When you are trying to lose weight you may be thinking of taking a fast a furious approach eating as little as possible while working out as much as possible. However this is not only unwise, but also ineffective in the long run.
Healthy Eating Habits
When you skip a meal or cut calories drastically you will slow down your metabolism. This is because your body is concerned you are not getting enough calories to survive and is trying to conserve energy. You will lose weight using this method for the first few days or even a week, but as your body goes into panic mode it will fight starvation by storing fat. Therefore the only weight you will continue to lose will be water and muscle, which is not only bad for you, but will also make you reach a plateau far more quickly than you should. This makes all of your efforts for naught as your system will decide it is not safe to lose weight. Therefore it is important to eat healthy foods throughout the day. Taking an approach that reduces carbs and adds more veggies and fruits is the best approach as well as eating 5 small meals instead of 3 larger meals. Obviously cutting out sugars is important as well.
When your body’s metabolism slows due to dieting this is where exercise helps. Exercising in hand with dieting provide the energy required to help you burn more calories and do so naturally and safely. Regular exercise is a must to lose weight and it will give you more energy and keep your metabolism working at peak efficiency to continue to burn calories at rest. Do not forget the importance of weight lifting as the more muscle you can build the higher your metabolism remains.
Before and After Work Out Foods
Prior to a work out this is the best place to have a combination of simple and complex carbs. Have a slice of whole grain bread a smear of peanut butter and a banana sliced on top and a sprinkle of cinnamon for the perfect combo. You can also eat something like Greek yogurt with a few nuts or a meal with protein and carbs or oatmeal with blueberries. Following a work out you can eat a yummy omelette with eggs and fresh veggies and a slice of avocado for morning workouts or salmon and some sweet potato for dinner for late afternoon workouts. Lunch time work outs work well with a tuna sandwich on whole grain bread.
The key to weight loss is balance. You must exercise and eat a modified amount of calories without cutting meals to lower your calorie count. Moderation, variety and dedication are the key to a successful weight loss plan.
If you are tired of the same old ingredients in your smoothies each morning, here are 10 unusual ingredients offering many health benefits as well as interesting flavours:
- Cayenne Pepper: Cayenne pepper adds a real kick to your smoothie and works best in water or coconut water based recipes. You can also use it with green juices and cucumber smoothies. Cayenne actually has many health benefits including a boost to your circulation and metabolism as well as aiding in digestion.
- Goji Berries: Goji berries hit the news as the new antioxidant to add to your diet. They provide amino acids as well as a lot of flavour. They go well with berry smoothies but can be added to just about any recipe.
- Ginger: Ginger is delicious but also aids in calming tummies as well as boosting your immune system. You can add a nice chunk of fresh ginger to just about any smoothie and freeze it or keep it in the fridge for when you need it. Ginger has also been known to be an effective anti-inflammatory and can assist with headaches and migraines as well as nausea.
- Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3, vitamins and minerals, but more importantly they help keep you hydrated. They have to be soaked overnight and when added to juice smoothies they add a lovely silky texture.
- Bee Pollen: Bee pollen has many health benefits especially for healthy skin. It can aid in fighting acne, age spots and even allergies. If you are an exercise fanatic bee pollen can also aid in building muscles as well as increasing oxygen rich blood cells. Some people may not be too keen on the chalkiness as well as the price.
- Magnesium Powder: If you want to add a little invigoration to your smoothies magnesium powder will do the trick. Magnesium powder adds a little fizzy fun to any smoothie and also comes in a number of flavours. It also provides a vital nutrient that you are probably sadly lacking.
- Pomegranate Juice: Pomegranate will add a nice tang while providing antioxidants and fighting bad cholesterol.
- Kombucha: This is actually a fermented tea and can also add a fizziness to smoothies. Kombucha comes in a number of flavours and is packed with antioxidants and tummy friendly probiotics.
- Silken Tofu: Tofu is practically tasteless yet adds a nice velvety smoothness to your smoothies. You also can benefit from the fact that it keeps you feeling full longer and has tons of calcium.
- Flaxseed: You may already be using flaxseed as it is well-known for its omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed must be ground to reap its benefits making it easy to add to smoothies.
You can experiment with any of these ingredients until you find the right taste and texture and add a whole new line of smoothies to your morning menu.
- Feed your family the freshest food. Farmer’s markets offer the freshest food around—usually only hours from the field—so you get top quality, perfectly ripe flavor.
- Learn about food. Kids and adults alike enjoy exploring firsthand how foods are grown, harvested, and eaten by browsing market stalls and talking to farmers.
