nutrition

I'm baaaack!

guys. I've been MIA and for no good reason at all…aside from the fact that I've been studying my butt off to get my Precision Nutrition Certification! ahh! so hard but so worth it! I mean check it out, I'm official! you're not truly a fitness professional until someone else says you are, right!? but enough about that. I'm returning with a new monthly feature I want to start, starting TODAY.         (drumroll please)…P+N's menu of the month! have any of you ever scoured the internet to find new and exciting recipes to make because you're just so damn tired of the five things you always make? have you ever tried something new from a cookbook in an effort to be innovative, only to discover that it didn't really pan out, or wasn't all that great to begin with? after hearing comments like, "I'm so bored of what I'm making", "I need new recipe ideas", "what do you eat?" "can you just come cook for me?" day in and day out, I've decided that the next best thing - aside from me coming to your kitchen and food prepping for you (which, might one day be arranged) - is giving you a look into my daily menu! I'm giving you healthy, simple and taste-bud-approved recipes that will keep you lean and super satisfied. 

disclaimer: this meal plan is not for everyone. those of you who need variety - eating something different every day of the week, sorry guys, you gotta look elsewhere. that's just too fancy for me. or those of you looking for decadent French cuisine…yeah, no. I'm a working progressional that wakes up at 4am to get to work by 4:45am. some nights I'm not home until 7:30. and as much as I'd love to eat like a Frenchman...

you'll see below that I'm including recipes, as well as portion sizes. you'll notice that Patrick eats a helluva lot more than I do, because his goal right now is to maintain his muscle mass and drop his BF%. it takes an awful lot of food to maintain those biceps. my goal is specifically fat loss. I've taken a break from my strength gain goal to take 6 weeks and focus solely on fat loss. how does my diet differ? currently, I'm eating very few carbohydrates and focusing heavily on lean proteins and healthy fats.

so without further adieu….here's the MENU of the Month:

Breakfast. 

Patrick (+ Nicole on my non-4am days): Feta + Veggie Egg Scramble

ingredients: 6 eggs for him/3 eggs + 3 whites for me, 1/4 cup feta cheese, 1/2 cup red pepper, 1/2 cup onion, 1/4 cup spinach, 1/2 TBSP olive oil, 1 TBSP salsa, 2 pieces of whole wheat toast (for him)

directions: heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. dice veggies and sauté until soft and tender. once translucent, add spinach and pour scrambled eggs on top. add feta cheese and sprinkle with black pepper (if desired). scramble until eggs are cooked to your liking and remove from heat. top with salsa (or hot sauce) and enjoy. Patrick enjoys his with 2 pieces of whole wheat or pumpernickel toast, smeared with 1 pat of butter.

Nicole: on 4am days (+ afternoon snack for Patrick): Vanilla Toffee Berry Protein Shake

ingredients: 1.5 scoops of vanilla pea protein powder for me/2 scoops for him, 3/4 cup frozen berries, 1.5 cups unsweetned almond milk, 1 TBSP natural peanut butter, 12 almonds (+ 1 banana for him)

directions: blend until smooth and enjoy!

Lunch. 

Nicole: Shrimp, Feta + Avocado Salad

ingredients: 8oz of shrimp, 1/4 cup feta, 1/3 avocado, handful of chopped baby carrots, 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar, served over 3 cups of mixed greens.

directions: I buy my shrimp frozen from Costco. once defrosted I cook them in 1 TBSP of butter with minced garlic, paprika and black pepper. once pink, remove from heat and store in the fridge. I pile all of my other ingredients on top of my greens first, and finish with a drizzle of balsamic. basically, pile this on top of your greens and top it off with shrimp, or, try this delicious recipe for a bright summer salad.

Patrick: Garlic Shrimp + Bell Pepper Stir Fry

ingredients: 10oz of shrimp, 2 cups of red/yellow/orange peppers, served over 1.5 cups of brown rice.

directions: shrimp is cooked the same above (guess who does the cooking). peppers are sliced thin and sautéed in 1 TBSP of olive oil with minced garlic, Mrs. Dash salt-free herb/garlic seasoning and coconut aminos. boil brown rice in low-sodium chicken stock for a more flavourful side. try this at home if you'd prefer quinoa in place of rice.

Snack: 

Nicole: roasted salted almonds (24 pcs.) or 2 TBSP of natural peanut butter on a salt-free rice cake (fat loss isn't always glamourous!)

Patrick: (1) two Double Chocolate Protein Cookies  with an apple. yep. we're still stuck on these. we do use pea protein powder and dairy-free chocolate chips instead (warning: don't try these with egg white protein powder, they turn out really spongey.) (2) Protein Shake (see above). you think I'm kidding the boy never stops eating.

Dinner: 

Nicole + Patrick: Ground Beef Burrito Bowls

ingredients: 7oz of ground beef for me/10oz of ground beef for him, 1/3 avocado, 3 cups of romaine, 1/2 cup chopped peppers, 1/4 cup feta (we're primarily a diary-free household, so we stick with sharp cheeses, but you can use cheddar or mozzarella), 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, 1/4 cup black beans (for him), 1/4 cup corn (for him), 1 cup cooked cilantro brown rice (for him), 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar.

directions: cook ground beef to your liking. I use paprika, black pepper, basil and oregano. you can also use steak like this recipe, but our little home doesn't have a grill. top all veggies over your bed of rice (if applicable) and serve hot ground beef on top. drizzle with dressing and enjoy! it's like going to Chipotle…only without 5000mg of sodium and less guacamole (sad face).

 

as you can see, Patrick gets to enjoy a lot more yummy carbohydrates than I do, but we choose to eat according to our goals and according to our body types. most of all, we choose to eat well - in taste and in nutritional value. this works for us. we prep all of our proteins on Sunday and re-heat throughout the week. it's easy. it's effective. and it keeps our bellies happy.

stay tuned for next months edition! feel free to request or suggest recipes - or send reviews!

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

let's close the {thigh} gap.

in an effort to become a better trainer, nutritionist and woman, I regularly thumb through the blogs of Jen Sinkler and Molly Galbraith - super strong, amazing women in the industry. I mean, I'm pretty sure you get stronger by simply being in the presence of these women. and I'm into that. so, I stumbled upon a blog post by Jen entitled, "closing the (thigh) gap" in which she referenced Molly: so if your feet are together and your thighs don't touch, that's called a Thigh Gap

what's it called if your feet are 4 inches apart and your thighs still touch?

oh yeah. 

Dem Quadz...

and couldn't stop thinking about it. because, yeah, quads are super sexy and this Thigh Gap trend really should be put to shame. Instead of focusing on the spaces between our muscles, shouldn't we be focusing on our muscles? Instead of trying to make ourselves smaller, what if we spent the same effort making ourselves stronger? I'll tell you what would happen, truly amazing things. Imagine the feeling of pride when you look at your body and see strength, instead of shame when your masses fill the spaces that society told you should be there.

hear me on this: bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. some thighs touch, and others don't. some collar bones are naturally defined, and others aren't. some hips are wide and others, not so much. and that's beautiful. shame doesn't belong here. whether it's fat shaming or thin shaming. let's work to remove it altogether. because real women have bodies. a certain size or shape does not make you superior. There is no wrong way to have a body (Glenn Marla).

And if we break it down, for some of us, the Thigh Gap is an absolutely ridiculous goal. this seemingly desirable space between ones legs is determined, not only by what we do in the gym, or what we eat in the kitchen, but by our God-given (mom + pops get credit here too) body type, our pelvic structure and tendon length. So by all means, work hard. kick ass in the gym. eat salads, eat burgers, eat WELL. but don't waste your goals on something as demoralising and aesthetically foolish as a larger space between your legs. because, let's face it, the Thigh Gap is all about reducing the mass - muscle and fat - that holds up the rest of your skeleton…and yeah…walking around with two toothpicks for legs sounds like a super smart idea. Don't let your self worth be determined by the circumference of any part of your body. pick a goal that a. makes a scrap of sense, b. lifts you up, c. and makes you a stronger athlete/woman/human being.

have you seen those "are they legs or are they hot dogs" illustrations?

ladies, I think we can do better than striving for shapeless casings of meat for legs. a whole hell of a lot better.

in my world, big, strong thighs are coveted. because stronger quads means a stronger squat. and a stronger squat means a better booty…but we'll save that for another post. what's that you say? you don't care to squat? don't misunderstand me - I'm not saying everyone needs to squat with a barbell on their back. in fact, I wouldn't recommend it for some. but, I can assure you. whether you know it or not, you squat. when was the last time you sat down to eat? squat. when was the last time you got in or out of a car? squat. when was the last time you went to the bathroom? squat.

I don't' know about you, but I want to be going to the bathroom on my own two feet for a very, very long time. so excuse me if these thighs touch, but I couldn't care less. #demquadz

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

 

"you are disgusting + fat", a familiar story.

when was the last time you looked in the mirror and admired the form staring back at you? when was the last time you could stand to look in the mirror? when was the last time you felt truly beautiful in your skin? have you ever?

it's Valentines day. many of us expect big displays of affection, grand gestures made up of roses and fancy candlelit dinners, looking for a sense of true belonging and love from that special someone. but here's a question - what if, this year, that special someone was you? and what if. that sense of true belonging, acceptance and unconditional love was directed toward your body? crazy, right? I'm not so sure.

I know I'm not alone in saying that there are times I feel as though I'm not good enough. if I could only lose those last 10 pounds, or work a little harder on my ______ than my ______ will look better. I would look better. if only I had her legs/her butt/her ___, I would feel better about myself. The pursuit of the perfect body is something so many of us spend our days pursuing day after day. but what if - hear me out - what if we loved our bodies now as opposed to 10 pounds from now?

we beat ourselves up over every nutritional indulgence, over every workout we didn't complete. trying to shave off a few calories here and burn a few more there…because that's what will make us happy. but, is it really? let's play this through for a second. once you reach that arbitrary goal (being a size X, looking like so and so, having a flatter belly, etc.), will you truly be happy? will you wake up one morning, finally liking what you see in the mirror? I really don't think so. Because, I've been there. I've been 10  pounds lighter, and I wanted 20. and at 20 I wanted 50. and you know what? with obscene amounts of deprivation and excessive training, I got to where I thought I wanted to be. and let me tell you, I still didn't love what I saw staring back at me in my reflection. negative self-talk was constantly occupying my thoughts. I wish I looked like her. I need to be a size ____ and then I'll be happy. Ugh, I can't eat that…I'm so disgusting. are you willing to go to bed with a grumbling belly? passing on social functions because you know wine and dessert will be served, and you don't want to field the questions as to why you aren't having any? punishing yourself on the treadmill for that one little bite you snuck? This, my friends, is the road to misery. you'll exhaust yourself trying to obtain something that's always out of reach. I know this because, that was me. wasting precious time on a goal that was seemingly always out of reach; unhappy, empty and punishment-driven.

