Since it is Friday (Happy Halloween Everyone!) I am going to share a few things that are making me happy this week.
I used to do yoga each and every week when I was in university with my roommate. We would go to hot yoga once a week and it was our time to unwind from a busy week. Before and after the class we were usually rushing around, but during the class was pure peace and relaxation.
I have been reading lots about yoga and I decided to try and get back into it! So far I have done 12-30 minutes each day. I love this YouTube channel, and I enjoy the flow versions, more things focused on strength and flexibility. This one is my favourite so far!
2. Teeccino Herbal Coffee
I just got this and it is so good! I am looking to reduce my coffee intake and I truly love the taste and that is what I have been missing! I have tried other "coffee" teas and was dissatisfied, this herbal coffee is so yummy!!
3. Library Books
I decided a few weeks back that I was going to get a library card and start reading books! As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist there are so many questions, so I began exploring books to offer me some insight and see what the most popular diet related books were telling people. I decided however that I wasn’t going to spend money on a book that was not being used as a life long resource. So far I have read 4 books and I have a massive “to read” list with lots of good things coming.
3. Being Mindful
I have been striving for mindfulness with eating and finally saw some success last night. I have been working hard to truly enjoy my foods, avoid eating with the TV and assessing my hunger on many different levels. The book has been really helpful but I must admit it is a bit overwhelming, so I just read a little bit each day, I don’t want to bite off more then I can chew (ha!). I am really enjoying all of the exercises talked about throughout the book, it gives me a better understanding of how to actually practice mindfulness.
4. Food Scores
The Environmental Working Group released food Scores recently, they are designed to help you “rate your plate.” I am still exploring the site to see how they are assessing things, but it seems like a step in the right direction! I really enjoy Skin Deep by the EWG, so I think this is a great program and filled with lots of information. I love that they rate things on nutrition (questionable in my opinion for far), ingredients (this one is great!) and processing. This way you can put priority where you want, they even mention things associated with cancer and rate organic highly. I like things that out big companies using bad ingredients or processing methods, people have a right to know!
That is all for this week!
What are you loving this week?
A recipe! How exciting.
There are many recipes out there that use the basic ingredients that I am using today but this one I created in a flash and it is really tasty! Naturally sweetened with dates it is a great snack that also offers fats and antioxidants and it is ready in a snap, all you need is a food processor!
Let’s talk nutrition! These little balls of goodness have all kinds of special ingredients that are nourishing to our bodies, in addition to tasting wonderful!
Dates: they are a source of easy to digest carbohydrates and they are a good source of fiber, each ball has just over one gram coming from the dates alone. They are also a good source of vitamins and minerals, like B vitamins and potassium, an important mineral for balancing out sodium which many people get too much of leading to an imbalance causing cell communication problems.
Almonds: these have a high fat content, which is a good way to balance out blood sugar and mange the carbohydrates coming from the dates in this recipe. Raw almond, like I used here, contain antioxidant flavonoids and laetrile, these components help make almonds a cancer fighting food. They are also great for lowering harmful cholesterol because they provide healthy fats.
Cocoa (or cacao if you have it!) and unsweetened chocolate: I used cocoa in this recipe, although not as powerful as cacao powder, it is still rich in nutrients. Choose the natural kind, not dutch processed. Cocoa and chocolate is rich in flavanoids, plant pigments responsible for the health benefits of many fruits and vegetables. In addition to that, it increase the absortion of these compounds making it a deliciously palatable way to get more flavanoids into your body.
Maca Powder: maca powder comes from a Peruvian root that is dried and ground. It is was used before long journeys as a sustained energy and vitality support, is a source of calcium and magnesium for bones and muscle health, and is used for balancing hormones, a major concern in todays society.
Ginger: ground ginger is made from the dried root you find at the grocery store, it is spicy and warming. Ginger has been traditionally used to calm the stomach but it also helps eliminate gas and bloating and helps with inflammation due to the gingerols content. These substances can inhibit the formation of inflammatory cytokines reducing pain from things like arthritis. Fresh ginger contains higher content of gingerols than the dried version.
All these ingredients make these little balls packed with wonderful energy and nutrients, and like I said they are quick to pull together and then you can enjoy them straight from the freezer as a little snack!
Chocolate Ginger Energy Balls
10 soft, pitted dates
½ cup raw whole almonds
1 tbsp raw maca powder
1 tbsp cocoa powder (unsweetened, NOT Dutch processed)
½ oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp water
Add all ingredients except the water to your food processor and process until nuts and dates are about the same size. If the mixture is dry and wont stick together when pressed against the side, add in water, 1 tsp at a time until the dough is sticky but not wet and will hold together. Roll tbsp sized balls and store in the freezer.
