Tackle your emotional eating this #NutritionMonth

emotional eating

Does a big slab of chocolate cake make you feel better after a really bad day? Do you turn to carbs for comfort? It’s common to use food as a way to make yourself feel better when you are sad, angry, stressed or tired. But there are better ways than emotional eating to deal with those feelings.

[Note: In the spirit of full transparency, this is my personal take on a blog post created by Dietitians of Canada in honour of Nutrition Month. This post hit close to home with my experience with clients I help with my 40 Days to a Happy Healthy You weight loss program, so I knew I had to share it with you].

I often work with clients who identify with this problem. Whether you are dealing with stress eating, mindless snacking or using food as comfort, this year’s Nutrition Month 2017 campaign has a solution. Plug your problem into their three-step approach to Take the Fight out of Food. Here’s an example of how it works.

Emotional Eating: Spot the Problem

Jamie works full-time while raising a family and has a typical busy lifestyle. He turns to food for comfort when he is stressed at work or frustrated at home. He wants to learn better eating habits.

Emotional Eating: Get the Facts

Jamie hears about me. He learns that craving food when he’s stressed instead of hungry is called emotional eating. We work together to spot the patterns in his behaviour and identify his triggers, such as:

  • Craving foods that are high in calories, fat and sugar (his weakness is bags of chips - especially at night)
  • Eating too much without realizing it
  • Feeling even more stress and anxiety after eating too much

Jamie learns about mindful eating as a way to manage his emotional eating habits. Mindful eating involves paying attention to eating using all senses: really seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling and feeling food. So instead of eating a whole bag of chips when he’s stressed, he can learn to be more mindful of his choice – perhaps eat a smaller portion and enjoy every bite, or choose a more nutritious snack.

Mindful eating can help him become more aware of the reason why he’s eating. It will teach him to eat when he’s hungry and stop when he feels full. Jamie learns that with my help, he can become more aware of his emotional and physical responses to food. With practice, he can manage his stress-related eating and pay more attention in the present moment when he’s making food choices.

Instead of turning to comfort food, he can learn to fight stress by doing something he enjoys, such as taking his dog for a walk, playing street hockey with his kids, reading a book or cooking.

Emotional Eating: Seek Support

Jamie finds lots of help from his dietitian - that's me. :)

Crave-Worthy Healthy Recipes

Crave chocolate when stressed? Check out these recipes for healthy chocolate treats: Chocolate mint whip and chocolate chia pudding.

Chocolate Chia Pudding

chocolate-chia-pudding

All I can say is chocolate chia pudding ... yum!

Healthy eating is all about eating good fuel for your body AND eating for pleasure. This delicious treat fits both categories. It's chocolatey goodness that's made with chia seeds. Chia seeds are rich in protein, iron and fibre. The result is a gelatinous or pudding-like consistency similar to tapioca pudding. It's also quite low in sugar.

Feel free to play with the recipe. The richest version is made with the canned coconut milk (coconut and chocolate - awesome!). I love orange chocolate and mint chocolate so sometimes I add a drop or two of mint extract or orange blossom water.


Chocolate Chia Pudding Ingredients

3 TBSP           chia seeds

1 cup              milk (dairy, plant-based alternative, canned coconut milk is especially delicious)

1 TBSP           cocoa powder

1.5 tsp             sugar


Chocolate Chia Pudding Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a container with a lid.
  2. Stir well to thoroughly combine.
  3. Leave at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow gel to start.
  4. Refrigerate overnight.
  5. Enjoy!

Truth or Myth: Eating at Night Makes you Fat

eating at night fat

One of the myths that seems to have real staying power is that eating after 7pm will make you fat. I can’t tell you how many times people “confess” their eating “sin” to me that while they try not to eat after 7pm, they just can’t stop. I have good news for you. There isn’t anything magical that happens at 7pm. We aren’t Cinderella – our metabolism doesn’t turn back into a pumpkin when the clock strikes 7pm. (Sorry, couldn't resist using the pumpkin analogy there - I'm writing this on Hallowe'en afterall).

Hey, I understand why this myth persists. People love to learn that there is a simple, all-powerful reason why they can’t seem to lose weight. That there’s some secret that slim people know.

What’s more, when the so-called “simple” secret is unattainable for most of us, it empowers the diet industry by feeding in to the dieting-shame-guilt cycle that most women are stuck in. I.e., it’s your fault that you can’t organize your life well enough to eat before 7pm. And, you’re too weak to have the willpower to not eat again afterwards.

I have good news. Eating at night doesn’t make you fat.

If it did, every single person in Spain would be obese. Their tradition is to eat late at night. Last month in Barcelona, Granada, and Gran Canaria, I was amazed to see families with young children (we’re talking toddlers and preschoolers) out eating at cafes at 11pm.

