3 Easy & Healthy Recipes: Tried and Tested by 13-year-olds

In anticipation of our newly launched Healthy Eating for New Moms Bundle here at Meal Garden, I've been experimenting with some more "kid-friendly" recipes to get more acquainted in this "meal planning mommy space". Or perhaps, I've just been totally inspired by a whole new way of looking at recipes: keeping things:

1. SIMPLE

2. FAST

3. HEALTHY (but not in a weird, need to remind yourself that "it will payoff eventually" way)

I've also just moved in with my younger cousin, who happens to be 13-years-old and not always the biggest fan of the idea of "healthy" eating. Weird, but true!

This weekend, I let my cousin hand-pick 3 recipes from Meal Garden to experiment with, and we did the shopping, prepping, and eating from start-to-finish - TOGETHER. The results? Healthy eating for kids is totally possible...but needs to be done SMART - not necessarily sneakily, but wisely.

Here are my top 3 take-aways from the "experiment", and the [revised] recipes that I'll recommend to any moms with picky eaters (or just "normal children"):

1. Incorporate a familiar and already-loved ingredient into the new (less familiar) dish.

My cousin and I were fairly courageous with these Moo Shu Wraps - I liked the idea of "lighter", fresher, plant-based "burritos" - my cousin simply liked the idea that it somehow resembled a burrito. 

The "feature" protein here? Tofu. Not exactly his go-to protein source. Maybe one day, but not today.

Still, I went all out and pushed for the organic tofu option.

Next time? I'm going to incorporate something he already loves - chicken! While the wraps were fun to make (seriously, rice wraps = a good solid time), he did comment that chicken would have been "tastier". Perhaps that's a sign I should have marinated the tofu a bit more, but there's also nothing wrong with a bit of pulled lean chicken breast, so I've updated the recipe on Meal Garden (it's still healthy folks!) and will be making that version for him next time.

2. Consistency is key.

Next up we made BROWNIES! Who doesn't love a good old brownie recipe? ME! Especially if it's loaded up with sugar and white flour and other unmentionables. Luckily, we've got Meal Expert Danielle Binns onboard here at Meal Garden, and her Black Bean Brownie Recipe was a winner, even with my legume-fearing cousin!

Danielle calls these brownies AMAZING for a reason people! They are truly an indulgent dessert. BUT while the recipe didn't necessarily call for a food processor to truly pulverize the beans into a completely disguised mush (maybe this should have been obvious and I totally missed the boat?)...I'd recommend it either way. 

While both my cousin and his friend enjoyed the recipe (warm - right out of the oven, yum!) they did make the comment: "You can still tell there's beans though."

Okay dudes, point taken.

PS side note: black beans apparently "smell really bad" right out of the can...so maybe make a joke out of that right from the start. I also got my cousin and his friend to smell the glorious coconut oil as a way to deter their noses onto something more enjoyable and pleasantly sniffable ;)

3. NO PRESSURE!

While my cousin isn't TOTALLY against all things healthy...his friend...not so much. "I don't like veggies", "No, I don't eat kale", "I hate anything that's healthy though", are just a few of the lovely quotes he shared with me on that wonderful day. 

Instead of putting pressure on him to SUCK IT UP AND TRY SOMETHING NEW - I took Dr. Orlena Kerek's advice to simply keep things "anxiety-free" and present the option - without the pressure. [Learn more about her tips on Introducing New Foods here].

This worked wonders for the "surprisingly" delicious recipe that followed - a snack and dessert all in one. Oh yeah, and it's kale.

Maple Coconut Kale Chips my friends. They are a delightful surprise to your tastebuds with every bite. 

RIDICULOUSLY simple to make, these babies are bound to win over your pickiest of eaters - without the fight. While we were washing and stemming the kale, both my cousin and his friend did NOT seem enthused at the idea of eating this green stuff. 

I simply explained that we'll coat them with the sauce, pop them in the oven, and we can just serve them to my aunt - we don't even have to eat them! That made them feel better.

Until they could smell them...and eventually asked to "just try one".

Countless bites later, I had happy kids on my hands.


So there you have it, healthy eating isn't always a straight path to glory - but with Meal Garden, I have a handy little assistant at my side...as I begin to turn my family and entire neighbourhood into total health freaks like me (or, okay, slightly healthier individuals).

