Breakfast Bites: Mango-Coconut Smoothie

The last thing many of us want to do first thing in the morning is prepare a complex, time consuming meal. Most of us just want to grab our coffee and go, but we shouldn’t skip on the opportunity to load up on nutritious, fueling food that will help us get going in the morning. Breakfast bites is here to solve that problem! With simple, quick recipes that will help you start your day off on the right foot, you won’t have any more excuses for skipping a meal.

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Ingredients
1 ½ cups of frozen mango
½ a banana
½ – 1 cup of coconut water
2 tbsp of coconut cream
Coconut chips (optional)

Directions

  1. In a blender combine all the ingredients aside from the coconut chips.
  2. Blend until desire consistency is reached.
  3. Top with coconut chips and enjoy the start of your day!

Saturday Morning Banana “Bread” Pancakes

Image may contain: foodGluten. Free. Two words I’m sure everyone has see pop up over the past couple of years.  Is it healthier? Should you be doing? Is it all a sham? No matter what you believe, for some people gluten is a huge problem.  Celiac disease, a condition affecting 1 in every 133 Canadians, is an autoimmune disorder in which the wheat protein gluten prompts the body to attack the villi in the small intestine. (Canadian Celiac Association, 2017) This leads to the poor absorption of essential vitamins and minerals.  Continued ingestion of gluten products may result in severe illness, and even death, in those suffering from the disorder.  So, what does that mean for you? Well, unless you have been diagnosed by a doctor as having celiac, gluten is completely safe for you to eat.  Some people argue that it is unnatural for humans to ingest wheat products, and they suggest that we would be healthier if we avoided foods containing gluten.  I think personally think that that’s a load of bull.  Out of all things humans do that s “unnatural”, I think eating a slice of bread falls pretty low on the list.  That being said, I think it’s important to make gluten free options available for those who truly need them.  Furthermore, if you feel better leaving gluten off your plate even if you have not been diagnosed, continue to do what makes you feel best.  After all, food should make you happy. I love experimenting with food, so trying to make tasty meals with ingredient restrictions is a challenge I am up for.  All diets can be delicious if you take the time to get creative!  This recipe uses simple, clean ingredients that are readily available.  With no added sugar, this naturally sweetened breakfast will be sure to fill you up without weighing you down.  Feel free to get creative with the toppings, experimenting with whatever you had on hand.

Ingredients

 1 large ripe banana

1 egg
1 tsp of vanilla
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 a cup of gluten free oat flour

1/2 tsp of baking powder
Coconut oil for the pan


Directions

  1. In a bowl mash the bananas with the vanilla. Add in 1 egg.
  2. Add in the oat flour and cinnamon.
  3. Stir to combine, but make sure not to over mix.In a pan over medium heat melt the coconut oil and add batter.
  4. Top with anything you like! I’m a fan of natural peanut butter, hemp hearts and bee pollen.
  1. Celiac Disease Foundation. (2017). What is Celiac Diseas?. Retrieved from https://celiac.org/celiac-disease/understanding-celiac-disease-2/what-is-celiac-disease/

A Letter to My Body

IMG_20170728_185448_482So often are we quick to say things about our bodies that we would never say to one other. So fast to put ourselves down for what we see as our short comings, and attempt to refute any positivity others place upon us. Ask yourself, would you say to someone you love the things you say to yourself? No longer shall we treat our selves as verbal punching bags. No longer shall we assault ourselves with uncalled for negativity.  No longer shall it cripple us, or inhibit dreams and goals. Take a moment to reflect on the wondrous things we have, can, and do accomplish in the bodies we are in. We all deserve to feel comfortable being who and what we are.  After years of neglect I’ve decided it’s time to rebuild the broken relationship with my body.  I’ve decided it’s time to start healing. For a moment I’ve set myself apart from the skin I’m in, and come to realize what a truly remarkable thing it is, and what a truly wonderful thing it is to be alive.

