Tag Archives: healthy eating

Make your Salad Epic

It sure isn’t easy to eat healthy if your food tastes like crap, is it?

One of the biggest hurdles to eating healthy is picturing days on end of eating carrot sticks, celery, and oh god, not another salad. Healthy is boring to many people. So why stick to it.

If you’re watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (and you should be, it’s fabulous!), the local station DJ made a similar comment to Jamie about not wanting to eat lettuce to be healthy. In reality (as Jamie’s trying to show), there are so many great tasting recipes out there that aren’t salads, but still healthy.

Let’s call a spade a spade. A salad can be an easy and healthy part of a healthy diet, and most healthy people eat a lot of salad. Not all salads are healthy – there are plenty of unhealthy salads out there too – some have as much fat as a quarter pounder. Think taco salad, caesar salad, anything with a really creamy dressing.

And if you’re picturing your salad the typical iceberg lettuce, carrot, maybe tomato with Kraft salad dressing, forget it. That’s not a salad to me.

My point is if you’re going to make yourself a salad, make it EPIC. Make it memorable. Make it so delicious that you actually crave that salad the next day. Make it so epic you forget that it’s healthy – it’s just good food.

So, what makes a salad epic?

  • Start with your base of lettuce. Combining types of lettuce makes it interesting and adds different flavours. Mine right now has red lettuce and spinach. I love the buttery texture of the red lettuce. And I bought if for only ¢63. Not bad!
  • Add protein. Here’s a chance to make your protein rock. Leftover roast chicken. Chicken or turkey bacon. Hardboiled egg. Sliced flank steak. Leftover roast. The more flavourful, the more it adds to your salad. I often use 2 proteins – chicken and 1 hardboiled egg. Yum.
  • Lots of veggies. But only veggies you like, because really, who wants to pick veggies out of your own salad.
  • Sprouts on top. I love a good sprout – it gives the salad texture and a nutty flavour.
  • Nuts – sliced almonds, walnuts, whatever goes with your flavours.
  • Something warm – don’t underestimate the impact of warm food on your cold ingredients. Either I heat up my protein, or I will add steamed green beans, or other steamed veggies.
  • Something sweet. I don’t always do this, but if you want to kick it up a notch, add some dried cranberries or dried cherries for a little punch. Edit: Cut up fruit, such as apples or pears also add some sweetness with less sugar than dried fruit. (Thanks Carmen for your comment – I hadn’t included fruit!)
  • Something tart. I use goat cheese (since I’m non-dairy, it’s the only cheese I can eat). The goat cheese gives it a creamy texture, but also a little tartness. If you don’t like goat cheese (really??), you can get tart from the salad dressing as well. Plus, with the something warm (see above 2 steps), the goat cheese melts a bit.
  • Last but not least, the dressing. The dressing is THE most important part of any salad, I think. Which is why I’ve given up store bought salad dressings. They taste HORRIBLE after you’ve made your own, and it takes about as long to make your own as it takes to walk down the aisle and pull one of those nasty bottles off the shelf. I’ve put a number of my favourite on this site, and love to hear new recipes. So please, don’t be selfish, SHARE! Here’s a list of mine (click for the recipe):

Apple Cider Dressing

Green Dressing (on my salad right now!)

House Dressing

Asian Dressing

The one mistake that I often make is putting too much salad dressing on my salad. But I’m trying to curb that habit!

I’m eating lunch while I’m writing, and my salad is EPIC! I even remembered to take a picture (woohoo!) so the image you see is actually my salad. I only have egg in it, and some chicken would have made it even better. I had leftovers from last night’s dinner in the fridge, and I craved a salad instead.

And just so you don’t think I’m blowing smoke, last week I offered to make one of my salad dressings for a dinner party with friends. And I got compliments on my salad dressing, yes I did.

So here’s my call out to all of you. To my friends. I want to prove to you how epic my salads are, so please, send me an email and I will have you over for lunch to experience one of my salads. Yes, I said “experience”, cause that’s what it is. I expect my lunch calendar to be full soon!

Does Healthy cure all?

Can being healthy cure all?

I’ve been asking myself this quite a bit this week. You see, I started this whole thing because I’ve felt like crap for the past few months. And I’ll lay it on the table. I got laid off from my job a month and a half ago, and ate junk for the first 3 weeks (see my Mini Egg fiasco). Until I couldn’t take it anymore. I was tired of feeling crappy, tired and fat.

I had a thought – maybe if I made myself eat healthier, I’d feel better and be more motivated to do something about my work situation.

My first instinct was that for me to be successful, I should get other people on board for support. Hence the blog.

And the results? I am quite happy with how (relatively) easy it’s been for me to eat healthy over the last 2 weeks (which is inspiring me to help others find it easy too). I’ve stayed on track and have enjoyed some absolutely fabulous meals. But my problem has never been eating healthy for a short period of time. I can get myself to do anything for a few weeks (even the juice/soup detox I did last year for over 3 weeks). It’s the long term commitment.

I’ve even felt better physically over the past week – more energy, no crashes, better sleep. I haven’t been doing a lot of working out, other than my walks two times a day with my dogs.

But I haven’t felt better mentally. I’m still beating myself up other things, getting discouraged. Not sure what to do. Maybe feeling healthy will set me up for feeling better mentally soon. If the physical is there, the mental part has to come soon.

Doesn’t it?

I guess I’ll find out soon how much of an impact being healthy can have. And don’t worry – I’ll share…

9 Tips to make Healthy Easy

Why is healthy not easier?

For the most part, it takes work. Planning, shopping, cooking, chopping. (Hey that rhymes!)

And isn’t UNhealthy totally easy? Just dial 967-11-11. Stop at one of the 6,000 fast food places on the way home and pick something up for dinner. Aisles of convenience food in the grocery store (most of which contains chemicals and preservatives that aren’t good for us, not to mention the high-fructose corn syrup that lurks on so many convenience foods). Heck – you can even buy pre-cut potatoes in a bag. We don’t have time to peel and cut potatoes anymore??? (I have to admit I was disgusted the first time I saw the commercial.)

By the way, is it just me or is pretty much every convenience item made of wheat?? (Except fruit of course!) That rules that out!

So exactly how can it be easier?

I’m not gonna lie – planning has made it easier for me. Planning does take time, but saves in the overall scheme of things. And I’m working on some ideas to make planning easier too!

I’ve put together 9 tips to make eating healthy easier. Keep in mind that I’m also trying to keep the budget under control.

  1. Plan each week’s meals before the week starts. You can’t eat healthy if you don’t have healthy food on hand. I use a meal planning template, and input each day’s meals and snacks. I put all of the week’s recipes on my meal plan as well so I don’t have to go searching for them each day.
  2. Plan leftovers into your meal plan. And if you have more leftovers than you planned, you can skip one of your meals. Yay!
  3. Make your grocery list from your meal plan. When you go grocery shopping, stick to it! Stray from your list if one of your staples is on sale, but otherwise, limit the impulse shopping.
  4. Cut up your veggies as you unpack your groceries. When I get home from grocery shopping, I cut up veggies and put them in baggies in the fridge. So broccoli, peppers, cauliflower – anything that needs to be cut up can be so much easier if you do it before you put it in the fridge. I even wash lettuce and put in the salad spinner, then into a bag. During the week, reach in the bags and pull out what you need. The hard work’s already done!
  5. Plan the time consuming meals for the weekend. Plan quicker meals for the week. That way it’s easier to come home and throw dinner together. 20 Minute Supper Club is a great resource for those evening meals. Pick through and you can find lots of gluten,sugar and dairy free meals.
  6. Make sure when you cook on the weekend you have lots of leftovers! That way you can get through much of the week’s lunches just using up your leftovers. Many people recommend using the weekends to cook meals for the week and freeze them, but I can never find enough time on the weekend to do that. If you can, that’s awesome.
  7. Be flexible with your week. Even though I have meals planned by day, I move them around all the time, based on how I feel on a specific day, how much time I have (in which case I may cook a quicker meal).
  8. Include non-cooking meals into your plan. Salads, wraps (with lettuce if you’re gluten-free). Eggs are a really quick meal option (although technically cooking, I suppose). And there’s lots of great ways to cook eggs.
  9. In the summer, BBQ makes healthy meals so easy. Throw on some meat (which you could marinate in the morning). Grill veggies on the grill, or wrap in foil and throw in some coconut oil and spices. Serve with a side salad. And you have a delicious meal! For winter, we have a deluxe Foreman Grill (which also doubles as a griddle) and we cook most nights on it – easy and fast!

Share your tips in the comments below. I’d love to hear them!

The evolution of snacking…and some ideas (plus one recipe!)

Did we snack when we were young? There were no 100 calorie “snack packs” to buy. Most snack (ie. junk) foods only came in the larger size (think, chips). Heck, even pop wasn’t easy back then as you had to open it with a can opener (remind me to tell you of the time at the hunting camp that my cousins and I tried to open cans of pop with screwdrivers while dad and the other uncles slept).

(I was hoping not to show my age with this post, but think I might have blown that!)

I don’t remember “snacking”. Some days, mom would have fresh baked chocolate chip cookies made when we got home from school. But it wasn’t part of our culture as it is today. Convenience is king.
I do remember eating proper meals – a great breakfast that got you off to a great start, a hearty lunch and dinner. Of course our lifestyles have changed since then – we’re busier, on the go and as a result, time starved. Not  only does that mean that we look for convenience in our food, but it also means that we don’t have time (or don’t MAKE time) to prepare and eat proper meals.

So we snack.

I have realized over the past week that in having the time to make all 3 meals (have I made anyone jealous yet??), I have done a lot less snacking. Even in the afternoon.

I started off the first few days with snacks, but not so much lately. I didn’t even eat lunch yesterday.

I attribute that to 3 things:

1) As I mentioned, eating a larger breakfast and lunch than I’m used to (but definitely healthy)

2) NOT EATING GRAINS! I don’t feel hungry after eating, and rarely even feel full. Just feel satisfied.

3) No caffeine, so I don’t have the afternoon dip, meaning I don’t go reaching for a sugary snack to lift me up.

And one bonus…..

4) I am at home so if I am a little tired, I nap instead of eat! Although I have to admit that I’ve only done this 2 or 3 times in the past 6 weeks. But at least it’s an option.

There are lots of diet plans that recommend you eat 6 small meals a day, and honestly, that’s never really worked for me over the long term. But I have often been guilty of not eating enough for breakfast and lunch, which hasn’t helped my cause. And god help me if I ever missed a meal – I got MEAN!

I truly believe that by trying to better regulate my insulin levels by eating mostly protein, fruits, veggies and nuts has helped me reduce my snacking. Let’s see if it continues – I know, one week isn’t enough to say this is long term success!

But since the title of my post is “and some ideas” there is a convenience factor, and often time people are on the run so there is longer time between meals, or just don’t have the time for a hearty meal. So here is the idea part…

Keep in mind that all of my snack ideas will be gluten, sugar and dairy free! I also like to have protein where possible with my snack.

  • Hardboiled egg with veggies (carrots, red pepper)
  • Hummus with carrots
  • Black bean dip with veggies. For black bean dip, mash a cup of black beans, add tomato, lime juice, cilantro, cumin and chile powder. Delicious!
  • Apple with almond butter
  • Tuna (with a bit of mayo, lime juice and cilantro), and put in a lettuce leaf for a wrap
  • Chicken, salsa, cumin and chile powder in a lettuce leaf wrap
  • Almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews – with a little dried fruit (make sure nuts are raw and unsweetened. And as my friend Laurie pointed out, with no oil)

Here is a fantastic recipe for Energy Balls that I got from Mark’s Daily Apple. I made them today, and they’re great. Not sweet. But a bit chocolate-y (don’t worry, I added unsweetened cocoa powder – it’s allowed!).

Here’s the recipe:

“Energy Balls” from Mark’s Daily Apple

1/2 cup each:

  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Pecan nuts
  • Hazel nuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • 3-6 dates
  • 2-4 tablespoons virgin coconut oil

To taste:

  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Freshly ground coffee
  • Shredded coconut

Instructions:

Run the nuts and pumpkin seeds in a food processor until ground into a fine flour.

Remove the nut flour and grind the dates and shredded coconut in the food processor until smooth.

Mix these ingredients together with coffee and cocoa powder according to taste.

Finally, add the coconut oil and mix it all together by hand. Roll the paste into small nibbly balls and sprinkle them in shredded coconut.

Here’s another bonus recipe which was also great. They have melted chocolate, which as long as it’s over 70% cocoa is fine…but I’m saving that for after the first 4 weeks.

Gluten Free Almond Power Bars – Elana’s Pantry

2 cups almonds (raw)

½ cup flax meal (flax seeds ground in a vita-mix)

½ cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)

½ cup unsalted creamy roasted almond butter

½ teaspoon celtic sea salt

½ cup coconut oil

4 drops stevia

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup dark chocolate 73% (optional)

  1. Place almonds, flax meal, shredded coconut, almond butter and salt in a food processor
  2. Pulse briefly, about 10 seconds
  3. In a small sauce pan, melt coconut oil over very low heat
  4. Remove coconut oil from stove, stir stevia, agave and vanilla into oil
  5. Add coconut oil mixture to food processor and pulse until ingredients form a coarse paste
  6. Press mixture into an 8 x 8 glass baking dish
  7. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour, until mixture hardens
  8. In a small saucepan, melt chocolate over very low heat, stirring continuously
  9. Spread melted chocolate over bars; return to refrigerator for 30 minutes, until chocolate hardens
  10. Remove from refrigerator, cut into bars and serve
Would love any more snack ideas you have! Leave them in the comments!

Salad dressing delights

I stopped buying store-made salad dressings over a year ago. I finally discovered how much better my own can be!

Since then, I’ve been on a search for amazing salad dressing recipes. Yes, there is the option of the olive oil/lemon juice or olive oil/balsamic vinegar combinations. But I was looking for options beyond these.

Here are 3 of my favourite salad dressings.2 are from the ReFresh cookbook, and one is from my favourite website, Elana’s Pantry.

The Green Dressing is a delicious tangy dressing made from cilantro. It really adds a kick to your salad. The House Dressing is delicious – I ate this for 3 months straight last summer. And the Asian Dressing was my favourite fall dressing. It’s so easy to make. And if you haven’t tried Ume Plum vinegar….you should. I had bought a bottle and didn’t know what to do with it – until I saw this recipe. Now I’m hooked!

Enjoy!

Green Dressing – ReFresh Cookbook (Ruth Tal)

Ingredients

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. peeled and chopped ginger root

1/4 c. rice vinegar

1 1/4 c chopped cilantro

1/4 water

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp. wasabi

2 tbsp honey

Preparation

Put the garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, cilantro and water in a blender. Process until smooth. Add remaining ingredients while the blender is running. Remove only when fully liquified.


House Dressing – ReFresh Cookbook (Ruth Tal)

Ingredients

1/4 c water

1/4 apple cider vinegar

stevia (to taste)

1 tsp lemon juice (I add more)

3/4 tsp tamari (wheat free)

1/4 tsp. mustard powder

1 clove garlic

1/4 c. flax oil

3/4 c. olive oil

Preparation
In blender, mix all ingredients except oil until totally pureed. With blender running, add oil in a thin stream until dressing is emulsified.

Asian Salad Dressing (Elana’s Pantry)

Ingredients

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon ume plum vinegar

1 tablespoons agave nectar

1 tablespoon orange juice, freshly squeezed

Preparation

In a medium mason jar, combine all ingredients. Shake well until combined.

End (almost) of day 1

The first day can be the easiest and the hardest.

The easiest because you’re super motivated to keep on track, which can wear down over time (and forget why you’re doing it). Hardest because you feel the effects of making changes, which can make you crave sugar, coffee, carbs.

I had a great day nutrition wise. Started the day with a glass of warm water with lemon, then a blueberry avocado smoothie, chicken salad for lunch, hummus and carrots for a snack, and grilled salmon with kale and cauliflower puree for dinner. Plus some green tea and LOTS of water.  And 2 good walks with the dogs. Didn’t work out today, but I’ll get that going this week.

NOW’s the hard part. Night. I get bored, I wander into the kitchen to see what there is, find something (usually not a healthy snack), finish that, wander back to the kitchen again…..you see where I’m going.

I’ve broken the cycle before -it takes a few days. But I’ve done it both times on detoxes. The funny thing is that I’ve done weight loss programs in the past and wasn’t able to break the night eating cycle. I believe that it’s the wheat, sugar, coffee and dairy that cause my problems. Without them, I don’t have cravings.

Today I started the book Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. He also has a website called Mark’s Daily Apple. Really great, interesting stuff. He basically says the same thing (except in much more detail and explains why these things are harmful for insulin levels). Worth reading!

All in all a good (so far) day 1. The headaches haven’t started yet, perhaps tomorrow. I’m waiting for the day that my energy comes, and I start cleaning like mad. And I start falling asleep earlier, getting up earlier. Wonder how many days that will take?

How was your first day?

It’s HERE!

Kind of like Christmas morning, isn’t it? The anticipation, the excitement?

Today I start my detox.

Up at 10 (yay, off to a good start, but what do you expect when I’m off work…), drinking my warm water with lemon and steaping green tea. Smoothie.

Then off to the grocery store to stock up on my healthy food that I’ve planned for the week.

Hmmm…wonder how long the draggy, tired feeling will last this time??