Friday, November 12, 2010

Tasty Granola Bars

Alrighty here is a quick and easy recipe for healthy granola bars. I found it at the link below and made a couple of adjustments. Honestly, these bars have it all: protein, low glycemic index, omega-3's and tons of fibre. I make them, freeze them and them take them out one at a time. If you cut the recipe into about 20 bars they will be 150 calories each. This is a perfect amount of calories for a snack. Enjoy!

1 cup dried date pieces or 10 dates, diced
1 cup water, more or less
3/4 cup almond butter
1/2 cup walnuts chopped
1/2 cup of peptia seeds (shelled pumpkin seeds)
1/2 cup Honey
1/2 cup old fashioned oats 
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup dried fruit, chopped (I used craisins)
1/4 cup flaxmeal (ground flaxseed)
1 Tbs of cocoa powder (full of antioxidants!)

In a saucepan over low heat, heat all the ingredients until they are thoroughly mixed. If it is too watery add more oats or almond butter, if it is too thick add applesauce or more water. 
Lay parchment paper in baking sheet and spread mixture over the paper. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake for 20-25 minutes and then put in the refrigerator for an hour. Then Enjoy... oh yeah and don't forget portion control. Although these have tons of nutrients they can be calorie dense if you overdo it. My advice cut them up and put them in the freezer. Happy Friday!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Red Wine and Health

Festive Fitness Challenge Day 6. I think our bodies are done going through sugar withdrawal after Halloween! Sticking to whole grains has not been hard. I have made a couple of throw together chicken and quinoa salads; the recipes are not worth posting at this point. In addition, I have made buckwheat and steal cut oats for breakfast. Yum.

Totally switching gears, a couple of weeks ago someone asked me about the benefits of red wine. The question was, "are these benefits just confined to red wine or can other types of alcohol be beneficial to your health?". So here is what I have found.


Up to this point researchers have claimed that red wine has the following health benefits: 
1.) Antioxidant
2.) Anti-inflammatory
4.) Tumor Supression and decrease in Colon cancer

The Latest:
1.) Antioxidant Properties: 
Ethanol: The main compent in all alchols, wine or other, actually increases oxidation in our bodies. Oxidation leads to an increase in free radicals which can damage our blood vessels and increase our risk of cardiovascular disease.

Why is wine different? Red wine in particular, contains polyphenols which have antioxidant properties.
Because alcohol increases the amount of oxidative stress the question becomes, does red wine have anti-oxidant properties above and beyond those that will reverse the oxidation they cause themselves?
The answer to this is not certain. Studies suggest that there are too many confounding variables to be certain. For example, people who drink red wine tend to have healthier diets and exercise more.

2.) Anti-inflammatory:
Ethanol increases the amount of HDL, good cholesterol. If too much alcohol is consumed in one sitting there is a decrease in HDL. In addition, ethanol will decrease oxidation of LDL; however, this will occur more for some ethnic groups more than others.  Ethanol has also been found to reduce other markers of inflammation and decrease clot formation.

3.) Tumor suppression and decrease in colon cancer:
This benefit is from red wine only. The polyphenols, in particular, resveratrol have been studied in the role of cancer suppression and prevention. Red wine has been shown to block carcinogens and inhibit the growth of tumours. This role however, cannot be contributed to the alcohol, but to the grape skins themselves.

So now that we are thoroughly confused about the health benefits vs health decrements of alcohol, lets summarize. Ethanol, independent of red wine, does have some anti-inflammatory properties that decrease risk of cardiovascular disease. Red wine on the other hand, may also have antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties.

So now the real question becomes how much should one drink? There is a J shaped relationship between alcohol consumption and decrements to ones health. This means if you drink more than what is recommended you decrease the health benefits of the alcohol. When one is intoxicated their body is actually in a toxic state. In particular, your liver cannot break down the alcohol as fast as you are ingesting it. In general, men should consume no more than two glasses of alcohol a day and women no more than one glass. In addition, one glass is equivalent to one shot, one beer or one 150mL glass of wine.  If too much alcohol is consumed you get an increase in blood pressure and inflammation in the body. An increase to just three drinks a day is associated with significant increase in adverese health effects: increased blood triglycerides, heart disease, hypertension and stroke. So if you currently don't consume alcohol or red wine should you start? I would say scientific evidence does not go that far. My best advice is to keep a healthy diet, active lifestyle and decrease your stress in a healthy way.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Festive Fitness Challenge Day -1

Well one more day until my house starts the festive fitness challenge. It is Halloween and our house is overflowing with candy. That means tonight is going to end with a stomach ache and tomorrow will start with a sugar hangover. We took most of the day to hang out; we did lunch, groceries and a movie. Now we are just waiting for the first bunch of kids to show up for the junk.

