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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.
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?

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The next time you go to purchase a box of granola or snack bars take a good look at the ingredient list. They are generally loaded with sugar, soy, dairy and wheat; all of which are allergens that most of us could use a lot less of!

photo (7)
A close friend of mine gave me this recipe that she discovered on the “Winnipeg Hippy Chick” website. I finally have a really amazing recipe for homemade granola bars. More often than not, I opt to make things from scratch rather than purchase pre-packaged. This way I have total control over the quality of the ingredients and can modify things to suit my family’s taste and dietary restrictions.

I have made three different variations of this recipe over the past month and these bars are truly amazing! When you’re trying to care for a newborn and need a quick but healthy snack, these really hit the spot.
**Side note: rolled oats help with milk production so not only is this recipe great for exercise enthusiasts but also for nursing moms!**

The best part about these bars is that there is no cooking required!

Ingredients:
2 cups of your choice of sweetener (maple syrup, brown rice syrup, honey, molasses, agave)
I use half honey and half brown rice syrup

1.5 cups of nut butter (almond, peanut, cashew, sunflower)
I like to use half almond and half peanut butter

4 cups of large flake oats

4 cups of dry cereal of your choice
I use half puffed millet and half Gluten-Free Nature’s Path Heritage O’s

3-5 cups of the following fillers (pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, raisins, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, chia, flax seeds etc…)

Optional: 3-5 Scoops of vanilla or chocolate protein powder
I found the bars pretty dense and filling so I never added any!

Salt to taste – 1-2 tsp.

Directions:
1 – Put your choice of sweeteners and nut butter into a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
2 – Combine the remaining dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
3 – Pour the hot sticky stuff (in the large bowl) over the dry mixture. I do this in phases to ensure the dry ingredients are well coated. Be sure your hands are clean as you will need to mush it all together to fit in into your pan.
4 – Press the mixture firmly (using a spoon dipped in a glass of warm water) into a 9X12 glass or aluminum pan coated with butter or coconut oil to prevent sticking. Get the top as smooth as possible; it takes some work!
5 – Chill in the refridgerator for 2 hours or overnight.
6 – Cut into 2″ squares. Wrap individual squares in wax paper or snack sized Zip-loc baggies and store in a container in the fridge or freezer for longer storage.
7 – Enjoy!

What yummy snacks do you enjoy making from scratch?

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A coworker of mine asked me if she could still build lean muscle while living a vegetarian lifestyle. The answer is yes! Although our bodies need good quality protein to support and repair our tissues, maintain fluid and acid base balance in our cells, transport nutrients throughout our bodies and support our immune system, these nutrients do not have to come from animal sources.

nuts-legumes-berrys
Even though our body’s primary source of energy comes from carbohydrates, protein, regardless of the source, also provides us with necessary energy.

In my household we eat about 80% vegetarian and 20% organic or free-range eggs, chicken and fish. When selecting vegetarian meals, considering good quality sources of protein is important.

Here are my favourite high protein vegetarian meal ideas:

1- Vegetable Omelette (Protein content: 12-15 grams)
– 2 eggs, 1/4 cup of shredded kale, 1/4 cup of broccoli florets and 2 Tbsp green onions. Add 2 slices of rye bread with butter and you increase the protein content by 5 grams!)

2- Greens Salad with hemp seeds and walnuts (Protein content: 14-17 grams)
– 1 cup of spinach leaves, 30 grams of hemp seeds, 1/4 chopped walnuts, 1 medium carrot, 1/4 cup chopped cucumber.

3- Quinoa Santa Fe Salad (Protein content: 13-16 grams)
– 1 cup cooked quinoa, 2 Tbsp corn, 2 Tbsp red pepper, 2 Tbsp black beans, cilantro to taste.

4- Almond butter and banana sandwich (Protein content: 11-14 grams)
– 2 slices of rye bread, 2 Tbsp organic or natural almond butter, 1 banana.

5- Protein Shake (Protein content: 16-25 grams)
– 1-2 scoops of brown rice protein, 1 cup of almond milk, 1 banana, 1/3 cup blueberries, 1 Tbsp flax oil.

6- Greek Yogurt, Berries and Almonds (Protein content: 20-26 grams)
– 150g serving of yogurt, 1/2 cup of mixed berries, 1 handful of almonds.

7- Lentils, chickpeas, black or kidney beans (Protein content: 14-18 grams)
– dishes like lasagna, fajitas or Shepherd’s pie that call for beef can easily be replaced with beans.

8- Tempeh/Tofu (Protein content: 15 grams)
– 1/2 cup serving of tempeh or tofu is a great way to increase your protein content without eating meat.

*all protein contents listed above are approximate and per serving*

To determine how much protein you need each day use the following calculation: multiply your weight in lbs X 0.37. Example: 130lb person X 0.37 = 48g. This means a 130lb person needs at least 48g of protein per day.

As you can see, getting your daily requirement of protein eating a vegetarian diet is much easier than you think!

What vegetarian meals are your favourite?

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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:

hummos

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.

popcorn
Depending on how we’re feeling, I either make a savoury or sweet rendition:
Sweet:
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

Savoury:
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. 🙂

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Did you know that potatoes are ranked fifth in terms of their antioxidant value compared to that of other vegetables? I was delightfully surprised to learn this fact seeing as potatoes are a staple in our home.

Potatoes are packed with antioxidants, not with calories. One medium sized potato only has 136 calories and is loaded with vitamins and minerals. These night shade vegetables contain vitamin B6, thiamine, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, zinc, potassium, vitamin C and fiber.

The potassium content in one potato with skin offers you between 720mg and 800mg per serving and they even possess vitamin C- half of our daily intake to be exact. Our recommended intake of potassium is 4700mg a day and vitamin C is 2000mg a day, therefore this small spud is a great meal option. Aside from being nutrient dense and a great source of antioxidants, potatoes also help to prevent hypertension, stroke, coronary and cardiovascular diseases. Recent research confirms that antioxidants, like the ones contained in potatoes, can kill both prostate and breast cancer cells.

Potatoes come in a variety of different colours and types. Like most brightly coloured fruits and veggies, purple potatoes contain anthocyanins and have the highest level of antioxidants. Yellow potatoes contain beta-carotene, another powerful antioxidant.

Whether you choose red, yellow, purple, white, fingerling or russet potatoes, they are all extremely healthy, affordable and versatile. Just be sure to buy organic! Because spuds grow IN the soil, they absorb pesticides and other toxins from the earth, so they are in the Top 10 list of produce to buy organic. Be sure to enjoy these tasty vegetables with the skin on to maximize fiber and nutrient intake. Avoid over-boiling potatoes because the nutrients leach into the water and not our bodies where they’re needed.

My two favourite ways to eat potatoes are either in a Soup or as homemade French Fries with garlic aioli. I hope you will enjoy these recipes as much as I do.

Potato Leek Soup
2 lbs potatoes, peeled, diced into 1/2 inch pieces (Yukon Golds are delish!)
3 large leeks, cut lengthwise, separate, clean. Use only the white and pale green parts, chop.
2 Tbsp butter
2 cups water
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegetarian option)
1 small crown of broccoli
1.5-2 cups thinly sliced kale, separated from the rib
Salt & Pepper

*You can make this soup gluten-free by using gluten-free broth.

Cooking Instructions
1. Saute leeks in butter with salt and pepper in a medium sized sauce pan. Cover pan, cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Check often. Do not brown leeks! Browning will give leeks a burnt taste.

2. Add water, broth, and potatoes. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Scoop about half of the soup mixture into a blender, puree and return to pan, or if you want you can blend it all.

3. Steam broccoli and kale. Add to soup before eating.

4. If you like, you may add a bit of marjoram, parsley, and/or thyme, and a few dashes of hot sauce or tobasco to taste. Add some freshly ground pepper, and 1 tsp salt or more to taste.

Yield: Serves 4-6.


Homemade French Fries with Garlic Aioli
3 Large Russet Pototoes
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
*salt and pepper to taste
*baking stone or cookie sheet

Aioli
1/4 cup of low fat mayonnaise
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
1/4-1/2 tsp of curry powder

Cooking Instructions
1. Cut potatoes into strips (fries).
2. Coat with olive oil and toss with spices, salt and pepper.
3. Bake on 375 for 40-45 minutes until done.
4. Enjoy with homemade aioli!

Serves 2.

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Autumn is one of my favourite times of the year.  I like the fall colours, the cooler weather, and the abundance of fresh vegetables. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching and harvest season in full swing, it is a good time of year to reflect on what we’re grateful for in our lives. I’m thankful for spending time with family and friends, enjoying nature and good, healthy food.

Our local farmer’s market here in Vancouver has everything to prepare a delightful feast with a wide variety of squash, yams, potatoes, green beans, brussel sprouts and fresh salad greens. What better time to talk about the difference between organic and non-organic food.

Many people are unaware of the difference between organic and non-organic foods.  If it is something that you have never given much thought to, I hope after reading this blog, you will.

ORGANICALLY OF COURSE!

ORGANICALLY OF COURSE!


The term organic refers to foods that are produced without using synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers or genetically modified organisms (GMO).  Organic can also refer to foods that are free of irradiation (no exposure to radiation), industrial solvents and chemical food additives.  Organically produced foods are better for our bodies and the environment around us.  When farmers add pesticides to their fields in hopes of eliminating infestation by insects, they in turn produce an extremely harmful by-product.    Not only do these harmful pesticides and fertilizers affect the food we ingest but also our water systems, soil and surrounding wildlife.  The effects are detrimental to the entire life cycle within the local ecosystem. Food transportation, flooding, and even wind can cause harm to areas farther away that you wouldn’t expect to be affected.

Non-organic on the other hand, is the exact opposite.  Non-organic foods are those that have been sprayed or genetically modified.  The also often have additives or use irradiation to enhance growth.   Have you ever noticed the size, perfect shape and often shiny exterior of  some of your favourite fruits and vegetables in the produce department?  Pesticides and genetically modified seeds are often a major culprit, as well as fruit spray-on wax.  Compare the non-organic foods to the organic ones and see the difference for yourself.

The top ten foods to buy organically whenever possible:

1- Apples

2- Bell peppers

3- Spinach

4- Celery

5- Grapes

6- Pears

7- All berries

8- Peaches

9- Potatoes

10- Animal products

Another healthy and ethical alternative is free-range.  Free-range refers to farming practices where animals treated kindly and are given greater access to move around.  Often a farm can be authentically free-range before getting Organic Certification, which takes years of paperwork and government licensing to achieve. If you find that organic meat and dairy are too highly priced for your grocery budget,  free-range is a good middle ground and is a much better choice than your regular mass produced animal products.  Animals that are treated with care are more likely to be free of disease and less likely contaminated with antibiotics than battery cage chickens,and terrorized cattle and pigs.

I hope when you head out to your local market or grocer this Thanksgiving weekend that you consider purchasing some free-range or organic options for your family.  Your body, the environment, and the animals will thank you.

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