Sign up for smoothie duty

Sign up for smoothie duty

Smoothies have changed my life! It sounds very dramatic but is so true. I am a person who likes to jam pack my day. I am full of ideas, projects and excitement about so many things that one has to be focused to make it all happen. I plan my days with the precision of an air traffic controller, to ensure that I am able to move through the activities of my day in a way that brings me satisfaction, efficiency and joy. 

There is one exception to this organization and that comes in the area of food. I have tried. Believe me as a nutritionist, naturopathic doctor, mom, wife, just all-round go-getter women you would think that food prep would have made the priority list years ago. It started near the top and then work it’s way down as other things spark more joy. Don’t get me wrong I am 100% board with eating nourishing foods, this neglect does not result in trips to MacDonalds or drive-thru breakfast sandwiches (except on occasion). I just don’t meal plan, grocery shop based on Pinterest supper ideas and definitely don’t spend my Sundays preparing my food for the week.

I am more of a fly by the seat of your pants kind of gal when it comes to our meals. One of the huge benefits of studying Nutrition and Naturopathic medicine is the knowledge and experience that can be practically used in your own life. I can go into a grocery store and mindlessly purchasing equal ratios of protein, fat, carbs and all my fruits and veggies. I even go as far as to organize my food by these categories at the checkout. Good bless the lucky ones who get to wait behind me in line. 

One thing that has been a huge lifesaver for me is daily smoothies. They are nutritionally dense, super tasty, kid-friendly and the best part… effortlessly easy.  I say that with oh so much confidence but let me reveal the truth to you. My husband is on smoothie duty! Every night before bed, he gathers the 5 to 6 ingredients and creates out family smoothie for the next day.  All that we have to do in the morning is add almond milk and we are good to go! This habit started when I was nursing my daughter and has stuck. I can certainly craft my own delicious smoothie and have done so many times for my crew but it is nice to have an allocated person for this very important nutritional hack. Thank you, dear husband, for taking this one on!

So what’s involved in the perfect smoothie:
A good blender, I am talking about a high horsepower industrial style blender, you know the kind you would find at Starbucks or Booster Juice. We resisted for years, purchasing 3 runs of the mill blenders before investing in our Vitamix. It now sits on our counter like a proud peacock when you have a $600 blender, you show that baby off).

For the carbs:
A liquid base – I prefer nondairy alternatives like almond milk, rice milk, coconut milk.  I am not cow’s milk adverse (a blog for another day) however, I do think we can reduce our load. Milk alternatives are a great way to do that and you (nor your kids) will not know the difference. This saves our cow’s dairy for more important items like cheese and yogurt

Frozen Fruit – We always have a Costco sized bag of frozen fruit cued up for this important addition

Ripe Bananas – I seriously think we go through 25 bananas a week

Greens – this is where we get sneaky, my daughter has no idea that spinach and kale are getting into her morning drink. My husband has perfected this addition my ensuring there is enough that we get the benefits from these nutrient-packed vegetables while not turning the smoothie green (game over if you are trying to get that into your kid)
Okay so we have take care of all of the carbohydrates, let’s make sure we get in some protein and fat.

Protein powders – I am loving collagen powder these days but pea proteins, hemp proteins, rice proteins and whey proteins (if you can tolerate) have certainly made it into our smoothies. If you are not into protein powders add hemp hearts, chia seeds or Greek yogurt.

Fats – Try nut butter, coconut oil or avocado (you can purchase frozen avocado now!)

Regarding sizes and variety – just play with it, everyone has different preferences for texture and consistency.  You can jazz it up and keep it interesting by simply using different milk alternatives or frozen fruits. You could have a new smoothie taste for each day of the week.

Voila, simple, on the go, meal solution that involves minimal preparation and maximum benefit. 
A smoothie a day will keep mid-afternoon chocolate away! 

What if I was a girl who knew what I wanted

What if I was a girl who knew what I wanted

A few years ago, I was out for an early morning breakfast with a group of professionals brainstorming ideas about a health program collaboration. It was a beautiful sunny morning and I was feeling incredibly grateful for the wonderful opportunity that was being presented to me. I will admit I also was feeling slightly overwhelmed and intimidated amongst this incredible group of go-getters. 

