The Truth About Nutrition…

The truth about nutrition is simple….if it comes packaged and altered…it is probably not how nature intended it!

vegetarian Indonesian Sate

It kills me when tv advertising suggests Fruit Loops are healthy with their 2% fibre or granola bars are 20% of your daily fibre needs.  Come on – are you trying to tell me that I can eat 5 of these things to meet my daily fibre requirements….I don’t think so.  Plus, I am missing out on pretty much all of my vitamin, mineral and amino acid needs….

stop the insanity

Stop the insanity!

Then, I saw this anti-ad on Coke – it is BRILLIANT!!!  YOU HAVE TO WATCH IT!

Obesity and malnutrition are endemic in our land of plenty diets and it is unfathomable!  It pains me every time I see ads on tv that suggest the food that the company is spending millions promoting is better for us that the natural foods you find in nature!  Sure, we may have to prepare it a little – but the question I have for you is: Aren’t you worth it???

One of the messages that I hear in so many places…nutrition, business etc….is to live by the 80/20 rule.  For nutrition that means eat well 80% of the time, but allow for treats and crazy schedules for up to 20% of the time!

Personally, I don’t drink Coke – it hurts my stomach and makes me burp through my nose. As a kid, it was a treat – you know, once in a blue moon.  When, as a society, did we start drinking it every day?  We can’t lay all the blame on Coke, although that YouTube clip was hilarious and made it so easy….but the time is now…take control of what you eat for a better and healthier you!

cutting green beans

Related Links:

New Year’s Resolutions – Bah! – 10 Commandments of a healthy diet


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

Related posts:

Yummy Breakfast Skillet

Breakfast Skillet

Tis the season of delish leftover veggies!  I love taking breakfast up a notch on the weekend and the breakfast skillet ranks higher than homemade pancakes in my books!

recipe for breakfast skillet

Not only is it ouey goey goodness with the right ingredients, it is a super healthy way to up your veggies during the winter when salad consumption and fresh garden ingredients may be low!

It is so awesome and easy to make.  Take last nights left over baked or stir fried veggies….

uses for left overs

add some creamy goats cheese…

breakfast skillet

While all those flavours are heating up in an oven proof toaster oven, fry up an egg.  Personally, I love it best with a little dash of Montreal Steak Spice (thank you Club house for the MSG free flavour goodness!) and a soft fried egg.

making a vegetable skillet for breakfast

Place the egg on top of the hot vegetable and goat cheese mix and enjoy!  So delish when the runny, warm yolk mixes in with the left over veg!  Welcome to breakfast heaven!

Top 5 Winter Cooking Gadgets

Top 5 Winter Cooking Gadgets

As temperatures drop in the Northern Hemisphere, cooking styles start to change, influenced by the colder temperatures and shorter days.  Makes for some amazing, hearty meals and body warming soups…bring on the kitchen gadgets and gizmos …. winter cooking is here!

1.  Crock pot – I don’t know why it took me so long to add a crock pot to my kitchen armory, but I finally added one a few winters ago, and have never looked back!  In fact, my one crock pot became two and ultimately three.  My largest crock pot gets center stage on my kitchen counter all winter and is a regular feature on the dinner planner.  Perfect for soups, stews and decadent winter dishes….it allows me to prep in the morning and let it simmer away all day.  Love coming home to the wonderful smells of home made cooking goodness – warms the house and the soul.  The medium crock pot makes awesome rice pudding – nice and thick after a day out in the cold!  Then there is the mini – perfect for warm dips and Christmas parties.  This little guy doesn’t come out as often at my house, but I am sure I could find more uses if I tried!

cooking essentials

2.  Immersion blender – this one goes hand in hand with the crock pot when making creamy soups.  I couldn’t resist but get the cordless – it moves from counter to stove top/crock pot to sink without the hassle of dealing with cords and plugs.  No muss, no fuss.  Also great for smoothies and shakes – this little blender gets used year round in my kitchen, and has even been known to travel with me.  I bought the Cuisinart Cordless rechargeable hand blender which also came with a handy mini-chopper – love the 2 in 1 versitility for quick food prep on a cold winter night!

kitchen essentials3.  Cast iron skillet – another versatile kitchen tool, my cast iron pans have become the go-to choice for my stove top.  Like the crock pot, I have them in 3 handy sizes.  This dependable cookware is a must in todays kitchen.  The cast iron skillet conducts heat beautifully, goes from stovetop to oven with no problem and has a number of healthy benefits.  Benefits such as the ability to use less oil, avoid leaching chemicals (potential aluminum and teflon risks) and fortifying your food with iron (they say cooking acidic food like tomato sauce in your cast iron skillet can increase iron content by as much as 20 times!).

