Tag Archives: healthy tips

The Realistic Clean Eating Meal Plan That Won’t Leave You Hungry

Happy New Year! It’s time to celebrate… but not with champagne, or sugar cookies, or elaborate cheese platters. While we don’t really believe in resolutions (because let’s face it, most set us up with unrealistic expectations) we do believe in starting the year off strong, and one of the best ways to do that is by assessing our eating habits. The good news? There’s no need to give up all those delicious dishes we crave, or do away with fun cooking techniques. Healthy eating is about consuming foods that nourish our cells to boost energy, improve focus, increase mood and support immune health (here’s to no more winter colds!) – and who doesn’t want that? Follow this realistic meal plan as a simple starting point.

What to keep in mind for every meal:

Breakfast
Morning meals should contain a healthy amount of protein and fat. This helps keep blood sugar levels stable to sustain energy throughout the day (and can aid in preventing diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer). Think: eggs and avocado, nuts, seeds, nut/seed butters, chia puddings and overnight oats.

Lunch
Salad and grain bowls make for the best lunches, because you can often re-purpose dinner leftovers to make them. Aim for a myriad of colour (phytonutrients provide veggies and fruit with their bright hues and health-giving benefits) and texture (like crunchy nuts and seeds paired with creamy dairy-free dressings) in every dish.

Dinner
Dinners can be more involved than lunches, but if you’re short on time, prep ahead: chop veggies the night before, or make the recipe a few days ahead and freeze it (like these freezer-friendly recipes). Another tip: try to finish eating about three hours before bedtime so your body is able to fully digest the food before you hit the sheets.

Healthy Meal Plan: Day 1

Breakfast: Super Simple Morning Egg Sauté

Serving: 1-2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, butter or avocado oil
1 cup kale or spinach, roughly chopped
½ zucchini, sliced into half discs
¼ tsp sea salt
Pinch of pepper
2 eggs
1 heaping Tbsp creamy tahini
¼ lemon, squeezed
¼ cup pecans, toasted
¼ avocado, sliced
Crack of pepper

Directions:
1. Heat a wide saucepan over medium, add the oil, and when it gets slippery and starts sliding freely around the pan, add the kale and zucchini. Season with salt and pepper. Toss around until veggies begin wilting.

2. Push the veggies to the side. If you feel the pan needs a bit more oil, splash a small glug in and crack the eggs in the empty space. Season with salt and pepper. After about 2-3 minutes, flip the eggs.

3. Grab a bowl and put the veggies on the bottom, place the runny eggs over the veg, then drizzle with tahini and lemon. Top with toasted pecans, avocado and pepper. Voila!

Lunch: Asian Noodle Salad with Ginger Dressing

A medley of veggies that are probably already in your fridge with a sweet and tangy immune-boosting dressing. Get the recipe.

Dinner: Lentil and Cauliflower Shepherd’s Pie

cauliflower-pot-pie

A vegan, veggie-packed warming dinner with loads of fibre to keep you full and feed the good bacteria in the gut. Get the recipe.

Healthy Meal Plan: Day 2

Breakfast: Morning Chia Pudding

The mighty chia seed delivers omega 3’s, fibre, protein and calcium to boost your energy levels. Trust us when we say it’s one of the best ways to start the day. Get the recipe.

Lunch: Clean Bean and Green Stew

Servings: 3-4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 sweet potato, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 carrots, sliced into ½ inch circles
2 celery stalks, sliced
½ dried green or brown lentils
1 cup chickpeas (from can or previously cooked)
2 ½ cups veggie broth
1 cup kale or swiss chard, roughly chopped
Small handful of parsley or cilantro, roughly chopped
Sea salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Place a large pot on the stove, turn to medium heat, add the oil. Swirl the oil around the pan, then drop in the onions. Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes until translucent and slightly browned.

2. Add the garlic. Toss for about 1 minute, then add the remainder of veggies and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

3. Let the veggies cook for 5-8 minutes until they begin to soften, then toss in the lentils and chickpeas, season with a pinch of salt and pepper again and mix so everything gets combined.

4. Pour in the veggie broth, season one more time, bring to a boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes.

5. Once simmer time is over, add in the kale so it brightens and gets slightly cooked. You can also make a big batch of this stew in advance, because it freezes super well.

Dinner: Sesame-Crusted Salmon with Asian Greens and Tamari Dressing

Salmon is rich in healthy fats (i.e. omega 3’s), and when paired with calcium-rich sesame seeds, fibre-rich brown rice and phytonutrient-rich bok choy, you’re eating a meal that will nourish, replenish and detoxify. Get the recipe.

Healthy Meal Plan: Day 3

Breakfast: Veggie-Packed Breakfast Frittata

Eggs and veggies in the morning are the perfect combo for delivering nutrients and keeping blood sugar stable. Get the recipe.

Lunch: Healthy Buddha Bowl

Vibrant veggies topped with a gut-loving fermented miso sauce that’s also rich in good fats and calcium. Get the recipe.

Dinner: Easy Tamari Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry

Servings: 2-3
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:
1 ½ pounds chicken thighs, sliced into pieces
3 tsp tamari
2 crowns broccoli, sliced into florets
1 Tbsp avocado or coconut oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
2 Tbsp brown rice vinegar or rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sesame oil
3 Tbsp tamari
1 Tbsp maple syrup

Optional Toppings:
¼ cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
2-3 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions:
1. Slice the chicken into pieces, place in a bowl and pour tamari over top.

2. Place broccoli florets in a large pot with hot water. Steam them until they turn bright green and are still a bit crunchy in texture. Drain and set to the side.

3. Heat avocado or coconut oil over medium in a large pot or saucepan, then add the chicken. Stop yourself from constantly tossing the chicken around. You want it to cook on one side for 3-5 minutes, then flip and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Don’t worry if some pieces are not fully cooked through yet.

