When Dave and I found out we were pregnant, we were filled with a myriad of different emotions: joy, wonder, excitement, nervousness, anxiousness… the list goes on. With all of life’s uncertainties, nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming feeling that comes from knowing that, together, you created life. And now that life will continue to be sustained inside of you for the next nine months. To say that this is a miracle is an understatement. Even now, 17 weeks in, there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not amazed by what is happening inside of my body. There are so many couples who have difficulty conceiving. I think about these individuals daily and am sure to never take this miracle for granted. Even through the difficult days (and there have been quite a few), I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to become a mother.
Excitement is an emotion I have felt every day since finding out we were pregnant--excited to meet our little bean, excited for the ways in which our family is about to change, and excited for Dave and I to take on our next big gig: becoming parents. That said, my first trimester was anything but easy. As many mothers-to-be do, I experienced a variety of unpleasant symptoms that early pregnancy brings. Of course, I knew all of the possible symptoms that I may be faced with and how common they were. I knew about the ongoing nausea and un-heard of levels of exhaustion and inability to eat or live in ways you were used to, pre-baby creation. And yet? It still hit me like a ton of bricks.
Use a high-powered blender or food processor to blend your oats into a flour. Set aside. In a large bowl, add the coconut oil, applesauce, peanut butter, maple syrup and salt. Use a hand blender to blend under smooth. **Note: you can see that I did not melt my coconut oil before adding it. However, I suggest you do, as I had a tricky time getting it to blend smoothly into the mixture.
Next, add the oat and almond flour to the rest of the mixture and blend until smooth. To add a bit of moisture, add a splash of non-dairy milk. Fold in the chia seeds and chocolate chips. Roll into small balls (think tablespoon size), place on a plate lined with parchment paper and pop in the freezer for 5 minutes or until firm. I chose to store mine in a freezer bag in the freezer. This way, they will keep but are available for easy snacking access.
For a nut-free version, try sunflower butter instead of peanut butter.
It's been months, but I am back with a new blog! And after a lengthy hiatus, I thought I would ease myself back into things with a simple recipe.
Just as a little update, I spent my summer writing an email subscription course for Leanfit Protein, a company based in British Columbia. This was an incredible opportunity, and I had a blast doing it. However, it didn't leave a lot of content in the writing bank for blogging. That said, I submitted my final drafts yesterday and am ready to dive back into Eat.Move.Live.!
Today, I am sharing a very simple "breakfast" cookie recipe that I threw together yesterday. Now that I'm back at work and into a routine, healthy baking has made its way back into my weekend activities. Although the name suggests a breakfast food, these cookies can be easily enjoyed at any point throughout the day. Personally, I knew that a "cookie" wasn't going to cut it for breakfast, so I chose to make mine smaller and just have it as a morning snack. That said, if you're not a huge breakfast person, you can pump up the volume, add in more healthy fats and be left with a perfect grab-and-go food to fuel your morning.
The nice thing about a recipe like this is that it's hard to go wrong. You can substitute ingredients right left and centre, and still be left with something delicious. This was my second recipe of the evening, so I went for fast and simple:
2 cups oats
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used half sunflower butter)
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2tsp all spice
1/2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp baking soda
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
chia seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, almond butter, coconut, etc.
Combine oats, nut butter, banana, spices, baking powder/soda, salt, vanilla, and honey. Fold in cherries and pecans.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and spoon on batter at desired size. Cook at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.
And voila: cookies for breakfast!
This post was written several months ago, but did not transfer over to the new site. So, from the archives, here it is once again!
Carbs tend to get a bad rep in the weight loss world. It’s hard to pinpoint where this reputation originated, but I feel like I am constantly surrounded by (primarily) women who have a carbohydrate phobia. This is depressing… because carbs are delicious. If loving them is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.
Without a shred of doubt, I believe there is a time and place for carbohydrates. We need them. Not only for proper athletic performance, but for optimal brain functioning. However, choosing the right kinds of carbohydrates can the tedious task.
