Reduce PMS By Making Some Tweaks To Your Diet

Do you have food sensitivities and digestive troubles? Do you sometimes suffer from PMS? Well, if you're looking for answers, Christina Najjar, RHN and Clinical Practitioner is here to help make those issues easy to navigate! The best part? She's doing it right on Meal Garden, and is the latest addition to our Meal Expert program - at your service!

We asked Christina to share some tips about what foods to eat to help reduce PMS's her advice:

You’re out for dinner with your family, when you feel those darn cramps come on and worsen by the second. Then, that splitting headache begins, and you can’t even focus on what’s going on around you anymore. Did mom say something? You try to put together a one word answer so she’ll get off your back and you can go back to suffering in silence. You don’t WANT to be mean, but you can’t help it right now.
If your PMS looks a little like that, there is something you should know. It’s not a normal reaction, and it’s not just “part of being a woman”.
PMS, short for Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, is a category of symptoms that includes cramping, mood swings, bloating, acne, headaches, and the list goes on. PMS is the result of imbalances in the body.
Two of the female sexual hormones, estrogen and progesterone, need to be in balance with each other. Many women who suffer from PMS have too much estrogen in relation to progesterone. This can often be the result of a sluggish liver that struggles to regulate hormones as it should.
In some cases, excess estrogen is also the result of slow digestion. When estrogen has fulfilled its purpose in the body, it is “deactivated” by the liver. It then exits the body through the digestive system. If it takes too long to move through your digestive system, some organisms in your gut can reactivate it, and it circulates in your body again.
But don’t despair! Nutrition is your friend.
In order to support your liver, eat cruciferous vegetables. These are vegetables from the cabbage family, which also includes broccoli, kale, radishes, beets and many more. They contain a compound called I3C which assists your liver with detoxification. They also contain some B vitamins that are essential for the health of your reproductive system - to reduce PMS. Combine some of these vegetables with this fibre-rich side dish:

In addition to these foods, it is a good idea to reduce inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, and sugar. Inflammation leads to PMS symptoms in many people. Reducing these foods may seem like a big commitment, but it’s much easier to do with fresh ingredients than packaged foods. Try this recipe:

And pair it with this salad:

Or, if you don’t eat meat, try something like this:

While making these changes won’t get rid of your PMS symptoms overnight, they can help reduce symptoms over the long term. If you need relief right away and don’t want to use drugs, download the PMS Survival Guide.

CDA Expo: Key Take-Aways and 5 Surprising Facts on the Topic of Diabetes

Last Thursday, Oct 13th, Meal Garden had the pleasure of exhibiting at The Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) Toronto Expo. In case you aren’t familiar, the CDA supports those affected by diabetes by providing information, diabetes research, education, service, and advocacy (read more here). It was a truly inspiring evening, with wonderful guest speakers, and insightful conversations with those affected by diabetes who are actively and courageously seeking assistance as it relates to managing their diet.

Photo by Pedro Zucchet

Photo by Pedro Zucchet

Needless to say, the team here at Meal Garden is confident and excited to assist in achieving this goal once and for all!

Our Founder, Vlad Chernenko.

Our Founder, Vlad Chernenko.

Our Marketing Director, Kiki Athanassoulias.

Our Marketing Director, Kiki Athanassoulias.

With that said, there were certainly new learnings that I personally gained from attending, and I’d like to share my top 5 insights from the CDA Toronto Expo here with you now....

1. A HUGE 1/3rd of the entire Canadian population is currently living with diabetes or pre-diabetes - that’s 11 million people! In fact, if you calculate it out, someone in Canada is diagnosed with diabetes every 3 minutes. On top of that, we must also consider that many people go undiagnosed, and are living with this disease without even knowing it.

While this was certainly a daunting reality check, it also drove home the message that those living with pre-diabetes need to take action today. That’s where a healthy diet comes in, and is often the most important factor in getting your blood sugar levels under control. Thus, while the numbers are certainly surprisingly and needless to say bleak, there is still lots of room for hope and improvement in the quality of life for those living with diabetes and pre-diabetes.

Amongst all the sad realities, it was still exciting to think about the possibilities for the life-changing improvements that a revolutionary tool like Meal Garden can enable these folks to make for themselves.

