Healthy Alternatives: Coffee

Healthy Alternatives: Coffee

I love the smell, taste and impact that coffee has on me and in moderation I, like the next person, loves a well prepared latte. Unfortunately like many of the pleasures in life too much coffee maybe a detriment to your long term health.

Although the immediate reaction to coffee is an increase in energy, focus and concentration, this short term stimulation on the nervous system and adrenal glands ultimately ends up causing stress to the body.   Typically too much coffee intake results in anxiety and nervousness, energy crashes, sugar cravings, insomnia and heartburn.

So what alternatives to coffee do I recommend that will give you the similar impact without the physical cost to the body?

Yerba mate tea, green tea, chai tea and cocoa powder all contain caffeine but at much lower amounts than that found in coffee. They provide the energy and focus without the after effect of jitters and energy crashes.  In addition these teas are rich in nutrients, antioxidants and compounds that have an overall healing impact. They have been shown to assist with weight management, reduce the risk of cancer and support detoxification.

The good news is that many of these alternatives are now available at your favourite coffee shop or trendy tea store.   So the next time you are ready to order you morning java consider switching things up with a cup of green mint tea or chai tea with honey.

Fiber is crucial to your health. Learn why!

Fiber is crucial to your health. Learn why!

Are you getting enough fiber? Most Canadians only get half the recommended daily amount. According to a survey by the Heart and Stroke foundation the average Canadian daily intake is about 14 grams instead of the recommended 25 to 38 grams.

Fiber does more than keep us regular, it helps to lower cholesterol and maintain a healthy body weight, controls blood sugar, and lowers the risk of disease such as diabetes and heart disease. Recent studies are discovering the importance of fiber on gut microbiome. Research has found that when your gut lacks fiber the microbes are starved and start to feed on the protective mucus lining of the gut which can lead to inflammation and disease. You can read more about fiber and gut health here.HighFiberList

The article notes that you need to eat a high fiber diet consistently to maintain a healthy gut. If you currently aren’t eating enough fiber you will want to increase your intake slowly to prevent gas, bloating and discomfort. You will also need to drink more water to help move the fiber along.

There are 2 main types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber becomes gel-like when mixed with liquid, while insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve and passes through largely intact. Some foods contain both types of fiber. It is important to eat a variety of fiber-rich foods to get the health benefits of both types.

Here are some tips to increase your fiber intake:

  • Always compare food label when grocery shopping and opt high fiber foods.
  • Eat plenty of whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Eat vegetables and fruits instead of drinking juice.
  • Add a small salad or vegetable soup to your lunch or dinner.
  • Add beans or lentils to soups and salads.
  • Snack on nuts, seeds and fruit.
  • Have some hummus and veggies as a snack.
  • Add ground flaxseeds, chia seeds and shredded coconut to oatmeal, smoothies, or yogurt
  • Download this list and keep it handy to make high-fiber choices.

By focusing on adding more fiber rich foods to your diet you will inevitably make better eating choices!

Make ahead lunches

Make ahead lunches

When it comes to making healthy lunches, planning is crucial. The good news is that once you get used to the routine it becomes easier.

Planning for healthy work or school lunches might look like this:

  1. during the week make a list of possible lunches
  2. create a grocery list
  3. create menu plan to ensure meal rotation
  4. prepare your meals Sunday and possibly a few on Wednesday

Choosing foods that stay in the fridge for a few days without going bad is key. As a general rule cooked foods should be stored in the refrigerator and be eaten within 3 to 4 days. This is why you might want to take some time Wednesday to cook a few things such as quinoa.

The following foods keep for at least 3 days once cooked and refrigerated:

Rice: 4 to 6 days in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer.

Quinoa: 3 days in the refrigerator

Beans: 3-4 days in refrigerator or 1-2 month is freezer.

Chicken: 3-4 days in refrigerator or 4 month is freezer.

Boiled eggs: 1 week in the fridge.

Hummus: see the label. Most are good for up to 5 days after opening.

Foods that freeze well include: soup, stews, chili, pasta sauce, bread, baked goods, or homemade bars.

Not sure what to make? Here are a few lunch ideas:

You can use flour tortillas, pita bread, collards or romaine lettuce as your wraps. Fill the wrap with your favourite fillings. Egg and tuna salad is good in romaine lettuce. Refried beans, salsa and cheese are good in a flour tortilla. Make a salad and stuff it into pita bread. Ideally you would have all the ingredients on hand and make your wrap in the morning so that it doesn’t get soggy overnight. You can also bring the filling in a separate container and make your wrap at lunch time.

Bento Boxes
For those who love variety, the possibilities are endless! If you need some ideas check out this post and if you want to make an extra special bento try these.

Hearty soup, stews and chili
Make a big batch and freeze in individual portions for a quick lunch. Use a slow cooker to save time.

Veggie Bowls
Add steamed, roasted or raw veggies over cooked rice, quinoa, rice noodles or another grain. Top with it beans, nuts, or lean meat for added protein and add a drizzle of your favourite sauce.
This is a simple and delicious sauce that will keep in the fridge for up to a week. You can add it to a veggie bowl, salad or use it as a dipping sauce.

Tahini Lemon Sauce
Blend 1/2 cup tahini, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, and a 1/4 cup water.

Burrito Bowl
Layer some rice, refried beans, salsa and avocado. This is one of the quickest lunches to put together when you have everything on hand.

Once your meals are prepared, pack them in containers free of BPA and other toxins. It’s best practice to stay away from plastic as much as possible. If you do use plastic make sure they are dishwasher safe if you use a dishwasher and do not heat your meals in plastic.

Some ideas for safe packaging include: mason jars, stainless steam thermos and parchment paper. Ikea sells these glass containers that have good lids so they are less likely to leak. Terra 20 has a few stainless steal contain options such as this 2 layer sandwich box.

If you have children include them in the planning and prepping process so that they get into the habit of preparing healthy meals.

Make ahead breakfast recipes

Make ahead breakfast recipes

These recipes are quick to prepare and make enough servings for breakfast for a week for 1 person.

Oatmeal Bake
Oats provide a good dose of soluble fiber to help you stay regular and lower cholesterol levels.

  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup berries (fresh or frozen)
  • ½ cup chopped nuts & seeds
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup almond milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
  2. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and add the berries.
  3. In another bowl, mix the egg,  almond milk and vanilla.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry mix and then spread the mixture into a greased baking dish.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown
  6. Serve with more berries and milk or on its own!
  7. Store in the fridge or make a big batch and freeze.

Chia seed pudding
Chia seeds are rich in fiber, omega-3 fats, protein, vitamins and minerals.

  • 1 cup of full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • 2/3 cup of chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp of maple syrup
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend on low speed until thick or blend on a higher speed for a smoother texture.
  2. Store in the fridge.
  3. Option to serve with fruit.
Q&A with Dr. Lewis:  Wheat vs. Gluten

Q&A with Dr. Lewis: Wheat vs. Gluten

Patient Q: What is the difference between wheat and gluten? Should I be avoiding both?

Dr. Lewis A: Wheat is a grain whereas gluten is a protein that is found in wheat as well as other grains like barely, rye, oats, spelt and kamut.  Wheat is by far the most popular and most processed grain consumed in the North American diet and is present in most breads, crackers, cereals, baked goods etc… Because of it’s over consumption as well as genetic modifications many people are likely to develop a sensitivity to it. The symptoms of this sensitivity are varied but common complaints are headaches, weight gain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, frequent cold and flu, eczema, and depression.

Other grains like amaranth, millet, quinoa, rice, buckwheat, corn do not contain gluten and are considered to be both wheat free and gluten free.

Unless there is an obvious gluten sensitivity that is identified through the assessment of symptoms patterns or shown in diagnostic testing, I typically recommend that a person first start on a wheat free program. If symptoms do not improve then I will ask them to move towards a gluten free diet. In both cases I suggest the elimination be maintained 2-3 months to allow for desensitization.

Even in the absence of any symptoms that may indicate sensitivities I highly recommend that you rotate your consumption of the different grains so that you prevent the symptoms associated with an overexposure to the same foods.

Healthy make over on a classic comfort

Healthy make over on a classic comfort

teaA few weeks ago a colleague of mine posted a blog about using coconut oil as a replacement for milk or cream in coffee. Given that coffee and I “do not get along”, I quickly read over the post and did not give it much thought beyond that.

I am however an avid tea drinker and one of my favourite and all time comfort is black tea with cream and sugar…confessions of a Naturopathic doctor. Given that I do not tolerate dairy products and sugar is just not great for anyone, I typically reserve this delicious treat for weekend brunches and special occasions.

This morning after waking with a huge craving for a tea with milk and sugar, I realized that I could apply the same methods for adding coconut oil to coffee for my tea. Turns out it tastes awesome and I can feel great about consuming coconut oil with all of it’s health benefits like balancing the immune system, increasing energy and boosting metabolism to name a few.

Here is how super easy it is:

1. Brew your favourite cup of tea. I used straight up black tea but I think this would be equally as amazing with Chai tea.
2. Once your tea is ready put it into the blender.
3. Add 1-2 tbsp of coconut oil
4. Add a natural sweetener of your choice, honey or maple syrup or both great options.
5. Blend on high for 1-2 minutes and enjoy.

Yummy and healthy. Just how I like it!

Photo Credit: A gorgeous cup of tea 🙂