Dearest you,

As I write this, I have spent 25 years, 142 days, and 14 hours with you. Throughout our time together you never let me fall; you never let me fail. When I was at my weakest you stood strong.  Never faltering to the blows I threw your way. You are resilient. For the past 25 years, I’ve had the ability to love, laugh, cry and dream because of you, yet, I despised you. You make me who I am.  I can never apologize enough for what I have put you through. So, here is a love letter, and an explanation, for you. For everything you do for me, and everything you’ve done. For all of your faults, failures and short comings, and for all of your strengths, beauties and achievements. I’m proud of you.

I used to hate to have to look at you. I’d cringe whenever I caught your reflection out of the corner of my eye.  You repulsed me.  The way your stomach bulged, the way your thighs jiggled, and the way your skin crinkled and dimpled. You disgusted me. The stretch marks that litter your thighs, stomach and chest made me sick. Whatever I could pinch or grab, I wanted to cut away. You were never going to be good enough for me; you were worthless. I wanted nothing to do with you, and I would have done anything to rid you from my life. I denied you the very things you needed.  I denied you health, the basic necessities of life. I hurt you. There were times when I wanted to end your time here on this earth. I hated you for reasons no one ever should, for being who you are. It was never fair to you. It was never deserved.  I punished you, because I never thought you were good enough. I watched you suffer as I abused you. Watched you crumple, become worn and tired. You did nothing but give, and I took from you all that I could. I’m sorry. Those words don’t seem enough, I know, but let us start there. Let us begin to build a bond that will never again be broken. Let us grow stronger together.

I now see that your legs are strong.  They’ve carried you miles and miles, and they will carry you for many more. You move like there is nothing holding you back.  Your stomach keeps you tall, it holds you up. Provides you with the energy to do the things you love. Your skin has scars, beautiful, beautiful scars. They are your story; they make you who you are.  As you grow you become a book that has been read and little worn, bound to have a few tears and wrinkles, but what a beautiful story it is. A story where you are the hero. You will not be confined to a genre.  You are a comedy, a romance, a mystery and an adventure; you are an epic.

Your body was your passport into this world, and with it you will go on the journey of a lifetime. You will not suffer from a destiny of regret.  You will not end up at the end of your life wondering what could have been if you had lost a little more weight, or looked a different way. Your life will be one worth living.  It will be a life well lived.

I owe so much to you. Thanks to you I can feel, not only with my hands, but also my heart.  Thanks to you I can embrace the ones I love, kiss those I hold dear, and hold the hand of a friend. I can feel warmth, both inside and out. You’ve given me the ability to love, possibly the greatest gift of all, even though there were times I didn’t love you. You are selfless.  You provide me with life, and encourage me to continue living when it was the last thing I wanted. Thanks to you I get to see beautiful, vibrant sunsets, and smell the lilacs in the first rain of spring. Thanks to you I can listen to the birds in the quite of sunrise, and bury my hands in the cool, damp earth.  I am able to wade in the waters, feel the cool pebbles beneath my feet. I am able to smell the friendly smoke of a campfire, feel the heat, and hear the crackles. I am able to dance, albeit not well, and enjoy every silly moment of it. Thanks to you I am able to live.

I now see how people look at you.  I see how they embrace your presence. I see how proud your friends and family are of you, and I see how the man who loves you smiles when you look at him. You see that you are loved. I too now love you, and I thank you for all that you have done for me. Thank you for giving me the strength to get through it all. You are beautiful, inside and out. You are me, and I am you. Thank you.

      Love always,
Claire 

Smooth(ie) Talk

A lot of people have a hard time finding ways to incorporate their daily requirement of fruits and veggies into their diet.  After all, not everyone wants to eat salads and carrot sticks all day long. My solution? A simple smoothie. The beauty of smoothies is the diversity theyDSC_0235 (3) provide.  They allow for flexibility when it comes to ingredients and ratios, it’s almost impossible to get bored. My best tip for smoothies: make it colourful! The more diverse the colour of the ingredients, the more diverse the vitamins and minerals. Each ingredient should offer something different and beneficial. The easiest way to do that? Eat the rainbow. By adding in ingredients of differing colours, you are guaranteeing nutrient diversity. Whether it be beta-carotene from the orange family, iron from the green team, or antioxidants from the red party, you’ll be that much closer to providing your body with all the daily nutrients it requires. A smoothie a day will keep you feeling A-okay!

Orange

  • Carrots have long been thought of as food for your eyes, but did you know that carrots are loaded beta-carotene which is converted to vitamin A in the human body? Vitamin A is a potent antioxidant that protects cells from free radical damage, and yes, they’re good for your eyes.
  • White potatoes vibrant relative, the sweet potato, is loaded with fiber, provides carbohydrates that won’t give you a sugar crash, contain a nice dose of vitamin A, and are tasty to boot!
  • Cantaloupe, like carrots and sweet potatoes, contain beta-carotene that fights against free-radicals and cell damage.  Their high water content also helps to keep you hydrated and full.

Green

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  • Leafy greens like kale, spinach, and swiss chard are full of fiber, as well as minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium. They’re also a fantastic source of vitamins A, C, and K.
  • Kiwis are another great source of vitamin C (one kiwi contains more than 100% of your daily requirement), and eating them with the skin on ups their fiber factor.
  • High in healthy monounsaturated fats, avocados impart a creamy texture to any smoothie.  They help with satiety, keeping you feeling fuller, longer!

Red
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  • When it comes to ellagic acid, a potent antioxidant, raspberries are at the top of the class.  Also high in vitamins A, C, and E, their tart flavour provides a nice contrast to sweet pairings.
  • Nothing beats beets when it comes to a colour punch, but hey’re also loaded with fiber to keep you regular, and help to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels increasing healthy HDL cholesterol.
  • Rich in colour, cherries are believed to help ease joint and muscle inflammation thanks to anthocyanins, an antioxidant that inhibits inflammatory enzymes. Perfect for a post workout refuel!
  • One cup of strawberries packs your daily requirement of vitamin C, as well as dietary fiber to help keep you full. Plus, that one cup of strawberries only contains around 50 calories. Eat up!

Purple/Blue
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  • Blueberries are an antioxidant all-star.  Grown all over North America, wild and cultivated blueberries contain the same anthocyanins as cherries, as well as the antioxidants flavonoids. A+ in antioxidant 101.
  • Along with raspberries, blackberries are also extremely high in ellagic acid.  They are also high in dietary fiber and vitamin C.  Bring the berry team together for a nutrient packed treat.

Yellow

  • Scientifically classified as a berry, bananas are a smoothie staple.  High in potassium and certain B vitamins, bananas fiber and starch content provide body and volume to any smoothie recipe.
  • Practically nature’s candy, mangoes are high in vitamins A and C, and contain natural enzymes similar to those found in papayas.  These enzymes help with digestion and the breakdown of fats and proteins.

References

  1. https://www.drweil.com/vitamins-supplements-herbs/vitamins/beta-carotene/
  2. https://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/stories/8-health-benefits-sweet-potatoes
  3. https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/health-benefits-of-cantaloupe.html
  4. http://cookingreens.com/health-benefits-of-darkleafy-greens/
  5. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-avocado
  6. http://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-eats/nutrition/5-reasons-to-eat-more-berries/
  7. http://www.canadianliving.com/health/nutrition/article/health-reasons-to-eat-more-raspberries-sign-us-up
  8. http://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-eats/nutrition/5-reasons-to-eat-more-cherries/
  9. http://www.healwithfood.org/foods-that-contain/ellagic-acid-high-amounts.php
  10. http://www.stack.com/a/6-big-reasons-you-should-be-eating-blackberries
  11. http://www.health.com/food/5-reasons-to-eat-more-blueberries

