Posts tagged “nutrition

Five Tips to Balance Blood Sugar for Energy and Vitality

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Balancing blood sugar levels throughout the day is the key to steady energy, balanced moods, and clear thinking.  Have you ever wondered why your energy levels crash in the middle of the day? or for no reason at all you find yourself upset or stressed over something that shouldn’t really bother you? Many times fluctuating blood sugar levels can be responsible for these maladies and there are a few simple things you can do about it.

1. Start your day with a super food smoothie

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Fuel’s super green smoothie

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Fuel’s cacao maca smoothie

A simple smoothie made from a high quality protein (we are fans of Sun Warrior and Vega over here at Fuel), unsweetened non dairy milk such as almond or coconut (coconut water is another great option) natural sweeteners such as dates or frozen fruit, soaked raw nuts and seeds for extra creaminess and healthy fats, and super foods like raw cacao, chia, greens powders, or hemp makes the perfect breakfast to infuse your day with energy.  This also makes a great afternoon snack to get you through until dinner.

2. Eat clean

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shopping at the local market for the Fuel meals, we use only the freshest ingredients!

Always choose whole foods over refined and processed products.  Refined sugars and processed foods contaminated with artificial ingredients put a huge stress on your body.  Many people look to refined sugary products for a quick energy boost because their blood sugar is often way out of balance.  When you turn to these foods the cycle simply continues, a momentary increase in energy always results in a crash leading you to more sugary foods.  We need real food to function at an optimal level.  The body has no idea what to do with artificial flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives.  These ingredients create physiological stress on the body and eventually throws metabolic processes way off track.  Using fresh ingredients is always the best choice!

3. Eat smaller more frequent meals throughout the day

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how to eat the Fuel way…each vertical row represents a day’s worth of meals on the Fuel plan

Long gone are the days of ‘three square meals’!  The vey best way to keep your metabolism ‘Fueled’ and blood sugar balanced is to have smaller more frequent meals.  The body does not like to digest large quantities of food at one sitting nor does it function optimally by skipping meals throughout the day and then consuming most of your calories at one meal.  In order to have sustained energy the human body thrives on moderate portions of clean, whole foods eaten every few hours, this is the best way Fuel to your active lifestyle!

4. Incorporate exercise throughout your day

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Desk-ercise anyone?

Many people think that if they get a daily workout in at the gym this is enough, not so!  I am a big fan of scheduled workouts, I look forward to mine daily, however if you are sedentary for the greater part of the day and then hit the gym hard this actually creates stress in the body.  Incorporating simple movements throughout your day is a great way to warm up the body for more intense exercise and keep the metabolic fires burning all day long.  Even if you sit at a desk 8 hours a day just getting up to stretch and walk around the office every hour will help.  We all know the ancient wisdom of taking the stairs, parking further from your destination, walking instead of driving, cliche as it sounds if you add it all up it really does make a difference.  Movement throughout the day is an excellent stress reliever as well, taking a break for a short walk will inspire creativity even in the midst of looming deadlines, you will always find yourself more productive in the end I promise!

 

5. Take time to just chill out!

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Taking time to decompress and unplug from the craziness of life will do wonders for your body, mind, and spirit.  When we are in a constant state of sensory overload our bodies produce excess cortisol which sends blood sugar on a roller coaster ride.  Taking time throughout your day to stop what you are doing and take a few deep breaths is a great habit to get into.  Just like you schedule your workouts and business appointments schedule breaks during your day and make an appointment with yourself for rejuvenation each and every day.  Doing anything that is for no other reason than pure joy can be considered a rejuvenating activity.  When was the last time you did something just because it was fun?

These tips offer a great jumping off point to more energy, less stress, and an overall feeling of wellness.  Often times we overwhelm ourselves with complex rules of how to achieve optimal health when really all we need to do is take a few baby steps.  Once you change a few easy to modify habits your increased vitality will direct you to make even greater changes and soon you will find yourself easily doing a juice cleanse with the drop of a hat!

Cheers to your increased vitality!

Michelle Waithe, holistic nutritionist at Fuel

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HEALTHY MEALS IN MINUTES Quick, Easy, and Delicious Recipes for the Busy Fall Season

by Michelle Waithe, BASc, RHN, PTS RSS Original article published in Vitality Magazine September issue

Creamy Zucchini Soup

As the lazy days of summer wind down and we get back into our hectic work and school schedules, maintaining a healthy diet can be a challenge. As a holistic nutritionist the number one request I get from clients is how to make healthy meals quick, easy, and above all delicious. Commercial advertising has taught us that in order to be convenient and tasty, food needs to be served from a drive-through window or ready in seconds in a microwavable package. As a result, many have come to view the art of meal preparation with fresh ingredients as effortful, expensive, and time consuming.

It is my passion to bring joy and love back into the kitchen, exploring fresh flavourful ingredients while creating optimal health. Here are my favourite strategies to make healthy eating an enticing adventure as well as a convenient part of your routine. Preparation is the key to daily success and commitment to your healthy eating goals! Even if you have already embraced a fresh, whole food diet you will find these simple ideas and recipes extremely helpful to streamline your routine.

Stock your pantry
Make sure to have healthy ingredients in your pantry at all times so that meal preparation is a smooth process:
– Organic BPA-free canned beans or legumes, organic vegetable stock either in powdered or Tetra Pak containers, whole grain crackers and pasta, and natural nut butters are great convenience items to have on hand.
– Dried herbs and spices, dried legumes, whole grains and whole grain flours, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp hearts, goji berries and other dried fruit, raw nuts and seeds (keep these refrigerated if buying in larger quantities) are great sources of essential fatty acids, fibre, and vitamins/minerals.
– Fair trade cacao nibs and cacao powder, natural sweeteners such as coconut sugar, raw agave, maple syrup, or raw honey, coconut oil and other cold-pressed oils (refrigerate after opening), and natural Himalayan or sea salt are great for adding flavour and nutrition to any recipe.

Find your favourite cooking references
Keep one or two natural cookbooks in your kitchen to use as a reference for quick and easy meals. The New Enlightened Eating by Caroline Dupont, Get It Ripe and Ripe From Around Here by Jae Steele, and Meals That Heal Inflammation by Julie Daniluk are my go-to favourites.
•    Bookmark websites for quick and healthy recipes. One of my favourites is http://www.beabetterbeing.comfeaturing the Mum’s Original line of superfood products.

Plan your meals for the week
•    Once you have found a few recipes you really enjoy, plan out how to use them throughout the week and create a shopping list accordingly.
•    Make larger batches of recipes like soups, stews, and dips that can be portioned and either refrigerated or frozen for quick meals and snacks.

Make a weekly shopping list
•    Decide which day of the week will be your shopping day. Planning to shop during less busy times can make the experience much more pleasurable.
•    Check your pantry before you shop and make a list of staple ingredients that are running low, as well as any new ingredients or fresh produce you will need for your recipes.
•    You may need to shop twice weekly for produce to ensure optimal freshness; think of it as something to look forward to by exploring new ingredients you may have never tried before.
•    Get familiar with your local health food store and farmers markets; many have regular sales and new specialty items to make your menus affordable and interesting. (See Vitality’s Guide to Organics)

Have a set meal preparation day each week
•    This can either be on your shopping day or the day after.
•    Take time to wash and chop fruit, vegetables, and greens and store in glass containers in the fridge. This will make it easy to choose healthy snack and meal options.
•    Prepare larger batches of soups, stews, dips, and homemade energy bars for multiple meals and snacks during the week, or freeze for the weeks to come.
•    Cook grains and legumes and store in sealed containers in the fridge. These can easily be turned into a wide variety of healthy meals in minutes with a few additional ingredients.

Storage 
•    Make sure to have a wide variety of containers available for storing ingredients and prepared foods.
•    Glass Mason jars are great to store dry goods, such as legumes, grains, flours, and spices.
•    Have freezer-safe containers on hand for storing larger batches of recipes.
•    If using freezer bags or plastic containers use BPA-free varieties.
•    Clearly label your batch storage recipes with the recipe title and the date made.

Healthy and Delicious Snacks
Snacking is another word that conjures up idealistic images appealing to our deepest food desires and cravings. Simply put, a snack is just a smaller portion of food. I challenge you to literally think ‘outside the box’ and come up with some creative snack ideas that will keep you energized throughout the day. Snacking is a great way to keep your blood sugar balanced and the metabolic fire burning.

Here are some of my favourite simple and nutritious snacks. Mother Nature’s package is the best there is!
•    fresh or dried fruit
•    raw vegetables with hummus or bean dip
•    half an avocado drizzled with raw honey or homemade salsa
•    celery with natural nut butter
•    raw nuts and seeds, homemade trail mix
•    homemade energy bars
•    a smaller portion of any meal
If food preparation at home is completely new to you then start off with committing to a few days per week and source other ways to maintain healthy eating with a busy schedule. When you are pressed for time, heading out to a holistic market such as Nature’s Emporium in Newmarket or The Big Carrot in Toronto to pick up ready-made meals and snacks that adhere to the principles of whole foods eating is a convenient choice. If you find yourself unprepared or just craving something quick, healthy, and delicious there are many choices if you know where to look.