There are so many opinions floating around about carbohydrates, in terms of what kinds to eat, when to eat them and how to eat them. Personally, I’ve played around with lots of principles and have found what works well for me. It’s important to note that everyone is different. Although the fundamentals of carbohydrate processing and utilization are the same for everyone, people’s tolerances for them differ. Some find they are more carb sensitive, while other people tend to be more sensitive to fat consumption. There are some who are very fortunate and don’t find that they are particularly sensitive to either. Like everything else in the nutrition world, your approach to carbohydrate consumption should be individualized for your body and goals. However, I’m here to tell you what I’ve learned along my own journey. Do I always stick to these principles? Definitely not. There are way too many delicious things in the world. I simply use them as guidelines to help keep me on track for optimal functioning, performance, and body composition.
My favourite carbohydrate sources
Before I start in on my favourite carb sources, I would like to preface this by saying that although yes, all vegetables are considered carbohydrates, that’s not what I’m talking about here. When I decide on my carb sources for the day, I am considering my energy levels and expenditure—what do I need to accomplish in terms of activity? The foods I then incorporate into my daily meal plan are those from the fruit, grain, and starchy vegetable categories. Although spinach is a carb, I am not going to rely on leafy greens alone to get me through a workout.
Now, if I’m being honest, my favourite carbohydrates include copious amounts of assorted candy from Bulk Barn. BUT, since eating that on the regular doesn’t help me to reach any kind of goal (other than a brief period of pure bliss), let’s talk about what carbs I like to incorporate into my meals on a daily basis.
As mentioned, my carb sources often depend on my activity levels for the day, but for the most part, I like to eat roots, tubers and starchy vegetables like sweet potato, and whole grains like brown basmati rice. Quinoa is another favourite in our house (bonus: it’s also packed with protein). I also incorporate fruits here and there. Now, since I shy away from gluten, my healthy carb sources don’t include things like Eziekiel bread, etc. but I definitely recommend that brand for the non-wheat intolerant population. After reading the work of various health authors who looked at the best breads on the market, many professionals agreed that Eziekiel bread offers some of the highest quality ingredients.
Let’s pause briefly to consider why we are told time and time again to eat whole grains (like those found in breads like Eziekiel). This is a principle that many people follow, but it may not be clear why we follow it. When breads and other grain-based foods are made with refined flours, it means their bran and germ have been stripped away during the milling process. As a result, you consume all of the carbohydrates with very few of the nutrients that were originally found in the grain. To make matters worse, these products are often packaged with additional salt and fat. Will you keel over and die for eating a piece of Wonder bread? No. But consider value and nutritional density when choosing your grains on a daily basis.
Whether you’re eating a “healthy carb” or an “unhealthy carb”, they are all broken down into the same thing and sent to the liver to replenish energy stores.
In summary: eat whole grains and other real food for the majority of your carbohydrate sources. You’ll be getting the biggest bang for your buck.
When I eat them
It’s important to remember that this is my dietary regime. When I choose to eat the majority of my carbohydrate sources works for my optimal functioning, both physically and mentally. It’s certainly not to say that this is what everyone else should do. It’s so important to be mindful of your body and conscious of your reactions to different food intake. If you’re truly trying to discover what works best for you, start listening to how your body is responding to your food choices and timing.
When possible, I like to put the majority of my carb intake around my workouts. That might mean that I have a fruit before a workout and sweet potato afterwards, for example. There are many reasons for this, but here is one that’s easy to remember: carbohydrates are our body’s favourite fuel source. So if you need to access high levels of energy, such as during physical activity, choosing a carb source that can be quickly accessed by the body—like fruit—can make for a better workout. Many fruits are high in monosaccharides (fructose, to be specific), which means simple sugars that cannot be broken down any further. That’s why they are a fast-access carb. Have you ever seen cyclists grab a quick snack out of their back pocket during a ride? This is because they are often on the bike for hours at a time. Therefore, their energy stores need to be replenished. But they don’t have time to down a bowl of oatmeal. First of all, it’s just not practical. Secondly, oats are a complex, fibrous carb (which means they have more than two sugar groups linked together) that take longer for the body to break down. The food needs to be processed