I'm over it. I can honestly say that I love what my body can do, and how it moves. I have found my value and self-worth, prioritising strength and health above some skinny ideal. sure, there are things I want to work on and improve, but I can now acknowledge that it's a process and those things won't make me any more loveable of a person. and I want that for you too. I want you to want that, for yourself. Self-acceptance is so much more than just a number on the scale, or a percentage of body fat. Learning how to love yourself starts now, not 10 pounds from now or two dress sizes from now. You. Are. Enough. You are imperfectly perfect. The image you've painted for yourself inside your head, the doubts and shame, have no hold on you. Can you love your body, while simultaneously wanting to improve it and make it stronger? absolutely, yes! but just as your love for another person should not be conditional, neither should the love you show for yourself. I'll say it again, you are enough. right now, as you are. just imagine how much more satisfying the pursuit of strength, fitness and a transformed body will be when you are comfortable in the skin you wear. Hating your body into submission is simply not a sustainable or life-giving option. to know that everything you need to thrive is inside you right now is a powerful thing. but harnessing it and finding that power of self-acceptance isn't an easy task.

Loving yourself takes work. you will have to fight against many forces telling you that you are not good enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough. But darlings, you have to set yourselves free. body-shaming will get you nowhere. when I tell a client that he or she has gotten stronger/leaner/fitter, 9 times out of 10 the compliment is rejected, dismissed. and my answer is always, "let me believe it, see it and remind you of it, until one day you start to believe it's true". Train yourself to speak kindly. not only to others but to yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror and state a positive affirmation. Be intentional. Be consistent. and one day, self-loathing will give way to self-love. and then, losing 10 pounds will simply be an improvement on something already worthy, something already beautiful, instead of a stipulation for acceptance and worth.

so go ahead, learn to love yourself this year. look at yourself in the mirror, fight against those poisonous self-doubts and criticisms and find something you love about yourself. and let that love grow and take shape, until one day, you are proud of what you see staring back at you. because, that, is worth more than your weight (whatever it may be) in gold.

 

happy valentines day lovers.

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

 

Food Facts that'll make you wish you hadn't read this:

1. A 20oz bottle of Coca-Cola has more sugar than a large Cinnabon. 2. Drying fruit depletes 30-80% of its nutrient content.

3. Grass-fed beef contains 2-5x more Omega-3s (the good stuff) than it's grain-fed counterparts.

4. Grain-fed beef has an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio that's 5x higher than grass-fed beef. Omega 6s promote inflammation, heart disease, cancer and other degenerative diseases.

5. Free range cage-free eggs have 1/3 less cholesterol, 1/4 less saturated fat, 2x more Omega-3s, 3x more vitamin E and 7x more beta-carotene than the commercially produced variety.

6. In 2011 29.9 million lbs. of antibiotics were sold in the US for meat + poultry production - nearly 4x the 7.7 million lbs. sold to treat sick humans.

7. In an average day Chipotle uses 97,000 lbs. of avocados, using 70 avocados for a single batch of guacamole.

8. On average, gluten-free foods are 242% more expensive than regular food products.

9. A 14 year long study found that diet soda drinkers were 60% more likely to develop Type II Diabetes compared to those who drink an equal amount of regular soda.

10. Aspartame + MSG - chemicals found in many processed foods - are exitotoxins, which cause neurons in the brain to excite themselves to death. Evidence suggests that they promote cancer growth and it's propensity to spread.

11. Many frozen dinners contain more than several days worth of sodium. For example, the Hungry Man turkey dinner lists salt 9 separate times on the ingredient list and contains more than 5,400mg of sodium (over 2 days worth)!

12. There's as much sugar in half a cup of Prego's tomato sauce as there is in…three Oreo's (two whole TBSPs). Sugar is listed as the second ingredient, after tomatoes.

13. Cheez Whiz does not list cheese as an ingredient.

14. Corn dextrin, a common thickener used in junk food is also used as the glue on envelops and postage stamps.

 

 

Just thought you should know! Don't be an uneducated consumer. Know what you're feeding your bodies and serving your children. Because you really are what you eat.

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

feeding a {healthy} family without breaking the bank.

how can I feed my family of 5 fresh, healthy food without going broke?  help! I cook for my family, but then I'm too tired to make something healthy for myself. 

it's easy to cook for 2. but what about an entire household of tiny mouths and sticky fingers? 

 

over the past week I've received more than a handful of requests for a blog post on how to healthfully feed + fuel a family. so ladies (and gents), here it is.

but first, let me ask you this: do your children eat healthy food? real food? unprocessed food? do they eat what you eat (assuming you eat real, whole foods)? if your answer is yes, please go start a bath for yourself and relax. because you are doing something very right. if your answer is no, why the hell not? I know, I know, I'm not a mom. I don't understand. kids are picky, selective and tiny little monsters that only eat finger foods. you can say I told you so someday. but for now, let me say this:

you choose to eat healthy, why? because you know that choosing whole foods and real ingredients will help prevent disease and premature death? because eating well makes you feel good? because you know that your body operates and performs best on real foods? so then, why would you not want those same things for your children?

despite how you might feel, you are more than a sous chef. you are the boss. you dictate what will be eaten. I may not be a mom, but I do have one. and I can vividly recall having to sit at the dinner table for over an hour, eating salmon whilst plugging my nose because I hated it. it was the grossest thing in the world. but it was good for me, and I was not leaving the table until it was finished. and now…I love salmon and look forward to eating it! if all children were allowed to eat only what they wanted, we would all have grown up on mac and cheese and been blissfully unaware that leafy greens even existed. be the adult. make one menu and adapt as necessary.

#1. Learn The Art Of Meal Planning 

You can save a lot of money by knowing what you need and how much you need for each recipe you intend to make during the week instead of buying impulsively at the supermarket. Grab a piece of paper and a pen and pull up Pinterest. Pick 7-14 recipes you want to make (choose some that incorporate the same ingredients - money saver). Write down all the ingredients needed, along with the quantities appropriate for the number of mouths to feed in your house. Budget for leftovers. ta-da! your grocery list is made. cross off anything you already have in the pantry and you've just created your weekly menu.

Breakfasts are usually easy. Pick one or two staples and stick with them. Have time to make eggs every morning? Great! Start your day with an egg and veggie scramble. If not, pre make egg muffins with chopped veggies, bacon, ham and/or cheese. Make a batch of protein pancakes and keep them in the fridge. Keep ingredients on-hand for yogurt parfaits.

Snacks just require some shopping and chopping. Veggies with hummus or guacamole. Hard boiled eggs. Homemade trail mixes. Protein balls. You want something transportable for those trips in the car to and from school, or those after-soccer-practice snacks. Again, make sure you've got the ingredients and then make a batch big enough for an army. Keep the leftovers in the fridge so there's always a healthy snack option at your fingertips.

Lunches and Dinners can be a bit more involved. I'd choose one to make in the crockpot or a wok - something super easy that you can just throw together and make enough for everyone to enjoy. If you have a bit more time to spend in the kitchen, feel free to get creative. Just try to incorporate a protein, a non-starchy veggie, a healthy fat and a complex carbohydrate.

#2. Buy + Prepare in Bulk

It's 2015. Everyone has a Costco membership, right? It should be mandated if you have 2 or more children. because seriously. buying in bulk is the greatest thing ever. Sure! A gallon of olive oil seems excessive, but it'll last you forever and you'll probably pay the same amount for a few ounces at your local grocer. You can get 6lbs. of chicken breast and make it 3 or 4 different ways! Preparing in bulk allows you to repurpose an inexpensive piece of protein in order to get the biggest bang for your buck. Toss some in the crockpot to season and toss on top of salads. Make a soup. Use it in a casserole. and don't forget, once upon a time we ate the same thing every single day. I don't' know where we got the notion that eating something more than once a week is a terrible idea, but scrap it. leftovers are your best friend.

#3. Fresh Is Best - Frozen Can Be Better

Vegetable prices can vary tremendously based on the season. Cabbage and squash tend to be affordable year round, but some of your other colourful veggies can be pricey depending on the time of year. So check the frozen selection! Frozen is just as fresh as fresh…and sometimes even fresher (because it hasn't been sitting on a truck for days on end). Make sure it doesn't have added sauces or salt, and then stock up!

#4. Get A Pet Chicken

I'm only sort of kidding. this wouldn't fly in my house. but seriously. grow your own stuff. shop local. and if you know someone with chickens, ask them if you can buy their eggs.

#5. Don't Buy Drinks

No, your kids don't need juice. Give them an orange instead. and no, they certainly don't need sodas and other sugary beverages. consider it an investment in their dental health. Drink water.

I only have one mouth to feed, but for those superheros among you, you are not alone. Here are some links to great moms who do it all:

http://www.thebettermom.com/bi-weekly-meal-plans/

http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/recipes/healthy-eating/superfoods/healthy-eating-planner-31-days-of-superfoods/

http://wellnessmama.com/1612/full-week-meal-plan-recipes-shopping-list/

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

the gift that keeps on giving: Fat Loss Cookbook

writing and nutrition are two of my favourite things. this past fall I decided to mush the two together to create the Fat Loss Cookbook. after hearing "I'm so tired of eating the same things all the time. how can I add variety and still eat well?" more than a million times, I decided to write a book that compiles a bunch of really great recipes, adjusted for the most fat-burning potential. there are so many delicious and mouth-watering recipes out there…but if you're going to spend the time to make them, you want to know that a. they taste damn good, and b., they're not adding to your waistline. am I right? I made it as easy as 1,2,3. I found the recipes. I adjusted and modified where necessary to promote fat loss and cut excess calories. I taste tested the recipes. and then I computed the macronutrients so you know EXACTLY what you're putting into your body. can it get any easier? aside from me coming to your house to cook for you, I just did it all little fitness bunnies. 

If you like to eat. or you know someone who likes to eat. and likes to eat well. the Fat Loss Cookbook is probably one of the best gifts you could give them this year. I know everyone in my family will be getting one!

