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My family LOVES lentils. They’re one of our favourite legumes because they taste so great, they’re cost effective and you can use them in so many dishes. Lentil patties, vegetarian lasagna, vegetarian Shepard’s Pie, various casseroles and the list goes on…

A bag of green lentils (not cooked or canned) cost $2-4 depending on where you shop. One bag of lentils could potentially make enough meals for a family of four (eating lentils once a week) for a month! They also provide a great source of protein, fiber, vitamin B6, iron and magnesium. Combined with rice, lentils are a complete protein meaning that they provide the body with all essential amino acids (building blocks of protein) making them an ideal protein source.

lentil rice
I made this casserole for the first time a few weeks ago and everyone loved it. It’s so simple to prepare yet so amazing! The one thing to note is the cooking time (2 hours 20 minutes).

Recipe:
Curried Lentil and Rice Casserole
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 TBSP finely chopped fresh ginger
1 TBSP finely chopped fresh tumeric, or 1 TSP dried
2 TSP curry powder
1 TSP ground cumin
1 TSP ground coriander
1/2 TSP cinnamon
2 TSP sea salt
4 carrots, chopped
1 1/2 cups French Lentils or black beluga lentils
1 cup long grain brown rice
5 cups water
1 cup coconut milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and onions, saute for 5 to 6 minutes. Add ginger, tumeric, spices, and salt. Continue to saute for another 2 minutes until fragrant.

Place onion-spice mixture into a large casserole dish. Add carrots, lentils, rice, water and coconut milk. Mix together well. Cover and bake for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, turn oven temp up to 425 degrees F. Remove cover and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes to let excess liquid cook off. Stir and serve.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

This recipe is compliments of the cookbook called “Nourishing Meals” by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre. I use this cookbook at least once a week. It’s $24.95 and can be found at most book stores.

If you have not eaten lentils lately this is a great weekend meal. The bonus is you will have leftovers for the work week ahead!

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The holidays are here. The smell of fresh baked apple pie, turkey roasting in the oven and the warmth of the fireplace remind me of my childhood. Without a doubt, my favourite things about the holiday season are connecting with family, enjoying delicious food, and spending as much time as possible skating or skiing in the great outdoors.

We all know soon enough, whether or not we want to admit it, the new year is just around the corner. No matter how you choose to spend your holiday season, or what new year’s resolutions you decide on, here are a few tips to get through the hustle, bustle and stress that this season inevitably brings.

1- We should treat others as we would like others to treat us. I know this is a cliche, but it holds true. Christmas is a time for re-connecting with family and friends and we all know too well that this time of year can be more stressful than we would like. Take a deep breath, count to ten, and do your best to enjoy the holidays.

2- Get out and embrace the abundance of winter activities available to us here in Canada. Engaging in physical activities like cross-country or downhill skiing, skating, tobogganing and long winter walks are a great way to boost your spirits, get fresh air and burn calories.

Snowshoeing in Squamish

3- Taste everything that the holiday season has to offer, but do it wisely. Moderation is a wonderful thing. Don’t deprive yourself of the things you long for all year, just indulge in small portions.

4- Take time for yourself. There’s so much hype around the holidays that it is easy to forget to breath, relax, laugh and love. Take a bubble bath, curl up with a blanket and a good book, practice yoga, go caroling or enjoy a Christmas movie or T.V. special with family or friends.

5- Have an eco-Christmas. Encourage all family members to exchange gifts that are baked, handmade or reused. Wrap presents in newspaper and re-use gift bags. Support local, fair-trade businesses, and products that aren’t disposable or require batteries. This cuts down on unnecessary waste and saves the planet along the way.

I plan to enjoy the next few weeks to the fullest. Having almost healed completely from my slipped disc, I plan to skate, ski and walk outside as much as possible. I also look forward to connecting my fiancee’s family, laughing and cherishing the delicious food that comes along with Christmas.

I hope your holiday season is filled with light, laughter and love. I look forward to the new year and all that it has to offer.

January 2015 marks the “official” launch of Elemental Fitness Personal Training. Although I have been training under this name for close to 3 years it has been very part time alongside my full time job. I am very excited to be taking the next step in attracting a larger clientele base and making my own fitness training business a larger part of my life.

business card
That being said, I have been researching ways to grow my business in the most cost effective and successful way. I listened this this terrific podcast presentation through InfoFit Educators (Vancouver, BC) this past weekend and below are my favourite 10 tips to create business success:

1- You need to have a target market. Finding your niche and keeping your business really focused is a great strategy when it comes to Fitness Training. You can’t market to everyone, so don’t!

2- Develop a basic business plan. Very important to your long term success.

3- Attract current clients from previous clients. Get client referrals!

4- Network. Talk about your passion (in this case fitness) anywhere that feels right.

5- Build a rapport and don’t be pushy.

6- Seeing as PT is a luxury service not a need (at least at this point) connect with friends and acquaintances who have money but not a ton of time. They will see the value and more than likely already be using “services” (house keeper, dog walker, nanny, etc.).

7- Make it easy for your target market to find you.

8- Create a FB profile page for your business.

9- Create a website for your business. WordPress is a great way to design a very user friendly site that costs next to nothing.

10- When meeting prospective clients come across as passionate about fitness and health but not needy with regards to their business.

Looks like I have a few things to work on before January! If you have any other great business tips to pass along I’m all ears…

My son Griffyn just turned a year old last month. He has been a terrific little eater from the time we introduced him to pureed foods six months ago. He appeared to be curious about the idea of eating what my wife and I were eating right from the go. Although he gobbled down the purees he was far more intrigued by what we had on our plates and soon started enjoying just about everything: coconut curry, rice salad with finely shredded kale, salmon, tuna and even refried beans with chilies!

photo
Getting proper nutrition and a wide variety of foods into his diet continues to be my mission. Although he loves many strong flavours I didn’t think he would go for, getting adequate vegetables into his diet remains our biggest challenge. The good news is that an infant’s nutritional requirements are not a daily value, but weekly. This explains why certain days children eat a lot and the next day they appear disinterested altogether. Their bodies can make up for a loss the very next day or two so it’s not something parents need to stress over.

A good rule of thumb for infants and toddlers is don’t push food on them but rather introduce it and allow them to decide if they like it and how much they want to eat. Always follow their cues. When children are forced to eat everything that’s on their plate they grow up with this mentality which can lead to overeating and bad food associations as adults. Below are a few ideas on how to increase your child’s veggies while still making eating a fun and enjoyable daily adventure!

* everything and anything mashed on toast
My son loves toast. If he won’t eat his steamed carrots, yam or zucchini, I mash them and put them on toast. A bit of coconut oil and steamed veggie really hits the spot.
* pancakes made with shredded vegetables
Another great way to sneak vegetables into their day while making it fun too.
* veggies mashed in yogurt
No matter what mashed vegetable you have if you add a bit of fruit and mix it with yogourt they just might eat it!
* finely mincing vegetables into canned salmon or tuna
I mix celery, apple, green onion, and raisins with a little Dijon mustard and fish.
* smoothies are another terrific option
A few kale or spinach leaves blended with some fruit and milk are a great snack. Pea protein powder is another great addition as it provides up to 35% of their daily iron intake and is easy to digest.
* fresh pressed juice
If you have a juicer or access to one, make fresh juice. My little guy loves carrots, apples, cucumber, ginger and a touch of spirulina (a blue-green algae loaded with nutrients found in health food stores).
* veggies dipped in hummus
Steamed carrots or cucumber slices work great for dipping.

Lastly, make meal time about socializing, enjoying food, giving thanks and never use food as a reward. If you’re able to create an environment that is relaxed and engaging your child will grow up with these ideals and hopefully meal time will not be as much of a battle.

What types of foods do you offer your toddler? What kinds of veggies do they like most?

I now know what it’s like to be almost too busy to fit in exercise. I never thought I would say those words but I’m admitting it! With an 8 month old baby, my life (for now) is no longer about my needs and priorities. I’ve had to come up with quick and effective exercises to get my blood flowing and raise that oh-so-needed serotonin.
©belle ancell 2013 ~ All Right Reserved ~ CREDIT MANDATORY

Over the past few months I have managed to perfect the 20 minute workout- having “no time” is no longer an excuse!

WORKOUT #1 (Sweat it out):
EQUIPMENT REQUIRED: Medicine Ball, Kettle Bell, Jump Rope
#1 – 2 minutes Jump rope
#2 – 1 minute Single arm Kettle Bell swings
#3 – 1 minute Medicine Ball wood chops
(repeat exercise 2 & 3)
#4 – 2 minutes Jump rope
#5 – 1 minute Kettle Bell goblet squats
#6 – 1 minute Medicine Ball crunches
(repeat exercise 5 & 6)
#7 – 2 minutes Jump rope
#8 – 1 minute Kettle Bell bent-over rows
#9 – 1 minute Medicine Ball lunge with twist
(repeat exercises 8 & 9)
#10 – 2 minutes Jump rope

WORKOUT #2 (Full Body):
EQUIPMENT REQUIRED: Your body and a little motivation!
#1 – 2 minutes Jogging (traveling or on the spot)
#2 – 40 Mountain Climbers
#3 – 30 180 degree jump squats
#4 – 20 Push-ups (on floor or bench)
#5 – 10 Bear crawl outs with hop
(30 second walking break)
#6 – 2 minutes Side Shuffles (mark a distance of approximately 25-30 feet and side step left to right)
#7 – 40 Reverse lunges (traveling or on the spot)
#8 – 30 seconds Plank
#9 – 20 Tricep dips – on bench
#10 – 10 Burpies
(30 second walking break)
#11 – 2 minutes Jump rope
#12 – 40 Regular lunges
#13 – 30 Frog Jumps
#14 – 20 seconds Shadow boxing
#15 – 10 Inch worms

