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Friday, December 22, 2017

Break Time






I don't know about you, but I really need a break!



Fortunately, we are on holiday as of tomorrow. My priority is going to be SLEEP and resting, mentally and physically. About a week ago, I started to feel super physically and mentally burned out. I love my job as a psychotherapist, but mental burnout is a big risk, so a week or so off is a good thing right about now. I've also been pushing myself physically the last couple months, because, well, I could. I've been feeling great and really strong and energized, so on top of amping up my workouts, I was also riding my bike to and from work as often as possible (until the snow hit). I was planning some workouts for while we are on break, but now I will just have to see how I feel. As I said, rest is the priority.



No matter what holidays you are observing, I hope you have a safe and happy time and I will be back in 2018.

Monday, December 18, 2017

All You Need is a Sock...or a Kid!


Aside from not smoking and limiting your alcohol intake, the best thing you can do for your health (and I am talking every freakin' aspect of your health, physically and mentally!) is exercise regularly.

While I am sure you've heard this message before (like duh?), its not penetrating with North Americans. Only a minority get even close to the minimum recommended amount of physical activity. I know its challenging. For most of us, getting it in requires being completely purposeful about it because we have a designed a world that encourages us to be sedentary at every turn. Robots that vacuum for us, cars and public transport to get us places, and desk jobs that have us sitting on our butts for 6+ hour per day.

Getting regular activity is something I encourage all my clients to do, not just the ones coming in for weight loss support. Self-care is something I question everybody about because our sleep habits, physical activity, and diet all play an important role in our mental health. Exercise can be even more effective for management of depression and anxiety than prescription medication.

The reasons people give me for not exercising are pretty consistent. Number one is time (or lack thereof), number two is interest (WTF, the body is designed to exercise...saying it doesn't interest you is like saying you are not interested in brushing your teeth, um, kind of a necessity for good health!). Number three is money (or lack thereof) and number four is a lack of motivation.

The motivation piece is the trickiest. People generally dislike exercise because it feels uncomfortable for them and they lack energy. But the reason it is uncomfortable and why they lack energy is because they are out of shape! It is also difficult to muster motivation if you are depressed or have low self-esteem. These are the types of issues that need to be addressed in counselling.

As for the time and money, these reasons don't hold water. While I am blessed to have a home gym full of a lot of equipment, this is entirely unnecessary in order to get super fit at home without spending any money and investing minimal time.

Want cardio? Move your damn body! Sit down, stand up. Jump up and down. Do burpees, jumping jacks, knee lifts, plank jacks, mountain climbers, jog on the spot, go up and down the stairs, the possibilities are endless and you can get it all in in a very small amount of space and a short period of time, if you work intensely enough.

Want to get strong? Lift food cans, pets, children, or your partner (photo is of me doing 'airplane from my shins - we also did up on my feet with straight legs - with Little A...I use our home gym, but a kid can do the trick too!). Squat and lunge your body weight. Do push ups, planks and sit ups.

Since we got the new rubber flooring installed in our basement, the one thing I haven't been able to do is use my sliding disks. This has been frustrating because they can be a great tool for core and leg strength as well as cardio. The floor is a bit textured so neither the disks designed for carpet or wood floors work. I even tried paper and plastic plates, and towels, none of which worked at all. I was thinking about the former fitness trend from the 90s, the Slide, and the booties required, and suddenly it struck me: Put a pair of socks OVER my shoes! I grabbed an old pair of athletic socks I no longer wear and gave it a try. Guess what? Works like a charm! I didn't have to spend a dime!

I recommend making some form of movement part of your DAILY morning routine at home. Then there are few excuses to get in the way. If you are the resolution type, I recommend you make it about getting active. Start with a modest goal (2-3 days/week) and build it up from there. If you don't know what to do, find an app or book to help guide you, there are tons of resources out there!


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Low Calorie Granola Clusters (Sugar-free and fat-free)


My apologies for the late post this week...its been BUSY. I guess people want to get in some counselling/therapy before the holidays? πŸ˜€πŸ˜€ I'm not complaining though, I love my work. I am never happier than when I am busy with my work...except for maybe when my kids behave and get along (but that rarely happens).

Today I have a healthy recipe for you: GRANOLA!

Who doesn't love granola? Come on, sweet, crunchy, amazing with yogurt and fruit...I bet Donald Trump doesn't eat granola. He must eat lots of Cheetos, because otherwise, how did he get that colour??

Anyways, the problem with granola is it is usually very high in calories, with the calories being from sugar and oil. A 'serving' usually isn't enough for a mouse. The tricky part though, is to get the crispy, crunchiness without the sugar and fat.

Well you are all welcome folks, because I figured out how to do it! Yep, since this granola has no added fat or sugar, it is much lower in calories than typical granolas, but is full of the big, crunchy clusters we all love! It is also gluten-free and vegan for those with restricted diets.

I made this orange ginger flavour, but you can easily swap out the orange and ginger for other fruits and spices. Once it's baked, you can throw in whatever dried fruits, nuts and seeds you want, if desired.

Vitafiber is a healthy, high fiber, lower calorie sweetener, which you can buy online. This is what helps get the granola crunchy, so I wouldn't substitute anything else here.

Low Calorie Granola Clusters (Sugar-free and fat-free)

6 cups oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
2 cups millet seed
1/2 cup Vitafiber syrup
1 seedless navel orange (or 1 cup apple sauce, pear sauce, or other pureed fruit), organic if preferred
1/2 cup water
1 tsp pure stevia powder (or other form of stevia or sweetener, to taste)
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt

Place Vitafiber syrup in saucepan over medium heat until starts to bubble. Cut the navel orange into quarters (keep skin on) and place in blender with 1/2 cup water. Puree until smooth. Pour into saucepan. Continue to heat for a few minutes over low/medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in spices, stevia and salt. Place grains into large bowl and pour contents of saucepan over top. Stir until grains are completely coated.

Spread mixture evenly onto large parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes (check to make sure it isn't burning at the edges). It should be golden and firm (like you've just baked a huge rectangle oatmeal cookie!). Turn off oven and leave inside for 20-30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. Break into clusters and keep stored in airtight container in cool place for up to 3 months.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Become a Cathelete!

Its so ironic that me, quite possibly the biggest gym-rat ever, who would happily spend all day every day in a gym, working out, teaching classes and personal training, now can't stand gyms. Yep, you heard me.

I much prefer to workout in solitude now in my own home. I don't have to care about my appearance (hello no makeup, ratty spandex, and bed head!), and I don't have to worry about anyone getting in my way (I don't have any time or patience for that!), and I get have everything the way I like it (tv, music, temperature, etc.). I also don't need to waste time getting to and from some destination. I just stumble downstairs (it's 5am after all!) and shake of the sleepies with a good sweat.

Almost all my workouts start with a video of some kind. Most of my favorites are from Cathe. I've reviewed a bunch of them before and I've continued to add to my collection. Here are a few of the latest (and I may have ordered a few more recently, that haven't yet arrived!). Unlike the others I've gotten from her before, a few of these are adaptable to beginners.

Low Impact HiiT



This is definitely the most appropriate one for beginners, of all the Cathe DVDs I've tried. Its got 2 workouts under a half hour that are all low impact. It will still be hard for those with a low level of fitness, but the moves are simple and there is no STEP.

Cardio Supersets


This isn't a bad one if you are at a moderate fitness level. Its all low impact and the STEP component is optional.

Warm Up - 5:30
Cardio - 30:59
Stretch - 5:01
Total - 41:30
21:17 bonus step aerobic routine

I like this one when I want a solid but not too intense workout.

X10 


This one has 5 25-30 minute high intensity workouts. You can do 1 for a short workout, or combine them in one of the 12 premixes.

26:51 X10 Step
25:35 X10 Low Impact
26:38 X10 Hi/Lo
25:18 X10 Cardio Blast
29:32 X10 Fat Burning Circuit
Each workout includes;
Warm up - 7:55
Stretch - 5:18

Most of the workouts have some resistance exercises so its often about half high intensity cardio, and half resistance. I like that you can do so many different workout combinations with this DVD. Its too advanced for absolute beginners but definitely not as intense as some of her super duper tough ones.

Intensity:


This one definitely isn't for beginners. Its a high intensity (duh!) workout that has a bunch of premixes of various lengths:

  1. Maximum Intensity - 70:21
  2. Step Only - 36:30
  3. Step + HiiT (High) + Boot Camp - 59:09
  4. Step + HiiT (Low) + Boot Camp - 60:23
  5. Timesaver - Step + HiiT (High) - 46:26
  6. Timesaver - Step + HiiT (Low) - 47:40
  7. Timesaver - Step + Boot Camp - 49:13
  8. Timesaver - Double HiiT and Boot Camp - 45:44
  9. Timesaver - HiiT (Low) + Boot Camp - 35:49
When I have the time to the whole kit and kaboodle (70 mins) and I am looking for a hard core workout, I love this one.

My only complaint about these videos is that for the STEP work, Cathe will go right into multi-part routines instead of introducing each new move, one at a time. So if you are not good with STEP, or get frustrated easily, this will piss you off.

Honestly, I love my morning workouts. I feel so lucky to have the time, health, fitness and space to do them. They make me so happy. But you don't need to turn your basement into a gym to be able to get kick ass workouts at home. Honestly, if you have space to throw down a yoga mat (you don't even need the actual mat), then you have space to workout hard. Not even any equipment needed!

If these types of workouts aren't your thing, there are about a bazillion other workout DVDs and steaming services and apps out there.
If you struggle to get to the gym regularly, than quit! Get moving at home, because one of the keys to fitness is consistency. No workout or piece of equipment is effective if you don't do/use it!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Spokes Air-Puffed Potato Snacks: Product Review


One of the foods that many of my weight-loss clients identify as their weakness is potato chips. This doesn't surprise me since its one of the foods most highly associated with obesity.

The problem with potato chips is that they are easy to eat in large quantities (who can eat just one?), and they are very calorically dense. People also tend to crave them because they hit all the right salty, fatty, sweet (a lot have added sugar), carby, notes that we find addictive.

I never tell my clients to cut out a food altogether (although I recommend it for sugary soda!) if its something they love. I either tell them to work a reasonable amount it into their daily calorie limit, or find a healthier alternative that satisfies the craving.

For potato chip lovers, a lower calorie alternative may be these new snacks, Spokes, created by a Canadian company. Spokes are an air-puffed potato snack that has just 40 calories a cup, compared to 137 per cup for regular potato chips.

They are available in 9 flavours and are gluten-free and nut-free, and preservative free.

The company sent us BBQ and Salt & Vinegar flavours to sample and both disappeared in seconds. I asked my friend, a salty/carby snack addict, to weigh in. She loved the amount of seasoning, which she found was not overpowering, and adored the lightness and non-greasiness of Spokes, and gave both flavours equal marks. Little A, felt the BBQ could have more flavour but, overall, really enjoyed them too. Big A didn't get home from dance class in time to try the BBQ, which is her favorite chip flavour, but found the Salt & Vinegar a bit too salty (though she doesn't like S&V chips anyways). I tried the BBQ and thought they were really good. Salt & Vinegar doesn't do it for me so I didn't try them. From Adam's frequent dips into the bowl, I am guessing he enjoyed the Spokes quite a bit too!

So, do I recommend Spokes? If you are looking for a lower calorie alternative to regular potato chips, I absolutely do. But keep in mind they are not 'nutritious'. As I always say, the healthiest snacks are not found in the snack food aisle. They are always fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, unsweetened yogurt, etc. But I do think the 80/20 rule is a good dietary approach, so if you eat nutritious, whole foods 80% of the time, you can probably afford to include some treat (void of nutritional value) foods in there on occasion.

Disclosure: The company sent us the product to review, but all opinions on this blog are our own.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Gluten-Free Comfort Food: Book Review


As you must know, gluten-free is all the rage now. While only a small percentage of the population have Celiac disease, or even a gluten sensitivity, it seems everyone is jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon because they think its going to help them lose weight, gain energy, cure their bloating/rashes/brain fog/infertility/headaches/stupidity...

Despite the ridiculous gluten-free trend, avoiding gluten is no joke for people who ACTUALLY need to avoid it. One thing that makes those folks despair, is the idea of having to give up their favorite comfort foods. If you are looking for gluten-free versions of your favorite recipes, 100 Classic Gluten-Free Comfort Food Recipes might be of interest.

Written by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt, both home economists and experienced bakers, the book provides gluten-free recipes for classics such as oven-fried chicken, stuffing, gravy, lasagna, mac & cheese, waffles, various types of breads and buns, muffins, cookies, brownies and donuts.

What I like best about the book is the introductory chapter that explains what whole grains are. As you know, one of my biggest beefs (or tofus, if you're vegan), is that people often think things are inherently healthy if they are gluten-free, and this is definitely not true. Especially if grains containing gluten are replaced with refined gluten-free flours like white rice flour. They include a list of gluten-free grains and starches that can be used for cooking and baking. But they forget to mention konjac!

There are chapters for:


  • Soups and salads
  • Entrees and sides
  • Yeast breads
  • Yeast-free muffins and biscuits
  • Cakes
  • Pies and pastry
  • Puddings and other sweets


There are a lot of lovely, colour photos of the recipes and many helpful tips and variations to suit your taste.

I love that the recipes use whole grains, but there is a lot of sugar in the sweets, though that can easily be replaced by a healthier sweetener.

My one criticism is that for anyone who knows how to cook, a lot of the recipes are kind of superfluous given the vast availability of gluten-free foods. Like, it shouldn't take a rocket scientist (or home economist) to figure out that you can replace regular noodles with gluten-free noodles in lasagna, or you can use a gluten-free flour to thicken your gravy, instead of regular flour. But it does provide a good reference for what type of gluten-free flours work best for each recipe. I would say this is a perfect book for someone who is a relative newbie cook, and is looking for gluten-free recipes.

Do I recommend this book? For those with limited cooking and baking experience who want to learn how to cook and bake gluten-free, yes, this will be just what you're looking for!

Disclosure: I was sent this book to review but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Seabuck Wonders Organic Himalayan Sea Buckthorn Berry Oil: Product Review


Most people these days seem to have jumped on the omega 3 fatty acid bandwagon whether its making a point to eat lots of fatty fish, omega 3 rich seeds, or simply taking a supplement.

But have you heard of omega 7?

Its another essential fatty acid lacking in the Standard American Diet (SAD). Fear not, its now easy to get, from a vegan source no less, in sea buckthorn oil! I've told you all about sea buckthorn before, when I reviewed products from Seabuck Wonders. Well, now I have more to share about the benefits of this amazing plant.

Like other fatty acids, the omega 7 from sea buckthorn oil is an unsaturated fatty acid with a myriad of health benefits. It promotes cardiovascular health, like other fatty acids, and sea buckthorn is also cytoprotective, anti-stress, immunomodulatory, hepatoprotective, radioprotective, anti-atherogenic, anti-tumor, and anti-microbial.

Furthermore, one study found that sea buckthorn oil taken orally can help with dry eye...good news for me, a chronic dry eye sufferer! Its also good as a topical treatment for skin. Another study found it improves the symptoms of dermatitis (hello sensitive skin sufferer here!). For more info on benefits see here.

Seabuck Wonders recently sent me their Organic Himalayan Sea Buckthorn Berry Oil tincture to try. While it can be ingested, I was more interested in its topical uses.

My skin is dry, and sensitive and consequently prone to dullness and redness. I decided to try the Sea Buckthorn Berry Oil before bed one night in place of a moisturizer. I love the consistency. It is light and not at all greasy. Beware the colour though! The oil naturally has a bright orange colour, and I do find it turns my skin orange! If you want the Donald Trump look, you may not mind this, but for me, I will stick to using it before bed (just beware of staining if you have light coloured sheets). I love that unlike most skin care products, the active ingredients are not diluted with all sorts of fillers. Its done a great job of helping to heal the irritation I developed around my left eye (which waters a lot to compensate for dryness). My very sensitive skin has also not reacted to it, despite its potency. Yay!

If you want to take it orally, you could probably add it to a smoothie or something. Seabuck Wonders also sells a supplement is softgel format, specifically for hair, skin and nails, that combines the berry oil with biotin.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely! Most of us need to get more essential fatty acids, and sea buckthorn berry oil is one of the few sources of omega 7. Its also a vegan source of fatty acids for those who avoid animal products.

Disclosure: I was sent the product to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Confadent Oral Technology: Product Review


A few years ago when the girls' daycare announced there was going to be sugar-free gum day as a treat, I came in to pick them up, and caught a few moms lecturing the teachers on the dangers of artificial sweeteners and demanding that gum with sugar be allowed.

Oh boy did I have to bite my tongue!

While I can understand wanting to avoid aspartame, or whatever, there are lots of other sweeteners available that are better than sugar.

One of them is xylitol, a natural sweetener (for those of you who find 'natural'  to be a meaningful descriptor). It has slightly fewer calories than sugar and rather than causing tooth decay (one of sugars' many negative health consequences), it is actually protective of teeth.

Xylitol is available granulated and can be used in place of sugar in cooking and baking. It is also an active ingredient in many dental care products such as pastes and rinses.

You can also find xylitol in gums, like this new product, Confadent Oral Technology, which sent us several packs to sample.

The whole family gave them a try so we can share our feedback with you.

Adam, who is a ritual gum chewer, said he found he needed to chew several at a time because they are small, and he prefers gum in stick form. The girls liked the flavour, but found it did not last very long.

Overall, its great if used for its intended purpose:
"help prevent plaque and gingivitis, whiten teeth, and freshen your breath"

If however, you are looking for something merely for chewing pleasure, than you may be disappointed. But, frankly, I find that the case with most gum. After a few minutes of chewing I always have to spit it out or it starts to make me feel nauseous.

There is no doubt in my mind that we should all be avoiding gum with sugar. Oral health has now been determined to influence our risk for all sorts of serious chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer. Its not just a matter of having clean teeth!

So do I recommend this product? If you find yourself forgetting to brush your teeth regularly or having less than stellar check-ups at the dentist, or worrying about bad breath after meals, than stashing packs of these in your car and bag are a smart thing. Chewing for just a few minutes while the flavour lasts should be enough to get the protective benefits of the active ingredients anyways.

Disclosure: The company sent us the gum to review but all opinions on this blog are our own.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Mushroom Bacon


I have to tell you, I am so over coconut bacon. As I have been very open about in the past, unlike many folks in the wellness world, I don't believe coconuts perform miracles. The oil is heavy and greasy. With coconut bacon, its the texture. I once threw a bunch into something I made for Adam and I and he told me it was like eating paper. I have to admit, he's right! I will stick with coconut milk thanks, and everyone else can eat all the bacon and oil.

Anyways, I've seen people use various veggies to make bacon substitutes and decided I wanted to try making one with mushrooms since I not only love them, but they are naturally meaty. I have to tell you, I am completely smitten. I threw these into a pasta dish, but I am already fantasizing about using them in omelettes, salads or just shoveling them into my pie whole as fast as possible. They are ridiculously good. And super easy to make too. The only thing is, you need to get dried mushrooms. Fresh has too much moisture in it. I can get big packs of shitake mushrooms dried at my Korean market for $5. If you can't find them, order them online.

4 cups dried shitake mushrooms
1/4 cup boiling water
4 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (or vegan and/or gluten-free substitute such as tamari or coconut aminos)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp pure maple extract + stevia, to taste (or 2 tbsp pure maple syrup)

Crumble dried mushrooms into bowl. Add all remaining ingredients and stir well. Let sit until mushrooms have absorbed all the liquid. Bake at 350F on parchment lined baking sheet for about 15 minutes or so, but make sure mushrooms don't burn. Keep refrigerated up to a week.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Spibelt: Product Review

Good morning and welcome to a new week! If you are a fitness fanatic, or are just constantly on the move, or even an avid traveler, keep reading...

Where has a SPIbelt been my whole life??

Who doesn't hate having to find a place to stash keys, phone, etc. when running outside. Personally, I have been stuffing my phone in my bra when I run the past few years, which isn't comfortable and I always worry I will destroy it with sweat.

I do have a fanny pack thingy from when I did the 8 hour cancer charity walk a few years ago, but its huge and bulky, designed to carry 2 water bottles and a lot of other stuff.

So I was more than happy to test a SPIbelt out when offered the chance. Its very small, light and sleek and adjusts to fit snugly and comfortably. It looks tiny but the stretchy material can accomodate a phone and other stuff very easily.

Even if you are not a runner, its a great option for walking, hiking, cycling, and travelling. I am going to take it with me for sure to Israel.

Get out there, get active, no excuses!!

SPIbelts are affordable, and come in a ton of different colours, models, and sizes, including ones that can accommodate water bottles, and one with a waterproof pouch.

Disclosure: I was sent a SPIbelt to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own. 


Monday, October 16, 2017

The Edgy Veg: Book Review


Extremism is in. Whether its political views or diets, everyone is polarized these days.

When it comes to food trends, people seem to be either going over-the-top decadent (the latest in Toronto is Asian ice cream and desserts...like this:


...or to the opposite end of the spectrum, such as raw, vegan food like this:


If I have to pick a side, you know where I am going! The latter, of course!!

But there is another diet trend in Toronto, which, I guess is sort of the happy medium: vegan comfort food.

Now, personally, I have little interest in this because I find it tends to mean vegan junk food, and junk food is junk food in my book. It may be better for animals and the planet, but its not better for the body.