Now me saying that doesn’t give you free reign to sit on the couch for hours every night mindlessly scarfing down entire bags of popcorn, chips and candy. Because that habit will cause weight gain. But it’s not the time on the clock that’s the problem here. Mindlessly eating loads of junk food day after day isn’t a healthy habit no matter what time the clock says.

So, what’s the solution? The solution depends on the root cause of your night-time hunger. First, do a little self-assessment. Why might you be hungry at night? It’s likely not your lack of willpower. There are a number of reasons. Some include:

  • We humans digest food and naturally become hungry again in about 4 hours. So, if you eat dinner at 6pm and you go to bed at 11pm, you likely will be hungry around 9:30-10pm.
  • If you watch TV, all the food ads will stimulate you to want to eat.
  • If you have skipped meals, or made some common eating mistakes earlier in the day, you may be experiencing rebound low blood sugar (which causes cravings for high-salt, high-fat, high-sugar, highly processed foods).
  • If your days are constant stress and you don’t have a lot of tools in your self-care toolbox, you may be craving comfort foods as a method of self-care.
  • If you live alone, you may be eating out of boredom and loneliness. (See note above re: comfort food and self-care).
  • Our bodies are amazing at learning patterns. You may have a learned association of eating at night even if you aren’t hungry.

Understanding these common causes of out-of-control eating at night, you can see how these are some steps to take to turn things around:

  • Don’t sweat it if it’s after 7pm by the time you get home from work/ the kids’ extra-curricular activities and get a healthy dinner on the table. Drop the guilt over how you’ve “failed” because you can’t make it all happen before 7pm. There is no problem with eating your dinner after 7pm. Instead, offer yourself a huge “congratulations” for making it all happen!
  • If you eat earlier and there will be more than 4 hours between dinner and bedtime, plan a healthy snack. It’s a great opportunity for a serving of vegetables or fruit paired with some protein-rich foods. An apple and cheese is a favourite evening snack of mine. So is edamame with raw carrots.
  • Turn off the TV. Choose other activities to wind down at night.
  • Build up your self-care toolkit.

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Why I Don’t Believe in Cheat Days

Why-I-Dont-Believe-in-Cheat-Days

If we’ve been connected for a while, you’ll know that I prefer to be positive. I talk about the things I want you to do more of, eat more of, instead of the things I want you to cut out of your diet. But every once in a while something gets stuck in my craw and I feel the need to speak out about it. Loudly. Rant-style. The ubiquitous concept of cheat days is one of these things that cause me to want to scream from the rooftops. So here I go…

I’m completely against cheat days. Let me repeat that because I feel so strongly about it. Completely. Against. Cheat days. Cheat days set us up to have a negative relationship with food. I’ve found that the secret to achieving, and keeping, your happy weight is to first create a healthy relationship with food. Then the weight loss will follow. Cheat days take you further away from your goal of a healthy weight and feeling happy about your body.

First, let’s look at the term ‘cheat days’. ‘Cheat’ implies that you’ve done something wrong. Cheating on a test is wrong. Cheating on your spouse is wrong. Who, or what, are you cheating on when having a ‘cheat’ day? On your diet? A diet’s purpose is to serve you – not for you be loyal to it.

Most people go on a diet to be healthy. I’ve got some excellent news for you – to be healthy we don’t need to follow a diet where every single morsel of food serves only to supply essential nutrients to your body. True health means having a healthy mind and a healthy body. A truly healthy diet meets your body’s need for nutrients AND you enjoy the pleasure that food can provide AND you feel connected to family and culture. Each of these three factors is equally important. To eat in a way that promotes a healthy mind and body, you need to be able to balance these three factors. That balance will look different from one day to the next. Some days you’ll put more focus on giving your body healthy fuel. Some days you’ll put more focus on enjoying food for pleasure. You could say that this looks like cheat days. What you eat may look the same. But the psychology behind it is completely different.

That psychological difference is really important. True health means having a healthy body and a healthy mind. It’s simply not healthy if you eat in a way that supports your body to be healthy but you’re filled with thoughts about self-deprivation regarding food followed by guilt and shame when you eat something for pleasure. I was very happy when the medical world recognized the extreme end of this as an eating disorder and called it orthorexia. However, research shows that this is a continuum. And, most women in North America are somewhere along the unhealthy end of the continuum. And just because it’s ‘normal’ to have a complicated, negative relationship with food and your body, it doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. Nor, that life has to be this way.

In summary, don’t have cheat days. Instead, on some days, choose food for pleasure and connection to family and culture instead of its nutrients. Ditch the guilt and negativity associated with “cheating”. Heal your relationship with food, and your weight loss will follow.

Start Your Day by Setting an Intention

child-in-sun_medmed-211x300.jpg

In a podcast that I was listening to recently, the speaker suggested starting each day by setting an intention for the day. I’ve been doing it myself and LOVING it. The rest of the day, when I’m making choices about what I get up to, I think back on my intention and decide if my action would fit with that day’s intention or go against my intention.

This idea is amazingly simple and easy to do. When your alarm rings in the morning, before you get out of bed, before you check your phone, or check on your kids, or whatever else you do, take a moment to set an intention for the day. Complete this statement: My intention for today is _______________________.

Here’s why I’m recommending it to you. Most of our day is spent racing from activity to activity. Especially us women. We spend the entire day taking care of others. Being a mother, sister, friend, employee, boss, volunteer, etc. It’s incredibly valuable to have the very first thing you do in a day be something you do for you. You’re signalling to yourself that you’re putting ‘you’ on the agenda. The chronic stress that is our modern reality runs havoc on our hormones, leading to cravings and weight gain. Taking this brief moment is a powerful way to wait a beat before that stressful day starts.

To combat the chronic stress (and the impact on their hormones), I always ask clients who participate in my 40 Days to a Happy Healthy You program, to integrate brief mindfulness practices into their day – a brief daily practice and evening practice. I’ll be adding a morning intention-setting practice to their action plans from now on so that they can get the benefits. Why not start your intention-setting practice tomorrow so that you can start experiencing the benefits?

NGC*: Sleep

sleep

Today I’m coming to you with some news that I know you’ll like. Which is a treat for me because usually I’m the bearer of bad news – telling you to eat less sugar, drink less alcohol, etc. Today I’m not telling you to do less of something enjoyable. I’m telling you to do more of something enjoyable.

I want you to get more sleep.

The old advice in the weight loss world was no pain no gain. Get up earlier or stay up later so that you could hit the gym.

That old advice jut doesn’t hold up anymore. There is an ever-growing body of research that shows how important adequate sleep is for a healthy weight. Or, to be more accurate, the research is showing that chronic sleep deprivation contributes to weight gain.

So many of us are chronically sleep deprived. We brag about being tired and wear being “busy” as a badge of honour. I believe this needs to stop.

Chronic sleep deprivation means getting less than 7-8 hours of good-quality sleep for at least a few days in a row. Note that there are a few important points in my last sentence. First: the amount of sleep, 7-8 hours. Second: that it takes only a few days in a row to be considered sleep deprived (not the weeks, months, years that I know many of you experience). Third: the quality of sleep is as important as the number of hours.

What affects quality of sleep? Two things that often are overlooked are alcohol and sleep apnea. Yes, it’s true that having a couple of drinks can help you fall asleep. But alcohol interferes with the natural brain patterns during sleep. The result is poor quality sleep. Want to wake up feeling refreshed? Skip the alcohol the night before.

Sleep apnea negatively impacts the quality of your sleep. Sleep apnea and weight have a vicious cycle. Being overweight increases sleep apnea and sleep apnea increases weight gain. I always look for any suspicion of sleep apnea when starting with a client because I know that if there is unaddressed sleep apnea, we can change the client’s eating all we want and we won’t see much change in weight.

How does inadequate (either not enough or poor quality) sleep cause weight gain? There are several ways that the research is finding:

  • Opportunity to Eat. When you are awake longer, you have more time to eat. This is especially impactful if you get the evening munchies. Staying up later means more opportunity to munch away.
  • Craving Pleasure. Sleep deprivation lowers the chemicals in our brain’s pleasure centre. Our brain sends us strong signals to raise these chemicals back up again. The foods that raise these chemicals? Highly processed high sugar, high fat, high salt foods – i.e. “junk food”.
  • Slower Metabolism. There is evidence that being sleep deprived slows down our metabolism. So even if we were eating the same amount of food as if we were well-slept, we’d still get weight gain.
  • Recently a study caught my eye. Now this involved only a small handful of people. So I’d call it preliminary – not enough evidence that I’d put a lot of trust in it yet. But it was interesting nevertheless. In this study they found that having only 4.5 hours of sleep for several nights in a row stimulated the same chemical pathway in the subjects’ brains as is stimulated when you smoke marijuana. Yes, being sleep deprived gave these study participants the munchies.

So what to do? Make getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep a priority. What can you let go of to make this happen? Perhaps it’s turning off that evening Netflix. Maybe it’s hiring a house cleaner or gardener so you have fewer chores. And, if you routinely get 7 – 8 hours of sleep but you still wake up feeling exhausted, skip the daily glass (or two) of wine or ask your doctor for a referral for sleep apnea screening.

*A Nutrition Game Changer (NGC) is a food or habit that has made a big impact on the nutritional health of clients I’ve worked with. And, in my life too. Some may call these nutrition hacks. But I'm not a fan of that phrase. I share one NGC each month.

NGC: No Sugar at Breakfast

no sugar at breakfast

This month’s nutrition game changer (NGC)* relates to breakfast. While I may not agree with the common sentiment that breakfast is the most important meal of the day (they’re all equally important), I have found that getting breakfast right can set you up for good energy all day. On the flip side, a couple of commonly-made breakfast mistakes can set you up for a day of cravings.