Here are a few of the comments clients have shared with me thus far:

"Made the slow-cooker black bean tacos…fantastic! The whole family loved them. On the menu this week…balsamic pork roast and unstuffed cabbage rolls. Great work Nicole. You're the best!"

"On the menu this week: quinoa stuffed peppers, crunchy top apple baked oatmeal, creamy broccoli white bean soup, turkey burgers and quinoa chicken parmesan! Love the book!"

"I absolutely love the cookbook. I bought one for our household and then bought two more to gift to my family! What a great idea!"

I'd love to hear what you think and which recipes your family loves!

Cookbooks are available for purchase! Give the gift that keeps on giving. Contact me at [email protected] if you're interested!

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

 

 

 

 

Lower Your Body Fat % With These 10 Easy Steps:

1. Drink a glass of water with every meal and snack.

Depending on your age and gender, your body is made up of somewhere between 55-65% water. If that’s the case (and, I just told you that it is) it confuses me as to why people think it’s okay to ignore hydration. And no, alcohol doesn’t count. And neither does fruit juice (because, let’s face it, that stuff is just less-fizzy soda pop).  You know what does count? Water. Drink it.

 2. Eat more.

Our bodies were designed to receive fuel and run efficiently. Know what happens when we’re forced to run on minimal amounts of food for long periods of time? Your metabolism slows down in order to conserve energy and fat storage is switched ON. Know what mechanism is a big freaking deal when it comes to fat loss? Your metabolism. So, yeah, you need to eat adequately (and nutritiously). start by adding a cup or two of vegetables at every meal if you want to be a lean, mean, fat burning machine.

 3. Make it a priority to get 7-8 hours of sleep.

When sleep is shortchanged, your hormones get all out-of-whack. Cortisol and stress hormone levels are elevated and can lead to cravings for comfort foods. Grehlin (the hunger hormone) is increased and leptin (the satiety hormone) is decreased. All that to say, you on little sleep, turn into one cranky little comfort-food seeking monster, who, if left unchecked could turn into a chubbie little comfort-food seeking monster. Prioritize your sleep and you positively change your progress.

 4. Lift weights. Lift heavy weights.

Imagine this: if you added a little over 3 pounds of lean muscle to your frame, you would have the potential to burn an additional 1,050 calories a week, workouts unaccounted for. That’s crazy! And no, just because you have muscle doesn’t mean you need to get “big”. Replace body fat with lean muscle tissue by eating right and lifting smart and you’ve basically just turned yourself into an incinerator. Burning calories like it’s your job.

** Likely side effect to lifting weights: you’ll get stronger. Be warned.

 5. Get cho’ fiber.

Studies show that increasing fiber consumption can encourage fat burning by as much as 30%. Yowza. And all from eating more veggies and flaxseed! Shoot for about 25 grams of fiber per day. Keep things running smoothly, in more ways than one (yep. I just went there).

 6. Develop a liking for green tea.

Green tea is the most natural fat-burner available. Toss in a little lemon and you’ve just blunted your bodies insulin response – meaning your body is less likely to store food as fat. BAM! Can your cup of coffee do that for you?

 7. Stress less.

But seriously. Remember that hormone cortisol we were talking about? Well when you have high amounts of stress, you have high amounts of cortisol. And when you have cortisol in large amounts, you can pretty much bet that you’ll have belly fat in large amounts too. Do yourself a favor and de-stress. Take a long walk or a soothing bath. Delegate a task and learn how to say "no". Don’t try taking on the world, let’s face it - you don’t have time for that anyway.

 8. Do what your momma told you, and eat your veggies.

We’re always looking for the “magic pill”, the “quick fix” that will make us all lean and beautiful. Well folks, the secret is staring you in the face every time you walk through the produce isle. Vegetables: loaded with antioxidants, filled with fiber (see point #5), and chock full of healthy good-for-you vitamins: potassium, folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin C...you get the idea. There’s absolutely no reason for you not to eat them. They can be made a million different ways, you have a million different options to choose from and they give you the biggest BANG for your calorie BUCK.

3 red peppers = 100 calories.

the consequence: 300% of your vitamin C intake, great source of vitamin B6 and magnesium, support night vision, help to prevent certain types of cancer (e.g. prostate and lung).

8 peanut M&Ms = 100 calories

the consequence: sweet tooth satisfaction and an increased risk for diabetes, obesity and cavities.

 9. Stop pointing your finger at stupid stuff.

“Eggs are bad for cholesterol”, “milk makes you gain weight”, “fruit makes you fat”. No sweethearts, those things have been around forever. Stop blaming the old stuff and start looking at the new stuff. We didn’t have an obesity epidemic before things like McDonalds, Krispy Kreme, Lays, Coca Cola and Entenmanns came along. So maybe those extra pounds we’re holding onto as a nation aren’t from starting our day with healthy fats and protein, but rather, from finishing our days on the couch with our greasy fingers in a bag of {insert snack of choice here}.

 10. Be consistent.

There are a million ways to get from point A to point B. No one RIGHT way to lose weight, no one RIGHT way to lower your body fat percentage. If you want to lift weights, lift weights. If you want to keep taking zumba classes, take zumba classes. Don’t try something only to bail a week later. Don’t change your life so radically that it never becomes a true habit. Just find something that makes your life better and do it. Then, keep doing it.

 

Do these 10 things and you'll have a lower body fat percentage. you'll also probably be the healthiest, happiest version of you you've ever been. if it doesn't work, well, it'll work. #promise.

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

"I hate my body" is keeping us fat.

91% of women are unhappy with their bodies + resort to some form of extreme dieting/exercise routine in pursuit of the 'ideal body',   and only 5% of women naturally possess the body type most often portrayed by Americans in the media. 

 

ladies, we have a problem. it's called positive body image. we have none.

body image: how one sees herself when looking in the mirror; encompassing ones beliefs about her body, how one feels about her height, weight and shape, and how one feels IN her body.

negative body image: a distorted perception of ones shape. the belief that ones body size/shape is a sign of personal failure and unattractive when compared to others, often accompanied by feelings of shame, self-consciousness and anxiety.

positive body image: a clear, true perception of ones shape. appreciation of ones body along with the recognition that physical appearance does not dictate personal value, often accompanied by feelings of confidence and comfort.

we are surrounded by the message that our bodies exists purely for the envy and pleasure of other people. as women, our job [according to the media] is to satisfy our significant others, look great in clothes off-the-rack and make other women jealous. and because that's the case, we spend our lives making choices that promise to make us "thin", "skinny" or "attractive". forget about doing something because it will keep us healthy and agile well into our grey-haired years, or because we might actually enjoy it. there is the occasional "confidence is sexy" message touted to the masses. it's allllll about the bass, right!? but are we pursuing confidence because it's appealing to other people and makes us more attractive in the eyes of those around us? or because it's good for our minds, bodies, and our hearts?

on a regular basis we are bombarded with messaging that tells us that our main duties [as women] are to be desirable, please others and attract men. get rid of all of your body hair! keep your skin wrinkle free! get rid of those love handles! do everything humanly possible - and maybe even some questionable inhumane things - to fit into those skinny jeans! because oh my goodness, otherwise someone might think you're less than worthy. of what? I have no idea.

your relentless pursuit of that 'bikini body', 'beach ready butt', or 'supermodel legs' probably won't lead to a fulfilling relationship with your body image, and it probably won't lead to a sustainable and effective workout routine either. eating grapefruit for 47 days straight or drinking only green juices won't give you a greater sense of self or do anything for your confidence. you'll just be a cranky lady whose pooping her brains out every other hour. all in the name of beauty! I don't know about you, but that's not the definition of beauty that I aspire to live up to.

so where to go from here - try establishing your goals: fitness, nutrition, health and otherwise, based on your own objectives, not those society wants for you. forget eating for a six-pack and just eat well. don't workout to get skinny, just workout to feel well. don't live your life in the pursuit of a magazine cover body, just live well. you just might find that you feel better about who you are, how you look, and what your body can DO. Our culture has conditioned us all to believe that being healthy is no fun at all. well no kidding! starving yourself and being a slave to the elliptical sounds absolutely terrible! what do you love? what feels good? hiking? do it. swimming? yes. lifting weights? go for it girlfriend! having a body, respecting your body, and maybe even one day loving your body, feels really damn good.

so let's stop looking outside of ourselves to accept what we should look like, what we should do to get there and how we should feel about ourselves. look inward. find things that are fun, rewarding and life enhancing and do more of THAT.

your body is amazing. your body can do amazing things. yes, it's imperfect and might wobble a little at times, or maybe your legs get little bumps and ripples when you walk, or your belly rolls when you sit down. but that's okay. your size doesn't dictate who you are, but your strength, that does.

"what are you going to do, diet every day to make people happy? that's just dumb."  - Jennifer Lawrence 

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

leaner + sexier by 2015. the 30 Day Challenge.

how many times has "lose 10#", "eat healthier" or "go to the gym" been at the top of your New Years resolution list? and just how well has that worked out for you so far? if it's been a resolution for more than a few years running, chances are it's too lofty of a goal and will never happen. #sorrysweetheart #coldhardtruth. so what are you going to do about it? well, first, I'd suggest tossing New Years resolutions out the window. don't get me wrong, I'm all for self-improvement, but waiting for a new calendar year to start all the tens of things we want to change about ourselves, our lives, our careers, etc. is just…well, foolish. why not adopt a resolution right now? if we gave ourselves one resolution each month (instead of trying to tackle all 12 on January 1st), we'd see quite a few more of our goals become actualities. but the New Year just seems like the perfect fresh start, a new beginning…I'm a very linear person, blah blah blah. well, New Years Day is a Thursday this year and tomorrow's a Monday, so ha! there's no better time to start than the present.

but more to the point. I'm embarking on a 30 Day Challenge, inspired by Molly Galbraith from Girls Gone Strong, and I'm inviting you to join me.

the purpose: to start 2015 healthier and happier!

the proposal: each week you adopt a SINGLE healthy habit and commit to mastering it for 7 days. by December 31st, we'll be lean, sexy, and confident people who have adopted sustainable diet and mindset techniques.

but here's the thing…we're not all starting at the same place. there are those of us who struggle with eating fast food, and those of us who don't. there are those of us who have already adopted healthy diet strategies, and those of us who haven't. there are those of us who know what cruciferous vegetables are and those of us who don't…you get the point. your starting point might be different from mine, or the person reading this after you. so, in an effort to meet everyone where they are, I'm introducing levels to the 30 Day Challenge.

