Strawberry Fields, Forever!

I could extoll the benefits of strawberries for pages….but do I really need to when you can look at this picture?  Your mouth starts to water – summer is here and strawberries are at their all time juicy goodness!

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Good things grow, in #Ontario #summer #instayum

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Loaded with Vitamin C, fibre and all natural sweetness – enjoy the fruit that says summer!  I know I will!

Did you know that you could follow along on Instagram?  Loads of mouth watering photos from the road – join along at Travel Destination Bucket List on Instagram.  Some of the photos should come with a warning – mouth watering goodness from around the globe!


Lighten up your holiday meal

That time of year is back – you know what I am talking about – the festive season where we sometimes go a little crazy on the food front!   We say we will behave ourselves, but it is so easy to eat a little more than planned, exercise a little less and, well, just one extra drink won’t hurt!

While it isn’t always easy to make just a few minor adjustments, you can save yourself hundreds of calories if you do. Here are some of the most common tips out there to reduce calories and fat while preserving the flavor of your meals and try to avoid some of the holiday bulge!


1. Baked Goods 
Oils and butter in these recipes can be substituted with apple sauce, prune puree, or bananas.

2. Chocolate
Use fewer chocolate chips than a recipe calls for.  Why not make it a mix of chocolate chips and raisins where appropriate – the raisins add a chewy goodness to most cookies.

3. Whole Milk, Whipping Cream, Ice Cream

Will a lower fat milk do the trick?  Is a dollop of whipping cream really necessary?  You can  always add a dollop of plain yogurt to the pie – cut on the calories and fat.  Sprinkle with a little cinnamon for a little flavour boost.

4. Butter
Use healthier fats like light cooking spray, canola oil, whipped butter, olive oil or peanut oil.  But all that said…butter in moderation is fine!

5. Salad Dressing
Salads may seem super healthy, but just a tablespoon of some salad dressings can set you back loads of calories. Instead use a more natural topper like lemon juice with cracked pepper, reduced-fat cottage cheese, or herb-flavored or wine vinegar with olive or a specialty oil.  If you are looking for a little more zing – use freshly squeezed lime juice in the equation.

6. Cheese
Instead of the usual cheese, select cheeses that are lower in fat. Personally, cheese is a weakness for me – I just serve less of it.  Dress up the cheese plate with healthy options – a sharp cheddar goes perfectly with tart granny smith apple slices!  Just dip them in a little lemon juice to prevent the flesh from oxidizing (turning brown).

7. Sour Cream, Mayonnaise
Use a plain fat free Greek yogurt-it has the same texture and similar flavor to both sour cream and mayonnaise.  Dress it up with a little fresh herbs – garlic chives or fresh parsley go a long way in both the flavour and visual cues – added bonus: parsley is loaded in vitamin C!  Go ahead – throw it on with reckless abandon.

8. Gravy
While I am not a gravy fan, my sister assures me that it is not a turkey dinner without a pot of steaming hot gravy.  To lighten it up a little, put your gravy into the refrigerator before serving. Once it gets cold the fat will collect at the top.  Skim it off, reheat, and serve.


9. What to Serve
Serve loads of lower calorie foods with the main event.  Fill up on raw and cooked vegetables and colourful salads. Use yogurt based dips, hummus, and/or homemade salsa instead of heavy dips and toppers.

10. Lean Your Meats
Make your meats lean by removing the skin and fat before eating.

11. A Full Plate
Fill up half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables like salad, green beans, spinach, or broccoli.

12. Portion Control
If you have trouble with portion control, try putting your knife and fork down between bites – eating will take longer and you will be less likely to have a second plateful!  Talk and laugh more…it is hard to  be filling your face while telling a story and giggling!

13. Plate Control
If you have trouble with portion control, use smaller plates.  It is the easiest trick in the book!  Can’t have a smaller plate – fill your plate with vegetables and salad – just mind the sauces as they can pack a surprising wallop!  And remember, you don’t have to eat everything!

14. Cooking Methods
Consider steaming your veggies rather than frying or roasting in butter.  Keep more nutrients in by steaming lightly!

food prep


15. Low-Calorie Sweets
Make a lower-calorie dessert like Angel food cake topped with fruit.  An alternative to fruit pie – try a crumble and skip the pastry.  Load the crumble topping with oatmeal and go easy on how thick you make it.  You can still have the crunchy goodness with a thinner a topper.