- Preserve farmland and support local farmers. With population growth and pressures to erect more buildings, farms are being increasingly driven away from our cities, which is a problem for transportation and its environmental impact and feeding many more hungry mouths.
- Awaken Your Taste Buds. Local food simply tastes better. When everything is ripened on the vine, the flavour profiles of fresh local strawberries, for example, are out of this world.
- Support the hard work of local farmers and keep your dollar in the community.
When it comes to baking and cooking, a lot of people prefer to buy pre-made foods thinking that it’s cheaper and not that bad for your health. What those same people don’t realize, is that making everything from scratch can actually save you money, and give you the security and satisfaction of knowing what goes into your food. The only extra cost is your time, but is it worth that extra half an hour in your day to eat unnatural chemicals and preservatives?
Buying individual ingredients in bulk from the store can actually save you plenty of money, as the only things you will find that you run out often are fruits, vegetables, meats and other perishables. You will have to buy these things either way, but going this route you don’t need to buy everything else (breads, snacks, etc). If you are proactive and make a habit of freezing most perishables, you may actually find that (minus the big shopping to replace all your raw ingredients) you are only grocery shopping every 2 to 3 weeks to replace these perishables.
The biggest value though it that you know what is going into the food you eat, and you know there are no unnatural chemicals and preservatives designed simply to keep things on the shelf for longer. As people get into this lifestyle, many discover that eating the preserved food from stores is far less appetizing than homemade anyways. It just may take some practise to develop your skills in the kitchen (if you don’t have them already).
In order to get started, check out our nutritionist Aviva Allen’s website for recipes (http://www.avivaallen.com/General/snackstreats.html). She has a list of some great whole food and low sugar, natural grain snack recipes that will taste great and be incredibly healthy for you.
When it’s time to start your baby on his or her first foods, it’s an exciting but sometimes nerve-wracking time. Parents are naturally anxious about all of the new responsibilities that solid (or semi-solid) foods bring – choking hazards, allergies, and unwanted ingredients to name a few.
Many of us choose to make our own baby food, which is a fantastic idea for so many reasons! Here are just some of the benefits of creating your own personalized infant cuisine.
#1. It’s cost-effective. You can save a lot of money by purchasing and pureeing your own foods for your baby. As your very own chef, you have the ability to buy your produce in bulk and then batch your baby food. Store safely and freeze, so you have a personal supply of food that you can always count on at home. Instead of doing a jar-heavy grocery store trip, your baby food shopping will consist of trips to the market to buy plenty of fresh ingredients!
#2. It’s green. Buying your own baby food is an eco-friendly commitment on many levels. You can choose to only purchase ingredients that have been cultivated with green practices by buying pesticide-free, organic, local produce. Making your own baby food is also another way to cut down on trips to the store, consumer packaging, shopping bags and receipts. You can re-use all of your containers, or make small batches for at-home meals! Fewer packages, fewer ingredients and fewer risks make for some clean, green baby meals.
#3. It’s nutritious. You can exercise control over every single ingredient that goes into your baby food –and the simpler the better. Some baby foods contain fillers that you likely don’t want to waste time or money on feeding your infant –whether water, tapioca or other manufactured starches. This way you can ensure nothing but whole ingredients find their way into your recipes. Plus as your baby gets a little bit older, making your own purees can help you combine different ingredients and mask some of the nutrients that your picky eater might not like. Hide the taste of carrots by pureeing them with fruit, or sneak a little bit of ginger into your apple sauce. You can get creative while maintaining total nutritional integrity.
If you’re starting the transition to solids soon, make sure to stay tuned four our next Introducing Solids workshop! There’s lots you can learn about your baby’s nutritional needs and digestive system before you start this next step. Experts Aviva Allen, Registered Nutritionis, and Kristin Heins, ND, are a great pair at hosting these friendly, jam-packed sessions! Bring your little foodies, your questions, and get ready to learn.
Let’s face it: there’s a lot of health and nutrition information out there. We live in a super-saturated society of digital advice, urging us to adopt certain lifestyle and diet habits while writing off others as severely damaging. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially if you start to feel like your available nutritious dietary options have been halved!
That’s why we really enjoyed this Eating Well article that offers some important health analyses for a few of the foods we’re told to avoid. It’s important to balance your perspective, and to bring a realistic, sustainable approach to your healthy eating. So take a look at our list, and celebrate the tasty foods that can be enjoyed in moderation, and as part of a nutritious diet.
We hear lots of mixed things about eggs, but many people are scared off by the high cholesterol count. Cholesterol definitely needs to be moderated, but as Eating Well reminds us, the cholesterol that we consume in foods doesn’t typically raise our blood cholesterol significantly. Rather, the bigger heart-disease dangers are saturated and trans fats. Enjoy eggs in moderation and pay attention to your cholesterol intake on a daily basis. For a healthier breakfast, skip the yolk and double up on egg whites –you’ll still get the protein and consistency you love without as much cholesterol and fat.