I knew we would be ordering soon and I was trying to find that delicate balance of looking at the menu as well as ensure active listening and engagement in the exciting conversation. As is always the case in these situations, the waitress made her way over to the table before anyone really had a chance to decide on what they wanted. No one seemed to be that phased, and got straight to the business of ordering their breakfast, after all, we are all a group of very busy people. 

There were orders of over-easy eggs with bacon, eggs Benedict with rye toast and pancakes with a side of fruit. Then it was my turn and my order looked something like this:

Could I please have the veggie omelette with no onions and is it possible to replace the cheddar cheese with feta?
Could I please substitute home-fries for tomatoes slices?
Do you have gluten-free bread? No, you don’t then is it possible to choose a side of fruit? Extra cost no problem? One quick question is the fruit fresh or in a syrup? Oh no, thank you then.
To drink? Can I please have a 1/2 decaf and 1/2 regular coffee? Do you have a milk replacement? No thank soy milk will not work it has to be almond or coconut milk. Perhaps just a green tea instead? Oh and a glass of water, no ice.

Phew, I looked around the table and felt a wave of heat go over my body. Placing my order had taken as long as the other 4 people’s combined. With a 1/2 smile, I said “typical naturopathic doctor order, that’s what you get for going out to breakfast with me” (insert awkward laugh).

The meeting continued, the breakfasts arrived and I left with feeling full, excited but still a little shameful of my high maintenance tendency. 

Later that day, back in the office I received an email from one of the people at breakfast. He is a high-performance personal coach and someone I have respected for years. It was a simple and impactful message that has stuck with me not only around food but so many other areas of my life.

It read something like, “I really sensed how uncomfortable you were after you ordered your breakfast and I want to offer you thought, instead of being a difficult you were women who knew what she wanted”

Wow! Right huge, monument-us wow. I had been apologizing for years for my needs and wants around food. Family dinners, friend BBQ’s and work meeting went 1 or 2 ways. I either compromised and felt the discomfort both mentally and physically (gluten really makes me bloat, dairy results in instant acne and I literally need to know where a bathroom is 10 minutes after consuming soy) or I would get what I wanted but feel shameful and embarrassed in doing so.

This simple phrase “what if you were a person who knew what you needed and wanted” has come up in practice too many times to count. So many people are challenged with the social and societal pressures of accepting what is presented despite how it makes them feel because they don’t want to appear needy or difficult or different. I say, embrace yourself and the wisdom that you have about your own needs. Stand up in this truth and get what you want, the people around you will get over it, I promise!

Better than choice

Better than choice

We are a very active family. We love, love, love to be on the go and between my daughter’s hockey, swim lessons, gymnastic performances, my husband music, cycling obsession and hockey games and my yoga and workout needs we don’t have a lot of evenings and weekend morning free. Throw in two demanding careers a dog and that equates to a very busy life. 

I like the energy of these evenings and typically do not feel overwhelmed or resentful of the pace with one exception: food! What the heck are we going to eat, do we have the food in the house and who has time to make it before we move into our

For the most part, we are good.  I batch cook, when we BBQ the grill is filled to the max, when I cut up fruits and veggies I fill up 5 containers, we boil 8 eggs at a time. I also purchase our pre-made staples like hummus, fresh salsa and pesto from our local farm fresh store.  I would love to say I make my own granola bars and almond milk but I don’t. God bless those families that do, we are just are not one of them.  All of us would rather be out on a long bike ride or swimming than in the kitchen.

This is where things get tricky for me as a mom -nutritionist -naturopathic doctor. I know how I would ideally like my family to eat but yet unless I compromise to the point of resentment we can not access it all of the time. Perhaps it is my years of education or my roller coaster relationship with foods but my tendency is for perfection and I used to put a lot of pressure on myself in this area. 

What this would look like is weeks of stress and pressure to prepare the most balanced and healthy meals. I would expect nothing less than all organic, high protein, whole grain carb with 3 different types of veggies for each meal. I would meal plan, grocery shop and spend the weekends or evenings reluctantly meal prepping. This would come at the cost of sleep, movement and peace on my end. This is not how I wanted to be spending my time but felt I had to.