150 Years of Food

This year marks Canada’s 150th birthday so we thought we’d take the opportunity to celebrate the innovations from the past this week! Canada has a fine reputation for being a melting pot of cultures due to immigrants coming from all four corners of the world and co-existing with the First Nations people in the years around colonialism, confederation and the years afterwards. This is something I have always found very beautiful about Canada, and it reflects in our cuisine. The fusion of cultures has given birth to a number of new innovations and types of cuisine. The timeline below illustrates our history with a focus on Canadian food culture and how it has shaped the food environment of today…

· 1870: Pemmican from the First Nations people

Pemmican is a mixture of pounded bison meat mixed with bison fat and occasionally dried berries. It was a staple in the Prairie Provinces because it was portable, dense and long-lasting. To that extent, it fueled many of the Hudson Bay Company’s (HBC) traders. By 1870 however, bison herds were thinning due to Indigenous tribes trying to meet the HBC’s demand for pemmican and bison hides, and by 1880, the bison were almost extinct. A few years later, thousands of Indigenous men, women and children died of starvation in the prairies because of not having access to their traditional food.

· 1876: Red Fife Wheat

Red Fife wheat became the dominant wheat variety used in Canada throughout the 70s by millers and bakers due to its adaptability to the climate of Western Canada. This attracted settlers to the prairies who had a background in farming to make a living from working the land. In 1876 the Steele Briggs Co. of Toronto received its first shipment of this wheat from Manitoba, further spreading it across Canada’s urban core.

· 1890s-1910s: Pierogis

Nearly 170,000 Ukrainian immigrants came to Canada in these years, bringing their delicious cuisine with them. They settled in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta and came to define prairie food culture with their pierogis.

· 1900: Butter Tarts

Butter tarts originate from pioneer cooking in Canadian history and they are still a favourite today. They are considered one of the dishes of true Canadian origin. The earliest published Canadian recipe is from Barrie, Ontario in the Women’s Auxiliary of Royal Victoria Hospital Cookbook.

Try this healthier Meal Garden equivalent:  

· 1928: Montreal smoked meat and bagels

Schwartz’s deli on the Boulevard St-Laurent in Montreal is one of the most famous places to get Montreal smoked meat and Jewish bagels. Founded by Reuben Schwartz, this deli was part of a number that opened this year to cater towards the Kosher dietary preferences of a growing Jewish refugee population fleeing the pogroms and prosecutions of Eastern Europe.

· 1931: Pablum

This was a mushy and nutritionally fortified infant food developed at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and it revolutionized infant feeding on a global scale, while also reassuring SickKids’ status as an international research institution.

· 1937: Kraft Dinner

Kraft Dinner was first released as a convenience solution for families and quickly became a symbol of Canadian Food Culture. Today Canadians continue to consume more KD per capita than anyone else in the world!

Meal Garden’s healthier swap recommendation can be found here:

· 1941: Canada War Cake

War Cake was a simple eggless, milkless, butterless and sugar-stretching dessert that appeared in newspapers across the country during both world wars. Because eggs, milk, butter, meats and other calorie and nutrient rich foods were sent to soldiers on the home front, this recipe was a symbol of the mobilization of the entire population for war.

· 1950s: Fishsticks and Poutine

Fish sticks are a symbol of the industrialization of the cod fishery. Workers could cut the frozen blocks of fish produced on factory trawlers into bite-sized strips, which could then be breaded and deep fried - and alternative to waiting for fish blocks to melt and separating the product into individual fillets.

Poutine is a purely Quebecois dish consisting of fries, gravy and cheese curds with origins in Quebec chip shacks. Today it can be found in both high-end restaurants and fast-food chains with endless variations on the French favourite.

· 1953: Nanaimo Bars

The earliest confirmed printing of a copy of this recipe is in Edith Adams’ prize cookbook and a copy of it is on view at the Nanaimo museum. Its popularity in Canada has given much pride to the British Columbia city of Nanaimo, where it was developed. It is layered a dessert with a chocolate and coconut layer on the bottom, a cream layer in the middle and hard chocolate layer on top.

· 1960s: Halifax Donair

Greek immigrant and restaurant owner Peter Gamoulakos made changes to the traditional gyro in order to gain acceptability of his dish from the Nova Scotian public. Lamb was replaced with beef and tzatiki was replaced with a sweet sauce made with evaporated milk. This donair is served with tomatoes and onion and has become a cult classic in the Maritimes.

· 1964: Tim Hortons

The first Tim Hortons opened in Hamilton, Ontario serving only doughnuts and coffee. Today it has turned into a beloved, family-oriented brand serving comforting baked, delicious goods and beverages to all of Canada. It has become a symbol of Canadian culture and phrases like “double-double” or “roll-up” are quintessentially Tim Hortons.

· 1970s: Asian Fusion – The birth of the California roll and Ginger Beef

The California Roll was Japanese immigrant, Hidekazu Tojo’s innovation to get Vancouverites to eat sushi. By putting the rice on the outside of the maki roll, he created a new favourite dish and a wider acceptability of sushi food culture!

