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?
Nuts, nuts, nuts
Everywhere I look there are new recipes with some sort of a combination of nuts with nut butter, chopped nuts and seeds. All combined and rolled into one. Or even meal ideas with yoghurt alternatives based on nuts, topped with paleo nut granola and then more nuts or seeds. I feel like we have woken up to the fact that fats are healthy and that nuts are good for us but when does it cross the line into nut overload? A complete meal of just different types of nuts sounds about as balanced as eating only chicken for a meal. It sounds about as extreme as when people assumed Paleo eating meant you just ate only meat for 3 meals a day.
That’s not to say that some people won’t do well on meals based on nuts - we are all bio-individual with different nutritional needs. But I’m definitely not the only one who doesn't feel great after eating more than a handful. Usually bloating and gas follow after I eat too many nuts. Nuts are also extremely easy to overeat so I tend to avoid them mostly, you go from a handful to snack on to having eaten 600 calories in about 1.5 seconds flat. I love a spoonful of almond butter on my toast but basing whole desserts or meals on nuts doesn't agree with me.
Nuts and digestion
Nut’s contain anti-nutrients like phytic acid that can bind to minerals in the GI tract and prevent absorption. Soaking or sprouting nuts reduces this but this makes the nuts very expensive or if done at home is very time-consuming. I have tried soaking and dehydrating to activate nuts and it’s not a quick process. Nuts and seeds also contain mainly Omega 6 oils which we can easily overload on. Ideally, our diet should have a ratio of 1:1 Omega 6 vs Omega 3, and this can already be tough to achieve even if we are avoiding processed vegetable oils like canola, soy, corn etc.
Nut’s can overall be very irritating and allergenic so shouldn't be eating in huge quantities. In nature nuts were never the base of meals. Think about how time consuming it is to shell each individual nut or seed and imagine doing that now just to eat a dessert using two cups of almond butter and topped with more chopped nuts. I remember being young and eating sunflower seeds from the dried head of a huge sunflower, I can’t imagine how long it would take to pick and shell enough sunflower seeds to make a batch of cookies or a raw vegan cheesecake.
I think most people do best with balanced meals based on half the plate being non-starchy vegetables, a quarter plate of protein and quarter something starchy with extra fat added to the plate, be it nuts, seeds, avocado, butter, etc. A meal based on all three macronutrients works best to keep us fueled and satiated between meals. I think the meal based on nuts is just a modern phenomenon with so many new health products on the market it’s easy to go overboard on one thing without realising it. If we had to make everything from scratch including the nut yoghurt, nut milk, nut based granola, nut butter it would be easier to visualise exactly how much nuts are involved in a meal like that and see that it’s not the most balanced option to have very regularly.
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 know that person who wants to make healthier habits, get more exercise, cook healthy meals but just can’t seem to get there. Is motivation lacking? Maybe they just don’t care. I don’t think anyone should offer unsolicited advice to someone in their life. I like the saying “when the student is ready, the master will appear”. We can’t talk someone into making changes in their lives, but if they decide to want to make changes and need help - be there for them.
What's stopping you?
If making lasting healthy changes in your life are important then what is the roadblock? Everyone has those days that we feel that we have failed too many times. Too slow, too big, not good enough. Take comfort in the fact that every person (yes, even that person who seems to lead an impossibly perfect life) has those same feelings from time to time. It’s just that some people let those feelings stop them from leading their best lives. Others acknowledge those thoughts and then push them aside and say not today.
So how to tackle big lifestyle changes? Just like eating an elephant, one bite at a time.
Commit to cooking more meals at home.
Bring your lunch to work.
Prep meal ingredients ahead for the week.
Read ingredient labels.
Add more fresh vegetables.
Be more consistent with exercise, walking counts!
Cultivate a morning routine.
In bed by 10 pm.
Focus on one thing at a time and make it measurable. What you measure you improve. So put a number on it. You will bring your own lunch 4 days a week to work. You will get active 3 days this week. Set reminders on your phone or calendar. Once you make it a habit and it doesn't take much effort, incorporate something new.
What new healthy habit do you want to incorporate into your life? One of mine is making my bed every morning.
Greens Greens Greens
I’ve been taking this green powdered drink on and off for probably 5 years. I recently got another bottle and remember why I love it and go back to it over and over. It really helps with digestion and energy. It's a great booster for days I'm lacking on green vegetables, especially in the winter months when there are fewer greens available or they have to be trucked in from far away so may not be as nutritionally dense as when they were first harvested.
It contains powdered greens, sea vegetables, probiotics and digestive enzymes. What it doesn’t have are fillers that many other powdered greens companies add like fruit, grains or seeds. There’s nothing wrong with those things but when I am paying for a quality product I don’t want it diluted, I want a potent combination of greens, superfoods and nothing extra.
Alkalising, Energising, Nutrient Dense
I really love this product so I always end up going back to it since I trust the quality. I just mix it in shaker bottle of water and drink up.
Taste is important too!
A note on taste, when I gave it to my sister she said it tastes like dirt but I love this earthy drink. If you're not accustomed to vegetable only juices or not-sweet smoothies I suggest blending it with water into a smoothie with cucumber, peeled lemon chunks and half an apple, preferably granny smith. Add any other additional greens if you want. To the ingredients listed, I have added spinach, lettuce, parsley and cilantro to the mix, depending what I have had on hand. This blend is great if you don’t like the taste of greens on their own.
I think the body reacts strongly to taste. If you are gulping something down, gagging on a taste you don't find agreeable then your body probably won't do a great job digesting the food or drink. Find a way to make eating and drinking greens work for your tastes. Start small with half a teaspoon in plenty of water and work your way up. It's surprising how quickly you might start to love the taste.
The serving mentioned on the bottle is quite large, I usually have a big heaped teaspoon of powder in a big glass of water or a shaker bottle.
When to drink it?
Regarding timing, I don’t drink it close to any caffeinated beverages because it can inhibit the absorption of iron from the sea vegetables and I always need extra iron. Personally I think this drink is great any time of the day as long as you take it! Sure it might be optimal on an empty stomach first thing in the morning but if that doesn't fit your day then why bother? I used to take it first thing in the morning but these days I have it right before lunch or dinner or between meals with lots of water.