Anyone can cook and everyone should know how. Don’t get intimidated by complicated recipes and just experiment in the kitchen to learn, this post has my basic tips on where to start and a link to my FREE meal prep guide.
Juice! It's so healthy right, this orange juice only has one ingredient, it's all natural. That's what we've been lead to believe at least. But turn that little bottle around and there are 39 grams of carbohydrate in that juice, nearly all of it pure sugar. Think about it this way, you need to eat more than those two oranges to get the same amount of carbohydrates. When have you sat down to your two eggs and bacon breakfast and then polished off two large oranges? I'm prepared to say that it's much less common than polishing off a tall cold glass of juice. Plenty of people still drink juice as part of their "healthy" breakfast or give it to their kids. Recent research presented at the 2018 European Congress on Obesity has shown that children that start their day with juice as a part of their breakfast are 40% more likely to be overweight. How could this happen? It's just fruit, right? I made the quick video below talking about exactly this.
Talking to a friend recently they were very surprised that I don't snack between meals. Really? No snacks? Personally, I'm satisfied in between meals and use those times to hit my water goals because I don't like to drink a lot of water right before, during or right after a meal. Here's my first foray into video, I talk about why we are driven to snack between meals and what we can do about it.
Food, Food, Food
I wonder when humans became so obsessed with food? When did it cross over from nourishment to a what it is now? Food has become a symbol of love, entertainment, obsession. People reach for food to numb themselves from sadness or celebrate happiness.
Maybe the introduction of sugar was the culprit. It seems like the most addictive substance we most commonly overeat. Or maybe the introduction of countless other hyper-palatable foods out there like fries, chips, crackers, biscuits which combine tastes (fat and salt, fat and sugar) and combine textures (crunchy and creamy) to make some food hard to resist.
Food on a plate
Whenever I look at our food culture with a new perspective it baffles me how obsessed with food we are. Food is in a countless number of TV shows and social media posts - including my own. Going out to eat has become a sport in itself with new restaurants, hole in the wall places and food trucks that need to be tried. Just looking at the meme’s about food in general but mainly chicken nuggets or pizza tells us about how food has become part of popular culture.
In a world with more people who are obese than starving. Where food-related lifestyle diseases are on the rise. Are we consuming food or has food consumed us? Do you think people are too obsessed with food? Or are you just thinking about what you’re going to eat next?
We have the option to compare more than ever before
The upswing in interest in health and eating that has resulted from social media has really made me focus on our obsession with food and comparing ourselves. There are so many people shilling “health” information online, some good and some totally unsubstantiated and some personal opinions. If a celebrity or influencer is doing it, then I can see how it would motivate others to follow the same advice in the hopes of some kind of radical change in their lives.
When I get sucked in by this atmosphere it can be easy to think that if I just follow this smoothie-only program I too can look like that person. When I see the seemingly perfect life in a stylish apartment filled with all the expensive food and beauty products it’s easy to feel jealous or that I need to go out and buy those things. Not acknowledging that maybe they were paid to post about said products or sent them for free to try.
Smoothies all day
I have to admit that seeing beautifully styled bowls of coconut or almond yoghurt, topped with grain-free granola and chia seeds makes me want to go and make that. Totally disregarding that a meal of purely nuts and seeds won’t leave me feeling good. I have to remind myself to keep my eyes on my own plate and eat for my own needs and health goals instead of what’s trending online. I have to listen to my own body, no one else can do that for me and tell me exactly what it needs. I can’t be embarrassed if I have to make an unpopular choice of what my body needs instead of a picture perfect acai bowl that will leave my blood sugar crashing in a couple of hours and my hunger through the roof. We can’t compare what we are eating to others, in real life or online.
Broccoli as a protein source?
The other side of the influx of health and wellness information online is that anyone can post anything. There are so many totally inaccurate claims circulating out there and someone whose idea of a good time isn't reading books and studies on health may find themselves confused and conflicted. Everyone is trying intermittent fasting or keto, should I do that too? Doing a week-long juice cleanse or having smoothies for two meals a day seems popular now, is that right for my goals? It’s easy to get swept up along with the rush of people wanting to try something new.
Resisting the IG vortex
I use social media because I love being inspired, interact and see new ideas and products. But I definitely am the first to notice myself scrolling mindlessly and acknowledging that I need to put the phone down. I’m also quick to unfollow someone who’s content makes me upset, makes me feel like my life isn't enough, makes me feel unhappy with my body. I don’t need those feeling in my life, I don’t want to be triggered into feeling down.
My ultimate reminder to myself is to not spiral down the social media rabbit hole too frequently. Stick to what I know my body needs. Continue educating myself on what is best for me and not via dramatized posts online. I have to walk my own journey, we all do.
Coffee is my first love
Coffee and I have had an on and off relationship for a while now. I used to drink 2 or more cups a day in my early 20’s, which dwindled to a firm one cup rule and always before 12 pm. But now I really feel it negatively impacts me. I’ve noticed that it can make me jittery, lose my appetite, and worst of all sweat profusely. It sometimes also affects my sleep, even if I drink it in the morning. When I’m on holiday I tend to handle caffeine a lot better than in my usual day to day.
The first cup of matcha
In the past I have just switched to decaf - a swiss water process decaffeinated whole bean option. But on a recent holiday to New Zealand, I finally tried a delicious matcha latte at a vegan restaurant. But it wasn't love at first sip! The first cup I thought just tasted like a grassy powder suspended in nut milk, I had to add a spoonful of coconut sugar to make it more palatable. But strangely the next day I was wanting to have it again. Combine that with being on holiday, catching up with friends and family which resulted in at least two coffees per day, I was overloaded. The rough, acidic taste of my usual cup of bean water just didn't appeal (I drink my coffee black).
Apart from that first inaugural cup, I haven't sweetened my matcha since. The homemade fresh nut milk at the restaurant probably played a big part in my new love of matcha. In my opinion, it goes great with a slightly creamy nutty base instead of plain water. So once I arrived back in Canada the experiments started to try and nail a matcha recipe that hit all the marks for me. What’s important to me: taste, dairy free, sugar-free, mouthfeel/creaminess, cost-effective, fast and easy to prepare in the morning. This pretty much ruled out making my own nut milk, I ain't got time for that.
Playing with matcha at home
The first thing I tried was “Let’s do organic Creamed Coconut” - this comes in a hard block but when melted it’s a creamy coconut butter that I usually buy and use in curries. It was a fail, the coconut is definitely not fine enough and the result was really gritty - it was a mouthfeel fail.
The second try was just using coconut milk from a can, these usually have a lot fewer additives than a carton or bottle of nut or coconut milk. I picked up a Thai Kitchen Coconut Milk - the full-fat variety. Before using it has to be re-blended because it separates in the can due to the lack of said additives. This was a solid contender because it was smooth drinking but I just didn't get much of a coconut flavour despite it being just coconut. Maybe the flavour would have been stronger if I just used the solid part of the coconut cream from the can.
The next option was inspired by all of the cashew coffee I’ve seen on Instagram. So I blended a handful of raw cashews with hot water into a quick creamy nut milk - no straining required. The first time it was still kind of gritty, the bottom of my mug was a super thick liquid but I did enjoy the nutty taste. Next time I tried the same thing but with two teaks, I soaked the cashews in boiling water for about an hour while I cooked and ate breakfast. Then I blended for a full minute and a half, my new Vitamix has a timer showing so it made this part pretty easy. The result was a much smoother and creamier version, blending for longer definitely makes a big difference. The creamy, nutty flavour was spot on and balances out the grassy teaspoon of matcha.
I also considered but didn’t try regular almond milk from the store or NutPods which could both be solid options. I have also just procured Artisana coconut butter, which has been described as a very smooth and fine blended coconut so that will be my next try - Nutiva also makes a coconut manna that makes a good and slightly cheaper option. The matcha experiments continue. Can you tell I really want to nail a coconutty matcha blend? Have you tried matcha? What’s your opinion on the green, grassy, tea-like taste?
Broccoli for breakfast. Salad for lunch. Stir fry for dinner.
In the last few months, I have made a more intentional effort to eat two cups of non-starchy veggies with every meal. Sometimes it’s an effort but it has totally become a habit. Now when faced with a meal with little to no veggies I’m befuddled.
This is a great option for people who aren't sure exactly how to balance the macros on their plate. I mean carbohydrates, protein and fat - the macronutrients in our diet. It’s too easy to overeat if your meal is just a starch and protein. But most people tend to get confused about what to actually fill their plate with - enter non-starchy vegetables.
Eat all the veggies
I usually form my meal around the protein, which usually needs more planning or defrosting from the freezer. Then I fill half of my plate with non-starchy vegetables. Don’t get caught up in what veggie does what for your health, all vegetables are unique with their own special vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients. Nutrition is a relatively new science so there are factors we don’t yet understand. So stick to a variety of whole vegetables and you will be fine.
Start with ones you know you enjoy, then branch out and try new ones, vary what you buy with the season and what’s on sale. Mix cooked and raw veggies throughout the day and for the advanced, add fermented veggies that you can either easily make yourself or buy at most supermarkets these days - make sure to look for raw on the label and no junky ingredients.
Arugula or rocket is a gateway veggie for breakfast. Buy the washed and bagged variety to save time in the morning. Throw your eggs and preservative free bacon on top of a big handful, or just add reheated leftovers from dinner over the top of a bed of arugula, this versatile green is flavorful and goes well with anything. Be patient because our taste for vegetables will change, I used to hate celery but now I love it, same with fennel. Now I crave more vegetables and that’s a great place to be. After travelling for weeks and plenty of cafe breakfasts with just toast and eggs with a scant green leaf for garnish it’s great to be able to return to the regularly scheduled programming in my own kitchen filled with a variety of fresh produce.
