Posts Tagged ‘meal planning’

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).

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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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.
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?

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When it comes to food I’ll admit it, I am the Queen of Snacking. I generally eat five or six smaller meals throughout the day as opposed to three large ones. I almost never leave home without a snack. Grazing is a great way to keep the metabolism running on high speed as well as limiting the caloric load on the digestive system.

One of the most common questions I am asked by clients when it comes to nutrition is, what are the best snacks to consume that will leaving me feeling satisfied without blowing my caloric input for the day?

Here are my six favourite quick, easy and healthy options:


1 – Hummus & Veggies
Hummus is low in calories and fat and comes in many different flavours. I like olive hummus or basil garlic hummus with carrots, celery, cucumber and cherry tomatoes for dipping. This is an easy way to increase your vegetable intake for the day and is very inexpensive.

2 – Crackers & Cheese
Although cheese is higher in fat it’s a good source of calcium and protein. Many low fat cheese options exist such as mozzarella or marble. If you read the label and consume the recommended portion, cheese is a healthy snack. “Hot Kids – Rice Crackers” or “Ryvita” are both great wheat-free and tasty crackers to pair with a few slices of cheese! Again, add a few veggies sticks and you have a well rounded lower calorie option.

3 – Apples & Nut Butter
Apples are a great source of fiber, help to detoxify the liver and can help alleviate the symptoms of irritable bowel. Sliced into pieces and dipped in nut butter, you will have a whole new appreciation for apples. I enjoy Gala and Ambrosia apples dipped in peanut or almond butter. Many people have the idea that because nut butters are higher in fat they should avoid them when in fact, if eaten in moderation they are just fine and provide you with a source of good fat and energy.

4 – Yogourt or Cottage Cheese & Berries
Cottage cheese is a great source of protein, low in fat and supplies the body with calcium. When enjoyed with frozen or fresh berries you also get added fiber and naturally occurring antioxidants. Although the protein content in yogourt is not as high as cottage cheese, it’s a great alternative to cottage cheese if you don’t like the texture (a texture I myself have never been able to get used to).

5 – Organic Nacho Chips & Salsa
Nacho chips are a good source of fiber, carbohydrates and go well with salsa and/or guacamole. I like my chips with “Que Pasa” or “Fresh is Best” homemade salsa. Salsa is a great source of lycopene (found in the tomatoes), low in calories and can contribute 1-2 servings to your vegetable intake for the day. Homemade guacamole is also a great addition to this snack. Guacamole is a great source of omega 6 fat and is best if eaten in moderation.

6 – Homemade Organic Popcorn
I say homemade because making popcorn from the kernel allows you to add any seasonings you like and control the amount of butter or oil. Organic Popcorn that is air popped is also the cheapest route to go! Pre-packaged non-organic popcorn is genetically modified, loaded with salt and often contains added chemicals that you just do not need. I make popcorn a few nights a week. It’s a great alternative to chips when settling in to watch a movie as it’s higher in fiber and lower in fat.

Depending on how we’re feeling, I either make a savoury or sweet rendition:
1/2 cup of popcorn kernels
1 TBSP Coconut Oil
1 TBSP Butter
1 TBSP Honey (or if you prefer a sugar-free version you can use a few drops of stevia and powdered cinnamon)
Sprinkled with sea salt
*all melted together in the microwave or sauce pot

1/2 cup of popcorn kernels
1 TBSP Coconut Oil
1 TBSP Butter
*melt in microwave or sauce pot
Sprinkled with basil, oregano, nutritional yeast & sea salt!

I hope you enjoy these simple snack options and remember, eating smaller meals throughout the day will keep your energy level high and your metabolism humming away!

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Have you ever wondered why you get that re-occurring phlegm or coated feeling in the back of your throat after eating dairy? Why you feel bloated and lethargic after eating bread or pasta? Or maybe what’s causing that chronic constipation or diarrhea? Our bodies are like cars; if we take good care of them by keeping them oiled, fueled up and perform regular maintenance, they function far more optimally.

Note to anyone looking to embark on this worthwhile mission: timing is everything!

I have done several different body cleanses over the past 8 years ranging from liver, kidney, candida, parasite and colon. Cleansing, in simple terms, means cutting out things in our diet that can cause sensitivities, put internal stress on our organs and lead to overall poor health. The more we know about the foods we eat and understand their impact on our bodies, the better equipped we are to make sound meal choices.

Cleansing can be a life changing experience for some and for others, a way to get their healthy eating back on track, learn a new recipe or two and just feel a lot better.