4. Take the chicken out of the pan, set to the side and add the onion, garlic and ginger all at once. Let them sauté for about 3 minutes, then add the chicken and broccoli back in.

5. Pour the liquids (i.e. vinegar, tamari, etc.) in a bowl, give a quick stir to mix, then pour into the pot. You could pour them individually into the pot but, we like the idea of them being fully combined first.

6. Toss everything around to coat in the delicious juicy liquids, then simmer until the juices begin to thicken and disappear, about 10-12 minutes.

7. You can serve with brown rice, brown rice noodles or as is. Whatever you decide, top with fresh cilantro, sesame seeds and green onions.

Looking for more inspiration to start the year off with a healthy bang? Here’s how a nutritionist meal prep every Sunday, plus 15 bad eating habits experts say to ditch this year and 10 things healthy people eat for breakfast.

Canada's Updated Food Guide

10 Biggest Dos and Don’ts From Canada’s Brand New Food Guide

When Canada’s long-anticipated food guide overhaul was recently unveiled, the overriding message was loud and clear: eat more plant-based fare. In its first major update in more than 12 years, the new guide has widened its scope and reminds Canadians to cook at home more often, be mindful in their eating habits and be conscious of food marketing in an effort to limit their intake of sodium, sugar and saturated fats. As many health professionals predicted, the 62-page guide also emphasizes the importance of getting protein from plant-based sources such as beans, nuts and lentils, rather than opting for animal-based foods such as meat and poultry. No doubt the verdict came as a surprise to consumers, who grew up learning about the four distinct food groups that Canada’s Food Guide once touted as essential to a healthy diet. So, what exactly has changed? A lot, as it turns out.

Here we look at the major dos and don’ts from Canada’s updated food guide:

1. DO Prioritize Protein-Rich Foods
Pack a protein punch by introducing more nutrition powerhouses into your everyday diet. Items such as nuts, legumes, seeds, tofu, fish, eggs and lean red meat, among others, helps the immune system stay in tip-top shape and keeps us lean. To make the transition a little easier, stock your fridge and cupboards with hard-boiled eggs, canned beans and protein bars or powders so you’ll always have them on hand to add to your favourite recipe or enjoy as a snack.


Get the recipes for 28 High-Protein Vegetarian Meals

2. DO Consider More Plant-Based Foods
While many animal-based foods are nutritious and delicious, the new food guide places a stronger emphasis on plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and plant-based proteins, which can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Although this has drawn the ire of big meat and dairy producers, health professionals claim it’s for the betterment of both our health and the environment.

Get the recipes for 20 Easy Vegan Weeknight Dinner Recipes

3. DO Become BFFs With Water
As the latest food guide overhaul makes abundantly clear, water should now and forever be your “beverage of choice.” That’s right, in an effort to keep us hydrated and curb the amount of sugary soft drinks and juices consumed (not to mention alcohol), water is the way to go from here on in. If that all sounds a little… well …repetitive and dull, consider adding flavour to your H20 with a handful of your favourite fruits, veggie slices or a dash of herbs such as mint or basil. Another option is to incorporate more water-rich foods into your diet, such as cucumber, watermelon and zucchini. If all else fails, there’s an app for that! The free Daily Water app can help you track your daily H20 intake and, before you know it, you’ll be opting for water over a soft drink or glass of wine at your next meal or social gathering.

4. DO Expand Your Palate
Canada boasts a rich diversity that can be seen in the variety of traditions, cultures and lifestyles that make up our nation – and the latest guide wants us to expand our food repertoire by exploring recipes outside our palate’s comfort zone. For those less adventurous foodies, you can start by trying something new every day, starting with items in a similar taste group (“flavour families”) as one of your favourite foods. For example, if you prefer sweet foods such as corn, then you’ll probably also enjoy parsnips and butternut squash.

Get the recipes for 13 Must-Try Canadian Foods by Province

5. DO Consider the Environment
While the overall health of Canadians is the main focus of the recent food guide updates, our actions – and what we choose to consume on a regular basis – do have a lasting impact on the environment. For example, there is strong evidence that eating more plant-based foods (and, by default, less animal-based products) affects greenhouse gas emissions, the amount of land used and pollutants produced. So go ahead and reduce your carbon footprint by opting for more plant-based proteins.

6. DON’T Confuse Whole Grains with Whole Wheat
With an influx of fibre, iron, plant-based protein and B vitamins, whole grains sure pack a considerable nutritional punch. Whole grain kernels are divided into three distinct parts: bran (outer shell packed with fibre and antioxidants), endosperm (middle layer made up of carbs) and germ (inner layer chock-full of minerals, proteins and vitamins). It also allows for a lot of versatility in the kitchen, as quinoa, wild rice, bulgur, oatmeal and millet, among others, are all considered whole grains.

Get the recipes for 10 Healthiest Whole Grains and How to Cook Them

7. DON’T Netflix and Nosh
We may not want to admit it, but most of us are serial snackers – whether we’re unconsciously doing it while watching TV at the end of a long work day or indulging in an assortment of goodies at a social gathering. A more mindful approach to help you “snack smart” includes selecting healthier versions of some of your go-to staples (instead of fries or chips, for example, you can opt for sweet potato fries. Yum!).

8. DON’T Waste Food
It happens: Produce goes bad, post-party scraps end up in the trash, and sometimes leftovers are tossed out instead of saved for a later date. According to the updated Canada Food Guide, however, a whopping annual average of $31 billion in wasted food is discarded due to impulse shopping, poor storage and unnecessarily large meals. To combat the issue – and help save the planet in the process – consider keeping everything neat and visible in your fridge so you’re always aware of what food you have and, when preparing for a meal, be conscious of serving sizes. You can further reduce household waste by preserving leftovers, donating unused non-perishable items and understanding expiration dates. It’ll save you money in the long run, as well.


See here for 8 Ways to Cut Food Waste in Your Kitchen

9. DON’T Fall for Fad Diets
You’ve seen ads for them everywhere, from TV to Instagram, extolling the virtues of the latest fad diet for quick-fix weight loss. Instead of cutting out certain foods or restricting your intake, consider incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet and opting for portion-controlled meals consisting of lean meats and fish. Enjoying a well-balanced breakfast every morning also goes a long way toward keeping your stomach satiated while waiting for your next meal – no diet required.

10. DON’T Ignore Food Labels – Especially Now
Sugar, along with saturated fat and sodium, are included in a group of items to cut back on. In fact, soft drinks are the number one source of sugar in the average Canadian diet. Cutting back on processed foods and reading food labels are easy ways to reduce your sugar and sodium intake. In addition, Health Canada has updated its nutrition label regulations, requiring that all sugar-based ingredients be listed in descending order by weight going forward. Food producers have three years to comply with this latest regulation.

Nutritionists Share 10 Realistic Ways to Eat Healthier During the Holidays (Without Skipping Carbs!)

Eating healthy during the holidays can be a challenging feat: people believe they need to deprive themselves of their grandmother’s famous jam rolls or their uncle’s beloved stuffing in order to have a healthy holiday season – but, this couldn’t be further from the truth! As nutritionists, we have guided many clients on how to eat well throughout the holidays without feeling guilty, bloated or lethargic. No need to skip out on the sugary treats or specialty alcoholic drinks, because there is actually a way to have your cake (quite literally) and eat it too. Here are our 10 realistic ways to eat healthy during the holidays.

1. Don’t Starve Yourself Before a Meal
A big meal is approaching, so you eat less throughout the day to make “room” for all of the goodies to come – this is a big no-no! When you don’t eat, your blood sugar drops so low that you end up hangrily binging on the meal instead of deeply enjoying it. When you eat this way, you ignore your hunger and full signals, and end up eating too much without really tasting the meal in front of you. Usually what happens next is severe bloating and a food coma. The goal is to have balanced blood sugar throughout the day, so eat all of your meals and/or snacks as you normally do. That way when you get to the holiday meal, your body won’t be as hungry and you will eat serving sizes that are appropriate for you.

2. Start Small (You Can Always Go Back for Seconds!)
The famous casserole, pecan pie and gratin that you otherwise never get to eat are now staring you down – so you must fill your plate! Sound familiar? As nutritionists, we always recommend starting small. This doesn’t mean passing up on the foods that appeal to you most, it just means start with smaller servings. Remember, you can always go back for more. Usually, when you start with smaller servings, you give your body time to realize it’s full and you’ll no longer want to refill your plate. When you take so much food on your first go around, your eyes tell your brain that you must eat it all, even if you get full. So start off small and only go for seconds if you’re still hungry.

3. Go for the Veg
We strongly encourage everyone to eat lots of veggies, especially green ones, which deliver incredible minerals, vitamins and antioxidants to the body. During the holidays, load up your plate with vegetables, even if they’re smothered in maple syrup, heavy cream and bacon. Not only will this help fill you up with fibre (so you feel full faster) but it also provides your body with important nutrients to digest, eliminate and detoxify some foods your body may not be used to eating.

4. Chew Your Food and Eat Mindfully
Did you know that you’re actually supposed to chew your food about 30 times before you swallow so that your salivary enzymes have a chance to break it down? This really applies to your eating habits all year round, but it’s especially important during the holidays. When you chew your food, you tend to eat much slower, your body will better digest the meal, and your brain and body have time to properly communicate and let you know when you’re full. You also allow yourself to eat mindfully and consciously, aware of the amounts you’re eating and the incredible tastes and textures of the food being consumed.

5. Eat Digestive Enzyme Rich Foods
Enzymes help your body process the foods you eat so you’re able to digest well, and then in turn feel energized. Some foods are naturally packaged with important enzymes that aid digestion, and these foods should especially be eaten during the holidays. To avoid feeling bloated, gassy and lethargic, we highly recommend eating pineapples, papayas, lemons, kefir and sauerkraut. They all have natural digestive enzymes that help break down the food you eat. You may even want to try a digestive enzyme supplement. If you’re not sure which one to choose, consult a healthcare practitioner.

6. Don’t Give Into Peer Pressure
Picture this: you’re enjoying a holiday meal, and someone at the dinner table (either the host, your mother-in-law or whomever) is aggressively pushing you to eat more food or to down the very special dish they cooked. This is so common, and many people overeat just so someone else won’t feel bad.  If you don’t want to eat anymore – don’t do it! You can tell the person you’re simply too full, or even ask to take some home so that you can try it later.

7. Choose the Foods You Love First
Most holiday meals are just a smorgasbord of so much food! It’s so easy to fill your plate with everything the eye can see, even if it’s items you don’t actually want. Before letting it all go and grabbing everything in sight, choose the dishes you absolutely love. Usually what happens is when you eat the foods you love first, you don’t feel the need to go back for the other dishes that aren’t as appealing to you anyway. You also limit the chances of overeating and ending up bloated and gassy.


Get the recipe for this Healthy Holiday Grain Bowl With Wine-Baked Tofu and Miso-Mushroom Gravy

8. Drink Lots of Water
You need to drink between 6-8 glasses of water a day, and your need for water will most likely increase during the holidays as your alcohol and sugar intake skyrockets. This will ensure you avoid dehydration and will help your body process these new dietary additions. Drinking water will also aid your digestive system and help flush out toxins. Sometimes when you think you’re hungry, your body is actually just thirsty, so drinking lots of water will also help to eliminate overeating that tends to come with the holiday season.