Level No. 1: you are new to nutrition. you don't regularly practice healthy eating behaviours and may or may not know when the last time you ate a vegetable was. but you're willing to work for change!

Level No. 2: you have mastered the basics. you try to eat vegetables, you know that spinach trumps iceberg lettuce, but you still have a lot of room to grow when it comes to lasting lifestyle change.

Level No. 3: you practice good nutrition. you eat well, preparing most of your own food, and try hard to make whole foods a priority. but let's face it, there's always room to grow. nobody eats kale all the time.

What level are you? Which category can you best relate to? As we race through December, your job is to choose the nutrition goal that will most successfully impact your dietary behaviour in a positive way. if something is too difficult, the challenge won't be successful. conversely,  if something doesn't present you with a challenge, it won't present you with any change.

The 30 Day Challenge 

Week 1. 

Level No. 1. Eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full

Level No. 2. Eat when you're hungry and stop at 90% fullness (you're satisfied).

Level No. 3. Eat when you're hungry, stop at 90% fullness, and take at least 20 minutes to consume every meal/snack.

When was the last time you ate something simply because it was put in front of you? or because it looked good? Learn to listen to your bodies hunger and fullness cues. Eat slowly, savour every bite and stop when satisfied.

Week 2. 

Level No. 1. Eat a fist-size of vegetables with every meal.

Level No. 2. Eat 4-6 fists of vegetables every day.

Level No. 3. Eat 1 fist (1 cup) of each colour vegetables daily (green red, white and purple)

Raw, roasted, steamed…as long as it's not breaded or covered in butter,  you can eat it! Make taking your vitamins fun and easy. Add spinach and broccoli to your eggs in the morning, toss something new in your salad at lunch (radishes, cabbage, etc.) and swap a starch for a veggie (e.g. cauliflower-rice, spaghetti squash).

Week 3. 

Level No. 1. Eat a palm-size of protein with every meal.

Level No. 2. Eat a palm of protein with every meal AND snack.

Level No. 3. Eat 1g of protein per lb. of body weight daily (e.g. 150# person consumes 150 grams/day).

Poultry, fish, red meat, eggs, protein powder, Greek yogurt, whatever! Protein keeps you satiated and helps fuel your lean, sexy muscle, which, in turn burns fat! The palm of your hand is roughly the size of 4-8oz of protein…the bigger the person, the bigger the palm, the bigger your protein needs!

Week 4. 

Level No. 1. Eat healthy fats daily.

Level No. 2. Eat 3 servings (1-2 thumb-sizes) of healthy fats per day.

Level No. 3. Eat 1-2 thumbs of healthy fats with each meal and snack.

Flaxseed, beef, fatty fish (e.g. salmon), coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, avocado, etc. Fat is filling and helps your body absorb vitamins and reduce sugar cravings. You have to eat fat to lose fat!

By the end of the month you will be:

- eating 3-5 cups of fibrous, leafy vegetables per day

- eating quality sources of protein with each meal and snack

- choosing healthy fats to pair with each meal

- listening to your bodies hunger and fullness cues, and no longer falling prey to overeating or emotional eating

- eating fewer, high-calorie, processed foods

So who's with me? Do you want to be healthier, leaner, feeling stronger and more confident by January 1st? Don't be a victim of holiday malaise and weight gain. That's so cliche. Let's be advocates for our health and start 2015 healthier (and sexier) than ever.

Make sure you check in with the Big Hips Little Hips Facebook page. I'll also be posting 30 Reasons to Love Your Body - one each day - for the month of December. Because if you don't love your body, why would you expect to value fuelling it and feeding it appropriately?

Email me at [email protected] if you want weekly updates/accountability throughout the 30 Day Challenge. accountability is everything. if no one knows how you feel, if no one sees what you do, if no one hears what you think…why change?

tell someone. find a coach. be accountable.

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

Ditch the Diet.

it's Monday and you're starting a cleanse. or, it's the New Year, and you're going on a low-carb-eat-only-vegetables-and-grapefruit diet. heck, it's a new day and you've decided to cut out all of your guilty pleasures and sweet obsessions. read as: no more drive through stops or late-night dates with a gallon of ice-cream. we've all been there. that pivotal moment where you go on a diet overhaul only to all-too-soon veer off course and land yourself in one of the following scenarios: a. you, binge eating every sweet and salty thing you can get your hands on. sticky fingers, check. guilty conscience, check.

b. you, hating yourself. but seriously. now you have to start all over again…tomorrow.

c. you, overweight and over dieting. it's too much work, amiright?

 

when was the last time you became awesome at something overnight? case and point. but I'll expand on that for those of you who still believe you should be able to go to sleep with motivation and wake up to perfection. if we can't rely solely on motivation and will power (both of which are finite things, that will wane over time), what can we rely on? habit. by incrementally changing one small thing at a time, we take small, consistent steps toward our goals. will it happen quickly? not a chance. but let me ask you this - would you rather reach your goals quickly and be happy with yourself for a second before inevitably falling off the wagon, or would you rather be happy with yourself forever, regardless of how long it took you to get there, because you adopted a different way of living altogether? either answer is okay. if you want to keep yo-yo dieting and trying every up-and-coming trend, go for it. but I'm tired for you. I'd encourage you to instead chose one small goal. maybe you start with drinking more water, maybe you center your meals around protein sources, perhaps you'll start by taking a multi vitamin…whatever it may be, it needs to be small and sustainable.

before starting anything, you should ask yourself: can I do this for the rest of my life? if the answer is no, why are you doing it now? temporary satisfaction? okay. but wouldn't you rather have long-term gain?

 

Here are a few small, but great lessons from Fitness Professionals around the web, courtesy of Girls Gone Strong:

Nia Shanks: Learn to let go. "I stopped focusing on the minutiae and instead focused on the few basic principles that produced the majority of results." Like eating more veggies, eating only when hungry, etc. Keep the big things big, and the small things small.

Emily Socolinsky: Start your day with a glass of water with lemon and you've only got 7 to go! Staying hydrated is critical to optimal performance and weight loss!

Julia Ladewski: Timing of carbohydrates is important when focusing on body composition and athletic performance. "I place my carbs around my workouts - before and after." Carbohydrates are our bodies main energy source, so when we eat a bowl of oatmeal around a workout, our body will pull those carbs for energy…energy we don't need if we're just sitting around doing the sedentary thing.

Jen Sinkler: "The smallest habit change I made was upping my protein intake." Protein will keep you fuller for longer, encourage muscle growth and put you on the fast track to fat loss. Protein should be a vital component to every meal.

Jilian Teta: Shedding the "all or nothing" mindset and not allowing oneself to be a victim of ones beliefs about food. The world becomes a lot kinder when you lose negative mindsets surrounding nutrition, such as "I can't eat that", or "this will make me fat". Live your life in the 90/10 zone. 90% of the time you're on your A game, eating well and feeling proud. 10% of the time you make room for those unplanned meals and spontaneous treats.

Joy Victoria: "Chill the f- out." Step back and take a look at the bigger picture. If you aren't enjoying the process in some capacity, you're doing it wrong.

Sirena Bernal: Slow down and eliminate distractions when you're eating. If you honor your food, your food will honor your body. Eating mindfully helps to encourage fullness queues and aids in digestion.

 

So, more water. eliminate distractions. and chill out. Sounds sort of…easy, no? I'm not claiming that it is, but it's a heckuva lot easier than crashing and burning a half dozen times a year only to be 5# heavier by Christmas. stick with small and sustainable and you'll be feeling better, looking better, lifting better and living your life. not dieting. not starving. not restricting. but rather, it will just be what you do, how you eat.

Ditch dieting. Ditch deprivation. Stick with small and sustainable habits and you'll find success.

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

Time: the [not so] secret to healthy eating.

A new study conducted by  The American Journal of Preventive Medicine (if you don't know already, they're a pretty big deal. #crediblesource) revealed that people who spend more time preparing and cooking meals are more likely to have healthier diets. Those who spent the least amount of time in the kitchen also spent the most amount of money on food away from the home and were more likely to eat out at restaurants and fast food chains. Not exactly rocket science. If you aren't cooking and preparing food at home, you'll have to get it elsewhere. But the cool part - when it came to weekly food spending (grocery shopping, eating out, etc.), those who prepared more meals at home spent, on average, $7 less for each family member per week. sooo…all that talk about healthy eating being more expensive is trash. BAM! excuse destroyed.

The study highlights the need for more nutrition education and teaching on how to prepare meals quickly and more cost effectively. I get it, you've got more important things to do than watch quinoa boil, but hey, if it keeps you healthier and saves you money, it's pretty hard to turn down. Take an hour or two out of your weekend and sit down and decide what you want to eat for the week - breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks - then make a grocery list. Hit up your family owned supermarket, or, you know, wherever you get your food shopping on, and stock up. Then, don't' just unload the groceries, but start the prepping process…wash and chop veggies, cook up some easy proteins, pre-package snacks, etc. And make BIG batches, so that you can have meals readily available for leftovers. Think of it as an investment in your week.

Fortunately for you, because I love this stuff, I've created a Kitchen Workout tutorial:

What Do I Need?

-       Use of an oven/grill

-       Pots + Pans

-       Cooking utensils

-       Groceries

-       An hour or two of free time

What should I make?

The easy answer: whatever healthy food you want to eat!

Step 1. Go grocery shopping.

Step 2. Get rid of your family members and all other distractions. Lock yourself in the kitchen for at least 60 minutes.

Step 3. Make a plan. What meals do you want for the week? How much do you need to make to last you until your next food prep?

Step 4. Get to work!

 

Suggestions:

PROTEINS:

-       Grilled chicken breasts (marinate with balsamic/Italian dressing)

-       Salmon (season with dill + lemon juice)

-       Flank steak

-       Shrimp (marinate with pesto + olive oil)

-       Ground turkey breast (season with basil, oregano + coconut aminos/low-sodium soy sauce)

-       Hardboiled eggs

-       “Undeviled eggs” – hardboiled egg whites stuffed with hummus and/or guacamole

-       Pre-portion Greek yogurt + cottage cheese into Tupperware containers

 

CARBS:

-       Brown rice (made with low-sodium vegetable/chicken broth)

-       Quinoa (made with low-sodium vegetable/chicken broth)

-       Sweet potato fries (season with olive oil + paprika)

-       Overnight oats (place oats in a sealable jar with milk, Greek yogurt, fruit, nuts and honey. Refrigerate overnight.)