Meal Delivery Service
Another great option would be to source out healthy meal delivery services in your area. Most people think of this as an expense they simply cannot afford, but in reality it usually ends up being cheaper than buying the individual ingredients and is a great choice if health is your passion but cooking is not. As a consulting holistic nutritionist at Fuel Nutrition, a healthy meal delivery service in Toronto, I often recommend meal delivery to clients who are new to healthy eating, looking for convenience, or concerned that good food cannot be delicious. The use of fresh, natural ingredients free of artificial chemicals is paramount if you choose to add any pre-prepared meals to your routine so make sure to look for services that offer this as part of their philosophy.

No matter what your current lifestyle, there are many ways to incorporate healthy food even with the most hectic of schedules. Implementing these simple strategies will ensure that healthy eating is a part of your everyday lifestyle and a joyful addition to your routine. At the end of the day the better you nourish your body the more productive you will be, you will be equipped to keep up with the demands of daily life and create abundant health effortlessly.

Here are a few of my favourite recipes that can be made in larger batches and frozen for up to three months. Try one of these on your next food preparation day; doubling a recipe usually takes the same amount of time as making one batch and you will have enough for weeks of healthy meals and snacks.

Hearty Quinoa Millet Patties

(Makes 10 patties)

This recipe calls for a specific product created by the German biochemist, Dr. Peter Jentschura, called Tischlein­DeckDich (named after the famous European fairytale). This is just one of the doctor’s products created to alkalize and regenerate the body, promoting health, healing, and wellness.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp TischleinDeckDich (a convenient pantry item composed of quinoa, millet, and dehydrated vegetables available at health food stores)
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 egg (as a vegan option use 1 Tbsp ground chia with 3 Tbsp water and let sit for 15 minutes)
  • 2 Tbsp oat flakes
  • Herbal or sea salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Virgin coconut oil for pan-frying

Creamy Zucchini Soup

This recipe was created by Caroline Dupont, author of The New Enlightened Eating. (Makes 6-8 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil
  • Water or vegetable broth (enough to reach about 1 inch below the vegetables)
  • 1½ cups sliced leeks or chopped onions
  • 8 cups coarsely chopped green or yellow zucchini or a combination
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • Sea salt and ground pepper to taste

Grain-Free Berry Muffins

Adapted from Meals That Heal Inflammation by Julie Daniluk, RHN. This cookbook is gluten-, refined sugar-, and dairy-free with 130 easy recipes that assist the body in the healing process. The berry muffins were created using almond flour and honey for those who are suffering from IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease). (Makes 12 muffins)

Ingredients:

  • 2½ cups almond flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp grey sea salt or pink rock salt
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large organic eggs (for a vegan version mix 3 Tbsp of whole chia seeds with 9 Tbsp water and let stand for 15 minutes in place of the eggs)
  • ½ cup liquid raw honey or coconut nectar for a vegan version
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup blueberries or raspberries, fresh or frozen

Homemade Energy Bars

Adapted from http://www.beabetterbeing.com, a blog site developed by Ann Barnes to enlighten others about practical ways to make healthy food convenient and delicious.  (Makes approximately 30 bars when cut into 4-inch squares)

Ingredients:

  • 2½ cups of almond meal or almond flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup hemp hearts
  • 1/3 cup hemp protein powder
  • 1/3 cup whole chia seed
  • ½ cup goji berries or other dried fruit
  • 2 Tbsp greens powder (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup raw coconut nectar or raw agave
  • ½ tsp vanilla

References

• For information on alkaline and gluten-free products formulated by Dr. Peter Jentschura, visit the Canadian distributor’s website http://www.youinfocusproducts.com/ or visit your local health food store. Also, look for their booth at Whole Life Expo, where they will also lecture on Saturday, November 10, as well as a lecture on the benefits of the alkaline lifestyle.
• Fuel Nutrition is a meal delivery service based in Toronto. For more information visit: http://www.fuel-nutrition.ca/meal_delivery.html

Books:
Get It Ripe and Ripe From Around Here by Jae Steele (Arsenal Pulp Press; 2008, 2010)
Meals That Heal Inflammation by Julie Daniluk, RHN (Hay House; 2012). Available at most book stores and through http://www.juliedaniluk.com
The New Enlightened Eating by Caroline Dupont (Books Alive; 2012) http://www.carolinedupont.com
www.awakenyourlife.ca
www.beabetterbeing.com
www.fuel-nutrition.ca
www.naturesemporium.com
www.thebigcarrot.ca

© Copyright 2012 , Vitality Magazine. All Rights Reserved.


Is Organic Really Better?

The organic food movement has found a secure footing amongst the sea of conventional produce but some people may not be fully convinced about the benefits of organic food and what it really means. People often ask me why they should spend more on organic produce, with the argument that just eating more fruits and vegetables is a big enough jump in their efforts to realize a healthier body.  Skeptics have a strong voice in questioning organic claims with good reason, as the average consumer is bombarded with conflicting messages about food on a daily basis.  We are all too familiar with the concept that something is good for us, as advocated by one sounding board, only to be discredited by another such authority.  From a holistic point of view avoiding any artificial chemicals in my food is reason enough for me to choose organic but there may be some other convincing evidence to sway your vote towards the organic campaign.

 
So what does organic really mean?  Depending on the food category it can take on a few slight variations but for now let’s just talk produce.  According to the CFIA (Canadian  Food Inspection Agency) organic in relation to agricultural products is defined as the following:

 “An organic product is an agricultural product that has been certified as organic. A product can be certified if it is produced using the methods outlined by the Canadian Organic Standards.”

“Products that make an organic claim must be certified by a Certification Body that has been accredited, based upon the recommendation of a CFIA designated Conformity Verification Body. The Certification Body must certify the product to the Canadian Organic Standards.”  

The purpose of such definitions is ensure regulation so that the consumer is confident that they are getting what they pay for and not being mislead by false claims.  Now, the purpose of this is not to conjure up ideas of conspiracy theories or make people weary about the validity of organic claims but rather to remove the mysticism of organics and inform you about why they are the healthier choice from a nutritional stand point.

 
Organic farming practices not only ensure that your food is free from harmful chemicals but that it is grown in such a way that produces the most nutrient dense end product.  While it is true that our food does not contain the same level of nutrients it once did before corporate agribusiness became a world wide phenomenon, organic farming standards are put in place to ensure that we avoid any further degradation to the quality of our soil and the crops it generates.  Crop rotation and proper tilling of the land creates nutrient rich soil to give us the most nourishing food available given our current resources.  Avoiding harmful chemicals, protecting our precious resources, and feeding our body with the best food possible should be at the top of everyone’s priority list, an idealistic perspective from a nutritionist’s point of view ; -)  This alone is reason enough to spend your grocery dollars on organic fare however, there are even more enticing reasons to choose organic from a health protective rationale.
 
One of the most interesting aspects about organic produce is that they contain a much higher level of phytonutrients than traditionally grown, pesticide laden crops.  Phytonutrients are compounds separate from the essential vitamins and minerals contained in plants that the body requires in order to survive.  These are the health promoting constituents within plants that are getting so much praise these days for their ability to protect the body and foster optimal health.  Phytonutrients are responsible for color pigments and odiferous characteristics in fruits and vegetables, that pungent smell of garlic is mother nature’s gift from her sulfur containing phytonutrients.

All the buzz about eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables is due the ability of phytonutrients to protect the body.  As it turns out this makes perfect sense when you understand the role of these powerful compounds as part of a plant’s infrastructure. Besides adding beauty and wonderful aromatic qualities to our food, phytonutrients play a much larger role, they are actually the immune system of the plant.  Phytonutrients help plants fight off invaders through a carefully orchestrated combination of releasing odors and parading saturated pigments that discourage pesky critters.  So how does this all tie in with organic vs. non-organic?  Simply put, when plants are sprayed with pesticides they are given an ‘artificial immune system’.  If there is no threat from outside invaders due to a cloak of chemical protection, then there is no need for a plant to develop its own natural suit of armor in the form of additional phytonutrients.  While these are still present in plants sprayed with pesticides, otherwise produce isles would be filled with colorless, odorless heaps of plant matter, the optimal level of phytonutrients is never developed because there simply is no need.  You can liken it to a child whose parents never allow them to be exposed to ‘germs’, they will often have a weakened immune system over their life span because it was never given the chance to fully develop at an early age.  So when you are eating blueberries for their beneficial blue pigment from the anthocyanin group of phytonutrients, you are getting much more for your money savoring an organic blueberry and believe me you will taste the difference too!

 

If you are not yet completely convinced that organic produce is better for you and the planet then at least start off by avoiding the ‘dirty dozen’ when it comes to conventional produce.  The dirty dozen is a list of the top 12 most sprayed fruits in vegetables which, in my opinion should always be bought organic

For a complete listing of pesticide levels in foods and other prominent health and environmental issues the Environmental Working Group is an excellent resource.

 If you have added juicing to your health regime this is another crucial area to always use organic produce.  Juicing concentrates nutrients from the ingredients used so in effect when you juice non-organic produce you may actually be concentrating the level of pesticides, that seems pretty counterproductive when incorporating juices to improve health!!
 

Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is a wonderful way to improve your health and fuel your body but if you want to reap the most benefit organic is the only way to go!

Wishing you a fresh, nutritious, and delicious day!

Michelle Waithe, Holistic Nutritionist at Fuel


What is Your Perception of Health?

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Since my early teen years, when I began seriously thinking about a healthy lifestyle I have ebbed and flowed with my convictions and ideas about diet, exercise, and my body.  There were many factors that contributed to my thoughts on how to maintain perfect health and a lot of them did not include wholesome ideals or what I would now consider a holistic approach.

Up until the age of twelve I had very positive influences within my family life that fostered a healthy attitude towards food, exercise, and my body.  Strict ideas about food and body image were not something in my conscious awareness in the early years of life.   I was always a child who loved to be outside engaging in some type of sporting activity, having a father and siblings who were very active, and as my mum reminds me at every family gathering I owe my healthy eating habits to my brother Bruce.  As she joyfully recounts my brother coming home from school, placing me in my high chair and sharing a big bowl of salad with me, my mum always reminds me that this is what set the pace for my love of healthy food in the years to come, that and her’s and my grandmother’s homemade meals.  There was however, a very significant event that changed the course of my life and they way I viewed food, exercise, and health.

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Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of twelve, a tail spin of emotion around food and health set in.  Suddenly I had to ignore my intuition about what was good for my body and replace it with a stringent set of ‘rules’ about what, when, and how I would eat and exercise, combine that with daily finger pokes and insulin injections and my world was turned upside down, life as I knew had changed.  This was all very foreign to me to say the least.  Never before had I eaten artificial sweeteners and ‘fat free’ food but then found myself drinking diet pop, sugar-free this, that, and the other thing, and lots of packaged products because these were ‘allowed’  in my meal plan and encouraged by my entourage of medical specialists.  Suddenly having such a rigid meal plan when before I simply listened to what my body wanted, created a pattern of eating when I wasn’t hungry and not being ‘allowed’ to eat when my body was signaling it was time for food.  I distinctly remember the incident that set these wheels in motion at warp speed.  I had just come home from school, my grandmother sitting in the living room watching her favorite soap opera, and an otherwise empty house.  The other thing I remember vividly was being so hungry I could cry.  All I wanted was a piece of toast but I knew that my scheduled meal time was not for another 2 hours and would consist of fruit and yogurt, as outlined but the colorful chart that hung prominently on the kitchen pantry door.  Anxious and frantically hungry, I decided I would have a piece of bread.  I couldn’t let my grandmother observe this blatant breaking of the ‘rules’ and God forbid someone came home and saw me eating ‘off schedule’ so I quietly snuck a slice of whole wheat bread into the bathroom and ate it.  Filled with fear that someone would catch me, I began the cycle of what would be a continual process of food becoming my number one enemy.  I should make it perfectly clear that I was never scolded by family members for eating or not eating but rather had conjured up these thoughts based on wanting to follow the rules set out by the medical authorities.

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This disconnect between my mind and body resulted in years of weight loss and weight gain, disordered eating, over exercising or not exercising at all, and generally not feeling good about food, my body, or my health.  Although this was a significant struggle throughout my teens and twenties it was a journey I had to take and made me who I am today, not to mention has lead me to the best career ever!  Having had such distorted thinking about health I can often see the same patterns repeated time and time again with my clients.  Although the thought processes are generated for a variety of different reasons the result is still the same, people struggle with health, weight, and body image based on a picture they have created from a set of beliefs.  While our general health routines are extremely important what is more crucial to our longevity and joy in life is the way we think about our own personal habits.

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In the infant stages of my career as a nutritionist my motto was along the lines of “you are what you eat” but as I evolve and continue to grow it is very clear to me that this is just a small portion of the equation.  Yes, your food choices can positively or negatively affect the way your body feels there is no question about that however, this is not the only factor in optimal creation of health.  My perspective now is most definitely “you are what you think about what you eat”.  This may be an eye opening or somewhat revolutionary statement for most, so let me illustrate it to you this way.  If you are eating a 100% clean diet but always anxious about every little slip up in your self imposed or socially accepted regime or exercising come hell or high water to the point where you have to get that morning run in no matter what otherwise your day falls apart then how healthy are you really?

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An overabundance of stress whether it is about external factors or feeling badly about breaking rules you have created about behaviors, will never create a joyful body or mind.  Yes, you may achieve the ‘look’ you believe is optimal or the stamina needed to meet athletic goals but if you are constantly creating an impenetrable armor of unreasonable standards needed to maintain your ideals is this truly a state of health?  To me health is about feeling joyful at every moment in your body, mind, and spirit no matter where you are at a given time.  After much soul searching, which I continue to expand upon daily, I came to understand that any energy put towards the achievement of health is lost when actions become effortful.  There is a distinct difference between striving for greater health and forcing yourself to do something that feels unnatural.  If you dig deep within yourself you will intuitively know the difference, but I must admit it does take practice to hear your true inner voice.  The best way I have found to do this is create awareness.  Listen to the thoughts you think, hear the voice of rote repetition in your head, and create stillness so that the real voice can shine through.  Negative thoughts are only detrimental when they are unconscious and repetitive, if you can acknowledge and release them, thoughts do not have the same power.

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While my case illustrates the extreme, I feel that many people hold themselves inside similar cages of belief which can only result in a feeling of failure.  If nothing else, I hope to impart some wisdom from what I have learned on my journey, it is always about the process and learning to trust your own innate knowledge. When you have very strict rules about diet, exercise, and health and your behavior falls outside these guidelines you create a sense of failure whether it is in your conscious awareness or held deep at the subconscious level.  I encourage you to seek the best health, learn about nutrition and exercise, I wouldn’t be in this business if I didn’t believe that however, the fastest road to health is understanding the perceptions you have created about your routine.  Take a moment to examine what you believe about your health regime, the food you eat, and how you see your body.  Be at peace with where ever you are now and create stillness to cultivate your intuition, it will never stere you in the wrong direction.

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Wishing you a fresh, nutritious, and delicious day…enjoy your life, eat great food, and be joyful in every moment!

Michelle Waithe, Holistic Nutritionist at Fuel


Homemade Condiments for Your Summer Gathering

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At Fuel we are all about injecting flavor into healthy foods and taking the enjoyment of eating clean to another level.  Fresh ingredients and homemade food is a huge part of our philosophy so I thought I would give you some ideas on how to make familiar summer condiments healthier and even more full of flavor.  Most people associate summer BBQ season with the standard adornments such as ketchup, mustard, and relish but these are often highly processed and loaded with refined sugars and preservatives.  I know most people don’t consider making homemade versions of these toppings but it is really super simple, in the end you will have something much healthier and the taste will outshine any bottled condiment lingering in your refrigerator I promise!

Let’s start with ketchup, probably the most popular all around condiment out there.  Unless you are buying an all-natural, organic type ketchup most conventional brands contain a whack of refined sugar and less than wholesome ingredients, take a look at the ingredient label and you will see what I am talking about.

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Have you ever wondered how natural flavor can be considered an ingredient…hmmmm?
According to Code of Federal Regulations natural flavoring is defined as:

the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.“….In other words, natural flavors can be pretty much anything approved for use in foods.

Even more reason to make easy and delicious homemade ketchup…you will never turn back!! We often serve a variation of this with our amazing turkey burger.  Here is a super simple ketchup recipe that doesn’t even require turning on the stoveImage

Ingredients:

1 cup sun dried tomatoes

1 cup fresh tomatoes, any kind will do but grape tomatoes add a nice sweet flavour

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup sweet yellow onion or shallots, chopped

10 basil leaves

1 tsp. all spice, ground

1/2 tsp. cloves, ground

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

6 dates, pitted

1/4 olive or flax oil

2 tbsp raw coconut nectarraw honey, or coconut sugar

1 tsp. himalayan or sea salt

Preparation:

  1. Soak dates and sun dried tomatoes in enough warm water to cover for about 20 minutes, then drain soak water.
  2. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth, how easy is that!!
  3. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

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Mustard is my favorite condiment because is it so versatile, pungent in flavour, and has many health benefits.  Amazing on its own or as an addition to dressings, marinades, and dips mustard is a must have in my pantry.  Conventional mustard is not the worst offender in terms of unhealthy ingredients and there are many great natural brands that I use quite often, but there is just something about making it from scratch and putting your own twist on it.  This is a simple basic recipe but you could add all types of additional flavors, how about fresh tarragon, dill, or rosemary….yum!!

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown or yellow mustard seeds (the brown seeds have more of a kick!)

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tbsp. white pepper, ground

1 tsp. tumeric, ground

1/4 filtered water, or just enough to achieve desired consistency

Preparation:

  1. Gently crush mustard seeds with a mortar and pestle, this will result in a ‘grainy’ type mustard.  If you prefer a ‘smoother’ consistency grind mustard seeds in a coffee or spice grinder.
  2. Add all ingredients except water to a blender and blend to combine.
  3. Add water slowly until desired consistency is achieved.
  4. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator up to 2 months.

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Conventional relish is another one of those sneaky purveyors of refined sugar which most of you are hopefully trying to avoid. Relish also contains artificial colors, unless you are eating kale relish that vibrant green color which so beautifully compliments your BBQ favorites is very far removed from anything natural.

Have you ever looked at the ingredient list of the most popular brands of prepared relish? You might find items like high fructose corn syrup, refined salt, colors such as yellow no. 5 (also known as tartrazine) and blue no. 1, natural flavor (yes it rears its ugly head again!), and preservatives such as polysorbate 80

Ditch that unhealthy stuff and try your hand at making a fresh relish, another great recipe that has endless possibilities for adding your own personal flare.  While I admit this one takes more prep time than the first two recipes due to all the chopping, it is definitely worth it! A simple trick to avoid the chopping is to do a rough chop of the first four ingredients and then pulse in a food processor with the remaining ingredients…so easy!

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Ingredients:

1 small jar of natural pickles, drained and finely chopped

1 red pepper, finely chopped

1 green pepper finely chopped

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

juice of 2 medium sized lemons

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or natural red wine vinegar

1/4 cup coconut sugar

2 tsp. grated ginger or powdered ginger

1 tsp. white pepper, ground

Preparation:

  1. If chopping by hand mix all ingredients in a large bowl and let sit for 1 hour to allow flavors to marinate together.
  2. If using a food processor add all ingredients and pulse a few times to achieve a fine chop, you want it to be a little chunky.
  3. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Try one of these recipes at your next outdoor gathering, these make great host gifts as well, trust me you will the hit of the party!!

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Wishing you a fresh, nutritious, and delicious day!

Michelle Waithe, holistic nutritionist at Fuel


Hidden Talents of the Mighty Avocado and Other Neat Stuff About Healthy Fats

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Growing up my mum often had a few slices of green goodness on the side of her dinner plate which I curiously admired from afar.  Although I was a child who loved all fruits and vegetables, thanks to the prodding of my older brother Bruce, I was a bit weary of the suspicious looking creamy green accompaniment to my mother’s meals.  It was not until  my adult years that I began my love affair with the avocado.

Still a bit skeptical about its benefits due to my ‘low fat‘ brain fog in the 90’s, I began to explore nutrition but hesitated to make avocados a regular part of my own diet due to the overwhelming panic that fat would make me fat.  In this ‘fear the fat‘ phase of my life eating an avocado on the regular seemed like a crime against my self imposed dietary restrictions.  Once the fog lifted, probably when I started eating good fats again and got my brain cells back, I was able to understand the full potential of nature’s healthy fats and how important they are in our diets.  Fats in general have gotten a bad wrap and for good reason with all the highly processed junk out there but the mistake we have made is to bundle all fats into this category.  Yes, we want to avoid refined and genetically modified oils and fats contained in processed products but our body needs healthy fats in order to function optimally.  Fats are used in the body for cellular structure, producing hormones, insulation, and providing us with emergency reserves of energy.   We now know that all fats are not created equal and healthy fats should come from mother nature’s garden, preferably in their unadulterated whole food form.  Raw nuts and seeds, wild caught fish, coconut, and of course avocados are great choices and should be included in a well balanced diet in order to maintain optimal health.  If you keep your portions reasonable and maintain a clean diet in all the other food group categories fats can actually help to balance your metabolism, fear fat no more just eat the good stuff!

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So on to my love affair with the avocado.  Many nutritional virtues have been bestowed upon this delicious green fruit.  Besides being a great source of healthy fats, including a high concentration of the prized omega 3 fatty acids, avocados contain a number of anti-inflammatory compounds called phytosterols and polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFA’s).  These compounds work to regulate inflammation in the body which can have beneficial effects on everything from our cardiovascular system to inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Avocados also get a leading position on my superfood roster for their ability to regulate blood sugar due to a high fiber and low carbohydrate content, which gives them a starring role in my diabetes protocols.  Containing high levels of antioxidants, especially carotenoids, is another reason to give the avocado praise.  This mighty fruit will help protect you against free radical damage, which is responsible for the deterioration of cells, the aging process, and a contributing factor to many types of cancer.  Avocados are also high in oleic acid which is needed for the optimal absorption of these carotenoids making them much more available to the body, funny how mother nature creates elaborate synergistic combinations in simple guise.

Besides the nutritional accolades avocados are just plain delicious and extremely versatile, you might be surprised by the hidden culinary attributes of your average avocado.  We are all well versed in the traditional uses of avocados….

add to a salad yum!

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make a guacamole, dee-lish!

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slice and eat with a drizzle of raw honey…a little outside the box but seems approachable…

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what about something a little more outside the box…

make chocolate avocado pudding…say what?

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Raw Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Ingredients:

2 ripe avocados

1/2 cup Mum’s Original Raw Cacao Powder

1/2 cup Ojio Raw Organic Agave Nectar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup water (less if you want a thicker consistency)

1/2 tsp. Mum’s Original Himalayan Rock Salt

Preparation:

  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor fitted with an ‘S’ blade or a Vitamix and blend until smooth.
  2. Refrigerate for 1 hour for a chilled version.

maybe a little avocado dairy free ice ‘creem’ on a hot summer night…are you serious?

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Banana Basil Avocado Ice ‘Creem’

Ingredients:

2 ripe avocados

2 medium sized frozen bananas (cut into chunks before freezer to make blending easier)

1 can Thai Kitchen Organic Coconut Milk

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1/2 cup Ojio Raw Agave Nectar

1/4 tsp. Mum’s Original Himalayan Rock Salt

Preparation:

  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor fitted with an ‘S’ blade or Vitamix and process until smooth.
  2. Enjoy as a soft serve ice ‘creem’ or freeze for 1 hour for a firmer texture.

I have tried these two recipes with even the most discerning avocado skeptics and it fools them every time!  Even kids who squirm at the thought of eating a squishy green avocado gobble these up none the wiser.  These recipes are super simple and will inspire your own romance with the amazing avocado!

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What is your favorite way to use avocados? I would love to share your recipes!

wishing a you a fresh, nutritious, and delicious day full of avocado goodness!

Michelle Waithe,

Holistic Nutritionist at Fuel


Lessons From Dad

As a tribute to father’s day this year I thought I would share some of the great life lessons learned from my dad about how stay healthy and youthful.  Both Bruce and I can definitely attribute a strong influence about how to maintain good health from our truly amazing father.  At the age of almost 83 our dad cycles 25km three times per week in addition to longer group rides throughout the summer, engages in a regular weight training regime, and daily cardiovascular exercise.

Dad out for a 25km bike ride

Healthy dietary practices are also part of the daily routine.  Although he does have his sweet indulgences I think the key to my father’s health is his attitude towards food and life in general.  I can honestly say that I have never seen my father overeat or eat in a mindless manner.  All his meals are eaten at the dining room table with complete focus on enjoying his food.  My parents have even decided to have vegetarian only days 2-3 times per week and are incorporating more foods like quinoa, flaxseeds, coconut sugar, and a wider range of fruits and vegetables.

A healthy attitude about life is a key lesson I have learned from my father.  No matter what the situation my father always maintains a positive perspective.  He may worry about the small things like leaving the light on outside and locking the door but when it comes to the big picture even significant life stressors don’t seem to affect him in a way that brings him down or manifests on a physical level. My father is always open to change and interested in improving his health, at an age when most people just give up on improving he is striving for even more excellence.  Anytime I have recommended a dietary change or supplement he takes it on full force and commits to following the protocol.  Only a few months ago himself and my mum were inquiring about doing a cleanse, I can’t even get most people my own age to commit to a cleanse!

A weekday in the life of dad looks something like this:

5am – wake up, start a pot of coffee for himself and my mother, read the paper and prepare breakfast for the grandchildren when they are dropped off before school

8:30am – help my mum prepare the boys for school and shuttle them, along with the other neighborhood kids they look after, to school

9am – breakfast and supplements, 1 apple and bran cereal

10am-1pm – help mum with errands around the house and helping with mum’s in home neighborhood daycare, daily exercise routine (cycling, weight training routine, etc.)

1pm – lunch,  usually some type of sandwich on whole rye bread or leftovers from last night’s dinner

2pm – afternoon nap

2:30pm – pick up first round of kids from school

3:30pm – pick up second round of kids from school

afternoon – online keeping up with cricket news around the world, emails, other world news, snack cheese and crackers or fruit

6-7pm – dinner, usually rice or legumes, with chicken or fish, green salad, and sometimes frozen yogurt, ice cream, or a piece of chocolate for desert

evening – watching Iron Chef, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, America’s Got Talent, CSI, or movie of the week with my mum, watching sporting events (without mum)

9-10pm – supplements and off to bed for a good night’s rest

Weekends are very similar except more time is spent relaxing in the morning, a more elaborate breakfast such as toast and eggs is on the menu, followed by errands and grocery shopping with mum, then laundry, cleaning, and outdoor chores while mum prepares dinner.  Afternoon relaxation watching sporting events on tv and napping are also part of the routine.  Weekend dinners will sometimes be a splurge of pizza or chinese food but always eaten in moderation and enjoyed fully.

The key to my father’s health is the joy in his routine.  Although sometimes having a house full of kids during the week can be challenging I think this is one of the things that keeps him active and youthful.  A combination of a consistent routine, daily activity, dedicated exercise time, daily naps and regular sleep habits, mental stimulation, and mindful eating are the key to my father’s longevity.  What I have learned from his approach is  that It’s more about how you view your life.  Sometimes it’s not always about what you eat, how much you exercise, and taking the right supplement but it is always about how you perceive your own personal health habits. If you feel good about what your doing and are continually expanding on all levels no matter what age and enjoy life in a mindful way you will see the benefit.  Just this past Christmas I observed him dancing to calypso Christmas music while doing the dishes, now that is the ultimate expression of fully enjoying every moment.  Taking an ordinary task and making it an extraordinary moment of joy is something my dad has mastered.

I should also mention that my dad is a cancer survivor having healed from prostate cancer at the age of 62 and seems to be getting healthier as the years pass.  Since that time he has had a few minor health problems but instead of looking at them as his body deteriorating he has used these challenges to improve even more and keep the momentum of change moving in a forward direction.

My father is one of the best reminders of how to live beyond your physical age, all these lessons I take with me always in my daily life.

wishing you a fresh, nutritious, and delicious day!
Michelle Waithe, holistic nutritionist ar Fuel Nutrition