9. Eat Guilt-Free
You stuff your face, eat lots of desserts, overdo it on the potatoes, have one too many cocktails… and then the guilt sets in: you start beating yourself up for eating so much and now feel sorry for yourself. We’ve all been there. Even if you do over-indulge, it’s important to take that guilt off the menu. If you eat in a state of gratitude, appreciation and love for the food and people around you, it won’t be that big of a deal that you overdid it. It happens, so move on and remember that tomorrow is a new day.


Get the recipe for these Three Easy No-Bake Vegan Chocolate Truffles

10. Find an Accountability Partner
As nutritionists, this is something we recommend for many of our clients, whether it’s during the holiday season or not. If you want to eat healthy, or at least eat in moderation when enjoying a holiday meal, it’s best to call on a friend or family member to be your accountability partner. They don’t need to control what you’re eating, but if you have someone around that has your back and wants to keep you in line with your health goals, you will most likely stick to eating well without overdoing it.

How to Become a Morning Person (And What Your Diet Has to Do With It)

Anyone who (willingly) wakes up at 5 a.m. every morning is something of a superhuman. Or at the very least, the early riser we all strive to one day become. Marlie Cohen, a Toronto-based certified personal trainer, holistic health coach and the face behind lifestyle blog Kale & Krunches, is that person. But just like mastering a gruelling spin class – becoming a morning person takes dedication. Read on for the fitness expert’s top 10 tips to make waking up early easier than you ever thought possible.

1. Morning Movement

“My morning routine starts with some form of meditation or movement to get the blood flowing,” says Marlie, whether taking a few deep breaths and stretching at home or stepping out for an early 6 a.m. workout. She also makes a habit of journaling every morning – jotting down three things she’s grateful for as a form of positive affirmation to start the day.

2. Better Breakfast

Whether you’re hungry right when you wake up, or not until after your a.m. workout, always nourish your body with a wholesome morning meal. For Marlie, that means eggs, avocado and toast for breakfast – the perfect combination of carbs, fat and protein. This balance of macronutrients will increase energy levels and ensure you’re satiated until lunch.

Get the recipe for this upgraded Avocado Toast With Poached Eggs.

3. Drink Water First Thing

Before you do anything else, drink a glass of water once out of bed. “You’re super dehydrated when you wake up,” says Marlie. “Drinking water gets the metabolism going and hydrates your muscles to prepare for the day ahead.” Make sure you drink enough H2O throughout the day, too. Marlie advises drinking two to three litres per day, depending on how active you are and how much you sweat.

4. Coffee 2.0

Fact: brewing a fresh cuppa Joe at home makes early wake-ups slightly less daunting. But instead of loading it with cream and sugar, Marlie (pictured below) adds a secret superfood ingredient to her Nespresso coffee: cinnamon. “Not only does it taste really good, it helps control insulin resistance in the body and stabilizes blood sugar,” she says. Cinnamon can also aid in curbing sugar cravings throughout the day and releases caffeine into the body at a slower pace.

5. Stop Drinking Water

We’ve all been there: abruptly waking from a deep sleep thanks to a full bladder. The solution? Don’t drink water after supper. “During dinner, have a few glasses, but I would probably stop after that,” says Marlie. This will prevent being disturbed and waking up throughout the night.

6. Eat Foods High in Magnesium

“Magnesium naturally calms the body and controls your cortisol levels and stress hormones,” she says. Reach for foods high in the mineral, such as whole grains, spinach, green leafy vegetables, almonds and quinoa. Marlie’s favourite magnesium-rich meal is salmon (also high in the nutrient) with quinoa and a sautéed green vegetable like spinach or broccoli.

Get the recipe for Lynn Crawford’s Roast Salmon with Grapefruit and Quinoa Salad.

7. Know When to Stop Eating

While some experts say to stop eating around 7 p.m., Marlie has a different theory: “It depends on your schedule,” she says, pointing to the fact that she often won’t finish teaching until nine at night. In other words, what you eat is more important than when you eat it. “Sugary or carb cravings at night are probably a signal from your body that you’re thirsty, didn’t eat enough throughout the day or you’re tired,” she says. “Nighttime snack cravings are really our body saying it’s time to go to bed.”

8. Opt for Natural Sleep Remedies

If finding your Zen proves difficult at night, turn to the power of essential oils: “I have a lavender spray that I’ll use on my pillows, and will also use the oil on the soles of my feet,” she says.


Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.

9. Have a Regular Wake-Up Time

“I think people might overlook the benefits of having a regular wake-up time,” says Marie. Even if your schedule changes day-to-day, she recommends setting your alarm for the same time each morning to establish a consistent daily practice and stabilize our circadian rhythm.

10. Ditch Your Phone

Perhaps the most important tip of all – keep technology out of the bedroom. “I always put my phone in a different room, so when my alarm goes off, it forces me out of bed,” she says. This also means you won’t be glued to your phone before switching off the lights, ultimately leading to a sweet, sound slumber.

Looking for more tips? Here are the Top 10 Foods That Will Help You Sleep along with the Best and Worst Foods to Eat Before Bedtime.

 

How to Decode Food Labels Like a Pro

There are dozens of unregulated, meaningless terms that pop up on food packaging. It’s not just convenience and processed foods that have hard-to-decipher nutrition labels and buzzwords — whole grains, eggs, milk and more display this industry slang — leaving many consumers confused about what they’re actually eating.

We’re constantly wooed by food packaging, with terms like “superfood” and “fresh” catching our eye, which is exactly what they’re designed to do. Even if you know better (for the most part), it’s easy to be swayed into purchasing something (expensive or unhealthy) that you don’t actually need.

Consider this your back pocket guide to deciphering food buzzwords like a pro.

888_decode-food-labels

Food Packaging Terms:

Natural/All-Natural
Natural and all-natural labels are unregulated terms that mean absolutely nothing, and are frequently used in the wellness sphere. Packages will often showcase pastoral images of grass and farms, while keeping the colour palette in “natural” pastels. Skip anything that’s parading this label around, and look at the ingredient list — the briefer, the better.