 

VEGGIES:

-       - Wash + chop veggies used for breakfast scrambles + salads (e.g. onions, peppers, carrots, celery, etc.)

-       Roasted asparagus/broccoli/brussel sprouts/cabbage (season with lemon pepper + olive oil)

-       Stir fry (e.g. peppers, onions, carrots, snap peas seasoned with coconut aminos/low-sodium soy sauce)

-

Easy Recipe Ideas: 

Slow Cooker Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Butternut Squash

Ingredients:

-       4 chicken breasts (4oz each)

-       2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” pieces

-       2 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1” pieces

-       1 cup chicken broth

-       2 garlic cloves, minced

-       1/3 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

-       1/3 fresh basil, finely chopped

-       Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Directions (to cook):

  1. Place all ingredients into a slow cooker and place lid on top. Cook for 4 hours. Serve.

Directions (to freeze):

  1. Combine all ingredients and put into a gallon size freezer bag.
  2. Freeze.
  3. Defrost overnight in refrigerator and pour contents into slow cooker.
  4. Cook on low for 4 hours.

Servings: 4 Calories: 415 Fat: 3g Protein: 57g Carbs: 36g

 

Fall Flavors Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

-       1 cup dry quinoa, cooked according to package instructions

-       2 TBSP honey

-       ¼ cup lemon juice

-       1 tsp Dijon mustard

-       3 TBSP olive oil

-       1 cup Granny Smith apple, diced

-       1/3 cup golden raisins

-       1/3 cup dried cranberries

-       ¼ cup red onion, diced

-       1/3 cup parsley, chopped

-       ½ cup walnuts, chopped

-       2 cup chicken breast, cooked and chopped into 1” pieces

-       Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Directions:

  1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together honey, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Slowly whisk olive oil until blended.
  4. In a large bowl, toss together cooled quinoa, dressing and remaining ingredients.
  5. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Serves: 6 Calories: 487 Fat: 14g Protein: 52g Carbs: 38g

 

Apple Streusel Egg Muffins

Ingredients:

-       3 large green apples, chopped (aprox. 2 cups)

-       3 TBSP warm water

-       1 ½ TBSP butter (or coconut oil)

-       9 large eggs

-       3 TBSP coconut milk

-       1 ½ TBSP coconut flour

-       ¼ tsp baking soda

-       2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium skillet, sauté the apples, water, 1 ½ tsp cinnamon and butter until the apples are the consistency of chunky applesauce or apple pie filling.
  3. Allow mixture to cool before combining with egg mixture.
  4. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, coconut milk, coconut flour, ½ tsp of cinnamon, baking soda and salt until well combined.
  5. Add cooled apples, reserving ¼ cup for garnish.
  6. Spoon egg and apple mixture into parchment lined muffin tips (approximately ¼ cup each).
  7. Gently spoon about one teaspoon of the remaining apple mixture onto the top of each muffin.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes.

Serves: 12 Calories: 100 Fat: 6g Protein: 5g Carbs: 6g

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

Quinoa. sweet + savory.

Quinoa. [keen-waa]. n. a grain crop grown for it's edible seeds. or, better known as that stuff that sort of tastes like rice but looks like tiny pasta. it's high in protein and fiber, gluten-free, vegetarian-friendly and contains all 9 essential amino acids. 1 cup of cooked quinoa (1/2 cup uncooked) contains 222 calories. 4g of fat. 39g of carbohydrates. 5g of fiber, and 8g of protein. Coined as a 'superfood', quinoa dates back three to four thousand years ago when it was known as, "the gold of the Incas" as it was believed to increase the stamina of their warriors. I don't know about you, but being unmatched in physical strength and mental endurance sounds pretttty darn appealing. am I right!? but really…why eat quinoa?

- Quinoa is one of the most protein rich grains, containing all 9 essential amino acids and 8 grams of belly-filling protein per cup.

- Quinoa contains almost 2x as much fiber as any other grain (e.g. rice, corn, wheat), helping to prevent heart disease, reduce high blood pressure and diabetes and aiding in weight loss.

- Quinoa contains both iron and magnesium, helping keep your red blood cells healthy and aiding in blood sugar regulation.

- Quinoa contains lysine which helps with tissue growth and repair.

- Quinoa is high in Riboflavin (B2) which helps to improve energy metabolism within the brain and muscle cells.

 

But how do I make it!? 

Easy. The cooking process for quinoa is very similar to rice in that, all you need is a pot, some water or stock, a measuring cup and BAM, you're good to go. I prefer to use low-sodium vegetable/chicken/beef stock or bullion to add some flavor to my quinoa, but if all you have is water, that works too! The secret to good quinoa is all about the flavoring. The grain itself has a slightly earthy taste, but quickly absorbs the flavors of the ingredients you add to the mix. One of my absolute favorite quinoa recipes is as follows:

Mexican Summer Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

- 2 cups quinoa, uncooked and rinsed

- 4 cups water

- 1-2 tsp low-sodium beef bullion

- 1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained

- 1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved

- 1 avocado, pitted and diced

- the juice of 1 lime

- basil, to taste

- sea salt and pepper, to taste

- optional add ins: chicken breast, feta cheese, corn

 

Directions:

1. In a large saucepan on high heat, bring 4 cups of water and 1-2 tsp of bullion to a boil.

2. Once boiling, add 2 cups of uncooked quinoa. Stir.

3. Reduce to medium heat, cover, and let cook for approximately 12 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.

4. Once absorbed and the quinoa has begun to spiralize (little strings will appear), reduce to low heat and continue stirring for an additional minute or two.

5. While quinoa is cooking, in a large bowl, combine beans, tomatoes, avocado and any desired add ins.

6. Once quinoa has cooked to a fluffy texture, remove from heat and add to other ingredients. Mix to combine.

7. Squeeze lime juice on top and mix thoroughly to incorporate. Add basil, sea salt and pepper, if desired.

8. Enjoy hot or cold!

I love making a big batch of this quinoa salad to keep in the fridge for quick meals throughout the week. I'll often add it to a bed of spinach with some grilled chicken and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. The best part about it is it's versatility! You can keep it vegetarian, you can add feta for a bigger kick, you can mix in a protein of your choosing (chicken, shrimp, etc.) for a bigger, more nutrient-dense meal, you can stuff it in a cooked sweet potato…the options are endless!

I also really enjoy this sweet quinoa salad with dried cranberries and pistachios by my dear friend Anne over at The Fountain Avenue Kitchen. yum. it's the perfect side dish to complement a savory meal.

So even if you don't know how to pronounce it, you should give it a try. It can be made 100 different ways and it will put hair on your chest (so to speak). How can you go wrong!? What's your favorite quinoa recipe?

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

 

Is Your Relationship [with food] Unhealthy?

So you're in this unhealthy relationship - all the signs are there - what do you do? If you're smart and have any self respect, you sit down (face to face), sever the ties and say, "sorry sweetheart, we're just not good for each other". But what if your relationship with food is unhealthy? You sleep with that mistress at least three times a day and you can't exactly walk away on amicable terms, can you? There's a paper thin line between being conscientious about what we feed our bodies and being overly restrictive and compulsive about what we eat or don't eat. So, do you have a healthy relationship with food?  

People in healthy [food] relationships:

1. Eat mindfully. 

Strangely enough, our bodies have these great innate cues that tell us when we need food. But when was the last time you ate in order to feed your body as opposed to eating simply because you wanted to, or because you had a craving? That's like changing the batteries in your fire detector before that annoying warning beep sounds…that's ludicrous! No one does that. So why would you fuel up before your body sends out it's 'feed me' warning signs? Listen to your body and be mindful of all your senses. Our bodies are well designed machines that sometimes get overruled by our easily-influenced and hormonal brains.

2. Follow the "everything in moderation" rule.

Yep. Everything. Food is not intrinsically "good" or "bad". Sure, some foods are better for you than others, but will you get fat or develop diabetes because you eat processed, chemical-laden potato chips once every few weeks? No. Will you get fat and/or develop diabetes if you eat them every day? Yeah, maybe. Eating is a way to nourish your body - nothing more, nothing less. Some foods fit the bill, while others don't, but that doesn't mean they are "forbidden foods". It just means you shouldn't eat them all the time.

3. Know that timing matters. 

Is is bad to eat chocolate? Well, no. But is it better to eat a piece of chocolate after you've satisfied your hunger with a belly-filling, well-balanced meal as opposed to snacking on the sweet treat when you're so hungry you could gnaw off your own arm. Think of the following situations. 1st. You get home from a hard day at work and you're starving. You order a pizza. After waiting 30 minutes for it to arrive, you dive in and binge on half the pie. 2nd. You get home from a hard day at work and you're starving. You order a pizza. While waiting for it to arrive you decide to enjoy a healthy belly-filling salad/soup, followed by a slice  (or two) of pizza upon arrival. Who wins in that situation? Clearly, he/she who chose the path less travelled - the 2nd option.

4. Eat only when they are physically hungry.

Emotional hunger is the devil. It's your brains way of applying a temporary balm to emotional stress or anxiety. The downside: usually you reach for comforting high-calorie foods that only make you feel worse about yourself after the fact. Dr. Edward Abrahms, a clinical psychologist and author of Emotional Eating, says, "when we use food to try to soothe an emotion, we mask what that emotion is trying to teach us, and instead replace it with regret or guilt for eating whatever we grabbed."

5. Stop eating when they are comfortably full. 

Have you ever eaten a meal, satisfied your hunger and then thought, now I need something sweet. That is not true hunger. We've become so good at learning to drown out our bodies hunger and fullness cues. Quiet your mind and listen for those messages. Your body changes with every bite. Pay it some attention.

6. Don't keep tempting foods in the house. 

It's easier to say no to temptation when it isn't screaming your name from the freezer. If it's causing you to stumble, move it out of the house. It's a much healthier habit to drive somewhere to get ice-cream once a week as opposed to battling with yourself on a nightly basis about cracking open that half gallon of chunky monkey.

7. Don't sit down with the whole bag. 

What more can be said, really? If you sit down with the entire bag, there's a very likely possibility that you will consume the entire bag…or at least more than you should. It's amazing how much that probably decreases when you sit down with a single serving and put the bag away.

8. Know the difference between a "snack" and a "treat". 

Snack (n.): a small amount of food eaten between meals.

Treat (n.): an item that is out of the ordinary and gives pleasure.

Chocolate is not a snack.

9. Give themselves permission to enjoy eating. 

It's not simply about being fed, but rather, nourished. Are you taking the time to nourish your body? Or are you scarfing down a to-go lunch in the car in a record-breaking 3 minutes? It's not about feeling guilty because you took time out of your day to eat instead of doing something else. It's about truly believing that you are worth sitting down and eating food.

10. Don't "make up" for a meal. 

Have you ever spent an hour on the treadmill because you ate something you shouldn't? Or maybe you've skipped an entire meal because you overrate at your last one? These are unhealthy behaviors stemming from an unhealthy relationship with food. Yes, you might occasionally overeat, but a healthier way of coping would be do have a lighter meal later in the day - don't go to the extreme of beating your body up to compensate for a few extra calories.

11. Don't eat to see the scale change. 

Ideally, you eat what makes you feel well. You'd eat what gave you energy and eliminated your acid reflux….you wouldn't eat simply to see a number on a piece of equipment drop. What are you serving? Your body? Or the scale?

12. Are not afraid of feeling hungry.

Do you know what hungry feels like? When was the last time you were truly hungry? Hunger is not an emergency.

13. Don't let food concerns interfere with every day life. 

The secret: balance. Don't let this information overwhelm you. Being too strict and regimented can sometimes lead to disordered thoughts and behaviors. When was the last time you said no to life because of calories…either because you had a date at the gym to burn them or because you didn't want to have to say no to eating them in front of your friends? If you're missing out on normal social engagements in order to maintain a certain lifestyle, you might need to reevaluate your relationship with food.

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

 

RECIPE: Caveman Chili over Cauli-Rice

Last night my nose was running, my cheeks were slightly flushed and my tongue was on fire. A weird strain of the flu? Nope. Just a delicious bowl of Caveman Chili. For dinner last night, I served this dish over cauli-rice (one of my favourite sides ever) and today I happily had the leftovers on top of a salad. Mmm mmmm.
Serves: 8
Ingredients:
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 pounds of ground beef (or turkey)
  • 14 ounces tomatoes, canned, drained, chopped
  • 4 ounces green chilies, canned, chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (more/less, to taste)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup beef or chicken broth
Cauliflower Rice
  • 2 heads of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 TBSP coconut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • basil and ground pepper, to taste
Directions:
Caveman Chili
  1. In a medium sized saute pan, saute onions, peppers, and garlic until they become soft and translucent.
  2. Add crumbled ground beef/turkey and cook until brown.
  3. Drain off excess fat and transfer the meat and chopped vegetables to crock pot.
  4. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  5. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
  6. Enjoy and serve!
Cauliflower Rice
  1. Heat coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Cut cauliflower into small bite-sized florets. Toss into a food processor (You can also use a cheese grater).
  3. Once cauliflower has taken on a rice-like consistency, add to skillet.
  4. Add minced garlic, basil and pepper (or seasonings of your choice), stirring frequently.
  5. Once cauliflower softens and browns slightly on the edges, remove from heat and serve under a heaping ladle full of chili!

We love to use this recipe in our house because it's something you can toss together in the crock pot before work, forget about all day and have dinner ready in less than 20 minutes! Easy to make and easy to eat. This is a perfect meal to make a large batch of to store in the fridge for the week. You can always toss in extra veggies or omit a few if you don't have them on hand and it still promises to be filling and savoury.

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

A Slow, Sweet Death: Artificial Sweeteners

We all know sugar is bad for us. Large quantities can cause inflammation, obesity, coronary heart disease, blah blah blah. Who eats real sugar anymore, right? We all reach for those little colourful packets that sweeten things up real fast for ABSOLUTELY ZERO CALORIES! read in your best infomercial voice. It turns out that those artificial sweeteners may be killing you faster than the real stuff would. But is that really surprising? I mean, we're comparing artificial; fake, chemical-laden substitutes to real, from the cane, sugar. No wonder our bodies hate it! It's our brains we have to convince. "When we ingest these chemicals, our bodies need to work extra hard to metabolize them, leaving less resources to detoxify our bodies from the many chemicals we get exposed to in the environment," says Dr. Jeffrey Morrison, physician and nutrition adviser for Equinox. Wouldn't it be just spectacular if we could enjoy our coffees, sweet and creamy for a 0 calorie cost? Even better if we could enjoy a fizzy can of pop without having to add it to our daily calorie tally? We can, and so, we do. But the truth is…we're actually making ourselves fatter by consuming these products with sugar substitutes. But how!? There's nothing in it! It says so on the packaging!!! It wouldn't be the 1st time our good intentions got slapped in the face by false advertising. Artificial sweeteners stimulate our bodies to produce insulin, a weight gain hormone, causing the body to store calories as fat. So maybe think twice before stirring that sickeningly sweet sugar into you're cuppa joe tomorrow morning.

The Worst Offenders:

1. Aspartame. Sold under names like NutraSweet® and Equal®, aspartame is one of the more controversial sweeteners on the market. Aspartame is made from a cocktail of unfamiliar ingredients, such as phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol. Methanol breaks down in the body to become formaldehyde, which is then converted into formic acid which can lead to metabolic acidosis - a condition resulting in disease due to too much acid in the body. BAD.

2. Sucralose. aka Splenda. Sucralose was initially developed in the 1970s by scientists who were trying to create an insecticide. Awesome, right? I bet you didn't know you were putting bug killer in your coffee. Splenda is cited as the most natural sweetener because it comes from sugar, however, during the production process, certain molecules are replaced with chlorine atoms. And while sucralose doesn't appear to have a negative effect on blood sugar, the concern is that the body might absorb some of the chlorine, thus suppressing the good bacteria in the intestines. BAD.

3. Saccharin. Those little pink packets. Sweet N' Low. Saccharin was first categorized as a carcinogen in the '70s, when research linked it to bladder cancer in lab rats. That being said, the ban was lifted in the 2000s when continuing studies showed that rats have a different urine composition than humans. Even so, I'm not taking any chances! Saccharin has zero calories and doesn't raise blood glucose levels, but is linked to weight gain. When we eat sweet food, our bodies expect calories to accompany that food, but when the body doesn't get those calories (e.g. diet soda), its looks for them elsewhere. Because of this, individuals consuming artificial sweeteners are likely to eat more calories in the end. BAD.

4. Agave Nectar. An alternative to honey, maple syrup and sugar. 1.5x sweeter than sugar and made from the agave plant. Agave nectar does have a low glycemic index level, meaning it is absorbed more slowly by the body and only causes a low spike in blood sugar. However, agave is starch-based and is not all that different from high fructose corn syrup (a no-no), shown to cause adverse health effects such as increased triglyceride levels. Agave nectar can be an acceptable sweetener IF you're buying organic, unheated agave which has been said to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and immune-boosting properties if consumed in moderation. BETTER.

5. Stevia. A South American herb that is chemical and toxin-free. Studies have shown that stevia can actually lower insulin levels! But be careful, although stevia is regarded as safe, many brands in the supermarket are blends and aren't promised to contain 100% stevia. Read the labels! BEST.

6. Xylitol. With the closest comparable taste to sugar, this sugar alcohol derived from birch bark is found in fruits and vegetables. Xylitol contains roughly 2.4 calories per gram, has 100 percent of the sweetness of table sugar. It's been demonstrated as safe for diabetics and good for dental health, however, don't use too much or you might be frequenting the loo - as it's not absorbed by the digestive tract. BEST.

Weigh your options. Maybe the 16 calories in 1 teaspoon of sugar is the better option when faced with pink, yellow and blue packets. And don't forget about natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and dates when cooking and baking! Don't feed your cancer cells along with your sweet tooth!

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

Eggs Anyone!?

Easter is here! And if your family is anything like mine you probably have a lot of eggs lying around…eggs for hiding, eggs for dying, eggs for eating (and I don't mean the chocolate kind)…so what are you going to make with all those eggs? Try these fantastic (I almost said eggsellent, but rest assured, I edited) recipes from Skinnytaste.com:

Avocado Egg Salad Servings: • Size: 1/2 cup • Calories: 154.7 • Fat: 11.7 g • Protein: 9.3 g • Carb: 4.6 g • Fiber: 3 g • 

Ingredients:

  • 4 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 4 hard boiled egg whites, chopped (discard the rest)
  • 1 medium avocado, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp light mayonnaise (I use olive oil mayo)
  • 1 tbsp fat free plain yogurt
  • 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • pinch freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Combine the egg yolks with the avocado, mayo, yogurt, chives, vinegar, salt and pepper. Mash with a fork. Combine with egg whites and adjust salt as needed. Easy as 1-2-3 and perfect for when you don't feel like cooking (or maybe you've been cooking all day and you don't feel like cooking…again). Add to salads, wraps and sandwiches.

Broccoli and Cheese Mini Egg Omelettes Servings: 4 1/2 • Size: 2 omelets • Calories: 167 • Fat: 8.5 g • Carb: 5 g • Fiber: 2.5 g • Protein: 18 g • 

Ingredients: 

  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 4 whole large eggs
  • 1 cup egg whites
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar
  • 1/4 c. grated cheese of your choice
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • cooking spray

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350°. Steam broccoli with a little water for about 6-7 minutes. When broccoli is cooked, crumble into smaller pieces and add olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well. Spray your non-stick cupcake tin with cooking spray and spoon broccoli mixture evenly into 9 tins. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites, eggs, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Pour into greased tins over broccoli until a little more than 3/4 full. Top with grated cheddar and bake for about 20 minutes. Serve immediately. Store leftovers in the refrigerator to enjoy during the week.

Guacamole Deviled Eggs Servings: 12 • Size: 1 piece • Calories: 44 • Fat: 3 g • Protein: 3 g • Carb: 2 g • Fiber: 1 g • 

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs, hard boiled 
  • 1 medium avocado
  • 2-3 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp red onion, minced
  • 1 tbsp minced jalapeno
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp diced tomato
  • pinch chile powder (for garnish)

Directions: Peel the cooled hard boiled eggs. Cut the eggs in half horizontally, and set the yolks aside. In a bowl, mash the avocado and 2 whole egg yolks; discard the rest. Mix in lime juice, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, salt and pepper and adjust to taste. Gently fold in tomato. Scoop heaping spoonfuls of the guacamole into the 12 halved eggs. Sprinkle with a little chile powder for color and enjoy. If you happen to have guacamole on-hand, this process becomes a lot easier!