2. A brain on sugar is a lot like a brain on cocaine. Research shows that cocaine is linked to a surge of excess dopamine, and a similar effect has been found in sugar (read more here). After explicitly showing us two MRI scans - one of a brain on cocaine, the other of a brain on sugar (hint: they are remarkably similar) - Ali Zentner (MD) made it clear that while cutting back on sugar is certainly recommended - it is NOT an easy task. After all, you might be able to stop yourself from eating, but stopping yourself from actually craving and obsessing over something is a whole other ball game.

That’s why Dr. Zentner uses the metaphor of “an endless war” to describe healthy eating, and that “we all need to find the healthy warrior in ourselves” - more of that discussion to come...

3. Pasta is NOT the devil. Pasta often gets stereotyped as the perfect example of a food you simply CANNOT eat as a diabetic - but that simply isn’t true! In fact, Alexandra Jenkins (PhD) informed us that pasta is actually better than bread when it comes to its GI score - a fact that surprises many. What that doesn’t mean is that you can eat it by the bucketful - which we’re often tempted to’s just so darn delicious! Instead, you must still diligently consider portion size. Below is a great recipe already in Meal Garden from the Canadian Diabetes Association, which proves pasta doesn’t have to mean “unhealthy” - even for diabetics!

4. Jar salads are not only hip, they are also fully backed by famous Nutritional Researchers with PhDs - believe it! Indeed, Dr. Alexandra Jenkins devoted an entire slide in her presentation featuring these helpful (& of course healthy) take-to-work lunch "hacks"...and I’m so glad she did! Pack the “heavy stuff” (i.e. dressing, protein, etc.) on the bottom, and then top with veggies...use your judgement for layering strategically. Essentially, you’ll want the “soggy” stuff towards the to not wilt your fresh green leaves. Here are a few of my personal favourite jar salad recipes in Meal Garden…


5. The secret to eating healthy - for the long-term? According to Dr. Ali Zentner, the answer is autonomy. Let me explain…

For the most part, we all basically know the “what” when it comes to eating healthy: eat more fruits and vegetables, less saturated fats, less processed and sugary foods, etc. What we struggle with is the how. How do you get started? Furthermore, once you do (if you do), how do you stay motivated?

Well folks, it’s time to think outside the box.

You gain motivation when you feel in charge, and the same thing goes for healthy eating. Thus, now is as good a time as ever to think of YOUR OWN one autonomous goal when it comes to healthy eating.

Go ahead. First, close your eyes and picture why you want to eat healthier - you need a “why” to inspire and find your “how”. From there, pick a goal - any goal…

  • Cutting down on sugar
  • Adding an extra salad in every week
  • Swapping toast with butter for toast with avocado

The possibilities are endless - the important thing is that it’s YOUR decision. If we credit ourselves for our abilities, we’re inspired to continue. So pick what works for YOU, and when you accomplish it, be proud of yourself - that will only feed more accomplishment (no pun intended!).

At the end of the day, healthy eating is GRIT. Believe in yourself, and remember that even famous MD Ali Zentner acknowledges “meal planning takes practice”. Find what works for you and keep at it!

Here at Meal Garden, we’re all about a personalized and balanced approach to healthy eating. We are “demystifying” nutritious living by making it easy to understand what’s “healthy” and what’s “not so healthy”, so YOU can make your own autonomous decisions on your own - the way it should be!

Foods With Cancer-Fighting Properties: How to Eat to Prevent Disease

The Meal Garden community is now not only filled with Meal Pals, but also trusted Meal Experts, to help provide customized guidance for your dietary needs. This week, Lisa Hernandez, Certified Nutritionist, CNHP, and blogger at Learning to Be Healthy with Lisa, has joined us - spreading her holistic approach to helping you lead a healthier lifestyle to help prevent disease and enjoy life - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially.

