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/

Behind the Scenes: The REAL Life of a Culinary Nutrition Expert & Mom of 3

As I walk into Kristine Peacock's kitchen, I'm immediately met with energetic playing kids (some hers, some friends of hers), a table filled with fresh cut-up veggies, and a healthy dose of "chaotic-ness". I am wholeheartedly welcomed into this joy-filled madness, offered a herbal tea, and I start to unpack my things.

I am referring to just this past weekend, when Meal Expert on Meal Garden and founder of Meals That Matter, Kristine, graciously invited me into her home to show me - first-hand - a thing or two about how she masters getting a healthy and home-cooked meal on the table for her family each and every night. Regardless of if birthday parties, ballet practice, or gymnastic class is on the schedule too. Some people may refer to it a miracle, others are perhaps a bit jealous, and can't help but give up at the thought of what that would take, but Kristine walks and talks a different story...

It’s all about repurposing - some might call it “leftovers”, I like to use the word “repurpose”.

And that's exactly what Kristine walks us through how to successfully (& deliciously) achieve for you and your family in the video we went on to film (check it out featured on our social pages this week). 

The first step? Pick a protein!

Whether it be chicken breast, minced beef, mixed beans, etc. Buy it in bulk (often will save you some $$$) and then "batch cook". That might mean baking 6-8 chicken breasts all at once on a Sunday evening, enjoying a piece alongside a classic roast dinner plate with rice and veggies, and then throwing them into an Alfredo pasta dish the following Monday night, doing a stir-fry on the Tuesday, chicken fajitas on Wednesday, etc. etc. 

Kristine advises that once you have that "key" ingredient decided on, it's easier to get creative and work around that for the rest of your week. Think of it like setting up some boundaries that influence and guide your choices. If you'd rather pass on thinking up these combinations altogether - Kristine once again has your back. She diligently put together one of our all-time favourite recipe collections in Meal Garden: Passport to Culinary Nutrition, and it's got everything from fully put together meals likes Moroccan Stew and a Chicken, Kale & Cauliflower Curry Bowl, to sides like Spaghetti Squash, all the way to exactly how to flavour some of these dishes with recipes for marinades and seasonings. 

It's a collection I recommend for ANYONE intimidated by the idea of "meal planning", as it makes the perfect starting place for re-thinking about how you can "re-purpose" a few simple ingredients to make a diverse collection of tasty dishes that are anything but boring. 

A lot of our Meal Garden users mention that some of the meal plans are simply not fit for their lifestyle - the idea of making several different recipes each and every day is 100% out of the question. We hear you loud and clear, and that's why we've partnered with Culinary Nutrition Expert Kristine - our expert in home-made, scratch-cooking - to bring you the guides and resources to make your journey to healthier, simpler, living as enjoyable and successful as possible.

Check out the video on how you can "repurpose" your way to ultimate healthy living for you & your family below.

February will FUNK you Up!

Brace yourself! February has a tendency to put us into a little bit of a "rut"...

Don't fret! Meal Expert and Holistic Health Coach, Leah Somers, has some words of encouragement to get you off to the right (second) start: 

As we move from the high the of holidays and New Year’s Resolution’s hype we start to slow waaaaaaaaaaaay down. The weather isn’t as warm as we would like to keep up our spirits of moving our bodies and the nights offer a welcoming invitation to warm up with a hot toddy and comfort foods. (Cue the "mmmmmmmhhhhh" sigh)

In January, we are feeling like the rock star! The January chatter sound like this, “I got this, I can see my new jeans coming, by May I’ll be ready to put shorts on and run outside, I am going to go out no matter what the weather is, I can do this, clean eating- it’s the only way, I’ll juice every morning, I am going to have more energy, I am pumped!, drinks only on Friday’s, I’m so focused, I’ll walk to the store instead of drive, I’ll play outside with the kids, I’ll use the baby as my weight ball, it’s ok that I missed today, I have the whole week.”