Ginger beef was the Canadian prairie provinces’ take on General Tso’s chicken. It is a sweet-and-savoury Chinese-Canadian classic that was first developed by chef George Wong at Calgary’s Silver Inn.

· 1975: McCain Superfries

McCain started in New Brunswick and years of ads, marketing and taxpayer-funded subsidies have led the brand to now have global sales of $8.5-billion while cornering a third of the global French fry market.

· 1980: Yukon Gold potatoes

Developed at the University of Guelph by researcher Gary Johnson, Yukon Gold potatoes were an effort to develop a potato that would appeal to Eastern European immigrants’ preference for yellow-fleshed potatoes. It soon became a main-stream success and is one of the only varieties that shoppers look for by name.

· 2000s: Food Trends and FAD Diets

With the birth of the internet, knowledge sharing has become so instantaneous that users receive an overwhelming amount of information on the daily. From Atkins to Curves, to Weight-Watchers to food and juice cleanses, Canadians now have a TON of options in terms of dietary preferences and the restaurants that choose to cater to them. With increasing health consciousness, there has been a shift towards more whole food and plant-based diets over the past decade.

Let's not forget maple syrup! What would a history of Canadian food be without maple syrup? Indigenous people were harvesting maple syrup from trees long before the Europeans arrived. There are no authenticated accounts of the exact dates this process began but according to oral tradition, each spring would mark the beginning of a new maple sap season. Rituals even developed around sugar-making like the Sugar Moon, celebrating the first full moon of spring, with a Maple Dance. Today maple syrup is still a Canadian favourite and trips to the sugar bush to see the syrup-making process is a tradition enjoyed by many families!

Here’s one of our go-to maple-infused desserts: 

Sources:

The Globe and Mail. (2017). We are what we ate. Retrieved from https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/canada-150/we-are-what-we-ate-canadas-history-incuisines/article34289538/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

Jacobs, Hersch (2009), "Structural Elements in Canadian Cuisine"Cuizine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures, 2(1)

Newman, Lenore Lauri (2014). "Notes from the Nanaimo bar trail"Canadian Food Studies. 1(1): 10–19. 

Koelling, Melvin R; Laing, Fred; Taylor, Fred (1996). "Chapter 2: History of Maple Syrup and Sugar Production". In Koelling, Melvin R; Heiligmann, Randall B. North American Maple Syrup Producers Manual. Ohio State University (OSU). Retrieved 23 September 2016.

To Keto or Not to Keto?

Ketogenic diets are gaining popularity as advances in healthcare showcase it more and more to support the management of certain conditions and we can follow that example to apply to our own personal diets. A ketogenic diet is low in carbohydrates (less than 50g/day), adequate in protein and high in fat, with the intention of getting the body to go into ketosis. Ketosis is when the body uses fat as its fuel source instead of glucose, which is what it normally uses. Glucose is normally broken down from carbohydrates; when carbs are less available the body will break down fat to make smaller fats, called ketones, to fuel the brain and the body’s muscles.

 

A ketogenic diet may not be right for you however if you are taking medication for diabetes or high blood pressure. With diabetes, you’ll need to lower insulin doses a lot when starting a low carb diet. This can become complicated when using insulin because it is difficult to know exactly how much insulin will be required - the only way to know is to continuously test your blood sugar. With Type 1 diabetes a ketogenic diet can be risky because it can take you close to the point of ketoacidosis, which can be life-threatening. A ketogenic diet can result in low blood pressure which, when in combination with blood pressure medication, can make your blood pressure too low and further lead to weakness, fatigue or dizziness. A ketogenic diet is also not recommendable if you are breastfeeding. Approximately 30 grams of sugar are lost per day when breastfeeding and not eating carbohydrates in this situation can lead to ketoacidosis - when there are dangerously high levels of ketones and blood sugar in your system. These two things make blood too acidic and can change the normal function of your internal organs. If treatment is not sought after quickly, coma or even death can occur.

"I was initially attracted to the "keto diet" as I was practicing Intermittent Fasting at the time, and realized that I needed to increase my fats in order to do this safely and properly (i.e. reduce the hangriness!). I followed a strict keto diet for 8 days and then felt the need to return back to my usual diet - a LOT higher in carbs and quite a bit lower in fat, which suits me just fine. I simply missed my banana-maca-matcha morning smoothie too much!

In all seriousness, I'm glad I tried it - it was a great excuse to indulge in a lot of high-fat rich foods which I must admit I tend to avoid (regardless of how "healthy" they may actually be). Avocados - although I know contain "good fats", are still sometimes a bit scary for me! Keto gave me a pathway into exploring these nutritional powerhouses, along with other delicious ingredients like macadamia nuts, ghee, and coconut (oil, butter, cream, etc.) cacao (again, in all forms: nibs, powder, butter - you name it!). I had lots of fun shopping at the grocery store for these "new" ingredients (at least for myself), and I even got creative and experimented with a couple great grain-free granola recipes - the one below was my all-time fav! 

