrosamines (from nitrites) are the bad guys and are formed by cooking nitrites at high
heat, what are nitrates?  Nitrates are naturally found in many healthy foods like vegetables. They’re especially high in beets. Sometimes our enzymes or gut bacteria change these healthy nitrates into nitrites.  However, they rarely form nitrosamines because they’re two-steps away from becoming these “bad guys.”

BHA & BHT

Have you seen on packages “BHA/BHT has been added to the package to help maintain
freshness” ? Perhaps on cereal packages or in gum? Guess how these compounds maintain
freshness? Because they’re preservatives.

BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are antioxidants added to many processed, packaged foods. The main way BHA and BHT work is by preventing fats from going rancid. But are they safe?

Well, they're approved for use as a preservative at small doses, however,
some studies show they can cause cancer in animals at high doses. Again, they're added to all kinds of processed, pre-packaged foods, so it's wise to avoid them nonetheless.

Conclusion

There are a lot of preservatives in our food supply. These compounds work by preventing the
growth of bacteria and mold, or by preventing fats from going rancid. And they're mostly found in processed foods. So ff you want to avoid them...then eat fresh foods!  Those foods that don't have ingredients, but ARE ingredients. (ie. fruits, veggies, whole grains etc.)

Now, I haven't even scratched the surface on preservatives, but hopefully this information makes you want to read all your food ingredient labels now.  Let me know
in the comments below if you'll be keeping an eye out for them.

Now here's a great, preservative-free recipe to satisfy those chip cravings!

Simple Kale Chips

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of kale, washed and dried
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 dashes salt
  • 2 dashes garlic powder

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300F and place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Take the washed and dried kale and rip them into chip-sized pieces and place in a large bowl.
Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and garlic powder. Mix until the kale pieces are evenly covered.  Place kale onto prepared sheet in an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes.
Flip over the kale to cook the other sides of the pieces. Bake for another 10 minutes until the
edges just start turning brown. Watch them closely, or you'll have burnt kale chips.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use any spice combo, so try onion powder, paprika, or even turmeric.


References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salary

https://authoritynutrition.com/are-nitrates-and-nitrites-harmful/

https://authoritynutrition.com/9-ways-that-processed-foods-are-killing-people/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-endocrine-disruptors

http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/salt-and-your-health

https://examine.com/nutrition/scientists-just-found-that-red-meat-causes-cancer--or-did-they/

https://authoritynutrition.com/chewing-gum-good-or-bad/

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/list-of-ingredients-and-allergens/table/eng/1369857665232/1369857767799

Haven't Changed Anything in Your Diet But Getting Fatter?

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You' re positive that you're not eating more food.  And you're not chowing down on junk food either,  but you're still gaining weight.  What the heck? Is that even possible?

Yes!  

You're NOT crazy!

And here's why.

We both know that the whole “calories in, calories out” argument is an overly simplistic view of weight.  There's definitely more to the story than just what you're eating, right?

A lot of this comes right down to your metabolic rate which is affected by things like your activity level, history of dieting, body composition, and even what you eat.

But, let's go beyond the “eat less and exercise more” advice and dive into some of the less obvious underlying reasons why you may be gaining weight even though you're eating the same.

Things like:

  • Aging
  • Hormones
  • Sleep
  • Stress

Aging

Funny things happen the older we get.  People commonly experience lower energy levels, more digestive discomfort, weight gain, as well as aches and pains.

Aging can result in hormonal changes for both men and women.  And these can contribute to loss of some lean muscle mass, as well as increases and changes in fat storage on our bodies.  The good thing is that, this is very common and it's not your fault.

Hormones

Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolism and can be a massive contributor to your weight gain.  But there are things that can affect it and throw it off course.

When your thyroid gets off course and produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down.  And when your metabolism slows down you can gain weight. Even though you're eating the same way you always have.

Pro Tip: Talk with your doctor about having your hormones tested.  Oh, and try the thyroid-friendly recipe that I created for you at the end of this post.

Sleep

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate.  And as we age it can become harder and harder to get a good night's sleep.  The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night to help avoid weight gain.

And it's true!  Lack of sleep is linked with weight gain.  Who ever thought you can sleep off your weight?  

Pro Tip: Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.  The first place to start is by implementing a calming before bedtime routine.  Ditch the screens, try some meditation or reading and avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed.

Stress

It seems to be everywhere!  So many things that can cause stress responses in your body.  And you know that stress hormones are not going to help you sustain healthy habits or maintain a healthy weight, right?

While you can't necessarily change your stressors you can try to adjust your stress response to them.

Pro Tip:  Try meditation or yoga.  Or even mindful eating. What about those new adult colouring books that are all the rage now?

Conclusion:

There are lots of factors that can affect your weight, even if you're eating the same way you always have.  Aging, hormones, stress, and sleep are all interconnected to each other and can all contribute to weight gain, even if you're eating the same way you always have.

Seaweed (Thyroid friendly Iodine) Sushi Bowl

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 avocado (thinly sliced)
  • ½ cucumber (diced)
  • ½ red pepper (thinly sliced)
  • 1 green onion (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons dried seaweed (arame, wakame, or crumbled nori sheets)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons gluten-free tamari sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • ½ garlic clove
  • dash salt and pepper

Instructions:

Split the first seven ingredients into two bowls.  Mix the rest of the ingredients together to make the dressing.  Pour the dressing over the sushi bowls.

Serve & Enjoy!

Tip:  This is a great lunch to take on the go.  Keep dressing in a separate container so you can give it a shake before adding it onto the sushi bowl.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/lose-weight-in-menopause/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/sleep-stress-and-fat-loss

 

Dairy Intolerance? What about Lactose, Casein & Whey?

Dairy.jpg

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.

Milk Sugar (Lactose) Intolerance

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 Protein (Casein & Whey) Allergy

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.

Conclusion

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!

Chocolate Nice Cream

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 3 bananas, sliced and frozen
  • 2 tsp cacao powder, unsweetened
  • 1 tbsp almond butter

Instructions:

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.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/11-proven-ways-to-reduce-bloating/

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/how-to-get-rid-of-bloating/

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/11-warning-signs-you-have-a-food-intolerance/

https://authoritynutrition.com/dairy-foods-low-in-lactose/

https://authoritynutrition.com/lactose-intolerance-101/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/whey-protein-allergies-intolerances-bloating

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-food-sensitivities

https://www.thepaleomom.com/the-great-dairy-debate/

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-milk-and-mucus-a-myth/

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/milk-protein-vs-soy-protein/

https://examine.com/supplements/casein-protein/

https://examine.com/supplements/whey-protein/

http://foodallergycanada.ca/about-allergies/food-allergens/milk/

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blood-pressure/milk-protein-may-lower-blood-pressure

Sweet Potato, Carrot & Kale Stew

What helps beat those grey & gloomy days....

Bright, warm and comforting stew does! Right?!  This recipe is super simple and full of wonderful veggies. Plus it will keep you feeling nice and warm during those cold winter months.

And if you’ve got an Instant Pot, this stew can be ready in just minutes. But don’t worry if you don’t…I’ve also included stove top instructions too.

Sweet Potato, Carrot, Kale Stew.jpg

Sweet Potato, Carrot & Kale Stew

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil

  • 1 Onion (white or yellow)

  • 2 Bay leaves

  • 2-3 small Sweet Potatoes

  • 1 white or yellow Potato

  • 2 carrots

  • 1/2 tsp Cumin

  • 1/2 tsp Coriander Powder

  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp Rosemary

  • 1 tsp Turmeric

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp Paprika

  • 3 cloves of garlic

  • 1 can of diced tomatoes

  • 1 can of coconut milk

  • 1 1/2 cans (use your coconut milk can) of Water

  • 1/2 to 1 whole bunch of fresh Kale

  • Fresh Cilantro (optional)

  • Green Onions (optional)


Instructions:

For Instant Pot:

  1. Dice onion. Peel and cube your sweet potato, carrots and potato.

  2. Set your Instant Pot to sauté and add your olive oil.

  3. Add your diced onion along with the bay leaves to the warmed oil. Cook until onions are transcluent and make sure to stir regularly so the onions don't burn.

  4. Add the sweet potatoes, carrots, potato, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, salt, rosemary, garlic and paprika and stir well. Continue to cook for about 1 minute.

  5. Next add your diced tomato, coconut milk and water and stir well.  Continue to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  6. Cancel the sauté setting and set your Instant Pot to Manual.  Use the + or - to set the time to 6 minutes.

  7. Place the lid on your Instant Pot and lock in place. Turn the steam release knob to the sealed position.

  8. Once the cooking time has finished, let your pot sit for 10 minutes without releasing the pressure.  You can simply turn your pot off and wait. 

  9. While you are waiting, wash and de-stem your kale.  You can either chop or tear the leaves into bite sized pieces.

  10. After the 10 minutes, do a quick release by turning the release know to the vent position.  Watch out...it will be hot!

  11. Next, add your kale and fold it into the stew. As you are combining it, break up some of the potato and sweet potato to thicken the stew to your liking. 

  12. Let the stew rest for a few minutes to allow the kale to wilt. 

  13. Top with fresh cilantro and sliced green onions if you like. And then serve and enjoy!


For Stove Top:

The instructions will be pretty similar to the Instant Pot version.  You'll just be cooking everything in a large pot instead.

  1. Dice onion. Peel and cube your sweet potato, carrots and potato.

  2. Add olive oil to a large pot and place on your stove and set the burner to medium.

  3. Add your diced onion along with the bay leaves to the warmed oil. Cook until onions are transcluent and make sure to stir regularly so the onions don't burn.

  4. Add the sweet potatoes, carrots, potato, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, salt, rosemary, garlic and paprika and stir well. Continue to cook for about 1 minute.

  5. Next add your diced tomato, coconut milk and water and stir well.  

  6. Cover your stew and on medium-low for 25-40 minutes The time will be dependent on how small or large your cubed veggies are.  Continue to cook until your sweet potatoes are soft and your carrots are fork tender. Stir occasionally.

  7. While you are waiting, wash and de-stem your kale.  You can either chop or tear the leaves into bite sized pieces.

  8. Once your stew is done and your carrots, sweet potato and potato are soft, you can turn off your burner.

  9. Next, add your kale and fold it into the stew. As you are combining it, break up some of the potato and sweet potato to thicken the stew to your liking. 

  10. Let the stew rest for a few minutes to allow the kale to wilt. 

  11. Top with fresh cilantro and sliced green onions if you like. And then serve and enjoy!

Recipe inspiration from Simply Happy Foodie