Tag Archives: nutrition

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail…

Meal Prep Sunday

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We know that our diet is the single most important contributor to our ability to maintain a good physique. So even during the busiest of weeks, if we aren’t able to find time to exercise, ensuring we don’t binge or seek convenience food is critical.

Doing weekly meal prep is a great way to free up a lot of time during the week. I know it seems daunting and requires a lot of discipline, but it’s actually not as time-consuming as it might seem. I don’t know how many times I told myself I was going to do it… Even bought a crock pot cookbook to meal prep the easiest way possible but I fell off the wagon after one attempt.

I decided this year would be the year that I disciplined myself to prep food for the week, allowing myself the weekends for dining out with friends. I’ve been doing well thus far and sticking to my plan quite well. Pat on the shoulder for me. *PAT*

Sadly, one of the biggest motivating factors for me was the purchase of fabulous glass containers for the meal prep. If only everything in life came so easy.

So… pictured above is my meal prep from last Sunday. It took me a total of 1.5 hours to complete and resulted in snacks, lunch and dinner for the entire week. Here’s a quick breakdown of each meal.

BREAKFAST

  • Protein shake, or
  • Greek Yogurt, berries, almonds and almond butter, or
  • Organic Steel Cut Oats, berries, almonds and almond butter, or
  • Whole wheat sandwich thins, avocado, 2 scrambled or sunnyside eggs

MORNING SNACK

  • Grape Tomatoes and Cucumbers, or
  • Baby Carrots and Celery

LUNCH

  • Salad comprised of baby spinach, kale, green peppers, red peppers, strawberries and avocado
  • Protein of either 2 hard boiled eggs or tuna

AFTERNOON SNACK

  • Bounce Protein Ball (LOVE THESE! Especially the peanut butter one. It’s literally a ball of peanut butter. YUM!)

DINNER

  • Either backed Chicken breast or Backed Turkey Breast
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Corn
  • Quinoa

Some people find it boring to eat the same thing every day, and I admit I struggled with that too… But I infuse a lot of flavour with spices on the meat, trying a different combination for each piece resulting in a different flavour each night. Similarly, I cook my quinoa in chicken stalk and throw some spices in there for some flavour. And then I try a different sauce every night for additional variety.

Of course, knowing that I will treat myself over the weekend is also a nice motivator to stick to my plan.

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Farmer’s Market… Cheaper? or More Expensive?

Farmers Market in Skopje

Farmers Market in Skopje, Macedonia
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As a little girl growing up in Macedonia, one of my favourite memories has always been going to the local farmers market with my grandfather. It was always a lively place with friendly people who often gave me a free strawberry or piece of chocolate as my grandfather and I made our way up and down the isles. I can still smell the fresh bread.

In Toronto, we’re lucky to have a couple of farmers markets open year round, with many springing up in the summer months at shopping malls and city halls around the suburbs. As I have been focusing on improving my diet and eating organic, locally grown food, shopping at the farmer’s market has become part of my weekly ritual… Every Saturday, I grab my reusable grocery bags, my shopping list, pick up a Starbucks latte, and make my way to St. Lawrence Market in downtown Toronto.

Last weekend, for the first time, I was struck by how inexpensive my shopping trip was compared to what I had been spending at my local Loblaws Superstore. I got all the groceries pictured below for $58.18. Not only are all of them organic, they will last me for two weeks!

Farmers Market Groceries

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I decided to compare the prices with a few of the major grocery banners in Toronto, just to make sure my memory wasn’t off. I compared the total cost of purchasing all the items on my grocery list at St. Lawrence Market, Sobeys, Metro, Loblaws Superstore and Whole Foods.

Grocery List

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Here is what I found:

St. Lawrence Market        $58.18

Metro                                 $148.32

Sobeys                               $128.56

Loblaws Superstore         $136.89

Whole Foods                     $173.44

 

 

 

Based on this shopping list, I am saving over $1800 a year on groceries by doing my shopping at St. Lawrence Market! That’s a LOT of stilettos… And sweatpants… And maybe even a vacation…

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To cleanse…. or not to cleanse…

juicesIs it just me, or is there something about juice cleanses EVERYWHERE lately? The news, Facebook, Instagram… You name it!

I have to be honest, I’ve never really understood the benefits of these things. They seem short-term and a bit extreme for my liking. As one of my dear friends points out, chewing the food you’re eating is a large part of the satisfaction of the meal. I like it when my belly feels full, the food is tasty and I am satisfied for a few hours after. The only time I will “drink” a meal is a morning protein shake.

But I’ve been seeing information on detoxes and cleanses everywhere, so I thought, maybe I’m missing something… So of course, I did some research.

While there is a lot of contradictory information out there on whether to cleanse or not to cleanse, juice or not to juice, overall there are some benefits and some things to be careful about.

Benefits

It Actually DOES Cleanse! – Did you know that the average person holds 5 – 10lbs of toxic old matter in their intestines??? Feasting is the only way to get rid of it. Doing a juice cleanse gives your digestive system a break, allowing your body to use the excess energy to clean out old matter from your small intestine.

Rapid Nutritional Intake – Juice hardly requires any digestion. Nutrients get absorbed by your body incredibly quickly, leaving you feeling energized and rejuvenated.

Increased Vitamin and Mineral Intake – Let’s face it… We all struggle with getting the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables. A juice cleanse can help you to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables (and associated vitamins and minerals) you take in daily. You can pack a looooot of veggies in a juice glass!

Juicing Right

There are some potential risks with juice cleanses, so nutritionists say to keep an eye on a few things.

1)      Use Only Organic Fruits and Vegetables – There is an increased risk that you may consume unwanted chemicals if you’re juicing with non-organic, genetically modified produce.

2)      Watch Out for Chemical Pesticides – When you juice, any chemical pesticides will be ingested in much higher quantities. Most organic produce is treated with organic, natural pesticides, but not all. Make sure you double check.

3)      Don’t Exceed 3 Weeks – for best results, nutritionists recommend doing a juice only cleanse for no more than three weeks and then resuming a nutrition rich, clean and organic diet that incorporates fresh juices to amplify vitamin intake.

4)      Cleanses Are Best for Generally Fit People – While there are some weight benefits associated with doing one, if you’re overweight and considering a juice cleanse, speak to your doctor first. Most overweight adults have an unstable glycemic index making a juice cleanse a bit too extreme for their bodies.

What’s in your juice?

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Spice up Your Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut SquashWhether it’s a bone chilling rainy day or a frigid winter afternoon, nothing warms my soul more than a cup of home-made roasted curry butternut squash soup. I absolutely love the rich flavour and the curry spice kick. It’s extremely quick to make and comes with a whole host of health benefits.

Butternut squash is low energy density, which means it offers tremendous nutrients without a lot of calories. It’s also rich in dietary fibre and phyto-nutrients and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol, making it highly recommended by dieticians for controlling cholesterol and weight loss.

Here is my quick, delicious recipe that is sure to warm you up on a chilly day.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Medium Sized Butternut Squash
  • 1 Large Onion diced
  • 1 Litre of Organic Free Range Chicken Broth
  • 3 table spoons of curry powder
  • 1 table spoon of nutmeg
  • 1 table spoon of cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Roasting the Butternut Squash

  1. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise
  2. Place it on a foil lined baking sheet cut side up
  3. Bake for 50 minutes
  4. Scoop the butternut squash into a bowl and set aside

Preparing the Broth

  1. In large pot, brown the diced onion and curry powder
  2. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil

Putting it all Together

  1. Add scooped butternut squash and boil for 20 minutes
  2. Add nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes
  4. Blend well using a food processor or blender (I use my Ninja. Because I love the name. )
  5. Let cool, serve and enjoy!

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Weight gain after 30… The top 3 reasons and how to beat it

I have been athletic my whole life; if I wasn’t doing layback spins, I was running like the wind, trying to hit a homerun or spiking volleyballs. Although my weight has always fluctuated somewhat, I used to be able to think about losing weight and make it happen. By and large, I have successfully maintained the same dress size for over 10 years.

Then I turned thirty and everything changed. I went up 2-3 dress sizes seemingly overnight. Ok… I was doing my MBA, working a demanding job that involved a lot of travel and adjusting to a move back to the big city. Life was crazy! Surely this was the reason. I was just reliving my Frosh 15. As soon as school finished, I’d be right back to where I was.

Well… School has been out for over a year, and I’m still struggling to drop one more size. And getting to where I am has been extremely challenging. Much more challenging than ever before! I had heard of this “weight gain after 30” phenomenon, but I was sure it wasn’t going to happen to me. Sharing my challenges with friends and colleagues has revealed that they too have been dealing with the same issues.

So, the past few months, I have made it my mission (I may have become a little obsessed) to better understand the reasons behind weight gain over 30 and how to manage it effectively. I have read countless books and articles, spoken with nutritionists, doctors and other healthcare professionals and learned from other women who have successfully managed through this challenge.

I know what you’re thinking… It’s all about hormones. They are the cause of the slowdown in our metabolism. I thought that too. But I quickly came to the sobering realization that, unless you’re dealing with thyroid challenges, hormones only play a small role in this. Everything else is about living a balanced lifestyle.

