Good Foods For Your Mood

According to mainstream media the third Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year. It even has it’s own name: Blue Monday. In fact January is thought to be the most depressing month of the year. Whether it be unscientific bunk or hold a shred of truth, you can ready yourself to endure these cold, dark days by filling your fridge, and stomach, with good foods for your mood.

Beets For The Brain & The BodyIMG_7854

Beets, along with arugula, celery, kale and watercress are a rich source of dietary nitrates. These natural nitrates improve blood flow throughout the body and, importantly, to the pre-frontal cortex of the brain which is involved with cognition and executive function. Studies have shown improved cognitive performance after consumption of these brain-boosting foods. As an added bonus, the nitrates help dilate blood vessels which reduces blood pressure and increases blood flow to muscles resulting in improved physical stamina and endurance.

Omega 3 Rich Foods: Sardines, Salmon, Walnuts & Chia SeedsIMG_7858

Low levels of these essential fatty acids have been associated with an increased risk of depression. A 2015 review of 26 studies found that omega 3 fatty acids had a beneficial effect on symptoms of depression compared to a placebo.

Omega 3s are highly concentrated in the brain and help keep the brain cell membranes fluid. Cell membrane fluidity is crucial for enhancing swift communication between neurons.

Sardines, salmon and walnuts are also a good source of zinc which is involved in sleep regulation. Sufficient sleep is imperative in warding off the blues. Low levels of zinc have also been associated with increased risk of depression and mood disorders.

Quercetin & Anti-inflammatory Foods

It is important to consider one’s overall diet in relation to reducing the risk of any disease including mood disorders. Adding isolated foods or nutrients to a mediocre diet is unlikely to yield positive results. However, improving one’s long-term eating pattern can reduce the risk of developing lifestyle diseases and depression.

A 2013 study revealed that women who regularly ate inflammatory foods were 41% more likely to suffer from depression. Inflammatory foods include:

  • Refined sugars; (pop, desserts, candy, cookies)
  • Processed and refined grains (white bread, pasta, crackers, and more);
  • Animal fats; red meat
  • Food Allergens (hidden food allergies cause body and brain inflammation)

Quercetin is a phytochemical that acts as a natural anti-depressant as it down-regulates inflammatory pathways. Apples, kale, berries, grapes, onion, and green tea are all great sources of quercetin.

Other foods rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients include olive oil, turmeric, ginger, cruciferous veggies (broccoli, Brussels sprouts) and plant protein like edamame, chickpeas and lentils.

Reducing the amount of pop, sugar, flour, and processed meats in your diet and eating an abundance of fresh, unprocessed vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes is a great way to improve both physical and mental health. Try the recipe below for generous helping of anti-inflammatory nutrients including omega 3 fatty acids.


Merry Mood Sardines


  • 1 lemon, freshly squeezed juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil (separated into single teaspoons)
  • Pinch of sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely diced cornichon
  • 1 sprig of celery, diced
  • Sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley

1 can sardines, drained
  • Bunch of kale, washed, dried & shredded (or use baby kale leaves)

Mix 4 teaspoons of lemon juice, the zest, mustard, 1 tsp of olive oil salt, pepper, green onion, cornichon, celery and parsley together in a bowl. Add the sardines and flake them into chunky pieces with a fork. Stir gently to combine. Place shredded kale in a bowl and drizzle with 1 tsp of olive oil. Massage oil into kale with hands. Place sardines on top and toss all together. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to finish, if desired.


Kapil V1, Milsom AB, Okorie M, Maleki-Toyserkani S, Akram F, Rehman F, Arghandawi S, Pearl V, Benjamin N, Loukogeorgakis S, Macallister R, Hobbs AJ Inorganic nitrate supplementation lowers blood pressure in humans: role for nitrite-derived NO. Hypertension. 2010 Aug;56(2):274-81. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.110.153536. Epub 2010 Jun 28.

Wightman EL1, Haskell-Ramsay CF1, Thompson KG2, Blackwell JR3, Winyard PG4, Forster J1, Jones AM3, Kennedy DO5 Dietary nitrate modulates cerebral blood flow parameters and cognitive performance in humans: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover investigation. Physiol Behav. 2015 Oct 1;149:149-58. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.05.035. Epub 2015 May 31.

Clifford T1, Howatson G2,3, West DJ4, Stevenson EJ5.The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease. Nutrients. 2015 Apr 14;7(4):2801-22. doi: 10.3390/nu7042801.

Appleton KM1, Sallis HM, Perry R, Ness AR, Churchill R. Omega-3 fatty acids for depression in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Nov 5;11:CD004692. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004692.pub4.

Riemer S1, Maes M, Christophe A, Rief W. Lowered omega-3 PUFAs are related to major depression, but not to somatization syndrome. J Affect Disord. 2010 Jun;123(1-3):173-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2009.08.004. Epub 2009 Aug 31.

Ranjbar E, Kasaei MS, Mohammad-Shirazi M, et al. Effects of Zinc Supplementation in Patients with Major Depression: A Randomized Clinical Trial.Iranian Journal of Psychiatry. 2013;8(2):73-79.

Lucas M, Chocano-Bedoya P, et al. Inflammatory dietary pattern and risk of depression among women. Am J Prev Med. 2005 Jan;28(1):1-8.

Chirumbolo S1. The role of quercetin, flavonols and flavones in modulating inflammatory cell function. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2010 Sep;9(4):263-85.




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My Job? To Put Myself Out of a Job

pic me needs work

My goal is to put myself out of a job for every individual client. I want to empower my clients with knowledge, motivation and tools that they can use to move forward indefinitely with eating the right foods (most of the time), in the right amount, for the right reason. Simply put, to become and live as intuitive eaters.

One of the first things I tell my clients is that “I don’t do diets”. Diets are something you go on and then come off of – a recipe for disaster in my mind. I want each client to establish long-term changes in their eating habits and lifestyle that last a lifetime. There is no on again off again. This is life. Let’s get it right.

Many people suffer from some form of emotional eating. It doesn’t always relate to negative emotions either. Sure, stress, fatigue and anxiety can lead one to the Doritos, but so too can happiness, excitement, new love, and fun. We eat for many reasons, but really we should only eat for one. Any guesses? You got it: eat when you are hungry. Only. Period. Full Stop. The second half to that equation is: stop the moment you are satisfied. “Satisfied” means no longer hungry; not “stuffed to the gills”. Following these two simple maxims is the key to intuitive eating.

Overcoming emotional eating takes practice and perseverance. Recognition is the first step and then developing alternative coping skills away from food is essential. For some, it may require help in the form of professional counselling. However, for many, it can be achieved with a bit of motivation and a lot of mindfulness.

