I am a recovering sugar addict.
The interest in non-dairy milks has sky rocketed. This is for a variety of reasons. Choosing the best milk or plant-based milk can be challenging, with the wide variety of options on the market. While all types of milk are equivalent when it comes to calcium and vitamin D, let me help you compare their nutritional content and outline their respective controversies.
The yogurt aisle is the most confusing and overwhelming aisle to navigate at the grocery store! It’s definitely the section I spend the longest time in. The yogurt aisle isn’t what it used to be – greek yogurt has recently taken over a sizeable chuck of the refrigerator case, leaving non-greeks to compete for the remaining real estate. Meanwhile, both greek and non-greek yogurts are branching out with new claims, nutrient content, flavours, ect.
An increasingly larger percentage of the general population are reporting problems caused by gluten ingestion, whether it is due to celiac disease or gluten intolerance. What is the cause of this? Experts believe that human modification to wheat has made it better, more robust crop. However, could this modification to the wheat crop be accountable for the rise in celiac disease and gluten intolerance?
Hydration is critical to athletic performance – dehydration is one of the most common reasons for early fatigue during exercise. It takes as little as losing 2 % of your body weight for the performance to suffer. Fluids such as coconut water, chocolate milk, sports drinks and plain ol water have been featured for recovery post-exercise. What type of fluid should we be drinking and when?
Being a Registered Dietitian and a runner with an addictive and competitive personality, it’s no surprise that I’ve spent hours looking into how a female runner can achieve optimal nutrition. Now I’m here to share my knowledge with you!
Due to the stress of the sport and eating habits, there are a number of nutrients that runners need to pay extra attention to. A 2007 study measured the nutritional profiles of 24 adventure racers and reported low levels of various nutrients, including calcium, potassium, zinc, and magnesium.
Being at risk for lacking certain nutrients makes female runners prone to nutrition-related conditions such as anemia and osteoporosis. November is actually Osteoporosis Month, so it is especially important to teach all women runners how to keep their bones strong and healthy!
Foods for Bone Health
Running is a weight bearing sport that helps strengthen the bones, but it is also a sport with a high incidence of stress fractures. However, osteoporosis and stress fractures can be easily prevented with the proper diet.
Bone mineral density diminishes slowly after age 40, but bone losses increase greatly in women after age 50 (usually 1-2% per year). Peak bone mass and bone mineral density are related to appropriate intake of calories and proper nutrients.
What to Eat:
Calcium-rich foods including soy is important, as well, new research shows that eating just one daily serving of about five prunes (40g) helps slow bone loss in post-menopausal women. The beneficial effects of prunes on bone health may be in part due to the high levels of phenolic compounds present in the fruit. Prunes are also rich in other important bone building nutrients, including potassium, magnesium and vitamin K.
Red-Blood-Cell Forming Foods
Iron is necessary for the production of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to working muscles. Runners are more susceptible to low iron status, as they lose trace amounts of the mineral through foot strike, which damages red blood cells in the feet, leading to iron loss.
B-12 also assists with forming new red blood cells and a deficiency can lead to anemia.
What to Eat:
Females should be aiming for at least 18 mg, while males need at least 8 mg. Yes, iron is found in red meat, however plant-based iron-rich sources include legumes, especially lentils, and blackstrap molasses.
Aim for 2.4 mcg of B12 daily. You get B12 through animal-based foods, however you can also get it though fortified plant-sources, such as nutritional yeast and fortified plant beverages.
Omega 3 Rich Foods
Most of the population lacks omega 3. Omega 3s have been shown to reduce inflammation after a run, which can improve tissue repair and reduce muscle pain. I personally supplement with omega 3 daily, as studies have shown that omega 3 can prevent exercise-induced asthma(something that I have struggled with my whole life)
What to Eat:
Supplement with 1000 mg daily and eat Omega-3 rich foods often. These include fatty fish, but also plant-based sources such as chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts.