In this guest post, Lisa shares her expertise on "anti-cancer nutrition":

When you cut an apple, oxygen turns it brown, but if you cover it with lemon juice, it will retain its natural colour.  The antioxidants in lemon juice protect the apple from damage. Antioxidants help protect our bodies from damage by cancer-causing agents.
Lemons contain vitamin C, the antioxidant that keeps the apple from turning brown.  Simply adding fresh lemon to your water can give you an antioxidant boost.
Nutrient-dense plant foodslike fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds, are rich in antioxidants, including beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, selenium, lutein, alpha-lipoid acid, lycopene, and glutathione.
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that the body can manufacture on its own, but it needs the mineral selenium for its construction.  Eating just one or two Brazil nuts a day will provide more than the daily recommended amount of selenium.  Cruciferous vegetables also stimulate the production of glutathione.  These include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and watercress.
Eating more potassium-rich foods can help regulate the ability of cells to receive nutrients and eliminate toxins.  Packaged and processed foods are usually high in sodium and low in potassium.  Fresh produce, beans, nuts, and seeds naturally contain more potassium than sodium.
Cancer feeds on glucose in the blood, and high levels of blood glucose can also compromise the immune system.  Eliminating refined sugar and refined grains in the diet can help balance blood sugar and strengthen the immune system.  A strong immune system helps to fight cancer.
Toxic fats, like hydrogenated oils, shortening, margarine, and refined vegetable oils, can cause cell membranes to become rigid, making it difficult for them to absorb nutrients and release toxins.  Eating healthy fats, like avocados, coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, seeds, nuts, coconut, wild-caught fish, and olives, helps restore fluidity to cells.  This reduces inflammation.
Reducing toxic chemicals in food is important to help combat cancer.  Nitrites and nitrates are known carcinogens used to cure hot dogs, bacon, sausage, jerky, and deli meats.  Antioxidants are helpful for neutralizing these damaging chemicals in the stomach, so add some antioxidant-rich foods to your meal if you consume these foods.
Garlic and onion both act as chelators, which means that they latch onto toxins to carry them away from the body before they can do damage.  Garlic has also been shown to stimulate the white blood cells that attack cancer.
Bottom line:
  • Eat twice as many colourful fruits and vegetables as you do other foods.
  • Add fresh garlic and onion often to your diet.
  • Add one or two handfuls of raw nuts and seeds to your daily diet.
  • Replace refined, toxic fats with healthy ones.
  • Reduce cancer’s food source by eliminating refined sugar and refined grains to help keep blood sugar balanced. You may also need to reduce your intake of whole grains, starches, and high-glycemic fruits.
An antioxidant-rich recipe:  Avocado and Bean Wrap
I am so excited to now be joining Meal Garden as an Expert to help you find healthy recipes and plan healthy meals. I look forward to you checking out my page and the possibility of us working together...
Keep learning to be healthy!

Meal Gardener of the Month, September 2016: Janice

1. Tell us a little about YOU…

I live with my husband in Cumberland, a beautiful forest village on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia.  We are both originally from the Island and love this area for the never-ending trail network in the surrounding forest; which is perfect for hiking, running and mountain bike riding; as well as the immediate access to Comox Lake and the ocean.  I am a mother of 2 and grand-mother of 5.

As I’ve gotten older, maintaining my physical health has become a priority; regular activity and maintaining a healthy diet is a big part of that.  With 5 young grandchildren (all under 8), I want to keep active and motivate them to do the same, by sharing the activities we love with them.  My husband and I have been mountain biking for 8 years and since the addition of Caro (1yr old Plott hound) to our family, I’ve been trail running regularly as well.  In the warmer months we spend a lot of time boating and swimming; paddle boarding was new to me this summer, and I highly recommend it.    With winter not too far off, I’m looking forward to some snowy hikes and cross country skiing.

I like to try different things to stay active outdoors and I’m very lucky to have a network of friends who like to do the same, as well as live in a place that is perfect for doing it. 

2. What’s your go-to strategy when it comes to preparing meals in the kitchen?

We have a busy lifestyle, there is usually a ride or trail run scheduled at the end of most days, even though there’s only 2 to feed, making every meal from scratch is not the ideal method for us.  In order to keep my meal plan on track, one of the first things I did was set up a reminder in my profile for planning and shopping.  I get a text message on my selected days and now there’s no forgetting and no excuse for not using the plan. 

I batch cook with my ‘Instant Pot’ most of my staples:  i.e.; beans, oatmeal, lentils, chickpea, rice etc., then freeze in appropriate portions.  Usually I spend a Saturday or Sunday once a month doing this in between other chores. (FYI: this is very cost effective too, I can get the equivalent of 6-7 cans of legumes from one bag of dried for less than $2.00.  We are vegetarian, we eat A LOT of legumes, so this is great for us!) 

