Back to School Breakfast Ideas

It’s that time again. Kids are getting ready to go back to school.

I had lots of fun on CTV Morning Live discussing back to school breakfast ideas.

We discussed some do-ahead recipes; making use of leftovers and creating a buffet of choice so your little ones can add fresh fruit, nuts and seeds to their morning breakfast routine. To see the full segment click here: Back To School

Want to try out those recipes yourself? Links below. Enjoy!

Blackberry Bean Breakfast Bars

Homemade Spinach & Egg “McMuffins”

Banana & Brown Rice Waffles

Mango Coconut or Strawberry Overnight Quinoa Jars

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5 Nutrition Mistakes Even Healthy People Make

# 1: Fred Flintstone Steak Portions.

Many people are cutting back on carbs and in the process increasing consumption of red and processed meat. However, eating large amounts of red meat has been associated with increased risk of colorectal cancers, liver, kidney and heart disease as well as diabetes. Processed meat has been classed by the World Health Organization as a group 1 carcinogen. This mean there is sufficient evidence from epidemiological studies that eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer.

Answer – You don’t have to go full-vegetarian, however, aim to swap out some of the steak for salmon, lentils or even white meat like chicken and turkey. Reduce your serving size of red meat from Flintstone portions to about 3-4 ounce portions (90-120 grams). Avoid processed meat as much as possible. More info on red and processed meat here.

#2: The Great Juice Hustle

Freshly squeeze juice is big business these days. But remember the process of juicing removes the juice from the pulp or the fibre. Why is that important? Well, without the fibre you are drinking liquid sugar with a smattering of vitamins. The fibre from fruit slows down the absorption of the naturally occurring sugars so we avoid the blood sugar rollercoaster. Fibre also helps keep us satisfied for longer.

Answer –  Eat whole fruit but if you really want a juice stick to small vegetable juices, which are much lower in sugar. A 6 ounce kale, cucumber and ginger would fit the bill. Finally, don’t think your veggie consumption is done for the day. Fill half your plate with a variety of vegetables for lunch and dinner to maximize your anti-oxidant and fibre intake.

# 3: OD on Protein Powder

The more the better right? Wrong. Our bodies can only absorb between 20-30g of protein from a single meal. Adding scoops and scoops of protein powder to your smoothie will not increase muscle mass. Excess protein, will simply get turned into energy for fuel or stored as fat.

Answer- Protein powder can be a helpful supplement for athletes, those with high caloric needs, the elderly, those recovering from illness or surgery and those with very restrictive diets. For everyone else it’s probably not necessary. Ideally you want to get your nutrients from whole foods not from altered food substances or supplements.

However, if you are in the habit of throwing in a scoop of good quality protein powder in your morning smoothie, that is fine, just ensure that the total amount of protein in that meal (including yogurt, milk, hemp seeds etc) tops out at around 30 grams.

#4: Swap Out Junk Food For: Organic, Vegan, Free-Range, Gluten-Free, Local, Junk Food.

Just because you bought it at an organic grocery store, doesn’t make it healthy. Marketers are very savvy at making processed foods look like nutritious options. The words “vegan” and “gluten-free” have become synonymous with “healthy”. Leaving true celiacs and gluten-intolerant people out of the equation, fluffy white gluten free baked goods are simply high glycemic carbohydrates that use gluten-free flour like rice or potato starch in place of wheat, barley or rye. They are still fluffy white baked goods with very few nutrients that will spike your blood sugar. Further, wheat is fortified with nutrients that are lost during processing; however, most other grains are not. Therefore, you may be avoiding gluten but in the process eating a less nutritious option.

Vegan foods have no animal products in them; however, butter may be swapped out for hydrogenated oils which are laden with trans-fats. Other vegan items include soy protein isolate which is a highly processed form of soy and, if it’s not organic, then it is likely from a genetically modified soybeans.

Answer- While whole foods are best, for the times you want a packaged product aim for the most minimally processed foods. Ignore the health claims on the front and read the black and white Nutrition Facts on the back to really assess how healthy or otherwise the product is. Avoid products with unpronouceables ingredients -butylhydroquinone anyone? Minimally processed foods would include roasted nuts and chickpeas, single serving cheese, a little more processed but still quite good, would be Mary’s Gone Crackers.

#5 Going “Sugar Free” – But Not Really.

I often hear people claim that they have gone “sugar-free” but continue to sweeten their tea and oatmeal with heaps of honey. Maple syrup, honey and coconut palm sugar are less refined forms of sugar. They retain some nutrients, although quite minimal, compared to table sugar. However, our body treats these sugars in much the same way as regular sugar. That means they will still trigger an insulin surge that eventually leads to low blood sugar, fatigue, brain fog, irritability and hunger, or “hangry” for short. For more info on different types of sugar see: Are There Any Good Kinds of Sugar.

Answer – If you want to give up sugar or at least try to keep it to a maximum of 5% of your daily calories, then cut back on all forms of sugar. You can train your taste buds to crave less sweet things. Start by weaning yourself off sweet drinks and enjoy fresh fruit like blueberries and strawberries when a sweet craving hits. Brushing your teeth is another little trick to get you through the white-knuckle period.

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To Keto or Not to Keto

The ketogenic diet (KD) has gained lots of attention in recent years as a means to lose weight, reduce inflammation and improve metabolic markers. But is it right for you?

 The Facts

The ketogenic diet is a form of a very low carbohydrate diet where you deprive your body of carbohydrate so it learns to burn fat for energy. In this process ketones are formed. Ketones are then used as a source of fuel for the brain, heart and muscles.