For our dietary challenge we will be giving up junk, as usual. This means no chocolate, candy or chips. It is funny, we are both very healthy eaters by day, however, when 8pm hits all bets are off. I will also be giving up processed grains. This will be challenge but I hope to explore the world of whole grain options while I do it. I believe whole grains are an essential part of a healthy diet so I hope to find some new recipes.

So far I have picked up the following: steal cut oats, bulgar, millet, barely, long grain rice, kasha (buckwheat), and quinoa.

Whole Grain Facts:
What is the deal with whole grains anyways?
A whole grain consists of three parts: the endosperm, the bran and the germ. Whole grains are beneficial to your health because they are high in fibre, nutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals. So why give up processed grains? When processing grains part of the endosperm, bran and germ are taken out. In Canada, manufacturers must fortify grains with vitamins and minerals if they refine them. Having said that, the fibre, antioxidants and phytochemicals in these products are lost. Fibre is a major player in decreasing our risk of disease; fibre maintains healthy digestion, aids in lowering our cholesterol and helps us feel fuller, longer. When consuming grains one should try to ingest half of their grains from whole grain sources. In order to get the most benefit out of your grains I recommend consuming them in their unprocessed, unrefined form.
So what should I look for?
In Canada and the United States you should look for the word "whole grain" on the label and in the ingredient list. Just because something says it is "whole wheat" or "multi grain" does not mean that it is whole grain. Also keep in mind ingredients are listed from greatest in quantity to least. If you are picking a product that has whole grain as one of the last ingredients you might want to choose again. There are no regulations on using the word "multigrain" so seeing this on the label has no bearing on whole grain content.
Types of whole grains:
Brown Rice

Alright all, signing off for the night. Good luck in the upcoming days and remember the beginning of a new dietary change is always the hardest. Stay strong!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Festive Fitness Challenge is here! Come one come all. 

Three years ago it dawned on me that everyone has something they want to change about their health: be it their lifestyle, their fitness or their body. This got me thinking, what stops them? I think the number one answer is motivation! We live in a society of distractions. We may recognize we need a change, however, we often don’t make it until our bodies break down on us. Well lets not wait! A great deal of the risk factors of disease are preventable. In addition if you are already living with a disease, changes in lifestyle can make it more comfortable and can even slow the progression of that disease. So, out of all of this the “Family Fitness Challenge” was born. As a family we made individual eating and exercise goals. We promised to keep them for a month and had a little prize at the end. Over the years numerous people have asked if they could join. Everyone needs motivation to make and maintain lifestyle changes. So I say lets do it. Come one come all to the first annual Festive Fitness Challenge. 

The Guidelines: 
You need to pick the 30 day challenge or the 45 day challenge. Everyone makes one fitness goal and one dietary goal. For fitness you need to workout a MINIMUM of 3 times a week for 30 minutes. Don’t stop there though, push yourself to 4 or 5 times when you are ready.  For the dietary goal you need to cut something from your diet. Goals of the past have been junk food, eating after dinner, coke, popcorn etc. The key is too pick something that will affect your daily eating habits. The dietary goal should be small enough that is attainable but something that is challenging. 

I would love to hear about everyones progress here on the blog. 

For Forms: Email, I will email them to you

Lets see how many people you can get to join you. Good luck!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday date night pasta

Well I have another weekend of studying ahead of me. Because I am a geek at heart I am actually looking forward to it. Having said that, I always find making food and cleaning the kitchen really annoying when I am studying. The solution? I made a pasta dish that will last us two nights. This dish is about three recipes mashed together. After eating, Andrew and I decided to shell out the following advice: first if you like "kick" add some crushed red pepper, second if you want more protein add chicken. Next time we will try adding some sun-dried tomatoes and maybe some artichoke hearts. Yum! Hope you enjoy.

1 zuchinni
1 red bell pepper
3 cups of spinach
5 medium mushrooms
1 red onion
1 can of diced tomatoes
3 Tbs EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
3 cloves of garlic
pinch of basil, oregano and rosemary
1 cup of low fat mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup of low fat feta cheese
1 box (Approximately 500grams of fusilli pasta)

First add the EVOO, garlic, spices and onion to the pan. Cook over medium heat until onions are soft. Add the rest of the vegetables and 1/2 a can of diced tomatoes.
Cook the veggies until the zucchini is soft. Drain off any excess juices. Add veggies, cooked pasta and cheese together and mix thoroughly. 

Pour ingredients into your baking dish, sprinkle low fat parmesan cheese on top and cook at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes.

Serve and enjoy! We did. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Obese Children Show Signs of CVD

Check out this article. We were told in school yesterday that kids being born in this generation have a life expectancy less than their parents! What is the main cause? Obesity. Some contributing factors being: we are too busy, we eat out too often, and the unhealthy choices are more readily available than the healthy ones.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cholesterol and Omega-3's

As discussed in my previous post on cholesterol, increasing dietary consumption of Omega-3 fats aids in the reduction of LDL lipid levels. It has long been shown that people who follow a Mediterranean style diet have better lipids profiles than those who consume a North American diet. The Mediterranean diet is characterized by: fruits, vegetables, seeds, legumes, fish 2x per week, lean meats, very little red meat, extra virgin olive oil, herbs and spices instead of salt, and red wine in moderation.

A recent study looked in-depth the the role of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) in the Mediterranean diet. Following a six week period of increasing EVOO consumption at breakfast participants showed decrease in gene expression for genes related to obesity, bad cholesterol, type two diabetes and the inflammatory process. In short they decreased their risk of serious disease and most importantly heart disease. Please remember that every study has its short comings, however we can still take principles away from this one. (1)

So this is all great information but how do we apply it to our lives?
1.) Decrease the intake of saturated and trans fats.
2.) Increase your intake of unsaturated fats.

  • Most importantly increase your omega-3 consumption. A great way to increase omega-3's, one of the most important unsaturated fats, is to add fish to your diet. Studies have shown that consuming just two servings of fish, 6oz each, twice weekly can decrease your risk of heart disease. Tuna and salmon have the highest levels of omega 3's. In addition it is suggested that you take a Omega-3 DHA/EPA supplement on the days that you do not consume fish.(2) 
  • If you are not a fan of fish some of the best non-seafood sources of omega 3's are flaxseeds, walnuts and fortified soy beverages. Keep in mind nuts are high in calories and perhaps try to only consume a 1/4 cup a day. 
  • In addition, when cooking try to move away from peanut oil, coconut oil, and palm oil. Try using  EVOO and canola oil. When using these oils you should also try to have them at room temperature where possible. Cooking of these oils actually breaks down the good fats and reduces their nutritional power. Try adding them to salad dressing etc.
Hope these tips help. As I close my night I am exhausted from class but look forward to the coming posts regarding our upcoming fitness challenge! And I close with this amazing quote.
He that takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the skills of the physician.” – Chinese proverb

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Cholesterol is a big player in the development of atherosclerotic plaques. There are two main types of cholesterol LDL and HDL. In general LDL is "bad cholesterol" with high levels of LDL being associated with development of plaques and contributing to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. LDL is responsible for depositing cholesterol to the tissues of our body. HDL, on the other hand, is responsible for picking up cholesterol from our tissues and delivering it to our liver. As you make steps towards improving your health you should aim to  keep LDL cholesterol levels low and to increase HDL cholesterol levels. 

Here is a link that explains the progression of atherosclerotic plaques for your viewing pleasure!

In general there are two main causes of high LDL cholesterol levels. 
1.) Family inheritance (familial hypercholesterolemia) 
2.) Lifestyle

The good news is, if caught early, lowering of cholesterol through drugs and/or lifestyle changes can slow or even reverse the progression of atherosclerotic changes. If lifestyle changes are not enough to keep your LDL levels low you will likely need to go on prescription medication. Having said that, being on prescription medication is not an excuse to maintain unhealthy lifestyle choices. If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels it is best that you discuss this with your doctor. In this blog we will focus on lifestyle changes that can be made to aid you to healthy living. 

1.) Diet
  • Decrease your intake of saturated fats, found in fatty meats and high fat milk products, and increase your intake of unsaturated fats.
  • Eliminate trans fat consumption.
  • Limit your cholesterol intake.
  • Eat foods high in omega 3 fats.
  • Increase your fibre intake
    • Choose whole grains, these will increase your intake of soluble fibre.
    • Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables; the more color the better. Dark orange, dark green, red etc. 
    • The only way our bodies eliminate cholesterol is through excreting it in our bowels. Increasing one's fibre intake will bind more cholesterol to aid in excretion. 

2.) Lifestyle
  • Loose weight
  • Exercise
    • Exercise has been shown to increase your level of HDL cholesterol. Try to work up to 30 minutes a day.
  • Quit Smoking
  • Drink in moderation. 
    • One drink per day for females and two drinks per day for males.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cold Buster Drink

Well the return to school means the return to cold and flu season. With my husband working in education and myself in healthcare we pass around many a cold virus. My new drink concoction, although odd, seems to sooth my symptoms. It has been said that ginger and garlic have anti-fungal, anti-viral properties and cinnamon is chalked full of anti-oxidants. Although more research needs to been done on the former this little cocktail has become a soothing staple in my house.

2.5 cups of water
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1Tbs fresh ginger ground
1/2 clove of garlic
Honey to taste

Bring cinnamon, ginger and garlic to a boil and simmer for five minutes. Strain into your favorite mug and add honey to taste.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


In the developed world Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of mortality and morbidity. What is it? Basically as we age our arteries become harder and develop plaques. This not only impedes blood flow, but these plaques can break off and cause problems like heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and more. The good news is a lot of this damage can be prevented or at least slowed down. Risk factors for this can be broken down into two categories: modifiable and non-modifiable.

Cholesterol Levels
Tobacco smoking
High Blood Pressure
Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome
Lack of Physical Activity

Male gender

I will try to focus some future posts on the modifiable risk factors and how to improve on them. This disease is slow to creep up on people. We are constantly hearing through the media about eating better and ways to lower our cholesterol. My biggest worry is that we become sensitized to it and tend to brush it off. We think that it won't happen to us. The truth is we could all benefit from modifications to our lifestyle and eating habits. Learning to eat for better health will not only decrease your risk for future disease it will make your body feel healthier now. t Lastly, if you are a parent, instilling good eating habits on your children and family will teach them livelong lessons about healthy living. I heard a surprising statistic yesterday that 1/3 of the children born in 2000 will end up with diabetes.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

We are hitting mid fall and Andrew and I had a busy busy week. We are both exhausted and ready for a Friday night date night. I had decided to take the afternoon off from studying and make a new vegetarian dish. We love indian spices so I made a vegetarian lentil butternut squash dish. This dish was about three recipes mashed together. For an appiteizer we made homemade sushi. I really wanted to post the picture here but we ate it too fast. Maybe next time!

Lentil-Butternut Squash

1Tbs Olive oil (EVOO)
4 cloves garlic
2Tbs cumin
1 1/2 Tbs garam masala
3-4 Tbs water
1 zucchini
1/2 butternut squash
1 yellow pepper
3-4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 Cup of cooked or canned lentils
Brown Rice or Quinoa

First heat olive oil, garlic and onions over medium heat until they are soft.
In a small dish add water, garam masala and cumin and make into a paste.
Add paste to dish coat stir until onions are coated
Add zucchini, butternut squash, yellow pepper and lentils stir until vegetables are well coated with spices
Add vegetable broth and let simmer covered for 5 minutes or until butternut squash is soft. Take the lid off and let simmer for 5 more minutes.
You may have to adjust the amount of vegetable broth based on how much liquid you have left over. Usually I have a bit of liquid in the wok after. Just make sure you drain it before packaging any left overs. I find that it tends to get too soggy if you don't.
Best served over cooked brown rice or Quinoa.
Happy eating!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Back on Track

Alright well after a great thanksgiving it is time to go back to our normal eating. The number one trick to this is portion sizes. Generally speaking when it comes to holidays we over eat. Our goal the week after a holiday should be getting back to our normal portion sizes. This may mean feeling a little hungrier than usual, but that is just your body readjusting to its old ways.

1.) Don't eat while preparing food. (This can be the source of many hidden calories)
2.) Don't eat standing up. (We tend to eat faster and then we don't feel full when we are done)
3.) Measure out what you will eat. ( If you are having some cracker don't eat out of the box, grab what you will eat and DON'T GO BACK)
4.) Drink lots of fluids and warm drinks to help you feel full.

I know all of these tricks are easier said then done. If you find that you slip up one day don't just through in the towel. Go easy on yourself and try to be better the next day. Sometimes it helps to write down your eating goals for the day or have an accountability partner. Hope this helps.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Healthy Eating

Healthy eating is has many benefits

- Feel better. Healthy eating will increase the amount of energy you have during the day.
- Decrease risk of type 2 diabetes, other chronic diseases and some cancers
- Weight loss

One resource we have in Canada is the Canadian food guide. In my opinion, this easy to access information is the most vaild health information we have as Canadians. People tend to get their information from the internet, magazines or other sources of advertising. The government pours millions of dollars each year into research that goes towards improving the Canadian food guide. By following the Canadian food guide one can move towards getting all the essential vitamins and minerals we need. This is a great place to start, however, everyone has specific dietary restrictions that will mean modification.

Here is the link: