Here is the link to the intro post from last week, in case you missed it!
"Eat more vegetables," they say!
"They are good for you! I swear!"
"But you have to have kale, it's a superfood."
But you hate kale... and tomatoes make you cringe. Or maybe you detest how celery always gets stuck in your teeth, or the fact that spaghetti squash just doesn't taste like spaghetti.
I get it, veggies can be tough. At the recommended 8-10 servings per day, it might feel like getting all of that in means you're chomping on veg all day. But - fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, vegetables are actually really (really!) good for you. Chalked full of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and fibre - regardless of the type, there is not a single one that I would tell you to avoid. The same cannot be said of our other 3 food groups - protein, carbs and fat, where there are more rules to follow (coming up on the blog over the next 3 weeks!) All of the research concretely tells us that the people who eat the most vegetables as a proportion of their overall diet have the lowest rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol and all of those other awful chronic diseases. Not to mention a diet rich in vegetables is going to provide you energy, help to keep anxiety levels down, support a healthy mood and keep those hormones in check. Hook this girl up with a salad, ASAP.
But how do we make this practical? I have two great lists in this post, but first, I want to set some ground rules.
Smoothies are one of my favourite go-to quick and healthy breakfasts or snacks. They are a fantastic way to add nutrition to your diet - especially protein (which women often fall short of getting enough of). Protein is an absolute must at breakfast to help keep your blood sugar levels stable, give you energy, and keep cravings at bay. What I love about this smoothie is that it's creamy, packed with protein and is good for your heart! The secret ingredient to make this so? The very aptly named Hemp Heart!
Only 3 tbsp of hemp seeds (or Hemp Hearts) contain a whopping 10g of protein, and 2.5g of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. They add a bit of a nutty flavour when blended into a smoothie (which is deeee-lish) but I also love to sprinkle them on top of a salad, Greek yogurt, or oatmeal to give those foods a heart-healthy boost.
Omega-3 fatty acids are highly anti-inflammatory, which protects your heart and blood vessels from damage in the long term. They are also very helpful for conditions like menstrual cramps, anxiety, or irritable bowel syndrome which all have an element of inflammation involved.
Make this smoothie for yourself or double it to share it with someone who's heart you care for!
These beauty little seeds above are hemp seeds - since they are so small they blend really well into your smoothie and leave no hint of grittiness or odd textures.
Ingredients (makes 1 smoothie, double as needed!)
I love comfort food as much as the next person. Really, who doesn't love a big bowl of pasta? As a Naturopathic Doctor I'm always trying to make my favourites a little bit healthier, and this recipe is no exception! I'm consistently trying to figure out easy ways to add more veggies to my diet, so in this recipe I've swapped out the pasta noodles for Spaghetti Squash! As the name suggests, this vegetable is a perfect substitute for spaghetti noodles and boasts a much better nutritional profile! Since it is considered a high glycemic index (high GI) carbohydrate (meaning that the sugars from the carb are absorbed slowly into the blood stream) this spaghetti is ND approved! This recipe is gluten free, dairy free, low carb and paleo.
Ingredients (Serves 4, or 2 for dinner and 2 lunches for the next day!)
Call me weird, but I’ve always loved the word “breakfast” – a clever term for the meal where we literally break our overnight fast. It is the first and (debatably) the most important meal of the day, yet it is estimated that 50% of people skip it. While they may seem no worse for ware, having a healthy and nourishing breakfast each morning can set you on the path to health. Eating the right foods can help with your energy, hormone balance, digestive health, mood, and anxiety. You can use breakfast to your advantage to help you improve your body composition by losing fat and gaining muscle.
Trust me, I’ve been there, and I know it can be hard to fit this meal in with the rush of the morning. The issue with “convenience” options like bagels, breakfast sandwiches, or commercial cereals is that they are high in carbohydrates and low in protein, fibre and nutrients. This means we’re likely to have an energy crash within an hour or so of eating them, and they’ve given us very little health benefit. I also know what it’s like to have eaten oatmeal every single morning – B O R I N G.
Here are 5 breakfast ideas to have on rotation for each day of the work week. They are simple and quick to prepare, nourishing, and taste great. There are even options to make them fresh each morning, or prep them the night before.
1. Steel Cut Oatmeal
Despite my earlier comment, I do love oats. Warm, gooey and nutritious, if done right! Steel cut oats are less processed than regular oats, which is why I opt for them. Cook the oats according to the directions on the package, and top with any variety of toppings you wish, such as berries or apple for fibre, vitamins and minerals, and a touch maple syrup or honey for sweetness. Make sure to include a source of protein, such as hemp seeds, almonds, pecans, walnuts or almond butter. You can also add a nut/seed milk of your choice to make the whole bowl creamier. Try swapping out steel cut oats for quinoa for an extra protein-packed porridge.
Night Before Prep: If cooking a hot pot of oats in the AM is too much, mix 1/3 cup oats and 1 cup of nut/seed milk of your choice in a mason jar. Cover and place in the fridge overnight. In the morning, stir well and add your choice of toppings for an awesome instant breakfast that you can take on the go.
2. Eggs any way you like ‘em with toast & avocado
Cooking an egg takes mere minutes. If I’m in a real rush, I’ll go with hard boiled eggs, and start boiling water as soon as I get up. After my shower, I go back to the kitchen and toss one or two eggs in the boiling water, turn on the timer for 7 minutes, which gives me enough time to get dressed and back to the kitchen to run them under cold water. I’ll put a slice of whole grain bread (GF if you wish) into the toaster while I cut an avocado. Toast pops, mash ½ the avocado over the toast, peel my eggs, add a dash of salt and pepper over everything, and done - Quick & Easy.
Night Before Prep: You can boil eggs in batches in advance, and keep them in the fridge in their shell for up to one week. The night before, you can pre-cut and remove the pit from your avocado, keeping the halves in their shell and face down in a sealed container to prevent oxidation (why avocado turns brown after a little while).
This is my favourite way to include veggies with breakfast. I don’t fuss too much about making an omelette perfect, and sometimes it ends up more as an egg and vegetable scramble. Chop up all of your vegetables into small pieces, you can sauté them first in some butter or just leave them raw. Crack 2 eggs into a bowl and whisk. Add the eggs into the pan with the sautéed vegetables and let them cook through, fold and serve. I love to use bell peppers, tomatos, mushrooms, olives, onion, and spinach or kale. If you can tolerate dairy, add some cheese if you wish. For an extra treat, add bacon or sausage (chorizo is delicious).
Night Before Prep: You can make mini omelettes, or egg muffins for a few days in advance by using all of the same ingredients above (approximately 1 egg per muffin cup, give or take). Mix everything together in a bowl, grease your muffin tin, and distribute the egg mixture evenly amongst each cup of the tin. Bake at 350°F for 18-20 minutes or until set in the middle.
I’ve wrote previously about how to make a healthy smoothie here, but here is a quick run down:
Night Before Prep: Put all of the ingredients in your blender container the night before and keep it in the fridge, add some ice cubes in the morning and blend. Alternatively, you can blend everything the night before and keep the smoothie in the fridge overnight. Things may separate but just give it a good shake and it will be ready to drink! (Note: for early smoothie prep, omit chia and flax seeds, when they are left to soak overnight they become mucilaginous or gel-like, which solidifies your smoothie).
5. Chia Seed Pudding
Yes, chia - the same seed you use to grow yourself a plant-haired pet. But for this breakfast option, no growth is required. This is probably the simplest recipe of the list, and is super healthy. Chia seeds are full of fibre which helps to keep you full and regulates blood sugar. They are also gluten free, and contain omega-3 fatty acids and lots of minerals. In a bowl, mix 3 tbsp chia seeds with ¾ cup unsweetened nut/seed milk of your choice. You can add cinnamon or nutmeg, honey or maple syrup, or a splash of vanilla. Let sit for 5-15 minutes or until the chia seeds have absorbed enough milk to make the pudding your desired consistency. Top with your choice of fruit and nuts.
Night Before Prep: In a mason jar (or other container with a lid), mix the chia seeds, milk, vanilla, sweetener, and spices of choice, cover and place in the fridge overnight. In the morning, add fruit, nuts, or seeds on top and you have yourself a quick and healthy, fibre-filled breakfast.
Do you have a go-to breakfast that is quick and healthy? Comment below, I would love to add it to my list!
Photo Credit: Collective Nouns via Flickr
The Smoothie. Everyone is talking about it, and if you aren’t already a smoothie-convert, you might be wondering what all the hype is about. I often recommend smoothies to my patients, especially those who don’t eat breakfast or who could stand to improve their breakfast habits. A smoothie is a blended drink that makes a great snack or breakfast substitute. When you are busy or on-the-go, as many of my patients are, smoothies allow you to still have a healthy meal or snack that doesn’t take long to prepare and is easy to take on the run.
There are so many reasons why I’m such a big smoothie fan, but one of them is that when they are made well, smoothies can be incredibly healthy and nutrient dense. Unlike juicing, you are consuming the whole foods that you blend – vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and fiber. There are so many combinations of foods that you can blend together, making getting into a boring-breakfast-rut much harder. In fact, I'd love to know what your favourite combination is (let me know in the comments below!) Smoothies might be a great breakfast option for you if you are looking to eat a more anti-inflammatory diet, if you are trying to avoid certain foods like dairy, eggs or gluten, or if you are trying to make improvements to your weight, blood sugar, cholesterol or blood pressure.
It’s important to keep in mind though that not all smoothies are created equal. Drinking smoothies has the potential to be a great tool to help you reach your health goals, but it can also prevent you from reaching them too. A smoothie made primarily out of fruit and fruit juices is going to be high in calories and more importantly, sugar! This high blast of sugar (even though it’s fruit sugar) will spike insulin in your body, a hormone that is responsible for shuttling sugar out of your blood and into your cells. This can cause inflammation in your body and tells your body to store fat, among other undesirable effects. Get your blender ready, and let’s make sure you’re making them right so that they are just as nutritious as they are delicious!
How to Make a Smoothie
Everyone likes their smoothie a little bit different, and I’ve found that playing around with the quantities of each ingredient is the best way to figure out what you like best. Sometimes I end up with a smoothie that is a terrible looking colour yet still tastes great. The recommendations here are approximately enough to make a single smoothie. Feel free to double, triple or quadruple the amounts if you are blending for two or more!
Starting with the Base
You will need about 1 cup of liquid in your smoothie to make sure everything blends well. I like to stick with plain old water most of the time, but there are some other options that work well too.
Fruit is a great way to make your smoothie sweet, but choosing the right fruits (in the right amounts) can help you get more bang for your buck out of your drink. Fruits that are lower on the glycemic index are going to cause the lowest rise in your insulin levels. The list below is in approximate order of lowest to highest glycemic index. I use frozen fruit to ensure that my smoothies are cold and thick. Stick to about ½ cup to 1 cup total, using just one or a mixture of the fruits below. Choose organic when you can.
Veggies are a great way to add more nutrients into your smoothies. Leafy greens are my top pick here (I use 1-2 handfuls), but I get it, maybe you’re not feeling ready for a green smoothie. That’s okay – try using a beet or carrot, which not only add beautiful colour but a bit of a sweet taste too.
If you are drinking your smoothie as a meal-replacement, then this is non-negotiable. Protein helps to keep your insulin from spiking after consuming sugar. Protein will also help you to feel full for much longer, which will make this convenient breakfast feel more like a meal than a drink. Choose 1 or 2 of the following.
As we talked about earlier, the benefit of blending over juicing is that you get to keep all of that awesome fruit and vegetable pulp which acts as fiber. Fiber, like protein, helps to keep you feeling fuller, longer. When detoxing it helps to bind up toxins, and since it aids the digestive processes, fiber helps keep you regular! To add a bit more oomph, try one of the following.
If you’ve stuck to the list so far, you have yourself a healthy breakfast alternative. But there are some extra things you can try adding to your smoothie to boost its fuelling potential. Herbs and spices add warmth to smoothies, which is nice in the fall and winter months. They are also high in anti-oxidants, and often are anti-inflammatory. Healthy fats are great to help aid in the digestion and absorption of fat soluble vitamins and nutrients (like vitamins A, D, E and K). The amounts listed here are just suggestions, feel free to add more or less based on your taste preferences.
1 cup water
1-2 handfuls spinach
½ cup frozen pineapple
½ cup frozen blueberries
1 scoop unflavoured brown rice protein powder
2 tbsp flax seeds
1 tbsp cacao nibs
Place all of the ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth.
I'd love to know, what is your favourite combination for a delicious (and nutritious) snack or breakfast smoothie?
Image Credit: Miriam via Flickr
Kale – a word I had never heard before I started studying naturopathic medicine. But now, everyone is talking about it, and there's good reason! It is super high in vitamins A, B6, C and K, and is a good source of calcium, copper, manganese, potassium, and iron.
Turns out, I love this vegetable. Kale makes for a great salad green, delicious when steamed, and scrumptious when sautéed with some garlic and spices. Sounds pretty versatile eh? Get this, you can also turn it into a chip! Not only is this super easy and quick, but it makes for a healthy snack when you are craving something crunchy. Kale chips are a good conversation starter at a party too — the first time I took them out in public, people thought I was a bit crazy to be eating these green chips!
– 1 bunch of kale (depending on the size of your cookie sheet, you might want to divide up the bunch into 2 or 3 and save the remainder in the fridge for future chip cravings, or other meals)
– Olive oil
– Sea salt
– Other spices of your choosing (it’s nice just plain with salt, but some nice add-ins include paprika, freshly ground black pepper, or garlic powder)
– Preheat oven to 350°F
– Tear leafy green parts into “chip size pieces” removing the tough stems as you go.
– Wash thoroughly – a salad spinner works great for this!
– In a large bowl, toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a generous amount of sea salt.
– Spread kale evenly on a cookie sheet.
– Bake for 10-15 minutes (keep an eye on these!) until the edges are just turning brown.
– Challenge yourself not to eat the whole bowl – I’ve never succeeded at this.
Have you ever tried turning other veggies into chips? I’m interested to try zucchini or beet chips soon!