                                               Cinnamon & Pecan Porridge

                                               Cinnamon & Pecan Porridge

 

With that said, when it came down to it, I felt a bit tired, "heavy" and just not my usual self - which I was (prior to keto) generally happy with, as I must say, I feel like a healthy & fit young adult most of the time! I also know that any sort of strict and heavily restricted diet - at least not with medical supervision - is never a good thing, and certainly not sustainable." - Kiki Athanassoulias

Please use the above information to determine if a ketogenic diet is right for you and do try our custom-made ketogeinc recipe collection to help get you going!

Our keto recipe collection is packed with tasty and colourful meals! Hope you enjoy! 

Our keto recipe collection is packed with tasty and colourful meals! Hope you enjoy! 

 

Sources:

Paoli, A., Rubini, A., Volek, J.S., Grimaldi, K.A. (2013). Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67(8): 789-796. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3826507/

Paoli, A. (2014). Ketogenic diet for obesity: friend of foe? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 11(2): 2092-2107.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945587/

Gsior, M., Rogawski, M.A., Hartman, A.L. (2006). Neuroprotective and disease-modifying effects of the ketogenic diet. Behavioural Pharmacology, 17(5-6): 431-439. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2367001/

Barañano, K.W. (2010). The ketogenic diet: uses in epilepsy and other neurologic illnesses. Current Treatment Options in Neurology, 10(6): 410-419. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2898565/

Diet Doctor. (2016). A Ketogenic Diet for Beginners. Retrieved from https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/keto

 

Healthy Food for a better Mood

The following is a guest post by Miodrag from Miosuperhealth

Sometimes we have the feeling that only food can make us feel better. You’re not wrong! It’s proven that food has a big influence on our emotions. What you eat and how much you eat can have a big impact on your mood.

If you feel depressed or tired it’s often because you lack the right nutrients. Here are some rules to fight food related depression and a diet which may assist in boosting your mood:

Reduce Caffeine and Sugar

Caffeine and sugar help to increase your energy level, but only in the short term. Once their effect wears off, you lose your energy and feel more exhausted than before. Many people experience an improved mood when their sugar and caffeine intake is reduced [1].

Get enough amino acids

Another factor is the lack of omega-3 fatty acids. A shortage of these acids make you more vulnerable to depression and mood swings. So be prepared to include enough fish and other vital sources of omega-3 in your food. Some examples of foods rich in amino acids are spinach, walnuts, soybeans and seafood [2].

Eat some carbs

It’s proven that carbohydrates increase serotonin. Serotonin plays a vital role in balancing mood and preventing depression. But be aware! Don’t choose simple carbs like chocolate bars, cookies and cakes. Fruits, vegetables or complex carbs like whole grains provide you with plenty fiber and healthy carbs [3].

Try Vitamin B

Numerous studies have found a link between a lack of Vitamin B and depression. A mediterranean diet full of green vegetables, fruits, nuts and fish increases your Vitamin B and therefore aids in fighting depression [4].

Eat more selenium

Studies have proven a connection between poor moods and a lack of selenium. It’s pretty easy to reach the required amount of 55 micrograms per day. You can try incorporating beans, lean meat, nuts, seeds, whole grains and seafood in your diet to make sure you reach the recommended amount [5].

You may need more iron

Every fifth woman suffers from iron deficiency. A lack of iron can lead to anemia, a condition where you have an insufficient number of red blood cells. Anemia has similar symptoms as depression. Red meat, fish, spinach and nuts are fantastic sources of iron [6].

Drink lots of of water

Dehydration decreases serotonin production, therefore leading to a higher risk of depression. The average person should drink at least 2 liters water per day, but generally more is always better when it comes to water, especially when you work out or have a stressful job [7].


I am sure you’re starting to see a pattern here. A diet without the right amount of nutrients will lead to performance decreases in your workout, job, private life and your mental health. It’s essential that you follow these simple guidelines or “rules” as outlined in this post...

It shouldn’t take longer than one day and you already will start to feel more energized, motivated and happier. Here is a summary of the “rules” so to speak:

Do:

  • Eat yogurt, oatmeal and fruits as breakfast (instead of a cinnamon roll).
  • Drink plenty of water or other healthy fluids like tea.
  • Eat fish, walnuts, spinach, soybeans for enough omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Take fruits as a snack.

Don't:

  • Drink more than one cup of coffee per day.
  • Eat cookies and sugar-rich foods as your energy sources.