Nevertheless, there is clearly a market for it, and I suppose its a good way to get carnivores who have previously given no thought to what they consume an accessible way of becoming more conscious of what they eat, if only for ethical reasons (though I don't get why people would care about the health of animals and the earth, but not of their own body).

The Edgy Veg is a cookbook by fellow Torontonians, and bloggers, Candice Hutchings, and her husband, James Aita, which claims to contain "138 carnivore approved vegan recipes." I would say it definitely can be described as catering to people looking for vegan comfort food.


Now that I think about it, the polar opposite of this might be Paleo since that tends to be a very health conscious, high meat diet (assuming you believe eating large amounts of animal protein, especially red meat is healthy...which I don't).

Anyways, there is a lot to like about this book. It begins with a section on how to prepare to start cooking the recipes, with lists of kitchen tools, pantry staples,  and vegan substitutions. Then there is a chapter on the 'basics', such as pizza dough, seitan, vegan mozzarella, several types of veggie bacon, dairy-free sour cream, and a bunch of sauces. These items turn up as ingredients in a number of the recipes later on. I love that these base items, such as seitan and vegan mozzarella are relatively simple, since making them homemade might seem intimidating (at least to me!).

There are lovely photos of almost all the recipes and tips under the "Hack it" section at the bottom of the pages. Many of the recipes sound amazing and I plan to try such as the mushroom bacon, Eat the Rainbow slaw, Buffalo Cauliflower Wings 7 ways, What the Pho, and Garlicky Green Beans to Keep the Vampires Away.

The recipes span many different cuisines, and cover most of the food that's trendy (at least in Toronto) such as pho, ramen, Chinese/Thai/Indian, and fusions of many of them. Their are chapters for brunch, soup, salads, munchies, mains, sides, beverages, and desserts.

My one criticism is that many recipes use white flour and white sugar. Even organic versions of refined flour and sugar are absolutely void of nutrition and spike blood sugar levels. Nevertheless, you can substitute whole grain flours and healthier sweeteners in most of these recipes easily.

Also, be aware that substitutions for animal proteins are sometimes made with non-proteins (i.e. buffalo cauliflower, carrot lox). So be aware that you will likely have to add a protein somewhere else in your meal.

Do I recommend this cookbook? Absolutely! The recipes are approachable and appealing to even picky, closed-minded carnivores. Its perfect for people scared to eat vegan because they perceive it to be nothing but sprouts and seeds. Good job by my fellow Torontonians!!

Disclosure: I was sent this book to review but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

2017 Fall Favorites

Here are some things I've been loving lately...

Soyganic smoked tofu! The siracha is spicy and delicious, but I also love the black pepper garlic. I've been throwing them into stir fries like crazy. The plain smoked makes for a delicious sandwich. Honestly, you can't do better for an affordable, healthy and yummy source of protein.


Oh and this marinated tofu from Vegetarian  Gourmet is good too. I have only tried the Greek gyro variety so far, but really liked it and would gladly try the other flavours.




My electric Oster spiralizer!! I got if for Mother's Day, but didn't use it a ton over the summer as I don't spiralize for salads much, but do like to make veggie noodles for hot dishes. I know I am going to be using it a lot over the winter and I made a yummy vegan zoodle dish last weekend that Adam and I both enjoyed.

Is it obvious that I derive a huge amount of pleasure from cooking and eating??

I am also loving this hair conditioning treatment from Pantene. My hair is ridiculously dry so I am always looking for good moisturizing products, however, I have to avoid things that are too oily or heavy, because my hair is fine too. This stuff does a really good job of smoothing down my frizz, though I don't find the effect lasts after you shampoo the next time.

We have had more summery than fall-like weather so far, which has sucked for me because my favorite time of year when the air cools and the leaves change. Fortunately, today is the first day when the forecast is for actual autumn weather. Happy hump day!!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Roasted Cauliflower and Grapes



Geez, how long has it been since I posted a recipe here?

Its not because I am not constantly cooking and baking up new things, its just all going on my Konjac for Life website and Instagram page.

But here is one for you. As you know, I adore roasted veggies, but a lot of fruits can also be roasted too for awesome results. This dish combines the two giving you a delicious sweet, savory recipe that's simple and flavourful.

I've made it a few times now for dinner parties, because its a little different than the usual stuff. Its low calorie, nutritious, high in fibre, gluten-free and vegan!

Roasted Cauliflower and Grapes

1 large, or 2 small heads, cauliflower, cut/chopped into bite sized pieces
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 cups seedless, red grapes
1/4-1/3 Balsamic vinegar (I used a cranberry pear balsamic, but regular balsamic, or even white balsamic work too!)

Steam cauliflower a few minutes until tender crisp. Transfer to large bowl and toss with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Spread on foil or parchment lined baking sheet and roast at 375F until it starts to brown. Add grapes and cook another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to serving dish. Toss with balsamic and serve warm or room temperature.

Enjoy!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Feelin' the Texture


Oh my Monday! I say this not because it is Monday, but because we have been having endless days of 30 Celsius weather and our A/C is broken! Our air people came and patched it up as a temporary fix last Tuesday, but by Friday it conked out again. That means, for the whole weekend we fried our asses off! They are here now to install a new system, and all I have to say is that if it isn't fixed by tonight. I will seriously cry. Very hot tears!

Anyways...

As you know, I am a stalwart hardcopy reader. No Kindles, no e-readers, no reading things on devices, I like paper books, newspapers and magazines, thank you!

Paper books seem to be sticking around, but print magazines and newspapers have been dying for a while now, much to my dismay. As I wrote about a few months ago, we gave up and went digital for our Globe and Mail subscription and will be going to the PDF version of the Toronto Star soon. Its just becoming prohibitively expensive to buy the print versions!

I have always been a big print magazine subscriber. I love magazines! They are my guilty pleasure. No mindless drivel like People, or tabloids, however, absurdity like fashion magazines! No, I prefer 'lifestyle' magazines, particularly Canadian ones like Chatelaine, Canadian Living and Best Health. I also love Toronto Life, Today's Parent, and occasionally some of the fitness magazines like Women's Fitness and healthy cooking ones like Cooking Light and Clean Eating.

 Unfortunately, buying off the news stand is insanely expensive, and even getting subscriptions is increasingly costly. And then, after I read them, I feel guilty recycling them so I feel compelled to (a) keep them, (b) donate them/give them to a  friend, or (c) put them in the waiting room of my counselling office.

After renewing my Chatelaine magazine subscription last year I received a letter from them informing me that although I will not be getting any of my money back, they will now only be publishing it in print 6x a year. For compensation they sent me an ugly fuschia scarf. I don't wear scarves and I hate the colour fuschia! Then I received no magazines for almost an entire year, leading me to think I was never going to receive any. That was the final straw!

Sometimes, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

I signed up for Texture, the app that allows you access to a multitude of magazines online. Its only $9.99 a month, which is far less per year than what I was paying for just a few print subscriptions!

Though I still prefer reading print, I have to say, I am really enjoying my Texture subscription. It sucks down the power on my old Ipad super quickly, but I never run out of stuff to read, which is awesome. I am still getting used to reading off my Ipad while on the subway or bus, and trying not to feel self-conscious about looking like I am a digital junky like the rest of the world, but at least I am not reading off my phone. That's where I draw the line!