Originally written for www.leanfit.com
1. It’s not always as simple as calories in vs. calories out.
For people looking to lose weight or gain muscle, it isn’t always as simple as eating in a calorie deficit or calorie surplus. Depending on where you are in your nutritional journey, this may be a good starting point, but it will only take you so far. The type of calories (or macronutrients) consumed will have an impact on how much energy you expend during your daily activities. Various foods have a different metabolic effect on your body, and that’s an important consideration when working towards composition goals. Protein, for example, has a high thermic effect, which means the body literally burns more calories when breaking it down than, say, carbohydrates. For example, when you eat 100 calories of carbs, and 100 calories of protein, your body will actually burn more calories processing the protein. This is quite a complicated topic, with plenty of related science to consider, but if you can remember that a calorie is not just a calorie, this information will take you a long way.
2. What works for your neighbour will not necessarily work for you.
Nutrition is a complex topic, and our bodies are even more complex. People are often quick to jump on the diet bandwagon as soon as they witness someone having success with a particular eating plan. When they don’t experience the same success, they are left feeling confused and discouraged. Instead of playing the never-ending game of musical diets, jumping from one nutrition fad to the next, be consistent. Make simple and realistic changes to your daily eating habits. Choose sustainable practices that you can maintain and that work with your lifestyle. This is the first step on the road to healthy eating.
3. A little tough love: you might be eating too much.
This is a bit of a sensitive topic, because I meet many women, in particular, who are actually not eating enough. They’ve been on a calorie-restricted diet for years, and as a result, are experiencing some level of metabolic damage. Or, people limit their calories for days at a time, resulting in a huge binge at the end of the week, and consuming far too many calories for their body type. However, more often than not, people are fooling themselves. They believe that as long as they make healthy choices and are consuming nourishing foods, they should be good to go. The fat will take care of itself. And, although I wish it were as simple as this, calories do play a role. Now, this may seem contradictory to my first point of calories in vs. calories out, but we can’t deny that calories are important. If you are eating too much on a consistent basis, you will gain fat. It’s science. So that extra handful of nuts in the afternoon, eating mindlessly straight from the cereal box (guilty), or taking too many samples from the lady in Costco can really add up. All of the sudden, you’ve eaten 400 calories over your daily goal and you didn’t even notice! 400 calories x 7 days = 2,800 extra calories a week! Another example is falling into what I call “the smoothie trap.” Don’t get me wrong—smoothies and shakes are a convenient, nutrient dense meal to add into your nutrition routine. I have at least one every day. But, too often, people begin loading in the fruits and fats, without being cognizant of serving size. And, sure, every ingredient is real, nutritious food. But, suddenly, they’ve made a 900 calorie smoothie without even knowing it. It’s important to gain an understanding of what you are consuming in a day. Try tracking your food for a week, using an app like My Fitness Pal (see my previous post for more info). This will provide you with an overview of what you are consuming on a daily basis and areas of nutrition where you may be falling short (or going over!).
So, to sum here, here are the top 3 things I wish everyone knew about nutrition:
1. It isn’t always as simple as calories in vs. calories out. Our bodies process different foods in different ways. Pay attention to the types of foods you are consuming and find a balance between macronutrients.
2. Just because a particular eating plan works for your neighbour, does not necessarily mean it will work for you. Find sustainable and healthy practices that fit your lifestyle and be consistent.
3. You may be eating too much. Try tracking your food and begin to gain an understanding of what you are actually consuming in a day and changes that may need to be made. Knowledge is power.
Originally written for www.leanfit.com
Client question: What is the best way to track my nutrition?
Tracking nutrition is a great tool for those looking to gain a better understanding of what their daily food intake is. It helps build awareness of nutrition and often shines light on areas of our diet where we may be falling short. Although it isn’t for everyone, and certainly not a strategy that needs to be used daily, all year long, it is a tool that people can utilize to get their nutrition on track and learn how their eating style may be affecting their body composition and goals.
In today’s era of technology, tracking is easier than ever. Numerous aps and online programs have been developed that allow people to simply track their daily food intake. By far, the most popular of these aps is My Fitness Pal. MFP offers a variety of features, including goal setting, macro, calorie and exercise tracking, progress reports, and sharing your journey with friends.