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While real whole natural and good quality foods taste fantastic on their own, often times we want something a little more. For some reason, when moving from a processed diet to a whole foods diet we feel like we are missing out on flavour, that eating real vegetables and other whole foods is somehow, boring or bland? This is very simply because chemical additives can be found in processed foods, like MSG and sugar, which actually create an addiction to the foods we eat. In addition to this, refined sugars and processed fats do not taste the same as natural sugars and healthy fats, so while whole food might taste different, our taste buds need to get used to it since we are likely addicted to sugars and rancid fats.
Here are my 4 tips to jazz up your whole foods to encourage you and others to keep on trucking, a whole foods, natural diet is the only way to health!
1. Fat is Flavour!
While unhealthy fats are not welcome in a whole foods diet, healthy fats are encouraged. Whole fat sources like avocados, olives and coconut are great, but so are cooking and dressing fats like ghee and butter, and coconut, along with cold-pressed olive oils and others including walnut, avocado and hemp oils. Using these fats not only increases flavour, but also they make the food more nutritious! So make a delicious dressing out of olive oil and lemon juice, and don’t be afraid to sauté some green beans in a little coconut oil, this can really enhance the flavour of foods, while improving nutrient value!
Tip: make sure you’re using the right oil for your task, olive oil (and hemp, flax, etc.) should be saved for cold applications, after cooking, whereas ghee, coconut oil and butter can be used for heated cooking applications, we want to avoid damaging our fats.
2. Make the most of fresh herbs and spices
Adding herbs and spices cannot only give your meal a new flavour direction but it can also offer nutritional benefits as well. Ginger is not only a great addition to a stir fry but it also offers anti-inflammatory benefits and is calming to the stomach.
Fresh herbs are also easy to add (and grow) to meals, add some thyme into your soups and cook your beef with rosemary to add great flavour. Parsley or basil to top off an Italian inspired meal can really take it to the next level.
3. Make your own spice blends
If you want to cut down on food prep and cooking time, make up some spice blends and keep them on hand. There are many recipes online that offer combinations of spices to help you transform a meal into an adventure around the world! Again spices are great for health; cinnamon can help to balance blood sugar and makes a great addition to meals, and even dessert or smoothies! Try blends like an Italian spice blend, taco seasoning (the store stuff contains some questionable ingredients), or a spicy chipotle blend! Grab some jars from the dollar store to put your blends in and make a label reminding you of the ingredients inside, this way you wont be stuck measuring spices for each meal.
Tip: to simplify cooking without losing the flavour, make spice blends from your favourite recipes. If you have a favourite recipe that takes too long to make on a week night, simply extract the spice blend and make any meal inspired by your favourite cookbook recipe!
4. Stop avoiding the salt (and pepper)
While salt and pepper can seem boring, it is actually a great way to bring out the flavours already in your foods! My favourite way to enjoy chicken is grilled with just salt and pepper! Grab some quality sea salt (I like Himalayan) and sprinkle it on your meats, vegetables and grains. While salt has got a bad rap in the past, truth is that we need salt, so try salting during cooking to bring out flavours and use a high quality salt because they will contain an abundance of nutrients and minerals that the body needs in a balance. Pepper can be spicy for some but learn what works for you and your meals will have lots more flavour! If you're concerned about eating too much salt, salt during the cooking process and leave it off the table so you don't over salt!
Tip: choose whole pepper corns and put them into a grinder to grind on foods before meals, this will help to keep the pepper fresh and adds more flavour then the pre-ground stuff.
5. Use different cooking methods
If you’re always steaming your vegetables and broiling your meats, your meals are sure to be a bore, while these are great on their own, mix things up. Try grilling vegetables or roasting them in the oven (with some fat like we talked about above) or cooking your meat in a pan, or grill it. Different cooking methods will bring out different aspects of the foods keeping variety in your meals!
Tip: Roasting vegetables brings out their natural sweetness, if you’re new to the whole foods scene, this can be a good way to get more natural healthy sugars from things like green beans, carrots, and other root vegetables like turnip.
One final unofficial tip, remember that the food itself has lots of flavour so use a variety of vegetables and mix it up, try not to choose the same thing each day or wee, take a trip to the market and pick up a new vegetable and work on preparing it this way. If you’re ever in doubt, add onions and garlic and it is sure to be a hit!
So tell me, how do you keep your whole foods diet alive with loads of flavour?
Amanda is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist out of Southwest Middlesex, and London ON. She works with clients to help them achieve their health and wellness goals!
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