Superfood
Another unregulated term that doesn’t legally mean anything. Superfoods often include things like cacao nibs and goji berries, which are nutrient-dense ingredients, but they won’t make you healthier per se. Eating foods rich in nutrients, like fresh vegetables and berries, is a tastier, more economical way to enjoy superfoods. Of course, if you love the taste of cacao nibs and goji berries, go ahead and eat them in moderation as part of a balanced, whole food diet.

Organic/Certified Organic
This term is very tricky and differs in Canada and the U.S. In Canada, by law, foods displaying the organic claim need to contain at least 70 per cent or more organic ingredients (grown according to organic standards), and must also mention who certified it. Foods that voluntarily stamp on the Organic Canada logo must contain at least 95 per cent organic ingredients, all of which are certified by the Organic Canada Regime. The organic ingredients in these products must be produced in accordance with Canadian Organic Standards. Imported products, from the U.S. and beyond, that claim to be organic and display the Organic Canada logo, must include the words “Product of” with the country of origin or state that it was “Imported.”

Finally, “organic” does not mean a product is healthy. A box of organic cookies and non-organic cookies will be identical in terms of sugar, fat and calories — the organic version is just more expensive.

Multigrain
Most shelf-stable bread is full of sugar and preservatives, with “multigrain” varieties rarely being the healthiest option. Many whole wheat, whole grain and multigrain varieties often have food colouring added to make them appear browner. Multigrain doesn’t always mean that the product is made with the whole grain or whole grains. Words such as “bran,” “wheat germ” and “enriched flour” may sound healthy, but they’re never used to describe whole grains.

Instead of shelf-stable varieties of bread, go for a local, naturally fermented sourdough. It’s tastier, easier to digest and won’t leave you looking for a post-carb nap. This bread can be sliced and frozen as it won’t keep on the counter for more than a day due to (thankfully) lack of preservatives.

Reduced Fat
Food product labels claiming to be “reduced fat” often have more calories, additives and stabilizers than their original version. This is most prevalent in peanut butter and cookies, with reduced fat products delivering more calories, sugar, carbohydrates and chemicals than your body knows what to do with. We suggest making your own cookies and choosing a one-ingredient peanut butter.

Immune Boosting
You can’t actually boost your immune system, so back away from any food claiming to do so. You can certainly support your immune system with a healthy diet rich in vitamins, minerals and probiotics, like these fun (label-free) Strawberry Kiwi Greek Yogurt Popsicles.

Gluten-Free
Those with celiac disease must avoid all gluten-containing grains, making the popularity of this food trend a good thing for improved accessibility and awareness. However, with only 1 per cent of the population having celiac disease, it’s likely more of a marketing move to make consumers reach for it as the “healthier” option. Like organic cookies being equally as unhealthy as the non-organic version, gluten-free foods can be more refined, sugary and chemical-laden than their gluten-containing counterparts. Head to the produce aisle for honestly gluten-free foods like kale, bananas and beets.

Fresh
When you see the word “fresh” on a food label, which is unregulated and means nothing in terms of nutrition, put it back on the shelf. For truly “fresh” foods, shop the perimeter of the grocery store, choosing foods such as vegetables, fruit, fish, meat, eggs and dairy.

Next time you head to the store, arm yourself with this cheat sheet and choose more wholesome ingredients to cook from scratch. Luckily, we have hundreds of delicious recipes to get you started with this — and that’s a statement you can trust.

11 Easy Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

When you’re off to college or university for the first time, you have to take care of a few things, like tuition and books. But don’t forget to take care of yourself when it comes to a healthy diet. Eating nutrient-dense foods also means better brain health, so you’ll be able to ace those exams with your eyes closed. Of course, eating wholesome, nutritious foods can be quite expensive — unless you follow these nutritionist-approved tips.

888_eating-healthy-on-budget

1. Make a Meal Plan
Sketching out a meal plan for the week is essential for focused, affordable grocery shopping. If you don’t have a plan of what you’re going to make for dinner and pack for lunches, you’ll likely run out for convenience food, which costs far more than a homemade meal. If you have roommates or housemates, get them involved as well; this will make the task more fun and you can split the grocery bill.

2. Embrace Plant-Based Protein
Meat and seafood can be expensive to eat every night, so rely on canned beans and dry lentils, both wildly affordable, for a plant-based source of protein a few times a week. Canned beans can be enjoyed in a salad, dressed up with a bit of spice for a salsa or mashed as a quesadilla filling. Lentils cook up in less than 30 minutes, and can cost less than $5 for a large bag at the grocery store.

3. Make Coffee At Home
Make coffee at home throughout the week and save your café-going for weekends and exam season. Depending on your order, you could be saving about $20 per week. You don’t even need a bulky coffee machine, just a kettle and French press. This guide from Detour Coffee shows you how to make a French press coffee at home (or in a dorm room). Pack in a travel mug and you’re all set for that early morning lecture.

4. Cook Once, Eat Twice
Make a double batch of your dinner and stop paying upwards of $8 for lunch tomorrow. Though I’ve been out of university for many years now, I’ve kept to this this habit in my working life. I make a large stew, like this Spicy Red Lentil Vegetable Stew (serves 8!) on Sunday to eat for lunch the following week.

5. Invest in Locking Glass Containers
These can cost a bit more than plastic containers up front, but unless you break the glass (which is very hard to do), you don’t have to replace them as often, if ever. I’ve been using my glass containers for many years and continue to pack them up with homemade meals for affordable days out and about. Pack yogurt, fruit and granola in them for breakfast, grain salads, sandwiches or leftovers for lunch, or snacks for late night cram sessions.

6. Stick to Classic Superfoods
Healthy ingredients like broccoli, bananas, beets, onions, sunflower seeds, raisins, eggs, lentils, black beans and plain yogurt aren’t expensive, and remain some of the most wholesome foods you can eat. You don’t have to eat all those hyped-up superfoods to be healthy, so keep it simple with the classics.

7. Skip the Pre-Packaged and Prepared Foods
You can make a salad yourself for about $1 (maybe even less) and skip the $8-plus pre-made salad from the store. Buy a large pack of lettuce to last the week and garnish with hardboiled eggs, chopped cucumber, sunflower seeds and dried fruit. Olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a bit of salt are all the ingredients you need to dress it up. Some salads, like this hearty Kale and Quinoa salad from Valerie Bertinelli, can be kept pre-made in the refrigerator all week long.

8. Visit the Bulk Food Store
I love getting spices from a bulk food store or bulk bins at the grocery store. I can purchase very small quantities if I know I’m not going to use it very often or I’m just looking to “sample” it in a new recipe. Small quantities of spices, which can really add a load of flavour to a meal, can cost under a dollar, compared to jarred spices, which can run you $5 or more per jar.

9. Your New Favourite Snack
Apples and peanut butter are where it’s at. Go for natural, unsalted peanut butter, and season it yourself. If you have it handy, a sprinkle of cinnamon makes this feel gourmet. Protein, fibre, healthy fats and a bit of salty-sweet crunch make apples and peanut butter a snack that almost feels like dessert.

10. Eat Seasonally
Eat produce that’s in season and local in your area. In-season foods, like apples appearing in fall, for instance, are often more affordable than out-of-season produce or produce flown from across the world.

11. Student Discount Days
Often, university and college towns and cities will have days of the week (usually a weekday), where students are offered a discount. Though you’ll likely face a crowd, this savings can really pay off on your final bill.

10 Pantry Staples This Nutritionist Can’t Live Without

Keeping a well-stocked pantry is always a top priority — menu planning and impromptu meals are made easy when I have what I need at hand. Building a healthy pantry takes time and can be overwhelming to shop for in one go, so start small. Go for one or two of the following recommendations and before you know it, a treasure trove of healthy cooking goodies will be at your disposal. The bulk food store is your best friend in the case for many of these goods, so stock up.

From canned beans to oils to grains to natural sweeteners, here’s a list of nutrient-filled pantry stars you should bring into your kitchen today.

1. Coconut Oil

The virgin variety of coconut oil, known for its luscious tropical taste, is heat-stable up to 350°F. I like to use this in place of butter for dairy-free baking, in smoothies, to sauté vegetables and as a foundation for coconut milk-based curries by toasting the spices in it. Coconut oil is one of my favourite ways to incorporate some healthy fats into my daily diet.

Try coconut oil in place of butter in pastry: Vegan Sweet Potato and Kale Galette with Pistachio Parmesan

vegan-sweet-potato-and-kale-galette

2. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

EVOO contains anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fats and cell-protecting antioxidants. I use the extra-virgin variety for salad dressings, to garnish soups and grains, and even bake with it. More refined “light” olive oils are better for high-temperature roasting (325°F plus) as they’re less likely to oxidize.

Try baking with EVOO: Zucchini Olive Oil Cake with Mandarin Orange Glaze and Walnut Olive Brittle

zucchini-olive-oil-cake-with-mandarin-orange-glaze-and-walnut-olive-brittle

3. Apple Cider Vinegar

I keep apple cider vinegar handy to perk up just about any savoury meal. It goes especially well in salad dressings, and can brighten up a bean soup without added salt. “Raw” unpasteurized apple cider vinegar contains probiotics for a healthy immune system, making it a pantry must-have.

Use apple cider vinegar to brighten up a whole grain salad: Quinoa, Roasted Eggplant and Apple Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette

quinoa-roasted-eggplant-and-apple-salad-with-cumin-vinaigrette

4. Raw Nuts and Seeds

I keep raw chia, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin and hemp seeds in my refrigerator for quick nutrient boosters for any meal, whether it’s a bowl of oats or addition to a salad. Nuts such as almonds, walnuts and cashews get a workout in my homemade granolas, trail mix and homemade nut butters. Nuts and seeds are rich in healthy fats, protein and minerals, so I make sure to have at least a handful (all unsalted) every day.

Turn chia seeds into a creamy, dairy-free dessert: Berry Chia Seed Pudding

berry-chia-seed-pudding

5. Chickpeas

If I don’t have beans and legumes in my cupboard, I may go into full-on panic mode. I buy canned chickpeas (and cook my own when I’m feeling ambitious) for quick soups, stews, salads, vegan “fudge” and homemade hummus. Instead of egg or chicken, I mash chickpeas with mayonnaise and lemon for a chickpea salad to add between whole grain bread or tuck inside a wrap – it’s a quick, make-ahead lunch.

Have chickpeas this weekend for brunch: Smoky Chickpeas on Grilled Toast with Poached Eggs & Zahtar

smoky-chickpeas-on-grilled-toast-with-poached-eggs-and-zahtar

6. Whole Grains

I buy whole grains in bulk so I can try a small portion of each one. Millet, quinoa, short-grain brown rice and large-flake oats are my top picks, all delivering a unique nutritional profile. If you have a blender, you can grind your own gluten-free and whole grain flours for baking (for this, I recommend oats, millet or quinoa). Build a grain bowl, make a porridge or pudding, bake a cake, toss a salad, stir into a soup or stew — the sky’s the limit with whole grains.

Replace white rice with whole grain millet in risotto: Millet, Kale and Lemon Risotto 

millet-kale-and-lemon-risotto

7. Whole Grain Pasta

Sometimes, only pasta will do. I buy spelt, kamut or gluten-free brown rice noodles in every shape and size available (I really love pasta!). To watch portion size, I’ll enjoy 2 to 3 ounces (dry weight) and fill it out with plenty of low-starch vegetables and some protein, like a fried or poached egg — and probably some cheese on top.