WORKOUT #3 (Total Core):
EQUIPMENT REQUIRED: Mat, 5-10lb weight
#1 – 60 Second Plank Hold
#2 – 50 Bicycle Legs
#3 – 40 Mountain Climbers
#4 – 30 Body Stars
#5 – 20 Supine Leg Lifts
#5 – 10 Russian Twists using desired weight
#6 – 5 Roll-ups
(1 minute walking break and repeat)

I did a video to accompany this blog, to demonstrate some of the lesser-known exercises. check it out: http://youtu.be/19Kv2HOQXx0

There are so many variations of exercises and ways to switch up these routines. Feel free to put your own spin on a 20 minute workout. I hope I can motivate you to kick your own butt! Of course, if you need extra help contact me about personal training and my summer bootcamps. Just remember, every bit of effort counts!

coconut_oil
Coconut oil has become a staple in my home over that past 7 years. Its health benefits, versatility and flavour far outweigh that of any other healthy fat that I’m aware of. I learned about this amazing oil while living in Nelson years ago and have had a tub in my bathroom and kitchen ever since. To say that I couldn’t live without it may sound extreme, but wait until you hear about all the ways I use it!

There are two main types of coconut oil: expeller pressed, which can be used for anything as it is odorless and tasteless, or virgin that has a coconutty flavour that’s great for cooking, baking and skincare. Always ensure you use food grade for optimal quality.

The main health benefits of coconut oil:
* Anti-inflammatory
* Antimicrobial
* Antifungal
* Antiviral
therefore it helps with…
* Improving nutrient absorption
* Killing candida fungus
* Reversing Alzheimer’s
* Type 1 & 2 diabetes
* Hypothyroidism
* Promoting weight loss
* Strengthening the hair
* Providing athletes with a natural source of energy
* 3.5 Tbsp daily can help enrich a mother’s breast milk

My favourite things to use coconut oil for in the kitchen:
* frying eggs
* drizzling on popcorn
* using in place of butter for greasing baking pans
* replacing butter or other oils in baking recipes
* frying fish or chicken
* spreading on toast to replace butter
* melting and adding to smoothies to give it a creamy, oily texture

My favourite cosmetic uses of coconut oil:
* Skin moisturizer – I use it on my face and body
* As a sun screen – it’s naturally SPF 4!
* Soothing skin after being in the sun or after a scrape or bite
* Massage therapy – I use it on my 5 month old every evening after the bath
* An all natural lubricant – the non-coconut smelling option is best

I hope this list is reason enough to purchase your own tub of coconut oil! And I bet there’s even more ways and uses for this magnificent oil, please share yours in the comments below.

Some information was referenced from the following website: http://healthimpactnews.com/2011/80-uses-for-coconut-oil/

I had a question in my inbox about a month ago regarding how to eat healthy on a budget. I know this reader and I are not the only people trying to live a healthy lifestyle without breaking the bank.

Eating healthy can easily be done with a bit of preparation and knowledge. My wife and I plan our meals and make a grocery list before heading to the supermarket. This saves us a lot of time while shopping and ensures we have all the necessary ingredients to make nutritious home cooked meals.

The following tips should help you save money and stay on track with your eating.

1 – Buy in bulk – Shop from the bulk section whenever possible. Things like rice, quinoa, nuts, seeds, flour and dried fruit are all great items to have on hand and buying in bulk is cheaper and eliminates all that extra packaging.

2 – Eat vegetarian as often as you can – Vegetables, organic wherever possible, are far less expensive than meat and go a long way. Staples in our house are broccoli, green beans, carrots, kale, cucumber, onions, yams, potatoes, peppers and garlic. You would be amazed at how many meals you can make with all those veggies and they offer great nutritional value! Be sure to use the “dirty dozen” list to ensure you’re getting the most highly sprayed fruits and veggies organically.
dirty-dozen-list
3 – Avoid highly processed or pre-packaged foods – Making things from scratch at home not only allows you to control every ingredient but it also saves you money. Homemade granola bars (see previous blog), healthy muffins, soups and casseroles are great to make at home and leave you with enough leftovers for a few days to a week.

4 – Buy produce in season – Purchasing seasonal produce is a great way to keep costs low. Don’t buy fruits and veggies that are shipped from miles away; when you purchase locally grown produce that’s in season they’re generally cheaper and you are supporting your local farmers. It wasn’t too long ago that people accepted seasonal scarcity as a fact of life, so the only way you had berries and fruit in the winter was to preserve them or make jams and jellies. I personally think that we need to go back to this way of living.

5 – Buy items that are on special
– Most grocers have monthly or weekly deals. Check out what they have to offer before grabbing your groceries. Although making a list and meal plan is important, so is being flexible once you see what’s on sale.

Heading out to the local farmer’s market is another way to save money, eat locally, organically and seasonally!

What does your family do to stay on track, eat healthy and keep costs low?