There are various forms of the ketogenic diet ranging from the classic which recommends: 90% of diet from fat, 6% protein, 4% carbohydrates of total energy. Others are less restrictive and allow up to 50g of low glycemic load carbohydrates, 20% protein and 50-60% fat. However, even the less restrictive form will still require immense changes to your regular diet.

Why Are People Trying Keto?

The keto diet is not new, it has been around since the 1920s and is often prescribed to patients with specific type of epilepsy as it has been shown to be effective in reducing seizures.

Most people jump on the keto bandwagon in the hopes of reducing body weight. There are a number of studies that have found that following a KD can reduce one’s BMI and improve metabolic markers including increased HDL, decreased LDL, total cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose levels.

The KD or other low-carbohydrate diets may be most effective for those with insulin resistance. The key feature of insulin resistance is an impaired ability of muscle cells to absorb blood sugar (glucose) and convert it to energy. Instead, those with insulin resistance will divert the glucose to the liver to be converted into fat. If dietary carbohydrates are restricted to a level where they are not significantly converted to fat (a level which varies person to person) improvements in insulin resistance have been noted.

Metabolizing fats into ketones has been shown to reduce the generation of reactive oxygen species that increases inflammation and cause oxidative damage to our cells. KD may help reduce pain associated with inflammation and could potentially reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease due to improved metabolic markers and reduction in inflammation. However, read on to see the flip side of the coin.

Emerging Areas:

The Brain

Research is ongoing as to whether the KD has neuroprotective effects that could also help in the treatment of neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and even brain trauma. Early studies show some success in reducing the symptoms of these conditions; however, more research is needed to support the early findings.


Recent studies have shown that some food items can stimulate pathways that develop acne. Food with a high glycemic load and milk are two such culprits. More clinical trials are need to conclude this issue; however, some persuasive evidence exists that point to the benefits of a reduced high-glycemic carbohydrate diet on the severity and progression of acne.


Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is characterized by obesity, insulin resistance, ovulatory dysfunction and high levels of androgen hormones (male sex hormones). Suggested treatments include those that target insulin resistance, such as, the KD diet. It has been shown that improvements in insulin resistance and a reduction in body weight may also be effective in reducing androgen hormone levels and normalizing ovulation. Results are preliminary but “watch this space” for further clarification in the future.


Despite the fact that some early trials show benefits of the KD on various ailments, there is not concordance in the literature about their absolute effectiveness and doubts remain about their safety.

Low Compliance

I tell my clients “don’t start a diet you can’t stick to for the rest of your life”. One of the key downsides to the KD is that compliance is very low as it can be a very challenging pattern of eating to stick to for the long term. Optimizing adherence is the most important factor for long-term weight loss success.


Entering into a ketogenic diet can lead to a variety of symptoms colloquially termed “the keto-flu”. These include: head-aches, dehydration, shivers, foggy brain and nausea. Some people don’t get past this stage before they throw in the towel. Entering into ketosis slowly, that is, reducing carbohydrates and increasing fat intake over a period of time can reduce the symptoms of the keto-flu.

Rebound Weight Gain

The initial weight loss in a KD is due to the loss of water as your body burns through its water-filled carbohydrate (glycogen) stores. Further, as your body is deprived of energy from carbohydrate sources, it will look to, not only fat, but protein reserves to break down and convert to useable energy. It is possible, therefore, to lose lean tissue when following a KD. Preserving muscle mass while aging is key to injury prevention and mobility. Further, reduction in muscle mass can slow the metabolism and lead to rebound weight gain if/when normal eating resumes.

Lack of Nutrients

The KD diet is incredibly restrictive and many of the forbidden foods are colourful plants rich in fibre and phytonutrients. Although low-carb veggies are allowed and encouraged (such as leafy greens) most fruits, all grains and legumes as well as certain higher carb veggies like carrots and beets are prohibited.

The KD can end up being quite low in fibre which can lead to constipation and other lower gastro-intestinal disorders. Supplements are often recommended to those following a KD as deficiencies could occur in any or all of the following: B-vitamins, calcium, sodium, potassium, vitamin D and the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E. Further, there is also an increased risk of developing kidney stones. These are a couple of reasons why those prescribed a ketogenic diet (for example for epilepsy) are also monitored by an experienced nutritional professional.

Photo cred: @tlbvelo

Not For You

Those who should not go on a KD include children, teenagers, women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to get pregnant, those suffering from adrenal fatigue, poor thyroid function or high -level athletes. As athletes know, carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for high intensity training. Without them, athletes will have a marked- reduction in performance and increased levels of perceived exertion, that is, everything will feel very difficult and they won’t go as fast or be as strong.

Bottom Line

You can see there are potential benefits for some people in following a KD but many drawbacks and a fair amount of uncertainty. What is interesting to note is that exercise and fasting can evoke a similar physiological state to that triggered by the KD.

Further, being in the state of ketosis is not a requirement for weight loss or improved metabolic markers. There is ample evidence that those who suffer from metabolic syndrome* would see favourable changes in following a diet that moderately restricts carbohydrates to 26-44% of their daily diet. The emphasis would be to consume low-glycemic, high fibre, phytonutrient rich sources of carbohydrates. This dietary pattern would minimize many of the potential negatives associated with the more restrictive KD.

If you want more information or to discuss a diet that is right for you contact me for a consultation.

 * Metabolic syndrome: is a cluster of conditions that occur together including: high blood pressure, high blood sugar/ insulin resistance, excess abdominal fat and abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels that can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.


Dashti HM1, et al. Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients. Exp Clin Cardiol. 2004 Fall;9(3):200-5.