Once I’ve set my meal plan for the week, I review the recipes and do as much pre-prep as I can.  i.e.: chopping vegies, making sauces etc.  I label the containers for the fridge so I remember what goes in which recipe, then I can just pull out the day’s dinner and throw it all together.  I primarily use the meal garden scheduler for dinners Mon – Fri.  Weekends, we usually wing it.  Each dinner also becomes the next day’s lunch, I just make sure I include leftovers when I add a recipe to the schedule.  My breakfasts are usually a fresh juice (my husband is the daily juicer, nice bonus for me), a smoothie or my pre-cooked oatmeal with fruit added.  Snacks we just stick to fresh fruit or vegies chopped up for the most part.  Ok, there is an occasional donut at the office. J 

3. How did you find Meal Garden?

Meal Garden has simplified the entire process of meal and grocery planning for us. There’s no more wondering what to have for dinner and no more forgetting “one thing” every time we go shopping.  Now if it could just do the shopping? J

I found Meal Garden through an advertisement on Facebook.  Took advantage of the free 2 week trial offer and quickly signed up for a year.  After spending a bit of time working with it, emailing Kiki when I needed help or had a question, I found it easy to use in no time.

Setting up my weekly schedule:  being able to choose between automatically dropping in an entire week’s schedule or selectively choosing recipes on my own for each day is a great option; I find now I prefer the later. 

Recipe Search:  search tool filters are wonderful, I use the time filter every time I’m looking for a recipe; I like to cook, but don’t want to spend the entire day making a meal.  Searching recipes by ingredients I have on hand is a quick way to find a meal and reduce my shopping list. 

Automated shopping list:  the fact that I don’t have to figure out what quantities I need for the weeks meal plan is fantastic!  I love being able to add my own items and cross off items as I shop as well.

With Meal Garden I can plan my week in less than 30 mins (that includes scanning new recipes and checking the pantry for things I already have on the shopping list).   

4. What’s your favourite recipe that you’ve prepared (utilizing or found via Meal Garden)?

Healthy Avocado Black Bean Enchiladas, we’ve had this 3 times since I signed up.  The last time I used refried beans instead of black and added some chopped peppers and corn as well. Delish!  

5. Why do you use Meal Garden?

I started searching for a meal planning app a couple of years ago to help with planning meals, provide new recipe ideas, manage my weight and reduce food waste.  After using another meal plan for a while, I discovered we were kind of planning backwards, that is: shopping (for the usual things) and then planning the meals based on what we bought vs. planning the meals and then shopping for just what we needed.  Meal Garden provides me with a similar planning tool, but with much more flexibility and better features.   

6. What would you like to see Meal Garden offer in the future?

 Some features that would be nice to have:

·       Would love it if my weekly schedule could start on Sunday instead of Monday. 

·       Being able to drag and drop in the schedule on iPad. 

·       Hovering over a recipe in the schedule revealed list of ingredients.

 That’s about it, it’s a fantastic tool and you guys have done an amazing job.  Thank you!

A Red Leaf Health Rating?! Fear Not! How to Build a Perfectly Healthy Meal Plan (With "Not So Healthy" Recipes)

The other day one of our Meal Garden users wrote to me (understandably) annoyed at why all of her lamb recipes were coming out as "not so healthy" - indicated by a red leaf on our health meter. 

Considering she was an organic lamb farmer, her frustration was clear...

The upset triggered me to look into exactly how our health meter works when it comes to meat. I myself usually stick to a plant-based diet, so I wasn't too familiar with how our health meter was processing meals like lamb tagine!

Indeed, many of the lamb recipes on our database come out as "not so healthy", but that's simply because they are being assessed on individually (i.e. taken out of context from a larger meal plan). In other words, yes, if you were to get all your calories from eating just a leg of would indeed be in health crisis according to our algorithm. With that said, if you were to have a single portion of lamb alongside some vegetables and a hearty starch like millet, the story (...or rather - health rating) changes completely!

The fact of the matter is, some of our recipes might indicate that a particular dish is "not so healthy" but that certainly does NOT mean you should never eat it! Instead, it's an indicator that the other meals planned within your week should be balanced out. That way, you're filling up on all the right nutrients from all the right sources. 

