Thursday, November 27, 2014

Are You Protein, or Against It?

So what's the deal with protein, you may be wondering?  It seems to be added to everything from granola bars to breakfast cereal to orange juice these days.

And I am guessing that either you or someone you know has at least once attempted a high protein, lower carb diet at some point, right?

I can't say the same for myself though...I already know that I couldn't restrict my carbs too much.  No one takes away my daily oatmeal I say!

But every day it seems their is another headline contradicting the next in terms of how much we need and whether or not eating lots of it (and little to no carbs) will make us all look like Greek Gods.

So, what's the deal with protein?

North Americans have been obsessed with it since the resurgence of the Atkins and other low-carb diet trends in the late 1990s.  After failing to improve our health and lose weight on the popular low-fat diet (primarily because we gorged on high sugar, low nutrition carbs), the pendulum swung back to high fat, high protein diets. 

Many people were able to lose weight on these diets since protein is very satiating, and it was exciting to be allowed large quantities of bacon and other high fat foods, but most people - and this is backed by plenty of studies - have a difficult time staying on these restrictive diets long-term, and usually are not able to keep off the weight they initially lose.  As I have said many times, making changes to your lifestyle to improve your health that you cannot maintain long-term are kind of pointless.

Nevertheless, even my thinking about nutrition has changed a whole lot since back then. I was never into the whole low-carb thing (take away my oatmeal and you risk your life!) but I also have come to realize that carbs, even the good ones, should not be eaten with abandon.  I can easily gorge on a massive plate of brown rice or whole grain pasta but doing so isn't all that great an idea.  Even healthy, whole grains, should be eaten in moderation.  Fortunately for me, I have found that the more I've shifted my workouts away from endurance cardio and more towards HIIT and strength training, the more I crave protein instead.  I actually think I've managed to overcome my carb addiction!  Except for my morning oatmeal!

Anyways, protein is clearly still hot and trendy as most of the popular diets these days like Dukan and Paleo are pretty high in protein.  So how much do you really need to be healthy?  Well believe it or not, you may actually need more as you age.

After the age of 30, we start to experience sarcopenia, or age-related loss of muscle.  Whether you are concerned about maintaining independence and mobility when you are elderly or just want to avoid gaining fat, you should be concerned about this.  When you lose muscle mass, your metabolism decreases, which means you will lose strength, balance, mobility and coordination.  You will also likely experience an increase in subcutaneous fat, which increases your risk of Type II diabetes, heart disease and cancer, without even seeing the scale change that much. 

In order to counter sarcopenia, adults over age 60 should get  about 0.54 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

But guess what trumps the effects of protein intake on fighting sarcopenia?  Strength training, of course, and its never to late to start.

So what else do we know about protein?

The kind you eat matters.  Red meat is linked with cancer and cardiovascular disease, so stick with poultry, eggs, fish and plant proteins.

High protein intake is not associated with osteopenia (weak bones) or kidney disease.

And what about protein and weight-loss?

Most experts agree that getting enough protein is important when you are attempting to lose weight because:

1. It is satiating (along with fibre...its a myth that fat is satiating);
2. It helps preserve lean mass (muscle), which is important because when people cut calories, they often lose lean mass, which means their metabolism drops.

As for all the crap foods they are now adding protein to (i.e. Special K Protein products, protein bread, etc.)?  Skip it and eat real, whole food instead!

Source: Nutrition Action Healthletter

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

PeaNOT Butter Protein Cookies

Why did the cookie go to see the doctor?

Because he was feeling crumby!

That's currently Little A's favorite joke.

If you are feeling crumby and only a cookie will do, but you want something satisfying and nutritious that won't leave you with a sugar-crash, then these fit the bill perfectly.  They are sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan and high in protein.  Oh, and super delicious as confirmed by the family, including the picky little ones.

I used pea butter so they could go in the girls' lunch boxes, but you can use peanut butter if you want, or any other nut or seed butter for that matter.

If you want them a wee bit more decadent, feel free to add chocolate chips.

PeaNOT Butter Protein Cookies

1 cup nut/seed/pea butter
1/4 cup ground flax
1/4 cup vegan, stevia sweetened vanilla or chocolate protein powder
1/2 cup granulated stevia
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)

Stir together all the ingredients and then let sit a few minutes until dough thickens.  Scoop spoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes.  Let cool and eat.  Keep in air tight container for a few weeks. Makes 20 cookies.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Time to Get UFC Fit!

I have an admission...I am cheating on my beloved Tapout XT fitness program!

Although I still think Tapout XT is super awesome, I had grown bored of it...something that happens to me frequently.  There is a second edition, but it is not yet available in Canada.  So when I was at the mall a few weeks ago with the girls and spied the UFC Fit program, I decided to take a risk and check it out.