Bulk up whole grain pasta with lean greens and meaty mushrooms: Whole Grain Spaghetti With Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms

whole-grain-spaghetti-with-brussels-sprouts-and-mushrooms

8. Maple Syrup

I have a moderate sweet tooth and usually try to satiate it with fresh fruit (apples or bananas with peanut butter is my afternoon go-to). However, I always keep real maple syrup, preferably grade B “medium” for its full-bodied taste, in my kitchen. It is a great addition to granola, sweetening up Greek yogurt, baking, stir-fry sauces, beverages, as well as an obligatory topper for whole grain spelt pancakes and waffles.

Enhance your healthy comfort food dinner sides with maple syrup (and EVOO!): Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes

maple-mashed-sweet-potatoes

9. Dried Herbs & Spices

If I want to add flavour to any meal and also bump up the nutritional prowess, I head on over to my spice cabinet. Like whole grains, I buy small portions of dried herbs and spices in bulk, for the most variety and best price. Dried herbs and spices contain lesser-known antioxidants that support good health. Cinnamon is great for sweet treats or Moroccan-inspired savoury dishes, cumin is always added to hummus, dried thyme tastes wonderful in roasted potatoes and chili powder helps to build a flavour-packed chili.

Give omega-3-packed salmon a hit of smoky, earthy spice: Blackened Salmon

blackened-salmon

10. Sea Salt

I choose unrefined sea salt for its mineral profile and clean, crisp taste. Fine-grain sea salt goes well in baking and flaky salt adds texture to just about any food, both savoury and sweet.

Skip store-bought trail mix and make your own sweet and salty, heart-healthy walnut version: Maple-Glazed Walnuts with Sea Salt

maple-glazed-walnuts-with-sea-salt

Want more pantry staple ideas? Check out 18 Staples You Should Always Have in Your Pantry and 11 Clever Ways to Use Pantry Staples

The 10 Healthiest Whole Grains and How to Cook Them

Whole grains come in all shapes, sizes, tastes and textures. With a myriad of B vitamins, fibre, iron, plant-based protein and minerals, each tiny grain delivers a hefty nutritional punch. A whole grain has its natural bran, endosperm and germ intact, which hold a good portion of its nutritional value.

The complex carbohydrates present in whole grains digest more slowly than refined versions, keeping blood sugar levels (and cravings) regulated for sustained energy. They’ve also been shown to reduce LDL (“bad” cholesterol), help to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, as well as lower heart disease and diabetes risk.

With whole grains, you’ve got many options not only in variety, but versatility in the kitchen, too. From breakfast to dinner and everything in between, there’s a grain out there for every time constraint, cooking level and craving. Here are the 10 most nutritious whole grains with tasty ways to add them to your daily diet.

888x600_healthiest-grains-explained

Warm Brown Rice and Wheat Berry Salad Bowl

Millet
Not just for the birds, millet is a gluten-free whole grain containing amino acids, complex carbohydrates, fibre and a range of minerals. Its tiny, bead-like appearance makes it a whole grain alternative to couscous (refined white pasta), can be ground in your blender to make gluten-free flour for baked goods, and can be turned into a creamy grain main like this Millet, Lemon and Kale “Risotto.”

Quinoa
Quinoa’s superfood status is reputable, with complete plant-based protein containing all essential amino acids, fibre, iron and slow-digesting carbohydrates. The original fast-food, quinoa cooks up in 15 minutes and can be used in lieu of oats in porridge, tossed in a leafy salad, served as a simple side dish or as the main such as this cozy Avocado, Kale and Quinoa Salad.

Oats
Bran, rolled, steel-cut and whole groats are all the same grain presented in different ways. They’re high in soluble fibre, helping to lower cholesterol, improve digestion, help manage a healthy weight, reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and more. An everyday pantry staple that makes not only a fantastic warm breakfast cereal with rolled oats, but also risotto with steel-cut or pilaf with whole groats. They’re also star players in desserts, like this healthier recipe for Honey Oat Roasted Pears.

Farro (Spelt)
A popular grain in Italy long before it appeared on the everyday North American table, farro is an ancient wheat with a chewy, rice-like appearance that comes in three varieties; farro piccolo (einkorn), farro medio (emmer) and farro grande (spelt). Its ability to stay intact makes it the perfect pasta substitute in cold salads, like this veggie-packed Farro Salad with Radishes, Arugula and Feta.

Freekeh
A whole grain with a funny name, freekeh is a low-glycemic, naturally low-carbohydrate popular for its earthy taste and stellar nutritional profile. With four times the fibre of the same amount of brown rice, freekeh keeps you fuller for longer. It’s roasted, allowing it to work as a bold base for hearty pilafs. Try freekeh in a substantial bowl of greens and grains like this Carrot, Spinach and Freekeh Salad with Miso Vinaigrette.

Corn
Not often thought of as a whole grain, corn’s bad-boy health persona should be limited to the refined versions of itself (i.e. high-fructose corn syrup). Its standout nutritional features are lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that help eyesight. As a whole food, corn is a unique grain in that it’s eaten fresh from the cob, as well as dried in the form of cornmeal and flour. For an elegant and healthy vegetarian entrée with corn, try this Veggie Ragu on Blue Cheese Polenta.

Brown Rice
Whole grain brown rice is a low-allergen, gluten-free whole grain high in B vitamins, selenium, fibre and slow-digesting carbohydrates. Many varieties of white rice can be readily found in whole grain brown rice such as basmati, short grain and long grain. Combined with a legume or bean, brown rice turns into a complete plant-based protein, as showcased in this recipe for Goat Cheese, Lentil and Brown Rice Rolls.