To share a concrete example, I went ahead and created an Autumn-inspired meal plan (indeed, lot's of squash and warming spices like cinnamon make an appearance!) which includes a few sometimes uncomfortable-to-look-at RED LEAF health rating recipes...

Yup, lamb and pork is enjoyed in this week's plan!

You'll notice something, though...


That's because of what I was explaining earlier: the Meal Garden health algorithm takes into account EVERYTHING in your plan - percentages of ingredients are thoroughly analyzed to provide a scientific and comprehensive assessment of the entire collection of meals planned. 

So, while pork tacos on Saturday night might not seem like the healthiest of choices if taken out of context, if you take a look at the entire week, it's clear that the meals all total up to a well-rounded and nutritious supply of ingredients that will fill you up with the right healthy fuel!

There's even wild-blueberry & peach cheesecake planned for dessert on the weekend - trust me, this menu plan will have you loving autumn in no time ;)

Want the full meal plan? Sign up to get full access here.

Kiki from Meal Garden Shares Her Meal Expert Platform...

If you're on the Meal Garden mailing list or are otherwise active in our community, "Kiki from Meal Garden" probably rings a bell to you! She's our Marketing Director, and is passionate about health & wellness - inspiring you to live your best possible (nutritious) life!

With a background in commerce, training in entrepreneurship, and a love for healthy foods - Meal Garden has provided me with the perfect fast-paced environment in which I feel that I can truly flourish and explore my potential.

I am SO excited about our new Meal Expert program, and I've been hand-picking a select group of healthy-eating guru's located across North America to share their expertise with our users. Our affiliate program is officially launching this week, and in preparation, I've built out my very own 'Meal Expert' page, to test everything out...

I must admit, I had WAY too much fun with it - in fact, now I want to make myself an official Meal Expert that biased?!

I designed my public profile to be an introductory summary of my experiences and background, as well as why (and how) I'm here to help. Then I went on to build recipe collections - this was totally the fun part! The first collection I made featured all of my own original recipes ('Kiki Originals') which I created directly within the Meal Garden tool. It was awesome to get the full nutritional details for each, and have them all laid out and organized in an attractive, professional manner. I feel like a professional & famous food blogger already!

Next I decided to build out a Kimchi recipe collection, as I recently started a new business venture with my friend, Ashley, making our very own small-batch handmade kimchi and offering it across Toronto (in farmers and flea markets). I searched the internet for recipes that utilize kimchi in a way that I liked the look of, and then sent in my chosen recipe links to, to be added to my cookbook. From there I simply added each recipe into my Kimchi recipe collection

Thirdly, anyone who knows me also knows that I am a BIG fan of smoothie bowls...and often indulge in one on the daily! I started searching the Meal Garden recipe database and was pleasantly surprised to see loads of smoothie bowl recipes already on the site, so I just added the ones that got the 'Kiki-Approval!' to my Smoothie Bowls recipe collection.

Since the recipe collection creation all went so well, I decided to go all the way and build out my very own meal plan. Since I make one for myself each and every week anyways - why not share one with others who might be interested? I kept things simple, and just used some of my favourite recipes on Meal Garden and curated them into a 7-day plan - tried and tested by yours truly ;)

I may not be a qualified Meal Expert - as I admit myself, I'm just a "self-declared health nut" - but I certainly had a lot of fun building out my platform, and now I'm even MORE excited about what's to come with the real experts I've chosen for our community...stay tuned!

Want to learn more about our Meal Expert affiliate program? Feel free to reach out to

This Trending Grain is Also The Smallest in the World

Have you ever had the pleasure of dining at an Ethiopian restaurant? If so, you likely ate Injera bread, which is a gluten-free, fermented (yay probiotics!) flatbread with a sponge-like texture. It’s traditionally served with thick stews and essentially replaces the need for any cutlery. In fact, many Ethiopian dishes are best enjoyed scooped up using this delicious bread.

The benefits of injera do not end at cutlery replacements - it’s also incredibly healthy! High in protein and low in fat...and that all comes down to it’s main ingredient: teff.

It may be the smallest grain in the world, but don’t let it’s size fool you: it certainly makes up for it with nutritional value! It’s packed with eight essential amino acids needed for the body’s growth and repair, and is not only gluten-free but also has a relatively low GI. It’s also great for your digestion, as it’s high in fibre, which means you’ll feel “fuller” after eating it, and it helps to keep you regular!

Note that you should always opt for unprocessed teff - either in full grain form or as a flour. You can even get it sprouted, which means it’ll have even more nutritional benefits (the sprouting process makes it more digestible for our bodies). Just be sure to avoid pre-processed, cooked teff - that sort of thing will likely include preservatives or additives that are high in sodium, and teff is naturally low in sodium - so why mess with a good thing?!

The best way to have teff? Cook and bake with it yourself! It’s a tasty, nutty grain with a versatile texture...from breakfast porridge (similar consistency to polenta), to energy bars, to a superfood salad topper!

I recommend the following recipes from my Meal Garden Cookbook:

Meal Gardener of the Month, August 2016: Michael Y

Michael is a guy who knows a thing or two about good "healthified" food. With his ever-increasing appreciation for health & nutrition - alongside his experience in the tech industry - it's no wonder he's been a star when it comes to taking advantage of the Meal Garden tool!

Here's his story, as the Meal Gardener of the Month for August: 

1. Tell us a little about YOU…

I have been working for an IT company for a few years. Ten years ago, I would have thought that the task of working on the computer and the chore of preparing food in the kitchen were unrelated and worlds apart. But man, times have changed. There are now many awesome internet-based health and wellness tools, such as Meal Garden, that have opened my eyes to the possibility of how smart planning and online technology can support my goals to eat more nutritious meals, enhance my health and meet people who are as passionate as I am about food.

My hobbies include creating and observing art, poetry writing, yoga, qigong and hiking. I really enjoy cooking with others and sharing amazing food with my friends. Cooking and eating socially is a remarkable way to bring people together and uplift their spirits.

Even though I have no intention to become a full vegan anytime soon, I do want to eat vegan meals more frequently, and I've started to really enjoy well-prepared and innovative vegan snacks and meals. To keep things interesting, I'm also on the lookout for recipes from different parts of the world. At the moment, the tried and true traditional recipes as well as the more modern, updated recipes from the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Asian and Latin American regions interest me a lot. I'm willing to try everything... well, almost everything - bugs are still a no-go for me.

To go one step further, I sometimes put my thinking cap on and ask myself, "How do I healthify or even, in some cases, veganize these recipes?" While many traditional recipes are big on flavour, they're also big on calories and unhealthy fats, unfortunately. So I love to develop ways to create more nutritious versions that remain delicious and everyone will enjoy eating! 

2. What’s your go-to strategy when it comes to preparing meals in the kitchen?

I do plan a few meals during a given week, but I haven't reached to the point where I know exactly what I'll be cooking every single day. What I plan to make partially depends on what I feel like eating and what ingredients in the fridge I need to use up. Leftovers are generally A-OK in my books.

When it's incredibly busy or if I'm particularly tired, I would rely on nutritious foods that are super easy to make, such as salads and smoothies mixed with protein powder. It's always helpful to make a lot of food whenever possible, so you will have something already prepared for the next couple of days.

In terms of my cooking skills, I would rate myself as a 7 out of 10 on an average day. I can chop vegetables without injuring myself, but I'm not exactly fast at it. Sometimes I surprise myself when I try out a new recipe and the food turned to be a great success! My friends usually tell me that my food tastes really good.  

3. How did you find Meal Garden? 

I discovered Meal Garden at a free meal planning workshop at Merchants of Green Coffee. Kiki did a fantastic job explaining the features of Meal Garden and answering the participants' questions on how to use this tool to plan ahead, save time, eat healthier and make their lives easier!

I tried the free trial, which I appreciated. It's always nice to test out something before purchasing it. When the free trial has ended, I found the price to be very affordable, so I bought their 1-year subscription. 

4. What are your favourite recipes?

The 5-Minute Ramen is a favourite of mine when I don't have a lot of free time. The Spicy Fish Taco Bowl with Cilantro Lime Slaw is another hit for me! Great flavours in this dish and a tasty alternative when you want Mexican food but want something a little different from tacos. Roasted Butternut Squash with Almond Pecan Parmesan is great, too. Wonderfully delicious and full of nutrients to help your body stay strong and healthy.

