Nutrition, Wellness

Vegan on the cheap

I used to think that eating healthy was super expensive. When you look at the conventional foods in grocery stores versus the healthier and natural options, there definitely seems to be a price gap. This can make it that much more challenging to choose food that’s good for you instead of the convenient, prepackaged junk foods and snacks. However, eating a healthy vegan diet is far more affordable than you may realize.

 

One of the best sources of protein and complex carbohydrates comes from beans. There are so many varieties out there with so many different flavour profiles. Beans are versatile and easy to prep and incorporate into any recipe. The big bonus here is that beans are really cheap, especially if you buy them dried. Now, you may be thinking that it’s a total hassle to soak and boil them, and that it’s time consuming, but you always have the option to soak them overnight while you’re fast asleep and boil them in the morning while you’re having breakfast and getting ready for work. Make yourself a big batch ahead of time and then just freeze what you don’t need right away. You can toss any bean into a salad or cook them into a soup or stew, you can even bake with them. Add chickpeas into a blondie batter or black beans into a brownie batter for added protein and fiber. I’ve tried out both, and they are delicious.

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Eating seasonally is another great way to keep your grocery bill down, especially if it’s local. Check out farmer’s markets in your area or opt for a CSA service. This way you’ll not only be supporting local businesses, but you’ll also get to try a greater variety of fresh produce that you might not find in your grocery store.

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Here are a few examples of what’s in season during summer months:

Fruits – apricots, berries, watermelon, plums, nectarines, peaches, and grapes.

Vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, green peas, green beans, tomatoes, rapini, zucchini

Speaking of produce, during winter months when prices rise and fresh produce is less available, a great choice for you is to go with frozen produce instead. The best thing about this is that it is picked at its peak ripeness and frozen immediately which locks in the nutritional content. Many times when we buy fresh produce that’s not in season, it will be picked before it’s ripe and then transported super far just to get in our grocery stores. Ultimately this time gap between its being picked to being consumed leads to loss of nutrients. So not only are we paying more, but we’re also getting less nutrition for it. I suggest that you wait for the next sale on frozen fruits and vegetables, and load up your shopping cart and freezer. That way you’ll have plenty of options on hand, all the time.

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Another great option is to choose store brands instead of the popular name brands. Store brands are usually discounted and way cheaper, and they are essentially the exact same thing as the big name brands as well. Also, if you shop at a big box store like Costco or Sam’s Club, then you can definitely find tons of ways to save money buy buying your essential items in large quantities. This is usually my go-to for things like protein powder, oats, rice, olive and coconut oil, crushed tomatoes, almond milk and tofu. All of these are essentials in my diet and buying from these types of stores saves me a fortune.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when following a vegan diet is to focus on whole foods that you prepare yourself. Yes, it is super enticing to try all kinds of fun new things like cashew ice cream, veggie burgers and pizza, but like all prepackaged meals and snacks, they are more expensive. So save these fun treats for special occasions and treat meals.

Being a healthy vegan isn’t as daunting as you may think; there’s such a great variety of foods available to you at a reasonable price all the time. The great thing about this is that you get try so many new things and experiment with a new way of cooking. You’ll see with time how easy this can be for you, by focusing on simple ingredients and integrating a weekly meal prep into your lifestyle. With these habits you’ll be healthier and have greater stamina to tackle your day and crush it every time.

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Fitness, Nutrition

What NOT to do before a workout

Setting yourself up for a successful workout is such an important part to staying healthy and getting in great shape. Although there are plenty of things that we all know we should do before training, there’s also plenty of things that we should always avoid. These pre-workout habits might actually seem helpful, but will end up slowing you down or even putting you at risk for injury. So here are a few things to NOT do before hitting the gym.

Eat a big meal

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Pre-workout nutrition is essential, but eating something heavy will definitely leave you feeling bloated and possibly nauseated when you hit the weight room or treadmill.     You have two options when it comes to your pre-workout meal:                                             1. Eat 2 hours before and have a good mix of carbs, protein and fat. Focus on really keeping a good balance with these macros and fueling yourself with quality whole foods. 2. Eat within 1 hour of training and combine a source of lean protein with carbs, no added fats. This way the food will digest fairly quickly give you enough energy to train.

If you prefer to eat multiple small meals throughout the day then the latter option is best. If however, you prefer the standard 3 meals and maybe a snack, the former option will work just fine.

Chug water

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Hydration is so important and many of us are walking around day in, day out, dehydrated without even noticing. Although you might be tempted to load up on water before training (especially if an outdoor workout is your jam), I strongly advise against it. Too much fluid in your tummy during a workout will leave you feeling heavy and can cause some pretty nasty cramps which can, in many cases, make you sick. There are countless videos online of people barfing (sorry for the TMI!) while working out…don’t be one of them.

Static Stretching

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Back in the day, stretching was a big part of the pre-workout routine. Now we know that static stretching before training can actually REDUCE muscle strength. So instead, focus on dynamic stretching with a good warm up of at least 5 minutes on a cardio machine coupled with a warm up set to get your body ready to lift. Save the static stretching for your post-workout routine after a good cool down. This will allow you to aid in recovery and release any lactic acid build up in your muscles, to help reduce soreness.

Too Big of a Warm Up

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As mentioned above, a good warm up is very helpful in getting your body ready to exercise. But anything too intense for too long will slow you down. There’s no reason why you should ever warm up for more than 10 minutes, 5 is actually plenty. Anything more than that and you run the risk of reaching cardiovascular fatigue before muscular fatigue, which is a big no-no for everyone regardless of your current goal. This is one of the reasons why it’s not the best idea to do cardio before weight training. If you need to do both in one shot, always choose weights first and then do your cardio, just FYI.

If you’re already doing any of the things listed above, don’t panic just make some changes accordingly and help your body work with you in getting healthier. Hopefully this makes your life much easier and the next time you hit the gym, you’ll be primed and ready to go.

Nutrition, Recipes

5 ways to sneak in more veg

Chances are if you were to keep a food journal for one day, you’d probably notice that there are some serious veg deficiencies. Maybe you dislike them or haven’t figured out a way to cook them without wanting to cringe or instead, maybe you proudly state they you eat lots of fruit everyday so that’s enough (it’s not, but that’s a story for another day). We could all use more fiber and more nutrients in our diets and loading up on veg is the best way to do that. So let’s make this as easy on you as possible with the Top 5 Ways to Sneak More Veg into Your Diet.

1. Smoothies

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For the smoothie or green juice lovers, this one’s for you. You can easily add in more veg to your drink without compromising on taste by adding things like spinach, kale or cucumber and blending them right in. These all have mild flavours that work well for any sweet tasting fruity beverage. Consider adding in a scoop of plant based protein powder to up the fiber intake even further and get an extra hit of nutrition.

2. Soups

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Depending on your preference you can go with either a hearty, chunky soup filled with all kinds of good veg or you can purée that sucker right up. If you’re not a super veggie lover then I suggest you opt for the latter. Use a vegetable based broth, add in your seasonings, maybe some beans and then toss in the veg. Once the veg is soft, go ahead and purée it in a food processor or use a handheld blender. It’ll come out smooth and creamy without having to add in any fats or heavy creams.

3. Sandwiches

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This lunchtime classic is the perfect option for anyone on the go. Think beyond the usual lettuce leaf and try slicing up some zucchini and onions, or add in some microgreens and sprouts. If you’re feeling particularly fancy, grill up a Portobello mushrooms and add that in too. Opt for a sprouted grain bread with some low calorie condiments like mustard, add-in some grilled tofu and you’ll have a delicious meal ready to go the next time you’re brown-bagging it to work.

4. Pasta

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I love pasta; it is my one true love (next to coffee that is!) and it pairs so well with veg. Whether you prefer a tomato based sauce or just a sauté with oil, this is a great way to add lots of nutrients to a meal. There’s nothing quite like spaghetti sautéed in olive oil with mushrooms, spinach and garlic or rigatoni in a tomato sauce with some eggplant and peppers. I’m getting hungry just think about it! Of course I must suggest that you choose a whole grain version of pasta or at least a semolina based one, and pa attention to how much oil you use here as it can really add up fast.

5. Baked Goods

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This may sound odd, but it totally works. Shred up some zucchini into your muffins or add in some mashed sweet potato or pumpkin purée to any recipe and it’ll add volume and fiber without messing with the taste. Zucchini is my go-to whenever I bake whether it’s an oat flour based waffle or a batch of muffins, this veg in my personal favorite. It’s super neutral in taste and mixes in really nice. Whenever you bake, be sure to use a whole grain flour along with either stevia or monk fruit as your sweetener or maybe some dates instead. That way it’ll give you the sweetness you crave without adding unhealthy sugars or liquid sweeteners.

So there you have it, a simple list of ways that you can add in more veg to your day. This works for even the more veg-averse individuals so try them out. You’ll not only up the nutrition content of your meals, but you’ll even up the volume without packing in tons of calories, leaving you feeling fuller for longer. Win-win!

 

Nutrition, Wellness

My Crazy Coffee Addiction

pexels-photo-374885.jpgI never realized just how much I love the stuff until I decided to cut it out of my life…well, only temporarily. This year for Lent I decided I would forgo coffee. I knew it would be a challenge, but I didn’t know just how big until I got started. The first few days were the worst; I got all of the expected withdrawal symptoms and fatigue only it felt far more intense that I thought. I felt seriously lethargic and drained, and I was always in the mood for a nap. My workouts were that much harder too because I use coffee as part of my pre-workout stack along with creatine and a pretty potent fat-burner. FYI the majority of pre-workout powders contain caffeine, but tend to have lots of fillers and sweeteners, so I usually just cut out the middle and save a few extra bucks by going for coffee instead.

I tried to switch to tea, but it sucks. I hate tea and oddly enough I have 3 fancy tea pots at home that were gifted to me; it’s almost as if people were trying to convince me that tea is just so wonderful. I HATE IT! The only time I can stomach the stuff is when I’m sick and sip of chamomile or when I’m at the end of my prep and drink dandelion root since it’s a mild diuretic.

What makes this so challenging is not just the caffeine, but the fact that I love the taste of coffee and I love the smell of it. There`s something so nice about brewing myself a pot in the morning (especially on the weekends) and taking my time while a make breakfast and read in my jammies, with my little fur babies hopping around (FYI, I adopted 2 baby rabbits last year). It’s the ritual that I probably miss the most, along with the glorious taste that I long for so much. It’s been a few weeks now and I still miss it. I’ve got about another week and a half to go and then I’m done. I’ve already made plans to go straight from church to Starbucks.

But enough about me. Let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks about the coffee bean.

Benefits:

Boosts the metabolism

Loaded with antioxidants

Acts as a fat burner

Increases brain function through increasing certain neurotransmitters that enhance the firing of neurons

Cheap and effective pre-workout supplement by increasing adrenaline levels

Drawbacks:

Excessive consumption can lead to sleep deficiencies and increased blood pressure

It acts as a diuretic. Those who don’t drink much water are at risk for dehydration

Can increase stomach acid causing heartburn

Stains the teeth, can reduce enamel and increase plaque build up

So there’s good stuff and bad stuff. Overall though, moderation seems to be the key factor here in reaping in the benefits without having any harmful side effects. Keep in mind that the maximum intake per day should never exceed 700mg. Also it takes about 45 minutes for it to kick-in and be fully absorbed in the body, but the ‘half-life’ of coffee is 4-6 hours. This means that 6 hours after you chug your cup of Joe, half of its caffeine content is still in your body, so let’s keep it to a minimum in the pm mmkay?

P.S. Here’s a little fun fact for ya…you know how everyone always feels a little bit tired in the afternoon, usually right after lunch? Well, there’s a scientific reason for that. The hormone melatonin (which is released at night when you’re asleep) increases at 1-3pm. So if you find yourself yawning at work in desperate need of a caffeine fix, well you can blame on your physiology and circadian rhythm.

I’m not entirely sure how I’ll make it through the next 10 days without my beloved java, but I’m assuming I’ll just have to power through it. On the bright side, my teeth are looking pretty spectacular and I’m not feeling as exhausted as I was a couple weeks back, so I think there’s hope for me. Don’t get me wrong though, my plans for a post-church Starbucks run are set in stone and I can’t wait. Although I have a feeling that that first cup might have me doing this all the way home:pexels-photo-214574

 

 

Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

Deprive and Binge

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There is an endless cycle that exists within most of us. It’s like we can’t help ourselves. We go from one extreme and then suddenly change gears, and go directly for the opposite of that extreme. We put ourselves through hell sometimes and it almost seems impossible to pull ourselves out of it. Think about it: have you ever gone on a diet, so determined to make it work and keep your calories low only to end up stuffing yourself the moment dessert presents itself? Have you ever yo-yo dieted? Have you ever lost the weight only to gain it right back and then some? I know I have and I’m certainly not alone. This is the deprive and binge.

In both cases we are punishing ourselves because somewhere deep down we think that there is something wrong with us and the way we look. So we eat too little or far too much, leaving you feeling weak with hunger (or in denial about it) or feeling like an oompa loompa ready to be rolled out of the room. It definitely doesn’t help that we’re constantly hit advertisements and marketing ploys that push us into that direction too. Even we’re all aware of these things, many of us still struggle to shift away from them and it’s pretty clear why…

There are 2 things that I know for sure:

  1. People in general are not eating enough, but…
  2. Everyone thinks they are eating too much

With everyone that I have coached and worked with and for every person that I`ve ever had a conversation with about nutrition, they all have these 2 things in common. Most people truly believe that they are overeating because they tend to be grazers eating bits of food here and there throughout the day. In reality they are not taking in enough overall calories and when they do eat it`s usually somewhat unbalanced where the nutrient timing is way off. All of this leads to long term undernourishment, making it impossible to lean out and carve out some nice muscular curves. Instead we may end up a little softer than we’d like ultimately leading to the determination to finally get in shape and never eat anything fatty again, until you once again find yourself gorging on nachos and margaritas with your besties on the next girls night out.

Even after we become aware of all of this, we still resist it. I can’t tell you how many people still say that can’t hit their calorie goal for the day or they think it’s too much and they refuse to eat more than 1600 calories. We just can’t quite seem to let go of the notion that in order to look a certain way or achieve that goal weight, we have to eat tiny portions, restrict ourselves and keep the calories low. This is what always leads to the inevitable deprive and binge, where maybe you can keep the calories ultra-low for a while, but you will most likely rebound.

This whole thing is a really hard cycle to break, but I swear to you that it is possible. The first step is to start eating a solid amount of food every day. You need to eat and you need to nourish yourself, and chances are that unless you are in a contest prep like me or if you are 110lbs of muscle with low body fat, then you need to take in more than 1600 calories daily. Keep your meals balanced and focus on nutrient timing. For example, before any workout eat a combo of protein, complex carbs and a little bit of fat, and after working out focus on fast digesting carbs with protein and keep the fat to a minimum. If you lie to nosh at night after dinner, then have a small meal that combines protein with fat (keep the carbs low) so that you get in some slow digesting nourishment during your sleep time. Trust me here, this works. When I finally released the notion of having to restrict myself in order to look a certain way, everything became way easier. I ended up building lean muscle, nice curve and leaning out really well. Getting stage ready and getting into great shape wasn’t as hard as I thought. The struggle was gone and instead I was able to sail through each day and each workout easily because I was fueled up and ready to go.

So how about we all stop going from one extreme to the next by depriving ourselves and then going crazy on food when we just can’t take it anymore? How about we change gears and focus on eating enough of the good stuff every day? There is no reason to punish ourselves or to even entertain the notion that the way we look is a reflection of how awesome we truly are…I know this sounds all woo-woo enlightened and stuff, but to be fair, I know what I’m talking about because I’ve been on both sides of this thing. We do punish ourselves, whether you are aware of it or not. Reprogramming this takes time, but it is possible through feeding yourself well every day. If you can set yourself up for success like this (which I know you can) then the struggle will finally be gone for good.