healthy eating

Cleaned Up Pumpkin Spice Latte - Recipe

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You know it is officially fall when everything is all about pumpkins, pumpkin pie and especially the PSL (pumpkin spice latte)

Personally, I don’t see this as a bad thing ! Pumpkins are delicious and what is referred to as pumpkin spice is made up of some of my favourite spices (cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg!)

Pumpkins are a really great source of nutrients, antioxidants, vitamin C and loads of gut friendly fibre. The spices are equally as good for you with cinnamon being helpful for regulating blood sugar and ginger has anti-inflammatory benefits.

However, most of the pumpkin spiced goodies we get this time of year contain way too much added sugar (as much as 50 grams of sugar in a 16oz pumpkin spice beverage - that is a lot!)

We figured we would help you out with your pumpkin spice addiction and give you a healthy, cleaned up version of the traditional pumpkin spice latte (trust me, you won’t want to go back!)

Check it out and let us know if you give it a try!

CLEANED UP PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE

Yields: 1 serving

Ingredients:

1/2 cup organic coffee

2tbsp pumpkin puree (organic if canned OR homemade - see instructions below) *

1.5 tbsp pure maple syrup

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice **

3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk ***

Directions:

  1. Brew coffee and set aside

  2. in a sauce pan over med. heat, combine pumpkin puree, spice, and maple syrup. Once combined, add in almond milk and simmer until heated.

  3. Transfer to a blender, pulse until frothy (you can use a hand held blender also)

  4. Add milk mixture to hot coffee. Use a spoon to hold back froth then top latte with froth.

  5. Optional - top with whipped cream or coconut whip, sprinkle with additional pumpkin spice

    Enjoy!

NOTES

* Homemade Pumpkin Puree - cut 1 small pumpkin into large chunks - bake in baking dish with lid on and 1/4” water in bottom of dish in oven at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until tender. Blend/puree in food processor until smooth. Using fresh pumpkin will provide more nutrients and also taste better!

** DIY Pumpkin Pie Spice - 1/4 cup ground cinnamon, 4 tsp ground ginger, 1Tbsp allspice - when buying spices try to purchase organic, these have gone through less processing and are much more fresh than highly processed versions.

*** No almond milk ? use coconut milk (or any milk of your liking!)

-caffeine free? use extra milk!

-no blender? whisk everything together in sauce pan - this will not be as frothy but will still taste delicious!

Happy (almost) Fall!

All summer long on Friday’s I have been posting some of my favourite recipes. So this week I thought I would do something a little bit different.

With a new season upon us and because it also happens to be one of my favourite times of year for cooking and using all the great local ingredients we have at our fingertips here on the east coast, I thought I would put together a free downloadable e-book with some fall inspired recipes!

The e-book also comes with some informational pages about immune boosting foods and also what it means to “eat in season”. The recipes have modifications in the notes if you are looking for Gluten free, vegetarian or vegan options as well.

I hope you get to try some of the recipes out and if you do, be sure to let me know! Download the book, print it off, share with your family and friends, and Enjoy!

~ Allyson

Chocolate Zucchini Blender Muffins

This muffin recipe was a pretty big hit at my house…no one even knew there was a vegetable mixed in!

If you do not have a blender…no worries it is not necessary. You can mix it the old fashion way (by hand!) or you can also use a hand mixer. If you are going to make them without the blender or mixer, make sure to whisk the eggs and wet ingredients before adding in the dry ingredients!

Give them a try and let us know what you think!

Chocolate Zucchini Blender Muffins - Recipe (Yields 12)

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs

  • 2 cups almond flour

  • 1 cup zucchini (grated & strained - i like to use cheesecloth or a mesh bag to remove excess water from the zucchini)

  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch (brown rice flour works as well or an all purpose flour if you don’t want to be gluten free)

  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp maple syrup

  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (or dairy free chocolate chips - I like the “enjoy life” brand)

  • 2 tbsp avocado oil

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F

  2. Put all ingredients (except zucchini and chocolate chips) in blender.

  3. Blend for 10-15 seconds on high, scrape down sides and do 1-2 more times until fully mixed.

  4. Put batter into a mixing bowl, stir in zucchini and chocolate chips

  5. Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way with the batter

  6. Bake in the oven for 18-20 mins or until toothpick comes out clean

Slow Cooker Sausage and Kale Soup - Recipe

I always love a good bowl of soup, but it seems like during the fall and winter it is a “go-to” for those extra chilly days. Not that I am wishing away what we have left of summer…but I do enjoy cozying up with a nice homemade bowl of soup during fall!

The main reason I wanted to share this recipe is because I was at the Farmers Market last weekend and picked up some fresh sausages from Thyme For Ewe Farm and they were so delicious and I think they would be perfect for this recipe! There was also a lot of other farmers there as well with tons of fresh produce, you could pick up everything there to make this recipe which is a bonus because not only is everything extremely fresh but you are also supporting local as well.

Check out the recipe below and let us know what you think.

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz pork sausages, cut into chunks

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced

  • 2 carrots, diced

  • 2 celery stalks, diced

  • 8 cups kale

  • 8 cups water or broth

  • 2 tsp sea salt

  • 3/4 cup long-grain brown rice or quinoa (optional)

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients into slow cooker and cook on high for 4 at least 4 hours or 8-12 hours on low.

  2. Divide and Enjoy !

Notes:

  • Refrigerate for up to 3 days

  • Can be kept in the freezer as well, the grains will thicken so if you plan on freezing you may want to omit the grains and cook in when you plan on having it

  • Use a homemade bone broth for liquid (you can do half broth half water as well…play around with it!)

  • No slow cooker ? No problem! If cooking on a stove top, brown sausage and onions first then, add in carrots, celery, water/broth and salt. Bring to a boil, add in grains if using them. Simmer until grain is cooked and veggies are tender. Stir in kale until it wilts just before serving

Back To School Lunch Ideas

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Even though it is the end of summer break, beach days are few and far between and we are getting the kids ready to go back to school, I must say, it is nice to be getting back into a routine again!

When it comes to packing kids lunches it can be difficult to get creative and find healthy options, it is very easy to head for the “snack” isle of the grocery store and fill their lunch bags with these items. While you might have a something relatively healthy packed for their main meal, chances are they are going to gravitate to the “less healthy” items first if they are there as an option. In my experience, kids do not get much time for lunch and they want to have whatever is quick and easy so they can eat and then get on the go for the remainder of the break to play!

So here are a few easy and healthy options for school lunches for kids:

  1. Roast chicken and veggies (my favourite option!) I like to get a fresh organic chicken and do my own version a grocery store roast chicken. You can put the chicken in a slow cooker (4 hours high - 8 hours low) season with sea salt, pepper, turmeric and smoked paprika, extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil. Once the chicken is done, remove from the slow cooker and pull meat away from the bones and store in the fridge for quick lunches for the week. This is great served with veggies - cut up cucumber, carrots, peppers, etc.

  2. Low sugar granola (check out this recipe recently shared on the blog) and full fat yogurt. You can also add some fresh berries on top or on the side!

  3. Homemade soup (or chilli) Investing in a good thermos is a really good idea. Schools that have microwaves usually limit the heat up time and the line up can be long, this can deter your child from wanting to heat up their lunch and could end up not even eating much at all. And let’s be honest here, kids just want to get outside and play at lunch time! I like sending soup during the winter months since because you can make big batches and load it up with lots of immune boosting/protective ingredients. (Hot tip: save the bones and drippings from your roast chicken and throw in some celery, onion, garlic, apple cider vinegar and some herbs and keep the slow cooker going to make your own broth, freeze and store for soups later!)

  4. Veggies and dip This could be a lunch on its own, but also works well as a snack option. Pairing with sunflower seed butter (nut free!) or hummus adds some extra protein. I would try to avoid using any kind of dressing (unless homemade and sugar free) as most store bought versions contain sugar, not something you want to add too much (or any at all) of to your child’s lunch.

  5. If there is one piece of advice I can give you, it is totally worth it to invest in a metal bento box style lunchbox! You can fill up those little spots with so many different healthy foods! Variety is key with kids, and with so many options you are not limiting them to just one boring old sandwich day after day. Another reason I like these is because you can sneak in something new and encourage your child to try it, even if it is just one bite and if they don’t like it, they have other options as well! Fun fact: it takes 7 times of trying a new taste to get the palate used to the flavour! Something to keep in mind when introducing new items to kids!

A few other quick tips to keep in mind when packing school lunches….

  • Have fun with it and involve the kids in the process, take them grocery shopping with you and let them pick out their favourite produce and items from the health food section (avoid the inside isles of the grocery store!). Letting kids have a choice in what they have to eat will make them more likely to actually eat their lunch. If you are making big batches of soup or granola or even some homemade snacks, let them help in the kitchen so they can feel like they were part of the process too.

  • Keep in mind any restrictions in place for the school. As you know most (probably all) schools are nut free when it comes to food, but sometimes classmates can have certain allergies as well that could be harmful to them if they are in close proximity. (Usually the parents will be informed of anything serious, but just incase its better to be safe than your kid without a lunch!)

  • The less sugar the better! Most kids packed lunches contain two times more sugar than what is recommended, and to be quite honest the recommendation is on the high side. Making sure your kids lunch has very little to no refined sugar is key. Upping the protein, healthy fat and balancing whole grains and fruit and veggies is just as important for kids as it is for adults. You do not want your child to be crashing after lunch because of what they ate. This will also make them ravenous and go on a snack craze when they get home from school because they are just not satiated enough from their meals earlier in the day. Its also important to fuel the brain with these good foods to help with their concentration levels for later in the day (the first half of the day is covered with their healthy breakfast!)