As we are approaching the holidays we will all be faced with multiple temptations throughout the day. Shortbread brought to work, cocktail party canapés, chocolate chocolate everywhere. Before you indulge, take a moment to ask yourself the following questions and guide yourself through the intuitive eating flow chart.

Intuitive eating chart_correctedIf you end up at “eat and enjoy without guilt” do so. However, keep in mind that one or two Purdy’s chocolate will satisfy that craving, but 10 will lead to remorse.

The question “will I be deprived if I don’t eat it?” is a key one. If you stop banning foods and give yourself permission to enjoy the odd treat, the answer to this question will become clear. A tray of store-bought Christmas cookies that has been sitting out on the kitchen table all day may elicit the answer “no, I will not be deprived if I don’t eat this”. However, you may choose to indulge in a piece of your grandma’s famous homemade fudge.

Santas Christmas Cookie Snack

Intuitive eating isn’t about throwing caution to the wind and eating anything you want, whenever you want. It involves mindful choices that allows you to find a balance between eating food you enjoy, when you are hungry, stopping when satisfied and then getting on with the rest of your life.

For more information or to kick-start your own path to intuitive eating contact me at

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On the Chopping Block: Bacon, Ham, Hot Dogs & Salami…

If you picked up a paper last week or turned on the news you will have heard that the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, published their findings on the carcinogenicity of red and processed meat. This group of 22 international expert concluded that processed meat should be classified as “carcinogenic” (ie causes cancer) to humans (Group 1) based on sufficient evidence from over 800 studies.

They concluded that red meat should be classified “probably carcinogenic” to humans (Group 2A) based on limited evidence that the consumption of meat causes colorectal cancer.

Group 1 classifications show that there is convincing evidence that the agent causes cancer. Group 2A classifications means that the agent is probably carcinogenic to humans. The experts found a positive association between red meat and colorectal cancer; however, other explanations cannot be ruled out.

What is Processed Meat?chopped bacon and salami on a plate

Processed meat is meat that is not fresh and that has been transformed through curing, smoking, salting, fermentation, addition of preservatives or other processes to enhance flavour or prolong preservation. Examples include hot dogs, salami, bologna, ham, corned beef, and jerky.

What is Red Meat?

For the purposes of these studies red meat includes beef, lamb, veal, mutton, horse, goat and, yes, even “the other white meat”, pork.

What’s the Risk?

Researchers found that the risk is dose-dependent, that means, the more you eat, the
higher the risk. Studies showed that for every 50 grams (1.7 ounces) of processed meat eaten daily, it increases the risk of colorectal cancer by about 18%.

The risk in consuming red meat is more difficult to quantify; however, researchers estimate that the risk of colorectal cancer could increase by 17% for every 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of red meat eaten daily.

These are ballpark figures and every person’s risk will be different as cancer development is due to a multitude of factors, some known, some unknown.

How Does Processed & Red Meat Cause Cancer

There are multiple ways in which red and processed meat may cause cancer although the precise mechanisms are still up for debate. One potentially causative factor is due to the heme iron contained in red meat. Once digested, it may cause damage to the lining of our colon (mucosa). This damage then spurs on cellular replication in order to commence the healing process. This added replication can increase the chance of DNA errors in the new cells which can develop into the early stages of cancer.

Processed red meat will have naturally occurring heme iron as well as added nitrites or nitrates to help the preservation of the products. These nitrites and nitrates are converted in our bodies to form n-nitroso compounds which are the cancer causing agents.

Cooking meat at high temperatures and until well done can cause the formation of another
carcinogen called heterocyclic amines. Barbecuing meat can also cause the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which are another type of carcinogen.

What to do:

If you have colorectal cancer in your family you may wish to avoid processed meat as much as possible. For all others, having processed meat as infrequently as you are able is a good first step. Keep the ham, salamis and sausages for very special treats.

The evidence for red meat is not as strong and it bears reminding that red meat does contain important nutrients such as protein, zinc, iron and vitamin B12. However, it does make sense to be mindful of the amount of red meat we are eating. Keeping within the guidelines produced by the Canadian Cancer Society is a good start. They recommend limiting red meat to three 85 gram (3 ounce) servings per week for adults.

When you do enjoy your red meat try not to char, burn or use high temperatures while cooking. Using wet cooking methods like braising or stewing can reduce the formation of carcinogens.

Choose fish over meat and aim to have vegetarian days a couple times a week. Get friendly with lentils, edamame, chickpeas and lots of veg. The die-hard carnivores often enjoy mushrooms for their meaty texture.

Ham-Free Lunch Box Ideas

After this news broke I received numerous queries from parents on what to put in their children’s lunchbox as ham and salami were a mainstay for many families.

Here are some healthy lunchbox alternatives to put between two pieces of bread:

  • Wild Salmon Salad – tinned salmon with squeeze of lemon juice, small spoonful of mayo and chopped cucumber and celery. For adventurous kids green onions and capers give this sandwich a great zing.
  • Grilled Veggies with Hummus – stick to what your kids like, if it’s just red peppers for now, great, if you can add zucchini and eggplant, even better. A thick spread of hummus will provide a source of protein.
  • Bananas & School-Safe Butters – pumpkin seed butter with slices of bananas (I won’t tell if you add a drizzle of honey or jam). I often roll this up in a whole grain tortilla.
  • Blended Veggie Bagel – steam cauliflower and broccoli until soft. Add a dollop of plain or herbed cream cheese and blend together to make a spread. Spread on a whole grain bagel for a healthy twist on plain cream cheese.
  • Coronation Chicken Pitas – chicken is already a popular sandwich filling but try switching up the flavours by making a British classic: coronation chicken.

Coronation Chicken Pitas

  • 2 tbsp natural Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp mild curry powder
  • 1 tsp mango chutney
  • 1/4 ripe mango, peeled and chopped into small 2cm pieces (if available)
  • Small bunch of cilantro leaves (about 5), chopped (optional)
  • 1.5-2 ounces of roast chicken, chopped into 2 cm pieces
  • 1 green leaf lettuce, washed & torn
  • 2 mini whole grain pitas

Add the yogurt, curry powder, chutney together in a bowl and mix to combine. Fold in the chicken, fresh mango and cilantro. Fill two mini whole grain pitas with chicken mixture and a few pieces of fresh green leaf lettuce.

More Information:

  • Cancer Below the Belt:
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Packed Lunches Made Easy

As much as we may be looking forward to the return of school, the idea of another 10 months of packed lunches can seem daunting. But it doesn’t have to be.

A Few Quick Tips:

  • If your child doesn’t eat this food at home, don’t pack it in their lunch. This is not the time to try new foods.
  • Some repetition is ok. If kids love a chicken sandwich, you can give them a chicken sandwich quite regularly. Just try to avoid the exact same meal 5 days in a row week after week.
  • Don’t panic if it appears that your child survives on air during the day. See my post on Skimpy School Time Eating
  • Whatever they miss out on, try to supplement at breakfast or dinner. If you find your child never touches their veggies or fruit in their packed lunch, try adding more to the menu before or after school. Fruit smoothies in the morning are a great way to pack in a couple servings of fruit and raw veggies with hummus or guacamole is a great after-school snack.
  • For picky or light eaters focus on nutrient dense homemade bars or muffins like the sugarless pumpkin muffins or blueberry power bars (recipes below).

Filling the Lunch Box

Let’s first look at what should (ideally) go into a lunch box. Remember that the contents of the lunch box will contribute about 1/3rd of your child’s daily diet for 5 out of 7 days a week, assuming it is eaten. That’s a lot of food, so in a perfect world we want to fill it with foods that pack a nutritional punch.

2-3 Fruits & VegetablesChildren need a minimum of 5 servings of fruit and veg a day in order to obtain all their nutrient needs, including vitamin C, potassium, folic acid and fibre. Fibre is filling and slows the absorption of sugar, particularly from fruit. Keep it simple- raw crunchy veggies:
Sugar snap peas
Bell peppers
Cherry tomatoes
Sugar snap peas
Cooked in a thermos: · carrots, peas, corn, cauliflower with butter and new potatoes
Easy to pack fruits:
Mandarin oranges
Add chopped fruits & veggies to whole grain salads.
1-2 Whole Grains / Starchy VegetablesChoosing whole grain products will not only provide more nutrients, but will keep your children satisfied for longer due to the added fibre and protein contained in whole grains.Whole grain breads, pitas and wraps are always an option for sandwich style lunches but also try:
Quinoa salad with black beans, corn and tomatoes
Try to avoid sugar-laden refined flour products like store bought muffins, cookies or sweet breads which will spike their blood sugar and leave your children tired and hungry during afternoon classes.Wild rice salad with apple, celery and raisins
Roasted yams with kale (warm in thermos)
Beef and barley stew
Whole grain crackers: Nairn Oat Cakes, Mary’s Gone Crackers with pumpkin seed butter or hummus
1 Protein FoodKids need between 1-3 servings of protein rich food a day depending upon their age and size. Protein satisfies the appetite and keeps blood sugar steady. It’s not just meat! Plant protein is a wonderful choice as it is high in both protein and fibre-rich carbohydrates. Black beans with corn, salsa and melted cheese
Chick peas with cucumber, feta and peppers
Thermos of lentil soup
Container of edamame
Pitas filled with canned salmon, sardines, or fresh shrimp.
Flax wraps filled with egg salad, slices of turkey, nitrate-free ham, lean beef, or pork tenderloin
1 Calcium FoodChildren need between 2-4 servings of calcium-rich foods a day depending on age. Drinking cow, soy, or almond milk with meals is an easy way to reach this goal. These products provide calcium and vitamin D for growing bones. Be aware that not all milk alternatives are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Be sure to read the label.

Other great non-dairy sources of calcium include tinned salmon with bones, edamame, white beans, almonds (not at school), broccoli, sesame seeds, leafy greens like kale and collard.
With dairy or dairy alternatives choose sugar free options as much as possible:
Milk, soy milk, cottage cheese, babybel, unsweetened yogurt
Healthy FatsHealthy fats optimize brain development and function particularly in children. They also add flavour to foods. Nuts are not allowed in elementary schools but seeds & their butters are – pumpkin, sunflower, flax and sesame – combine with raisins for school-safe trail mix
Olive oil based salad dressing
Hummus & bean dips with tahini
Fatty fish: canned salmon, mackerel & sardines

Whole fruits, vegetables, protein and whole grains are satiating and slowly absorbed. Having the bulk of the lunchbox filled with these natural, unprocessed foods will not only help children meet their nutritional needs, but also allow them to concentrate and thrive in the classroom.

For more ideas watch CTV Morning Live on Monday September 6th where I’ll be presenting some other fresh ideas for Back to School Lunches.


PUMPKIN BANANA MUFFINS (gluten, dairy and sugar-free!)


  • 1 ¼ cups chickpea flour (for kids allowed nuts or weekend treats, ground almonds work well)
  • ¼ cup ground flax seeds
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 large ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin pan with paper liners or use coconut oil to grease pan.

In a large bowl mix together chickpea flour, ground flax seeds, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt.  Set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together eggs, pumpkin, banana, and vanilla extract. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix to combine.

Scoop batter into prepared muffin pan cups filling ¾ full. Bake muffins for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden.

Makes 12 muffins.

Tip: If your kids balk at the lack of sweetness, I sometimes use the trick of adding one small piece of 85% chocolate on top of each muffin. It is the first bite they take and that tends to seal the deal.


blueberry bars croppedIngredients

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseeds
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 cup unsweetened whole-grain puffed cereal (Kashi or Brown Rice Krispies)
  • ½ cup dried blueberries
  • ½ cup chopped dried apricots
  • 3/4 cup creamy unsweetened school-safe seed butter (pumpkin, sunflower or soybean)
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat an 8-inch-square pan with cooking spray.

Spread oats, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and chia seeds on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the oats are lightly toasted and the nuts are fragrant, shaking the pan halfway through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add cereal, dried blueberries and apricots; toss to combine.

Combine seed butter, honey, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low, stirring frequently, until the mixture bubbles lightly, 2 to 5 minutes.

Immediately pour the seed butter & honey mixture over the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon or spatula until no dry spots remain. Transfer to the prepared pan. Lightly coat your hands with cooking spray and press the mixture down firmly to make an even layer (wait until the mixture cools slightly if necessary). Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes; cut into 8 bars.

See other great recipes for the lunch box on my recipe pages:


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Irritable Bowel Syndrome & FODMAPs

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common functional gut disorders affecting between 9-23% of people in Canada and the US. It is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence and altered bowel habits. While many people suffer only mild, intermittent symptoms, others have more severe reaction that affects their quality of life.

An Australian research team has developed a dietary therapy to help ease the symptoms of IBS and other functional gut disorders (constipation, abdominal bloating, diarrhea, and other unspecified bowel disorders) by identifying and limiting a group of specific foods called FODMAPs.

The acronym FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols which is used to describe a group of fermentable short-chain carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are most likely to be fermented by our gut bacteria causing gas, bloating and diarrhea. Limiting the global amount of FODMAPs in one’s diet has been shown to reduce symptoms of IBS and other functional gut disorders in many (but not all) people.

The list of FODMAP foods to limit or avoid can, at first, appear overwhelming (list below). It spans the gamut of regular go-to foods like apples, bread and yogurt. If you suffer from IBS or other gut disorders and wish to try a low-FODMAP diet you may wish to enlist the help of an experienced nutritionist or dietician. It is possible that nutritional deficiencies could develop over time if a variety of low-FODMAP foods are not consumed.