The other nice thing is that you get access to your account from 5 different devices so Adam and the girls have downloaded the app and are enjoying it too.

While I am pretty happy with Texture, don't even talk to me about reading books on a device, to me, that is just sacrilege!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Nerium International IllumaBoost Brightening & Shield: Product Review


You know I hate heat so usually avoid the sun, but the summers here are so brutal, you can hardly be outside for minutes without feeling like a roasted chicken (though with all the rain this year we got off thankfully easy...unfortunately, fall so far has felt more like summer 😠). Not only do I hate heat, but I am concerned about skin cancer, so I do everything possible to avoid skin damage from the sun. Even in winter I always have sunblock on my face. Three of my close friends have been diagnosed with basal cell carcinomas, and a woman I went to highschool with has had melanoma twice!!

I am also prone to getting uneven skin tone which can be exacerbated by the sun and UV damage. So I was thrilled to receive Nerium International IllumaBoostTM Brightening & Shield to try.

The product:

  • Works to brighten the skin’s appearance and help even skin tone
  • Helps shield the skin from environmental stressors
  • Helps plump and moisturize the skin
  • Fights the appearance of discoloration, uneven skin tone and skin damage caused by air pollution
  • Can be mixed with: Age-Defying Night and Day Creams, foundation or sunscreen
  • Is ideal for all skin types (dermatologist tested)

The key ingredients are:

Phytolumina
A proprietary blend of plant-based ingredients, alpinia officinarum root extract, physalis pubescens fruit juice and bidens pilosa extract, which helps skin look radiant and brighter.

Niacinamide
A well-known ingredient for more even-toned looking skin.

Kombucha Ferment
A unique ingredient derived from fermented tea that offers a host of skin benefits.

Green Tea
A well-known antioxidant that guards against environmental damage.

Glycerin
Derived from lipids, this skin humectant absorbs moisture and supports skins natural barrier.

Hydrolized Sodium Hyaluronate
Naturally present in the skin, it binds water to the skin for volume and firmness.

Alteromonas Ferment Extract
Helps shield skin from environmental stressors.

Is there research proving this product's efficacy? No, nor is there any for most non-prescription products. The only thing I can tell you is that my skin tone does seem more even than it does by the end of every summer, and even more importantly, I did not have any adverse reaction to it. I have super sensitive skin so products with a lot of active ingredients can often irritate it. The company did do its own 4-week consumer study, which they say upheld their claims.

Do I recommend IllumaBoostTM Brightening &Shield? Hey, if you're cool paying a premium for skin care products and you are concerned about environmental/UV damage to your skin, go for it! Just don't forget the sunblock!

Disclosure: The company sent me the product to try but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Well Nourished: Book Review


The causes of obesity are numerous. They also differ from person to person. Contributing factors include poverty, mental or physical illness, parents (their weight status, genetics, behaviour modelling, what they fed you, etc.), and, of course, lifestyle.

Another contributing factor is culture. You've heard me say it before, we live in an obesigenic culture (i.e. is encourages obesity). How does it do so? Here are a few ways:

1. Abundance of high calorie, highly processed food available 24/7, that is cheaper than healthier food;
2. Mechanization of physical tasks (you don't have to churn your own ice cream now, you just open the freezer);
3. Social cues encouraging us to consume (advertising, social pressure, etc.)
4. Focus on productivity/consumption/materialism at the expense of spiritual/emotional/psychological fulfillment
5. Fat phobia

Numbers 4 and 5 are what I believe fuels one cause of being overweight for a lot of people: emotional eating.

Our culture has created widespread depression and anxiety among even the privileged classes. Being the consumerist society we are, people are sold a bill of goods about what they should have/who they should be/what they should be doing, however, even if people achieve it all, they are left feeling empty. To fill the void, they turn to consumables such as alcohol, drugs, and FOOD and numb their negative emotions. Food, of course, has less stigma than the others, but is harder to control, because you can't abstain from eating. Nor can you really ever get away from food or encouragement to eat.

Our veneration of fat is an integral part of the vicious cycle people get stuck in with emotional eating. While food, in and of itself, isn't shameful, being fat certainly is! We treat overweight people terribly! Fat discrimination is rampant. Unfortunately, this means that individuals who are emotional eaters start to develop extreme guilt, shame and anxiety over it, especially if it contributes to weight gain (which is usually does!).

But one of the biggest things that stands in the emotional eater's way of getting control of it is the self-sabotage. Everyone wants and needs unconditional acceptance from loved ones. We don't want to feel we have to look a certain way to get it. So I find many of my clients develop so much anger and resentment over feeling shamed by their weight, that they continue the behaviour spitefully, almost out of rebellion. Unfortunately, they ultimately hurt themselves the most. I often wonder whether emotional eating would be as much of a problem if we lived in a culture of size acceptance. Unfortunately, I don't think we will ever know the answer to that!

The good news is, if you struggle with emotional eating, I have a book for you!  Well Nourished, was written by Andrea Lieberstein, a dietitian and mindfulness eating instructor, among other things, who resides in California (where else?).

The book is like a guide to develop nourishment within the realms that are relevant to our general sense of well-being and commitment. A dearth of these things is what I believe are huge contributors to emotional eating, She includes:

  • Physical nourishment
  • Emotional nourishment
  • Psychological nourishment
  • Social nourishment
  • Intellectual nourishment
  • Creative nourishment
  • Spiritual nourishment
  • Worldly nourishment
Now, if you are the scientific type, and this all sounds a bit to "energy and crystals" for you, fear not! What I love most about this book is that it doesn't just tell you what may be causing your emotional eating, it provides exercises and instructions for overcoming it by maximizing your nourishment in the defined areas.

I think this is a great book and I will definitely be recommending it to my emotional eating clients!

Disclosure: This book was sent to me to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own.




Monday, September 4, 2017

Happy New (School) Year!


Its almost a cliche to say, but, man did summer ever fly by!

My counselling practice was pretty busy all summer, which is fantastic, but also means I just cannot devote more time to posting here 😒😒

But I really can't complain, its been good. The girls were in camp almost the entire time. Mostly Harbourfront Kids Camp, but Little A also did a week of sleepaway camp, and loved it. She wants to go for a month next year. We gotta start saving now!! Both girls also went to Kingston and stayed with my parents last week. So last week was really the summer holiday for Adam and I. No driving the girls anywhere, no preparing food for them, no listening to them fighting...it was glorious!

Tomorrow Big A starts grade 6 and Little a starts grade 3. I am probably more nervous than they are. There will be more homework, and so many extracurriculars, that just thinking about coordinating everyone's schedules makes my head hurt! Big A insisted on having us sign her up for 4 different dance classes this year. Little A is doing gymnastics again, they both do swimming and Hebrew school too. Big A also joins virtually every school sports team and club.

Adam's work also gets crazy between now and the Christmas holidays, so I suspect somewhere around November we will all likely lose our minds. Then we'll go to Florida over the holidays.

Even more exciting is Adam and I finally booked our trip to Israel for February. This airplane hater is going to have to drug myself to sleep for the flight. I am already having nightmares about it. Nevertheless, I am excited. And no, we are not bringing the kids.

My 43rd birthday is coming up. Not a major milestone, and not a nice even number either. But the only alternative to aging for humans is not a good one, so I will take it. I am also grateful to be strong and healthy. Really strong. I can kick ass! I also feel like I have slipped into a more peaceful state of mind. I have finally been able to let go of a lot of the nagging woulda, shoulda, coulda, negative self-talk that used to consume me. That, I think, is the advantage of aging...the wisdom that comes with it!

So yay, for a new school year, another birthday and waking up each day to a new opportunity for health and happiness!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Honest Company: Product Review


If you are a mom, than you've probably heard of Jessica Alba's Honest Company.

Just introduced in Canada a few years ago, the company sells products that are touted as all natural and non-toxic. They have lines of personal care products, household cleaners and baby care items.

The company claims to use sustainable production methods, fair labour practices and has a commitment to social responsibility.

In terms of their products, they offer the following explanation of their efforts to ensure safety:

Our definition of safety
Our Honest approach takes full consideration of potential chronic (long-term) impacts, exposure routes, unique windows of vulnerability and a wide spectrum of potential health impacts including carcinogenicity, teratogenicity, allergenicity, neurotoxicity and more. It’s a lot more to consider and weigh, but we think our children are worth it.

We create meaningful lists.
Some companies play on consumers’ fears by saying they don’t use certain chemicals in their products — even if that type of product never contains it. (For example, some food brands label their chicken “hormone-free” and pop a premium price tag on it when the reality is that ALL chicken is hormone-free because the USDA banned the practice in the 1950s!) You can trust that the Honestly FREE Guarantee you find on each product is a meaningful list specific to that product. Each one is a unique and important list of ingredients that can be found in similar products.

Our list is always growing.
While each product has a unique guarantee, as a company, we keep a master list of ingredients we’ll never consider for use in anything. Period. We confirm, to the best of our knowledge, based on information from our raw material and packaging suppliers and manufacturing partners that our products are Honestly Made Without: phthalates (DEHP, BBP, DBP, DMP, DEP); PVC; formaldehyde carriers; alkylphenols; benzene; TEA (Triethanolamine); MEA (Monoethanolamine); parabens; phosphates; chlorine processing; chlorinated or brominated solvents; ceteareth 20; resorcinol; bronopol; quaternium 15; triclosan; sulfur oxides; organohalides; hexavalent chromium; DMDM hydantoin; organophosphate pesticides; 1,4 - dioxane; SLS/SLES (sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates); optical brighteners; mineral oil; petrolatum; BPA (bisphenol-A); a-chlorotoluene

This is just the short list of hundreds of chemicals that we’ve opted NOT to use in our products. And our list is always growing.
The only exception to this claim (to be perfectly transparent and honest) is that we cannot account for or always eliminate background contamination or cross-contamination. For example, most soils naturally contain trace amounts of arsenic which can then end up in plants grown in the soil. This is standard for all products, no matter who the manufacturer is, but we do our best to proactively find the purest, most unadulterated ingredients.

We’re ΓΌber-vigilant to the latest science.
We stand behind the safety of our products, but that doesn’t stop us from trying to do better. Every. Single. Day.
You can rest assured that we’re doing our very best to understand every nuance of the complex world of toxicology. We’re hyper-attentive to staying abreast of the latest science, actively consulting with our own internal scientific team, conducting chemical safety profiling, referring to green chemistry reports, adapting to new international standards and examining credible lists of unacceptable ingredients (like the International Chemical Secretariat’s Substitute It Now list). And should any new regulations, studies or real risks become apparent and concerning to us or our community, we quickly assess the data, modify our approach and immediately update our formulation (that’s how we roll)!

I know some people will still find these products too commercialized and not natural 'enough', but I am not one of those people. I don't worry obsessively about toxins. If you want to bath with nothing but organic rose petals, or some gloopy thing you whipped up in your kitchen, go ahead.

Though I've wanted to try these products for a while, I hadn't had a chance yet, so I was thrilled when the company sent me some of them to sample. A generous box arrived with shampoo/body wash, conditioner and bubble bath in three varieties: Sweet Orange Vanilla, Dreamy Lavender, and Apricot Kiss. They also sell unscented for those with sensitive noses.

Little A and I usually shower together so we sampled them together. We both liked them a lot. Little A thought the scents were a little light but I like that they aren't over powering. We both felt the shampoo lathers just enough, and that the conditioner is creamy enough to do its job. Having dry hair, I am particularly choosy about conditioners and this one does the job. Its not as moisturizing as some of the heavy duty ones I've used, but its good enough for humid summer days, so that's saying something.

I have very sensitive skin but neither I nor Little A had any adverse reactions to the products.

Do I recommend these products? Yes, they work well and they give me enough confidence that I am using safe products on myself and my children. They are premium, mind you, so along with that comes a premium price. The line is readily available in drug stores here across Toronto.  If the products are not available where you live, you can order them online.

Disclosure: I was sent the products to review but all opinions on this blog are our own.

Monday, August 21, 2017

New Quest Bar Flavours

Good morning! I hope you're Monday is going well so far. Mine has not been stellar. Little A woke up as a total grumpy-pants, and the weather forecast calls for temps feeling like 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit). Blech!

I attended the Canadian Fitness Professionals World Fitness Expo this past weekend, but don't have much to share about it, frankly. A few of the sessions I did by TRX were extremely disappointing. I actually found great deals on clothes at the tradeshow so bought a bunch of stuff for Big A and I (she is now bigger than me and giving me hand me downs!). The most interesting thing I did was watch Jillian Michaels do a half hour Q&A. I mentioned hearing her talk for a few minutes last year and being surprised by how gracious she seemed. Well, even moreso this time. She really is humble and down-to-earth, which is so different from the persona she has in a lot of her videos. Also, loved that she reassured us she didn't vote for Trump!

One thing there was a ton of at the tradeshow was protein bars! None new to me though. In any case, I thought I'd post a review of 2 Quest bar flavours that are new to me.

You know I am loyal to my Double Chocolate Chunk Quest bars. But every once in a while I will try a different flavour just to experiment.

Since I adore mocha, I had to try the Mocha Chocolate Chip. The first one I was ambivalent about. They definitely aren't as sweet as the Double Chocolate Chunk ones, and the chunks or chips in them are more crumbly (they are supposed to have cookie crumbles and chips, but it all seems like crumbles to me). As I tried them again and again (I bought a box of 12), I liked them more and more. As much as my favorites? Nope.



Initially being completely disinterested in the Blueberry Muffin flavour, I suddenly was eager to try them. Sometimes I get chocolated out, you know what I mean?

I bought 2 boxes of these babies because there was a good sale.

I love the blueberries, and the white chocolate chunks. The so-called muffin chunks, or whatever they are supposed to be are a bit weird. But overall, I like these too, and they are perfect when I want a non-chocolate flavour protein bar snack.

At the conference, everyone got a free Quest bar in their registration package. I got an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie one, which I have given to the girls. But, at the tradeshow, it was one of the few companies that didn't offer free samples. Interestingly, neither did GNC, unlike in past years. WTF? Its all about the free samples man!

Have a good week!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Fresh Back: Product Review


If you workout regularly or play sports, than you know how funky athletic wear can get. After a while, they start to stink, even right after they've come out of the wash.

Its a total bummer because it limits your workout wear lifespan, and that stuff isn't cheap!

I will sometimes soak my clothes in vinegar and baking soda, or saturate in Febreze for fabric, before throwing them in the wash. But those are temporary solutions...and admittedly, you end up smelling like a pickle from the vinegar.

Since Adam and I workout at home, we probably don't have to worry as much as folks who are around other people at gyms or are part of a team, but eventually we can gross each other out if things get too bad. So I was thrilled to take up the offer to try Fresh Back, which promises to get the stink out of your clothes and keep it that way for a few months, or even up to a year.

It involves a 2 step process, with 3 different products that work together. First you wash your clothes with the detergent. Next, you leave your clothes in the machine and wash again (with cold water) using the freshener and bonder. Than you dry as per usual. It can be used in any kind of washing machine, and even with hand washing.

Of course, one of my first questions was, what's in this stuff? Having sensitive skin, I always worry I will get an allergic reaction. The answer is as follows:

Premium Detergent: Sodium Chloride, Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Metasilicate, Trisodium Citrate Dihydrate, Sodium Percarbonate, Dodecylbenzenesulfonic Acid, Sodium Salt, Alcohol Ethoxylate, Amorphous Silica. 

Freshener: Water, Color Stabilizer 

Bonder: Citric Acid, Anhydrous 

While some of these ingredients may sounds scary, I looked them all up, and none are anything to worry about. Just don't eat the stuff or rub it into your eyeballs. If you are one of these folks who obsesses about toxins, then you probably would never use this...but then again, you probably stink and don't care anyways.

In any case, I got no adverse reactions from it and I threw my entire workout wear drawer into the washer with it.

So does it work? Well it hasn't been a few months yet, but after the initial wash, everything did come out stink free! The clothes I have worn since definitely smell fresher, though perhaps not like a lavender sachet.

Do I recommend Fresh Back? Absolutely! Thrown away clothes just ends up in the landfill, and having to replace your workout wear frequently is a huge expense. I think its a great idea!

They also sent us their outdoors version, which I will for sure be using when Little A returns from sleepaway camp. Heck, her sleeping bag, and everything will go in!

Disclosure: I was sent the product to review but all opinions on this blog are my own.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Knixteen/Knixwear Period Proof Underwear: Product Review


Its tough to menstruate.

While being capable of creating life is undoubtedly miraculous, the whole experience of menstruation more or less sucks.

Even women who don't have severe PMS or menstrual disorders probably don't enjoy the monthly cramping, bloating, headaches, digestive upset, mood swings, and other lovely things that typically occur. And no one enjoys having to worry about leaks!

I for one tend to wear black pants or skirts during my period every month, just in case there is a leak so it will be less visible. But depending where you are and what you are doing, it can be really embarrassing!

Thankfully, new technology is now being developed to make managing your period easier, and make leaks a thing of the past.

I was really excited when Knixwear, one of the companies devoted to creating period proof clothes for women, sent me some of their leak proof underwear to try. Specifically, they sent me a couple pairs made for teens, but since I am small, they fit me perfectly anyways.

They do warn that they are meant to fit snuggly, but that's how I like my underwear to fit. Having no waist or hips to speak of, if mine don't fit snuggly, they'll slide right down to my ankles.

I loved these the moment I slid them on. They are thin and sleek and feel a lot like the Lululemon underwear I have, which are my favorites.

At first I still wore a tampon with them because I was skeptical that they were really leak proof. Eventually I gave them a shot and found them to do the job. In fact, I wore them overnight without anything else one night, and they still came through!

Whether you are a teen a 20-something or a pre-menopausal 30, 40 or 50 something, I definitely recommend Knix wear. On top of peace of mind, they also allow you to save money by using fewer tampons and pads, as well as save the environment from all that waste!

The company also makes bras, and I am tempted to try them too. I am such a rare size (big cup, small band), that its hard for me to find things that fit and are comfortable. Their sizing is much more flexible.

You definitely pay a premium for these undies, but its very worth it I think. Thanks Knixwear!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Time to Think About Death


A year or two ago my mom read a book about death, Being Mortal, that she raved about. She gave the book to Adam, who read it, and raved about it. They both told me I had to read it, but I put it off until now.

Like many people, death is something I try to NOT think about. I am not concerned about what will happen to me after I die. I am more concerned with how and when it will happen. But because this is something I can easily get anxious about, I wasn't eager to read the book in case it got me all worked up.

Fortunately, it did not. I even read it as my nighttime reading, which is unusual for me, because normally I reserve that time for fiction.

But I am here now to rave about it and tell you you need to read it too!

To be more specific, the book is about how we view death and how death is treated in Western Medicine. Its written by an American surgeon, Atul Gawande, who I now worship.

It examines what is really important, and what we should really focus on at the end of life. We tend to focus on longevity at the expense of quality.

It made me think of my beloved Grandma Ruth and the last few years of her life she spent in a nursing home. The nursing home was supposed to be one of the best in Manhattan, and that is very depressing. Sure, the staff were great. But an institution is an institution and those places are a miserable hell. Luckily, my grandma basically died of old age, though she had dementia the last few years, so we didn't have to make tough decisions about treatments, resuscitation, etc. But nonetheless, I found the whole situation very upsetting. She had been a very sharp, active woman her whole life and for the last few years she didn't leave the building and basically slept away most of every day. Every time I think about it, my heart hurts.

Gawande says our fear of death prevents us from thinking about how we want to die, and informing our loved ones. This often leads to terrible ends for people (unnecessary painful treatments and surgeries, nursing homes, hospital stays, etc.) and people dying in institutions, instead of at home surrounded by loved ones. He is so right!

Though he supports assisted dying in extreme situations, he points out that if we planned better for our deaths and communicated our wishes better with loved ones and care givers, it would be necessary much less often.

There were only a few spots in the book that got me anxious, particularly, when he discussed a few patient cases involving young people dying of incurable cancer (that basically is my worst fear). Most of it features stories of the elderly, which I can handle better.

The issue, Gawande argues, isn't just dependent on individuals, but also on major changes to the medical system and how we treat terminal illness and disability. Nursing homes are awful places period. Assisted living in its truest form, is much better, as is hospice care.

While this may seem like a depressing topic, its essential reading I think. Because we all will die one day. That's inevitable.

Okay, order the book and then have a good day!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Sparkling Ice: Product Review


The topic of beverages is a hot one. Even when we are talking about cold ones (ha ha).

You must live under a rock if you are unaware of the health risks of drinking sweetened beverages. Pop, and even juice are linked with obesity and Type II diabetes.

Even diet drinks, however, are now on the hit list for many health conscious consumers. Some experts have raised concerns that artificial sweeteners may actually increase blood sugar, and promote overeating or weight gain, though the evidence is still weak. Just last week the media blew up over results of a new study from the University of Manitoba with headlines claiming that artificial sweeteners may "...cause weight gain and increase risk of heart disease." Here is the reality. It is a meta-analysis, which means it used past studies as units of measurement. Few of the studies done on this topic, and used in the analysis, are randomized, controlled studies, and even the researchers who conducted the review admit that the results do not prove a causal association.

