Staying Healthy Over the Holiday

I just realized I haven’t written a post since October! Man have I been busy in my move to Vancouver. Well have no fear I’m back and I am ready to post regularly!

The holidays are here and with all the celebration sometimes we forget about the healthy eating habits we’ve been developing all year. So to help you get back on track, I thought I’d share a few tips to help you prevent unwanted holiday weight gain.

 

1. Ruin your appetite – some people think that starving yourself all day is the perfect way to save calories  so that you can eat at the christmas party, however, research shows that if you put yourself in starvation mode during the day you are more likely to overeat when you do get food. The best way to prevent over eating is to eat healthy during the day and have a small snack about an hour before you go to your party. This way you can arrive at your party not feeling famished and you can take the time to carefully choose the foods that you want to try.

Which brings me to my next point…

2. Be Choosy – when you go to a buffet don’t think that you need to try everything on the buffet table. It’s ok to stand back and examine the table so that you can decide what you really want to eat. And if you don’t like it, don’t eat it!

3. Limit Alcohol – I know this one might be a tough one but keep in mind that alcohol is filled with empty calories that can add up really quickly (a glass of wine can be around 105 calories). Also alcohol impedes our judgment and increases appetite so you are more likely to overeat. If you do want to drink choose wine or hard alcohol mixed with club soda and avoid sugary drinks, especially the egg nog which can average at a whopping 400 calories per serving.

4.Use a Smaller Plate – studies have shown that we like to finish everything on our plates and that we judge our fullness ques by the amount left on our plate. So to help you listen to your fullness ques grab a dessert or appetizer plate and use it as your dinner plate. You can fill it so you still feel like you’re getting a large portion but you will actually be eating less.

5. Don’t Hover Around the Buffet Table – once you’ve grabbed your share, walk away from the kitchen or the buffet table and have a seat on the couch so that you can savour each bite. Try to stay away from the table to prevent added temptation once you’re already full

And the most important thing to remember is:

6. DON’T GET DOWN ON YOURSELF – everyone overeats at at least one point over the holidays, there is a lot of temptation out there! What you should remember is that it’s what you do most of the time that really matters. So if you induldge at your grandma’s Christmas dinner because she makes the best pumpkin pie in the world, remember that the next day and try to eat more vegetables and fruit and avoid dessert. Or better yet add an extra 15min to your workout routine. Even a 15minute walk can help increase your digestion and bring down your blood sugars after a large meal.

The holiday season is not a time to start a weight loss or diet plan because you will be miserable if you’re munching on carrot sticks while everyone else is going in for their second helping of mashed potatoes and stuffing. Be mindful when you’re eating and really listen to your body to prevent overeating. And most of all: enjoy every bite, and it will be totally worth it 🙂

Even though the holiday season brings delicious food, there are also a lot of other things you can enjoy like outdoor skating, outdoor lights festivals, walks in the snow (well maybe not so much in Vancouver); so try to plan around these events and save the food events for really special occassions like Christmas Day.

Happy Holidays!!

Sleep to Battle Obesity?

clocks,alarms,lying down,people,sleeping,waking up,women,leisure,householdWith only 24hrs in the day, many of us find it difficult to fit in everything we want to get done in the day. Unfortunatley instead of cutting back on activities or time in front of the T.V, reasearch suggests that many of us are cutting back on sleep. In the last 40 years we have cut back on our sleep by an average of about 1-2 hours per night.

It is recommended that adults recieve about 7-9hrs of a good nights sleep per night to help with restoring our minds and bodies. This includes helping to restore our immune system, decreasing irritability and impatience, and lowering blood pressure. Now there is also more and more evidence to suggest that lack of sleep can affect our metabolism and result in increased weight and difficulty to lose weight.

Recently I watched a presentation from theCanadian Obesity Summit which discusses how sleep (or lack thereof) can be part of the contribution to obesity and could be the cause of some peoples futile attempts to lose weight.

Jean Phillip Chaput points out that obesity rates in the U.S have increased by 19.4% in the past 40 years where the sleep rates in U.S have decreased by 1-2 hours in the same amount of time. He also points out that sleep depreviation is the major risk factor for overweight and obesity in both children and adults. And examines a study that showed that adults who slept less than 5 hours per night were 55% more likly to be more obese than those who slept more; and that children who slept less than 10hrs per night were 89% more likely to be obese than those who slept longer.