Here’s a basic run down on how to approach a cleanse:

1- Pick a date. I usually plan a cleanse around what food I have at home that I should finish and when it makes the most sense (I have often found Monday is a good day to start). Cleansing is best tolerated by the body in the spring and fall, because not only are these “shoulder” seasons naturally conducive to change, but they also provide an abundance of fresh produce, which is necessary while cleansing. Trying to do a cleanse during the Christmas holidays or summer BBQ season is not the best plan!

2- Get a cleanse kit from your local health food store. I would start with either a 7 or 14 day cleanse, especially if you’re a first timer. Some easy to follow starter cleanses are: “The Wild Rose 12-day”, “The Herbal Cleanse 7-day” or the “Floressence Daily Tea Detox”. Cleanse kits are special formulations of herbs (pills, tinctures or teas) that when taken in conjunction with a proper diet, aid the body in excreting toxins and helping your organs function more optimally.

3- Make a meal plan. Look online or purchase a cleanse cookbook (you can buy a “Wild Rose” Cookbook at most health food stores) to help you decide the best things to eat during your cleansing period. In order to make the most of a cleanse you should avoid the following: all types sugar (except in some cases whole fruit), all types of flour, dairy (except plain yogurt), alcohol and excessive amounts of caffeine. You’re free to eat as many vegetables as you like (cooked and raw), good quality meats (organic or free range), fish, whole grains, herbal tea, tons of spices and lots of water. Don’t be alarmed- it sounds more intimidating than it really is!

4- Complete the program to the best of your abilities and feel better! One of the first things many people notice is how much clear-headed and less anxious they feel. A cleanse is a great way to lose unwanted weight in the healthiest possible way. It can also help you get out of an negative ‘eating rut’, away from highly addictive and allergenic foods and on track to better health.

Cleansing is like quitting a bad habit or starting a new routine. It means more than just good meal planning and preparation, it’s about your mind set and your will power to stick with the plan! I have always found that completing a successful cleanse requires organization and setting an attainable goal that makes it worth it.

Best of luck with your future cleanses, and please feel free to share your stories. ūüôā

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Being a Personal Trainer, most clients approach me with the goal of losing weight. ¬†This isn’t surprising given the rise in today’s obesity and related diseases. ¬†There are plenty of mixed messages which confused consumers about what to eat, what to avoid and how to stay healthy.

One of the biggest culprits in that “battle of the bulge” is of course the fast food industry.¬† Aside from providing today’s families with quick, palatable and cost-effective meal options, fast food is of poor quality and is extremely high in sodium and sugar: two major contributing factors to many of the health related diseases we’re seeing today.¬† For those of you who have not seen the¬†documentary “FOOD INC” (youtube trailer below), I highly recommend watching it.¬† It gives a very detailed look at the fast food and¬†agricultural¬†industries and may have you thinking twice about the choices you make- it did for me!

One of the easiest and basic ways to take control of your weight, besides regular exercise, is to make a weekly meal plan and cook as much as you can at home. Limit eating out to once or twice a month.¬† People who have a plan are less likely to grab and go and more likely to be healthier overall.¬† Make dinner a time of connecting with loved ones and decompressing from the events of the day. ¬†As a kid, it was always nice to know that regardless of how busy our schedules were we always made an effort to enjoy a meal together.¬† I’ve carried that tradition on into my adult life and still value it to this day.

Another thing to keep in mind is when shopping at the grocery store: shop the perimeter.¬† This basically means that most of the foods we need and should be eating are on the outside perimeter of the store.¬† This includes things like fresh produce, meats, eggs, bread and dairy.¬† The middle of store is generally filled with processed, packaged and less healthy alternatives.¬† I know, I know, we still need the condiments, spices and bulk rice and pasta section but it’s those pre-packaged cereals, chips, pop and canned soups and veggies we can ultimately do without.¬† By providing healthy foods to your family, cooking at home and getting adequate exercise the struggle to lose that unwanted weight should begin to happen naturally.

The bottom line is there’s no magic pill or one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to losing weight.¬† Changing your eating habits and striving to make better choices overall is key.¬† By avoiding unhealthy additives such as aspartame, MSG, synthetic dies and large amounts of sodium and sugar, and eating more whole foods, our health will improve- as will our quality of life.

This is the first of a three-part series on weight loss.¬† Next week I will discuss the Body Mass Index scale as well as the¬† hip-to-waist ratio formula and it’s implications to health and disease.¬† The final blog will focus on the healthiest way to lose weight and keep it off.

If you have a moment, watch the trailer for “FOOD INC” right now:

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