Smyl C1. Ketogenic Diet and Cancer-a Perspective. Recent Results Cancer Res. 2016;207:233-40. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-42118-6_11.

Tinsley GM1, Willoughby DS. Fat-Free Mass Changes During Ketogenic Diets and the Potential Role of Resistance Training. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2016 Feb;26(1):78-92. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2015-0070. Epub 2015 Aug 12.

Tagliabue A1, Ferraris C2, Uggeri F3, Trentani C2, Bertoli S4, de Giorgis V5, Veggiotti P5, Elli M3. Short-term impact of a classical ketogenic diet on gut microbiota in GLUT1 Deficiency Syndrome: A 3-month prospective observational study. Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2017 Feb;17:33-37. doi: 10.1016/j.clnesp.2016.11.003. Epub 2016 Dec 18.

A Paoli1, A Rubini1, J S Volek2 and K A Grimaldi3 Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2013) 67, 789–796; doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.116; published online 26 June 2013

Rietman A1, Schwarz J1, Tomé D2, Kok FJ1, Mensink M1. High dietary protein intake, reducing or eliciting insulin resistance? Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 Sep;68(9):973-9. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2014.123. Epub 2014 Jul 2.

Merino J1, Kones R2, Ferré R3, Plana N3, Girona J3, Aragonés G3, Ibarretxe D3, Heras M3, Masana L3. Low-carbohydrate, high-protein, high-fat diet alters small peripheral artery reactivity in metabolic syndrome patients. Clin Investig Arterioscler. 2014 Mar-Apr;26(2):58-65. doi: 10.1016/j.arteri.2013.11.004. Epub 2013 Dec 21.

Liebman M1. When and why carbohydrate restriction can be a viable option. Nutrition. 2014 Jul-Aug;30(7-8):748-54. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2013.11.021. Epub 2013 Dec 4.

Thom G1, Lean M2. Is There an Optimal Diet for Weight Management and Metabolic Health? Gastroenterology. 2017 Feb 15. pii: S0016-5085(17)30158-0. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2017.01.056. [Epub ahead of print]

Ebbeling CB, Swain JF, Feldman HA, Wong WA, Hachey DL, Garcia-Logo E, and Ludwig DD. “Effects of dietary composition on energy expenditure during weight loss maintenance.” JAMA 307: 267-2634 (2012).

Ebbeling CB, Leidig MM, Feldman HA, Lovesky MM, and Ludwig DS. “Effects of a low–glycemic load vs. low-fat diet in obese young adults”. JAMA 297: 2092-2102 (2007).

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Not So Sweet After All


The news has spread far and wide that sugar has detrimental effects on our health. In an effort to reduce the amount of sugar consumed many are turning away from their favourite sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) to low or zero-calorie alternatives. But, it’s not that simple. Research has shown that artificially sweetened beverages (ASB) are associated with the same health consequences as SSBs, in particular, weight gain, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Approximately 25% of children and 41% of adults consume ASB. They comprise about one quarter of the global sweetened beverages market. However, they are not taxed or regulated to the same extent as SSBs. This is likely due to their perceived harmlessness, according to some researchers.

Weight Loss or Gain?

It was originally surmised that switching from sugar-filled drinks to 0 calories drinks would lead to weight loss. However, there is a paucity of independent research showing that that is indeed the case. There are, however, a number of studies showing the opposite. A 3-can a day habit can double one’s risk of obesity in adults that started at a healthy body weight. Further, a review of 18 separate studies showed that consuming either SSB or ASB led to weight gain in children and teens.

Metabolic Mess

It has been shown that non-nutritive sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose and saccharin disrupt the balance and diversity of our gut microbiota. Rich, diverse gut bacteria is associated with a reduced adiposity (body fat), improved insulin sensitivity and triglyceride levels, as well as, decrease in inflammation. Less diverse microbiota results in the opposite, that is, weight gain, inflammation, increased triglycerides and “bad” cholesterol.

The disruption in balance of the microbiome also results in impaired glucose tolerance which is a well-known risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

A number of studies have shown an increased risk in developing metabolic syndrome in those who consume ASB compared to those who do not. Metabolic syndrome is a term used to describe a cluster of risk factors that increase your risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke. This may be due to the fact that a breakdown product of aspartame inhibits a gut enzyme (intestinal alkaline phosphatase) that is known to protect against metabolic syndrome.

One study showed that consuming just one ASB or one SSB a day increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes even in participants who maintained a healthy body weight.

Physiological Confusion

Some researchers believe there may be a disconnect between the brain and the gut when we taste something sweet but no calories arrive. Sweetness should evoke numerous physiological responses that help prepare our body to metabolize the sugars into energy for immediate use or to store as glycogen or fat. Consuming sweet drinks or food should also trigger a cascade that ends up signalling to our brain when we are full. However, research on mice has shown that consuming artificial sweeteners may impair the body’s ability to respond and regulate our intake of sweet foods that contain energy (calories). In other words, if one regularly consumes artificial sweeteners and then has a piece of cake with real sugar, he may not metabolize the sugars effectively and, further, he is unlikely to feel satiated which, in turn, could lead to over-eating.

Keep Away from Kids

Artificial sweeteners may have an even more deleterious effect on children. They range from 200-700 times sweeter than regular sucrose (table sugar). When children are exposed to hyper-sweet foods they can develop a preference for them. This preference is hard to dial back and can stay with them through to adulthood. The level of sweetness they then crave cannot be satisfied by a ripe strawberry, a mango or perhaps not even by regular sugar.

What’s the answer?