So what are some of the possible reasons for this relationship between decreased sleep duration and obesity? Well for one thing, the longer we stay awake the more hours in the day there are for us to overeat. Most of us who aren’t getting 7-8 hours of sleep per day may likely be spending some of our sleeping time infront of the tv with chips and popcorn on hand. Not only are there more hours to spend eating but one study showed that sleep restricted people had increased neuronal activity in response to food stimuli than those who slept 9 hrs per night; showing that reduced sleep may make people overeat. In addition, restricted sleep also increases appetite for more calorie dense foods especially carbohydrate rich foods.

To add to this, studies have also found that decreased sleep affects physical activity. This can likely be that people who do not get enough sleep don’t have enough energy to partake in physical activity. Another side to this could be that physical activity helps with sleep and that people who are physically active (at least 30min per day) will have better quality sleep as a result.

Not only can decreased sleep result in weight gain but it can also impact your attempts to lose weight. A study found that men on a calorie restricted diet who were sleep restricted lost 55% fat mass and 60% muscle mass compared to their counterparts who slept 8.5hrs per night. So if you’re trying to lose weight while depriving yourself of sleep, you may be losing muscle mass instead of what you’re trying to lose (fat mass).

While this research doesn’t necessarily prove that sleep restriction is the cause of obesity, it definitely suggests that sleep could be a major risk factor. The next time you’re battling to lose those last 10 pounds and think you just can’t exersice any more or eat any less than you are maybe you should take a look at your sleep hygeine. Are you getting enough quality sleep?

I think it’s time for us to start decreasing our screan time and our dependence on caffeine to keep alert during the day and pay more attention to getting enough sleep during the night.

Back to School Cool…Lunches

It’s that time of year again, September is just around the corner and that means back to school and back to packing daily lunches. To get your kids off to a good start make sure you pack them healthy balanced lunches to ensure they have the energy to play and learn at school.

A healthy lunch will contain at least 3 out of the 4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide (Vegetables and fruits, grain products, milk and alternatives and meat and alternatives).

Lunches should contain two servings from the vegetables and fruit group daily. Get creative in ways to introduce new fruits and veggies into your kids lunches. Try making fruit or vegetable skewers, a fruit salad or pack a dip to go along with the fruits and veggies (try hummus, low fat yogurt dip or cottage cheese). Also if your child sends back cucumbers 2 days in a row, don’t get frustrated and stop packing vegetables; it takes some kids up to 20 times of trying a new food before they enjoy it. So keep packing cucumbers (and other veggies) but maybe try it in different ways such as sliced into a sandwich, cut up into a Greek salad or sliced to dip in hummus.

When it comes to grains, change up the boring same old meat and cheese sandwich with a half a whole wheat pita filled with cheese, meat and veggies, wrap sandwich fillings in a small whole wheat tortilla or pack some toppings and let your kids build their own pita, wrap or sandwich. Get creative with different breads try whole wheat sandwich buns, pumpernickle or rye breads instead of just plain whole what sliced bread. Kids like to have fun with their food so try making shapes from food using cookie cutters for sandwiches or building smiley faces using veggies and fruits. Or try something completely different and pack a grain salad try a vegetable and pasta salad or a quinoa salad.

To get a serving from the milk and alternatives try 1 cup of plain milk as the beverage or include cheese slices to build with crackers. Yogurt is another great alternative just watch flavoured yogurts which could be packed with sugar. Next time you shop for yogurt keep in mind that children should get no more than 14-23 grams of added sugars per day, so packing them a yoplait “Go-Gurt” with 7g of added sugars will be the equivalent of about half their daily recommended intake. Why not try some plain yogurt drizzeled with honey and cinnamon or just toss  fresh fruit in with plain yogurt. If your kids really don’t like the sourness of plain yogurt try mixing it with a flavoured yogurt to cut back on some of the added sugars.

Schools are increasingly becoming allergy aware and most schools these days are peanut and nut free making the easy go to of peanut butter sandwiches a no go. Use this as an excuse to try out new foods that your child may have not experienced before. Remember I said some children need up to 20 tries before they like a food so don’t worry if you’re first hummus and cheese sandwich comes back uneaten, just make sure you’ve packed other foods you know your child enjoys so that they don’t get hungry at school. There are a number of peanut free “peanut-butter” alternative spreads out there such as WOWbutter and other soy butters, just remember that these are pretty costly and it might be a better idea to try other proteins like low sodium deli slices, fresh cooked meats (why not cut up that leftover chicken breast and throw it into a pita) and beans (bean salad or chilli anyone?).

Food Safety is another thing to keep in mind when paking your childs lunch. Most schools do not provide fridges for kids to keep their lunches in so make sure you pack their lunch in an insulated lunch kit with an ice pack to keep the cold foods cold. If you’re packing leftovers or food you need to keep warm, pack them in a thermos already heated to desirable temperature.  Another idea for an ice pack is of course to use frozen juice boxes that your kids can drink with their lunches, however remember that fruit juices are packed with sugar and in my opinion are just like pop with added vitamins and minerals so best to save this for a treat day and pack a forzen water bottle instead.

The best way to get your kids to eat healthy is to get them involved in what their eating. Have them help with grocery shopping and picking out what they want for their lunches each day of the week. Also if your kids are old enough have them help prepare and pack their lunches.

Here are some other great ideas from one of my favourite kids eating blogs, Better Together.

Resources:

Better Together – blog about healthy eating for kids and families

EatRightOntario – run by the registered dietitians of Ontario

Kids Health

It’s Blueberry Season!

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Today I went to the local farmers market here in Prince George, and among other fresh and locally grown produce I bought 2lb of blueberries. I’ve already snacked on almost half the container….

Did you know that blueberries are one of the few fruits native to North America? They are also in season in BC from July until early October. And word on the street is this is one of the best of the blueberry seasons.

Honestly I think blueberries are a totally underpresented fruit. They just don’t get the same hype as other berries like strawberries and cherries but they are packed with nutrition and great taste. For example, did you know that blueberries are the most antioxidant rich food in the world??! It’s true! The antioxidant properties in blueberries, (and other antioxidant rich foods) help to stave off aging, reduce cell damage that can lead to cancer and increases HDL (good) cholesterol which can help prevent cardiovascular disease. Blueberries also contain tanins that can help to prevent against urinary tract infections.  Although blueberries are not part of the “Dirty Dozen” (foods you should purchase organic according to the Environmental Working Group), studies have found that organically grown blueberries have higher concentrations of antioxidants than conventional blueberries. This being said, as with all the fruits and vegetables, if you can’t find or can’t afford organic it’s best to buy locally grown produce. And blueberries are packed full with antioxidants regardless so just buy local grown berries from the farm stand or grocery store.

Some new research is suggesting that blueberries help with cognition and brain function. One such study found that older adults who consumed 2-2.5lb of blueberries in the form of juice, had improved cognitive function including improved memory. Keep in mind that this is a new study and that the participants were drinking juice which I would not recommend because you lose some of the fibre and other health benefits of blueberries by juicing them (for more informaiton see my post on juicing). I still think it’s worth it to note that blueberries may have an impact on brain function and even if they don’t it does’t hurt to eat lots of them 🙂

Blueberries and other berries are also great for your waist line as they are low on the glycemic index and also low in calories and fat (like most fruit and vegetables) so pick them for your dessert instead of the cheesecake.

What I’m really trying to get at here is that blueberries are delicious and they are in season now so go to your local fruit stand and buy a whole bunch! A great idea would be to stock up on blueberries now and freeze them so that you can keep the health benefits of blueberries and can enjoy them all year long.

Here are some other ideas for ways to enjoy blueberries this summer:

  • by the handful on their own, they would make a great snack for your next movie (and no micorwave popping or loud chewing required)
  • topped on plain low fat greek yogurt with a sprinkle of chia seeds, hemp seeds and a small handfull of bran buds or low fat granola
  • tossed in your morning cereal or oatmeal
  • tossed in your ice cream
  • blended into a smoothie with plain yogurt, milk, a banana and spinach
  • blueberry bran muffins (recipe to come)
  • add to pancake batter (make sure to place into batter once already in the frying pan not just add to the batter in the bowl, it will turn your pancakes blue…)

While i recommend eating blueberries in their raw form and not baked into cookies and cakes to get their best health value, the BC Blueberry Council does have some great recipes listed that I might have to try out.

Stay tuned for a post or two from the recipes I try.

Keeping Cool and Healthy This Summer

Now that summer has finally arrived so has the time for summer bbqs, picnics and camping! Although the cravings for ice cream and smore’s may be powerful don’t forget that summer also provides a bounty of tasty and seasonal fruits and vegetables. When the school bell rings on that faitful day in June don’t let those 10 months of healthy balanced eating fall to the wayside with those school books. Remember to include a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains and lean proteins at your meals and snacks.

Don’t use  camping as an excuse to pig out and laze around the camp fire all day, there are lots of ways to eat healthy and stay active while camping. If you’re out by the lake bring kayaks and swimming apparel to stay active on the water or go hiking around the campsite to enjoy the sites and sounds of mother nature.

When packing for a camping trip avoid loading on carbs like: oatmeal with brown sugar, sandwiches, hot dogs and of course the all time campfire favourite: smore’s. Don’t foreget to pack those fruits and vegetables as their packed with loads of nutrients.

Here is my list of healthy ideas for packing for your next camping trip or picnic:

  • Pack lots of fruits and veggies! –> try sugar snap peas, carrots, blueberries or other seasonal berries washed and ready to snack on
  • Instead of packing potato and pasta salads made with lots of mayo opt for lighter versions dressed with vinaigrettes (try combining olive oil, sherry vinegar, white vinegar, a dash of sugar, grated grana padano, oregano and basil and top your favourite blend of pasta and veggies), note these will also last better food safe wise.
  • Leave sugary drinks and pop behind at the grocery store (or only pack a few cans as a camping treat), stick to water or refreshing watermelon to quench your thirst instead.
  • Wrap corn, yams or potatoes in tin foil and toss by the camp fire for easy, healthy sides to your camping meal
  • Don’t worry I’m not going to skip out on the hot dogs but do try to buy a lower sodium brand. Try European weiners from your local butcher as a tasty alternative usually made with more meat than the average grocery store hot dog.
  • As for smore’s, I’m not even going to try to mess with these as they are too delicious of a creation to ty to make healthy 🙂 feel free to induldge in them once in a while!

Bubbly berries.jpg

Ideas for Cool Summer Treats:

  • Make your own iced tea! I love David’s Tea summer Tropicaila iced tea it’s caffeine free and doesn’t need any sweeteners making it the perfect drink to quench your thirst when you’re tired of water
  • Try an alcohol free summer cocktail: pour 1/4 parts lemonade and 3/4 parts sparkling water over frozen berries and toss in a lime wedge for a sparkling and refreshing summer treat
  • Freeze grapes and eat as a cold treat or pop into a glass of white wine to keep your wine cold 😉
  • Make your own popsicles – just mix your favourite fruit puree with sugar and freeze in popsicle cups or try some of these great ideas from Better Together

The other important thing to remember is to stay hydrated in the summer heat! As you sweat you lose electrolytes and salt and one of the best ways to replenish these losses is by drinking enough fluids. Even though iced coffees and slurpees may seem refreshing in those hot summer days, they are typically full of sugar. Don’t forget to drink lots of water (at least 8 cups per day) to ensure you are staying hydrated and keep the iced coffees and slurpees as treats. If you start to feel dizzy, nauseaous, light headed, have dry lips, a dry mouth or have a headache you may be dehydrated, take a break from what ever activity you are doing and have some water. A great way to prevent dehydration is to keep a bottle of water with you during the day.

The dog days of summer are upon us just remember that there are ways to eat right while still induldging in your favourite summer treats 🙂

Coocoo for Cocoa!

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To eat chocolate or not to eat chocolate, that is the question…Well new research suggests to eat chocolate is the answer! YAY! But remember everything in moderation of course 🙂

The health benefits of cocoa are numerous from lowering blood pressure, to lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and perhaps having a benefit in helping with erectile dysfunction in men. Note that I said these benefits are in cocoa so dark chocolate is what you’re after for the heart healthy benefits and the higher the cocoa content the better. This means that milk chocolate, which has a higher sugar to cocoa ratio, and white chocolate, which is cocoa free, are not part of the answer. Stick to dark chocolate with 75% or more cocoa.

Research points to antioxidants in chocolate called flavanols for the heart healthy properties of chocolate. Flavanols are present in higher amounts in darker chocolate and only in miniscule amounts (12mg/oz) in milk chocolate (compared to 709mg/oz in 100% dark chocolate). As a rule: the more %cocoa solids and the more bitter the taste, the higher the flavanol content in the chocolate.

Using cocoa powder in baking is also a great way to get the benefits of chocolate. Cocoa is the most concentrated version of chocolate as the chocolate flavour comes from the solid particles of the cocoa bean.

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There are different versions of cocoa powder including natural unsweetened cocoa powder, dutch processed cocoa powder and instant/sweetened cocoa powder.

Baking usually calls for unsweetened or dutch processed cocoa powder. Be sure to check your recipe for which kind of cocoa powder it calls for. Cocoa powder is naturally acidic and has a more bitter astringent flavour. Dutch processed cocoa powder is alkalized to increase its pH content (making it more basic) producing a milder flavour. Recipes that call for cocoa powder (natural cocoa powder) rely on the acidity of natural cocoa powder to react with baking soda for leavening. If you were to use dutch processed cocoa powder for the same recipe you wouldn’t get the leavening effect. Use Dutch processed cocoa in recipes that use baking powder instead of baking soda. Also note that processing cocoa can reduce flavanols by as much to 60-90% so dutch processed doesn’t have the same antioxidant content as natural cocoa powder.

Instant cocoa powder is sweetned and this is the kind ususally used to make hot chocolate mixes.

Although dark chocolate does contain antioxidants and studies are pointing more towards the health benefits of chocolate, remember that even dark chocolate is full of calories, fat and sugar. So what’s the bottom line? As I always like to tell my clients, everything is ok in moderation. So having a couple of pieces of dark chocolate is not deterimental to your health or weight loss goals (especially if you are replacing pie, cake and ice cream with chocolate) just watch out for how much you eat. I prefer dark chocolate anyways as I find it more satifying than milk chocolate and I’m happier with a smaller amount.

 

Grill up Some Vegetables

Brussels Grill: Mixed vegetables

The warm summer months are approaching, meaning that BBQ season is just around the corner. With this come the media messages about the dangers of barbecuing.  Although there can be some risks associated with grilling, if done properly, this form of cooking can be a great way to get outdoors and enjoy local summer foods.

When meat, especially red meat, is cooked using high heat (like on a BBQ) cancer causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are formed. These compounds are increased when fat drips off of the meat producing a hot flame and when meat gets burned. Below are some simple ways that you can reduce these compounds.

–          Cook meat at lower temperatures

–          Use a digital thermometer to check meat doneness and prevent overcooking

–          Marinade meats using low sugar marinades

–          Flip meat using tongs or a spatula instead of a fork

–          Precook meat using an oven, stove or microwave then finish it off on the BBQ

–          Choose lower fat meat options like fish or skinless chicken

Another way to reduce HCAs is to go meatless on the BBQ.  Explore a farmers market or your backyard to get the best picks of local and in-season vegetables and fruits. Look for recipes that use summer produce like beets, spinach, tomato, lettuce, peaches, onions, peas, strawberries, broccoli and zucchini. Below are a few tips to get you started:

–          Grill marinated peppers, zucchini and eggplant then toss them into a sandwich, add to a green or pasta salad or top a pizza

–          Try grilling up some portabella mushrooms with cheese and serve on a burger bun instead of using a hamburger patty

–          Make kebabs using lots of peppers, cherry tomatoes, onions and mushrooms and only a couple of pieces of meat

–          Grill up peach halves with brown sugar and serve for dessert

Canada’s Food Guide recommends that adults eat 7 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruits a day. Be creative and enjoy the bountiful produce that summer has to offer.

For More Information Visit:

Health Canada

How to Grill Vegetables