Set yourself up for success
The key here is, stock your fridge with vegetables you enjoy. Make the effort and commit to filling half of your plate with these vegetables even if it means quickly steaming some to throw on - it doesn't have to be fancy or a recipe. Rotate what you buy so you aren't eating the same 3 vegetables over and over. Keep an eye on what you have in the fridge, they can go bad quickly so remember what has to get eaten first.
Final note for the busy folks. Prep a whole bunch of veggies together for several meals, keep a big container ready to go in your fridge to add to your meals. Eg: in a big wok or pan saute a mix of things like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, kale or cabbage with the seasoning of your choice. Let cool and store in a huge tupperware.
We all want to improve digestion, healing the gut is a hot topic. We might reach for the ginger, apple cider vinegar, digestive enzymes or HCL supplement. We rarely think that the first thing we should be looking at is water.
Making sure we are hydrated by consuming pure clean water daily - depending on weight, activity and climate should be the first priority. For me, I try to drink at least two litres of plain water daily. Digestion is a water-intensive process. Water is needed for saliva, Hydrochloric acid, bile, pancreatic enzymes. All of these substances that get shuttled to different parts of our GI tract at different times to digest food require water.
The mucus lining in our entire GI tract also requires water to be able to protect the sensitive tissue from potent digestive juices and chemicals, the mucus basically stops us digesting ourselves. When we are dehydrated, water in the body may be prioritised away from digestion and the mucus lining may become dry. This can lead to poorly digested food and an inability to absorb nutrition from what we eat. A dried up mucus lining may lead to irritation, GI or stomach pain and even ulcers.
Water is the most common nutritional deficiency.
We spend plenty of time discussing food quality, sourcing and organics. We probably spend too much time discussing the latest supplements. But we can only survive for a couple of days without water. After air, it is our second key nutrient. We are made of water and it is used in countless processes and reactions within the body.
For optimal digestion, it should be the first thing to focus on. Water should be the first thing we have in the morning and then sipped on throughout the day. It is also important to avoid having large amounts of water with meals because it will dilute stomach acid and enzymes. Another point to be mindful of is diuretics, we all love coffee and tea but they may sap water from our bodies. So let’s focus on hydration as the first step in healing our digestion and maybe the outcome will surprise us.
In my opinion the digestive tract and its function to be the single most important body component determining health and disease. The food/drinks we consume and make their way through our GI tract are the single sources of the building blocks required by our body for energy, healing, and daily function. Can we take that in to really appreciate what digestion does for us? When body cells repair, organs function, body systems keep us alive it is only from the nutrition we consume daily.
When digestion isn't working optimally the whole body can be affected. Science is still uncovering the impact of impaired digestion, the effects are as varying as there are people on this planet. Mood, fatigue, adrenal health, blood sugar dysregulation, immune system, allergies, hair, skin and nail health, vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
How do you know if you are having digestive issues?
Bloating, belching, gas, heartburn are the obvious signs. Fingernails chipping, peeling or breaking. Experiencing hives, pulse speeds up after eating, chronic stuffy nose, constipation and diarrhoea.
A classic sign I have been seeing recently in the internet sphere are blood tests for allergies. Most people are surprised that the results come back with sensitivities to all of the foods they eat most or at least have been recently. Avocado, chicken, coffee, vegetables. What is left to eat? What a test like this really means is that most likely there are some digestive problems going on. Maybe the gut lining is inflamed and some undigested food particles are squeezing through the intestinal lining causing sensitivities. If we just cut out the foods that registered a sensitivity without addressing digestion we will find ourselves back at that same place but with sensitivities to more or other foods.
Luckily for us, the cells in the GI lining are some of the fastest replaced in the body. So removing the offending foods and then working to heal the gut lining can be relatively fast depending on severity. Working with an NTP or holistic nutritionist can lead to the fastest results.
Here are a few things that can help digestion:
Cutting out foods you are sensitive to for at least 30 days
Ginger - has been shown to reduce risk of inflammation in the digestive tract
Apple cider vinegar in water before meals
Bone broth - especially broth that gels
Collagen Peptides or gelatin
Beet juice or beet kvass
Fermented vegetables or fermented vegetable juice
Pre and probiotics - find ones that work for you
Our modern life, unfortunately, is geared towards throwing off our digestion. Excessive sugar and refined foods, antacids, overeating, excess alcohol and one of the biggest ones for me - stress.
Writing this I realise that this information is just scratching the surface of digestion as a topic. There is so much more to cover and I plan to do that. Digestion plays a crucial role in our health and healing overall. There is a growing amount of good and bad information out there so speak to a professional if you are dealing with chronic digestive issues as you may not be aware how much impact they could be having on the body as a whole.