Light Spinach and Feta Frittata Servings: 4 servings • Serving Size: 1/4 of frittata • Calories: 140.6 • Fat: 6.8 • Carbs: 5.5 • Fiber: 2.2 g • Protein: 15.2

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole eggs
  • 8 large egg whites
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 2 oz crumbled feta
  • 2 tbsp Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions: Squeeze all water from spinach. In a 9 inch non-stick sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and scallions and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile in a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Add salt, pepper, cheeses and spinach and mix well. Pour the mixture into the skillet and cook for approximately 10 minutes (or until egg mixture sets). Serve hot.

and for the sweet toothed foodies among us...

Chocolate Chip Clouds Servings: 30 • Serving Size: 1 cookie • Calories: 53.7 • Fat: 2.2 g • Carb: 8.4 g • Fiber: 1.7 g • Protein: 1.1 g

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:  Heat oven to 300°F. Cover cookie sheet with silpat/nonstick silicone pad. Using a mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together in large bowl at high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar a little at a time, then vanilla, beating well after each addition until you get stiff peaks, the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is glossy. Sift cocoa onto egg white mixture; gently fold until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop mixture by heaping tablespoons onto cookie sheet. Makes aprox. 30 cookies. Bake 34-40 minutes or just until dry. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet. Cool completely on wire rack. Store covered, at room temperature.

 

Have a Happy, Healthy Easter!

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

My new favourite meal. Ever.

Do you like that extra u in the title? Favourite. That's how the Brits spell it and I still have my laptop set to the English - UK setting. I'm just super classy like that. Okay. Food. The reason we've all gathered here today. As the title alludes to, I have found a new favourite recipe (or two). It's delicious. I like it so much I ate it last night for dinner and polished off the leftovers today for lunch. and get this - I was so anxious to eat it that I forgot to take pictures BOTH times. But don't freak out! I've adapted these recipes from Gina at SkinnyTaste.com so if yours looks like hers, you know you've done something right.

First, we have the warm, comforting base: Cauliflower "Fried Rice" 

And no, those are not misplaced quotation marks, because, there is absolutely zero rice in this recipe!

Ingredients: 

Servings: 4 • Portion: heaping 1 1/3 cups • Calories: 108 • Fat: 3 g • Carbs: 14 • Protein: 9 g • Sodium: 868 mg •

  • 1 medium head cauliflower, rinsed
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 large egg
  • cooking spray
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 scallions, diced, whites and greens separated (If I don't have these on hand I'll skip it)
  • 3 tbsp low sodium GF soy sauce

Directions: 

1. Coarsely chop cauliflower into florets, then place half of the cauliflower in a food processor and pulse until the cauliflower is small and has the texture of rice – don't over process or it will get mushy. 2. Set aside and repeat with the remaining cauliflower. 3. Combine egg and egg whites in a small bowl and beat with a fork. 4. Heat a large sauté pan/wok over medium heat and spray with oil. Add the eggs and cook, turning a few times until set; set aside. 5. Add the coconut oil and saute onions, scallion whites, peas and carrots and garlic about 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft. 6. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the cauliflower "rice" to the saute pan along with soy sauce. 7. Mix, cover and cook approximately 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until the cauliflower is slightly crispy on the outside but tender on the inside. 8. Add the egg then remove from heat and mix in scallion greens.

Then we have the sweet, tangy top: Stir Fried Chicken with Sugar Snap Peas + Carrots

Ingredients: 

Servings: 4 • Size: just under 1 cup • Calories: 179 • Fat: 5.6 g • Carb: 7 g  • Protein: 27 g • Sodium: 238 mg 

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp water

For the Stir Fry:

  • 1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast, sliced thin
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tsp fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated (optional)
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced

Directions: 

1. Combine soy sauce, lime juice, and water in a small bowl, mix together and set aside. 2. Heat a large wok over medium-high heat. 3. When the wok is hot, add half of the oil, then add the chicken. 4. Stir occasionally until the chicken is cooked through and browned, about 3-4 minutes. 5. Spoon the chicken to the side of the wok (or remove and set aside to prevent overcooking) and reduce heat to medium. 6. Add the remaining oil to the wok; add the garlic and ginger, stir for 20 seconds. 7. Add snap peas and carrots, stirring over medium high heat until tender crisp, about 3-4 minutes. 8. Add the soy sauce-lime mixture, mix well and cook another 30 seconds to one minute. Serve and top with fresh scallions.

 

While these are separate recipes and can be enjoyed on their own, I go one step further and serve the chicken stir fry on top of a bed of the cauliflower "fried rice". Amazzzzzing. Who wants to come over for dinner!?

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

RECIPE: Wild Caught Cod + Julienned Veggies

My mom's awesome. Case and point…she flew across state lines to nurse me back to good health this week. What a doll! One of the best things about having her home (bed buddy aside) are the delicious meals she makes for us. Last night we had filet mignon with roasted asparagus - I was so hungry I forgot to take a picture. And tonight she fed us Wild Caught Cod over Julienned Zucchini and Carrot Noodles.

I've included the recipe below 'cause I know you're all drooling.

Wild Caught Cod + Julienned Veggies:

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

- 2 cod filets (aprox. 4 ounces each)

- 2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil

- 1 tsp Bayou Cajun Seasoning

- 2 garlic cloves, minced

- ground black pepper, to taste

- 3 zucchini

- 2 large carrots

Directions:

1. Drizzle 1 TBSP of EVOO in a medium sized skillet set on medium heat. 2. Once the oil has spread, add thawed cod filets (we use frozen filets from Costco, but fresh works just as well). 3. Sprinkle Bayou Cajun seasoning (or another seasoning of your choice) on top of fish filets. Note: Cajun seasoning  has a slight punch to it, so depending on your preference you can add more or less. 4. After 4-5 minutes, flip the fish and sprinkle seasoning on top. 5. While the fish is cooking, use your julienne peeler to make your zoodles (zucchini noodles). Proceed with the carrots (coodles doesn't sound as cool). You could also use a mandolin slicer. The result will be similar but you will have ribboned noodles instead. 6. In another medium sized skillet, add the second TBSP of EVOO and, over medium heat, sautee your julienne vegetables. WATCH YOUR FISH! 7. Don't get so enamored with your colorful veggies that you forget about your cod (I've been there). 8. Remove your fish from the heat once cooked through. 9. Add minced garlic and fresh ground pepper to your vegetables and stir occasionally, moving raw vegetables to the bottom of the skillet. 10. Once your veggies are soft and noodly, remove from heat. 11. Serve your Cajun Cod over your julienned vegetables and enjoy!

The best part about this meal is…well, a few of the best things:

- It's delicious and you can season it however you like. For example, I try to avoid added salt, ergo, we added garlic + pepper to our vegetables and got a little wild with the Cajun seasoning.

- It's very low in calories. 4 oz of cod is approximately 120 calories of lean protein. 1 cup of zucchini goes for about 20 calories and 1/2 cup of julienned carrots only runs you up another 26 calories. Throw in a TBSP of olive oil and you're still only looking at a 286 calorie meal. BAM. Room for dessert maybe!?

- It's quick and easy. Two adjectives that don't always have positive connotations, however, when applied to your required culinary investment, take it and run.

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

10 Habits for a Healthier Life:

We've all heard the age-old saying that it takes 21 days to make a habit, right? So imagine for a second, just how much healthier and happier you would be 12 months from now if you added one of these healthy habits to your life every month for a year. Think about it - what would you look like? are you leaner? wearing a smaller size? is your skin more supple? What would you feel like? do you have more energy? are you less lethargic and more active? Who would you be? I ask because - get this - you are completely in control of that person. It's entirely up to you to create who you desire to be 2…10...12 months from now. Start small. Don't expect to revamp your entire diet in a day. Don't plan to suddenly start working out 6x a week. That's not realistic. My grandfather likes to say, All good things take time. After all, I took 9 months. Pick one goal to master this week and then continue to focus on that same goal next week…and the following, until it's no longer an obligation but a habit. Once you feel confident with your compliance, add something new. Wouldn't you rather make slow, steady progress over the course of a year than to dive head first into a new health plan onto you fail a month later and try again? We've done that. I'm over it. Aren't you? Let's do it the healthy, sustainable way.

10 Habits for a Healthier Life:

1. Drink More Water.

Studies show that as many as 75% of us are dehydrated. Assume you are among them. Dehydration can lead to headaches, chronic fatigue, toxicity, digestive issues, pre-mature aging and high cholesterol. Symptoms that then go on to pose more serious health risks. Hydration is important on a cellular level - every single one of your cells needs to be properly hydrated in order to flush out toxins. And no, drinking coffee, soda and alcohol doesn't count - all of those dehydrate your body. Drink water. You know, the 0 calorie stuff.

2. Eliminate Soda. Even Diet Soda.

As mentioned earlier, soda dehydrates you…but that's the least of your worries if you're a fan of sugary carbonated beverages.  Sodas are loaded with sugar and sugar consumption is a major cause of degenerative diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Diet sodas are NO better and in most cases worse as they contain cancer-causing artificial sweeteners such as Splenda and Aspartame. I recently had a chat with a fellow at the gym and he said, "I made the healthy switch to diet soda because my wife made me." To which I responded, "Well sir, with all due respect to your wife, she's not doing you any favors. Diet soda is worse than the regular stuff." "But there aren't any calories! How can it be bad? There's nothing in it." Ahhhh, how uninformed and misguided are we? There's nothing in it but chemicals and artificial ingredients. Avoid it. Find something else to quench your thirst like unsweetened tea or sparkling water with fruit.

3. Forget Fast Food.

McDonalds, Burger King, Subway….yes, even Subway. With a slogan like "Eat Fresh" you shouldn't be able to serve processed meats and bread with the same ingredients used to make yoga mats. If you never ate high-sodium nitrate processed meat again you'd be better off!! Fast food is not food. It's dead. Eat real, live food. If it doesn't go bad, it's bad for you. and what you eat is directly correlated with what you feel. All together now, if you eat BAD food you will feel…B A D. Now, for those of you who are fast food junkies, realise that because your body is addicted to the sodium, starch and sugar used in fast food you will feel worse before you feel better as your body goes through withdrawal. Stick with it. Your future self will thank you.