  • A final tip is about hydration! Keep it simple with water! My kids like to use a steel water bottle because it keeps it cold all day long, and most teachers are ok with keeping it in the class or in their school bag if they want a quick drink, and its a much better option than the school fountains….

I hope these help with ideas for lunches for your kids this coming school year, if you have any healthy tips you like to do, let us know what they are!

Enjoy the long weekend!

Avocado Brownies - Recipe

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Have you ever added avocados to your baking? You should really give it a try, these brownies are delicious and you would never know that there is avocado in them (great for picky eaters!)

Adding avocado not only adds in a good amount of healthy fat to your baking, but also makes the texture of these brownies very soft and fluffy.

Check out the recipe below and if you give it a try, let us know what you think!

Serving = 12 brownies, (9x9in. pan)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado

  • 2 eggs

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar

  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil or coconut butter (melted)

  • 1/2 cup almond flour

  • 1/2 cup cacao power (or cocoa powder)

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

  • 1/3 cup organic dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F

  2. Add first 5 ingredients into food processor & blend

  3. Add in remaining ingredients (excluding chocolate chips) and blend until smooth

  4. Stir in chocolate chips, leaving some for topping

  5. Line pan with parchment paper

  6. Pour batter in pan and smooth - top with remaining chocolate chips

  7. Bake 18-20 minutes

  8. Remove & let cool before cutting

  9. Enjoy !

Homemade Ice Cream - Recipe

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Did you know that you can make ice cream at home without having to use an ice cream maker! Not only is it a healthier way to have ice cream (some call it “nice cream”) but you can also make what ever flavour you want, save money and involve the kids in the making process!

The base of this ice cream is made with bananas (no dairy here!). You can actually just make banana ice cream by chopping up a banana or two (or more depending on how many servings you want) freezing them and blending in a blender or food processor until it takes on the consistency of ice cream (approximately 3-5 minutes).

I have to admit, plain bananas is kind of boring (but good in a pinch when you don’t have much to add in), so here are a couple of options to make different flavours….

Mint-Dark Chocolate Chip Banana Ice Cream (a favourite of mine!)

  • 2 ripe bananas, sliced and frozen

  • 1/4 cup fresh mint (chopped)

  • 1/4 cup chopped organic dark chocolate

Chocolate Banana Ice Cream

  • 2 ripe bananas, sliced and frozen

  • 2 Tbsp organic cocoa powder

(optional - add in chopped chocolate or chopped nuts)

The directions are simple, make sure the banana is frozen, place all ingredients into food processor and blend (3-5 mins until smooth) If you want a more chunky texture add in half the ingredients and blend to get the flavour and then quickly blend the rest of the ingredients in to finish.

You can also store these in a glass storage container or a loaf pan. This is a great option if you are making a bigger batch and want to have some ready to go. Just store in the freezer and scoop out when needed.

Some other add-ins could be, any type of fruit, nuts, honey, spices (cinnamon, cardamom, etc) , any type of nut butter would work too (chocolate peanut butter banana ice cream sounds delicious!)

Give it a try and let us know what ice cream creations you came up with.

Enjoy !

Strawberry Chia Jam

Looking for a healthier version of strawberry jam for all of those fresh local strawberries you have waiting to be used?

Check out this recipe for a refined sugar free, gelatin free & vegetarian (or vegan) friendly!

Strawberry Chia Jam:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Strawberries

  • 1 Tbsp Raw Honey (use maple syrup for vegan option)

  • 2 Tbsp Chia Seeds

Directions:

  1. Remove stems & wash strawberries

  2. Place all ingredients into blender/food processor. Pulse until you reach the desired consistency for your jam

  3. Put in sauce pan over medium heat until bubbling, reduce heat and let simmer for 10-15 minutes until it begins to thicken

  4. Remove from heat, pour into mason jar & let cool. Store in fridge for up to 7 days, if using later you can freeze it, just be sure to leave room at the top of the jar for expansion

  5. Enjoy !

Simplified Caesar Salad Dressing

Finally, we are having some nice weather to enjoy all the summer things like barbecues and socials with friends and family. So, you know what that means…lots of salads loaded with store bought salad dressing!

Here are some reasons why you should ditch the bottled dressings and spend an extra 5 minutes making your own:

  • They are full of artificial flavours

  • They contain unnecessary sugars (like high-fructose corn syrup…who needs that on a salad… or ever?)

  • Bottled dressings are also made with tons of preservatives to prolong their shelf life … ever wonder why they don’t expire for 2 years?

  • These types of dressings are also loaded with trans-fat (the bad kind of fat!)

 All that being said, there are some bottled dressings you can buy with some clean ingredients and lower on the preservative side (these can be pretty pricey for a bottle though). The bigger picture here is that if you are making a dressing from scratch it’s going to 1. Taste better not only because its super fresh but also because you made it yourself (isn’t that always the way!) 2.  You don’t have to have 10 bottles of half used dressing in your fridge for years and years and years…you get the point. If you make your own, you can make as much as you need and there is no waste! 3. You can control the ingredients you put in your dressing, if there are any dietary restrictions or allergies this is the perfect way to know exactly what you are getting!

 The recipe for this salad dressing is a Caesar style dressing, its light, healthy and full of flavour!

 Caesar Salad Dressing:

Ingredients:

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 clove of Garlic

2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar

1 tablespoon Tamari (or coconut aminos)

1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tsp Dijon Mustard (I like to use an organic brand and make sure it is free of canola oil)

Sea Salt & Pepper to taste!

Directions:

Put all ingredients in a food processor, blend until smooth. You can also use an immersion blender or even a regular blender! If you don’t have any of those, make sure the garlic is minced well and whisk all ingredients together and let stand for a few minutes before using to make sure all the flavours come together.

Enjoy & happy BBQ’ing!

What's more important:

Weight loss or muscle gain?

Muscle mass is directly correlated with longevity and excellent health. Rather than trying to “lose weight”, people are better striving to improve body composition.  This means losing fat and building or maintaining muscle. The lean (non-fat) components of the body are denser than body fat. Therefore, the number on the scale isn’t always to best outcome measure, especially when it comes to health. A better predictor of health is body composition. A method to track your body composition at home (other than looking in the mirror) is measuring your waist-to-hip ratio (waist measurement divided by your hip measurement). As this ratio decreases, your abdominal (visceral) fat decreases, and so does your risk of all cause mortality.  So, it is actually possible for the scale weight to increase and your waist to hip ratio to decrease – and at the end of the day you will be healthier. 

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon calls muscle the organ of longevity.  “The stronger and healthier your muscle is, the more carbohydrates and fat your body burns”.  Healthy muscle mass improves metabolism and decreases risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.  Muscle mass is also a reliable protein reserve that is protective for people after prolonged illness (i.e. cancer)

There are numerous methods to lose fat – some more healthy than others.  There are only two basic ways to increase and maintain muscle mass: resistance exercise, and consuming protein. 

Resistance exercise is lifting heavy things a few times a week.  You could try body weight exercises like squats, push-ups and pull ups. I like a single set to failure using the rest – pause technique for bodyweight exercises.  You could lift weights in the gym or rocks in your yard. Compound movements are typically safest and the most effective for your effort.  My favorites are deadlifts, squats, bench press, shoulder press and a bent over row.  For these I prefer hierarchical sets i.e. 3 sets of 15, 8, and 4 reps – increasing the weight with each set.   

Protein is an essential macronutrient, necessary for all the cells of the body. It is needed for the structure, function, and regulation of all tissues and organs - especially for building and repairing muscle. Once consumed protein is broken down to amino acids.  Humans must obtain some essential amino acids from protein in their diet. Proteins also have a key role in immune function, building enzymes for metabolism and DNA repair, and building hormones and neurotransmitters.  High protein diets (45% of total calorie intake) have been shown to decreases blood pressure and increase HDL cholesterol. 

There is no conclusive evidence that a high protein diet can cause chronic kidney disease. Protein may be used as fuel in the absence of carbs and fat, however, excess protein is not stored as body fat and is excreted as urea via the kidneys. 

Protein should be prioritized.  It is nutrient dense and very satiating. Consuming a minimum 30 grams of protein per meal is needed to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. It is actually more important for sedentary people as they are not stimulating muscle growth with exercise and older individuals because muscle mass gets harder to maintain as we age.  Generally speaking, 30 grams of protein at each meal (3 meals a day) should be a minimum target. That’s 90 grams of protein per day. Up to 1 gram of protein per pound of desired body weight may be recommended for active people who want to maximize muscle mass.  

This is what 30 g of protein looks like:

•      7 thick slices of bacon

•      5 large eggs

•      4 ounces of ground beef

•      6 ounces of tempeh

•      1 scoop of whey protein

•      3/4 block of tofu

•       4 ounces chicken breast

 

References: 

1.    Srikanthan, Preethi et al. Muscle Mass Index As a Predictor of Longevity in Older Adults The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 127, Issue 6, 547 – 553.

2.    Srikanthan P, Seeman TE, Karlamangla AS. Waist-hip-ratio as a predictor of all-cause mortality in high-functioning older adults. Ann Epidemiol. 2009;19:724-731.

3.    https://drgabriellelyon.com

4.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waist–hip_ratio

5.    https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/measuring-your-macros-what-30-grams-protein-looks-like.html