Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Healthy On-The-Go Lunch Ideas

If you're like me, lunches are always the hardest meal to plan for the week. Normally I like to try and make enough leftovers from dinner to use for lunches, but this doesn't always work out! If you take out the option of the standard sandwich-and-processed luncheon meat, then things can get a bit tricky. Thankfully I've managed to learn a couple of healthy lunches to make that are not very time-consuming and are also easy to take with you and put together at lunch time. If you're really hungry at lunch like me, you can also add more options - I like to have herbal tea, a piece of fruit, nuts and maybe a homemade cookie or Lara bar. Leftover soup in a thermos also works well with both of these.

Healthy Lunch #1 
Chicken & Veggie Salad

-Leftover cooked chicken (especially easy if you've cooked a whole chicken for another meal and saved some for lunches.)
-1/2 an Avocado
-1-2 Green onions, chopped
-1 Tomato
-1/2 Small cucumber, sliced
-Mixed salad greens
-Dressing: Olive oil and balsamic vinegar with a squeeze of lemon juice

Healthy Lunch #2
Spelt Toast with Avocado, Cheese, Cucumber, Tomato and Pepper

-1/2 Avocado
-4 Slices of cheese of your choice
-1/2 small cucumer
-1 Tomato
-2 Pieces Spelt Bread or other gluten-free bread
-Ground Pepper

What do you make for a healthy lunch to take with you to work or school? Maybe you can offer some inspiration to myself and others :)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Leek & Chicken Soup (GF, DF)

Hello! It's been a little while since I've posted anything, and that's mainly due to the fact that I've just moved to Canada from New Zealand. It's been a crazy couple of months of going on the most amazing trip to Torrent Bay in the Abel Tasman for Christmas, having a very fun engagement party with a lot of wonderful people, finishing up work, saying goodbye to a lot of friends and family, and definitely lots of packing. Now I'm back in Edmonton, and it's still a big adjustment - especially the season change of going from the middle of a beautiful, hot NZ summer to a snowy (and dark-forgot about that part) Alberta winter. So needless to say, it's been a pretty big change overall. I'm trying my very best to think of the good things about winter, however small - and one of these things is that it feels so great to make a big pot of delicious, warm and hearty soup. I love making recipes that involve throwing a whole bunch of healthy ingredients together! Here is one of my all-time favorite soup recipes, made with chicken drumsticks from Sunworks Farm which produces certified organic chicken, beef, eggs, turkey, bison, lamb and pork right here in Alberta. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Leek & Chicken Soup

Prep and Cooking Time: Approximately 1 hour 40 minutes
Serves: 4
Making the broth
8 organic chicken drumsticks
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
1/2 bunch parsley
Approx. 30 grams of organic butter
2 medium-sized leeks, pale parts only
2 large potatoes
1/4 cup (55g) rice pasta

1. For the broth -  place the chicken, 1 carrot, 1 celery and half of the parsley in 12 cups of water in a large pan on high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and summer for 1 hour so the chicken meat falls off the bones.

2. Strain the broth into a large heatproof bowl and set this aside for now. Discard the vegetables you've used for the broth, and when the chicken is cool enough, remove and discard the skin and bones. (You can soak the chicken in cold water to help it cool down more quickly). Tear the meat into small pieces and set aside.

3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan on medium heat, and cook the leeks for 4-5 minutes until they are soft. Stir in the remaining carrot and celery, and add the potato then cook for 5 minutes.

Prepping my ingredients while the broth simmers
4. Add the pasta and reserved broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

5. Add the chicken meat and summer for another 5 minutes, until the pasta is cooked (*hint - for cooking rice pasta, make sure you don't over-cook it by turning the heat off when the pasta is still a little firm and you should end up with perfect pasta.)

6. Serve with the remaining parsley, chopped and sprinkled on top.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

10 Ways to Be Healthier This Week

When it comes to creating healthy habits, it’s sometimes hard to know where to start. I think it’s important to make changes in small steps so that you are slowly creating new habits that will hopefully get some momentum going. It’s also important to understand the reason behind the changes you make, otherwise it will be very difficult to maintain them. Here are some simple steps that you can take this week to make this week healthier than the last - even if you choose start with just one of them.

1. Modify your coffee habit. 
Take a deep breath and don’t panic, because I’m not going to suggest you stop drinking coffee. But depending on what you put IN your coffee, this could be a good way to kick-start a healthier habit since it’s something that most people consume on a daily basis. When I started drinking coffee I would order a latte with milk and one sugar. Now I really enjoy a long black – but had to do it in steps because I was so used to the sugar and milk. I started by halving the sugar for one week, then halving the milk the next week, and so on.

2. Swap one of your household cleaning products with a natural product
For example, dish soap, spray-cleaner or laundry detergent. Mainstream cleaning products contain toxic ingredients that can have a negative impact on your health, including links to cancer, respiratory illness, allergic reactions and behavioural problems in children. They also negatively impact on the environment when they are flushed down toilets, poured down sinks, and sprayed into the air. We don’t need harsh chemicals to clean our homes (although cleaning product companies would like us to think otherwise) and natural, plant-based options are much safer. You can even make you own cleaning products by following the recipes on this link:

3. Swap one of your toiletries for a natural product. On the same topic, our skin absorbs many of the substances we put on it, so one way to be healthier this week could be to swap one of your daily toiletries for a natural one that doesn’t contain nasty chemicals and that isn’t tested on animals. One great place to start is sunscreen, as some environmental groups warn that many ingredients in sunscreens are toxic. Research has shown that a common chemical in sunscreens called oxybenzone is a likely carcinogen that can be absorbed into the body. Another one to be aware of is the spray-on sunscreens since you run a higher risk of inhaling them during application. As a healthier option, the Environmental Working Group recommends using sunscreens made with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Here is a link to a website called The Wellness Warrior that has a lot of good information on natural beauty products:

     4. Make sunscreen a part of your morning routine. This is especially important for those of you in New Zealand where the sunlight is very harsh. An easy way to incorporate this into your routine (and not forget) is to buy a moisturizer with a sunscreen in it, and apply it to your face, neck and even your hands before leaving the house. You could also keep a small tube of it in your bag or purse in case you need to re-apply it or end up being outside when you didn't expect to be.

5.  Eat breakfast. If you normally skip breakfast in the morning or don’t feel hungry at this time, start small. Have a piece of fruit or a piece of bread (not refined white bread though!) with nut butter and jam, or a healthy cereal or muesli. (Liberty Market in Christchurch packages their own muesli and they are healthy, delicious and reasonably priced). Even if you do this one or two days this week, it’s a good start. You can also have a look at my post 6 Delicious and Healthy Breakfast Ideas for more inspiration: 

 6. Buy healthier yogurt. Yogurt can be a very healthy part of most people's diet, but it is one of my pet-peeve foods when it comes to companies marketing it as healthy when really they have added a lot of not-so-healthy ingredients to it. You will probably be surprised if you read the lables, especially on the mainstream commercial brands which generally include sugar, sugar and more sugar and preservatives. And watch out for the “low-fat” varieties, as they can contain some dodgy artificial junk. In New Zealand, some good brands include: Cyclops (especially their plain yogurt) and Clearwater. Both are organic, and Clearwater has delicious sugar free options such as honey and apple-cinnamon.

7. Buy free-range eggs.  If you don’t already do this, buy free-range eggs instead of caged eggs or even barn eggs. I think this one is self-explanatory, more for the feel-good factor of knowing you are not contributing to cruel factory farming practices. Just a warning on the label "free-range" - these animals can still be fed non-organic and genetically modified grains, so ideally you want to aim for free range AND organic chicken and eggs. But buying free range is a very good start in terms of animal welfare. 

8.  Exercise more than you did last week. If you already have a regular exercise routine then good job! If you’re struggling in this area, then I challenge you to schedule just one day this week to do some type of exercise– check your diary right now and book it in, even if it’s only 20 minutes. Find something you will enjoy, maybe going for a walk, finding a yoga class, sign up for a trial gym membership, whatever you’re into – pick one day this week and do it! We all know the benefits of exercise are basically never-ending – lowering cholesterol and keeping blood pressure in check, decreasing your risk of diabetes, improving mood,  improving bone density...the list goes on. If you're looking for yoga classes in Christchuch, check out my friend Emi's classes called Adventure Yoga:

9. Create a simple bedtime routine. This can help shift your body and mind into sleep mode,  for example, I like to have a shower, drink a cup of herbal tea and do some stretches for my back. Try turning off the TV and computer 30 minutes before you go to bed to give your eyes and your brain a change to actually wind down.

     10. Drink more water. Carry a water bottle around with you so you know how much water you've had to drink, and don't let yourself get so thirsty that you will be tempted to drink something sugary and bad. There is no exact amount that everyone, everywhere needs to drink on a daily basis – this depends on your health, how active you are and where you live. But as a general rule, The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake for men is about 3 liters a day and for women is about 2.2 liters a day (which can include other healthy drinks such as herbal teas). 

Have a great week! :) 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Quick & Healthy Minestrone Pasta (GF, Vt)

This is a recipe for a quick, inexpensive meal that is perfect for when you don't have a lot of time to cook, or when you feel too tired to prepare a more time-consuming meal. This would also be great for kids! The recipe I have posted is probably the quickest and cheapest version, and you could add to it to make it a bit more interesting - for example, using fresh vegetables instead of frozen, adding free range chicken or sausages or having it with a slice of bread or salad on the side. I've also added a Printer Friendly option at the bottom of each post so you can print out a copy of the recipes on this site. 

Quick & Healthy Minestrone Pasta

2tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp. tomato puree or paste
300 grams frozen mixed vegetables
700 ml vegetable stock
175 grams pasta (I used Orgran corn/vegetable pasta spirals)
220 gram can of baked beans (make sure there is not a lot of sugar added)
grated cheddar to serve (optional)

1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and fry the onion for 2-3 minutes until it begins to soften.

2. Stir in the tomato puree and add the frozen vegetable and stock.

3. Bring to a boil, then add the pasta and stir the mixture. Cover and simmer until the pasta is cooked.

4. Stir in the beans until they are heated, and serve hot with grated cheese on top (if using).

And enjoy!

Recipe adapted from:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

10 Ways to Boost Your Immune System

A strong immune system is crucial in terms of overall health and well being  so if you find you’re frequently run-down or getting sick, then this article may be helpful. Your immune system is like your personal medical team ready to fight the battles that will keep you healthy and strong. It’s something that's worth looking after so that you can function at your best, and these days there are so many things that can stress our immune systems and keep us from staying well. I have divided it into ways you can boost your immune system to hopefully prevent getting sick, and things you can do when you are getting sick or already unwell.

5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System: 

1. Eat plenty of colorful, varied fresh fruit and vegetables, especially red, orange and purple colored produce like berries, sweet potatoes and red peppers.  Include plenty of vitamin C-rich foods such as broccoli, peppers, peas, cabbage, lemons, oranges and strawberries.

2. Talk to a health professional about taking immune system boosting supplements. These could include: Vitamin A, a B complex, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Calcium & Magnesium, Iron, Selenium and/or Zinc. 

3. Get enough sunlight, ideally every day. Skin cells produce powerful immune boosting substances and natural daylight stimulates them, which is why it’s important to spend time outdoors every day (approximately 15-20 minutes without sunscreen so your body can absorb enough Vitamin D and possibly a supplement in the winter months). Even better is combining it with some type of exercise outdoors like running, cycling or walking since getting your heart rate up for just 20 minutes, 3 times/week is associated with increased immune function.

4. Try to get good night’s sleep (usually 7-9 hours for an adult).This may be harder depending on your living situation but fatigue increases your susceptibility to illness studies show that your immune function drops by an average of 60% after 3 nights of poor sleep. Like stress, this can cause a  rise in inflammation in the body, which is likely because lack of sleep also leads to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol.

5. Do dry skin brushing once per day to activate your immune system. Dry skin brushing has been shown to help strengthen the immune system and can reduce the length of infections and illness by moving the toxins more quickly through the lymphatic system. For instructions on how to perform dry skin brushing see this link:

5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System When You Feel Like You’re Sick:

1. Increase your intake of Vitamin C. This is one that most people know about, and the ideal daily intake of vitamin C is between 1,000 and 3000mg. For anyone fighting an infection you may need a much larger amount such as up to 20,000mg/day short-term. If you have a cold, take 3 grams (3000mg) every 4 hours until symptoms start to improve. Always take a large doses divided into smaller doses, take lots of fluids at the same time and gradually decrease your intake as you get better.  Speak to a health professional in regards to any questions about appropriate dosing of Vitamin C. When you’re sick or coping with additional stress you can take Zinc supplements, and you can often find Vitamin C and Zinc combinations.

2. Take Echinacea droplets or drink Echinacea tea. This is one of the most well-known herbs used for boosting the immune system. It can be taken regularly or when you feel like you’re becoming unwell.

3.  Eat lightly and rely mainly on fruits, vegetables and foods rich in Vitamins A and C such as carrots, citrus fruit and green peppers. Some studies show that it can be beneficial to avoid mucus-forming and fatty foods when you’re unwell like meat, eggs and dairy products as they can congest your lymphatic system. (Lymphatic fluid is the main transport for immune cells).

4. Avoid all alcohol, tobacco, black tea and coffee and increase your consumption of water and herbal teas. Some examples of immune system boosting herbs include Cat’s Claw Tea, Echinacea and elderberry extract.

5. Rest and take it easy! Easier said than done, right? But there's a reason we're told to rest when we ge sick, and those around you will be thankful if you take the time to stay home and rest rather than spreading the sickness to them. Try to do everything a bit more slowly when you're unwell so your body can put more energy towards your immune system and fighting off the infection.

Some information from the following sources were used in this article:
Patrick Holford (n.d.). Boost your immunity. Retrieved March 15, 2012 from

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