 

Sources:

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/665843

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2248201/

[3] http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2015/06/24/ajcn.114.103846.abstract

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15671130

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1873372

[6] http://journals.tbzmed.ac.ir/JARCM/Manuscript/JARCM-3-219.pdf

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3984246/

 

Awesome Vegan Barbecue Lentil Loaf You Need to Try

The following is a guest post by Kristin Ryals - founder of Taste Insight.

Barbecue is unquestionably a famous recipe all around the world that has been revised and modified in many, many ways. No doubt it is a favourite classic dish. 

No matter what type of cuisine you prefer, and regardless of any food restrictions you may have, there is always a way to make barbecue. Steak is one option, but that doesn’t mean vegans cannot enjoy a barbecue. 

Barbecue: The Origins

The term barbecue first referred to a cooking apparatus. The term barbecuing means slowly smoking and cooking the meat to achieve a tender and flavorful barbecued meat. But today, the word barbecue can refer to a recipe, actually, to a number of recipes.

Barbecue can also refer to an event. The barbecue apparatus used to be a large cooking equipment that required long hours of cooking. They are usually served at family gatherings where people can cooperatively prepare the barbecue and eat straight out of the barbecue apparatus.

Since barbecue has garnered huge fame and popularity, many variations have emerged and shortened the period of cooking.

Good news! Vegans can still participate in this delicious event...

Nutrition Packed Loaf

This is just like a meatloaf, without the meat.  Instead, lentil is the main ingredient. Lentil loaf is a good way to fulfil your meat cravings. When properly cooked to a perfect consistency, you may even mistake it as meat!

A lentil loaf can be an awesome food for vegans, or even for those who are trying to lessen meat consumption. They are neutrally flavoured and can easily adapt to your recipe. Why not make one now?

Spotlight on Frozen Foods

Frozen food just got a makeover. New “healthy convenience” foods are emerging to meet the demands of our busy lifestyles from frozen cooked quinoa, brown rice and steel cut oatmeal to chopped and cooked kale! All it takes now is a couple minutes in the microwave plus a few dashes of your favourite seasonings to make a complete and flavourful whole food meal. Now it is even easier to plan healthy meals without having to carve out extra time in your busy day!  

There is often a question of the nutritional value of frozen foods versus fresh foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Which is better? The explanation lies in the freezing process: fruits and vegetables selected for freezing are processed at their peak ripeness, when they are the most nutrient-packed. In the case of vegetables, the first step in the process is blanching them in hot water or steam to kill bacteria and stop the action of food-degrading enzymes. In this step, water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and the B vitamins break down or leach out, however the flash-freezing that happens afterwards locks the vegetables in an otherwise nutrient-rich state.

Fruits and vegetables that are meant to be sold in the fresh produce aisle are typically picked before they ripen, giving them less time to develop the array of vitamins and minerals they are known for. Outward signs of ripening might still happen but these foods will not reach the same nutritive value as if they had been allowed to ripen completely on the vine. What’s more is that during transport from farm to grocery store fresh fruits and vegetables are exposed to a lot of heat and light, which degrades some nutrients, especially vitamin C and thiamin. The bottom line here is that any kind of processing can cause nutrient degradation. Opt for fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season and consider buying frozen in the “off-season” because they are frozen when these items are at their best.

Frozen whole grains are another option to enjoy nutritious foods conveniently. If stored in airtight bags and containers, they can be stored from 8 months to a year and quickly defrosted. Keep frozen grains like barley, buckwheat, rice and quinoa on hand and throw together with some frozen vegetables, beans or leftover meats, and your favourite spices to enjoy a quick and nutritious meal.

These recipes showcase just how versatile frozen foods can be:

 

 

Sources:

Gorman, Rachael.  “Q. Fresh vs. Frozen Vegetables: Are we giving up nutrition for convenience?”. Eating Well. http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/nutrition_news_information/fresh_vs_frozen_vegetables_are_we_giving_up_nutrition_fo

Gordon, Megan. “Plan Ahead! Freeze Whole Grains for Future Meals”. Kitchn. http://www.thekitchn.com/plan-ahead-freeze-whole-grains-for-future-meals-177623

Oldways. “Storing Whole Grains”. Oldways Whole Grain Council. http://wholegrainscouncil.org/recipes/cooking-whole-grains/storing-whole-grains

The F-Word Everyone's Talking About: Fasting.

More specifically, Intermittent Fasting - or IF.

It's the "trendy" new way of eating (or, not eating) that seems to be the focus of every upcoming podcast, conference, and journal in the health community these days. But what's the scientific evidence behind it? Is it right for everyone - or, anyone?