There is no doubt that the healthiest option is to simply drink water. Period. Dress it up with lemon and cucumber slices if you must. Perhaps have the occasional unsweetened tea or coffee, if necessary. But that's it, end of story.

Unfortunately, most people don't want to be so limited in terms of what they can drink. People like bubbles, and people really like flavour. Sweet flavour.

I am one of those people. I also don't sweat having artificial sweeteners here and there. I have yet to find solid research showing harm so the occasional diet soft drink, etc., is something I have without too much concern.

I would personally rather have a diet drink than consume 150 empty calories of sugar water. If it came down to that or plain water, I'd just choose water, because, frankly, I don't think any sweetened drinks are worth their calories (if I am going to drink my calories, I'll take it in the form of alcohol, thank you very much!).

I hate cola and most pop, diet or otherwise, so if I do want to purchase flavoured bubbles, I will reach for something like Sparkling Ice. I'd only tried their grapefruit flavour, so I was thrilled when they sent us a package of their other flavours to try.

The also offer:

  • Black Raspberry
  • Orange Mango
  • Kiwi Strawberry
  • Coconut Pineapple
  • Lemon Lime
  • Cherry Limeade
They are sweetened with sucralose, so for you folks convinced it is poison (no evidence this is true), than these drinks are not for you. Ingredients wise, my only complaint is the artificial colours. To me, they are so damn unnecessary. Do we really all have to behave like children and only consume things that look like unicorns? If they were all clear and colourless, I would be fine with that.

The girls, of course, wanted them all, but I allowed them each to choose just one to try. Little A chose Kiwi Strawberry, and Big A Lemon Lime, and since these were the two that appealed to me least, I was happy to oblige.

I liked Cherry Limeade best, but all were good. Little A loved Kiwi Strawberry and said the flavour kind of overwhelmed the bubbliness (which is a positive for her as she doesn't like strong carbonation). Big A loved the Lemon Lime and asked, "Why would anyone drink the sugary stuff? This tastes better."

Do I recommend this product? For an alternative to a sugary soda, for an occasional treat? Sure. But again, plain water should be your go-to beverage the vast majority of the time.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Indian Cuisine Diabetes Cookbook


Indian food is SO DAMN DELICIOUS!

Aspects of it are very nutritious: lots of veggies, legumes and spices. But Indian food can also be very high calorie thanks to liberal amounts of ghee, cream, coconut, etc., and very high carb, thanks to lots of rice and breads served with most meals. Its not always a good choice for those struggling to lose weight or manage Type II diabetes.

Your best bet is to skip the Indian restaurant meals, and cook your own Indian cuisine at home, where you can control what goes in it.

If you don't know where to start when it comes to Indian cooking, let alone healthy Indian cooking, a good place to start is with the Indian Cuisine Diabetes Cookbook, published by the American Diabetes Association.

Its written by May Abraham Fridel, a food literacy advocate, author and spice company owner in the U.S.

The book is a comprehensive guide to both popular and more exotic Indian dishes. It starts with a guide to the spices, staples and cooking techniques in Indian cuisine.

Then there are 15 chapters full of recipes. Yes, 15! They include:

Healthy Breakfasts
Appetizers, Snacks and Street Food
Chicken and Vegetable Curries
Soups and Dals
Elegant and Exotic Dinners
Fish and Seafood Delicacies
Regional Delicacies
Kebabs and Grilled Dishes
Indian Flatbreads
Whole-Grain One-Pot Meals
Health Sides
Slaws and Salads
Desserts
Sweet and  Savory Drinks
Condiments, Chutneys, and Raitas

Small amounts of oil and cream are used in some recipes, but most are relatively low-fat, and are sweetened with stevia, or honey or maple syrup, rather than sugar.

There are no recipes, that I saw, using white rice. Instead, brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains are used. All the flat bread recipes use whole grains instead of white and ample amounts of acid (lemon juice or vinegar) and spices are used for flavour in everything.  Nutrition profile for each serving is provided for every recipe. The middle of the book has photos of some recipes but for others you will have to do without.

While most people will recognize things like Chana Masala, Rogan Josh, Dal, Chicken Korma, etc., there are others that are less common in North American restaurants and sound delicious. How about Masala Lamb Chops with Parsnips and Pears?? Or for breakfast, Burgur Wheat Upma, a savoury dish with cashews??? I also am going to have to try the Baked Spicy Kale Chaat (basically Indian spiced kale chips)  and Phal Ki Chaat (masala spiced fruit salad), and Tofu Bhurj (spiced scrambled tofu).

If you stock your kitchen beforehand with the staple ingredients, the recipes will not be difficult to make. Those living in areas where some of the ingredients are hard to find (like fresh curry leaves), can just omit them and make do with what you have. Don't be intimidated. Just because Indian cuisine has lots of spices and complex flavours, doesn't mean its difficult to make!

So do I recommend this book? If you love Indian food, absolutely! Cooking your own rather than going to a restaurant or ordering take-out, will always save you money and whole lot of calories.

Disclosure: I was sent this book to review by the publisher, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Homemade Strawberry "Quest" Bars


If you avoid protein bars because you worry about the ingredients, don't like the taste of most of them, or can't afford the expense (These days the good ones are over $3 each!), than make your own.

These are so super easy and you can customize them to your taste and nutritional needs.

Using Vitafiber syrup makes them high in fibre. Using a plant-based protein powder will keep them vegan, and if you use coconut flour, instead of almond flour, they are nut-free.

If you don't want strawberry flavour, you can sub another type of freeze dried fruit. You can also make them a bit more decadent by drizzling melted chocolate over top. But in warm weather, that will make them a bit messier if you are eating them on the go.

Homemade Strawberry "Quest" Bars

1.5 cups Vitafiber syrup (or other IMO syrup)
2 cups vanilla or berry flavoured protein powder, sugar-free
1 cup freeze dried strawberries, whirled in blender
8 tbsp coconut flour (or 10 tbsp almond flour)
1 tsp beet juice powder (optional)

Pour syrup into pot and heat until bubbling over medium. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients until well mixed. Dump dough into parchment lined baking dish (either 9x9 for thicker bars, or 9x12 for thinner bars). Chill until firm. Remove from pan with parchment paper. Cut into desired size and shape. Keep in airtight container in cool place for up to 3 weeks.

I have shared this recipe with Urban Naturale's Plant-based Pot-Luck party.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Happy Birthday Canada!


I know Canada's birthday was Saturday, but its still a national holiday here today. So yay for long weekends!!

Its been great so far. Adam's brother and his family are visiting from Vancouver. Though I had to work Friday evening and Saturday morning, everyone came over to our place Saturday evening for a BBQ, and yesterday we went to Adam's sister's son's birthday party, so there has been lots of celebrating. I have the day off until tonight when I have a Skype counselling session with clients.

There has been a whole lot of controversy surrounding the celebration of Canada's 150th birthday due to our colonial history. We are certainly not the only country who have a sordid history in this regard. What's more troubling is how horrible conditions continue to be for our indigenous peoples.

That being said, I do strongly believe we have a lot to be proud of as a country. I have clients from all over the world who immigrate to Canada because of our acceptance of diversity and multiculturalism.

I am extremely grateful to live here and be raising my children here. And I don't care where you live, we make better beer than you do!