THE TOP THREE CAUSES OF WEIGHT GAIN AFTER 30

Reason 1: Busy Lifestyle

When we hit 30, most of us are at the top of our career trajectory; working long hours, sitting behind a desk all day and eating catered food at important business meetings. In addition to this, many of us are facing major life changes – buying our first homes, moving in with our partners, getting married or starting families. Balancing all this leaves very little time for healthy and nutritious meals and exercise – both of which are increasingly more critical to maintaining a healthy weight after 30.

How to Beat It:

  • Give up unnecessary commitments and make more time for YOU
  • Make Sunday a cooking day and make as much snacks, lunches and dinners as you can to free up some time during the week
  • Use the time this frees up to add regular exercise to your routine and protect this time as much as possible
  • Engage in active social activities with friends and loved ones or your kids

Reason 2: Increased Stress

With a busy lifestyle comes increased and chronic stress. Chronic stress produces the stress hormone cortisol which not only slows down metabolism, but makes it more difficult to shed unwanted weight. In addition, prolonged stress can cause changes in your blood sugar levels that could result in hyperglycemia or metabolic syndrome, which significantly impair your metabolic functioning. Plus the stress can cause us to eat unhealthy foods. How many of us turn to cookies, chips or wine to help reduce some of the stress? Guilty!

How to Beat It:

  • Yoga is a great way to relieve stress and remain centered through life’s toughest challenges
  • Try having bubble baths at night to help you unwind from your busy day. If you’re married or in a relationship, this can also be a nice way to spend time with your partner and infuse romance into your relationship
  • Go for a manicure and/or pedicure, or treat yourself to a spa day. Doing something nice for yourself will automatically enhance your mood and give you the recharge you need to get through whatever is on your plate.

Reason 3: Inadequate Sleep

Our busy lifestyle and stress often leads to inadequate sleep. We have so much on our plate, we`re staying up late and getting up early just to keep up. And when we do sleep, it`s poor quality sleep. We`re reliving the stressful day we had, thinking about all that needs to be done tomorrow, etc. Lack of sleep also produces hormones that impede the proper functioning of our metabolism. Plus we`re taking in more calories we realize through the consumption of caffeinated drinks and sugary treats for that boost of energy to get us through the day.

How to Beat It:

  • Use fruits for sustained energy boosts during the day
  • Avoid caffeine after 2pm
  • Aim to exercise 5 hours before you go to sleep to optimize the quality of your sleep
  • Aim for 7.5 hours of sleep a night

How you do you manage your weight?

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What’s your winter comfort food?

Lasagna

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On a cold and snowy day, nothing is more comforting than a heaping plate of my homemade lasagna, followed by a fuzzy blanket, a glass of wine and a movie. And the best part is, there is enough left over for at least 1 or 2 more dinners or lunches.

Making lasagna takes a long time and can be intimidating, but anyone can do it – even you! Here are step by step instructions on how my recipe can warm you up on a cold day.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound Italian sausage cut into small pieces
  • ¾ pound extra lean ground beef
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 6 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 6.5 ounce cans canned tomato sauce
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fresh basil
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons Chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Cayane pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 12 whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 16 ounces light ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ pound shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • ¾ cups grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Meat Sauce (1 ½ Hours Cooking Time)
1. In a large pot, brown sausage, ground beef, onion and garlic over medium heat.
2. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce and water and mix well
3. Add sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, Chili powder, Cayene pepper, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley
4. Simmer covered for about 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally

Noodles (20 Minutes Cooking Time)
1. In a large pot, bring water and salt to a boil
2. Add lasagna noodles and cook for 8 – 10 minutes
3. Drain noodles and rinse with cold water

Ricotta Cheese Mixture (5 Minutes Prep Time)
1. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg, remaining parsley and ½ teaspoon salt
2. Stir with a spoon until well mixed

Assembly (10 Minutes)
1. Spread 1 ½ cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9 X 11 or 9 X 13 inch baking dish.
2. Arrange 4 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce
3. Spread half of the ricotta cheese mixture over the noodles
4. Top with shredded mozzarella until covered
5. Spoon 1 ½ cups meat sauce over mozzarella
6. Sprinkle with ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
7. Arrange 4 more noodles lengthwise
8. Spread remaining ricotta cheese mixture
9. Top with shredded mozzarella until covered
10. Spoon 1 ½ cups meat sauce over mozzarella
11. Sprinkle with ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
12. Arrange last 4 noodles lengthwise
13. Spread remaining meat sauce over noodles
14. Spread remaining mozzarella until covered
15. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese until covered

Baking (50 Minutes)
1. Cover baking dish with foil. Make sure foil doesn’t touch cheese.
2. Bake covered for 25 minutes
3. Remove foil and bake for an additional 25 minutes
4. Cool for 15 minutes and then serve!

What’s your winter comfort food?

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