The FODMAP diet is not intended to be followed for life. It is a plan to help identify and minimize the most troublesome foods for each individual. As you can see, the vast majority of FODMAP foods are extremely healthy and provide important nutrients and fibre to feed our friendly bacteria in our gut. We don’t want to ban all these nutritious nuggets forever, but simply limit one’s overall consumption of the most troublesome FODMAPs that trigger symptoms of IBS.

If you do want to give it a go by yourself, try eliminating the high FODMAP foods from the list below for a period of two weeks. If your symptoms improve, try adding small portions of foods from one category of the FODMAP list, for example, a few cashews from the fructan group. Continue to slowly add foods one at a time back into your meal plan noting any symptoms that occur in a food diary so you are able to identify those that are the most problematic.

While on this plan ensure you eat a wide variety of low FODMAP foods from the list below. Aim to consume at least 7 servings from the vegetables list each day. Great choices include dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, Swiss chard and spinach, as well as, tomatoes, carrots and green beans. (See recipe for Kale Chips below).

Don’t simply opt for gluten-free bread; eat whole, non-gluten grains like oatmeal, quinoa, wild rice and millet. Berries are nutritional powerhouses, so snacking on berries is a great way to help meet your nutritional needs. See the full list of low-FODMAP foods below.

A note of caution, the long-term safety of the FODMAP diet is still to be determined. There are concerns for those following the diet for prolonged periods of time, in particular –

  • whether there is a potential increase in risk for developing colon cancer
  • what are the potential consequences of reducing prebiotics for healthy gut bacteria
  • potential development of nutritional deficiencies if followed for prolonged period of time

Be aware that there are many out-dated FODMAP lists on the internet. The best resources come from Monash University where much of the primary research has been undertaken.


FructansGalactansLactoseExcess FructosePolyols 
OligosaccharideOligosaccharideDisaccharidesMonosaccharidesSugar Alcohols
Vegetables: artichokes, aspargus, beets, garlic, leek, onions, raddichioLegumes: chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, baked beans, soybeans, soy milk, soy flourMilk Products: cow, sheep and goat's milk, ice cream, yogurtFruits: apples, pears, mangoes, figs, watermelonFruits: apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines, pears, plums, prunes
Grains: gluten grains- wheat, barley, rye and inulinCheese: ricotta, cottage cheese, mascarponeSweeteners: agave, high fructose corn syrup, honeyVegetables: avocados, cauliflower, green pepper, mushrooms, pumpkin, snow peas
Nuts: cashews, pistachiosSweeteners: sorbitol, mannitol, isomalt, maltitol, xylitol


OK FructansOK Galactans OK LactoseOK FructoseOK Polyols
Vegetables: carrots, green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, chard, kale, lettuce, corn, eggplant, bell peppers, summer squash, zucchini, turnipsLegumes: firm tofuLactose-free milk and milk productsFruits: ripe bananas, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapefruit, oranges, limes, lemons, kiwi, grapes, honeydew, rhubarb, pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydewFruits: ripe bananas, blueberries, raspberries, grapes, grapefruit, honeydew, kiwi, lemons, limes, oranges.
Gluten free grains: rice, corn, quinoa, buckwheat, oats, millet, amaranthCheese: hard cheese: cheddar, parmesan, swiss, mozzarella. Ripened cheese: feta, brie, camembert Sweeteners: table sugar, maple syrupSweeteners: table sugar, glucose

Kale Chips

  • 1 bunch curly kale
  • Drizzle olive oil (about 1-2 teaspoons)
  • Pinch of good quality sea salt

Preheat an oven to 300 degrees F.

With a knife or kitchen shears remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner or tea towel. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
Bake for about 10 minutes and then rotate the pan. Bake for another 5-10 minutes or until the edges are brown and crisp but not burnt.


De Giorgio R1, Volta U1, Gibson PR2. Sensitivity to wheat, gluten and FODMAPs in IBS: facts or fiction? Gut. 2015 Jun 15. pii: gutjnl-2015-309757. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2015-309757.

Mansueto P1, Seidita A2, D’Alcamo A2, Carroccio A3. Role of FODMAPs in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Review. Nutr Clin Pract. 2015 Feb 18. pii: 0884533615569886. 

Marsh A1, Eslick EM, Eslick GD. Does a diet low in FODMAPs reduce symptoms associated with functional gastrointestinal disorders? A comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Nutr. 2015 May 17.

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Is Fasting All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

A Google search on “fasting” elicits over 36 million hits. Needless to say, it’s a hot topic.

Fasting simply means a voluntary abstinence from food and drink (not including water). It’s not new; it has been practiced by numerous cultures and religions throughout the world for millennia.

But studies, particularly on mice, have shown fasting may help weight loss and improve metabolic health markers, such as blood lipids (fat) and blood sugar regulation.

There are four main types of intermittent fasting:

  • Alternate Day Fasting: alternate a day of fasting with a day of eating normally.
  • Modified Fasting Regime: consume about 25% of energy needs on scheduled fasting days and eat as you would like on remaining days, example is 5:2 Diet.
  • Time- Restricted Feeding: eat normally for a set period of time (e.g. 12 hours) and then consume no food for a set period of time (e.g. 12 hours)
  • Religious Fasting: various fasting regimes undertaken for religious purposes such as Ramadan.

There have been very few human studies on Alternate Day or Modified Fasting Regimes. The few that do exist were very small and did not have control groups to compare the outcomes. However, these studies did show that the subjects lost weight and showed improvements in their blood glucose regulation and lipid profile, that is, they had a reduction in LDL cholesterol and total triglycerides. The downside is that both the alternate day fasting and modified fasting regime did not hold any benefits above a regular calorie reduction weight loss plan and many found the plans difficult to stick to. If you can’t stick to it, then long-term maintenance is impossible.

The evidence on time-restricted feeding is quite compelling. However, most research has been conducted on mice not humans. In one study the researchers gave slim mice a high fat diet and let them eat it all day long as much as they wanted. Those mice got fat. They took another group of mice and gave them a high fat diet but allowed them to eat it only during set hours of the day, so they were on a time-restricted feeding program. The mice stayed lean. Finally, they took another group of lean mice fed them a high fat diet and for 5 days restricted the time they were allowed to eat, but allowed them free access to food for the weekend. The result? Those mice stayed lean as well.

Interesting mice studies, but what about humans? A pilot study using human subjects gave the participants simple guidelines. They asked them to fast for 12 hours or more, ideally staring at 7pm; however, definitely no later than 8pm. They were not advised on what food to eat or how much, simply on when to eat it.

After one month the subjects had lost between 1.06- 1.53kg (2.3- 3.3 lbs). But what is even more noteworthy is the feedback they provided. Between 90-100% of participants said the fast:

  • was easy to adhere to
  • was very/ somewhat pleasant
  • would recommend it to a friend

As any frustrated dieter knows, it’s one thing to lose weight but keeping it off often proves the most challenging. Following a simple routine of ceasing eating after an early-ish dinner and not grazing, snacking or munching until breakfast time may be enough to see weight loss and overall benefits to health.

How Does It Work?

It’s hypothesized that nighttime fasting helps regulate our circadian rhythm. During daytime our bodies are hard-wired to eat, move and function. Testosterone is high, our blood pressure is up and melatonin is reduced. At nighttime, our body shifts into repair mode and uses stored energy for fuel. Intermittent fasting appears to be a circadian synchronizer and helps our metabolism stay in check.

It is also hypothesized that many functions of our gastro-intestinal tract exhibit robust circadian or 
sleep-wake rhythms and can even reduce the diversity of our microbiome (flora in our gut). Low-diversity in our microbiota is associated with increased levels of body fat, inflammation, triglycerides and insulin resistance, all of which are precursors to heart disease.

Of course, another factor into the mechanism of action as to why time-restricted feeding may prove to be beneficial is that if you don’t eat for 12-14 hours a day, you simply eat less. It can also reduce the amount of food consumed at night, which is ideal for weight maintenance (see Finally, time-restricted feeding also appears to help regulate our appetite hormones, such as leptin, ghrelin and xenin which are integral to maintaining a healthy body weight.

The Bottom Line

Further research on humans needs to be undertaken before we can conclude definitively that intermittent fasting is as effective on humans as it is on mice. However, limiting your eating to a 12 hour period may result in health benefits including weight loss, improved triglyceride levels and blood sugar control and be something that you can do for life. As I often say “do not start a diet that you cannot maintain for the rest of your life”.

Please Note: Intermittent Fasting is NOT for everyone.

Who Should Not Fast:

  • Children (under 18 years old)
  • People who are underweight or have an eating disorder
  • Type 1 diabetics and diabetics taking medication for their diabetes
  • Pregnant women or breast feeding mothers
  • People recovering from surgery
  • Anyone suffering from an underlying medical condition should speak to their doctor first
  • Those who are elderly and/or frail.
  • Those who are not sure about whether it may affect their prescribed medications should to speak to their doctor first.
  • People feeling unwell or have a fever
  • Those taking Warfarin should consult their doctor first



Carlson O1 et al., Ferrucci LIngram DKLongo DLRumpler WVBaer DJEgan JMattson MP. Impact of reduced meal frequency without caloric restriction on glucose regulation in healthy, normal-weight middle-aged men and women. Metabolism. 2007 Dec;56(12):1729-34.

Chaix, Zarrinpar, Miu, Panda. Time-Restricted Feeding Is a Preventative and Therapeutic Intervention against Diverse Nutritional Challenges. Cell Metabolism, Volume 20, Issue 6, 2014, 991 – 1005

Cotillard A1, et al., Dietary intervention impact on gut microbial gene richness. Nature. 2013 Aug 29;500(7464):585-8. doi: 10.1038/nature12480.

Halberg N1Henriksen MSöderhamn NStallknecht BPloug TSchjerling PDela F.Effect of intermittent fasting and refeeding on insulin action in healthy men. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2005 Dec;99(6):2128-36. Epub 2005 Jul 28.

Heilbronn LK, Civitarese AE, Bogacka I, Smith SR, Hulver M, Ravussin E. Glucose tolerance and skeletal muscle gene expression in response to alternate day fasting. Obes Res. 2005 Mar;13(3):574-81.

Heilbronn LK, Smith SR, Martin CK, Anton SD, Ravussin E. Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jan;81(1):69-73.

Horne BD1Muhlestein JBLappé DLMay HTCarlquist JFGalenko OBrunisholz KDAnderson JL. Randomized cross-over trial of short-term water-only fasting: metabolic and cardiovascular consequences. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2013 Nov;23(11):1050-7. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2012.09.007. Epub 2012 Dec 7.

LeCheminant JD1Christenson EBailey BWTucker LA. Restricting night-time eating reduces daily energy intake in healthy young men: a short-term cross-over study. Br J Nutr. 2013 Dec 14;110(11):2108-13. doi: 10.1017/S0007114513001359. Epub 2013 May 23.

Schiavo-Cardozo D1Lima MMPareja JCGeloneze B.Appetite-regulating hormones from the upper gut: disrupted control of xenin and ghrelin in night workers. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2013 Dec;79(6):807-11. doi: 10.1111/cen.12114. Epub 2013 Apr 5.




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5 Slimming Summer Salads

Everyone wants to look their best in the summer. But how do you shed those extra pounds that snuck on since Christmas?

It can be hard reducing the amount of food we eat or changing our usual go-to choices.  But here is one quick tip that can help you along your way.

Fuel for the day, lighten at night.

You’ve heard the old adage: eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper? It’s good advice, yet, culturally we tend to do the opposite. We need food to energize us through our busy day. But come evening time, activity levels reduce as we gear down for the night.

If you skip breakfast or eat small amounts through the day, your hunger will build and by the time 5pm rolls around, you are famished. You end up eating more than you would normally if you had a decent breakfast and lunch.

So start your day with a proper breakfast. Enjoy a lunch that satisfies you through the afternoon. If you are hungry at 4pm or so, have a healthy snack that will take the edge off your appetite. Prepare a lighter, vegetable-focussed dinner with a source of protein. When your plate is done, so are you. No second helpings.

Aim to eat about 3 hours before bed time so your body has a chance to digest your dinner and to reduce the chance of heart burn. Wake up hungry and ready to fuel for the next day.

Need some inspiration? Try these 5 Delicious Dinner Salads. One for each day of the work week.

For more info check out my segment on CTV Morning Live on Slimming Summer Salads:

Asian Shredded Chicken SaladIMG_5250

  • 3 ounces rotisserie chicken
  • 1 cup shredded napa cabbage
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • ½ red pepper julienned
  • small handful snow peas, cut on diagonal
  • cilantro – torn
  • 1 tablespoon black and white sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon slivered almonds


  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon honey

Combine all ingredients and toss with dressing. Can use pre-cut and washed broccoli slaw to save time! Serves 1.

Fava Bean & Asparagus SaladIMG_5249

  • ½ cup fava beans (about 10 pods), blanched for 1 minute and de-skinned
  • 5 asparagus spears
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 tablespoon torn fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon shaved pecorino cheese
  • 1 egg


  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare fava beans. Steam asparagus for 1 minute. In the meantime poach egg. Combine all ingredients for dressing and whisk together with a fork. Assemble salad by laying down arugula, top with asparagus, fava beans, mint and toss gently with lemon vinaigrette. Top with shaved pecorino cheese and poached egg. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves 1.

Grilled Prawns & Corn Summer SaladIMG_5247

  • 3-4 raw prawns, deveined, on skewer.
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cob of corn
  • Small head of butter lettuce
  • Handful of grape tomatoes
  • 1/3 of an avocado

Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe above)

Preheat BBQ and place cob of corn on hot grill. Turn regularly so each side turns golden brown and caramelized. Remove from heat to cool. Combine olive oil, garlic and lemon juice and brush onto prawns. Place prawns on grill and cook about 3 minutes a side depending on size. Continue to brush with garlic marinade.

Assemble salad by laying down butter lettuce, chopped tomatoes and avocadoes. Cut kernels off the cob of corn and sprinkled on top of lettuce. Toss gently with lemon vinaigrette. Add cooked skewered prawns to top. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves 1.


Spelt Salad with Strawberries, Mint & FetaIMG_5246

  • ½ cup of pre-cooked spelt (option to use quinoa)
  • ½ cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon torn mint
  • 2 radishes sliced
  • 1 ounce crumbled feta
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 2 cups spinach
  • Dressing: 2 teaspoons olive oil + drizzle (1 teaspoon or so) of balsamic vinegar

Combine first 6 ingredients and toss with ½ the amount of dressing. Assemble spinach on plate and place grain salad on top. Drizzle remaining dressing on top and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 1.

Thai Beef SaladIMG_5245

  • 3-4 ounce strip loin steak
  • 1 Thai chili, julienned
  • ¼ red onion, sliced
  • ½ cup cucumber, julienned
  • 2 cups spring mix lettuce
  • 1/3 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half or quarters
  • 4 leafs Thai basil, torn
  • ¼ cup torn cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon


  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced

Grill steak on BBQ until cooked to your liking. Make dressing by combining all ingredients and whisking together. Assemble salad by laying down spring mix lettuce, toping with cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. Lay sliced steak on top and drizzle dressing over top. Garnish with Thai basil, cilantro and peanuts.  Serves 1.







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Increasing Food Acceptance in Kids


Young girl holding broccoli and sticking tongue outMany parents worry that their children are not eating enough or enough of the right foods. Fussy eating can be incredibly frustrating for parents who are trying to create meals that every member of the family will eat night after night.

There is no one quick fix. It takes time for children to learn to like new foods. Most kids go through a picky phase at some stage in their development and some last longer than others. You may have a child who tries everything and likes almost everything, while others are just the opposite. If you have the latter in your house, fear not, it does get better, just very, very slowly.

Try not to limit your meals to only the food that your child currently accepts. Continue to bring new ingredients into your repertoire even if they have been previously rejected. They won’t learn to like it if they never see it, smell it or eventually try it.

Boy sitting at a table eating vegetable soup

That doesn’t mean serving your child a meal full of foods they dislike. Ensure there is something on the plate your child will eat. For example, if veggies are the problem but they like chicken, potatoes and fruit, serve all those things but add a few pieces of vegetables with it as well. I know they won’t eat it today and likely not next week or maybe even next month. However, they will watch you eat it; watch their siblings eat it; they will smell it; and they will see it on their plate. In essence, they are becoming familiar with this new food.

Familiarity breeds acceptance.

Familiarity is the first step on the journey towards acceptance.

It may take a number of “plate visits” (that is, no eating just watching) before a child accepts a new food. Each child is different and of course each food is different. Learning to like apples or strawberries may happen much faster than learning to like mushrooms or asparagus. We are playing the long game here folks.

As important as familiarity is, so too is an unpressurized environment. Avoid putting pressure on your child to eat the new food as this creates anxiety around eating. Your child may dig their heals in simply to save face and you have a battle on your hands that is less about the food and more about not giving in.

You can always suggest and lightly encourage that they try it, but leave it at that. Once children are sufficiently familiar with a food they are more likely to try it and more likely to accept it and return to it at future meals.


Familiarity with a food and eating in an unpressurized environment are the key factors to fostering food acceptance. Tasting a new food is ideal; however, smelling, touching and even just looking at a new food are also very helpful in giving a child the chance to become familiar with that food. So, with that in mind let’s look at a few tips to help foster familiarity with foods.

Tips for Fostering Familiarity

1. Take your child shopping with you.

Let them touch and sniff and smell the produce. Allow them to choose some items of the menu for that night. Try to incorporate both accepted and “not yet accepted” foods.

2. Let them help in the kitchen.IMG_5151

How much help your child can be will depend upon age; however, even little ones can pitch in. Buy child-safe scissors for the kitchen (so you aren’t tasting bits of glitter glue with your meal) for the cutting jobs. Here are just some examples of child-friendly tasks:

  • Top and tail green beans.
  • Snip pre sliced peppers into bite size pieces.
  • Cut herbs
  • Separate cauliflower into its florets.
  • Toss the salad (carefully)
  • Measure out ingredients and add to bowls.
  • Lay ingredients on pans before baking
  • Mash avocado with a fork
  • Squeeze citrus into bowl
  • Get out ingredients from cupboard, clear cutting boards to sink etc.Portrait of a happy father preparing a salad with his son in the kitchen

Bigger Kids can be even more help. Allow them to take charge of one dish, perhaps a salad or stir-fry (with supervision). Make sure they taste the food as they go like a real chef.

3. Serve Dinner Family Style

Children love to be independent and you may be surprised to see what your child serves himself when given the opportunity. You may want to invest in a Lazy Susan if you have little kids as they love spinning it so much they tend to put everything on their plate. That doesn’t mean they’ll eat it all tonight, but again, they are becoming familiar with it and maybe next time they’ll be ready to try it.

Favourite Family Meal: Turkey Tacos with Guacamole

This is a family meal that kids of all ages can help prepare. Let your little ones slice up the peppers with their scissors, measure out ingredients, mash the avocado, squirt the lemon etc.

Turkey Tacos

Serves a family of 4-5.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 small green pepper, chopped
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth or water
  • Small bunch of cilantro, snipped or chopped (optional)
  • 8 small whole grain soft tortillas

Optional Accompaniments:

  • Guacamole (see below)
  • Grated cheddar cheese (roughly 1 ounce per person)
  • Favourite Salsa
  • Natural Greek Yogurt
  • Shredded lettuce

Preheat oven to 350° F. Wrap tortillas in tin foil and place in oven until heated through, about 10 minutes.

Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add peppers and garlic, stir for another minute or two. Add turkey to pan and break apart the meat with the tip of a rubber spatula. Stir while cooking.

After about 5 minutes as the turkey cooks through, add spices, salt and tomato paste and cook for further minute. Add broth and stir. Turn heat down to a simmer and partially cover with a lid. Stir occasionally, until liquid becomes thick and clings to meat, about 5-10 minutes. Finish with cilantro, if desired. While meat is cooking, make the guacamole.


A bowl of fresh guacamole with corn tortilla chips. Intentional shallow depth of field.

  • 1 ripe avocado, stone removed and mashed with back of a fork in a bowl.
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • Half a clove of pressed garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • Options: finely chopped onion, finely chopped tomato, dash or two of hot sauce, cumin and coriander

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine. Taste and add any options your family would enjoy.

Put all the accompaniments in bowls on a Lazy Susan. Let kids serve themselves, although you may need to help them roll up the tortilla. Enjoy!

Check out more family friendly recipes here:

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What Are You Training For?

What are you Training For?Running woman

Spring is a time to start thinking about those summer fitness goals. What you are training for this year? It may be your first half marathon, perhaps a Gran Fondo (160 km cycle ride) or even an ironman triathlon.

Whatever your goals are, you will be sure to rigorously follow your training regime in order to accomplish your athletic aspirations. But did you know, that what you eat before, during and after your strenuous workouts is just as important as following your training schedule if you want to optimize performance?

Haley is now offering a Sports Nutrition Training Plan for athletes who wish to optimize performance in their sporting events. Click here for more information.


Daily Diet

If you are working out 5-6 times a week with an endurance even on your horizon, your daily diet should look something like this:

NutrientDaily Calories based on 2000 calorie diet.
55% Carbohydrates1100 calories per day
20% Protein400 calories per day
25% Fat500 calories per day

Some athletes training for ultra endurance events will need a higher amount of carbohydrates, up to 65% of their daily food intake.

When people think of “carbs” they often think first of bread and pasta. These can form a part of an athletes diet without a doubt. However, don’t forget that fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes are also nutritious sources of carbohydrates.

Starting your day with a bowl of oatmeal, topped with banana slices, Greek yogurt with fresh berries and a hard boiled egg would provide a good balance of carbs, protein and fat. As you can see, a low-carb diet has no place in a sports performance diet.

During TrainingRBC Whistler Gran Fondo 2014_Haley_low res

If the event you are training for will last longer than 90 minutes, you will benefit from added fuel before, during and after your event. “Fuel” tends to mean carbohydrates with a smaller amount of protein mixed in. Studies have long shown the benefits of fueling up with carbohydrates for moderate to intense exercise of longer duration; however, adding protein with the carbohydrates further augments the effect.

Take a look at the table to figure out how much fuel you need depending upon the intensity and duration of your workout.

Exercise intensity/sportDurationGrams of Carbs Before ExerciseGrams of Carbs During ExerciseGrams of Carbs After Exercise
Intermittent high-intensity (cycling/run with hills or sprints)60-90 mins20-25 grams 30-60 grams60-80 grams /hour for 3-4 hours
Moderate to high-intensity aerobic >90mins20-50 grams +60-80 grams per hour plus ≈20 g protein60-80 grams every 2-4 hours for rest of day. Plus 25 g protein
Moderate-intensity aerobic endurance>5 hours20-50 grams +60-100 grams/ hour plus ≈ 20 g protein60-80 grams every 2-3 hours for rest of day (& perhaps next day). Plus 25 g protein

Before exercise refers to 10-15mins of the start of exercise and not your “pre-race meal”.

That’s a lot of fuel, which is why athletes tend to rely upon sports nutrition aids like gels, chews, energy bars and drinks like Gatorade. These have the added benefit of being calorie dense without a lot of bulk. It’s hard to eat a bowl of pasta while running a marathon. Drinking Gatorade (or other carbohydrate electrolyte solution drinks) regularly and throwing back an energy bar and gel each hour can help you get to where you need to be to optimize performance.Women Competing in Open Water Swim Race

See the table for rich sources of carbohydrates. Cyclists may be able to manage a banana and bagel; whereas swimmers won’t be so lucky.

Rich Sources of Carbohydrates Grams of CarbohydrateGrams of Protein
Power Bar 40 g20 g
Power Bar Gel 28 g
Clif Bar 40-45 g10-12 g
1 pack Honey Stinger Chews39 g
Gu Chomps23 g
Banana25-30 g2 g
Pear, apple, orange15-20 g1 g
1 piece whole wheat bread15-20 g4-8 g
Bagel45 g10-12 g
Gatorade 240ml/8oz14g. Note: drinking 8 oz every 15mins = about 60g of carb/hour.

After the Event or Long Workout

Just because your workout or event is over, it doesn’t meat your nutrition plan has ended. If you have worked out for over 90-120 minutes, you will need to eat between 1-1 ½ grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight at regular intervals to adequately restore your body’s glycogen stores for your next workout. Adding at least 25-30 grams of protein to your meals will help build muscle, reduce soreness and improve hydration levels.

Sample meal ideas:Turkey Sandwich

  • Turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread and yogurt
  • Bagel with peanut butter, jam and banana slices.
  • Pasta with tomato sauce and chicken and whole grain roll
  • Filet of salmon with wild rice, vegetables & corn on the cob
  • Lean pork tenderloin, roasted butternut squash and polenta
  • Tofu stir-fry with veggies and brown rice, fruit & yogurt

Make sure you consume your first snack within 30-45 minutes after your workout. This is your “anabolic window” when your body is most receptive to nutrients to build muscle and replenish its lost stores. So the final tip: stretch, eat, then shower.

Want more information? Contact me to arrange a consultation for your own Personalized Sports Nutrition Plan.

Don’t forget to check out the Recipe page for delicious, nutritious meals and snacks for you and your family.


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Cancer: Below the Belt

perfect slim waist

Colorectal cancer is the third-most commonly diagnosed cancer in spite of being one of the more preventable cancers. Only lung and breast cancer beat out colorectal in terms of number of world-wide diagnoses.

It is estimated that between 50-90% of all colorectal cancers (CRC) are preventable through lifestyle choices and early detection.

Not all risk factors are within our control; however, such as age, race and familial origin, that is, whether CRC runs in your family. 90% of all CRCs occur in persons over the age of 50 with the average age of diagnosis being 70. Those of African American descent have the highest rate of contracting CRC, followed by white, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and finally First Nations.

We can’t do anything about age, race or our genetic fate; however, we are in control of our lifestyle choices. Let’s first take a look at factors that increase the risk of CRC.

 Lifestyle Choices that Increase the Risk of CRC:


Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think people choose to be obese. However, obtaining and maintaining a healthy body weight can, with a little help, be within our control.

Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30. You calculate your BMI by simply dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared. For example:


Weight: 60kg

Height: 170cm =1.7m (1.7×1.7=2.89)

60/2.89 = BMI of 20.7


A healthy BMI range is between 18.5-24.9. A BMI of 25-29.9 is considered “over weight” and obese is above 30. Those that are obese have a 19% increase in their risk of developing CRC.

If weight loss is something that is on your “to do” list, don’t wait any longer. If you need a little help, feel free to contact me for a consultation. You can start by reading some practical weight loss tips here:

Red & Processed Meatchopped bacon and salami on a plate

Both red and processed meat are associated with an increase risk in CRC. How much of an increases risk is dependent upon amount and frequency of consumption.

Needless to say, aim to keep your red meat consumption on the low-end and avoid processed meat as much as possible. Processed meats are those preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives such as hot dogs, salamis, ham, bacon, pastrami, and bologna.

Both the Mediterranean and Anti-inflammatory Diets are associated with a lower risk of certain cancers. These diets are rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and fish while red meat is consumed very infrequently.

Alcohol IntakeDifferent kinds of alcohol on a white background

Alcohol intake is strongly linked to the risk of developing cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, female breast and colorectum, particularly in men.

Like red and processed meat, this risk factor is dose dependent. Heavier drinkers will have an increased risk of CRC compared to lighter drinkers. In order to reduce your risk of CRC, the Canadian Cancer Society recommends having less than:

  • 1 drink a day for women
  • 2 drinks a day for men

A drink is:

  • one 341 mL (12 oz) bottle of beer (5% alcohol)
  • one 142 mL  (5 oz) glass of wine (12% alcohol)
  • one 43 mL  (1.5 oz) shot of spirits (40% alcohol)

Lifestyle Choices that Decrease the Risk of CRC:Profile of woman jogging on grass

Regular Physical Activity

On the plus side of things, those that undertake regular physical activity reduce their risk by a whopping 24%!

If you currently workout aim for 2.5 hours of vigorous exercise per week plus two strength training workouts. If you are just getting started then aim for 20-30 minutes a day of getting your heart rate up. Walking is a great way to start. As your stamina increases so too should your workouts.

High Fibre Dietvegetables and fruit

Those that consume over 20 grams of dietary fibre a day reduce their risk of CRC by 25%. Diets rich in vegetables, fruits and intact grains repeatedly show significant protection against fatal CRC.

The positive effects of a high fibre diet on CRC risk are numerous. Firstly, it reduces fecal transit time by increasing stool bulk. It also minimizes contact time between potential carcinogens in the colonic constituents and the lining of the colon. Fermentation of fibre in the colon creates short-chain fatty acids which have been shown to protect the cells in the lining of the colon.

Eating a wide variety of colourful vegetables and fruit will not only increase the fibre content of your diet but will also provide a rich source of antioxidants and phytochemicals which help protect against cellular damage and tumour growth.

Calcium & Vitamin D

Those who have higher circulating levels of calcium and vitamin D have a reduced risk of CRC. A recent study showed that vitamin D is able to interact with our immune system to raise the body’s defences against cancer. Calcium may help reduce proliferation and induce cancer cell death (apoptosis) in colonic cells.Calcium sources

Foods rich in calcium include low fat dairy or dairy alternatives, such as soy or almond milk, as well as, edamame and natural soy products, almonds, molasses, white beans. The best source of vitamin D is, of course, the sun. However, during the winter months you may wish to speak to your doctor as to whether a vitamin D supplement is right for you.


Regular fish consumption was also shown to reduce the incidence of CRC by 12%. It is thought that the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish, particularly oily fish, may be involved in the protective effect as they have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation can exacerbate tumour cell growth.salmon

Those fish highest in omega 3 fatty acids include: salmon, sardines, mackerel (not smoked), anchovies, herring and sablefish.

Interestingly, studies have also shown that omega 3s may help prevent a recurrence of CRC when combined with certain chemotherapy medications.

Finally: Screening

Cancer is currently the leading cause of death in Canada. Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers and this information is to arm you with the tools you need to reduce your risk as much as possible.

The final bullet in our arsenal of CRC prevention is screening. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that men and women age 50 and over have a stool test at least every 2 years. There is convincing evidence that stool tests with appropriate follow-up can significantly reduce deaths from colorectal cancer.

Recipe: you won’t miss the meat with this hardy plant based stew loaded with nutrients and fibre. Have you checked out the recipe database yet? If not, click here for a full list of delicious and nutritious recipes


EGGPLANT & CHICKPEA STEWeggplant or aubergine vegetable

Serves 8 (great for leftovers)


  • 2 large eggplants, chopped 1 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 teaspoon(s) dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 can (28-ounce) tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley or cilantro


Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil to hot pan and add chopped eggplant. Stir frequently for about 5-7 minutes so it starts to brown. Transfer to side plate.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened about 3 minutes. Add peppers, zucchini, garlic, oregano, cinnamon stick, salt, pepper, bay leaf,; cook, stirring, for 3 minutes until veggies start to soften. Add tin of tomatoes and bring to a light boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Partially cover pot with lid and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until all veggies are soft, about 20 minutes. Add chickpeas and warm through for one final minute.

Top with fresh parsley or cilantro.

Note: can be made head of time and reheated or enjoyed the next day for lunch.

Fibre: 12 grams per 1 ¼ cup serving.


Bamia C et al Mediterranean diet and colorectal cancer risk: results from a European cohort. Eur J Epidemiol. 2013 Apr;28(4):317-28. doi: 10.1007/s10654-013-9795-x. Epub 2013 Apr 12.

Mahfouz EM, Sadek RR, Abdel-Latief WM, Mosallem FA, Hassan EE. The role of dietary and lifestyle factors in the development of colorectal cancer: case control study in Minia, Egypt. Cent Eur J Public Health. 2014 Dec;22(4):215-22.

Roswall N1, Weiderpass E2. Alcohol as a Risk Factor for Cancer: Existing Evidence in a Global Perspective.J Prev Med Public Health. 2015 Jan;48(1):1-9. Epub 2015 Jan 27.

Skender B et al. DHA-mediated enhancement of TRAIL-induced apoptosis in colon cancer cells is associated with engagement of mitochondria and specific alterations in sphingolipid metabolism. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2014 Sep;1841(9):1308-17. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2014.06.005.

Song M1, Garrett WS2, Chan AT3. Nutrients, Foods, and Colorectal Cancer Prevention. Gastroenterology. 2015 Jan 6. pii: S0016-5085(15)00011-6. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2014.12.035. [Epub ahead of print]

Vasudevan A et al. Omega-3 fatty acid is a potential preventive agent for recurrent colon cancer. Cancer  Prev Res (Phila). 2014 Nov;7(11):1138-48. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-14-0177.

Wang Q, Hao J, Guan Q, Yuan W1. The mediterranean diet and gastrointestinal cancers risk. Recent Pat Food Nutr Agric. 2014;6(1):23-6.

Wang YM1, Zhou QY, Zhu JZ, Zhu KF, Yu CH, Li YM. Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis: Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Colorectal Serrated Polyp. Dig Dis Sci. 2015 Jan 25. 

Yu XF1, Zou J1, Dong J1. Fish consumption and risk of gastrointestinal cancers: a meta-analysis of cohort studies. World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Nov 7;20(41):15398-412. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i41.15398.

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