Black Rice
Inky-black with a slightly sweet, grapey taste, this dark-coloured whole grain is one of the highest sources of antioxidants in any food, even more so than most fruits and vegetables. It’s excellent as a side dish, used as a bed for curries or made into a healthy dessert like this Black Rice Pudding with Mango, Lime, Passion Fruit and Coconut.

Barley
Nutty, tender barley is best known for its role in wholesome soups and stews. Containing high amounts of B vitamins, magnesium, selenium and fibre, barley is an everyday, economical pantry staple. As it’s not gluten-free, barley isn’t suitable for those with celiac disease. Employ this pleasingly chewy whole grain as a complete-meal like this simple Slow-Cooker Bean and Barley Soup.

Wheat Berries
Unrefined whole wheat (used to make whole wheat flour) makes up wheat berries, which have a fruity, delicate flavour and a texture similar to barley. This slow-digesting, energy-boosting grain delivers a host of B vitamins, as well as fibre and magnesium. Use as a cold or warm breakfast cereal served with fruit and almond milk, or try this superfood-packed, double-grain Warm Brown Rice and Wheat Berry Salad Bowl.

How to Choose the Healthiest Type of Salt for Cooking

With the ability to bring out the inherent, muted flavours in food, salt is added to most recipes — including sweets — to smooth everything out. Without it, home cooking can be bland and unappetizing, but getting in the habit of adding too much salt to foods is linked to high blood pressure and cardiovascular irregularities. While definitely less health-threatening, large amounts of salt can cause water retention, making your pants feel a bit snugger and leaving your skin looking dehydrated. However, salt is necessary for our bodies to function correctly, maintaining normal heart rhythm and nerve function — without it, serious complications can arise.

888_types-of-salt

How Much Salt Should I Eat Per Day?

Eating too little salt is generally not a concern for most, with the advent of packaged and convenience foods. Enjoying a diet rich in whole, unprocessed, naturally low-sodium foods is the most nutritious option, allowing you to add salt to taste when cooking, reducing the risk of overdoing your daily recommended amount. Current Health Canada guidelines advocate most healthy adults eat approximately 1500 mg of sodium per day, though most are consuming more than double that.

Sodium and chlorine are the two elements that make up salt, making all types of salt sources of these essential compounds, adding another layer of confusion to the mix, as most are indistinguishable to the palate from one to the next. Whether purchasing at a grocery store or specialty food shop, salt’s diverse price range, wide-spanning varieties and nutritional profile can leave you scratching your head.

What is Sea Salt?

Sea salt is derived from its eponymous source (the sea), originating from any number of regions around the world. Its clean, pure taste is adored by cooks and is available in coarse and fine options; the former is well suited for garnishing, while the latter is ideal for cooking food and baking thanks to its ability to dissolve. Coming in white, grey, red, pink and black, the colour you choose is a matter of personal preference and price point.

Regarding health benefits, sea salt is plentiful in trace minerals due to its marine derivation, delivering many of the same nutritional compounds that make surperfood seaweed so nutritious. The healthiest forms of sea salt are the least refined with no added preservatives (which can mean clumping in the fine variety). Pink Himalayan salt is touted by healthy home cooks as the ultimate mineral-rich seasoning, said to be the purest of the sea salt family.

What is Ground Salt?

The most common ground salt (taken from the ground, not the sea) is table salt, a cheap and common seasoning that can be found in most home kitchens. A more refined version of salt, table salt has added iodine, a trace mineral necessary for correct thyroid function, thyroid cancer-prevention and proper mental development and maintenance. Iodine deficiency is rare, and the mineral can be accessed from vegetables, seaweeds, milk, wild fish, eggs, and unrefined sea salts.

What is Kosher Salt?

Kosher salt tastes slightly less salty than table salt or sea salts (though it can be derived by either the sea or ground) due to its ability to dissolve more quickly on the tongue. Anticaking agents can be added to kosher salt, but can be purchased pure, too. Kosher salt makes it easy to grab a pinch and clings to food well, making it a favourite amongst chefs and home cooks alike.

What Are Gourmet Salts and How Do I Use Them?

Gourmet salts run the gamut in terms of price and taste. “Plain” finishing and naturally flavoured finishing salts can be a unique addition to any dish. They carry a heftier price tag than a basic sea salt or ground salt, but are used in moderate amounts, potentially lasting for years.

Fleur de sel (“flower of salt” in French) is a readily available sea salt ideal for garnishing (both sweet and savoury foods), and, while still expensive, carries a softer price tag than many other gourmet options. Fleur de sel’s pure nature, free of additives, preservatives or anticaking agents, will provide the same trace minerals as other salts, with a cleaner taste.

Smoked salts are just that; smoked. This gourmet treat is to be used sparingly on meats, fish, eggs and vegetables for a truly unique taste. Flavoured salts can include any number of natural additions, from lemon peel to lavender to dried truffles to chili, and can be purchased or made at home.

Are Salt Alternatives Healthier?

Like sugar, salt has low-sodium alternatives that are generally comprised of chemical sources. Some find the strange taste of chemically derived salt alternatives to be off-putting. Salt alternatives can adversely interact with some medications and health conditions, so check with a doctor before reaching for this product.

Natural, chemical-free options such as dulse (seaweed) granules are marketed as a salt substitute, containing the same range of minerals as “pure” sea salt. The taste of dulse granules is decidedly sea-like, so use judiciously when adding this salt substitute to a recipe.

And the Healthiest Salt Is…

No matter which salt you choose, the small amount used contributes little nutritional value to your overall diet, making your selection a matter of personal taste. If you’re concerned about increasing the mineral content in your diet, focus on consuming more grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, nuts and lean protein — salt shouldn’t be used as a supplement or alternative for the nutrition these foods contain. Reducing your total salt intake to the recommended daily intake (1500 mg) can be accomplished with a diet low in unprocessed foods and yes, a pinch or two of salt — any type you like.