#TalkAboutItTuesday: Binging, Purging and Bulimia

A simple bite that turns into a binge. That’s how it all started. I suffered from bulimia for upwards of 5 years, in various states of severity throughout that time. At the height of my bulimia, I would binge and purge up to a dozen times a day; sometimes in very close succession. Anything and everything was fair game. I would eat foods I thought of as indulgent and unhealthy, knowing that I would bring it right back up without any of the caloric repercussions. I would stuff myself until I became uncomfortably full, and then —as simply as it sounds— throw it all up. By simply contracting my stomach muscles in a certain way I was able to bring up what I had just eaten. Often times, depending on what I had eaten, it was painful. My stomach would hurt, my esophagus would burn, and my mouth would become sore. Over time I had begun to learn what foods were easiest to purge. Ice cream and cereal became my go-to binge foods as they were satisfying to eat, but incredibly easy to bring back up. Foods like bread, pizza, or any other dense items were much more difficult, and painful, to purge due to fact that they would often “ball up”. This would make it difficult to move through my esophagus, and sometimes raise my anxiety levels in fear of being unable to void it from my stomach. I would often eat meals with large amounts of water in order to ensure easier purging, as it’s easier to bring up solids with a liquid. I began to find it difficult to eat a simple meal without feeling the urge to over eat. Trying to stop myself from overeating, which would lead to purging, became near impossible for me. Even eating something as simple as an apple would trigger an unhealthy eating pattern. I became afraid to eat, because I knew what it would lead to. I would feel incredibly weak and tired post purging, and often lacked the energy to do much of anything.

For me, bulimia was a way to indulge in foods I wouldn’t otherwise eat. It became a “no consequence” diet.  I was able to eat anything I wanted without fear of gaining weight, but little did I realize at the time, bulimia was costly in more ways than one.  Not only is the cost of bulimia experienced physically, but also financially; it is an expensive eating disorder. I don’t like to think about how much money I was wasted on purchasing food I knew I would just purge. I essentially flushed money down the toilet. I have done irreparable damage to my digestive system and metabolism due to years of abuse, and it will take a very long time for my body to recover from both my anorexia and bulimia. Eating disorders take a huge toil on a person physically and mentally, and its effects can be felt long after one begins to recover.

Bulimia is a very difficult thing to hide from those around you. The unexplained absences after meals, the time spent in the bathrooms, and the sound of vomiting often make it difficult to conceal the illness. However, unlike anorexia, bulimia sufferers are often of average weight making it difficult to notice if someone is suffering. It is difficult to determine how many individuals suffer from bulimia, as binge eating and purging often takes place in private. However, it is estimated that 1-3% of Canadian women will develop bulimia at some point in their lifetime, with most women developing bulimia in their late adolescents (Statistics Canada, 2015) Bulimia is an illness that may present at intermittent times over a period of time, or as an ongoing chronic issue. (Statistics Canada, 2015) Often, bulimia sufferers have, at one point in their lives, suffered from restrictive eating, or anorexia. (Statistics Canada, 2015) Bulimia is clinically characterized as periods of binge eating, followed by participating in methods of inappropriate behaviour to prevent weight gain (Statistics Canada, 2015). This includes purging, sometimes coupled with the use of laxatives and over exercising. Many bulimics also suffer from co-occurring disorders, such as depression and anxiety.  I myself, as I have mentioned in previous posts, suffered from severe depression and anxiety.

Treatment for bulimia is similar to that of any other eating disorders. In hospital treatment, cognitive behavioural therapy, and counselling have all been effective in helping people recover. I was medically diagnosed as bulimic and referred to an in hospital treatment program. I decided not to commit to the offered treatment, and instead opted for weekly counselling. While this process took much longer it felt like the right option for me at the time.  Any form of treatment will help an individual establish the triggers and patterns which result in binging and purging behaviours. The tracking of binging and purging episodes may help sufferers begin to understand their triggers, allowing them to develop healthy coping mechanisms. Identifying the feelings, and their causes, associated with a bulimia episode is what I found valuable to my recovery. Over the years I have developed the ability to identify my triggers before they become uncontrollable and overwhelming, and as a result I have established healthy coping methods. Some of my coping methods include meditation, breathing activities, going for a short walk, stretching, and (as silly as it may sound) watching cute animal videos. Everyone’s coping methods will differ, and for some their recovery methods will completely differ. Finding what best helps you is the best method that there is. Remembering self-care is another critical component to anyone’s recovery. Ensuring that you are surrounded by those who will be supportive, as well as creating a safe recovery space are also extremely important. Lastly, know that recovery is a journey, and you’re eating disorder is not a life sentence. You can find happiness and health again, it may just take a little time.

Resources
Centre for Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH) (416) 535-8501
National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) (416) 340-4156
F.E.A.S.T. Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders

  1. Statistics Canada. (2015). Section D- Eating Disorders. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-619-m/2012004/sections/sectiond-eng.htm

Veggie Ramen

The humble mushroom.  Grown in earthy soil, hidden away in the dark, it is brought to light in the most flavourful of dishes. Full of umami, mushrooms provide flavour and body to any soup or stew.  You’ll hardly notice their isn’t.  This vegetarian, or vegan ramen minus the egg, is full of flavour that is sure to satisfy even the most carnivorous of appetites.  From oyster to lobster, enoki to  shiitake, every species of mushroom brings something to the table.  Mushrooms contain high amounts of potassium and vitamin D, as well a B vitamins niacin and riboflavin, which aid in the breakdown of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.   Furthermore, mushrooms are a vegetable all-star when it comes to selenium.  Often found in high concentrations in meat and fish, the selenium content of 5 medium raw crimini mushrooms is a whopping 31% of your daily requirement, while white button mushrooms and Portabellos contain 22% and 21% respectively. (Tannis, 2009). Who knew something with such dark origins, would turn out to be a super food superstar?

Broth
2 litre of vegetable stock
1 tbsp of mushroom base (like this one here)
2 tbsp – 1/4 cup of soy sauce (amount is based on preference)
1 tbsp of miso paste
2 tbsps of vegetarian oyster sauce
1 tbsp of freshly grated ginger
1 garlic finely diced garlic clove
Instant or fresh ramen noodles
1 tbsp of garlic chili paste (optional)
Dash of mirin

Additions
Grilled tofu
Nori sheets
Soft boiled eggs
Chili peppers
Grilled bok choy
Green onion
Kale
Spinich
Chili flakes
Bean sprouts
Light drizzle of sesame oil to finish

Directions

  1. In a large pot combine vegetable stock, dried mushrooms, and mushroom base. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until mushrooms are rehydrated.
  2. Remove mushrooms, purée into a fine paste and add back into the stock.
  3. Add all the remaining broth ingredients (minus the noodles) and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes.
  4. In the last remaining minutes add the noodles and simmer until cooked.
  5. Prepare your bowl with any of the addditions you want cooked by the broth (e.g. enoki mushrooms, nori sheets, spinach, etc.) and pour the broth over top.
  6. Add the noodles, and top with any others extras.
  7. Slurp and enjoy!

  1. Tannis, A. (2009). Feed Your Skin, Starve Your Wrinkles: Eat Your Way to Firmer, More Beautiful Skin with the 100 Best Anti-Aging Foods. Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press

No Need to Sugarcoat It

Sugar, the new tobacco, or, so they say. Extremely sweet, extremely addictive, sugar has become one of the biggest health concern of this generation. Found in everything from salad dressings to soups, and bread to spaghetti sauce, sugar has infiltrated almost every aspect of our dietary lives. There are over sixty different names for sugar when it comes to ingredient listings, making it more and more difficult to know exactly what we’re putting into our bodies.

We all know eating too much sugar is a bad thing. Eating too much of anything is a bad thing, but how much are we really eating? Well, a 2004 study of Canadians showed that we eat an average of a whopping 110 grams of sugar per day. That’s 26 tablespoons, over 20% of our daily caloric intake, and a total of just over 88 pounds a year. To put that into perspective, the average weight of a German Shepherd is 75-90 lbs. Woof. The World Health Organization recommends eating no more than 6 teaspoons, or 25 grams, of sugar per day. Seems a little hard to do when a can of 355ml coke contains 39 grams of sugar. More than the daily recommendation.

I, like many other people, love a sweet treat, but recently I’ve been giving a lot more thought in regards to the amount of sugar in my food. I love a good salad, but why top it with a salad dressing that contains 10 grams of unnecessary sugar? Do I really need the two teaspoons of sugar in a serving of crackers? These are the types of questions I’ve been asking myself. Yes, I agree certain things taste better with sugar. I’m not going to deny myself the sweeter things in life (pun intended), but I am going to try to create a balance between what is good for me physically, and what is good for me mentally. In order to do this there was only one option that would work for me, quit cold turkey. I challenged myself to comply to a 5 day diet that contained absolutely no added sugar. This meant no sugar in my morning coffee, not even honey. I read the nutritional label and ingredient list of everything I ate, and let me tell you, sugar, it’s EVERYWHERE.

 

Rules

  • Avoid all 61 terms for sugar for 5 days
  • Natural sugar found in whole foods (fruit, vegetables, etc.) are okay

A day in the life

The first day of this challenge was a big learning curve. That morning I instinctively reached for the sugar when making my cup of coffee. I could tell habitual routine was going to be my biggest struggle. Putting down the sugar, only adding milk to my coffee, I began to look through my fridge and cupboard for breakfast options. Reading the ingredient list of all the cereals I had all had one thing in common, added sugar. All-Bran? Sugar. Flax Plus? Organic granulated sugar cane juice. Multi-Grain Cheerios? Refiner’s syrup (a.k.a golden syrup). Well, those options were off the table. So were the 4 different loaves of multi-grain bread I had on hand. All had sugar listed withing the first 5 ingredient. So, I settled on oatmeal. I cooked up some plain oats and topped it with chopped granny smith apple, cinnamon, raisins, and plain Greek yogurt. Satisfying, but I still missed the sweet tough a little honey or maple syrup would have provided. For lunch I had a salad with kale, tomato, cucumber, chickpeas, peppers, and feta. Simple, right? Until you get to the topic of salad dressing. If your just not a vinegar and oil kind of girl like yours truly, or don’t have time to whip up your own, finding a sugar free salad dressing can be quite the challenge. For example, Kraft Greek Feta & Oregano lists corn syrup as the third ingredient and sugar as the fifth, while Renée’s Sweet Onion Vinaigrette doesn’t get it’s sweetness from Spanish onions like the package claims. That would be the sugar lists as the second ingredient (only behind water). Yikes. If you’re looking for a packaged salad dressing with no sugar and recognizable ingredients look not further than Newman’s Own Olive Oil & Vinegar (offered in both organic and inorganic varieties). There isn’t an unfamiliar ingredient listed on the packaging, and on a plus side all profits from Newman’s products go to charities (bonus!). Snacks throughout the week consisted of sliced apples with all natural peanut butter, carrots and hummus, and yogurt with berries and nuts.

All of these foods are regular staples in my diet, and I often eat them on a daily basis, so why did I develop a headache that just wouldn’t go away? I discovered that I had been eating more sugar than I led myself to believe, all thanks to honey. I love honey. So much so that I eat it almost everyday. By not allowing myself to have honey I was denying 80% of the added sugar I eat on a regular basis. Turns out I was addicted to sugar in a way I didn’t even realize. The headaches were a sign my body was detoxing, and I both loved and hated it at the same time. Eventually the headaches subsided as my body began to adjust to the change. I didn’t notice a change in my skin or mood, aside from cravings, but it generally felt better to not be reliant on a sugar as a way to feel better.

Did I accomplish my goal?

I was so, so close. I let my guard down one time, and it was all thanks to a temptress in red, Sriracha (sugar is the second ingredient). My love of hot sauces got to me and one day while at work I, without thinking, reached for the bottle to add a little heat to my lunch. It wasn’t until I was about half way through my mug of soup that I realized what I had done. Was I disappointed in myself? Sure, but it also proved my point that sugar is in the things you least expect it to be. My one and only slip up was a lesson learned. I realized I had to become more aware about what I’m putting in my body, and not to blindly eat something just because it tastes good.

Did anything change?

Definitely. Realizing how much hidden sugars were in foods I had previously thought were “healthy” scared me. Many people are blindly consuming extra, unnecessary sugar as well as . I consider my self a fairly aware and conscious consumer, and this little experiment has prompted me to delve even deeper into food and how we as a society choose and consume the foods we do. I’ve even begin to make changes in my daily life, such as cutting out the sugar in my morning coffee, and choosing sugars with other nutrients and benefits (honey & molasses) over those that are purely sweeteners. Am I going to deny myself a slice of birthday cake? Absolutely not. Added sugar, like everything else should be consumed in moderation. Enjoy sweetness as a treat, not a trend.