I myself - being a person who (embarrassingly enough) likes to experiment with "health fads" - started implementing this eating routine into my lifestyle, and have been impressed with the results. With that said, I wasn't necessarily struggling with any particular health issues, and I am proud to say I ate "healthy" before and still eat "healthy" under this new particular regime. Yet my whole life has been simplified; I have more time for "life", as less of my day revolves around eating, which was the main source of attraction for me to this dietary practice.

So what is it exactly that I'm referring to? We all probably know that fasting = not eating, so "IF" is really just an umbrella term for several types of diets that outline restrictions around periods of fasting and non-fasting. Most commonly practiced and the type that I have been implementing into my own meal plan schedule has been Leangains Daily IF, which is basically just a 8-hour feeding period followed by a 16-hour fast (i.e. "8/16" in your everyday "24hr" day). You can start eating your first meal at any time, and from that time you have 8 hours to get in another meal or few - up to you. After that 8-hour period, you stop eating and go into a 16-hour fast. Pretty simple. Most people do a 12-8pm feeding period, but I'm the type of person who wakes up hungry, so I generally opt for eating breakfast around 8am and then stop eating after 4pm. 

Now before you roll your eyes, here's some scientific evidence to support IF:

All sounds pretty great to me, but as I mentioned before - I took to it literally just to simplify my life! Instead of eating several meals all through-out the day ("grazing" as they sometimes call it), I now eat a nice big satisfying breakfast, lunch, and a snack or two (and/or kombucha!) and the rest of my day is CLEAR to just live and not obsess about food. 

I decided to write about here on the Meal Garden blog, because a lot of our users have shared with me that they tend to have quite a bit of anxiety around "what's for dinner" or "fitting in breakfast". The idea of wiping out one of those meals altogether might actually fit quite well for these folks...

While I'm certainly not an expert myself, I chatted with RHN and Meal Expert Maranda Carvell (founder of Propel Wellness) to get her take on IF...

It is really nutritionally sound and has many benefits, especially for blood sugar regulation. The key is to not cut your food - same amount of food, different timing.

— Maranda Carvell

Q: It seems like most people who advocate for IF follow a keto diet (i.e. high fat and strictly reduced carbs) - is this the best/only way to go about it?

A: No, but higher fat keeps you fuller longer - doesn't have to be keto though. I personally eat high fat moderate carbs b/c of my hormone issues and do IF (I do an 8 hour feed window personally). As long as your meals are balanced you won't be hungry which is how you know you're doing it right. I love keto diets but they're not for everyone, all the time.

Q: Can you drink liquids (e.g. kombucha, bone broth, tea, etc.) during the fasting period, or will that break the fast?

A: No, that won't break your fast. And it's a good tip for when you're adjusting to IF too; it can take a little while to get used to not-eating (even if you're not hungry). Some bone broth or a tablespoon of chia in your water is just fine during your fasting window. If you're very hungry, that is a sign you need more food or more fat. It becomes really easy to just cut one meal but not compensate with your other meals and end up under-eating. You shouldn't be crazy hungry doing IF, but if you have that "I could go for a little something something" or just the psychological aspect (habits are hard to change) some bone broth or chia water is perfect to take the edge off . Coffee with a splash of cream/whatever plant milk you like is fine too.

For anyone with a history of chronic dieting, it is tough to adjust (mostly in mindset) but then it becomes liberating b/c you are no longer thinking about food all the time. When you're dieting (which is usually low fat too) you're always thinking "OMG how long until i can eat again?" When you eat high fat and larger meals, you stay full for long periods and you can actually forget to eat. I could eat lunch, or i could wait a couple of hours, no big deal. 

You spend a lot less time thinking about and preparing food, which is really freeing. With that said, some people need to dig down and do some psychological work there.
Just be sure to eat lots, good food, and if you have times you want to IF longer you can... If you have days where you don’t want to you can eat and fast tomorrow. It doesn’t even have to be every day to get the benefits.
— Maranda Carvell

One last question! Is IF okay to do on a continual basis? If I wanted to "live" like this, so to speak, is that safe - or should I limit the duration of eating in this pattern?

A: It's fine as a lifestyle, just be aware that for some women (in particular) it can be perceived as a stressor by the body, particularly if they are also under eating. If there are any signs of adrenal fatigue/burn out/hormone imbalance it would be best to pause and/or examine food quality and quantity. For someone who is healthy and feels great, no need to limit it. There is some thought that longer fasting is less appropriate for women, but i think a daily 16/8 window like what you're doing is very natural and not an issue for most people.

So, what's a day in my life of intermittent fasting look like? I've created a day's sample meal plan to give you a sneak peek at a day-in-the-life of a 8/16 IF-er:

Note: I also reached out to two of my favourite and most trusted Naturopathic Doctors, and both had positive things to say on the topic of IF...