We truly are motivated, we do want the change, we have the will power. The first week we are perfection. The second week we are pretty good, the third week we get a cold/flu that puts us down for 2 weeks. Probably could have gotten back into it in a week, but now the people are sick. Depending how many people you have, depends on how long you are out of the game. (Cue the "awwwwwwww" missed the goal)

Here we are in the beginning of Funky February feeling like a fail. The February chatter sounds like this, “UGH I am 2 weeks out of my commitment, well Monday is a good day for a hot toddy- it is freezing out, ok first thing in the morning I’m going for a walk no matter what, it’s too dark out, whaaaaa I wanted my new jeans by now, ugh only 8 more weeks and I should have been able to wear shorts, I feel so far behind, the house is a mess, it’s Friday I’m tired- ordering pizza, ok tomorrow I will get out first thing in the morning”…

Sound familiar? We all do it to some extent or another, it’s called “My body should naturally be hibernating” We start seeing our “should BE’s” and forgetting the progress doesn’t happen overnight. In February, it is the time of romance and love. We tend to forget that we need to treat OURSELVES with romance and love too. Creating a space for forgiveness is a beautiful place to start. We are not in yesterday anymore, so forgive ourselves for that and see a blessing in the now. If we jump to fast too far ahead of our structured routine, we tend to fall back into old patterns. The mind starts in with the “should BE’s” and we run out of space for the blessings we have right here and now. That all come with self-forgiveness.  Give yourself these Valentine’s gifts, patience, kindness, forgiveness.

We ALL want to create a healthier lifestyle. That’s great! How? One baby step at a time. Getting organized ahead of time. Meal Planning, done for you grocery lists, meal prepping, creating time to just be. As we choose to plan ahead we do create more time for the long-term goals, like 30-60 min a day, or every other, of exercise, we will be less tired when it comes time to creating food for the people because it’s all planned out, prepared, and all we have to do is execute.

Use an accountability buddy. It is always more motivating to stay on track when someone is on the same page. In today’s times, there are dozens of Facebook groups, friends that are far away can do it together with technology, Health Coaches, joining a gym, walking groups, cooking classes, Mealgarden.com. The key is to find a way for the change to be fun and inviting.

This is a true story! It really works. I know because this is me right now. Yes, I am a holistic health coach, Wellness Cooking Instructor, Meal Planner, Expert for Meal Garden. As my accountability buddy I joined a 12-week fitness challenge January 1st!!! Well, you read my story above. So here I sit in my February Funk writing to remind everyone of the self-forgiveness that is most important. I am on my 3rd week of no exercise (ssshhhhh don’t tell my trainer) and today I am ok with that because I know I am doing the best that I can right now. And yes, I do plan to get going again this week as my cough is pretty much gone so I won’t pass out from an epic phlegm attack. (que the church bells, this was a doozy of a cold!) I have managed to keep my eating on track and my meals planned and prepped. One step at a time. Just be.

Leah Somers

http://www.purelysimplewellness.com/

https://www.facebook.com/purelysimplewellness/

Let technology be your hero! Start your meal planning here

Elevate Your Home Cooking With This Easy Trick!

Preserving herbs by freezing them in olive oil has been around for ages yet, surprisingly not enough of us know about it. This method is especially great during the winter months for enjoying fresh herbs in your favourite soups, stews and potato dishes! These often call for oil to start so a cube of frozen herb oil is a great base for such meals. Fry onions and garlic in this herb-infused oil and the taste of the herbs will spread throughout your whole dish.

Preserving herbs in olive oil reduces some of the browning and freezer burn that herbs can get in the freezer. Basically what you need to do is gather your favourite fresh herbs, rip them up, place in an ice cube tray, cover them in olive oil and freeze overnight and voilà! You now have a delicious herb-infused olive oil at the ready for any occasion!

This method works best for hard herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme and oregano because they would most likely be cooked when added to a dish anyway. In contrast, the flavour of soft herbs like basil, mint, dill and lemon verbena is changed in the freezer and they are most enjoyed when they are as fresh as possible.

The Process:

Select your favourite herbs. Try a combination or rosemary, sage, oregano and thyme to have a variety of herbs on hand later on. You can chop them finely or rip them into pieces. 

Pack the wells of an ice cube tray about 2/3 full of herbs. 

Pour oil over the herbs.

Cover lightly with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.

Remove the frozen cubes and store in freezer containers or small bags. Don't forget to label each container or bag with the type of herb (and oil) inside!

                                         Add our recipe to your cookbook and get meal planning!

                                         Add our recipe to your cookbook and get meal planning!

This method can also be used for so much more than pan-frying. Try preserving your herbs in melted butter instead of oil and use that as your dishes’ base or, once frozen, leave a cube to thaw for a bit and it can then be enjoyed as herb butter spread. For soup, freeze large quantities (like a Tupperware container full) of your favourite broth with chopped herbs. To prepare herb tea in advance, freeze the herbs in water.

Try to freeze a combination of different herbs so you have a variety to chose from when the time comes. You can make these little cubes in bulk and separate your different herb mixtures in labeled Ziploc bags for future use. Think about what you like to cook and that will dictate how much of each type of infused oil you will want to make. This is a great cost efficient way to enjoy the taste of fresh herbs year-round and to make sure there is always a flavourful base for your cooking available in the kitchen.

 

Sources:

Durand, Faith. “Freeze & Preserve Fresh Herbs in Olive Oil”. Kitchn, http://www.thekitchn.com/freeze-herbs-in-olive-oil-173648 

 Medina, Michaela. “Preserving the Harvest: Fresh-Frozen Herbs in Oil, Butter, Broth or Water”. The Gardener’s Eden, http://www.thegardenerseden.com/?p=13221

New Year Resolutions Not Holding Up? Try This Instead.

It's a few weeks into January - how are your New Year resolutions coming along?

Perhaps you made a goal to "eat healthier", or "get fit" for 2017. Or maybe you didn't set any resolutions at all. Regardless of what your specific circumstances may be, I'm going to bet that the following program can provide you with the comprehensive guidance you need to succeed in a new journey to optimizing your health - whatever that "goal" may look like to you. 

The fact is, changing our health means changing our behaviours - and that all starts with the right adjustments to our daily habits. They say it takes about 21 days to change a habit. In those first 3 weeks or so, you're likely going to benefit from some full on "hand-holding" and real structure in order to learn the "recipes" for success. 

Enter Fitness Expert and lifelong trainer Sandra Augustin, who has been successfully utilizing Meal Garden with her clients at her gym in California for the past several months. She not only knows how to coach you physically, but she's also got a knack for knowing exactly what you should be consuming. Years of being a Fitness Model will do that to a girl!

She swears by a well-balanced macro-focused diet of 40/40/20 (Protein/Carbohydrate/Fat) and has diligently complied meal plans with only simple, easy-to-make recipes (she admits that she's far from being a chef!) to make menu planning for her clients a total breeze. 

I started working with Sandra about 2 years ago, looking for a fitness community that felt inspiring, welcoming, and animal/child friendly as I love the “energy” of pets and kids. Most importantly, I wanted to train with Sandra who has achieved so many fitness accomplishments that I can’t even get started! Check out her biography amaze-balls!! She is kind, caring, and understands all walks of life not just super fitness competitors (although she’s one of them)! Sass has become my family, a stable fitness environment that has not only changed my physical body both muscle tone, weight loss, nutrition, but my level of fitness is higher than I imagined. Sandra’s experience makes it intuitive for her to know when you push you, apply’s recovering techniques such as heightened yoga, stretching, and tools in the gym to address sore muscles and joint! Best decision I ever made!!
— Koren

What's more, is that she's curated some of her favourite recipes in Meal Garden - making adjustments to the serving sizes and ingredients so that the macro-balance suits her liking - and made them all available for her members. From breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and all of your family favourites - she's made navigating what to eat a complete walk in the park.

My experience with Sandra Augustin has truly been life changing. A beautiful, brilliant woman who has maintained her passion, drive and determination over the 15 years I have known her, is truly amazing. She genuinely cares about helping people, making their lives and bodies better, no matter where you start or what your goals are, her knowledge, skill and attitude will get you where you want to be. I’ve gone from size average to 12% body fat, figure competitor and obstacle course participant to currently living a happy healthy lifestyle in today’s crazy world! Not easy for women today but Sandra helps you make it happen!
— Debbie

Her workouts, on the other hand - are NOT a walk in the park. Regardless, she's rounded those up into Meal Garden too! Easily accessible on your desktop computer (perfect for at home or in the office) as well as on your mobile devices - check out her "WOD" (Workout of the Day) and stop questioning how to train. 

I reached out to Sandra nearly 5 years ago to get me ready for a Caribbean vacation. In the past 5 years she’s not only been my trainer but my motivator, my friend & my son’s spunky Auntie Sandra. She’s prepped me for vacations & my wedding, helped me successfully avoid a recommended c-section due to that back surgery & finally given me a post-baby body that I am proud of. She will forever have a client and a friend. She has been and will continue to be the sassy constant in my life!
— Nicole

Now what if I could tell you that you could participate in Sandra's program regardless of where you are in the world, and take part in a challenge that focuses on internal transformation for a whole new and improved you? No guessing, just structure and support to see you through to success.

The time is NOW. In fact, it all starts tomorrow...

For TODAY ONLY use promo code 'IMREADY' to get 25% off the Reset for 2017 Challenge. You won't regret this investment in yourself.

Focus on Food – Eating Mindfully for More Energy and Less Stress

The following post is written by Meal Garden user and Meal Expert Dr. Salna Smith...

It’s amazing how fast paced and busy our day-to-day lives are.  From the moment we wake our adrenaline skyrockets as we compile our heavy list of to-do’s. We all know it’s not ‘healthy’ but most of us are at a loss for how to change it. And so we push through. Running to get ready, racing to get everyone out the door on time, stressing about what we might be forgetting or how, before our day has even started, there is already too much to get done.

Does this sound at all like a morning you’ve experienced recently? When you imagine yourself in this state, does it feel good in your body?

Not for me. I tense up. My stomach gets knotted, my face heats up and I can tell my breathing is more rapid. Not the best situation for digesting and absorbing breakfast to say the least.

This state is known as ‘fight or flight’ and is the state our nervous systems are in most of the day these days (sadly). Somehow our society has shifted from a ‘play outside until it’s dark, homemade meals’ ideal to a ‘go faster, do more, grab ‘n’ go’ mentality that frankly is akin to the saying ‘death by a thousand cuts’.

It has created a slow decline in our quality of life and at the forefront of this slippery slope of dis-ease, is how we are eating.

I’m Dr. Salna Smith, Naturopathic Doctor and owner of www.kaleandcoffee.ca. I work with high achieving women who feel drained, overwhelmed and are tired of DIY’ing their own health and not getting results. I tailor health plans using lab testing and a detailed work up so these hard working souls can regain a sustainable energy, feel recharged and ready to tackle their priorities head on again! And food is one of my favourite places to start!

I’m Dr. Salna Smith, Naturopathic Doctor and owner of www.kaleandcoffee.ca. I work with high achieving women who feel drained, overwhelmed and are tired of DIY’ing their own health and not getting results. I tailor health plans using lab testing and a detailed work up so these hard working souls can regain a sustainable energy, feel recharged and ready to tackle their priorities head on again! And food is one of my favourite places to start!

Forget what we’re eating. That’s for another post. I’m talking about HOW we eat.

While on the subway, while standing up or walking, working at our computers, during meetings, and definitely not taking the time to taste or chew our food. Our society is skilled in our advanced ability to gulp food and distract ourselves from the present moment. Compound this with quick fix foods (lackluster sandwiches, canned soup, cereals, crackers and sugary snacks) and we have a recipe for disaster.

But this isn’t anything new. We know this right? But what am I supposed to do? I can barely get through my day much less add the additional stress of HOW I’m eating to my never-ending list of worries.

Enter a little background. When we are constantly rushing…and eating…and rushing, we keep our bodies on high alert. This means, in the ‘fight or flight’ state, all our blood is diverted to our extremities and brain to keep us alert and poised to ‘run’ from our attackers. This is in and of itself quite a healthy response. Need to suddenly stand up and speak in a meeting? Adrenaline helps you do that. It allows the brain to become focused and for you to deliver the information your colleagues are waiting for. You definitely aren’t focused on digesting your lunch.

What if I told you that when we focus on eating – actually chewing, tasting and swallowing our food, we enhance the body’s ability to digest our food, absorb the nutrients and in turn, have higher energy, more focus and a calmer outlook in our busy days?

In order for us to digest our food optimally though, we need to be in the ‘rest and digest’ phase whereby the parasympathetic (or calming side) of our nervous system is activated. This shifts blood flow BACK to the digestive system, optimizes digestive juices from the gallbladder, stomach and pancreas for breakdown of food and promotes healthy bacterial gut flora (read: less gas and bloating) and peristalsis in the large bowel leading to better elimination of waste. All in all, when we eat in a conscious way, we can better utilize the food we’ve just eaten to help us conquer our day! That to me is winning!

The term given to being conscious of HOW we eat is known as Mindful Eating.

Many misunderstand this term and take it to mean being acutely aware of what we are eating. This can lead to restrictive food practices (including Anorexia and Bulimia) as well as Orthorexia - a relatively new term used to describe those with a fixation on eating only ‘healthy’ foods. These limiting food practices at all intensities create a jail-type mentality.

Introduce Mindful Eating – being consciously aware of how we are eating, and eating with purpose. This awareness works to squash restrictions. This consciousness refers to bringing our awareness to our food when we eat.  What are food looks like, how it tastes/feels in our mouths and taking the time to properly chew and swallow our food versus gulping it back so we can move on to the next task.

Mindful eating can be accomplished in a number of ways and by no means is the following list exhaustive. If you were to pick 1 or 2 mindful eating practices to begin today, you’d be ahead of the game. Remember; it’s amazing what can happen when we focus on being present – in our lives, at the kitchen table etc. The lens with which we view the world widens and this, my friends, is beautiful. It puts you back in control of your health.

So, give those glands of yours that manage stress (aka your adrenals) and your mind a well-deserved break. Digest your food optimally. Have more energy and stress less with these simple techniques. You’ll be so happy you did.

1)   Rid Yourself of Distractions.

Turn off the TV, radio and put your phone on silent. Either enjoy the silence or have family time (= conversation) around the table. Make this your new norm for a week and see how you feel after meals.

2)   Appreciate Your Food

Mindful eating isn’t about developing a superhuman power of concentration but more so about developing a deep appreciation of food. Where it came from, how it is prepared and just enjoying the food you are eating. This can be practiced when eating anything from a salad to pizza. Really enjoy your food. When we do this we tend to eat slower and savor each bite, which optimizes digestion, we stress less, and our energy improves.

3)   Eat Slower

This can feel like torcher for many people. To chew 20 times before swallowing while putting the fork down between bites. Argh. My suggestion: be gentle with yourself. Remind yourself that meals are not a race. Try introducing chopsticks as your utensil to slow things down a bit and reframe ‘eat slower’ into ‘enjoy and savor– this will bring you back to the present moment so you can truly taste your food which will inevitably allow you to slow down.

4)   Don’t Forget to Breathe

I often suggest a few deep belly breaths (diaphragmatic breathing) before meals and after. Take a deep breath into your belly so your belly button rises. Try not to move your shoulders. Do this 3x’s before you begin to eat and at the end of your meal. This allows for a moment of calm and encourages blood flow to the digestive system allowing for a quiet mind and optimal digestion.

5)   Plate your Food

Seems silly to state but being a society of ‘busy’, we often eat out of bags. Putting your food on a plate, however small the portion, allows you to see what you’re eating so you can appreciate it (see tip 2), which brings awareness to your meal. This habit is one that turns eating into a pleasurable experience and helps refocus on the food itself.

Cheers to Mindful Eating - Sante!

With Laughter and Leafy Green Love,

Dr. Salna Smith, ND

Want more inspiration for eating mindfully? Check out the Holistic Health Toolkit now available in Meal Garden - details below.