16. Fruits

Poached or baked fruits also make great desserts.

17. Cakes and Pies
Gingerbread is a lower calorie alternative to the usual cakes and pies.  If you can’t forgo the pie – why not make a crisp and save calories and fat by avoiding the crust?  You get the same warm pie feel with fewer calories.  Top with plain or greek yogurt rather than whipped cream.


18. Add Water
Make spritzers with sparkling water or club soda and add some fruit for flavor.

19. Low Calorie Options
Choose light beer, wine, or drinks made with no calorie mixers.

20. Alternate
Better yet, alternate between alcoholic drink and water to stay hydrated and keep calories lower.


21. Walk it Off
Make activity a habit after your meals – get the whole family involved so that you can all burn a few extra calories and lead a longer, healthier life together.  Living in Ottawa, we often go for a Christmas ski before dinner…great way to get out and enjoy the season.

Walk in the woods

And last but not least:

22. Don’t beat yourself up
If you feel you over-indulged, don’t beat yourself up over it!  Make a plan and bring yourself back to where you need to be.  Add extra exercise or an extra 5 minutes to your morning or daily exercise routine (I know – you are crazy busy and that can be a challenge).  Bring yourself back to your normal eating habits as soon as you can.

Beans, Beans, Beans

Full of beans….we describe kids that are brimming with energy as being full of beans.  Loaded with energy.  Don’t most of us wish we had the energy of kids.  They run and play all day, energy galore!

Red and white kidney beans

The cornerstone to a healthy diet is is a diet full of vitamins, minerals and fibre…all of which the humble bean has is spades!  Do they play a hearty role in your diet?

I generally have the intentions of eating more beans, but somewhere along the way….it doesn’t always happen!  I use more canned beans…little forethought is required.  The only problem with the canning process is that it does rob some of the nutrients.  There also tends to be a higher sodium content in the can (a good rinsing will help here).  While eating canned beans is better than no beans….I often forget to soak my beans the night before!  To speed up the process, you can place the beans in a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat off and leave them to soak for an hour.  To cook – bring the beans and soaking liquid to a boil in a large pot, reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender.  Time will vary based on type of bean.

Benefits of Beans

Virtually fat free, beans are loaded with high doses of folate, B vitamins and iron.  Basically, your vitality nutrients loaded up in a neat little package.  They are also a brilliant source of non-animal protein.

Heart healthy – beans have benefits for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.

Beans contain lignans – phytoestrogens that may reduce the risk of estrogen related cancers.  Recent studies also show benefits in curbing pancreatic and colon cancers.

Loaded with fibre (soluble and insoluble) – beans are extremely beneficial for colon health, normalizing blood sugar levels and feeling full…a huge benefit for those watching their weight!

Beans are a great source of complex carbohydrates – essential to our well being.

Are you getting enough beans in your diet?

bags of beans at Namche Bazaar

I tend to find it very easy to eat kidney and garbanzo beans (chick peas).  Red lentils are a staple in my fall and winter soup armamentarium…but what about some of the others?

Have you heard of Aduki beans?  I first heard of them when I bought Gillian McKeith‘s “You are what you eat” book.  I became her fan when her show appeared on tv here in Canada.  While her tactics can be shocking at times, I appreciate some of the messages she puts forth…predominantly focusing on a healthy, natural diet and lifestyle.  Simple changes incorporated into our daily life can have an important positive impact on our quality of life….and these changes can actually cost us less.  Beans are a very economical choice in the pantry!

Green lentils

So, in an attempt to introduce a great variety of beans to my diet, I will be adding Aduki and Mung Beans.

Aduki beans are high in nutrients but low in calories.  The Japanese recognize these beans for their healing qualities.  They are touted as being beneficial for kidney and bladder infections…but I have limited information in this regard.  They are exceptionally high in fibre, B vitamins and minerals (iron, manganese and zinc), act as a natural diuretic and are brilliant for weight loss.

Mung Beans – believed to be beneficial in detoxifying the body, mung beans possess all the benefits of their fellow beans – heart healthy, brilliant for diabetics and blood sugar regulation.  They are also said to have benefits for post menopause due to the variety of isoflavone nutrients they possess.  Mung beans are said to be estrogenic in nature due to their phytoestrogen content.

Dried beans, if stored in a dry, air tight contain, are good for a year in the panty.  Don’t mix old and new as the older the bean, the longer they need to cook.  Cooking times do vary for beans – a basic guideline taken from What’s Cooking America shows:

Beans (soaked)


Pressure Cooker
at 15 Lb. Pressure

Black Beans 1 to 1½ hours
5 to 8 Min.
Garbanzo Beans 1 to 1½ hours 5 to 7 Min.
Great Northerns 1 to 1½ hours 5 to 7 Min.
Lima Beans, Large 45 to 60 minutes Not Recommended
Lima Beans, Baby
1 hour Not Recommended
Navy or Small Whites 1 to 1½ hours 5 to 8 Min.
Pink Beans 1 to 1½ hours 6 to 8 Min.
Pinto Beans 1 to 1½ hours 5 to 7 Min.
Red Beans 1 to 1½ hours 6 to 8 Min.
Red Kidney Beans 1 to 1½ hours 5 to 8 Min.
Soybeans 3 hours 12 to 15 Min.
Beans (not soaked) Saucepan Pressure Cooker*
Black-Eyed Peas 1 to 1½ hours Not Recommended
Lentils 30 to 45 minutes Not Recommended
Split Peas, Green 30 to 45 minutes Not Recommended

Beans are so versatile….great in soups, salads and stews.  They are also brilliant made into a healthy dip for veggies…so what are you waiting for?

benefits of beans and lentils

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Guest post: blogging for health, goal setting and bucketlists

Guest Post: Blogging for Health, Goal Setting and Bucket Lists

Melanie Bowen, author of the following article, recently contacted me to share her thoughts on blogging for health.  She is a contributor to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance blog, and I was happy to collaborate with her on getting out the message on goal setting, dreams and aspirations.  Creating a bucket list is one of many valuable ways to set goals and dream large.  Be inspired.  Set goals – without a destination in life, how do you know what journey you are on?

Blogging for Health, by Melanie Bowen

Learning to deal with a diagnosis that involves a disease such as mesothelioma or evendiabetes places a damper on an individual’s quality of like. The patient is not the only person affected by such a diagnosis–the patient’s family and friends are also affected.  It doesn’t have to be so grim! Lets shed some light on how to turn life challenges into positivity and self-encouragement. So while it is perfectly natural to experience an array of emotions, such as anger, doubt, fear and denial, your prognosis is better if you can maintain a generally happy quality of life.

One way to improve the quality of your life during and after illness is to catalog your emotions. Cataloging your emotions is beneficial to your health because it allows you a completely honest outlet to let your emotions out freely, without worry that you are being judged. Of course, you can talk to your friends and family, but some patients feel the need to gloss over certain aspects of their disease to keep their loved ones from worrying and this is not beneficial to your health.

Write for you! Write for Others. Share motivation and motivate yourself!

When you are experiencing an emotion caused by your illness it is better for your quality of life to deal with that emotion by exploring it and letting it out, in a personal journal or a blog.

Journaling and blogging are not for everyone, which is why there are other ways to catalog your hopes, dreams and goals throughout your illness. One way to do this is to create a list of things you want to do, see, and experience during treatment and also on your path to healing. Anytime you are feeling down, depressed or in need of a pick-me-up or motivation during your treatment, going over your list is a great way to motivate yourself into feeling better, which improves the quality of your life. Start small and work your way up. Finish the book you started. Exercise at home or even make that dish you always wanted to try. The little things definitely pave the way to your larger desires. Motivate yourself!

In addition to helping yourself by cataloging your experiences with cancer, you may help others if you make your words available to the public. Studies show that those who blog about their experiences are more socially supported than those that do not, even if the show of emotional support is from completely anonymous strangers on the internet When a person going through treatment has emotional support, their outlook is better.  Motivation and inspiration is all around us—tap into it!

Writing down your hopes, dreams and goals will make you feel better during your illness and improve your quality of life after, because it reminds you that tomorrow is not a guarantee and that the things on your list should be done now, rather than put off even longer.