Meal Garden Best Practices: How to Build Your Own Meal Plan

The following post comes from in-house Meal Garden Nutritionist and Customer Service Specialist Tina Gravalos...

CNP & RCNP

I am a passionate advocate for all things holistic health, with an interest in pre/postnatal, pediatric, digestive and preventative wellness. I believe there is a strong urgency in educating people on the importance of nourishing their bodies, with the purest of foods, and lifestyle practices, to be the healthiest version of themselves.

 

Meal planning can be intimidating and overwhelming, I get it. I often tell clients that they can do it on their own, with a little help from meal planning tools, like Meal Garden, and I usually get a blank stare. I’m here to tell you, you can TOTALLY do it! Meal Garden was created for the purpose of getting people, just like you, to build out amazing meal plans for you and your family in a simple and effective way.

 

One of my favourite things about Meal Garden is that you can see exactly what nutrients you are getting from your recipe. The algorithm is able to break it down for you from protein, carbs and fats to vitamins and minerals like Vitamin A and Iron.

 

Here is how I do it:

 

Go to your schedule and click ‘Breakfast’ for Monday. I want something that is quick to make but will pack a nutritious punch.

Where it says ‘Ready in’, I select 15 minutes. In the search bar, this is where you can get creative or be really specific for what you want. I want something that is going to give me energy while keeping me full throughout the morning. I type in ‘smoothie’. I found the perfect one to start my morning: Chia Berry Green Protein Smoothie.

I checked out the nutrients and it’s got a great combo of carbs, protein and fat that will fuel my morning! This recipe is for one serving but what is great is that you can say you want it as a leftover for breakfast the next day and it will adjust the measurements accordingly.

 

My Top 3 Tips for Successful Meal Planning...

 

1. MAKE TIME FOR IT.

On Saturday’s, take an hour or two out of your day to build your meal plan for the week. On Sunday’s you can grocery shop using the grocery list that is generated for you in the tool, after you build out your plan. After your shop is complete, the fun part begins! Look at your week and see what you can prep in advance. For example, I know I’ll be having the Chia Berry Green Protein Smoothie for breakfast on Monday and Tuesday so I will grab the bananas, berries and spinach needed, put them in a container and pop it in the freezer. In the morning, I put it all in the blender with the water, protein powder and chia seeds and boom!

 

2. SEARCH FOR RECIPES THE SMART WAY.    

Make use of the awesome hashtags that Meal Garden has to offer. For example, I want my meals to have more than 20g of protein so when I am searching in the cookbook, I type “#protein>20”. This will filter out all the recipes that have more than 20g of protein which will make your search for delicious, nutritious and filling meals, that much easier. It’s important to get a good amount of protein in your meals to keep you feeling satiated until you next meal! Protein is also super important for many processes that your bodies go through daily. You can do this with other categories like fats, carbs and calories.

HERE'S MORE DETAILS ON THIS AWESOME FEATURE IN MEAL GARDEN.

 

3. REPURPOSE TO SAVE TIME AND EFFORT    

Leftovers, leftovers, leftovers. Why not make enough of that delicious curry chickpea stew you made for dinner? You can make any recipe in Meal Garden a leftover meal. Like I mentioned above, the Chia Berry Green Protein Smoothie recipe is for one serving but I wanted to have it for the next day as well so I just adjusted the measurements accordingly and there you have it, leftovers. Planning for leftovers makes your life that much easier!

 


Don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen! Meal planning is so much fun. It gives you a chance to really get to know what you’re putting into your body. When you make meals yourself, you appreciate them so much more. Branch out, have fun, you’ve got this!

3 Most Effective Tips to Lose Baby Weight

Feeling pressure to return to your pre-pregnancy weight? In many cases, this is easier said than done - especially when you add taking care of a brand new baby and a new schedule to the mix. In fact, most new moms don’t drop their extra pounds until their babies are a year old.

This doesn't mean that losing weight after a new baby is impossible. But, it's important that you be patient with your yourself.

Looking for tips to help you get started on your journey? Taking heed of the following three steps will help you find your waistline in a healthy way. And, the best part about it? You won't lose your mind or sacrifice vital bonding time with your baby.

Before We Begin

After the birth of your baby, your body is very fragile. Thus, it’s important that you are gentle with yourself when attempting to lose the baby weight. Secondly, it is recommended that you talk to your doctor before you begin your weight loss regimen, especially if any of the following pertains to you:

●      Back and/or pelvis pain

●      You had complications during delivery

●      Incontinence

Tip #1: Eat Smart

Just because you’re no longer carrying your baby doesn’t mean you’re not eating for two. Even if you chose to forego the breastfeeding route, you will need lots of energy to take proper care of both you and the baby.

[*For those of you who are still prenatal, check out the following meal plan designed just for you*]

When making smart eating decisions post-delivery, your goal isn't to go on a diet. Depriving yourself of your favorite foods, coupled with the added stress of being a new mom, can actually make you gain weight.

Instead, consider this simple concept - moderation is key. In other words, too much of anything is not good for you. And, when possible, opt for organic foods as they tend to be free of toxic ingredients. In addition:

●     Eat smaller, but more frequent meals

●     Drink lots of water

●     Eat breakfast every day

●     Include fiber rich foods like seeds, grains, beans, and oats in your meals

●     Go easy on sugary and fatty foods

●     Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet

Here's a meal plan that you may want to consider along your journey...

Tip #2: Get Moving Mama

All those midnight feedings and diaper changes can wreak havoc with your nerves. And, to make things worse, this stress can prevent you from losing weight.

What is a new mom to do? Thankfully, not only is yoga one of the best exercises to reduce tummy size, it's a proven stress buster as well, not even counting the benefits that yoga has on your mind. But, before you begin your new yoga regimen, make sure to pick up the following items:

●     Mat: Prevents your feet and hands from slipping. It also serves as a barrier between you and the floor

●     Blanket: Used to make certain poses more comfortable

●     Blocks: Make it easier to do poses that require a little more flexibility than you presently possess

●     Strap: Helps deepen stretches

●     Comfortable clothing: Wearing comfortable clothes that are breathable and allow freedom of movement will ensure that you won’t have to constantly rearrange them. Lycra and cotton tops and bottoms are snug but comfortable.

To get the most out of your yoga-inspired post-delivery workout regimen, some recommended poses include:

●     Tiger pose: Relieves back pain, helps weight loss, improves digestive health, and tones the shoulders, arms, and legs

●     Cobra pose: Relieves lower back pain, firms the buttocks, tones the abdomen, shoulders, and arms, and improves oxygen and blood circulation

●     Pigeon pose: Helps tone the lower half of the body (i.e. legs, thighs, and hips), reduces stiffness in the lower body, increases hip flexibility, and relieves anxiety and stress

Tip #3: Get Enough Sleep

After the birth of new baby, it can seem impossible to get a full night’s sleep. But, lack of sleep can actually make it more challenging for you to lose the baby weight. When you’re tired, your body releases stress hormones (like cortisol) that can help promote weight gain. It's also less likely that you will choose healthy foods and/or engage in physical activity.

To ensure you get enough sleep, try napping when the baby is sleeping. This might mean that you have to let the laundry and/or the dishes pile up but, that's ok. You need all the sleep you can get to take good care of both you and baby.

When you begin your post pregnancy weight loss plan, it bears repeating that you should be patient with yourself. Ignore stories of the lucky ones that get back in shape within a few weeks after delivery. Quick weight loss like this is unrealistic for the average new mother. Your focus should be on losing weight gradually and, with the above tips, you will be well on your way. Good luck and, as always, namaste.

This was a guest post by Emily Adams, who is a marketing specialist at YogiWear - having a main focus on development and implementation of marketing ideas. Her primary talking points are yoga life, benefits of yoga, yogi lifestyle and yoga wear.

No longer scared to eat: meal planning made friendly, fun and anxiety-free!

After being diagnosed with gestational diabetes, food become a major source of stress for Heather - she knew how important it was to make the right decisions on exactly what, how and when to eat. Unfortunately, doing it alone was daunting to say the least.

Googling recipes + make-shift manual meal planning simply wasn't cutting it.

I had the pleasure of meeting Heather in Chico, California when presenting to a wonderful group of women at the Be Alpha Strong gym. These holistic health warriors were the perfect candidates for the Holistic Health Toolkit recently launched in Meal Garden, so it was an honour to share some of recipes, meal plans, and guides available in this digital kit with them!

A few weeks after the in-person workshop, back in Toronto, I was delighted to see that Heather was making the most of the digital toolkit - planning & scheduling recipes galore:

"I watched your presentation - it was awesome and I signed up that week.

I LOVE how easy it is to schedule meal plans and the option to schedule leftovers.

I love that I can search low carb and low sugar.

The website is very user friendly. I like the emails that you send out. it reminds me, oh yeah! I need to meal plan!!!

The shopping list is AMAZING! I love being able to go to the bulk food section and choose my items so quickly.  

I also really appreciate how you write your recipes. I can pick up your sense of humour and it makes me feel happy like a real human has made it and so can I!

Thank you for helping me feed my family healthy meals :)"

One of Heather's (& her daughter's) favourite recipes has been these Toddler Muffins:

This delicious dairy-free muffin recipe comes to us from picky-eater specialist Danielle Binns!

This delicious dairy-free muffin recipe comes to us from picky-eater specialist Danielle Binns!

In fact, her daughter loves them SO much, she literally tried putting the entire piece in her mouth!

Heather also reached out to the Meal Garden team for recipe inspiration when it was time to prepare her daughter's birthday party cake - she was looking for a sugar-free alternative, with perhaps a healthy frosting. Here's what our team suggested:

Looks like it was a hit!

Looks like it was a hit!

Months later, I was able to reconnect with Heather as I was back in California hosting a health-focused wellness retreat day, Camp Anthea, which I was excited to invite her to! 

It was so lovely to hear just how much Meal Garden has been able to totally transform Heather's life for the better...

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"Healthy, easy and affordable meals - yay! I have made several healthy recipes that my husband, toddler and I enjoy."

Today, Heather still shares her Meal Garden journey with friends and family on her social media accounts...inspiring others to jump on the healthy-bandwagon she is leading :)

This is one of the recipes from the Holistic Health Toolkit - a vegan "death breath" caesar salad.

This is one of the recipes from the Holistic Health Toolkit - a vegan "death breath" caesar salad.

"THANK YOU for making a recipe website that is DOABLE, yummy and healthy!"

 

A huge congratulations to Heather for being such a positive source of inspiration to our Meal Garden community!


Are you the next success story? For Heather, it all started by diving into the Holistic Health Toolkit - get yours today and make for a happier and healthier tomorrow!


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!