MFP is an awesome tool, particularly for those who are working towards a specific goal. Remember: the more specific your health and/or fitness goal, the more dedicated you must be to your diet. MFP allows you to track each meal and lets you know when you have hit your calorie and macronutrient goals.
As much as I love this tool, there are certainly downfalls to be aware of. First, anyone can add foods to the MFP database, and it’s not always clear whether the nutritional information on these items is correct. The best way to combat this problem is to use the barcode scanning feature (available through the app, but not the online interface) if the food is packaged, or look for similar foods with the green checkmark beside them. This means the content has been verified. Another tip to remember when tracking your food is that “eyeballing it” isn’t always the most reliable method. Serving sizes may be misjudged, and that can be enough to throw you into a calorie surplus when you’re trying to eat in a deficit (or vise versa). Unless you are loosely tracking to ensure you remain relatively on point with your diet, I do recommend weighing and measuring your food when possible. Again, this is for those individuals who are striving to reach a specific goal within a given time frame. Otherwise, a more relaxed approach to tracking is acceptable and recommended.
Another factor to be aware of is that, by no means, is tracking a perfect science. Not only can there be error in the data, but everyone processes calories and nutrients differently. So it’s very difficult to know how your body will absorb and utilize the amount of calories documented for a specific food.
If you are working with a professional, nutrition tracking may be as simple as keeping a food journal. Your coach or nutritionist can then view your log and provide suggestions moving forward.
In conclusion, I think food tracking is an excellent tool to have in your nutritional toolbox. It can help build food awareness and support you in reaching your goals. That being said, it can be time consuming and inaccurate. So take it with a grain of salt and only use it if it makes sense to do so. Tracking is not a strategy that needs to be employed 24/7, so take advantage of it when it can be most useful to you. If you find yourself obsessing over the numbers, it may be time to opt for a less all-consuming nutrition approach.
A Little Tough Love
One of the most common lines I hear from clients is, “I don’t have a lot of spare time.” This comes up frequently, particularly when we talk about planning meals. And I get it. Life is crazy busy.
However, I can’t help but admit… I’m tired of hearing it.
The fact of the matter is, you just can’t have it all, and if health (and usually fat loss) is a priority (and I mean a REAL priority), I promise that the only way you are going to see results and find success is by making the time.
So often we get caught up in our jobs, our families, our social life… things that are all extremely important and, for the most part, deserve the majority of our energy. But, what is it about our own health that we allow it be put on the back burner and give it the residual energy left over after we’ve ticked everything else off of our to-do lists? Maybe it’s just me, but that seems a little backwards.
Hear me out.
What are we without our health? Don’t we do a better job in all of those other categories when we feel like the best version of ourselves? If yes, then why do we allow them to suck up our energy, leaving nothing left to dedicate to creating that person we want to be?
Whether your goals are fat loss, building muscle, or changing particular lifestyle habits, I guarantee there are no quick fixes. It takes hard friggin’ work to accomplish these goals. And that hard work requires focus and determination, because it won’t happen quickly, and there will probably be many points when you want to throw in the towel. Although I try my best to work with any particular personality type, I will never tell a client that it’s going to be a walk in the park. So until you are ready and willing to stay focused and dedicate that time to you and your goals, I can’t help all that much. No one can. Change has to start with you and a burning desire to see it happen. Without this, you will surely fail.
One of the tools I use with almost every client at some point is food tracking (or journaling, as some call it). Some people thrive off of this sort of activity, while others find it foreign and annoying. That’s fair. It’s not for everyone. But, listen: sometimes getting to where we want to be requires certain actions we won’t enjoy. You don’t have to track forever, but you cannot manage what you don’t measure. If you have never tracked your food intake, give it a try for a week. I promise that 90% of people are not eating what they anticipate. You need to gain a solid understanding of your eating habits before you can make any sort of reasonable change to your daily diet that will help you achieve your goals.
Now, I say ‘reasonable’ because so many people are quick to jump on the chicken and broccoli train for 4 weeks and see a fast 10 pound decrease on the scale. But let’s pause for a second and consider this: sure, the chicken and broccoli diet worked to effect change in a positive way. But what happens when the four weeks is up? Then what are you going to eat? Because whatever you land on will affect the scale in one way or another. And it probably won’t be in the way you’d like. Or are you planning on eating chicken and broccoli for the rest of your life? Because that sounds terrible and I would feel sad for you.
There is one word in the world of diet and fitness that I believe deserves a spotlight and that word is sustainability. Unless you’re headed to a photo shoot and could care less what you look/feel like afterwards, as long as you’re a smoke show for that particular hour, you should be placing some major consideration on sustainability. There is absolutely no point in going on a ‘diet’ that you know you cannot sustain long term. Whether it takes 3 weeks or 3 months, at some point you will fall off the train and go back to your old habits, because that ridiculous soup diet that your friend recommended could not possibly be sustained any longer. Be real with yourself: what are some habits that you can actually form for the long term? Those are the habits you should put your energy into.
Now, my first point of making time and putting in the work, in some ways, contradicts my last point of sustainability. But the fact of the matter is that for real results, you need to find a balance between the two. There are periods in our life when we have big goals. The bigger the goal, the more specific and intense your behavior needs to be. However, there are also times when we can afford to be a little more relaxed about things, and that’s when those sustainable healthy habits that you learned about earlier can be used on the daily. These seasons of diet and fitness are just a natural part of life. They come and go on the regular.
Consider your priorities. So you want to lose 10 pounds. But how dedicated are you, really, to that goal? Because I also know how much you love that danish with your coffee every morning (I know, I know—it’s still warm and the apple is so fresh). Listen: there is no judgment here. I loves me a good danish. But unless you’re absolutely killing it in the gym, those kinds of habits probably won’t help you reach that 10 pound fat loss. So which one do you want more? The danish or the fat loss? There is no right or wrong answer here, but the decision is entirely up to you. You need to determine whether your goals align with your lifestyle. If they don’t match up, you won’t be successful—whether you have a coach or not. On the other hand, if you’re cool with your body, and there are no related health issues, then go ahead and keep up the daily danish. No harm, no foul. Seriously—people need to stop demonizing food. It’s infuriating. But that’s another post for another time. **disclaimer: the danish is a metaphor. I am, by no means, saying you can’t lose 10 pounds while still eating baked goods. It can be done.
One of my biggest realizations as a nutrition coach has been that I can only do so much. This has been difficult for me, because I tend to be somewhat controlling (a self realization that I came to a while ago, much to my dismay). I wish I could hold every client’s hand and make each daily decision for them. But I can’t. In addition to that charming controlling quality, I also tend to be very self-motivated (a trait I know is admirable, yet simultaneously annoying. Weird). So when clients can’t do what we know they need to do in order to be successful, I’m left feeling dumbfounded. Why are you paying me? But then, I take a minute to realize why the motivation might be lacking. Life is busy and stressful. Things don’t always go as planned. Fine. But know that in these low moments, when we don’t feel set up for success, these are the times when you have to dig deep and remember what your priorities are. It’s not always going to be easy, and there are weeks when an even greater amount of effort will be required of you (what? I already said I’m super busy). It’s just the way it is. Be accountable. Use your coach if you have one—that’s what they’re there for. Communicate your struggles so they can help support you. Your client-coach relationship is what you make of it. No coach? Find another way to stay accountable. Create a tracking sheet of your own, or use the buddy system. These things are a lot easier when you have a friend on the same journey.
This brings me to my final point. I have a coach of my own, and a lot of people say, “But aren’t you a coach? Why do you need a one?” Most coaches I know will also work with their own coach, particularly if they have a fitness plan (and goal) coinciding with their nutrition. The other day, I was listening to a podcast that summed up the “why” of this in one simple line: because emotion trumps knowledge every time. It is so difficult to be subjective about our own needs and progress. That’s why guidance from an unbiased source can often be the key to success (I also hire coaches with experience that reaches far beyond my own. They become my mentors, and I love learning from these amazing individuals, as they make me better at what I do).
So to sum up this rant of a blog post, here are the main points that I hope you will walk away with today:
I know that naming recipes is not one of my strengths. So if your creativity is sparked, please feel free to shoot alternative name suggestions my way. Trust me: ideas are appreciation, and I could use all of the help I can get.
I am forever making batch after batch of granola. I top my cottage cheese with it nearly every day, and find my own recipes far more satisfying than what I can purchase in-store. It's also one of the simplest things you can make, and doesn't require specific steps/ingredients.
It's that reason that I end up with a different batch every week. I just throw stuff in a bowl and see what happens. However, using my regular laissez-faire method last weekend, I turned out my best batch to date. So then I was presented with the challenge of remembering what I put in it, and how much. Using my best estimating skills, I wrote down the recipe (a big thanks to my friend Taryn for giving it a shot and confirming that it is, in fact, delicious, and made for the exact texture I was aiming for).
Why was this batch better than the rest? I think it had something to do with the perfect balance of crunchy, sweet and nutty. Hard to say. Anyway, if you're a granola lover, but are not interested in paying the astronomical prices charged for the packaged stuff, which is always way too high sugar/fat anyway, give this one a go:
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a small sauce pan, bring the oil and syrup to a slight boil. Remove from heat, and stir in the vanilla. Pour the liquid mixture onto the dry goods and combine until covered. Put a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and spread the granola on the pan, evenly. Press down slightly using a spatula. Put the pan into the oven and let bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan, and allow to bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the edges start to brown very slightly. Remove, and allow to cool. When transferring to a container, you will need to gently break the granola up into smaller pieces, as it will most likely lift in large chunks.
Voila! My best batch yet.
I love the holidays. Not only do I indulge in over two weeks of winter vacation, but my days are filled with catching up with friends, celebrating the spirit of the season at different events in the city, and consuming copious amounts of delicious food.
Unfortunately, all of this indulging can often lead to a feeling of full-until-it-hurts, and the infamous food (or other) hangover the next morning. So how can you indulge without losing sight of your goals or forcing yourself to take up an air sandwich diet, post-Christmas? Well, with these challenges in mind, I decided to share my tips for surviving the holidays without sacrificing your waistline:
1. Backload your day
This is my favourite trick of the season. If I know I have a holiday event in the evening or afternoon, I will plan my calories accordingly. This might mean a light breakfast that is higher in protein and fats (saving most of the much needed carbohydrates for later), or I may even start my day with a mini fast. Fasting during the first half of the day not only allows you to eat more in the evening, but it also puts your blood sugar in a good position for eating more insulin-inducing foods (think shortbread, assorted chocolates, and sausage rolls. Oh my). These practices can also support your energy levels. By keeping sugar low during the first part of the day, you encourage healthy cortisol levels (providing energy), and limit your insulin response. Later in the day, when you are indulging in some yummy holiday treats, cortisol levels decrease as insulin levels are heightened. This is also helpful for our hormone levels, as the pattern supports a natural sleep cycle. Have you ever noticed how you become a bit sluggish after a large meal? That’s the power of a high insulin response. So keeping insulin levels low in the morning, can help aid in supporting a natural sleep cycle. Ultimately saving your calories for the afternoon/evening will allow you to really enjoy the holiday treats without feeling like you have to limit yourself to compensate for meals you have already consumed.
There’s no denying it. One of the best parts of Christmas is the copious amounts of baked goods that turn up everywhere you go. But for anyone with food intolerances, indulging in festive treats can often leave you in a bit of a pickle. This morning I was in the mood for homemade cookies. And although what I landed on was by no means a traditional Christmas recipe, it cured my craving for something sweet, while filling my condo with the aromatic scent of freshly baked goodies, all the while remaining gluten and dairy free (and even egg free, if you’d like).
These yummy little nuggets were adapted from Danielle Walker’s recipe, made with a few personal modifications. Danielle’s recipes are geared towards families living with various food intolerances and allergies, so if you haven’t already, I encourage you to visit her site and dive into her cookbooks. Her fresh take on the everyday staples never disappoints.
Here is my version, creatively titled Peanut Butter Chocolate Cherry Cookies (alternative name suggestions welcomed):