4. Read food labels and eliminate harmful ingredients.

Eliminate foods containing synthetic preservatives, artificial flavors and/or coloring, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, Aspartame and Genetically Modified ingredients. If you want to make this really easy, simply start avoiding processed and packaged foods in general. You are what you eat so don't be cheap, greasy or fake. Ask yourself these questions:

- are there more than 5 ingredients?

- can I pronounce all of the ingredients?

- what is it made from? do I even know what it used to be?

Minimally processed and fresh whole foods is what’s lacking in the Standard American Diet which is, in part, why the majority of the US population is sick and obese.

5. Make a weekly grocery list with at least 10 different fruits and vegetables.

Load up on those greens. If every individual in your household is to be consuming 5-9 servings of vegetables and fruits a day, that means your grocery list better include those items! Buy from local farmers markets first whenever possible. The less your food travels before it ends up on your plate, the more nutrients it will provide for you. PLUS it will carry a lower carbon footprint for the environment! Additionally, buying from farmers markets and local produce stands is usually much more cost effective and pesticide-free.

6. Shut down the screens and MOVE.

Have 'active hour' - an hour a day without screen time (computers, cell phones, iPods, etc.) where you go DO something. Go for a hike, walk the dogs, take a yoga class, etc. Whatever you choose, do something that motivates you and releases you from the daily grind. Exercise helps us reduce stress, increases metabolism, boosts mood and promotes self-esteem. Who doesn't want those things? Get your family involved and be active together.

7. Make 90% of your meals at home.

Eating healthy turns a hill into a mountain when you choose to eat out. There are so many hurdles you have to watch out for - high sodium counts, calorie-laden sauces and dressings, large portions sizes, etc. When you cook at home you are completely in control of what goes into a recipe and into your body. Spend time on the weekend preparing meals for the week, pack lunches the night before, make large batches to store in the freezer for leftovers. Don't just be an ignorant consumer, be an active eater!

8. Get rid of the negative self-talk.

BING BING BING. This is a big deal so listen up. In my experience, both in the lives of my clients as well as my own life, I've found that one of the biggest stumbling blocks is our own mental dialogue.

"Well, I've already messed up so I might as well just eat the whole thing…"

"I feel like I'm always restricting myself. This is no way to live! This diet doesn't' work for me." 

"I can't lose weight. I've tried so many times, it's just not fair." 

Have you ever caught yourself saying something similar? You are your own worst enemy. Negative self talk turns to negative energy which brings you down on a physical, mental, emotional and energetic level. First, become aware of these thoughts as you move throughout your day. You might be surprised how down on yourself you are. Next, ask yourself if you would want your child/spouse/friend/client to speak to themselves that way. If the answer is no, then you would do well to eliminate those thoughts from your mental vocabulary. Lastly, combat those negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Positive thoughts have 10x the energy of negative thoughts, so be uplifting (yes, even inside of your own head). Everyone blossoms in the face of encouragement, so compliment your own efforts and let that set the tone for future behavior.

9. Nurture Your Relationships.

Stable, loving relationships, not just with a spouse or partner but also with friends and relatives, have been shown to result in fewer doctor's visits, less anxiety, depression and substance abuse, lower blood pressure, better pain control and stress management, and a longer, happier life. Make an effort to improve your communication skills, learn how to manage conflict, talk out negative emotions instead of letting them fester, engage in challenging and exciting activities regularly, get and give hugs, and celebrate successes and failures together. If you have the power to impact someones day for the better, do it.

10. Take Time to Breathe.

Regular meditation changes the structure of our brains and how our neurons interact with each other resulting in better stress management, anxiety reduction, addiction control, decreased depression and better cognitive function. People who take time for themselves to breathe deeply and meditate also often have improved blood pressure, pain response, stress hormone levels and cellular health. Breathing is important as it maintains our oxygen levels for energy production. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us use only about 20% of our breathing capacity. Take time to slow down, focus on the present moment (not on what's for dinner or that student loan you forgot to pay), and tell your body it's okay to relax. Perhaps it's spending a few quiet moments in the mornings with a cup of coffee and your Bible; maybe it's just sitting outside by yourself, soaking up the sun, or taking some time before bed to journal…whatever meditation means to you, make time for it.

One new, healthy habit each month and you'll be the healthiest, happiest version of yourself come Christmastime.

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

Everything That's Wrong With Your Diet:

Kris Gunnars from Authority Nutrition recently wrote an article for Business Insider concerning the failings of the modern diet, as illustrated through research. As someone who spent the last 5 years of her life immersed in statistical analysis, arguing correlation and causation, I appreciate the linear picture these charts illustrate. If you're an artsy-fartsy type, you might not, but I'm including all the take-home-messages in BOLD underneath the analytical explanation…the world needs all kinds of kinds, right? A little background: the world today, America in particular, is the fattest and sickest we've ever been. When we abandon real, traditional foods in favor of modern processed foods high in sugar, refined flour and vegetable oils, we encourage the prevalence of chronic diseases such as obesity, type II diabetes and heart disease. Below are 11 pictures perfectly illustrating where we've messed up.

1. Sugar has gone up exponentially in the past 160 years:

This chart, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition depicts the increase in refined sugar consumption correlated with the rise in obesity. People in Western countries are consuming disgusting amounts of refined sugars, reaching approximately 150 lbs per year in some countries (over 500 calories of sugar per day). How many diabetic people do you know? If this trend continues, your children won't just have diabetic friends, they might be one of many who have are insulin resistant due to this alarming sugar intake.

Take Home: Eat less (or eliminate) refined sugar. 

2. Consumption of sugary-beverages has gone up dramatically:

Soda and juice are sugar-laden, empty calories with absolutely zero nutritional value. Unfortunately, our consumption of those liquid calories is on the rise, while milk and water (beverages with redeeming qualities) are on the decline. See chart #1 if you're still unsure why this is a bad thing.

Take Home: Drink more water. Ditch the rest. 

3. Calorie intake has increased by more than 400 calories per day:

For a few reasons: increased marketability, increased availability, higher production of processed, portable food selections and laziness. We eat more because we can, not because we need to. Weight loss boils down to calories in vs. calories out. We're heavier now because we're consuming more calories than we expend.

Take Home: Food is fuel. Get off your butt and eat when you're hungry, not when you're bored. 

4. We've abandoned traditional fat for processed vegetable oils: 

At one point health professionals blamed saturated fat for heart disease. As a result, people stopped consuming butter, lard and coconut oil and started consuming vegetable oils. Several years and many research studies later, it's been determined that these hydrogenated fats are actually higher in trans fats (the bad kind) and increase your risk of heart disease. The misguided advice to avoid saturated fat and choose vegetable oils instead may have actually fueled the heart disease epidemic.

Take Home: Eat real food. Fat included. 

5. People replaced heart-healthy butter with trans-fat laden margarine:

Remember that post I wrote about how butter was among the healthiest cooking fats? Yeah…I didn't make that up. Grass-fed butter actually contains nutrients that are protective against heart disease, such as vitamin K2, therefore the advice to replace heart-healthy butter with trans-fat laden margarine has done more damage than good. Why anyone would think it best to replace something real, made with whole ingredients with something hydrogenated and processed is crazy talk.

Take Home: Choose butter over vegetable oil. 

6. Soybean oil has become a major source of calories:

Not to brag, but remember that post about the 3 "Healthy" Foods To Avoid (soy being one of them)? Well, it's true. Soy is one of the most genetically modified crops, resulting in skewed hormones and fat storage - yikes! The most commonly consumed vegetable oil in the U.S. is soybean oil, providing 7% of calories in the U.S. diet which is huge! Where is soybean oil hiding in your diet? Processed foods.

Take Home: If it comes in a box, bag or package and says "hydrogenated", drop it like it's hot!

7. Modern wheat is less nutritious: 

Modern Dwarf Wheat was introduced around the year 1960, which contains 19-28% less of important minerals like Magnesium, Iron, Zinc and Copper. Evidence also shows that modern wheat is much more harmful to celiac patients and people with gluten sensitivity, compared to older breeds like Einkorn wheat. Wheat may have been relatively healthy back in the day, but unfortunately, the same is not true today. Products like pastries, bread, bagels, pasta and pizza offer very little nutritionally anymore.

Take Home: Monitor your wheat consumption. 

8. Egg consumption has gone down: 

Eggs are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. Despite being high in cholesterol, eggs don't raise the bad cholesterol in the blood. I'll say it again - eggs DO NOT raise your LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). There is also no evidence that they contribute to heart disease and yet, since the year 1950, we have decreased our consumption of eggs from 375 to 250 per year - a decrease of 33%. So instead of starting our day with healthy fat and protein, we opt for a bowl of sugar and hydrogenated oil instead. Come on! Remember when your mom would say, "make healthy choices"!? Well…do it!

Take Home: Eat more eggs. 

9. People are double fisting processed junk:

This graph shows the increase in fast food consumption in the past few decades. Keep in mind that even though it looks like people are still eating most of their foods "at home", this does not take into account the fact that most people are eating processed, pre-packaged foods at home…or even take out. "You are what you eat" - we've all heard that before. So if you eat out at a greasy, fake fast-food chain…your insides will one day resemble their kitchen floor. Did I take that too far?

Take Home: Educate yourself. Prepare and cook your own food. 

10. Increased vegetable oil consumption has changed the fatty acid composition in our bodies: 

Background Notes: Omega 3's are good. Omega 6's are not-so-good.

Most of the Omega-6 fats that people are eating is a fatty acid called linoleic acid. This acid gets incorporated into our cell membranes and body fat stores (you are what you eat, right?) which damages molecules, like DNA, in the body and potentially increasing our risk of cancer. In short, the increased consumption of processed vegetable oils has lead to actual harmful structural changes in our bodies.

More Omega 3's, fewer Omega 6's. 

11. The low-fat dietary guidelines were published around the same time as the obesity epidemic: 

Coincidence? Doubtful. But, all of you students out there know that correlation does not equal causation so don't point your finger just yet. The anti-fat message published in 1977 essentially put the blame on saturated fat and cholesterol (harmless), while giving sugar and refined carbs (very unhealthy) a free pass. Many studies have been conducted on the low-fat diet and finding show that it is no better at preventing heart disease, obesity or cancer than the standard Western diet, which is as unhealthy as a diet can get. For some very strange reason, we are still being advised to follow this type of diet, despite the studies showing it to be completely ineffective.

Take Home: Eat fat to lose fat. 

Eat well. Live well. Be well.