It makes a lot of good sense to me in terms of weight loss (insulin regulation), cardiovascular health, and decreasing burden on detox pathways.
I have researched it and implemented it with a number of patients for a number of reasons with much success.

Looking for a good resource for digging a little deeper into the world of fasting? Or simply a good jumping-off point? Fasting Talk with Jimmy Moore, Jason Fung MD, and Megan Ramos is an informative and comprehensive podcast that will have you an expert in no time!

The Truth About Willpower + Your Health

The following post comes to us from Robyn Srigley, Holistic Nutritionist + Women's Health and Nutrition Coach. Robyn is one of our contributing authors to the Healthy Eating Bundle...

One day I was talking with a private coaching client about willpower. She was trying to balance her insulin and blood sugar in order to release some weight and balance many of her PCOS symptoms. Together we had decided on a diet plan and lifestyle changes about a month before this call. When we chatted on this particular date, she was complaining to me that she just couldn’t stay away from something sweet after her meals, and just didn’t feel at all like exercising.

She said she wished she had more willpower, and that if she did, her results would be better.

The truth of the matter is willpower doesn’t work

What is willpower?

It’s that inner reserve of motivation that we believe will get us where we want to go. For instance maybe we want to clear up acne, improve our health to improve our relationships, or reduce the pain of endometriosis so work isn’t a dreaded activity. So in our minds it seems easy to ‘just say no’ to the extra helping of dinner or to sitting on the couch day in and day out.

I bet you’ve been there too- wanting to make some kind (any kind!) of change and hoping to rely entirely on willpower. 

My client was there, and I’ve been there too.

The fact is that when you balance your body properly (more on this in a minute), willpower doesn’t need to be your Ruler in this context. That’s right- no willpower necessary. No biting your fingernails because the anxiety of an upcoming work function (complete with unhealthy finger foods and desserts) is happening tonight. No more staying up at night thinking about all the good stuff you “can’t” eat, how you "don't have time" to do all this "health stuff".

How do we cope and make change without willpower? 

Balance your insulin. 

I am always rambling on about balancing insulin and blood sugar because it’s so damn important for your health and creating happy hormones

Insulin as your blood sugar regulating hormone is responsible in part for getting sugar (aka glucose) into your cells to make energy. Poor diet and life choices eventually make the body resistant to insulin’s signals, creating high insulin and high blood sugar. This turns insulin into a fat storage and sex hormone-disruptive shit disturber. 

Why does balanced insulin negate the need for willpower?

Let me break it down for you with some truths about balanced insulin instead of willpower.

Truth #1: Balanced insulin reduces (maybe even eliminates) cravings

When your blood sugar is balanced, you feel full and satisfied. Your body is able to thrive on the whole, real foods you eat during meals. Sugar, dairy and salt cravings are often the first to go when insulin is balanced, as I’ve seen clinically and personally. Your body isn’t craving other foods for a quick boost because it doesn’t need those foods. 

Truth #2: Balanced insulin means effortless weight release 

Maybe you’re trying to get rid of a few pounds. Maybe it’s a lot of pounds. Either way, extremely restrictive diets like calorie counting and eating very low-fat may initially result in some pounds lost, but over time the weight comes back and then some, as these types of diets wreak havoc on insulin and blood sugar balance. When you balance insulin through a proper diet, self-care and movement, weight is released without extra effort. No counting, no “willpower” to put the fork down. It just isn’t needed.

Truth #3: Balanced insulin increases energy

Remember how I said that insulin helps sugar get into cells to make energy? Yeah, this is where that comes in. Many women, like the client I mentioned previously, have very little energy and feel low and unmotivated to prepare their own nourishing meals, or to move their bodies in a productive way. When your insulin sensitivity is right on (instead of being resistant) the cells actually get their food (the glucose) and can make energy with it. Movement, meal prep and self-care aren’t chores you think you “should” be doing (but still don’t do) when your insulin is balanced. Rather they are fun activities you enjoy that increase feelings of well-being and reduce symptoms. 

Truth #4: Balanced insulin could regulate mood-disrupting hormones 

Estrogen dominance, low progesterone and high testosterone and other sex hormone imbalances can funk up your mood. Like, getting weepy at TV commercials or flipping out on your spouse for something really insignificant (because come on- unwashed dishes are insignificant in the grand scheme of things). The truth is that your sex hormone-producing ovaries and insulin have a very important and fragile relationship. Even a little mishap in insulin regulation can prevent ovulation, increase high testosterone symptoms like acne and hair loss, plus contribute to extra PMS-y issues like mood swings, irritability, anger, anxiety and depression.

Truth #5: Balanced insulin improves memory and cognitive function

According to two ongoing studies, insulin resistance reduces the ability of insulin to get into the brain, leaving the brain without enough insulin for normal functioning. The researcher Dr. Craft has hypothesized from her study results that insulin resistance (with high levels of insulin in the body) paradoxically leads to lower-than-normal levels of insulin in the brain, which results in memory problems. Poor memory and cognitive function isn’t helping anyone’s willpower!

Remember that client I talked about at the beginning? When she was educated on these truths and worked slowly at developing a sustainable healthy insulin and happy hormones diet for her own unique lifestyle, she never mentioned willpower again! 

Want Robyn's Meal Plan for Painful and Heavy Periods? It's one of dozens of expert designed meal plans in the Healthy Eating Bundle...

Why Valentine's Day Sucks + The Toolkit for REAL Romance

Valentine's Day can be less than appealing for a whole bunch of reasons...

  • The Restaurant Experience

    • It's February. It's Cold. Going out is just not pleasant.

    • You have to make reservations way in advance (whoopsies!)

    • There's a pre-set menu (i.e. you CAN'T choose what you ACTUALLY want).

    • It's over-priced.

    • Are the meals healthy? Probably not - who knows? Not you.

 

  • The Planning & Expectations

    • Figuring out WHAT to prepare and HOW to do it = time & energy (work) you could be spending elsewhere...

Now let's talk about the "classic V-day meal" - that will likely have you feeling weighed down and STUFFED, rather than romantic and airy...

I researched the "top valentines day recipes" and here are the winners:

  • To start, a warm and hearty French Onion Soup - French bread, butter, and a salty, cheesy, chicken broth.

  • The main feature? A creamy mushroom and shrimp pasta, complete with full cream and 2 different types of cheeses!

  • And V-day wouldn't be complete without dessert! This year, a cappuccino-infused cheesecake is what's trending (complete with coffee liqueur, of course)

What could possibly be wrong with the above? You tell me - click the health rating on each "classic" meal below...

 

Hint: A RED leaf is NOT healthy.

The answer to your prayers? Or at least the solution to making V-Day a little less heart-attack-inducing and a little more heart-warming?

One of our very own Meal Garden users, Amanda, sets the scene perfectly...

"Since my boyfriend and I are living away from our friends and family this Valentine's Day, and don't have a sitter to go out, we're going to stay home and relax as a family - saving money and making healthier choices. Thanks to Meal Garden, we know the ingredients going into our food so we can feel confident that it's good for us and the baby."

It's as simple as staying in and treating yourself to a scrumptious meal that will have you feeling satisfied, proud, and happy from the inside of your belly (& looking great too)! 

We have done all the leg work to make sure your stay-at-home Valentines is a HUGE SUCCESS. 

Everything from sensual meals featuring known aphrodisiacs to delicious desserts that are waistline friendly.  We've even polled some of our favourite wine experts to provide recommendations for the meals to make this as close to a 4 star rating as you need to be.

To top it off, we've pulled together a Spotify play list, making it 'touch button' easy to set the stage for a romantic evening with your special someone. 

Get it all as part of the latest addition to the Healthy Eating Bundle here.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!


 

There’s Not Just Valentine’s Day to Look Forward to This Month…

Before we go getting excited about the Valentine’s Day treats that are headed our way soon, let’s take a moment to talk about the other events February has to offer. Apart from being a time where we look forward to planning a special day to cherish our loved ones, in the health community February is also Heart Awareness Month!

Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in both Canada and the United States. The good news is that 80 percent of heart disease is preventable by leading a healthy lifestyle which includes eating a healthy diet, being physically active, being smoke-free, limiting alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing stress. This month, take a moment to find opportunities for improvement in these areas to keep you on track! Try new recipes, try that new workout you’ve been wanting to forever, stay in and watch a movie with your loved ones instead of going out to the bar, read a book – take this time to focus on YOU and what YOUR goals are.

In honour of Heart Awareness month we’d like to share some cooking tips that promote good heart health by cutting calories, saturated fats and cholesterol:  

Many of us welcome the New Year wanting to achieve a certain health goal by the end of it. Let Heart Awareness Month remind you that whatever your goals are, small changes do make a difference to your overall health and staying on track is the key to preventing serious health concerns, like heart disease. This month and this Valentine’s day, give the gift of heart health to yourself and to those around you!

                     Try a heart-healthy recipe like this one in honour of Heart Awareness Month! 

                     Try a heart-healthy recipe like this one in honour of Heart Awareness Month! 

 

Sources:

Heart and Stroke. “Know any women? Then you need to know this.”. Heart and Stroke Foundation http://www.heartandstroke.ca/articles/know-any-women

CDC. “Strong Men Put Their Heart Health First”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/

ADA. “Cooke with Heart- Healthy Foods”. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/cook-with-heart-healthy-foods.html?referrer=https://www.google.ca/