I’ve found that having a sugary breakfast can set you up to ride the blood sugar roller coaster all day long. By blood sugar roller coaster, I mean having your blood sugar spike after breakfast to subsequently cash making you crave sugar. After you eat the mid-morning donuts your blood sugar will spike and then crash again by lunch. And, again and again all day long.

I learned this one personally. While I always ate breakfast, for many years my breakfast of choice was toast with butter and jam and some fruit. I craved those donuts mid-morning, and other sugary treats all day long. I simply blamed it on my sweet tooth. When I switched up my breakfast to some plain yogurt with fruit, I noticed that I my sugar cravings decreased the whole day. I’ve continued to evolve my breakfast to be overnight oats, topped with nuts or seeds and fruit and I have fantastic energy all day long. Sure, I still enjoy something sweet most days. But it’s by choice. I’m not feeling controlled by my cravings.

Subsequently, I’ve found that I’m not the only one for whom this is an effective strategy. Decreasing the sugar (with a goal of completely removing the added sugar) at breakfast is something that I recommend for almost all of my clients. It consistently results in reduced cravings all day long.

To clarify, I’m talking about added sugars – not the natural sugar found in fruit. Added sugar is found in many seemingly-healthy breakfast cereals, in jam, in “fruit” yogurt, and when you add it to your coffee or tea.

Now if we’ve been connected for a while you’ll know that I’m not an anti-sugar hardliner (check out my “Why I’m Anti-Anti-Sugar” post). Healthy eating certainly can include the pleasure of sweets. I recommend enjoying them later in the day so that they don’t cause you day-long cravings.

*A Nutrition Game Changer (NGC) is a food or habit that has made a big impact on the nutritional health of clients I’ve worked with. And, in my life too. Some may call these nutrition hacks. But I'm not a fan of that phrase. I share one NGC each month.

Curious about how I can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals? Schedule a (free) call to find out.

Why I’m Anti-Anti-Sugar

sugar

In my notes to you I usually take a positive approach. Sharing what I want you to include more of in your eating habits. But I had an experience recently that’s caused something to be stuck in my craw. So I’m giving you fair warning that this is a rant. A rant about sugar. What was this experience? News was spreading around me about a person newly launching into the anti-sugar movement. On that same day, a message went around my office space about mini cupcakes being shared for everyone in the kitchen. Unfortunately (fortunately?), I was sitting at a desk, working away, just around the corner from the kitchen. I couldn’t avoid eavesdropping on the conversation that was being had by the small crowd who had gathered to eat cupcakes. What was this conversation? Things like…

“I shouldn’t be eating this.”

“I tried giving up on sugar before. I felt really great. But I’m too weak.”

“I eat way too much sugar.”

I wanted to run into the kitchen screaming. However, I didn’t because I learned long ago not to give unsolicited nutrition advice. But the experience has been playing over and over in my head. My desire to scream at the top of my lungs hasn’t dissipated. So consider this my scream.

We don’t eat cupcakes for their nutrition value!!! Cupcakes are about celebration. Joy. Pleasure. Eating cupcakes while feeling guilty, feeling shame, feeling disgust with yourself, now that’s a total waste of time (and calories). STOP IT!

Sugar: I give you permission to enjoy the pleasure of food

Between the 12+ years of practicing as a dietitian and the 8 years I took studying at University, I have 20 years of experience in nutrition. I’ve seen movements come and go. I’ve seen the anti-fat movement. I’ve seen the “soy is a miracle food” movement, followed by the “soy is the devil” movement. Now we’re firmly in the anti-sugar movement.

Like all the rest of the movements before them, the anti-sugar movement is only partially supported by scientific evidence. Science finds a suggestion of something and people run with it whole-hog, exaggerating the science way out of proportion and out of context. For example, the recent World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations on limiting sugar consumption are often cited as evidence for the anti-sugar movement. But if you read the actual WHO document, you’ll see that there is evidence that the more sugar a population eats, the more health concerns they experience. But there isn’t evidence that sugar needs to be zero. That’s why they recommended limiting added sugar to 10% of your calories. There just wasn’t evidence that there is harm in consuming less than that.

What I’ve learned is that while people, like the new anti-sugar woman who sparked this message to you, may have only the best of intentions, they do more harm than good.

These movements treat food like it’s just fuel for our bodies. But food is so much more than that. Food is a source of pleasure and it’s a connection to our family, history, and culture. Treating food like it’s just fuel for our bodies asks us to deny an instrumental part of who we are as human beings. It’s virtually impossible to deny those fundamental parts of ourselves. But wanting to be “good”, wanting to be “healthy”, people try. And, inevitably they fail. When you do fail, it brings feelings of failure, guilt, shame. And as Brene Brown teaches us, none of those feelings are healthy. In fact, she teaches us that shame in particular gets in the way of creating change and health. When I work with people, these feelings are the barrier that we need to first get over before we can start the process of adopting healthy habits.

Now before you go accusing me of recommending that we all should eat tons of sugar, let me be really clear. I believe that healthy eating is finding the balance of eating in a way that supports our body, mind, and soul. Eating nothing but sugar isn’t healthy for the body. The key word here is BALANCE. To truly understand nutrition, you need to get yourself out of the dichotomous way of thinking. Food is neither “good” nor “bad”, “healthy” nor “unhealthy”. Eating too much or too little of anything is what’s unhealthy. Denying yourself the pleasure of food is unhealthy. Eating mindlessly is unhealthy.

I would way rather you fully engage in the pleasure of eating a piece of chocolate cake, then mindlessly crunch some carrot sticks which you chose out of self-hate and deprivation.

Give yourself permission to enjoy the pleasure of food. It’s the first step in healthy eating.

Curious about how I can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals? Schedule a (free) call to find out.

Peanut Banana Chocolate Ganache Bites

Decadent peanut banana chocolate ganache bites plate

YAY! It's my annual chocolate recipe. Perfectly timed for Valentine's Day.

If you're new to following me you might wonder why a dietitian is sharing a chocolate recipe. Quite simply, because food is more than just fuel for our bodies. Food feeds our minds and soul too. Denying ourselves the pleasure of food isn't healthy.

This recipe is super simple to make. And WOW is it decadent. Like the middle of a truffle without that pesky shell. I first made experimented by making this in regular-sized muffin tins and it was simply too much (and believe you me, it takes a lot of rich chocolate to make me come to that conclusion!). Mini muffin tins make the perfect size. Just like those 2 bite brownies, but healthier for you and more decadently delicious.

These really are for dark chocolate lovers. So they may be more of an adult treat. But you never know. Make them with your kids and see what their verdict is.

The inspiration for this recipe was from chocolatecoveredkatie.com

If you follow these lifestyles, you'll be happy to know that these heavenly bites are vegan, paleo, gluten-free and have no added sugar.

You can easily make them peanut-free by omitting the peanuts. Go completely nut-free (note: they do contain coconut) or substitute pistachios, chopped almond, or hazelnuts for the topping.

Peanut Banana Chocolate Ganache Bites Ingredients

  • 4 TBSP coconut butter (Note: This isn't the same as coconut oil. Also, if your jar of coconut butter has separated, scrape off the oil and use the lower level - the coconut butter)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 3 TBSP cocoa powder
  • 3 small pinches salt
  • 4 TBSP unsalted peanuts

Peanut Banana Chocolate Ganache Bites Directions

This recipe happens really quickly so you'll want to prepare all your ingredients before you start cooking.

  1. On a small plate, mash the banana really well.
  2. Chop peanuts.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the coconut butter, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the mashed banana. Stir constantly until completely combined.
  5. Lower heat. Add cocoa powder and 1 pinch of salt. Mix well and remove from the heat.
  6. Moving quickly, spoon into a mini muffin tin. Be careful, the mixture is very hot.
  7. Top with chopped peanuts and sprinkle with salt.
  8. Freeze for 1 hour.
  9. Enjoy!

Note: The ganache bites are at the absolute perfect texture when eaten after freezing for 1 hour. If you make them ahead of time and freeze for longer, remove them from the freezer and warm them to room temperature for at least 30 minutes (otherwise they'll be rock hard).

Check out these other healthy chocolate recipes:

Chocolate Chia Pudding

Chocolate Nut Spread

Mint Chocolate Whip

NGC: Daily Gratitude Practice

Daily Gratitude Practice

A Nutrition Game Changer (NGC) is a food or habit that has made a big impact on the nutritional health of clients I’ve worked with. And, in my life too. Some may call these nutrition hacks. But I'm not a fan of that phrase. I share one NGC each month. Today I’m sharing a habit that isn’t actually nutrition-related. Perhaps you could call it a “life game changer” or “life-hack”.

Now since this habit isn’t a food or drink so you’re likely wondering why I’m sharing it. I’m sharing it because I’ve found it to be a powerful way to improve wellness. To increase joy. To decrease the chronic stress that drives us to eat all that highly processed, sugary, salty food. So I guess in a round-about way it really is a nutrition game changer.

So what’s this powerful habit? It’s having a daily gratitude practice. At the end of each day, simply write down one thing for which you’re grateful. You can do it in a journal or on your phone. I choose to write it on a piece of notepaper and place it in a glass bowl beside my bed. That way I have a visual reminder of all the many good things that I have in my life.

Yes, it’s as simple as that. And yes, this practice can have a powerful impact. I know this because I do it myself. It’s such a small thing, yet it made a huge impact on my mental health when I was at a really low place post-divorce. By naming one thing each day, day after day, I changed my attitude from only seeing everything that I didn’t have (glass half empty), to seeing just how much I did have going for me (glass half full). I became happy. And, my emotional eating decreased.

Since then I’ve added it to the action plans for every person who has participated in my 40 Days to a Happy Healthy You weight loss program. Many have told me how much they liked the practice (even those who originally resisted it).

Do you wish you were happier? Looking for a simple way to fit in this mindfulness stuff in your already overly busy life? Want to loosen the grip that emotional eating has on you? Give a daily gratitude practice a try. It’s a game changer.

NGC: One Treat a Day

This is a powerful technique that I’ve used for a long time with clients who want to gain control of their cravings. I use it in my own life too. I learned about it so long ago that I can’t remember where I heard/ read it. I may have even changed the story in my memory over time, so apologies in advance if you’re a health professional who knows of the exact case and recognizes that I’ve inadvertently taken liberties with the story. Regardless of whether or not I’ve remembered the exact details, it’s such a powerful technique that I feel compelled to share it with you. So what’s this story? A woman couldn’t control herself around ice cream. Over her lifetime she would go for periods where she was “good” and didn’t eat any. She also had periods where she would devour whole tubs of ice cream, barely taking a breath between bites. She hated feeling so out of control with ice cream. She also wanted to lose the extra weight that she was carrying (that the ice cream was contributing to). You may be guessing that she was told never to eat ice cream again. Quite the contrary! The astonishing recommendation that she received was to enjoy a small amount of ice cream every day. You know what? It worked! She no longer felt out of control with ice cream. If she started to feel panicky and out-of-control with ice cream, she could reassure herself that she will be able to enjoy some more ice cream tomorrow. Knowing that she could eat it every day removed her drive to eat as much as possible at a sitting. There was no more panic about scarcity. And, she successfully lots weight.

Now some could argue that she could potentially weigh less if she didn’t eat ice cream every day. Perhaps. But from her past history she knew that any weight loss that she experienced from not eating ice cream would just come back (and more) when she reverted back to eating mass quantities of ice cream. Along with that weight would come the feelings of guilt, shame and defeat. Allowing the daily enjoyment of ice cream freed her from that unhealthy cycle.

I was inspired from this story and I make sure that I enjoy a treat every day.

I use this technique with clients who express a similar feeling of being controlled by their cravings. And for clients who truly want to get off the yo-yo dieting roller coaster.

There are two key aspects of this technique that I believe are vitally important:

  1. Reasonable Size: Choose a reasonable size for your treat. One measly bite likely won’t be enough to reassure yourself that you can enjoy your treat every day. You’ll still feel deprived. At the other extreme, enjoying a jumbo-sized treat each day won’t likely allow any weight loss. So what’s the “just-right” size you ask? I don’t have a firm answer for you. Because everyone is different with how much they need to eat to no longer feel the power of that scarcity. If my memory is correct, the woman in the story had a ½ cup of ice cream every day. I can tell you that I personally need more. You’ll have to do some experimenting with yourself to find your “just right” size.
  1. Enjoy your treat. Pleasure is the whole purpose that we eat these foods (it certainly isn’t for the nutrients). If you mindlessly shove it in your face then that food truly was a waste of calories. Pay attention to how your treat looks, smells, tastes, and feels in your mouth. Enjoy the experience.

Nutrition Game Changer: Eating Protein at Afternoon Snack

protein at afternoon snack

Something that I recommend for almost all of the women whom I’ve worked with is eating protein at afternoon snack. Why is this a nutrition game changer? Because in my experience, it helps with a lot of the problems that women come to me for help with regarding their eating in the afternoon and evening. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • Cravings for junk food in the late afternoon.
  • Energy crashing at about 4pm.
  • Constant nibbling while you’re cooking.
  • Getting too hungry to last until you can actually make dinner so instead you pick up take out/ go through a drive-through/ eat out.

If so, then eating protein at an afternoon snack is worth trying. Here’s why:

Human beings digest a meal and get hungry again in about 4 hours. As our blood sugar drops, our body sends signals to us that we’re hungry. If we don’t respond by eating something that subsequently raises our blood sugar, our bodies send more and more urgent messages. Messages that drive us towards the high sugar, fat, salt, very tasty foods. It’s what the feeling of ‘hangry’ is all about.

Assuming that you’ve eaten lunch at about noon, it’s natural that you start to feel hungry again at about 4pm. The food choices that you make at lunch will impact how long you last before you start to get hungry. Some choices will mean that you will feel hungry again in less than 4 hours. But that’s the topic of a whole different blog post J

The longer that you wait until you eat again, the more your body will drive you towards those high sugar, fat, salt, very tasty foods. It’s a physiological drive, not a lack of will power, that causes you to eat those foods before dinner.

The secret to making healthy food choices in the afternoon and evening is to prevent ‘hangry’ by having an afternoon snack. Including protein at your afternoon snack can help your body digest your snack more slowly, thus causing more even blood sugar and fewer cravings for junk foods.

Pair your protein food with some veggies and/or fruits for a perfect combination of nutrients. Examples include:

  • A piece of fruit and a small handful of nuts.
  • Raw veggies with white bean dip.
  • Chia coconut pudding topped with fruit.
  • Collard leaf wrapped around sliced hard boiled egg and bell peppers.
  • Plain Greek yogurt topped with fresh or dried fruit.
  • Apple slices or a banana dipped in nut butter (e.g. peanut butter, almond butter).
  • Protein powder smoothie made with fresh or frozen fruit and leafy greens (e.g. spinach).

Eat protein at your afternoon snack. It’s a nutrition game changer for preventing craving junk food in the late afternoon. And, it’ll help buy you enough time to make a healthy dinner before ‘hangry’ hits.

What's your favourite afternoon snack that includes protein? Share it in a comment below!

Curious about how I can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals? Schedule a (free) call to find out.

Nutrition Game Changer: Overnight Steel Cut Oats

overnight steel cut oats

Discovering overnight oats, particularly when made with steel cut oats, has literally changed my mornings. I was always a breakfast eater. Usually toast. Then by 10:30am I was always hungry again. Not just a general hunger, I craved baked goods – donuts, muffins, anything sweet and baked. When I tried overnight oats made with steel cut oats, I no longer craved baking mid-morning. In fact, I wasn’t hungry at all until noon. I’ve recommended overnight steel cut oats for many clients and all have had the same improvement in their mid-morning hunger and/or cravings.

I shared the recipe for overnight oats last year - you can get that simple, delicious recipe HERE.

The recipe works with both rolled oats and steel cut oats. Today I want to talk specifically about steel cut oats. They’re even less processed than rolled oats – think of them as not-yet-rolled. As such, we digest them even more slowly. The more slowly we digest foods, the longer it takes before we get hungry again. Also, slow digestion prevents a blood sugar spike. Blood sugar spikes result in a crash and then craving more sweets.

Steel cut oats take a lot more chewing than rolled oats. And, they’re higher in fibre. Specifically, the “bulk-forming” kind of fibre (I’ll let you imagine why). Expect significant changes when you go to the bathroom. Because this kind of fibre helps our bodies get rid of bile and toxins, it’s fantastically healthy from a heart health and diabetes point of view.

One word of caution: be sure that you drink lots of water when you try steel cut oats. Otherwise you risk constipation.

Click here to see more delicious, healthy recipes.

Is Your Cereal as Healthy as You Think?

is-your-cereal-as-healthy-as-you-think

Is your cereal as healthy as you think? Lots of cereals that are marketed as healthy don’t have a lot going for them. They’re marketed for what they don’t have in them, “low fat”, “low calorie”, etc. Many famous "healthy" cereals fall into this category. Many people are surprised to find out that their favourite cereal is actually contributing to their weight gain.

Instead of choosing a cereal for what it doesn’t have in it, I want you to choose your breakfast for what it does have in it. Choose to nourish your body instead of depriving it.

One of the most common things that I do when working with people is change their breakfast. You will likely benefit from changing your breakfast if you:

  • Find yourself hungry again by 10am (and looking longingly at those donuts and croissants).
  • Crave sugar mid-afternoon.

Choose a breakfast that naturally has lots of fibre so that it is slowly digested. Grains and pseudograins that are minimally processed have most of their fibre attached. Puffed cereals are digested quickly. Flakes are digested at a medium pace. Look for intact grains that take lots of chewing. Steel-cut oats are a fantastic example. So is making a cereal out of quinoa or buckwheat.

Ready to take your breakfast bowl up another notch? Or, not ready to switch cereals but want to reap the benefits of a healthier breakfast? Help your breakfast last longer by adding nuts and seeds (or their butters). Their protein and healthy fats will help you digest your breakfast even slower, keeping you full longer.

An example of a breakfast that has all this (and tastes delicious too) is overnight oats. Discovering overnight oats changed my mornings - I no longer crave muffins and pastries mid-morning.

Looking for more characteristics of a healthy breakfast, check out this article.

The Perfect Afternoon Snack (for Adults)

The Perfect Afternoon Snack (for Adults)

It’s not just kids who need snacks. We adults need them too. Today I'm sharing the perfect afternoon snack for us adults. Why? It takes approximately four hours to digest food and start getting hungry again. Planning a healthy snack between lunch and dinner can prevent that late afternoon hungry-angry feeling (commonly called ‘hangry’). ‘Hangry’ is created by low blood sugar. Your low blood sugar will also cause you to search out (i.e. crave) sugary, fatty, salty foods. It’s a natural reaction, not a lack of will power.

The secret to healthy eating is prevention. Prevent becoming ‘hangry’ (and heading straight to the convenience store for processed foods) by planning a healthy snack before you get to that point.

So what’s the perfect snack? In truth, there isn’t just one perfect snack – one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to nutrition. Here are the elements of three styles of snacks. One of which will likely be the perfect fit for you.

The Perfect Snack Option 1: Just Produce

This is best if you have a relatively short time between lunch and dinner. Or, if you are very sedentary and don’t need any more calories from a larger snack. A piece of fruit or some raw veggies may be just enough to tie you over for about an hour until dinner.

The Perfect Snack Option 2: Produce + Protein

This more substantial snack provides both some quicker energy from the fruit and veggies and some longer, slower burning energy to keep you going for a few hours. This is my personal mid-afternoon snack. Here are some fantastic combinations to use as inspiration:

  • Strawberries and edamame
  • Carrot sticks/ baby carrots and hummus
  • Apple slices spread with almond butter

The Perfect Snack Option 3: Produce + Protein + Whole Carbs

This option is so substantial that it’s practically a mini-meal. Most of us don’t need this much food at snack time. But if you’re very active and/or in your young 20’s, it might be a good fit for you. Some ideas for inspiration:

  • Smashed avocado on rye crackers with a handful of cashews
  • Natural peanut butter and banana sandwich made on sprouted grain bread.

Curious about how I can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals? Schedule a (free) call to find out.

Are You Eating the Right Breakfast?

Are-you-eating-the-right-breakfast

I don’t know if the old saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is true. It may not be the most important meal. But it certainly is an important one. Starting off with the right breakfast raises your blood sugar gradually and keeps you full for hours. It’s like armor protecting you from the tempting, junky foods that surround us all day. In other words, eating the right breakfast can help with healthy weight loss. Are you eating the right breakfast?

The Right Breakfast

The great news is that there isn’t just one perfect breakfast. Many foods can make up the “right” breakfast. Here are the 4 important characteristics of the “right” breakfast (and some food ideas):

  1. Produce. I highly doubt that you’re surprised that I ‘m recommending that you include fruit or vegetables in your breakfast. Most of us could use to eat more and so why not get a serving or two in at the start of the day? Eat a piece of fruit, top your oatmeal with berries, add some spinach in your omelet, or warm up last night’s stir-fry leftovers.
  1. Protein. Here’s something that toast or cereal eaters often miss. Including protein will help your blood sugars be stable for longer, which means no mid-morning crashes and cravings for donuts. Sprinkle hemp hearts or chia seeds on your cereal, spread nut butter on your toast, or enjoy a couple of eggs.
  1. Real whole grains. This one is optional. You may just want to include protein and produce and you’ll be doing great. Others (me included) do better with some real whole grains at breakfast. What do I mean by “real” whole grains? I mean minimally processed grains. Something that you really have to chew. There’s a lot of highly processed breakfast foods that claim to be whole grain and/or high fibre. I recommend avoiding anything that’s super light-weight, like a lot of breads and puffed cereals. They digest really fast and your blood sugar starts to drop quickly. Instead look for something that needs a lot of chewing, like steel-cut oats and is heavy to hold, like many sprouted grain breads.
  1. Sugar. Again no surprises here (except where it can be hidden). Have as little added sugar as you can (ideally none). Watch out for it in “healthy” cereals, take-out smoothies made with fruit drink concentrates, and in “fruit”-on-the-bottom yogurt.

Here's a recipe for Overnight Oats - a fantastic example of the right breakfast. Try it tomorrow morning and see how great you can feel!

One Simple Step for Better Nutrition, Digestion, and Enjoyment of Your Food

better-nutrition-digestion

Do you want to get more vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food that you eat? Want to reduce bloating and poor digestion? Want to experience more enjoyment from your food? How about feeling more full from eating less food? What if there was one really easy way for better nutrition and digestion?

Well then I’ve got good news for you.

There is one easy way:

Chew your food.

Yes, chew your food.

Okay, I’m being a bit sensationalistic. But I have good reason to be. It seems too obvious. And, too good to be true. But it really isn’t. And yet so many of us don’t do a good job of this.

We wolf down our food without really bothering to chew it.

We mindlessly eat while working at our computers, or scrolling through our iPhones, or while zoning out and watching TV.

Chewing is the first step of digestion. In chewing you break down food into smaller pieces so that your digestive enzymes can have lots of surface area to work on to digest the food, and then absorb it. There’s also digestive enzymes in your saliva that starts breaking food down.

With less chewing there’s less surface area for your enzymes to work on. Which leads to less vitamins, minerals and other nutrients being freed to be absorbed by your body.

With less chewing there’s more undigested food moving through your intestines. The result is that your gut bacteria has more food to ferment, creating gas.

Because we don’t take the time to chew your food, we eat more food before our bodies can register the sensation of being satisfied. As a result we over-eat.

Because we don’t take the time to chew our food we eat an entire bag of potato chips, or an entire tub of ice cream without even noticing. Our “treat” provided us with almost no pleasure.

I encourage you to actually take the time to chew your food. It’s so simple and the benefits are huge.