4.  Toaster oven – I have had mine for yours and don’t know what I would do without it!  We have all been there – you are heating up leftovers for one and don’t need to heat up the entire oven for your single serve.  It takes a fraction of the time to heat things up and personally, I find reheated left overs taste so much better in the toaster oven than the microwave.  Throw a little grated cheese onto the leftover veggies and you have a delicious dish ready to satisfy!  I don’t think my kitchen would be complete without it.

5.  Dutch oven – much like the crock pot, the ability to slow cook amazing stews and soups is a must over the winter cooking season.  The versatility to go from the stovetop to the oven with one dish is tough to beat.  I also love my trusty dutch oven for cooking perfect, fluffy rice every time.  Something about that heavy lid – doesn’t let any of the steam out.  I find the rice is perfect every time.  I lucked out and got a brilliant KitchenAid on special as they can run a little pricey!

winter kitchen essentials

What about you – what tops out your list of Top 5 kitchen gadgets and tools for winter?

New Year’s Resolutions – bah!

I, for one, don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions!  So many are made, so many are broken!  What is the point if it is not defined and doable!

photo taken from facebook, source unknown.

It’s like the diet that becomes the uncontrolled yo-yo!  Many of us (me definitely included here) have been there, done that!  Rather than a New Year’s Resolution, I prefer to think in terms of a commitment to myself, for myself!

If you have followed this blog (still in infancy, and having just come off of Christmas holidays), you will know that I have taken up studying holistic nutrition as a means of making a commitment to myself!  Sadly, I often let life get in the way and fall off the wagon many times (sugar and stress – best friends in my world!), but I do try to remain true to a lifestyle commitment that I made when I first signed up for the course!

One of the early lessons is premised on 10 basic principles, or the 10 Commandments of a Healthy Diet (taken from Elson Haas textbook – Staying Healthy with Nutrition).  The keys are whole, live, natural, good quality foods.

1.  Natural Foods – you know what I am talking about – avoiding the processed and manufactured foods, especially those whose primary ingredients are no longer recognizable or pronounce-able!

2.  Seasonal Foods – these hold the highest possible nutritional value and remain in harmony with the natural cycles of the year.  For example – a hearty stew may be better suited to a cold winters day, whereas a juicy watermelon is more likely to quench your thirst on a hot summer afternoon!

3.  Fresh Foods – fresh from the garden will have the maximum nutrition.  While this isn’t always possible, over processed foods become dead foods – live enzymes that benefit the body are destroyed by the processing and manufacturing process.

4.  Nutritious Foods – goes without saying, if you are looking for a better balance in life, a variety of nutritious, foods loaded with vitamins and minerals are more likely the way to go!

5.  Clean Foods – keep them chemical free, avoid GMOs (Genetically Modified) – afterall, tomatoes were not supposed to have fish proteins!!!  Also under clean foods is proper storing and handling – need I say more?

6.  Tasty and Appealing Foods – there is a little science behind this one – if the food is not appealing, and you don’t salivate, your body doesn’t produce the necessary digestive enzyme – amylase – crucial for proper absorption.

7.  Variety and Rotation – how else are you going to get a variety of nutrients.  If you only eat the same food all the time – you only get the same nutrients, so mix it up!

8.  Food Combining – can be a heavily contested topic, so I will limit comment to this – can be labour intensive, is not suited to everyone but it can decrease the stress on the digestive system.

9.  Moderation – don’t go crazy – you can have the naughty goodies …. in moderation.  Some suggest the 80/20 rule – as long as you eat well 80% of the time, you can indulge 20%.  You be your own judge, but I know when I try to go too perfect, the thump on the ground as I fall off that wagon always hurts more!  You just can’t always be perfect – especially when traveling – did someone say fish tacos!!!  (A little taste of the naughty in Jamaica – how’s the food?)

10.  Balance – need to have balance in macronutrients (protein/fat/carb) and micronutrients.  Basically, if you are following Haas’ guidelines, you should find balance in your nutrition.