Of course with any life choice that is coming from a place of “should”, this behaviour lacked sustainability and I would ultimately become resentful, bored and stop doing it. Only to completely swing in the other direction that looked like more eating out, lots of boxed Mac and Cheese and frozen pizza and then the guilt and shame that follows from knowing you and your family are eating like shit.

Finally, I started to see this pattern and adopted a very simple but hugely impactful family food rule, for us, we always try to make the “better than choice” when it comes to our nutrition.

There is so much space in this for us. I can use my years of education to my advantage. I know nutrition and I know what is best and that best can always be changing.

So despite not having perfect meals planned and ready prepared in the fridge we can still eat well. When we are at the grocery store at the end of a long busy day, I can pull together a salad with a rotisserie chicken or quick scrambled eggs and toast.  When we eat out, I always opt for the better than a choice for example at Tim Horton’s I would get the chili and a multigrain bagel instead of the fried chicken wrap and a donut.

This strategy literally works every and anywhere.  Look at the options and “make the better than choice” and feel amazing because you are 1) doing your best 2) honouring that your best is always changing 3) you are honouring your own values as it relates to your health.

Why I always have chips in the house?

Why I always have chips in the house?

So many of the patients that I work with share that their number one strategy to curb cravings is is to “keep the offending foods out of the house”.

They claim that if “they don’t have it around then they will not eat it.” I have implemented that approach in the past and get why one would think this will work.  It’s 8:00 pm at night and you are really wanting something sweet, you go to your cupboard, fridge, freezer and kids candy bowl, 3 times over and there is nothing there except for a few granola bars (the healthy kind) and some rockets from Halloween last year.

So then, because “nothing is in the house”, you turn to an apple or perhaps some raw almonds. Right? No, not right…because what I see and what I have done is a rummage around the pantry trying to satiate this craving with semi-sweet chocolate chips or dates dipped into tbsps of peanut butter. My personal favourite, it an unassuming healthy herbal tea that I subsequently add 3 tbsp of honey too.

Friends, the craving does not go away just because the food is not there. In fact, I would argue in our denial of what our body is asking for that we actually end up consuming more food as an attempt to quiet down the urge. Sometimes your body is just asking for cookies.  Instead of shaming yourself for this desire, ask yourself did you drink enough water that day, did you have a mid-afternoon high protein snack or you exhausted from a difficult day at work?  Get curious, and ask yourself these questions as opposed to declaring to yourself, husband and kids that this food is forbidden in the home.

The plan for avoidance is not sustainable, you see there will always be leftover birthday cake, 1/2 bag of chips from the BBQ you hosted, M&M you bought for the babysitter. If we don’t feel empowered around these foods and make choices through the day that keep us centred and not wanting them then the result will always be a binge.  If you can tell yourself you can have as much as you want, chances are when you connected in a centred body, you will realize that you actually don’t want it and you may not even like this food that you have been working so hard to avoid.

When I was growing up my parents did not know a lot about nutrition, they did their very best we always had to sit at the table, eat our vegetables and my lunch always included an apple.  
The one win, which I am quite certain was unintentional was our pantry. It was filled with rows of cookies, chips, crackers and even straight-up candy like licorice. I looked forward to Wednesday after school when my dad, who to this day language of love is food, would take us grocery store and let my sister and I each pick out a cookie and cracker choice for the week. I felt so empowered, I was a kid making a choice and I was able to bring whatever I wanted into the house. Sure we ended up eating more salt and sugar then was probably great for us but we always had them in moderation. As a kid, 2 cookies was enough because I know there were 2 more for tomorrow.

I think some friends are surprised when they see my cupboard. I do buy box food in moderation for my family and true to family tradition, I let my daughter pick some of these things out. The other day she asked me what Doritos were so we bought a small bag and she declared “too spicy” and threw them out. I do not want my daughter to feel denied or moralize foods as good or bad. I want her to listen to her body and understand how food makes her feel. For example, she would never drink chocolate milk because she knows it makes her tummy hurt. Something she figured out all on her own.

Don’t get me wrong, I have to monitor her (she would eat cookies for breakfast if I let her). She understands what balanced meals are and knows that mommy wants her to eat her protein first and then all her vegetables before she is allowed to have something sweet. She can tell me the difference between healthy sugars and unhealthy sugars and sometimes chooses blueberries over ice cream. She stops eating a cupcake when she has had enough. I like to think this is because she is listening to her body and becoming aware of how food makes her feel.