The Classic Shakshuka is something that I make at least once a week, and it's one of my favourite breakfast dishes. I often sprinkle cheese on it for some gooey goodness. After everything has been cooked, I add some parsley and sumac to the shakshuka. Yum! 

5. Why do you use Meal Garden?

I'm not as young anymore, and I discovered that I can no longer get away from eating unhealthy fatty foods and living a sedentary lifestyle without gaining weight. So in addition to increasing my activity level, I have promised myself to cook healthier meals.

It's great to have all of my favourite healthy recipes on one site. I don't need to switch platforms to get the information that I need - everything is easily accessible.

I love how Meal Garden provides a detailed nutritional analysis after I enter each recipe into my cookbook. This tool is helping me to stay motivated and, if necessary, alter the recipes to ensure that my body is meeting the daily nutritional requirements and I'm not eating too much sodium and fat.

6. What would you like to see Meal Garden offer in the future?

I don't have a super fast computer, so loading the cookbook page can take a while sometimes. Perhaps one way to speed it up is to give users the option of displaying the pictures at a lower resolution.

Also, some recipe collections are quite large, which can make navigating and finding the right recipes that fit my personal needs a little difficult. Organizing them further and placing the recipes into subcategories may help.

Thanks for your dedicated engagement with Meal Garden Michael. You've proven to be not only a diligent planner, but also a user with one of the highest number of your own recipes (over 30 in just a couple of months!) you've added YOURSELF - even without the help of our Recipe Manager. Great stuff! 

Back to School Meal Assistance - Made Easy.

If you’re responsible for planning and packing lunches for kids, you know this task does NOT come easy.

Yes, packing the same boring sandwiches and throwing in a store-bought pre-packaged snack might do the job...but how does it make you feel? Dare I say...a little guilty?

Do your kids really enjoy these meals? Furthermore, are you providing them with the effective fuel, so that they can go on to have a successful, energetic day...or are you actually contributing to fatigue and anxiety?

What your kids eat (and any of us for that matter) has a powerful effect on not only long-term health, but also how they feel throughout the day.

This year, send your kids back to school with nutritious lunches - but skip all the leg-work of trying to figure out exactly what that even means! Meal Garden’s trusted health meter has your answers in an easy-to-understand format.

Why do you care?

Well, our team has recently launched a hand-picked, curated collection of lunch-box meal plans, and a fully-encompassing kid-friendly packed lunch recipe collection (all allergy-friendly meals & picky-eater approved!) to provide you with the resources and tools you need to say hello to a healthier back-to-school season this September.

The following Monday-Friday lunch box meal plans can be easily scheduled over top of your regular meal plan:

If you’d rather design your own lunch-box meal plan - but could use some inspiration - rest assured we’ve got the collection for you:

Last but not least, this exclusive one-week picky-eater template - filled with breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks for each and every day - is guaranteed to have even the pickiest of eaters cleaning their plates:

If you like what you see - good news! There's even MORE where that came...all accessible from and included in your Meal Garden subscription - login or sign up here.

Kimchi: How to Make the “Healthiest Food in the World”

If there’s one superfood bandwagon you need to jump on, it’s the one filled with kimchi.

This Korean fermented vegetable side dish is now not only a staple in Korea (they literally eat it with every meal!), but has also gained traction in the Western world - we can’t get enough of this powerful health food!

A good friend of mine, Ashley, is a passionate Kimchi advocate, after living in South Korea for 5 years, she is determined to share the precious edible creation that is KIMCHI.

Ashley was kind enough to host a workshop where I learnt how to make it myself (spoiler alert: there is A LOT of chopping involved!), and now she’s sharing her wisdom with anyone who’s interested in learning more...

A Bit About Ashley:

  • I am currently an occasional (supply) elementary school teacher with the Toronto District School Board and a literacy website developer with the University of Toronto. Before coming to Toronto for my MA, I ventured to South Korea with the goal of learning a new language and travelling-- but I ended-up staying for 5 years! I fell in love with the people and culture, and I even fell in love with a lovely Korean man. Although we are no longer together, I have no regrets. I was lucky to share the majority of my life in Korea with the most amazing family a girl could ask for. I was also able to perfect a lot of Korean recipes, my favourite being kimchi!

Ashley’s Take on Kimchi:

  • I instantly fell in love with eating and cooking Korean food, but it wasn’t until my second year that I was brave enough to attempt making kimchi. Although my first batch was a disaster, I didn’t give up. With the help of my Korean family, I became the kimchi making queen. No one could believe that a foreigner could make kimchi so well. I guess it was because my heart was so invested in learning the tradition so that I could share the process and product with others.

  • These days, Korean men and women are so busy with work and family life that many don’t have time to make homemade Kimchi (Koreans work some of the longest hours in the world). Many mothers and grandmothers take on the task of making kimchi, but the tradition isn’t always being passed down to their children. This really inspired me to learn how to make it myself, and it’s my pleasure to bring such a delicious and healthy food back to my home country. I’ve even found ways to tweak the recipe so that it’s even healthier but just as delicious.

  • Koreans don’t mess around when it comes to refrigerators. They have one for everyday use (like you and I do) but at least one more JUST for kimchi! As Koreans eat some form of kimchi with literally every meal, they need somewhere to store it. Many Koreans celebrate something called Kimjang, where everyone gets together for the fall nappa cabbage harvest to make a giant batch of kimchi for the winter. Traditionally, they would dig a huge hole in the ground where they would store a large clay pot for consistent refrigeration, but now with all of Korea’s stellar advancements, they have huge fridges to keep their kimchi perfectly stored right in the comfort of their own homes.

Variations of Kimchi:

There are literally hundreds of kinds of kimchi. There are different recipes for making traditional nappa cabbage kimchi, or you can take just about any vegetable and use a similar process to make it into a kind of kimchi (I started to use kimchi as a verb rather than a noun to talk about all the things I wanted to kimchi-- maybe I still do….). As you learn to make it yourself, it’s fun to decide what kind of batch you want to make. Sometimes I like more garlic or salt when I know I intend to cook with it. I love adding pear instead of sugar for a natural sweetness option. Lastly, I personally think the older it is, the better it tastes, so it’s a good thing that the older it is, the better it is for you!

How to Make Kimchi:

  • When researching different ways to make kimchi, I find that the most inconsistent part is the brining process. Some people soak the cabbage in salt water for 5 hours and some for 10. Some people dip the cabbage in salt water then leave it to drain all the water out. Whichever way you choose, make sure you do the bend test! Your cabbage is ready to rinse when you can bend the leaf most of the way until it finally cracks. If you can bend the leaf all the way without it snapping, then you’ve overdone it. Don’t worry though; it will still taste delicious!


  • You’ll want to cut your cabbage about two inches down the centre. Then you can gently pull the pieces apart.

  • The next most important part is rinsing out all the salt. You’re going to want to wash the cabbage thoroughly at least two or three times. There’s nothing worse than realizing you’ve made your kimchi too salty!

  • As you’re waiting for the cabbage to drain, you can prepare all of your veggies and sauce.



  • Many people use different ingredients in various amounts at this point, so feel free to be flexible with portions. Add more of whatever you like. If you prefer milder kimchi, cut back on the chili flakes.

There I am (Kiki) giving it a go - with the helpful instruction of Ashley!

There I am (Kiki) giving it a go - with the helpful instruction of Ashley!


  • Start from the inside of the cabbage and work your way out. Make sure to put sauce all the way down to the base of the cabbage. Try and spread the veggie and sauce mix as evenly as possible.

  • Some people leave the cabbage in two halves, others quarter at this point.I prefer to keep it in halves. I like to use the larger leaf on the outside to wrap around your sauced cabbage, keeping all of the ingredients nicely packed together. However, you may like to slice it before packing to make it easier to take out as you need it.

  • Whatever way you choose to package your kimchi, make sure there is a little room left from the top and that it is airtight. You’ll need to leave it out for a day or two before putting it in the fridge. This gets the fermentation process started. You can peak on it before putting it in the fridge. You’ll notice it bubble as you push it down.

  • You can eat your kimchi right away and there are many fantastic recipes for this, but I like to wait at least a week before eating. The longer you wait, the better it is for you and the better it tastes!


  • Enjoy your kimchi and all of its crazy awesome health benefits.

Whether or not we’ve inspired you to try your hand at making your are some delicious recipes where you can incorporate some ready-made kimchi in:

Or, if you’re ready to take the plunge - give it a go start to finish by dilligently following this recipe: