Should I Take a Probiotic?

should-i-take-a-probiotic

You asked me to cover probiotics. And sure, I know about probiotics. But instead of listening to me, I decided to reach out to a true, leading expert in probiotics. I'm proud to call Desiree Nielsen a friend. And, I can tell you that probiotics and gut health are her jams. She's who I turn to for keeping up on this topic that the scientific community is rapidly learning about. So, I wanted to share her directly with you. Just like me, she gives you the real goods. Enjoy this interview!  And, if you want more of Desiree, check out her show Urban Vegetarian playing on Gusto TV!

Should Parents Be Giving Kids Probiotics?

If a child was born naturally and breastfed, eats a healthy diet and has no health issues, they may not need a probiotic daily. Of course, probiotics are a great choice when the time is right: the literature shows that probiotics may be helpful during cold and flu season to prevent respiratory infection or to prevent traveller’s diarrhea.

In addition, there are certain health concerns that are a clear indication for the use of probiotics daily such as colic, infectious diarrhea or tummy troubles like reflux or irritable bowel syndrome.

Should Us Adults Take Probiotics?

I always tend to err on the light side of supplementation but as adults, there are many reasons why a probiotic may be an excellent idea. Any chronic digestive or inflammatory concern, from IBS to eczema, is worth a three month trial of a clinical strength probiotic to assess improvement. If a probiotic works, you will feel it. I cannot tell you how often I have talked to someone who has been taking a probiotic for years with no result and when they make the right switch, they are shocked by how much better they feel. They can be taken therapeutically and discontinued when you improve…but for those with chronic concerns, I recommend continuing daily as part of lifestyle management.

Probiotics are also helpful on an 'as needed' basis for everything from recovering from food poisoning, prevention of side effects from antibiotics use and as a boost during cold and flu season. They are a great, natural remedy in the wellness toolkit.

For those who tend towards an ‘insurance’ mindset in supplementation, a small daily dose of an effective probiotic certainly doesn’t hurt and you may find an improvement in your day-to-day wellbeing.

What is the Difference Between Prebiotics and Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are part of the natural human microflora…and prebiotics help them thrive. Not too long ago, we would have said that prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates such as inulin. The low FODMAP diet for IBS works by drastically reducing these prebiotic compounds to alter fermentation in the gut.

However, the definition of a prebiotic is changing and it is thought that a whole host of compounds, from plant polyphenols to even the diabetes medication metformin, may help boost the growth of beneficial microbes.

Can We Get Probiotics from Fermented Foods, e.g. Yogurt? Or, Do We Need to Take Them as a Supplement?

Fermented foods are produced thanks to beneficial microbes…but not all fermented foods may contain truly probiotic microbes. This takes a bit of explanation: the definition of a probiotic is ‘a live microorganism, which when administered in adequate amounts, confers a health benefit on the host.”

So the issue with fermented foods is that in the fermentation, many of the microbes may die or there might not be sufficient amounts to actually have an effect. The research on fermented foods is surprisingly spotty, with kimchi and yogurt being two of the standouts. But the average yogurt contains about 1 billion live bacteria at manufacture (which may not be alive when you eat them) whereas most supplemental probiotics are in the tens of billions.

Eat fermented foods daily as part of a healthy diet…take a supplement when you need extra help.

What Should Someone Look for in a Supplement? There Are so Many Available, How Do You Choose?

It’s a tough call; in my mind, the only probiotics that someone should consider are those with high level evidence to support their use. They are very few in number and you can find them on a very helpful website called www.probioticchart.ca - choose one of the brands with level 1 or 2 evidence. Then, the decision becomes a lot easier. We can spend so much money on supplements but if they aren’t effective, we are better off spending our money on healthy food!

In general, good quality probiotics have enteric coated capsules (with a couple of exceptions for fresh or powdered formulas) with a minimum of 10 billion live active cells, guaranteed to a clearly marked expiry date.

Who is Desiree Nielsen? Bio:

Desiree-Nielsen-registered-dietitian

Desiree Nielsen is a dietitian based in Vancouver, Canada. She is the author of Un-Junk Your Diet: How to shop, cook and eat to fight inflammation and feel better, forever! and the host of Urban Vegetarian, a cooking show on Gusto TV. Passionate about integrative therapeutic approaches to nutrition, Desiree maintains a nutrition practice, with a focus on digestive health, plant-based diets and anti-inflammatory nutrition. Her new app, MyHealthyGut is an evidence-based resource for those looking to improve their digestive health.

NGC*: Spa Water

Healthy Spa Water with Fruit

I’ve talked previously about how being adequately hydrated is a NGC. But drinking plain water day after day can become boring. A solution is to mix it up – to reignite your interest with flavoured water (a.k.a. spa water). When I mention flavouring water, your mind likely jumps to lemon water. Here are 2 warnings when choosing flavoured waters.

Acid & Tooth Enamel Now don’t get me started on how there is no evidence that lemon water is the miracle cure that it’s touted to be all over the internet. Unfortunately there is a downfall from all the attention that lemon water is getting. The natural acid that’s in citrus fruits (e.g. lemon, lime, orange) can cause weakening of your tooth enamel, especially if you sip on them all day, day after day. Kiwi and pineapple are also quite high in acid. To save your tooth enamel, mix it up. Choose non-citrus options more often and choose citrus options only occasionally.

Hidden Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners The other common downfall to avoid is that many flavoured waters that you can buy contain hidden sugar and/or artificial sweeteners. I’m not against the occasional use of artificial sweeteners, afterall, officially they are approved as safe for use in Canada. However, one of the overarching truths in which I believe when it comes to nutrition is: “food closest to the way nature made them are the healthiest choice”. Artificial sweeteners are far from nature. Therefore, stick with drinks that are close to nature for your day in and day out water consumption.

Spa Water Ideas: Here are some low-acid, low-sugar and artificial sugar-free spa water options. The herbs have the lowest natural acids (i.e. none). The fruits all have a little bit of acid. But don’t focus on what these drinks don’t have, instead focus on what they do have – fantastic flavour! I call them “spa water” – doesn’t that sound luxurious? Feel free to bring out your inner mixologist to create your favourite flavour combinations.

• Mint • Rosemary • Lemon Verbena • Sage • Basil • Cucumber • Watermelon • Berries such as strawberries, blackberries, blueberries • Iced green tea • Iced herbal tea • Kombutcha • Concord or coronation grapes

*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*: Meal Planning

nutrition game changer meal planning

When working with women who want to eat better, one of the least popular recommendations that I make is creating a meal plan. When I suggest creating a meal plan, I’m usually met with a response along the lines of:

“I’m already crazy-busy. How am I supposed to add one more thing to my life?!”

I understand this knee-jerk resistance. At first it does seem like making a meal plan is adding more to your already overly full schedule. But, in reality it actually saves time and stress. I grew up watching ‘80s cartoons. One show had a saying that they’d repeat:

“Knowing is half the battle”

This phrase is true when it comes to meal planning. While it does take time to sit down and create a meal plan, doing so will save you hours of stressful time each week. From your meal plan you can prepare a grocery list. Think about how much more time you have if you’re only going to the grocery store once or twice a week (I’ve had lots of clients tell me they end up grocery shopping every day because they don’t have a plan). Think of how much time you’ll save if you have what you need in the fridge to turn tonight’s leftovers into tomorrow’s dinner. You could even do Thursday’s lunch and dinner meal prep on Wednesday while you’re in the kitchen waiting for dinner to cook. Efficiency – what?!

Having a meal plan will also save you money and stress. Imagine no more: • Last-minute trips to the grocery store when you’re hungry. • Staring blankly into your fridge. • Garbage bins full of veggies, bought with the best of intentions, but now gone bad.

While the knee-jerk resistance to meal planning is the time it takes, I suspect that there’s a deeper source to the resistance. For many of us, the only experience that we’ve had with meal plans is when on strict diets. We subconsciously associate meal planning with deprivation, forced structure, and failure. No wonder we don’t want to meal plan. Take a moment to check in with yourself. Does the structure of a meal plan make you feel constrained? If so, let’s take this opportunity to re-frame meal plans. It’s your life. It’s your meal plan. Plan what you want to eat. This is a tool to serve you – not the other way around.

Lastly, and very importantly, it’s your plan – change it whenever you want! Did you plan to make a complicated, new recipe tonight but you had an awful day and all you want to do is order pizza? Order the pizza! Savour the pizza! And, revise your plan so that the ingredients that you bought for that new dish are used up before they go bad.

Not convinced? Give it a try, just for this month. It’s only 4 weeks. Summer is fleeting. If meal planning can save you time, this is the perfect month to try it!

*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*: 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.

NGC: 'What I Like About My Body' Daily Practice

women hugging_medmed

A Nutrition Game Changer (NGC) is a food or habit that has made a big impact on the nutritional health of clients whom 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. Back in January I shared a habit that isn’t actually nutrition-related. Perhaps you could call it a “life game changer” or “life-hack”. International Women’s Day is one week away (Tues March 8th). To recognize it I thought that I would share with you another powerful “life game changer”.

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 our day-to-day happiness.

So what’s this powerful habit? It’s having a daily ‘what I like about my body’ practice. At the end of each day, write down one thing that you like about your body. Some days it may be easy to choose something you love – your eyes, your hair, your powerful legs. Other days it may be more of a challenge, you may have to dig deep through your long list of the things you hate about your body to come up with things like “I can see” or “I have two legs and the ability to walk”.

I’ve added this practice to the action plans for every woman 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).

What’s the rationale for this practice? Back when I was doing my Masters degree I was exposed to feminist deconstruction of our cultural norms. I learned how we women usually don’t experience our bodies for ourselves. Instead, we experience our bodies through how we perceive others (usually men) to be viewing them. Our thoughts about our bodies are:

  • “Do I look fat?”
  • “How’s my hair look today?”

Instead of:

  • “I love the feeling in my lungs of drawing in a huge breath of fresh air.”
  • “I love the cozy, warm feeling of wrapping a big scarf around my neck.”

A daily ‘what I like about my body’ practice interrupts our usual external observer way of viewing our bodies. It allows a foot in the door for experiencing our own bodies for ourselves. With practice, that can open the door wide for positive body image.

Do you wish you were happier? Want to feel better about yourself? Even, like what you see in the mirror? Give a daily ‘what I like about my body’ practice a try. It’s a game changer.

Nutrition Game Changer: Fibre

fibre nutrition hack detox stop craving

Fibre. It’s not exactly the sexiest topic. But it actually is a NGC* if you want to love your body. Which really is sexy, isn’t it? It’s recommended that adults eat 25 – 38 grams of fibre each day. But most Canadians don’t get nearly enough (usually only half the recommendation). Here’s why you will want to get enough and what foods to find it in. And, a couple of words of warning when it comes to increasing your intake.

Why You Want Fibre:

There are two main reasons why it's is a NGC: 1) steady blood sugar; 2) large, regular bowel movements.

Fibre helps to lower blood cholesterol and keep blood sugar levels steady. Yes, these both help prevent and manage heart health and diabetes. But there’s also a more immediate reason why you want this. Steady blood sugar means consistent energy levels. No more roller coasters of highs, followed by crashing lows. This means no “hangry” feelings and less cravings for junk food. It means that fibre fills you up and helps you stay feeling full for longer.

Fibre also helps keep your bowels regular and may protect against colon cancer. It binds bile secreted by your liver. Large, easy to pass, bowl movements remove toxins and waste from your body. You don’t want tiny little pellets. In other words, yes, it's the original “detox”. We’re learning more about the role of having a healthy microflora in our digestive tracts. Fibre is considered a “pre-biotic” in that it creates an environment that supports the healthy bacteria.

Words of Warning:

I have two important words of warning when it comes to increasing the amount you eat:

  1. Drink lots of water! Lots of fibre without fluids will have the opposite effect of what you want (namely: constipation). I recommend that we women drink 2.5 Litres of non-sugary fluids each day. Men: drink 3.5 Litres of non-sugary fluids each day.
  2. Increase your intake slowly. Think of fibre like exercise for your digestive tract. If you’ve been eating highly processed foods with little fibre, your digestive tract has been a couch potato. Increase your fibre slowly and steadily. Think of it like an exercise training regimen. Going too fast too soon will result in constipation.

Foods to Eat:

A good general rule is that foods that need lots of chewing contain lots of fibre. The first step in digesting fibre is a thorough chewing (see warning #2 above). If you don’t have to do much chewing of a food, it’s a sign that the fibre has been removed by machines (i.e. processing). Of course there are exceptions to this, but it’s a good general rule when looking for fibre-rich foods.

Great sources of fibre are:

  • Vegetable and fruit. Eat 7 servings a day. As often as possible, eat the peels of your veggies and fruit – there’s lots of fibre in those peels. Juice, including fresh press juice, doesn’t have the same fibre as eating the whole vegetable/ fruit.
  • Pulses: beans, lentils, and peas.
  • Nuts and seeds.
  • Intact whole grains. Examples include brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, steel cut oats, and pot barley. Look for breads that are heavy when you lift the loaf and need lots of chewing. Light, fluffy “whole wheat” bread really isn’t an intact whole grain. There are lots of bakeries and brands out there making bread from intact whole grains. One brand that’s widely available is Silver Hills.

The best way to get fibre is to eat foods closest to the way nature made them. Be wary of “high fibre” or “fibre added” foods that are highly processed (e.g. many “healthy” bars, some yogurt) because it hasn’t been scientifically proven that adding fibre to highly refined foods has the same results in our bodies as eating the fibre that was present when mother nature made the food.

*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.

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: Are You Drinking Enough?

are you drinking enough

Want to know a subtle and sneaky thing that could be making you feel tired and irritable? Giving you headaches? The answer is mild dehydration. Or, on the flip-side, drinking enough fluids is a super easy way to give you more energy and improve your mood. Who doesn’t want that this time of year (and all year long)?! Being adequately hydrated will also help you digest foods well, circulate nutrients throughout your body, and keep you regular. Which only leaves one question: how much do you need to drink? Is the popular advice of “8 glasses of water a day” right? In short, no.

Are You Drinking Enough?

How much fluids you need depends on your body size and how much you sweat. A good starting place is:

  • 2.2 Litres (9 cups) for women
  • 3 Litres (12 cups) for men

Your needs will vary from this if you’re particularly petite, large, physically active, or vacationing in a hot location. Your individual sweet spot is the amount of fluids where your pee is clear to light yellow, but you’re not needing to pee non-stop all day and night. Start with the amount I’ve listed above and adjust to find your sweet spot.

Now I need to address a couple of things that you’ve likely heard about drinks and hydration:

  1. Coffee is dehydrating. Myth. That’s right, this one isn’t true. Coffee and tea aren’t dehydrating. Go ahead and count them towards your cups of fluid per day.
  2. Alcohol is dehydrating. True. Yes, alcohol is dehydrating. (Now you know why I planned this Nutrition Game Changer for the holiday season.) Add an extra 1 – 2 glasses of fluids for each glass of wine, beer, or booze that you drink.

So, What Counts Towards Drinking Enough Fluids?

  • Water (plain, fizzy, or flavoured).
  • Juice (fruit or veggie).
  • Coffee, tea, herbal tea.
  • Milk and plant-based milk alternatives.
  • Broth and soup.
  • Pop (or “soda” for you American readers). Yes, it does count. But relying on it frequently will send you over the recommended amounts of sugar.
  • Electrolyte drinks (e.g. sports dinks). They have a role if you are exercising for 1 hour or longer and/or sweating excessively (e.g. in a hot and humid location, wearing heavy equipment). That sweat you’re losing is salty so you need to replace both fluids and the salt (a.k.a. electrolytes). Athletes in training will have additional fluid and nutrient needs. That’s a different situation than I’m covering in this post. If it describes you, I recommend connecting with a sports dietitian.

[Note: 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.

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.

Nutrition Game Changer: Cook The Night Before

cook-the-night-before

Last month I introduced the concept of nutrition game changers. Nutrition game changers are foods or simple habits that can make a big impact in your health. Some might use the term ‘nutrition hacks’. Today, I had planned to share with you a different habit. But I noticed that, with the nights cooling off again, I’ve been using this habit again. I do it a lot myself. And, it’s helped a number of clients too. I realized that this one simple habit can have a big impact on your health because it makes it easy to eat a lot of healthy foods that you might not otherwise eat. So, what’s this simple habit? Cook the night before.

Cook the Night Before

It’s a nutrition game changer for two huge reasons:

  1. It lessens the stress of getting dinner on the table.
  2. It makes it possible to eat healthy foods like whole grains, beans cooked from scratch, and longer-cooking veggies.

I’ve heard it called the witching hour. You know, that window of time between finishing work, commuting through traffic, picking the kids up from daycare, and making (and eating) dinner. For many people, it’s the most stressful time of the day. No one I know has an hour (or more) to cook dinner. Most people have somewhere from 20 – 30 minutes. Our modern lives have squished this time so much that it’s no wonder that take-out, drive-throughs, and pre-prepared food sales are through the roof. They’re survival techniques. You always ask me for help to get from survival to thriving. Cooking the night before can be a huge help.

No, I’m not talking about spending hours in the kitchen in the middle of the night! I’m talking about multi-tasking. You are likely home for several hours in the evening, after dinner but before you go to bed. Use this time to cook.

There are lots of healthy foods that take almost no work, but they take a long time to cook. Take a few minutes for prep, get the food cooking, set a timer, and then set off with your other evening activities. I personally do the prep while I’m already in the kitchen cooking my dinner for this evening. I don’t have kids so that works. If doing anything else besides preparing tonight’s dinner will take you over the edge, then do the prep later.

When the food is cooked, simply allow them to cool at room temperature and then store them in the fridge. They’ll store for several days in the fridge. On the day that you want to eat them for dinner, simply re-heat them in the microwave or steam them. (Place at least 1 inch of water in the bottom of a double boiler. Bring to a boil over high heat. Place your food in a bowl inside the double boiler. Steam until heated).

What Healthy Foods Can You Cook the Night Before?

  • Whole grains. E.g. pot barley, brown rice, wild rice, farro. They all take 45 – 60 minutes to cook. But the prep is easy. Just add them to a pot with water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, set your timer and you’re done.
  • Winter squash. E.g. spaghetti squash, butternut, acorn squash. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. For all but spaghetti, cut the squash in half lengthways, scoop out the seeds. Pour a splash of water in the seed cavity. Place in a baking dish. Cover with tin foil. Bake for 45min-1 hour (until the flesh is soft when you test it with a fork). For spaghetti squash: leave the squash whole, pierce all over with a fork. Cover with tin foil. Bake for 1 hour or longer (until the squash gives easily to your touch).
  • Root veggies. E.g. beets, yams. There are lots of ways to bake these veggies. Techniques vary by veggie. But unless you take a long time to prep them by cutting them into small pieces, they’re going to take 45min – 1 hour to bake. Here’s one minimal prep time technique each for beets and yams: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Wash but don’t peel the beets. Remove any stems or skinny roots. Rub with olive oil. Wrap in tin foil and place in a baking dish. Roast until soft to the touch. The time will vary based on the size of your beets. Yams can be cooked at the same temperature. Wash but don’t peel the yams. Pierce all over with a fork. Wrap in tin foil. Bake for 45min- 1 hour.
  • Dried beans. Cooking beans from dry is not only cheaper, but it avoids the exposure to BPA in the liner of most cans. Beans take 2 simple prep steps – one the morning before and one the night before. In the morning, measure out your beans, place in a bowl, cover with water (at least 1 inch above the beans), and sit at room temperature all day. At night, drain the beans,  place them in a large pot, add fresh water to cover at least 1 inch above the beans, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, set your timer and you’re done.

Extra Tip: All of these foods make fantastic whole-meal salad ingredients. Cook extra the night before and enjoy them both (cold) as a whole meal salad for your lunch and warm as a part of dinner.

Looking for new recipe ideas? Find lots of great healthy recipes here.

Nutrition Game Changer: Hemp Hearts

hemp hearts

Recently I had a client who asked me for my nutrition game changers. She was looking for foods or habits that have 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.What a cool concept. Thank you Alison for asking me the question! I liked Alison’s idea so much that I’ve decided to share these ideas with you too. Starting today, once a month, I’ll be sharing with you my nutrition game changers. It might be a food (like today) or it might be a simple habit that can make a big impact in your health. I hope that you enjoy this new idea! It was easy to decide what my first nutrition game changer would be. I first started eating hemp seeds (a.k.a. hemp hearts) myself. Loving them, I’ve now introduced them to almost every client whom I work with.

Hemp Hearts: Why Do I Love Them?

Hemp hearts are a great source of plant-based protein and healthy omega-3 fat. Their mild taste, tiny size, and softer texture mean that they are less noticeable than other nuts when you add them to dishes, lending themselves well to many uses.

And, they’re grown in the Canadian prairies. So, they’re a more local choice than many nuts and seeds.

Help Hearts: How to Eat Them

These are the two most common ways that I recommend including hemp hearts:

  1. Hemp seeds are a great way to include protein at breakfast. As you can see in the picture, I add them to my overnight oats. Sprinkle them on your cereal or blend them into smoothies. Do you head out the door without eating breakfast? How about wolfing down 1 – 2 TBSP of these and a piece of fruit? It’s a healthy breakfast without taking the time to prepare anything.
  1. Add them to plain yogurt and fruit as a protein boost to your afternoon snack. Their healthy fats will also help keep your blood sugar stable and likely keep you full longer (and less likely to hit up the vending machine for junk foods).

Extra Tips:

Want to give them a try without committing to a big bag? Keep an eye open for the individual serving packages (like the ones I have in the picture). Or, browse the bulk food section at your local grocery or health food store.

Store your hemp seeds in the fridge. Like all nuts and seeds, this will keep the fats fresh and they’ll taste better.

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