Bread, Pasta and Other Mega-Carbs
Mmmmm….if you love your carbs, you’re not alone. Carbohydrates are comforting, relatively filling and just plain tasty. But many of us know to tread with caution- When you load up on refined foods and simple carbs, you’re definitely making a poor dietary choice and increasing your risk of weight gain, obesity, and diabetes. But there’s plenty of great carbs out there too, that have an important place in your diet. These include whole grains and beans which can help provide some filling substance to a meal while also offering nutrients and protein.
We took note of this one, because it seems that going GF or gluten-free is a dieting fad these days. With so many products being marketed sans gluten, Eating Well points out that “it’s easy to think their benefits might stretch beyond the audience for whom they’re intended: people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance.” Well put! If you don’t have a medical condition that prevents you from eating gluten, there is no reason to cut it from your diet, as this won’t offer you any health benefits.
Without an intolerance causing you symptoms in the first place you won’t experience the surge in health or energy associated with a gluten free regimen. So don’t self-diagnose! There are a number of reasons why we experience digestive distresses that are easily mistaken for a gluten intolerance. A thorough consultation can help you sort out what’s making your insides unhappy.
Check out all 13 of Eating Well’s Food and Nutrition myths here!
Migraines can be a debilitating health problem, triggered by a variety of factors from sleep habits, to diet, to the weather. Many sufferers claim they seem to become more prone to migraines at certain times of year –during the changing seasons, or in the spring and summer when they may also be plagued with seasonal allergies.
The frustrating thing about migraine sufferers is that many don’t take the time to seriously consider all of their options for prevention and symptom relief. It’s definitely worthwhile to explore natural therapies as a means of better understanding, minimizing, and preventing your migraines, not to mention nixing the dependency on potentially harmful medications often used to manage symptoms. Here are just some of the therapies that migraine sufferers frequently respond to.
Many headaches and migraines start in your spine. When your body is misaligned your nerves get very irritated, and communicate quickly with your brain. For some clients, spinal adjustments are an effective way to reduce the pressure on those unhappy nerves. Chiropractic care also helps restore mobility to patients who experience consistent and debilitating muscle tension. Blood flow to and from the brain may also be restricted when muscles are tight in the base of the skull, which can contribute to headache and migraine symptoms. The cumulative effects of rigidity and restriction can lead to severe headaches – so it’s important to target the problem at its source, rather than just treating the resulting migraine. Consider your posture, alignment, and date of your last adjustment. Could a poorly aligned spine, stressed nerves or strained muscles be an underlying cause of your migraine? A chiropractic consultation can help you find out!
Seeing a massage therapist isn’t a luxury- for many it’s a highly effective treatment option. Headaches frequently result from tension and stress, which are manually targeted during a massage session. Your therapist will also help to improve circulation throughout your body, which can draw blood away from the head, reducing pressure that contributes to headache. It’s also incredible to see the effects of loosening and treating muscle tissue. If you have a muscle injury, chances are you’ve been carrying yourself differently. An adjusted or irregular posture of any kind can cause soreness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. So give massage therapy a try –the combination of targeted manual therapy and the valuable opportunity to reduce stress might be just what you need to manage or minimize migraines.
Naturopathic and Nutritional Counselling
Food sensitivity and allergies might also be causing your migraines. A holistic health practitioner can help you begin an elimination diet or food diary to uncover patterns in your eating that might cause headaches. Many sufferers of migraines know which foods they need to avoid in order to help prevent a killer headache. Don’t worry- this isn’t arbitrary. A nutritionist or ND can help you identify which ingredients are giving you grief- whether it’s a popular additive like MSG, or a less widely identified substance like tyramine. Tyramine, which is found in aged cheese, processed meat, canned soups and several other foods, has been known to trigger migraines in certain individuals. Without some health counselling however, you might never identify something like this as a potential source of your suffering. It’s worth looking into- The sooner you know your problem foods, the sooner you can begin adjusting your diet and lifestyle so you can enjoy more long-term management of your migraines.
Last week Naturally Savvy hosted a fantastic Twitter Party to teach strategies for reading food labels and ingredient lists! We had the pleasure of gate-crashing and offering our two cents to this incredibly informed and well-run chat. We came away inspired to promote label literacy here on the Thrive Health blog.
While there were plenty of label-savvy participants at the party (and some very qualified, awesome hosts and sponsors!) some of the parents present admitted that they don’t really know what to look for when reading food labels, or often neglect to read labels at all. This is very normal. Firstly, we’re all incredibly busy, and nobody wants to double their grocery store time by reading the finely printed ingredient lists on everything they pick up. Secondly, many parents don’t skip the ingredient list out of a willful negligence of nutrition- they are led to trust a product by many other factors that make an impression on shoppers long before the label. Food packaging can trick us into thinking we’re making an informed, “good” choice.
Here are some of the packaging ploys that lead us to believe something is healthy without reading its ingredient list.
Just because a product is fat-free or sugar-free doesn’t mean it’s healthy. At all. In fact many products that have been chemically engineered to be free of fats and sugar have other unhealthy modifications. These products may still contain synthetic flavours, artificial colours, artificial sweeteners, thickeners and more. Additionally, foods that boast a “fat free” claim uphold a societal misconception about fats- that they are all dangerous, unhealthy, or contribute to being overweight. In reality, healthy fats are vital to a balanced diet, and for maintaining a healthy weight.
Made with real…
If a food product is bragging that it’s made with real fruit, vegetables or any other ingredient, beware. This is a clever way of getting around the fact that it’s also made with many other ingredients that are not real. Made “with” is not the same as “made up solely of…” By this tactic, a fruit punch containing only 25% real fruit juice can still claim “Made with real fruit!” Unless you see a “100%” check your label to see how much of a product is indeed “real.”
Lots of food products contain claims about their nutritional quality right in their name. But just because something claims to be “smart” “healthy” “light” or “natural” doesn’t mean it’s a nutritionally balanced or beneficial choice. The worthiness of a product can’t be found in its name- it can only be found on that food label.
So what are the top food label culprits?
High-fructose corn syrup: This is a widely used sweetener that appears in many packaged foods especially sweet treats for children. It boosts calorie content, functions as a thick, concentrated sugar substance, and offers no nutritional value to a food product. Avoid low / no calorie alternatives especially if they contain artificial sweeteners. Natural sweeteners like stevia and honey are a better choice.
Artificial flavours: Naturally Savvy makes a great point about artificial flavours: they could contain anywhere from one to fifty different chemical ingredients. Our thought? Why combine dozens of synthetic chemicals to mimic a real, natural flavour? There are so many delicious flavours and colours found in natural foods that there’s no reason to chemically manipulate our tastes.
Nitrates/Nitrites: Typically written as sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite, these are most commonly found in processed and packaged meats. The alternative to using these products is buying fresh chicken or turkey, cooking it in whatever manner you prefer and slicing it up to use in salad form (ie. Chicken salad) or in sandwiches over the following few days.
MSG: Monosodium glutamate is a commonly-used additive in many packaged foods, especially soups, sauces, prepared meals, and frozen foods. As with many of our food culprits, the easiest way to avoid MSG is to try and limit your consumption of pre-packaged foods. If you can’t avoid buying prepared foods, buy them fresh rather than frozen.
If you have any food label questions, drop us a line here, or on our Facebook page –we love to help families make informed choices. Happy (and healthy) grocery shopping to you!
Sara Vartanian, founder of Green Moms Collective, recently hosted a Twitter chat about the benefits of shopping at local farmer’s markets. While her #GreenMom chats are always interesting and informative, we thought we’d take the opportunity to expand on the fun and relevant topic of buying local, especially as farmer’s market season kicks off.
Why buy local?
Shopping at a local market is a great way to be more involved and informed as you set an example for your family’s food choices. As the #GreenMom discussion demonstrated, simply visiting or discussing local food market vendors encourages us to think more critically about our food sources.
Local, Organic & In Season
For many people the decision to shop at a local market has a lot to do with the integrity of the produce and meat they want to buy. But as Sara Vartanian points out, it’s easy to assume what you’re buying is organic, when in fact it may not be. Just because you shop locally doesn’t mean you’re shopping organically. This is why it’s important to chat with the vendors you buy from. Ask them about their farming practices to ensure your purchases meet your personal standards. Questions that you may want to ask include:
- Does the vendor use chemical pesticides?
- How many different crops does the vendor grow?
- Are the farm animals given antibiotics or hormones? What are they fed?
Inspiration and Food Literacy
Shopping at a local farmer’s market can also help you get out of a food rut because so many different fresh choices are laid out before you. Aviva Allen, Registered Nutritionist, recommends leaving your list and recipes at home, and seeing where inspiration leads you! You might end up basing a meal or a dish around whatever item looked the freshest or was offered at a great price.
The experience of shopping at a farmer’s market with your family also helps to instill positive habits in children. Let them smell, touch and sample the food you buy, and learn about how it is farmed or raised. This establishes the practice of thinking about our food sources and quality, and being an active participant in food shopping.
Clean, Green Family Fun
Let’s not forget to advocate for the richly enjoyable experience of visiting your favourite market on a regular basis! Shopping locally, chatting with vendors and getting out in the open air of the market can be a really rewarding way to connect with your children and community. The sunshine, exercise, music and snacks all help to make food shopping an overwhelmingly positive experience, rather than an errand or a chore. Without the resource-demands of the supermarket (scanners, electric lights, and checkouts), the market also provides a greener way to shop. Bring your re-usable bags and your good old-fashioned cash for a simpler exchange and a fun family experience.
Do you shop at a farmer’s market? What’s your favourite thing about buying local?
A juicy burger. Salty fries. A cold, sugary soda.
Have we sparked a craving? Food cravings are unfortunate road blocks in many people’s diet plans. While some cravings are circumstantial and easier to resist (like salivating at the smell of a bakery) others can be persistent, frequent and much more physical by nature (like craving a cup of coffee in the morning). For those who eat a balanced, nutrient-dense diet, cravings should be minimal and controllable, but of course this isn’t always the case. Here are a few common cravings, what they mean for your body, and how you can deal with them.
Your body requires a very small amount of salt each day. As an electrolyte that helps your body maintain regular, consistent fluid levels, salt is an important ingredient in your biological balance and health. Often we crave salty snacks, or foods that have an exorbitant sodium content that we may not even be aware of (check your canned soups as an example!)
Why do we crave it? Cravings for salt are often the result of your body’s conditioning. A high-sodium diet makes your body accustomed to lots of salt. When you try to cut back, your body reminds you. Excessive perspiration and dehydration can also trigger salt cravings, since our bodies lose sodium and other minerals when we sweat. It is also possible that salt cravings can be an indicator of more severe consitions associated with our endocrine / hormonal system so make sure to speak with a Health Care Professional if symptoms are unexplained or persistant.
How to manage the craving: Drink an electrolyte beverage after heavy exercise. Learning about proper endurance exercise hydration and electrolyte protocols are helpful for routine exercise. If your salt craving isn’t related to sweat, try something crunchy and flavourful like seasoned rice crackers, a small handful of nuts, an algae product or dill pickle. Follow up your snack with a big glass of water.
Sugar is another ingredient that hides in many foods and habits. Minimizing your sugar intake isn’t just about avoiding sweets like pastries and candy. It means being mindful of the sugar content in everything that you eat-from granola to peanut butter to juice.
Why do we crave it? When we consume a lot of sugar it causes a spike in blood glucose levels. You’ve likely experienced this- you eat something sweet and immediately feel good. Your energy rises and peaks and you may even feel happier. But shortly afterwards, your blood sugar dips again. This is the unfortunate reality of refined sugar; it sends your body on a roller coaster. When your blood sugar drops, your brain starts thinking it needs more refined sugar. Your craving returns. The cycle continues.
How to manage the craving: Read your labels! Avoid products that have sugar added. Choose natural sweeteners like stevia or a touch of honey. You may also try satisfying cravings for sweetness with flavours. Add a pinch of cinnamon to your coffee instead of a sweetening agent. Use vanilla or nutmeg in oatmeal instead of brown sugar. And if you need a sweet fix, choose a tasty fruit like strawberries or watermelon. Remember to always balance out sweet fixes, even healthy ones, with some protein or healthy fat. This helps keep your blood sugar more stable and avoid the rollercoaster effect.
For you coffee-addicts, you may find that your caffeine intake requires much more willpower to control than those cravings for sugar and salt. In truth, a single caffeinated drink triggers a significant reaction in your body, producing for many people a “rollercoaster effect” similar to that of sugar.
Why do we crave it? Caffeine triggers neural activity that stimulates the release of hormones. These stimulate your adrenal glands to produce that burst of energy you might experience after a dose of caffeine. When the “high” ends however, you may experience lethargy, restlessness, and an inability to concentrate. It’s a combination of taste and effect that brings most of us back to caffeinated beverages on a regular basis. With enough consumption however, your body will reach a state of adrenal exhaustion. It will require more caffeine to reproduce that desired high.
How to manage the craving: Ensure that you are getting enough sleep so that you aren’t depending on caffeine as a major source of energy. Try alternatives like herbal tea and natural coffee alternatives such as chicory. Any caffeinated beverage should be taken in moderation, to avoid putting your body through the unnecessary stress responses that caffeine can produce. Speaking to a Naturopath is a good way to identify if your adrenal glands need support and the best way to use herbs and lifestyle modification to help get your energy levels back up…sans caffeine!