Practitioners Speak Out: Why It's Impossible To Get Patients To Stick To Their Commitments

Nutritional practitioners of all kinds (RDs, RHNs, CNPs, NDs, Integrative Nutritional Therapists, etc.) arguably all share the same goal: to help their clients master their health by implementing healthier eating habits.

From what to how to when to why. 

Unfortunately, it's often easier in theory than in practice.

I interviewed a variety of practitioners (some of which wished to remain anonymous) about WHY it's seemingly impossible to get patients to maintain the commitments they initially walk into their office with. 

How on earth are practitioners supposed to "hold their clients' hands" through every step in the healthy eating journey, if they're only seeing them (in-person or virtually) on just a weekly or biweekly basis?

For some clients family support is an issue. They are committed, however the family is not supportive and it becomes too much work to prepare multiple type of meals for each family member. Some clients will come in just because their doctor asked them to come. There is no “buy in” from the client and that is a huge hurdle. For others it is the “all or none” mentality. Hence keeping them on track is a challenge.
— Alka Chopra, RD & CDE

Good intentions aside, it's practice that makes perfect - shifting mindsets and changing bad habits. It was interesting to note how conscious nutritional practitioners are about external forces beyond their control.

Let’s me start by saying, Change is challenging and takes time. With my patients, a lot of external factors that I can’t control are what get in the way of progress (like distance, transportation costs and time of work/school). If we are able to work around these outside barriers, I’d say the top activity barriers that can become major hindrances on gain are perceived lack of time, low self confidence and social and family influence. At the end of day, what works is consistent check ins, small sustainable goals to help them feel successful and support from family and close friends.
— Allie Lougheed, Exercise Therapist at The Hospital for Sick Children

Of course, working at Meal Garden, I put a lot of faith in the transformational power that meal planning and related tools and resources can provide for those looking to get on a path to optimal health. With that said, I've had frank discussions with various RDs, who claim that offering clients custom meal plans - or even spending time on creating any sort of "menu plans" is simply NOT for them...

Here are some thoughts from a few Toronto-based RDs I chatted with:

  • "I no longer build meal plans for clients because I’ve found that at the end of the day, people just don’t follow them!"

  • "Often times clients’ don’t like at least some of the recipes you’ve chosen for them."

  • "Clients want (or think they want) a custom-made meal plan 'just for them' - not a standard meal plan they can purchase/download off my site for example. With that said, once they’ve been given this 'special' meal plan they claim they require, they usually make excuses as to why it doesn’t really work perfectly for them."

  • "It’s just not an efficient use of my time; for one-on-one consultations I charge $150/hr, and creating a 2-week meal plan for a client (including all necessary recipes and grocery lists) takes anywhere from 5-6 hours of my time. Yet no one wants to pay more than say, $20 for a meal plan, when in reality if I were to price it fairly it should really be around $750, but that would seem ridiculous!"

  • "I’d rather teach my clients the underlying skills so that they can make their own meal plans and make better nutritional choices for themselves."

  • "For me, education has outweighed specifically detailed instructions in terms of time efficiency and overall effectiveness when it comes to the success of my patients."

I also had the chance to speak with a RD who works specifically with senior patients, who openly shared the struggles they come across at their own practice: 

At the end of the day, “fast” results are not seen and thereby my clients tend to loose confidence. Forming smarter habits takes time and structure - with a positive self talk. To make matters more difficult, there is often no support from family/friends, they may not know how to effectively prepare meals and is embarrassed to say so during a session, and of course there may be financial constraints and life stressors involved. I’ve also noticed “busy” seasons (weddings, Christmas, BBQs) seem to get in the way of positive progress in the right direction.
— Anonymous RD

While the reality of nutritional practitioners' work may seem bleak at times, I think RHN Heather Allen sums it up nicely:

Being a Holistic Nutritionist means so much more than handing someone a meal plan, a few recipes and sending them on their way. Just as a personal trainer can’t get you six pack abs in a single workout, making sustainable dietary changes takes time and a commitment your highest potential.

And yes, change can be hard and relying on willpower doesn’t work, but what I have found that does work is a system of accountability and support. You could call me a personal trainer for you diet (a.k.a- your biggest cheerleader). This includes touching base regularly through accountability coaching calls where we discuss what is and isn’t working, creating solutions to break through those barriers and set new goals so we can reach your ultimate state of awesome.

We make these shifts at a realistic rate, using real food and getting real about what is holding you back from being your best self (aka- real talk), because if you change nothing, nothing changes.
— Heather Allen, RHN

Are you a practitioner? Meal Garden has just launched a progressive Practitioner Pilot Program alongside building out a fully comprehensive platform for work with clients.

MPME Part Two: The Meal Planning Puzzle Piece

When we start thinking of the week ahead, it can be scary and overwhelming. All the things we must get done and all the deadlines that are looming over.

One of the things we can simplify and make easier, is meal planning. Planning and preparing our food ahead of time saves us time, energy and a huge headache later because that is one less thing to worry about.

By the time you need to eat or grab your lunch, everything is pretty much ready to go! So, let’s continue to deconstruct and demystify meal planning.

Everything can be broken down to the sum of its parts. A building down to its construction materials, a sport down to its technical skills and movements, and meals to its individual food components.

You can easily think of meal prepping as essentially, a puzzle. A mix and match puzzle that can be altered a million different ways to suit your tastes and needs as they change throughout the year.

Gone are the ideas of eating steamed chicken breast, broccoli and sweet potato. To break down meal planning to its bare bones, each meal is simply the sum made up of its parts.

Predominately all nutritiously balanced meals are made with a protein, non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats, and may if called for a grain or starchy vegetable.

Even though at its base, it really is that simple, we must talk about why these aspects are to be included for a balanced meal.

Some may think this is an oversimplification of meal planning, you’re right. But why not simplify it if time is already not on your side?

Why are we obligated to make elaborate meals for the week if there’s barely time to get anything done in the first place? A common mistake is to try and mimic Instagram or food bloggers’ meals.

We need to come back to where we are, start from where we are comfortable and work our way up from there.

Meal Garden offers a generalized search followed by a sorting function that allows you to choose by simplicity.

How easy is that? This is a great way to pick some recipes that are super quick and insanely easy to make.

These recipe does not require too much skill or kitchen Kung-Fu to wade through.

From there you can look through the recipes and add them in accordance to the steps we discussed in the first part of the series.

Pro tip time: when you are in the recipe search area, try clicking on the lightbulb icon. The lightbulb icon will be your best friend around here, opening the door to a whole host of helpful tools and tips. Specifically, here the icon will give you the option to either go to “Recipe Collections” or the “Meal Plan Library”. The recipe collections are just as the name calls, collections of recipes sorted into various categories for you to choose recipes from. The meal plan library will exhibit the numerous existing meal plans that have been curated and created by nutritionists for your needs and health goals (such as 6 Ingredients or Less or Abbeys Kitchen Gluten-Free Meal Plan), where the week’s meals are already preset for you! See below!

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A basic meal should have a source of protein, a source of vegetables (preferably leafy and/or dark green, non-starchy), some healthy fat and perhaps, if needed, some grains or starchy vegetables.

The reasoning behind this is to ensure we have a balanced and wholesome consumption of all our macronutrient and micronutrient needs.

To live a healthy and happy life, we must consume the whole foods that will supply our organs systems the fuel they need to function.

Lacking in any of the macronutrients would be detrimental in the long run.

We will be covering the importance of the macronutrients and highlight a few micronutrients in the next part of the series.

Stayed tuned and stay satisfied! Next week’s installment will delve into the macronutrients in food and their role in our body.

A Culinary Nutritional Practitioner Speaks The Cold Hard Truth: My Job is the "HOW", You Need to Figure out "WHY"

Content originally published by Kristine Peacock on the Meals That Matter blog.


One of the questions I'm constantly asked about from friends, followers, clients and colleagues is,

"What is your secret to preparing healthy meals the whole family will enjoy?"

Like you, I'm not interested in preparing and cooking 5 meals for each member of my family - and I'm certainly not an advocate of anyone else doing that either! But the reality is, kids are notoriously picky-eaters, there are food allergies and dietary restrictions to deal with, and there never seems to be enough hours in a day! No wonder it seems easier for many of us to throw frozen chicken fingers and fries in the oven for dinner and tuck packaged snacks into our purses and lunch boxes!

And moreover, the nutrition bandwagon is introducing and marketing new ways of eating all the time! Keto, Paleo, Vegan, LCHF, Vegetarian, Plant-based, Gluten-Dairy-Sugar-Grain Free, Intermittent Fasting (IF), Non-GMO, Organic... Reading ingredient labels and sourcing ethical & sustainable food sources is a feat unto itself!

Despite all these obstacles, I've made the decision to put nutrition at the top of my health priority list. And it's not always easy. Ironically being healthy is subject to criticism! Backlash from kids, sabotage from family members (it's a grandparents job to spoil the grandkids after all!), being the odd one out at parties that revolve around pizza, chips and pop... and navigating restaurant menus - just to name a few!

And I'm a professional! This is what I do!

So when clients come to me for solutions to their diet, nutrition and health challenges, it's my job to provide clarity, simplicity and education to support their goals, limitations and barriers too. I've made YOUR nutrition my priority too!

That's a lot on my plate! (Pun intended!!)

In order to help you get your nutrition on track, there are a few things we need to figure out together:

  • Culinary Skills: Do you like to cook?
  • Who are you cooking for?
  • What kind of time can you dedicate to meal prep?
  • Your Daily/Weekly Schedule - work, weekends & activities
  • Food Preferences: What are your likes & dislikes
  • Food Allergies
  • Dietary Restrictions & Limitations
  • Health Conditions
  • Commitment, Time, Energy & Budget

As the professional who is guiding you on this journey, it is important for us to work together, collaboratively, & honestly, with opportunities for feedback, interaction and goal setting.

We need a platform with opportunities for exchanging information, recipes, meal plans, progress (and setbacks) and regular check-ins. Our work together can be virtual, online and from anywhere!

So... What is my secret to preparing healthy meals the whole family will enjoy?

It starts with ME... 

And it needs to start with YOU too!

Once we make nutrition a health priority, the obstacles, limitations and excuses simply become bumps in the road - a detour to the final destination if you will.

our job is to figure out the WHY...
My job is to figure out the HOW
 
WHY do you need a change? HOW can I help guide you?

I invite you to allow me to figure out the labels, the diet fads and restrictions. You just need to figure out why this change needs to happen now!

MPME Part One: Navigating the Grocery Store

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First things first, the ingredients, the building blocks to your weekly masterpiece.

Grocery shopping can be mindless or it can be mind boggling, either one is generally an unwanted approach. Mindful shopping will not only bring awareness to the kinds of food you are buying but also what you are feeding yourself and any other people.

Grocery shopping should be done with easy, without fret and with a plan in mind. If approached with a list in hand, it’s so much easier to complete without getting home and realizing you forgot a small but crucial part of a recipe.

The recipe gallery within Meal Garden is vast and plentiful, many of which are created by nutritionists with eating healthily top of mind. The various bundles that are offered are one of the easiest ways to collect recipes that work well together or are from the same theme.

For example, the healthy eating bundle has mini-collections based on your diet or simply what you feel like that week! Under the Paleo mini-collection, there is a whole host of recipes categorized for each search.

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Simply add the recipe you find most intriguing or most drool-inducing to your cookbook for organizing later OR you can add it directly to your week’s menu plan by clicking on “Schedule”.

Here’s a pro tip: when you are scheduling the recipe and you want to plan it for multiple days of the week (because I’m not about to make a different lunch every day of the week), you simply click on one of the days you want to have it and click on the “Plan Leftovers” button right underneath Done. Then click on the meals, breakfast, lunch or dinner that you would like to have the meal again. Easy-peasy, right?

5 Ingredient Paleo Pancakes (because… well, pancakes!)

Now that you have all your delicious meals inserted into your week’s menu plan, scroll below and you will find your grocery list, nicely prepared and ready to take with you to the grocery store! Easy as that.

You can print it or email it to yourself or whoever is grabbing the groceries and you are off to the store with the exact amount of ingredients you need for each recipe.

Navigating the grocery store is straightforward when you understand how it works. When we go grocery shopping, we want to stay along the outside of the store.

Have you ever noticed how all the products are on the outer edges of the grocery store and much of the refrigerated items are at the back? Grocery stores are often staged the same way.

Keep to the peripherals of the grocery store where most of the whole and natural foods are kept. The deeper you go within the aisles, the more you will discover the processed and refined packaged food products.

We will cover the nutritional content of foods and why we should always choose foods that do not require a label in the third part of the series.

When there is no list, stay on the outskirts.

With your weekly menu grocery list in hand, the task of grocery shopping is a breeze. The perimeters are most likely where you will stay for most of the shopping, aside from a few dips in to get some pantry necessities.

Once all your goodies are in the cart, there you have it! Grocery store navigation made simple.

Stay tuned and look for next week’s installment, part two will dive into how the meal planning puzzle works!

Meal Plan Made Easy Series

Everyone has a million priorities and responsibilities to attend to every single day. We all live busy lives that pull our attention towards and we give our time to. Eating healthy at every meal can seem like a daunting task to manage or even to think about when we have twenty things flying through our minds at any given time.

The idea of making ALL your food for the week can seem terrifying IF you don’t have a plan or an idea of where to start. Which is where this meal planning series steps in. This series was birthed out of the necessity to fulfill answers to meal planning and demystify any preconceived notions.

Welcome to part one of the Meal Planning series by Angy Xi, for Meal Garden.

I am a Holistic Nutritionist and a Personal Trainer. In my business, I work with many clients from all walks of life.

There are busy moms or dads, taking care of an entire family of one, two, or five people. There are busy office workers in the corporate world, bound to the office and unable to have much freedom of choice in their food. There are students of all ages. There are older clients and younger clients, clients who are skilled in the kitchen and those that may need extra care and direction. There are clients with a blend of all the above.

The only thing that everyone has in common is that they need to eat. Everyone needs to eat. And in the pursuit of a happy and healthy life, we want to eat healthily and nourish our bodies with the fuel we feed ourselves.

That’s where we come in. Meal planning can be daunting, but not if you know how to tackle it and even easier when you can use Meal Garden to do the planning for you.

Planning and preparing your meals ahead of time will save you time and energy down the week. I mean, when was the last time you wanted to have a healthy and delicious meal but just could not muster up the energy to cook? I know that’s happened to me before.

In this series, we will breakdown meal planning to a simple and easy-to-digest approach that allows for flexibility and freedom of food choices, AS WELL as making your life that much easier.

Some Mesmerizing Food Ideas for Moms

Cooking is one of the most complex jobs. Our mothers usually cook healthy food dishes for us despite having time from their busy schedule. A mother who has to cook for her family has to keep in her mind several essential measures such as the likes and dislikes of every family member related to every food dish, accessible and easy recipes for simple food, and incorporation of healthy ingredients. Cooking food is not as easy as it seems. Also, it is really complicated for moms to cook for their families after a really hard and tiring day.

Our moms undoubtedly try to feed us with all the healthy foods so that we can perform our daily tasks effectively and keep us healthy and active. Moms make efforts in order to cook a healthy food dish for their families and incorporate all the healthy ingredients such as salad made up of leafy green vegetables, fresh meat, fresh rice, wheat, and flour.

All of these healthy ingredients help our body by preventing us from many diseases and bad conditions and promote our health. Our moms feel this responsibility of feeding us right and healthy that they even offer us snacks that are healthy for us. Even after having a hard and a busy day they invest their time in the kitchen in order to cook healthy food for their families, therefore, enlisted below are some easy and accessible food ideas for every mother.

1. Healthy Salads

The easiest and healthiest food is the salad. Salads can be made in no time and it is the most effective recipe for the moms who have busy schedules. Healthiest salads can be made by the incorporation green onions, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, chicken, tuna, and leafy green vegetables including kale, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, and collards.

Salads provide a variety of health benefits such as promoting the health of the digestive tract, a great source of fiber, sharpen eyesight, and promote cardiovascular health. Also, you can incorporate protein into these salads to make a main dish or use as a side dish. The recipe of one the tastiest salads is given below.

          Check out our Mexican Cucumber salad recipe here. 

          Check out our Mexican Cucumber salad recipe here

2. Healthy Breakfast

Some of the best ideas for healthy breakfast are banana bread, casserole, French toast served with strawberries and bananas, and monkey bread. All of these breakfast ideas are extremely healthy and provide the body with essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. 

 

Try making your own delicious monkey bread with this recipe! 

Try making your own delicious monkey bread with this recipe! 

3. Healthy Snacks

Moms make efforts in order to make snack time even healthier. They want their kids to eat all the healthy stuff. One of the quickest and easiest ideas for moms to do this is with potato nuggets with broccoli and cheese. Also, smoky kale chips is one of the greatest ideas because kale is a leafy green vegetable and it offers a variety of benefits such as providing anti-inflammatory effects, good for cardiovascular health, and good for eyesight because it consists of high amount of vitamin A.

 

Kids will love these fun and tasty Potato Nuggets with Broccoli and Cheese! 

Kids will love these fun and tasty Potato Nuggets with Broccoli and Cheese! 

4. Quick Chicken Recipes

There are various ways for chicken to be cooked. Some quick food ideas containing chicken are Thai chicken broccoli wraps, baked chicken served with rice and lemons, easy chicken spaghetti, chicken fried rice, barbecue chicken wraps, salsa chicken, chicken nuggets, grilled chicken served with avocado salad, and maple mustard glazed chicken. These food dishes are beneficial for health and promote health. 

This Salsa Chicken recipe will make a great dinner in a pinch! Quick, easy and delicious- perfect for a weeknight dinner.  

This Salsa Chicken recipe will make a great dinner in a pinch! Quick, easy and delicious- perfect for a weeknight dinner.  

5. Healthy Soups

Moms usually remain conscious about providing their children with the best nutrients, therefore, they try to make uncountable efforts for searching for healthy food recipes. Despite all the busy schedules our moms have, they never disappoint us with food. Some of the easiest and quickest soup recipes include ravioli soup, pesto chicken soup, potato soup, pumpkin peanut butter soup, Mac and cheese soup, tortilla soup, and tomato soup. All of these delicious soups can be cooked in no time and they have a great nutritious value.

 

Try including this Chicken Tortilla Soup in your weekly                                       meal plan.

Try including this Chicken Tortilla Soup in your weekly                                       meal plan.

This blog post is brought to you by one of Meal Garden's favourite foodies, Rachel Stinson. 

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Rachel Stinson has always had a knack for writing, food, fashion, and places. Blogging has combined all four for her with an added bonus of enthusiastic audiences. She expertly analyzes real estates and restaurants with respect to pricing and people involved and can express her opinions in an unhesitant, engaging manner.

Cooking Tips That Render Amazing Meals

Everyone usually tries to make strives in order to have a healthy diet. Also, the food that we cook at our homes is comparatively healthier than the food we get at restaurants. Therefore, in order to strive a healthier diet, you need to cook more meals at your home. Cooking food at home not only saves your money but also, you can keep track on the portions of meat and the ingredients that you use. Although cooking food at home is not easy because it requires a lot of techniques, tips, and tricks such as chopping, dicing, slicing and much more. Cooking is considered as an art because, in cooking, any dish or any ingredient can be modified, changed, or omitted in the cooking procedure depending on the size or the taste of the people you are cooking for. Enlisted below are some of the amazing cooking tips and tricks that can effectively help you in the kitchen.

1.     How to Peel Ginger and Crush Garlic

The ginger used in most of the recipes is considered one of the basic ingredient in order to provide a specific taste. Also, ginger has always been used because of a wide variety of medicinal properties that it provides. Peeling a ginger is generally a hard task because of the crannies and nooks it has, therefore, peeling it with a regular sharp spoon instead of the knife is a great idea and then mince it using a fork.

Ginger is used in many delicious recipes such as Falafel Food, honey ginger chicken, toasted ginger salmon, ginger chicken soup, and much more. Even one of the best falafel in Dubai have garlic incorporated as the main ingredient. Also, garlic is an essential component of food dishes, therefore, you should know how to effectively crush a garlic with a knife. All you have to do is, use the flat part of the knife and with the paddling motion squash the garlic. This will give you a smooth paste with no lumps left.

2.     Separating Egg Whites Using A Water Bottle

Eggs are generally the best source of protein. They are extremely rich in nutrients and contain all the essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that a human body needs. Undoubtedly both the yolk and the white of an egg are equally nutritious and are usually required separate in many of the recipes. Eggs are majorly used as a glue ingredient for most of the baking reactions. separating an egg is one of the hardest tasks because mostly bits of the shell are left while separating the yolk from the white. Therefore, crack an egg into a plate and then lightly squeeze the water bottle and then release the squeeze on the bottle. This method will effectively separate an egg white from the yolk. 

3.     Place Herbs And Spices In a Cold Place

Usually, when herbs and spices are placed above the stove or where heat and humidity are high and where the light is bright and sharp, these factors altogether cause the spices and herbs to lose their flavor. Therefore the best idea is to place the herbs and spices in a cold place where there is low or no light.

4.     Store The Stock For Later Use

Every time when you have to boil vegetables or make a soup, you need to serve enough time in order to cook stock, therefore, it is better to cook stock in large quantity so that it could be used for later. Invest your time in cooking a large quantity of stock and try to pack it in different plastic bags and store and freeze it in the refrigerator. In this way, you can easily use it for various purposes such as for boiling vegetables, and for making any kind of soup.

5.     Overnight Soaking of Brown Rice

If you have a busy schedule and you hardly get time to serve hours in the kitchen, the best thing you can do is soaking the brown rice overnight because the next day when you will cook these rice, it will take no time. There are various delicious brown recipes such as sweet and sour chicken with the brown rice, zucchini rice casserole, vegetable fried rice, and much more. Incorporating brown rice is one of the most effective ideas because it is extremely healthy and also this technique of soaking overnight can help you cook it in no time.

About The Author Rachel Stinson has always had a knack for writing, food, fashion, and places. Blogging has combined all four for her with an added bonus of enthusiastic audiences. She expertly analyzes real estates and restaurants with respect to pricing and people involved and can express her opinions in an unhesitant, engaging manner.

About The Author

Rachel Stinson has always had a knack for writing, food, fashion, and places. Blogging has combined all four for her with an added bonus of enthusiastic audiences. She expertly analyzes real estates and restaurants with respect to pricing and people involved and can express her opinions in an unhesitant, engaging manner.

Meet Kim: Supermom (with a bit of Expert assistance...)

When Kim's daughter was born with medical needs, her priority immediately became doing everything in her power to make sure she provides her with the best care possible. Of course, a vital element of this was nutrition, as ensuring her daughter was getting the nutrients she needed to thrive while also dealing with food allergies and intolerances was essential.

Connecting with the Meal Expert Community

Throughout her quest to find the very best in resources and support for herself and her daughter, Kim connected with Certified Nutritionist Danielle Binns through an organization called Feeding Matters. Ever since, Kim followed Danielle on various social media platforms and eventually started working with her on a more direct basis - through nutritional consulting for her daughter, and taking part in a few different online programs and courses that Danielle runs through her business. 

Many of these programs focus specifically on, well - food! Preparing healthy meals for your toddler - whether they are picky-eaters or are dealing with complex medical needs such as Kim's daughter - is Danielle's bread and butter (gluten-free and dairy-free, of course!). Kim found Danielle's guidance - in particular her recipes and meal plans - very helpful in learning how to feed her daughter while also managing her food intolerances.

That's when Meal Garden came into play. Danielle hosts her programs right inside the Meal Garden digital meal planning tool in order to make it super simple for her moms to incorporate her specially designed recipes and meal plans into their lifestyle. Why share just PDFs of recipes and meal plans when you can instead provide an interactive and digital tool to empower moms to do it themselves?! Danielle understands the importance of meal planning, so she's been actively recruiting moms to join her in Meal Garden for well over a year now. 

After dabbling in the recipes and meal plans on Meal Garden for a few months, Kim knew she was on to something great, so she decided to sign up for an account of her own. That's when things went from good to great.

"Having my online cookbook, comprised of all of my hand-selected recipes (from Danielle Binns and other experts I trust) is a total life-saver for me - especially when I'm in a pinch. I could always just Google recipes, but having this specially curated database of meals that are right for my daughter and myself is second-to-none." - Kim

Like-minded people sharing only the best of meals

While Kim openly admits that she hardly ever uses the scheduling or grocery list functionality in the tool - it's the recipes that provide all the value she needs. It's a source for whole-food based recipes by nutrition experts she trusts, and she loves how it's all there - easy to access in the moment. Being apart of a community with a common mindset and philosophy around recipes has totally replaced the desire or need to search for recipe ideas outside of Meal Garden - it's just wouldn't make sense!

Committed to maintaining healthy success

It's been about six months since Kim first signed up for Meal Garden, and hasn't looked back since. To no surprise, her main driving motivation is indeed her daughter's needs. Meal Garden is a vital tool in her toolbox for keeping her daughter healthy and strong. Specifically, she's looking for dairy-free recipes with toddler-friendly texture, taste, and that also offer high nutritional content. Kim mentioned the Banana and Chia Pancakes as one of her all-time favourite breakfasts - for both her daughter as well as herself!

Click for recipe.

Click for recipe.

A fast-paced tool for a fast-paced lifestyle

At the end of the day, Kim has other things to occupy her time, so quickly finding and choosing healthy meals that are right for her family is what she's most thankful for.

"Thanks to Meal Garden, I've experienced a major reduction in stress about food and diet for my daughter, and I can focus on other things. I'm often 'in-a-pinch', and I'm grateful to lean on Meal Garden in those time-pressed moments!".

Congratulations again to Kim's success with our tool, and a big thank you to Meal Expert Danielle Binns for being such a valuable member of our community.

Meet Janice: The Veggie-Friendly Savvy Scheduler

It all started about 6 years ago when Janice decided to take the leap of faith into a plant-based diet. She was inspired by friends who were vegetarian or pescatarian, and who were dishing her out some incredibly tasty meals.

Maybe this veggie-centric diet wasn't as hard as it seems, Janice thought - unfortunately, she was wrong...

"Eating a vegetarian diet can be tricky, and it's easy to fall off the wagon if you don't plan accordingly", Janice admits.

Luckily, she found Meal Garden about a year ago, after messing around with other meal planning tools that either didn't fit her dietary needs or were simply too finicky to deal with.

Easy, simple vegetarian meals.

Janice is a woman on the go, and she doesn't want to waste time in the kitchen, so she's thankful for Meal Garden: "It's made it so easy to stick to my vegetarian diet, there's lots of simplified recipes with minimal prep time, so I don't have to spend hours figuring out what I need to eat to stay healthy and make sure I get enough protein throughout the week".

Automatic grocery list generator.

Another time saver? The grocery list app - Janice's all-time favourite feature of the tool. She admits that she HATES shopping...for FOOD that is! Taking the time to wander around the grocery store, and to think about "meal planning" for the week ahead, is just a total hassle in her eyes, so the automatic list is a "life-saver". 

Cost savings galore.

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Best of all, it's not just time-savings that Janice has been enjoying. Since signing up for a Meal Garden account, she has managed to reduce her weekly grocery costs by 1/3rd! That's right people - this savvy planner has confidently shared with me her good news: for herself and her husband, instead of the usual $600/month on grocery costs, she's got it down to a mere $400/month - that's just $100 a week!

What's her secret to the impressive cost savings? Meal planning. Most specifically: NOT throwing out/wasting food. Instead of fresh produce turning to soup in their crisper drawer, Janice and her partner use up exactly what they purchase each and every week, and nothing goes to waste. It's a green approach for the environment...and her wallet ;)

The learning curve + changing habits.

Now this all sounds great, right? But is it really all that easy?

While Janice says that she felt like the tool was easy and intuitive to use right from the start, it took her a good 2-4 months to really start using the Meal Garden tool consistently.

That's something we here on the Meal Garden team notice time and time again: it takes people a few months to really "get into the groove" of meal planning, but once it "clicks" - they're a master for life. 

Janice was kind enough to share her "secret" to staying on track: "The biggest thing is my text reminder - I'd be lost without it!" She's set up a weekly SMS notification that's sent straight to her cellphone, so she gets a little "ping" each and every Saturday morning, as she's sipping coffee on her porch, and is reminded: oh yeah, it's time to plan! 

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She quickly schedules a few of her favourite recipes (and likes to play around with some new ones too!) and BOOM - she's ready for her once-a-week Sunday shop. She likes to get all of the grocery shopping done and dusted on Sunday, so she doesn't have to worry about it throughout the week. Janice isn't afraid to admit that without these gentle reminders...she'd likely forget or simply not make it a priority!

Flexibility to eat intuitively.

Of course, we're all only human, so Janice does end up switching around meals throughout the week and makes changes to her plan as the days go by. That's actually what she loves about Meal Garden - how easy it is to swap things around!

"I often quickly poke around Meal Garden while I'm at work in the afternoon, around 1 or 2pm, and will decide if I really do want what I've scheduled for dinner that evening. If I'm not feeling it, it's as simply as swapping it around and planning another meal I've shopped for that week. I know I've got the ingredients for whatever's on my menu that week, so it's really not a bother or a problem - easy peasy!"

While Janice doesn't use the tool ALL of the time - she's thankful to have it as her go-to tool for when she does. It's there when she needs it, and that's all that matters. 

Spreading the love.

We're excited for Janice to gift Meal Garden to her daughter this month, as she's eager to share the benefits of planning ahead and enjoying life (& easy, healthy meals!).

5 Natural High Energy Foods For Exercising

As someone who cares about their health and fitness, exercise should be an important part of your life. Sometimes, however, you may find yourself lacking the energy to get going or find that you fizzle out before getting to the end of your workout.

Not getting sufficient sleep can sometimes be the culprit for lacking the energy to exercise. If this isn't the case, though, then the foods we eat are frequently the primary cause of this lack of stamina. Exercise is an important expenditure of time and energy on your part. It is critical, therefore, to eat foods before exercising that give you the energy needed to have as productive a workout as possible. The following is a list of five natural foods that can help you with this.

Apples 

Apples are known for being healthy in general, but they are also specifically good at giving you an energy boost for exercise. Eating whole apples, as opposed to the juice, gives you the soluble fiber you need to slow your body down in digesting the fructose contained in the apple. This is healthy in terms of not spiking your blood sugar levels, and it gives you a more sustained level of energy through your workout in contrast to a cup of coffee or some low-fiber, sugary treat.

Of course, it takes more than “an apple a day to keep the doctor away” as the old saying goes. That said, apples can be an important part of giving you the energy you need to do the other things that will also improve your health, and minimize those trips to the doctor's office. Additionally, apples are rich in vitamin C, which is a potent antioxidant for maintaining your overall health.

Apple Celery Salad

Apple Celery Salad

Honey

This can be another part of your diet plan for giving you the energy to exercise. Honey has a blend of glucose and fructose for giving you energy, and it is believed that such a blend of carbs may be better than either of them alone. It also contains some vitamins and antioxidants that make it one of the healthiest sweeteners you can use.

The best part about honey is that, with its delicious taste, few people need much prompting to eat it. You can put it on a variety of other foods to add an invigorating sweetness to them. Just add a little to your breakfast smoothie or bowl of cereal and have that little extra skip in your step on the way to the gym. 

Baked Acorn Squash with Greek Yogurt & Honey

Baked Acorn Squash with Greek Yogurt & Honey

Yogurt 

Yogurt has been a favorite among health aficionados since long before Jamie Lee Curtis started doing commercials about it. Its probiotic benefits in helping to populate our guts with healthy bacteria are known to improve regularity and help with many digestive problems. This is critical to getting regular exercise because it's hard to feel like doing anything when you are afflicted with digestive issues.

Just as honey can be added to other foods to make them healthier, yogurt is great for adding things to in order to improve its health and energy benefits. In addition to a variety of fresh fruit, you can even add honey to it to sweeten it up a little more.

Beet, Yogurt, and Apple Salad with Chios Mastiha

Beet, Yogurt, and Apple Salad with Chios Mastiha

Oatmeal

This is another food that is great to have before a workout. As with many whole fruits, its fiber content slows down your body's absorption of its carbs, which results in a steady energy lasting throughout your workout.

Similar to honey and yogurt, the flexibility of oatmeal in terms of what can be mixed with it is a huge plus. Adding flaxseed oil to it can give you an excellent pre-workout energy boost, and mixing in some protein powder if you eat it after your workout can help with your recovery. Add a variety of fruits or nuts, such as blueberries or almonds, for a boost in health, energy and taste. 

Chewy Chia & Carob Chip Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

Chewy Chia & Carob Chip Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

A Healthy Trail Mix

Trail mix can be a healthy option for delivering the energy boost you may need for that next workout. Its mix of nuts and dried fruit can provide both the protein for sustained energy and the carbs for quick energy to start exercising and get you through to the end. That said, use caution when determining what trail mix you buy.

Many of the existing mixes can have a lot of added sugar and salt. Be sure to get a brand with as few additives as possible. For the ideal solution that is customized to your tastes, there are even plenty of recipes online to enable you to make your own - like this one from Meal Garden: 

Homemade Trail Mix Granola Protein Bars

Homemade Trail Mix Granola Protein Bars

Energy and Nutrition for Your Mind and Body

Another positive aspect of many of the above foods is that they have a mix of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that our bodies need to enable us to operate at a peak level. You should not underestimate how exercise can make you feel good mentally and put us in a good mood.

Being energized for exercise is as important for our minds as it is for our bodies. This is especially important if you are in a field where you depend on a clear head and creativity for your success. Perhaps you are a marketing executive who has to come up with creative ad campaigns. Similarly, you may be a member of a nonprofit or an educational institution, and you're charged with finding unique fundraising ideas. Getting the blood flowing faster a few times a week gets it flowing faster to the brain as well and gets you mentally energized.

"I am yoga instructor of 2 years and love what I do. I have a passion for fitness and health and like writing about it. I find happiness in staying active and healthy, and I hope to be able to help people with their health goals by writing about the things I've learned from experience." - Julia Carson

"I am yoga instructor of 2 years and love what I do. I have a passion for fitness and health and like writing about it. I find happiness in staying active and healthy, and I hope to be able to help people with their health goals by writing about the things I've learned from experience."

- Julia Carson