Non-caloric sweeteners are not the panacea big food companies and sugar-lovers all hoped. They mess up our metabolism, lead to the same health risks as consuming regular sugar-sweetened beverages and reduce diversity in our gut which we only recently realized was an important thing to have.

The only real answer is to train your taste buds to crave less sweet things. Drink water for thirst. Reduce sugar and artificial sweeteners as much as you possibly can. A 3- month weaning process is achievable and may be more successful than cold-turkey attempts.

After all:


Brown, R.J., et al. Artificial Sweeteners: A systematic review of metabolic effects in youth. International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, 2010; 00: 1–8

Gul SS. et al. Inhibition of the gut enzyme intestinal alkaline phosphatase may explain how aspartame promotes glucose intolerance and obesity in mice. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2017 Jan;42(1):77-83. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2016-0346

Fowler SP1, Williams K, Resendez RG, Hunt KJ, Hazuda HP, Stern MP. Fueling the obesity epidemic? Artificially sweetened beverage use and long-term weight gain.  Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Aug;16(8):1894-900. doi: 10.1038/oby.2008.284. Epub 2008 Jun 5.

Nettleton JE1, Reimer RA2, Shearer J3. Reshaping the gut microbiota: Impact of low calorie sweeteners and the link to insulin resistance? Physiol Behav. 2016 Oct 1;164(Pt B):488-93. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.04.029. Epub 2016 Apr 15.

Suez J1 et al. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. 2014 Oct 9;514(7521):181-6. doi: 10.1038/nature13793. Epub 2014 Sep 17.

Susan E. Swithers Artificial sweeteners produce the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Sep; 24(9): 431–441. Published online 2013 Jul 10. doi:  10.1016/j.tem.2013.05.005 

Sylvetsky AC, Jin Y, Clark EJ, Welsh JA, Rother KI, Talegawkar SA. Consumption of Low-Calorie Sweeteners among Children and Adults in the United States. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2017 Mar;117(3):441-448.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2016.11.004. Epub 2017 Jan 10.

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Confusion in Nutrition?

Nutrition and health are hot topics. Newspapers and magazines need to fill their pages and so the latest health and nutrition studies are ripe for the picking. However, headlines that garner the most interest may be written based upon studies that are less than “gold standard”. The subject size may be so small that it renders the results interesting, perhaps, but not overly significant. Was the study a double blind randomized control trial study or merely observational? Who funded the study? These questions often go unanswered in the search for a catchy headline.

Don’t get too hung up on the latest nutrition fad or magazine article. There are three key evidence-based nutrition principles that can guide you to a healthier daily diet without the confusion.

# 1: Anti-inflammatory foods: How do you know if your food contains anti-inflammatory ingredients? Look for colour! The pigment in plants contain powerful anti-inflammatory agents. You want your plate to look like a rainbow. Eat from the entire colour spectrum. Enjoy plants with hues of red (tomatoes, peppers), blue (blueberries), green (bok choy, kale), orange (squashes and apricots), and purple (beets, radishes) is a great way to start. Fatty fish like salmon and sardines along with olive oil and walnuts round out the list of top anti-inflammatory foods.

#2: Blood sugar regulation: This is important. Sending your body on a daily roller coaster ride of rising and tumbling blood sugar and insulin can eventually lead to weight gain, obesity and even diabetes. What to do? Reduce processed grains and sugar products from your diet. That means white bread, potato chips, fluffy scones and muffins. Instead have a whole, intact grain or legume for your mealtime carbohydrate. Always fill half your plate with vegetables and ensure you are getting some healthy fats like avocado, nuts and seeds. Fats, fibre-rich grains and vegetables are all blood-sugar moderators and make a tasty meal to boot.

#3: Reducing oxidative stress:  Oxidation is a normal part of our metabolism. However, if it gets out of control or if our bodies do not have sufficient anti-oxidants to quell the generation of free radicals, it can lead to cellular damage. Oxidative stress has been implicated in a host of health problems from wrinkles, to impaired immune system, heart disease and cancer. Oxidative stress can lead to chronic low energy levels as the body is in a constant state of repair. What to do? We want to make sure we are providing our bodies with a steady supply of natural anti-oxidants. Where do we find them? You guessed it, the plant world again. Fruit, vegetables and especially herbs and spices are loaded with antioxidants. Wild blueberries, prunes, cloves, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon are to name but a few. Grow a herb garden and be liberal with spices in your cooking. Your trillions of cells will thank you.

For an easy anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant punch try this nourishing turmeric and cinnamon tea.

Turmeric & Cinnamon Tea

  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 tsp of turmeric
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon (or 2-3 cinnamon sticks)
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional: squeeze of lemon

Bring four cups of water to a boil. Add the turmeric and cinnamon.  Reduce heat to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add a pinch of black pepper to increase absorption of turmeric. Strain the tea through a fine sieve into a cup. Add lemon to taste.


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Planning for a Baby?

When a woman gets pregnant she wants to do all she can to make sure she “grows” the healthiest baby. There are some key things a new mum can do to help her along that route.

Research in health-promoting compounds like omega 3 fatty acids and probiotics have shed new light on how to optimize a pregnancy and the neonatal diet. We also know more on how to reduce the risk of developing gestational diabetes which can increase the mother’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Reducing the Risk of Gestational Diabetes

As many as 9 out of every 100 pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes (GD). When you are pregnant your cells become slightly resistant to insulin. This raises the mother’s blood sugar which helps make more nutrients available for the baby. However, if the mum’s cells become too resistant to insulin it can lead to chronic high blood sugar and GD which can cause problems for mother and baby.

What Kind of Problems?

Well, for one, you could have a really big baby! Which could lead to a caesarean section. It also increases the risk that the baby could develop paediatric obesity. The mother will have an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes as well.

So how do we make sure this doesn’t happen? Well, there are controllable and uncontrollable risk factors. Let’s take a look at all of them:

  • 35 years of age or older
  • Mother’s obesity (BMI over 30).
  • Aboriginal, Hispanic, South Asian, Asian or African descent
  • Previously given birth to a baby over 4kg (9lbs) or having GD in previous pregnancy
  • Using corticoseteroid medication
  • Direct relative with type 2 diabetes
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Having prediabetes

Whether obesity and prediabetes are “controllable” may be up for debate, but diet and daily activity can have a positive impact on both. Starting your pregnancy at a healthy body weight and moderating your blood glucose levels will help reduce your risk of developing GD.

One study that looked at diets of women before they got pregnant showed that every 10 gram increase in daily fibre intake correlated in a 26 percent reduction in risk for developing GD. That’s a hefty reduction.

Increasing your fibre intake to recommended levels can help with weight loss and will help keep your blood sugar levels in check. It is recommended that we get 14g of fibre for every 1000 calories; however, counting calories, let alone fibre, can be very difficult to judge. Instead, focus on eating fibre-rich foods. What are they? Plants. In particular, vegetables, fruits, legumes and intact grains and raw nuts. If plant-based, unprocessed food forms the bulk of your diet, you will meet and even exceed the recommended fibre intake easily.

Daily exercise and activity can also help keep your blood sugar in check. Before pregnancy ensure you are meeting the recommended guidelines for activity. They may be more than you think! Check them out here. Once you are pregnant, check first with your doctor before you start an exercise regime.

Let’s Talk Omega 3s.

Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, which means you need to get them from your diet as we cannot make them inside our bodies.

Why are they important in pregnancy?

Studies have shown that Omega 3 supplementation during pregnancy may help reduce the risk of preterm birth. Other studies have found that omega 3s reduced the risk of the child developing asthma, lower respiratory tract infections, atopic eczema and allergy to eggs.

You can increase your consumption of omega 3s by eating oily fish (with low mercury count) such as wild salmon, sardines, herring, sablefish and mackerel (Alaskan or Atlantic, not King mackerel which has elevated mercury levels). Other sources of a weaker form of omega 3, called alpha linolenic acid (ALA), include walnuts, flax and chia seeds.

Probiotics & Baby’s Microbiome

Gut colonization by beneficial bacteria in early life is vital for establishing the gut mucosal barrier, developing the immune system and preventing infections. Proper development of the gut mucosal barrier and immune system is vital to help the reduce risk of your child developing auto-immune diseases and allergies later in life.

The mode of delivery, early feeding methods (breastfeeding vs formula) and anti-biotic use all influence the baby’s microbiome. Unfortunately, we don’t always get to choose the way our baby decides to enter the world or whether mum or baby requires anti-biotics. However, if there is an element of choice in your delivery, babies born through the birth canal are inoculated with a host of beneficial bacteria that will positively affect their microbiome. Similarly, breastfed infants will also benefit from a host of health-promoting bacteria as flora can travel from the mother’s gut to her breast milk.

Further, not everyone is able to breastfeed and emergency C-sections do occur. If that’s the case, there are other ways to help promote your baby’s gut flora. Probiotic supplementation by the mother throughout pregnancy has been shown to improve gastrointestinal function in infants and reduce the frequency of necrotising enterocolitis (NE) in preterm babies. NE is a bacterial infection in the wall of the baby’s intestine. Probiotic supplementation during pregnancy and throughout breastfeeding (if possible) was also found to have protective effect against childhood asthma.


Eating a well-balanced, nourishing diet can help ensure your growing baby gets all s/he needs. That means eating a wide variety of unprocessed natural food like vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, fibre-rich carbohydrates and good quality protein. Food, their nutrients and phytochemicals work synergistically together affording maximum benefits. While supplements can provide a safety net, and some will likely be necessary during pregnancy, they should be used in combination with a wholesome, varied diet and not in replace of it.

If you are pregnant or planning a baby and would like more information and personalized advice, feel free to contact me. 


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Bisgaard H et al. Fish Oil-Derived Fatty Acids in Pregnancy and Wheeze and Asthma in Offspring. N Engl J Med. 2016 Dec 29;375(26):2530-9. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1503734

Best KP et al. Omega-3 long-chain PUFA intake during pregnancy and allergic disease outcomes in the offspring: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies and randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Jan;103(1):128-43. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.111104. Epub 2015 Dec 16.

 Gunaratne AW1, Makrides M, Collins CT. Maternal prenatal and/or postnatal n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) supplementation for preventing allergies in early childhood. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Jul 22;(7):CD010085. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010085.pub2. 

Jost T., et al. Impact of human milk bacteria and oligosaccharides on neonatal gut microbiota establishment and gut health. Nutr Rev. 2015 Jul;73(7):426-37. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuu016. Epub 2015 Apr 15.

Lemas DJ. Et al. Exploring the contribution of maternal antibiotics and breastfeeding to development of the infant microbiome and pediatric obesity. Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2016 Dec;21(6):406-409. doi: 10.1016/j.siny.2016.04.013. Epub 2016 Jul 15.

Palmer DJ et al. Effect of n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in pregnancy infants’ allergies in first year of life: randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2012 Jan 30;344:e184. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e184.

Sen S., et al. Inflammatory Potential during Pregnancy Is Associated with Lower Fetal Growth and Breastfeeding Failure: Results from Project Viva.Oken E2. J Nutr. 2016 Apr;146(4):728-36. doi: 10.3945/jn.115.225581. Epub 2016 Mar 2.

Zhang HQ, Fan R, Zhang JJ, Tao XJ, Sun X. [Association between risk factors during maternal pregnancy and the neonatal period and childhood bronchial asthma]. 2017 Jan;19(1):49-53 Zhongguo Dang Dai Er Ke Za Zhi.

Zhang C, Liu S, Solomon CG, Hu FB.Dietary fiber intake, dietary glycemic load, and the risk for gestational diabetes mellitus.Diabetes Care. 2006 Oct;29(10):2223-30.

Zhu Y et al.Growth and obesity through the first 7 y of life in association with levels of maternal glycemia during pregnancy: a prospective cohort study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Mar;103(3):794-800. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.121780.





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A New Year, A New You? Well….

A new year? A new you? Well, probably not, but maybe!

Research shows that by February most people have reverted to their previous year’s behaviour and resolutions are long forgotten, if not the lingering feeling of defeat. Although one study showed that 19% of resolution-makers were successful in sticking to their resolution after 2 years.

So what makes some of us successful while others fail? It has to do with:


The first stage in changing a bad habit to a good one is readiness. There is no point putting a resolution on your list if you aren’t ready to tackle it. This is why I ask my clients to fill out a Readiness for Change Questionnaire so that I can ascertain their level of commitment and motivation. Behavioural change does not happen in a day. Psychologist outline between 3-6 discrete stages of change. The simplified version is:

  • pre-contemplation
  • contemplation
  • action

You need to be at the action stage in order to write that resolution down for 2017.

Ask yourself: is this goal truly important to me? You can’t put a resolution on your list because your spouse, mother, children, co-workers want you to do it. It has to resonate with you. Motivation is key and you must value the outcome that you are seeking in order to effectively execute the change. Ask yourself, “on a scale of 1-10 how motivated am I to follow through with this resolution?” Write down the number.

Next, you need to have sufficient self-efficacy to follow through with your resolution. Self-efficacy is simply a belief in yourself that you can execute a task, or simply put “I got this”. In order for you to feel confident about your ability to follow-through, ensure the resolution is not too large or cumbersome. It should be realistic and achievable. Ask yourself, “on a scale of 1-10 how confident am I that I can execute this change in behaviour successfully.”

Your motivation and self-efficacy scores should both be at 7 or higher in order for you to have a realistic chance of following through with your resolution.

Finally, notice I am using resolution in the singular, focus on one behavioural change at a time. A list of 5 resolutions is unlikely to be attainable. Once you have changed behaviour for a number of months so that an old habit has become a new healthy habit, then you can consider resolution number 2 and go through the same steps.

Good luck, Happy New Year and don’t forget:

You got this!. Believe in yourself.


Bandura, A., & Locke, E.A. (2003). Negative self-efficacy and goals revisited. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, 87-99.

Norcross, J.C., Mrykalo, M.S., & Blagys, M.D. (2002). Auld lang syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(4), 397-405.

Norcross, J.C., Ratzin, A.C., & Payne, D. (1989). Ringing in the new year: The change processes and reported outcomes of resolutions. Addictive Behaviors, 14(2), 205-212.

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Cooking With Kids

October 15th is International Cook with Kids Day!

Most parents agree that teaching your children how to cook is an important life-skill, but one study, conducted by Uncle Ben’s, showed that only 36% of parents cooked with their children on a weekly basis.

So why aren’t families cooking with their kids more often? Well, some feel it takes too much time and is too messy, others believe that their children are too young, while other parents aren’t confident in their own abilities in the kitchen and are, therefore, reluctant to teach their own children.

The benefits of cooking with kids are clear. It can help foster a bond between parent and child where time spent in the kitchen together helps open the doors to communication and promote attachment.

Cooking also boosts a child’s self-esteem as they accomplish tasks and see the results of their efforts. It also creates an opportunity for creativity which promotes cognitive and emotional development.

Children who cook have wider food acceptance skills. Kids in the kitchen are much more likely to taste food that they created than if it was simply put in front of them. Tasting is the route to food acceptance and can help develop a child’s palate.

Studies also show that families that cook and eat meals together have a better diet overall and are less likely to gain excess weight.

If that hasn’t convinced you, don’t forget cooking is a fantastic learning opportunity. Practice in reading the recipe, using math skills to measure or doubling recipes, observing hands-on science experiments and following step-by-step directions are all added benefits to this special time together.


  • Young kids can use of child-friendly scissors to snip, slice and chop veggies and keep their fingers safe.
  • Fingers are kitchen utensils too. Kids can tear herbs, top & tail green beans, find and sort ingredients and put into bowls.
  • Measuring ingredients, mashing with a fork, stirring items, slicing soft foods with a plastic or child-friendly knife are all jobs younger kids can do.


  • Choose a good time. Rushing home from work to get food on the table before soccer practice may not be the idea time to cook with your kids. Choose an unscheduled afternoon where you have time to cook together without other pressing demands.
  • Relax. Cooking with kids can be a messy endeavour. Get your apron on, put bowls on top of cookie trays to catch over-flow but be prepared to let your kitchen get a little mucky. That’s what sponges are for. The lifelong benefits are worth a little mess.
  • Stay positive. Compliment your little chefs on a job well done. Offer them first taste of your finished dish and ask what you should make together next time.

If you need more inspiration, check out Ben’s Beginners for cooking lessons and recipes. You can also try my easy, child-friendly Southwestern Chicken Brown Rice & Veggie Salad below.

Contest Alert:lookwhatwemade2

If you make this or any other rice-based recipe, take a selfie of what you made with your child and upload it onto your social media sites with the hashtag: #LookWhatWeMade for a chance to win one of three $10,000 prizes to be used towards a RESP for your child sponsored by Uncle Ben’s. Contest runs until October 30th. More details can be found here: Let’s Get Kids Cooking Contest


Serves 4


  • 1 cup Uncle Ben’s Whole Grain Brown Rice
  • 250g (or 2 cups) of rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 1 can (425g) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup of frozen corn, boil for 1 minute, drain and rinse under cold water.
  • 1 cup of cucumber, diced
  • 1 avocado, cut into chunks
  • Extra cilantro to top, if desired


  • 1 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Cook rice according to package instructions. Spread on a baking sheet and refrigerate until cool.
  2. Prepare the dressing by adding all ingredients to a small bowl and stir to combine.
  3. Place cooled rice in a large bowl; add chicken, beans, tomatoes, green onions, cucumber and corn. Add dressing and toss to combine. Place chopped avocado on top and add more chopped cilantro if desired.

Serve immediately, or refrigerate, covered, up to 1 day.





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Sports Nutrition & Longevity Go Hand in Hand

Sports nutrition has progressed leaps and bounds within the last quarter century. Diet is now a key component of all athletes’ training plans. Here are 5 lessons from the last 25 years (or more) that have not only enhanced athletic performance but have also improved longevity and helped us come closer to optimum health.

Number 1: Type & Timing of Carbohydrates

In 1967 a group of Swedish researchers discovered that athletes that increased their carbohydrate intake were able to run both faster and farther.

We have learned in the past 25 years that consuming carbohydrates with a low glycemic load (GL), like intact grains and legumes, as part of one’s daily diet prevents spikes in blood sugar that could eventually lead to insulin resistance, a key driver of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Research has shown that eating a low GL meal prior to exercise provides sustained energy and improves endurance capacity. Eating a medium to high GL meal within 30-45 minutes post exercise will swiftly replenish glycogen stores ensuring you are prepped for your next workout.

Number 2: Eat More PlantsHaley_kyrani

Whether you are a paleo or vegan athlete the last 25 years have shown that eating a diet rich in plant based food is the key to both longevity and optimal health.

Research has shown that those with the highest consumption of unrefined plant foods reduce their risk of chronic diseases of aging like heart disease and cancer.

Athletes in particular will benefit from the rich sources of phytonutrients contained in the pigments of vegetables and fruits. Aim to “eat a rainbow” of veggies and fruit in order to maximize your intake of vitamin C, beta-carotene, anthyocyanins and other powerful antioxidants that will protect your body from the stress of exercise and boost your immune system.

Number 3: Nourishing Nitrates

One significant discovery in sports nutrition was the health and performance benefits of dietary nitrates. Consuming beetroot, celery and arugula, all rich sources of nitrates, has been shown to improve blood flow to muscles, increase oxygen efficiency and stamina as well as accelerate muscular recovery. Dietary nitrates have been shown to lower blood pressure which can reduce the risk of cardiac events.

Number 4: Get Friendly with Turmeric

The active compound in turmeric, called curcumin, is one of the most powerful natural anti-inflammatories. It has been shown to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and diminish the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Adding this bright spice to your diet can also help reduce exercise-induced muscle damage and soreness which can lead to faster recovery. Try adding turmeric to your grain dishes, omelets and vinaigrettes.

Number 5: Fabulous Fats

The discovery that omega 3 fatty acids contained in cold water fish, walnuts and chia seeds can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation and have cardioprotective effects make this nutrient a must-have in your diet. Studies have also revealed that omega 3s can enhance exercise capacity, increase maximum oxygen uptake and improve the function of blood vessel lining and circulation.



In the spirit of eating more plants you can’t go wrong with this leafy number. Leafy greens and cruciferous veggies (like Brussels sprouts) are two of the most nutrient dense foods loaded with antioxidants, cancer-fighting compounds and nitrates to boot.

Serves 4


  • 2 cups of finely shredded kale (stemmed, then shredded or cut into fine ribbons)
  • 2 cups of finely cut or grated Brussels sprouts
  • ½ cup finely grated pecorino cheese
  • ½ cup almonds, coarsely ground


  • 5 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 3 small garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
Juice of 2 lemons
  • ¼ cup of olive oil


Prepare the kale and the Brussels sprouts. Place the almonds in a food processor and pulse until chopped coarsely. Set aside.

Make dressing. Combine first 4 ingredients in a mini food processor and pulse until well combined. Add the lemon juice and pulse again, then drizzle in the olive oil and process until an emulsion forms. Season with salt and black pepper

Place the shredded kale and Brussels sprouts in a large bowl and toss with about half the dressing until it is coated but not drowning. Add half the almonds and half the cheese and combine. Let rest for about an hour to soften the kale and Brussels sprouts. If there’s no time, use your hands to massage the salad to speed up the process. Just before serving drizzle the remaining dressing (if necessary) and top with the remainder of the cheese and almonds.

Nutrition, Per serving- calories: 325kcals; protein: 11g; fat: 24g; carbohydrates: 14g; fibre: 4g.

EASY PEASY MARINATED SALMONmarinated salmon small better

Salmon is one of the richest sources of omega 3 fatty acids providing between 1.5-2 grams for a 4 ounce (120gram) serving. Enjoy this with braised greens and wild rice to complete the meal.

Serves 4.


  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • Pinch of dried red chilli pepper
  • Half of bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 4 – 4 ounce salmon filets

Make the marinade by combing all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Reserve a few tablespoons of marinade to use as a finishing sauce. Place the remaining marinade in a ziplock bag along with the salmon filets. Marinate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the broiler. Broil the salmon until cooked through, about 6 to 10 minutes depending on thickness. Drizzle with the reserved marinade and garnish with chopped cilantro.

Nutrition Information: per serving234 calories; 13 g fat; 6 g carbohydrates; 23 g protein;  0 g fibre.

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Which Oil Should I Use & Which Ones Should I Avoid?


There are lots of tasty oils on the market but do you know which ones to use and when to use them? Even more importantly, do you know which ones to avoid?

Oils help us absorb specific vitamins and phytonutrients like vitamin A, K, E and D as well as lutein and other carotenoids. They can also add flavour and richness to our meals.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – The Queen of Oils

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is produced by a mechanical pressing of the olives which is done under a certain temperature (27°C) so that it does not degrade the oil. Use of solvents or chemicals to extract the oil are not permitted. Further, it must taste like olives and be free from defects.

A phenolic compound contained in EVOO, called oleocanthal, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties similar to Ibuprofen that has been shown to reduce symptoms of both joint and neuro-degenerative diseases, as well reduce inflammatory markers in those with heart disease.

Last year a study showed that the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet on reducing the incidence or mortality from certain cancers may be due specifically to the oleocanthal in olive oil. Researchers found that oleocanthal kills cancer cells by rupturing their lysosomal membranes.

If you have ever tried olive oil tasting you will know that certain oils will induce a cough after sipping. That cough is from the oleocanthal and is a sign of a great olive oil.

Should we cook with extra virgin olive oil?

Yes, you can cook with either extra virgin or virgin olive oils. The smoking point for olive oil ranges from 380-410°F which is well above the ideal temperature for sautéing food. The oil will not spoil at these temperatures. Studies have shown that olive oil (including extra virgin) is a stable oil resistant to damage from heat.

It’s important to avoid heating oils beyond their smoking point as this denatures the fats, releases toxic fumes and creates free radicals.

Avocado Oilavocado pic

Avocado oil is worth a mention as it has one of the highest smoking points, making it a stable oil to heat and it has a similar fatty acid profile to olive oil. It does not taste like avocados but has a mild flavour with a nutty undertone; an “almost neutral” oil. Like olive oil, it helps increase the absorption of carotenoids, a group of plant pigments (red, yellow, orange) that have antioxidant properties.

Next time you want to use olive oil but need something with a little less flavour, reach for avocado oil. 

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is 92% saturated fat which is why it is solid at room temperature. Unsurprisingly, coconut oil has a rich and distinctive flavour of coconuts which can enhance many dishes. It’s smoking point (350°F) is similar to butter so this is not the fat you want to use for high temperature cooking.

The majority of the fats contained in coconut oil are called medium chain fatty acids (MCFA). We metabolize these fats differently than long chain fatty acids, for example, those found in butter. MCFA are metabolized in our liver for energy and are less likely to be stored as fat which is why some claim they can help with weight loss. At this stage more scientific research is needed to support these claims. A recent study did show that coconut oil raised total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol to a greater extent than unsaturated plant oils, but to a lesser extent than butter.

Enjoying coconut oil in place of butter can be a tasty change for your palate and may reap some health benefits. But EVOO still wears the yellow jersey in terms of the oil with the most health benefits supported by rigorous scientific evidence. 

Finishing Oils

Walnut, hemp or flax seed oils all have healthy nutritional profiles; however, they are not conducive to heating. You can use them to drizzle on top of prepared dishes to impart an extra hint of flavour.

What About a Neutral Tasting Oils: Canola, Grape Seed, Safflower etc?

Canola oil is a highly processed oil which uses chemical solvents or high speed presses that generate heat. If you use Canola oil try organic cold pressed to ensure you are getting a better quality product.

Grape seed oil is a slightly cleaner oil than Canola and has a higher smoking point (420°F to Canola’s 400°F). Organic cold pressed grape seed oil should also be sought out over conventional methods of production. 

Cheaper refined oils such as soybean oil, safflower and sunflower oils go through intensive mechanical and chemical processing which yield a flavourless oil that is easily oxidized. Oxidation of oils create free radicals which is why these refined oils should be limited.

Cottonseed oil should be avoided at all costs as it contains toxins and is likely high in pesticide residues as cotton is not classified as a food and, therefore, heavier use of pesticides is permitted.

Final Tips

Buy olive and avocado oils in tins or darkened glass to reduce the chance of oxidation from light. Store your oils in a cool, dark place and don’t bulk buy. Follow the old adage: store what you use and use what you store. That is, aim to use your oils within a month or so to ensure optimal freshness.

Check out the world’s best EVOO for 2016 here.


Y. Allouche, A. Jiménez, J. J. Gaforio, M. Uceda, G. Beltrán, How heating affects extra virgin olive oil quality indexes and chemical composition, J Agric Food Chem, 2007 Nov 14;55(23):9646-54. Epub 2007 Oct 13, PMID: 17935291

Eyres L1, Eyres MF2, Chisholm A2, Brown RC2.Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans.Nutr Rev. 2016 Apr;74(4):267-80. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuw002. Epub 2016 Mar 5. 

Parkinson L1, Keast R2. Oleocanthal, a phenolic derived from virgin olive oil: a review of the beneficial effects on inflammatory disease. Int J Mol Sci. 2014 Jul 11;15(7):12323-34. doi: 10.3390/ijms150712323.

Verberne L1, Bach-Faig A, Buckland G, Serra-Majem L. Nutr Cancer. 2010;62(7):860-70. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2010.509834. Association between the Mediterranean diet and cancer risk: a review of observational studies. 

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