Therefore I argue that having junk food in the house is positive for the following reasons:
a) you can satiate the craving with what you really want, therefore letting it go
b) you can eat it in moderation knowing it is their tomorrow
c) you can get curious about if you even want or like it
d) it teaches our children to regulate food

Don’t give food all the power, it’s just friggin food, it’s not good or bad, something to be avoided or demonized it’s just-food. Of course, your house needs to be primarily stocked with whole foods like hummus, eggs, chicken, yogurt, spinach, apples, broccoli, rice, quinoa, almonds, avocados…you get the idea!

I am proposing that you bring in the bag of cookies or chips and get curious about its true impact and consider that it may even heal your relationship with food.

Letting go of fad diets

Letting go of fad diets

People either love working with me or don’t! My approach to nutrition and really all the aspects of lifestyle medicine is quite frankly…boring. 

I don’t have anything sexy or trendy or edgy when it comes to my treatment plans.  Believe me, this is not because of a lack of trying and hoping for something more. In the late 1990’s I was running marathons, eating plain bagels and was exhausted, gaining weight and my period stopped.

I was at a loss as I was following all the nutrition and weight loss trends of that decade. I was eating very low fat and burning more calories (I mean I was training and running friggin marathons) and yet I was feeling worse and worse by the week. From here, I decided to become a vegetarian, that had to be the answer! So I took a bunch of books out from the library (remember this was the 90’s, I could not just follow an online program) and became a strict vegetarian. I felt better for a few weeks and then all of the symptoms came back even worse.

This was when I became exposed to Naturopathic medicine, in my desperation I went to see an “alternative doctor” and within weeks of eating more protein and fat, my period and energy came back. I was overjoyed and intrigued.  If these few nutrition changes were enough to shift my physiology so significantly, what else was I missing! 

I would love to say that I saw the light and realized that what I learned in grade 3 about nutrition still applied and went on to have a wonderful relationship with food, not so much! For the next decade and a half, I would experiment, recommend and search for the perfect plan.

I have gone through phases of consuming high fat, high protein, no grains, no gluten, no dairy, no carbs, no fruit, juice cleanses. Pretty much every diet that is out there I have tried. I have learned 2 things:

  1. these diets are not sustainable
  2. these diets create imbalances in the body.  

It has been in practice that I have received the most beautiful lessons about nutrition. It is so much easier to have compassion and kindness with other people. Objectivity is a beautiful thing! I would see patients come in with enough shame to fill a dumpster because they could not “stick” with the diet they were on. They would feel frustrated and wonder why they were not getting the promised results from these programs.

You see many of these mainstream diet approaches are being promoted as lifestyles. Even the language around these things. A person is no longer eating a vegetarian diet or avoiding carbohydrates. They are identified as the label “I am ketogenic”, “I am a vegan” when did how we eat become who we are? This actually makes my heart hurt a little, because of guess what no one, not one person have I seen in practice, can completely follow these strict nutrition guidelines for long periods of time. Sometimes you just want to have a piece of your best friends birthday cake. And the personal disappointment, guilt and betrayal that comes when this happens are so much greater. You have not just stayed from “your diet”, you have actually betrayed your identity. Too…much…pressure!

What am I not talking about here, people who have true gluten intolerances, people who ethical or religious reasons, people who have a medical or naturopathic diagnosis where short term implementation of these diets is important for therapeutic reasons.  But if you are just avoiding all grains because it’s on trend or you want to lose weight, I whole heartily believe this is not your best path to reach your goals

So what are we left with, what is the answer? It’s what I call grade 3 nutrition. It is literally what would be the ideal macronutrient balance for an 8 year old. This looks like protein, carb and fat for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as two balanced snacks through out the day, all this and then as much fruit and vegetables as your heart desires! 

When you eat this way, you naturally consume less empty calories like sugar, salt and refined carbohydrates. Your energy is balanced, your moods stable and your body in a trusting place to burn calories and maintain your ideal body weight.

Boring? Maybe!

Effective, achievable and sustainable? Absolutely!