Oh man!  I have fallen in love all over again!  Honestly, I think this program is even harder!!  I also like how its organized.  Each workout has a set number of rounds and exercises in each round.  You do each exercise twice, for 30 seconds at a time.  Its essentially HIIT training, with a mix of strength, cardio and MMA exercises.  So much fun!

I will warn you that there is a ton of level change exercises (BJJ get ups, burpees, sprawls, etc.) including going right from lying on your back to standing quickly, so if you have back or neck problems, this probably isn't the program for you. 

While Tapout XT has more of a focus on upper body (punches and strikes), there is far more kicking in this series.  The one drawback is that it utilizes weights instead of bands so it isn't as good for travelling.  Due to all the rolling stuff, you also don't want to be doing it on a hard floor, which is why they sell a rubber mat you can buy.  Truthfully, however, you can probably get a similar thing for cheaper through Amazon, or at a local fitness equipment store.

Its a good value with 12 DVDs, and has a program and nutrition guide too, if you are interested in that (I'm not). 

The workouts are led by Mike Dolce, a UFC trainer.  He's got a weird, robot-like way of talking, but because I love the workouts so much, it doesn't bother me.  His participants are all 'industry' folks.  Not necessarily the champion fighters he name-drops, but others from the MMA world, as well as dancers, stunt doubles and other entertainment people who are ridiculously fit and beautiful.  These super men and women will either inspire you, or piss you off because they set the bar so high.  In Tapout XT, by contrast, MMA fighters are mixed in with ordinary folks like you and I.

One thing I'll warn is that the titles of the DVDs can be a bit misleading.  For example, Power Punch focuses a lot on core, Grapple Strength is all weight training, and no fight moves, and Fat Fighter, Plyo Shred and Cardio Cross Training contain the most MMA-inspired moves.

I don't recommend this program if you are completely unconditioned, or, as I said, if you have some sort of musculoskeletal injury, but if you are already fairly fit and looking for something challenging and fun, you totally want to check this out.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Surprise, I'm Starting a Business!

For a few years now this has been in the works, but its taken a very long time for everything to come together.  I am starting a business called Konjac for Life selling konjac powder (Some of my recipes on this site use it but I've been hoarding a ton more) and building an online community where you can not only purchase it, but learn everything you need to know about its health benefits and how to cook and bake with it. I am excited to finally have a product to bring to market that is perfectly aligned with my interests in healthy cooking and baking, and nutrition.

Konjac Root has been harvested and consumed in Asia for centuries and is only now being discovered by North Americans.  Shirataki noodles, now widely available, are made from konjac, but the flour from this amazing plant has many other culinary applications and I have spent the past 4 years building up a repertoire of recipes using konjac powder.  It can be used to replace a variety of less healthy ingredients in your favorite dishes.

Konjac is a prebiotic, and highly concentrated soluble fibre that is largely calorie- and carbohydrate-free.  It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries and has been proven to:
  •  Lower cholesterol, control blood sugar,
  • Regulate bowel function and treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease, 
  • Act as a powerful appetite suppressant and weight-loss aid,
  • Be a versatile cooking ingredient. Due to its unique chemical properties, konjac has many varied culinary uses and can be used to create a wide array of mouth-watering, healthy foods.

Today I am launching an Indiegogo campaign to kickstart my business.  I would be most grateful if you would check it out and consider making a contribution.  There are many available perks!!  If you have no cash to spare, simply helping me get the word out through email and social media would be much appreciated.

Please visit my campaign site here to make a contribution:

Thank you so much for your support!!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Don't Feed the Animals

Kids can always pick out the onions! #Parenting
We may be past the toddler stage in this house, but feeding the kids still remains a challenge.  Like most kids, they would prefer a steady diet of cake and candy, with the only savouries being pizza and hotdogs.  Sigh!

I guess I should feel lucky that I can whip up all sorts of whole grain, stevia-sweetened concoctions and they'll gobble them down whereas I hear a lot of kids clearly distinguish between true crap and healthier imitations and will only go for the former. My kids also don't notice all the fruits and veggies hidden in their food, and they will, sometimes willingly eat vegetables.

Its frustrating, because I feel like no matter what I do at home, they are still exposed to way too much junk from the outside world.  Probably a day does not go by...and I am seriously not exaggerating...when they get cookies, candy or other garbage either from school, daycare or other family members who tell me, there is no harm in the occasional treat.  The problem is, since they are getting it from all directions, it is absolutely NOT occasional.

Oh well, I feel like there is little I can do except try to set a good example and I think we do that pretty well.  I ate my fair share of crap as a kid but eventually gravitated to the healthy side.  My parents were never health nuts like me, but rather foodies, and, at the very least, foodies tend to appreciate good quality food, which eliminates most fast and processed foods.

What trips me up with the girls sometimes is taking things personally.  Like most kids they are incredibly unpredictable, one minute adoring something and the next minute hating it.  Because I love to cook, when they reject something, my feelings get hurt, especially if its something I made just for them.  Case in point, last week I made this homemade baked honey Dijon garlic chicken.  Super moist boneless chicken thighs in a yummy, flavourful sauce.  Or so I thought.

Served a tiny bit, cut up into tiny pieces, each girl was only willing to nibble a corner of a single piece.  Big A said little, but Little A told me it was disgusting and then complained that it smelled like throw up so could I get it off her plate immediately.  Oy vey!  Her response was so dramatic I thought perhaps there was something really wrong with the chicken that I missed, however, when Adam tasted it, he confirmed what I thought, which was, it was amazingly delicious!

Thank goodness I've learned to worry less about their nutrition.  Several years ago I was constantly stressing about what they were and were not eating and wondering how this would impact their health.  I've learned to let go of that a bit.  They may not eat like I want them to, but I guess they do okay, and the reality is, there is not much more I can do about it so I have to just suck it up.  All I can say is thank goodness they now make organic, whole grain Mac and Cheese in a box because it takes 5 minutes to make, and the kids love it.  Yes, I'll admit it, I feed that stuff to the girls possibly once a week. In fact, my mom is coming today to stay for the weekend and I am making a delicious dinner tonight of lemon pepper trout, roasted delicata squash and my edamame, cucumber, and shitaki mushroom salad.  I know the girls won't touch any of it, so I may just break open a box of their Mac and Cheese.  We'll all be happy and their will be no fights...although I admit I may encourage them to eat some vegetable matter along with it...

I no longer feel guilty about being imperfect.  I do my best and that just has to be good enough.

Feeding a family
Saturday I made sure not to book any clients so my mom and I can do something fun with the girls before their afternoon activities (gymnastics and swimming) and then my brother and his family are coming for dinner.  His kids are darn picky too so we're ordering in Mashu Mashu, which is a favorite around here and actually appeals to most kids.  Sunday I teach spin while the girls are at Hebrew School, then we'll take my mom to the train and the girls have a playdate in the afternoon. 

Have a happy, healthy weekend folks!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Holographic Acupressure Discs: Product Review

Relief Discs

What the heck are Holographic Acupressure Discs?

Well, apparently they are "All-natural, non-invasive pain relief discs used by world class and Olympic athletes now available to consumers." They are just one of the products sold by the Winning Factor wellness company.

I had just wrenched my shoulder when these arrived for me to try out.  I stuck one on the effected shoulder in the area indicated in the instructions for shoulder pain before bed.  Is my shoulder better?  It is actually.  Can I attribute it to the discs? Impossible to say, to be honest, because the day before I did an acupuncture session.  In any case, a sample of 1 does not make for scientific data. 

I couldn't find any data, actually, on any link between holographic acupressure discs and pain.  In fact, I found just one study on holographic anything in relationship to health...apparently holographic arm bands do not improve balance or stability.  But here's the thing, perhaps research is just behind in this area.  A few decades ago, we folks in North America would have scoffed at the idea that acupuncture can actually be effective for treating various ailments and now we know it is.  So whether there is scientific evidence out there for these or not, given that these are non-invasive and affordable ($20 for 35 discs), if you have pain that is resistant to other interventions, it certainly doesn't hurt to give these a try, no?  Next time I have an ache or pain, you can bet I'll be sticking one on!

Disclosure: I was provided with this product by the company but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chickpea Sweet Potato Roti

Whenever Adam expresses delight over a vegetarian recipe, I know its one I need to share.  Generally, its hard to get him excited about savoury dishes that have no meat in them.  This one's a sure winner though.  Hearty enough for even the biggest, carnivorous appetite!

Chickpea Sweet Potato Roti

1 tsp coconut or olive oil
1 onion, diced
Large chunk ginger, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls madras curry powder (hot or mild)
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cabbage, sliced
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas)
1 can light coconut milk
1 large sweet potato, cooked, peeled and mashed
Caribbean hot sauce, to taste (optional)

Roti skins or whole grain tortillas

Heat oil in large skillet, pot or fry pan.  Add onion, garlic, ginger and spices.  Cook for several minutes over medium heat.  Add in vinegar, cabbage, chickpeas and coconut milk and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Stir in mashed sweet potato until most of the liquid has absorbed and sauce has thickened.  Adjust seasoning, to taste.  Add desired amount into wrap and insert into mouth.  Makes a lot.  Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to 4 days or freeze.

This recipe was submitted to Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.