Carbohydrates are especially important for endurance athletes, such as runners, as they are needed to restore muscle glycogen stores. I’ve seen a number of runners cut too many good carbohydrates out of their diet, for the purpose of watching their waistline. Unfortunately, this can lead to ‘hitting the wall’ as carbohydrates are the main fuel source for when you run.
What to Eat:
Great natural sources of carbohydrates include whole grains, beans, fruits and veggies. Individual carbohydrate requirements vary.
Magnesium Rich Foods
Magnesium is important for many reasons, including playing a large role in muscle contraction and relaxation, along with energy metabolism. In addition, magnesium plays a role in bone health. A large amount of the North American population is low in magnesium – 70% of the population consumes insufficient magnesium. In particular with athletes, there is emerging evidence that magnesium requirements are significantly elevated, due to be loss through sweat.
What to Eat:
Aim for ~ 400 mg daily. You can consume pumpkin seeds, legumes or swiss chard to get your magnesium quota. You can supplement as well! Magnesium is usually better when supplemented at night.
This blog post is in partnership with Becel Centre for Heart Health, although all opinions are my own.
The holidays are all about spending time with family and friends, along with indulging in good food and drink.
However, holidays can be stressful for those with different eating patterns or dietary restrictions. I know this feeling firsthand. It can also be difficult to create a selection that is enjoyed by both traditional omnivores, along with those who eat vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free.
Over the years I have developed some strategies that have helped reduce this stress for myself, along with others around me. Below, I will share my tips for how to create more plant-based holiday dishes, that can be enjoyed by both vegetarians and carnivores alike!
Tips To Make Your Favourite Holiday Dishes More Plant-Based
1) Re-create Traditions With Plant-Based Proteins
Use plant-based proteins, such as lentils or tofu to replace animal products of a similar texture. The ‘comfort factor’ of a number of traditional dishes can be maintained with a plant-based protein swap. Some of my favourite swaps include using lentils instead of ground beef in a Shepherd’s pie, tofu instead of eggs in a quiche and various beans in a ‘meatloaf’. I’ve witnessed first-hand a number of these dishes being enjoyed by family members who didn’t regularly eat plant-based!
2) Using Alternatives to Butter
Often holiday dishes are made with a lot of butter – especially those mashed potatoes that we all love! A great plant-based swap for butter is a non-hydrogenated margarine such as Becel Salt-Free products, which feature a blend of plant-based oils. A few of my family members need to watch their salt intake, and Becel Salt-Free is a great choice for reducing the sodium in their diets. I used Becel Salt-Free in the sweet potato mash in the plant-based shepherd’s pie featured below.
3) Feature A Variety of Vegetables Prepared Different Ways
Preparing a number of vegetables different ways, is a sure-fire way to ensure your guests will be eating a number of plants-based options. Along with salads, serve your favourite vegetables roasted, plan-seared and grilled. How about some grilled stuffed mushrooms, cauliflower steaks and baked root veggies? I will take one of each!
Featured Recipe: Vegetarian Shepherds Pie with Becel Salt-Free Margarine
Vegetarian Shepherds Pie
- 3 sweet potatoes
- 2 tbsp Becel Salt Free margarine
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 cups frozen veggies (corn, green beans and peas)
- 2 cups of cooked, canned lentils
- 2 tsp fresh thyme
- Preheat over to 425 degrees F.
- Peel and slice any large potatoes in half. Place in a large pot and fill with water until they’re just covered. Bring to a low boil on medium high heat. Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes or until they slide off a knife very easily.
- Once cooked, drain and then return to pot. Mash with a potato masher and add Becel Salt Free margarine. Set aside.
- In a large saucepan, heat olive oil. Once heated, add onion and garlic, until slightly browned (about 5 minutes).
- Once browned, add frozen veggies, along with 1/4 cup of water or veggie broth to saucepan. Heat until veggies are unfrozen. Add cooked lentils and thyme to saucepan for 1-2minutes, until flavours meld. Mash slightly with a potato masher to thicken.
- Transfer veggie and lentil mixture to lightly greased 2-quart baking dish. Top with potato mash.
- Bake in oven for 15 minutes. Broil on high for an addition 5 minutes, or until potatoes are browned.
- Let cool before serving.
This post was developed in partnership with siggi’s Canada #ad. All opinions expressed are my own.
Have you ever struggled with your eating habits? I have. Especially when I was in University. Despite studying to become a Registered Dietitian, I felt like I didn’t have a handle on my own eating habits – I had tons of sugar cravings, my portions were consistently too big, and I didn’t seem to ever not be hungry. To me, this was shameful. How could I help others, when I felt like I was doing it all wrong myself?
I was so focused on getting the top grades, getting the work/volunteer experience, exercising regularly, all while still trying to maintain a social life/relationship/be a good human overall. I think I had a little bit too much on my plate at that time.
During my Masters degree, I stumbled across the concept of mindful eating.
Why hadn’t I heard of this before? At that time, I was the furthest thing from a mindful eater. I was a stress eater. I was a distracted eater. I was a quick eater. I wasn’t eating the right things – and because of that I also wasn’t getting enough protein.
Keep reading to discover the strategies that I am working on now to address some of these problems.
Problem: I was a quick eater
Solution: I am still a quick eater…however there are a few ways that I try to slow down. These include:
- Putting my fork/spoon down between bites
- I talk and listen to others that I am dining with, without holding my utensil in my hand
- I get up and take a break halfway through my meal, pausing to assess my fullness
- I pay attention to the rate of my eating by timing myself occasionally – my goal is to spend 15-20 minutes on each meal.
Problem: I wasn’t always eating food with staying power
Solution: I look for food with only a few, simple, whole ingredients
In University I often ended up purchasing ‘low fat’ and processed food products. If I’m honest, at that time in my life diet culture was affecting me – even though I was in school to become a Registered Dietitian. The best example of this struggle is the yogurts I would purchase with artificial sweeteners, flavours, fillers, etc. These were never filling or satisfying. If only siggi’s yogurts were available then. siggi’s Skyr yogurts are super creamy, high in protein with not a lot of sugar. What’s best is that they’re made with 100% natural ingredients – all of the flavours and colours come exclusively from real fruit or the vanilla bean. Today, when I eat siggi’s I feel very satisfied – especially when I take the time to sit down at my table, eat slowly and enjoy every bite I take. These yogurts just taste like real, whole, delicious food. As someone who mostly maintains a plant-based diet, the protein punch siggi’s yogurts pack is especially important to me.
Problem: I was a distracted eater, always eating on the go
Solution: I’ve made a commitment to only eating when I am at a table
Eating in the car? Yes that was me.
Eating in front of a screen? All the time.
I’ve discovered that eating with distractions, such as the TV, computer, or eating in the car, prevented me from checking in with my hunger and fullness cues.
Now, I’ve made one simple rule that I have to go by: Eat Only At A Table. This is a super rule to prevent distractions. Ultimately, this rule helps me to check in with my body while eating so I can recognize these cues more easily.
Problem: I ate for mouth hunger often
Solution: I check in to see what type of hunger I’m experiencing
One of my favourite strategies to use with clients is called “Is it Stomach, Mouth or Heart Hunger?” I teach my clients to identify the type of hunger they just experienced, after eating. They are as follows:
Stomach Hunger – true hunger. You haven’t eaten for 5-6 hours.
Mouth Hunger – wanting the physical pleasure of food.
Heart Hunger – eating for how you’re feeling mentally and emotionally.
I experienced, and still experience a lot of mouth hunger and some heart hunger. When I’m anxious, I want to be chewing on something, or sipping on something. It has been helpful for me to check in and ask myself what type of hunger I’m experiencing and have strategies to combat these types of hunger on hand. For example, I always keep gum or tea bags on me to satisfy mouth hunger.
Although I felt shameful for struggling with my eating habits while learning to help others with theirs, ultimately my own battle helped me connect with others better. I was never a perfect eater – and never will be! But at least I know what you are going through and I know how to help.
This post was developed in partnership with Florida Citrus. All opinions expressed are my own.
As we head into warmer weather (finally!), more of us will be participating in a variety of types of physical activity. The warmer weather just makes exercising so much more accessible – for me at least. You definitely will NOT find me trying to get some KMs in, during a snowstorm.
How you will find me active this summer: training for another half marathon, doing yoga, playing soccer and bike riding. As you can see, I love participating in a few different activities. How I should refuel after each of these activities, will vary widely.
In fact, most of us continue to make a number of mistakes when refueling after exercise. I see this in my practice, but also with peers. In order to reap the benefits of a workout, we need to refuel properly.
Let me guide you through principals to follow for refueling properly after different types of workouts, along with common mistakes that we should avoid.
Mistake # 1. Not Replenishing Key Nutrients After Vigorous Activity
First, let’s define Vigorous Activity:
Vigorous-intensity exercise is a physical activity done with a large amount of effort. It is the intensity at which you have a substantially higher heart rate and rapid breathing. You are only able to speak in short phrases due to the rapid breathing and effort. Activities that are usually classified as being of vigorous intensity include running, cycling, and singles tennis.
During vigorous activity, there are a number of key nutrients that we need to replenish.
- Carbohydrates, which are needed to replenish glycogen stores, a.k.a. stored energy.
- Minerals, such as potassium and sodium, that are lost in sweat; and
- Fluids, which are also lost in sweat
- After vigorous activity, my go-to beverage is @floridaorangejuice, as it covers all of these three categories! I often use Florida OJ as a base to my smoothies. The carbohydrates in 100% orange juice come only from the naturally occurring sugars in the oranges – with no added sugars. In addition to potassium, Florida OJ also provides vitamin A, folate, magnesium and 100% of our vitamin C needs in half a glass. Also, did you know that only 1/10 Canadians reach their daily servings of fruit and vegetables? A smoothie like this with Florida OJ is a great way to help us get closer to our intake of fruit and vegetables.
Mistake # 2: Consuming Too Much After Lighter Exercising
Next, let’s define Light & Moderate Intensity Activity
Light exercise includes activities that do not cause you to break a sweat or produce shortness of breath. An example would be a leisurely walk, light yoga or casual bike ride.
Moderate exercise is exercise which causes you to break out in a light to moderate sweat or makes it difficult to carry on a long conversation. Examples would be a brisk walk, power yoga, hiking on a nature trail, performing chores around the house.
If we are exercising at a light intensity or at a moderate intensity for under 20 minutes, we don’t have to do anything special to refuel. We are simply not needing to replenish glycogen stores, as we would during vigorous activity. We would need to rehydrate and replace some small electrolyte losses, however. So turning to water and a piece of fruit or coconut water is sufficient after this type of exercise. I too often see those around me over-replenishing after light exercise, or a short moderate intensity exercise period. Consuming too much after these types of activities is a sure way to lead to unintentional weight gain.
Mistake # 3: Not Eating Soon Enough After Exercising
Back when I used to be a competitive rep soccer player, I would have games in places in that were about an hour away. This means that by the time I got home after the game and sat down to eat, about two hours would have passed between the end of the game and my dinner. This wasn’t ideal.
To help your muscles recover, it is important to refuel within one hour of exercise. For your post-workout meal, you should consume:
- a good dose of complex carbohydrates for replenishing glycogen stores
- adequate protein to decrease muscle protein breakdown and increase muscle protein synthesis
- anti-oxidant rich foods to help reduce inflammation from exercise and provide extra micro nutrients
- Some examples of ideal post-workout meals include a quinoa stir-fry with tofu or chicken with veg, or a hearty bean and sweet potato chili
I have probably given out this recipe to at least five people this past week already. In addition, many of you on Instagram have requested it! I’m not surprised – it is such a winner on many levels! It is: