Thursday, 29 May 2014

Added sugars and natural sweeteners

I've been doing some research on added sugars and natural sweeteners this week and thought I'd share some of my findings.  Added sugars are dietary sugars that contain very little nutritional value and are added to many pre-packaged foods, baked goods, restaurant foods, etc.  Added sugars do not include the natural sugars from vegetables and fruit (fructose) or dairy (lactose).  Here are the statistics (from Statistics Canada findings, 2004, more information is available at www.statcan.gc.ca):
  • The average Canadian consumes 110g of sugars daily.  This is equivalent to 26 teaspoons, 440 calories or 21.4% of the average daily caloric intake.
  • Of this 110g, 12.5-14.4% came from breads and grains, 25.7-33.2% came from vegetables and fruits, 15.5-17.8% came from dairy products, 33.6-44.2% came from "other," for Canadian adults aged 19-50.
  • This "other" category are the added sugars we take in through commonly eaten pre-packaged, baked goods, and restaurant foods, such as sauces, condiments, granola bars, fruit juices, sodas, flavoured yogurts, chocolate milk, etc.
Why are fruit and dairy sources exempt from the "added sugars" category?
While fructose and lactose are sugars, foods that contain these sugars are nutrient dense.  The nutritional components (fibre from fruit and protein from milk) slow the insulin response produced in the body, so blood sugar does not spike as drastically as with added sugars in low nutrient density foods.

How do "natural sweeteners" compare?
Many foods or recipes that contain honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup make the claim that they are "no sugar added."  It is a false claim, as these sugars are still classified as added sugars (see abstract).  However, the macronutrient values of these sugars do vary, and provide some small nutritional differences in potassium, iron, and calcium.  Date syup, which consists of 10 dates, 3/4 cup water and 2 tsp lemon juice per cup, can be classified as no sugar added since the sugar is entirely from a fruit source.  Here is a nutritional comparison per cup:


The antioxidant content of each of these sugars varied, with maple syrup and honey classified as intermediate amounts, and agave classified as low in antioxidants (see abstract).  Antioxidant comparison for date syrup was not available.

In conclusion, date syrup was the best choice for baking or adding sweetener to foods, as it is truly no added sugar, and is high in fibre and low in calories.  The downside to date syrup is that it has a short shelf life and must be refrigerated. As for longer shelf life syrups, pure maple syrup ranked highest for nutrient density (high in potassium, iron and calcium, lower in calories).

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Baby Red Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Chives


These bite sized potatoes make a great appetizer for a party or a side dish for a barbecue.  They can be prepared the day ahead and baked for the second time immediately before serving. 

Makes 48

Ingredients

1lb baby red potatoes, washed and dried
1 small package goat cheese
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch chives, chopped
Black pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Poke holes in each of the potatoes and spread them evenly on a baking sheet.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, until tender.  Remove from oven and allow to cool, about 1 hour.

Slice potatoes in half.  Using a 1/4 tsp measuring spoon, scoop out the potato centres, leaving some potato around the edge to maintain the structure.  Put the scooped out portion into a mixing bowl.  To the bowl, add the package of goat cheese, olive oil and black pepper and mash together with a fork until uniform.  Add chopped chives and fold into mixture.

Using the 1/4 tsp measuring spoon, scoop the goat cheese mixture back into the potatoes and place on a baking sheet.  Return the potatoes to the oven for 10 minutes, to reheat the potatoes and slightly brown them.

Nutrition (per 4 half potatoes)

Calories 74
Fat 4.2g
Carbohydrates 6.2g
Fibre 0.7g
Sugars 0.6g
Protein 3.3g

Friday, 23 May 2014

Chili Pepper and Basil Pesto



Since we've had some sunny days this month, both my basil and chili pepper plants are doing well, and a pesto recipe seemed like a great way to enjoy the two together!  This recipe will produce a mild heat, so if you prefer medium to hot, add additional chili peppers.

This pesto includes 13.1g of heart healthy monounsaturated fats per serving, and can be used with pasta, chicken, or on sandwiches.

Serves 6

Ingredients

3 roasted red peppers
3 Fresno chili peppers
3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 tsp dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

In a non-stick pan, toast pine nuts over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant (about 5 minutes).  Set aside.

Cut stems off chili peppers (use plastic gloves) and add to food processor.  Add all other ingredients to food processor, and blend until uniform.

Nutrition

Calories 170
Fat 16.4g
Carbohydrates 3.9g
Fibre 0.8g
Sugars 1.9g
Protein 4.3g

Thursday, 22 May 2014

100 through 10 Rep Workout

This intermediate/advanced level workout can be done at home with two sets of dumbbells (one set medium to heavy weight for large muscle groups and one set light for small muscle groups, as indicated) and a mat for core work.  The exercises are supersetted (alternating with no rest in between) for a total number of reps ranging from 100 down to 10.  The workout will take 40-45 minutes to complete in full.

The sets and reps are shown in brackets.  For example, the first two exercises are push ups and crunches for a total of 100 reps each.  Perform 20 push ups, then 20 crunches, and repeat five times.  Pictures of the exercises are provided below.


100 push ups--from toes or knees (5x20) 
100 crunches (5x20)

90 jumping jacks (2x45)
90 mountain climbers (2x45)

80 lunges--moderate to heavy weight (4x20)
80 front squats--moderate to heavy weight (4x20)

70 high knees (2x35)
70 side stepping planks (2x35)

60 squat and press--moderate to heavy weight (4x15)
60 bent over rows--moderate to heavy weight (4x15)

50 jackknife crunches (5x10)
50 hip raises (5x10)

40 jump squats (4x10)
40 wood chops--light weight (4x10)

30 tricep press--light to moderate weight (2x15)
30 bicep curls--light to moderate weight (2x15)

20 mogul squats (2x10)
20 lateral raises--light weight (2x10)

10 burpees (1x10)
10 rear delt flyes--light weight (1x10)





Monday, 19 May 2014

Peanut Butter Cookies


Since I love peanut butter (who doesn't), I wanted to create a healthier version of the chocolate chip peanut butter cookie I grew up with. These cookies get their peanut butter flavour from the protein powder and the PB2. If you've never used PB2 its a great snack and baking tool for peanut butter addicts. PB2 is made of roasted peanuts that have been pressed of their oil and have been ground up. You can add PB2 to recipes as you would flour, or you can add water or greek yogurt to it to make a lower fat and calorie peanut butter substitute. These cookies are tasty and full of protein and fibre!


Ingredients

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oats
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup PB2
1-2 Tbsp water
1 scoop peanut butter flavoured protein powder (I used BSN Syntha 6 Peanut Butter Cookie)
1 Tbsp pure vanilla
1 egg
1 egg white
2 Tbsp honey 
1/4 vegetable oil 
1/4 cup dark chocolate mini chips 

*Tip - Additional add in - Quest Peanut Butter bar, chopped into small pieces 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking stone/tray with parchment paper. 
2. In a large bowl mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, oats, and protein powder.
3. In a small bowl stir PB2 and 1 Tbsp water until it comes together like the consistency of peanut butter. Add 1 more Tbsp of water if needed. 
4. Stir in vanilla, egg, egg white, and honey. 
4. Add wet ingredients into the dry and mix. 
5. Gently stir in dark chocolate chips. 
6. Drop cookie dough by spoonfuls onto parchment paper and with a fork slightly flatten each cookie.
    You should get 18 cookies. 
7. Bake for 10 minutes, or until slightly browned. Let cool and enjoy!  

Nutrition (per cookie)

Calories 96
Fat 4.7 g
Carbohydrate 11.3 g
Fibre 1.8 g
Sugars 4.2 g
Protein 3.3 g



Green Juice


Juicing - you either love or hate it! While I'm not a big supporter of all day juice "diets," I do love juices  as an added nutritional powerhouse to your daily food intake. Juices are a great way to increase the vitamins and minerals in your diet, and to increase the amount of vegetables that you consume. One thing to remember, is that when you are juicing you are removing the pulp from the fruit and vegetables and therefore are taking away the fibrous component. Basically you are left with the juices which contain all of the essential nutrients your body needs.

I recommend investing in a high quality juicer; they can range from $50 - $400, however the cheaper ones will not have enough power to grind up the seeds and rinds in some fruits and vegetables. The juicer I have is by Jack Lalanne, it isn't top of the line, but it was approximately $200, and works great for the amount I juice.

I also recommend experimenting with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Even if you are not a vegetable person, once you  mix them with something sweeter, like an apple or pear, the taste will be masked. Below is one of my favourite blends!

Ingredients
1 apple (something sweet, like Fuji or Pink Lady)
1 pear
1/2 cucumber
1/2 bunch kale
1/2 lemon
2 cups spinach

Directions

1. Cut apple and pear into quarters and have all other ingredients prepared and ready to juice.
2. One by one place fruit and vegetable pieces into the juice and lightly press down with the handle or stopper provided. Make sure that you have a large enough cup under the spout to catch the juice that comes out.
3. Once all is juiced, shake the contents of your juice and place in the fridge until it gets a little colder. Juices are a great way to start your morning, especially if you are not a breakfast person!

Nutrition

250 calories
0.3 g fat
67.9 g fat
36.7 g sugars
10.8 g protein

Also an EXCELLENT source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Folate, Maganese, and Thiamin!

*Tip I recommend is putting a plastic bag in the back of your juicer, this way the waste will go into the bag and will save you about 15 minutes of clean up! 

Running Candy


Running my first half marathon was the best experience of my life. Setting my mind to something and going after it was completely rewarding. If you're thinking about getting serious about long distance running, I highly recommend it. For me it was a great form of exercise, it got me outside (some days for 3 hours straight), and it was a way for me to clear my head - much cheaper than therapy! While I recommend investing in supportive shoes and epsom salts, I also recommend bringing some fuel with you on your longer runs. Generally any run longer than 90 minutes requires you to refuel, and if you're training for a half or full marathon, you will indeed hit that a least once a week. Above are some of my favourite "running candy" that helped me get through my longer runs.

1. Jelly Belly Sport Beans - These Jelly Belly's taste just like the candy you'd buy when your sweet tooth hits. I prefer the Lemon Lime flavour while running. The thing I like best about these is that I can easily grab one Jelly Belly while running and pop it in my mouth and within a few chews it will break down. The other thing that is great is that you can space them out every 5-10 minutes so that you do not get cramped up from too much sugar. They now come in a different "Extreme" version that has added caffeine to them as well.

2. Cliff Shot Bloks - These running candies are made by the same company that makes Cliff Bars. Similar to the Jelly Belly Sport Beans, they are like little candies you eat on the run. I usually wrap a few in plastic wrap and put them in my running belt, versus taking the whole package on a run. They are chewy and addicting, I could easily down the whole package in one sitting. But the key to refueling while running is avoiding cramps. Again I would recommend chewing on one Blok and waiting 10 minutes or so for your next one. Remember to always drink some water afterwards too.

3. GU Brew - This is a similar product like a sports drink. You mix the package in a pitcher of water before a run, and divide it between your running bottles (always leave at least 2 bottles for just water). This stuff tastes great (try the Lemon Lime, it's very refreshing) and provides energy and electrolytes on the go. If you are going with the Brew, you should not need the candy as well as it provides enough energy to get you through 2-3 hour runs, if you go for longer you may need more energy to refuel.

4. eDiscs - These are little tablets that dissolve in your mouth and offer 3 grams of carbohydrates and electrolytes similar to a sports drink. The discs taste great and are low in calories unlike many sports drinks. These are easy to eat while running and they dissolve nicely in your mouth. They are a great replacement for sports drinks, and are essential if running long distances or are out in the Sun too long. I usually wrap a few in plastic wrap and stick them in my running belt. These in combination with a some Jelly Bellies or Shot Bloks provide a great combination of energy and electrolytes.

5. eLoad Energy Gel - This gel pack is made by the same company as eDiscs. I personally wasn't a huge fan of the gel packs, but they do provide excellent energy when you need it most. Many runners prefer gels to the candies because they can be easily slurped and swallowed while running. For me the consistency was a little off, almost like a cross between pudding and jello. I recommend trying gels and the candies to see which type you prefer. I also found the candies could be easily stored in my running belt, where as the gels didn't fit as nicely. Shown above in Tangerine and Lime.

6. Whistle - The whistle provides no nutritional benefit but it is a must while running, especially for those early morning runs. Its small enough that I can store it in my pocket, but provides some comfort to me in case of any trouble.

7. Running Belt - Not shown, but absolutely essential to any long distance runner. I recommend getting a belt with a least 4 bottles, but 6 bottles is preferred. Mine has 4 and on hot summer runs, I still need to run into coffee shops and refill my bottles mid run. My running belt is by Nike and has two great mini storage areas for my snacks!

8. Garmin Forerunner 10 - This is a runner's best friend. I highly recommend investing in a running watch if you are serious about running long distances. The Garmin Forerunner 10 is approximately $150 (Running Room) and worth every penny. This watch is easy to use and fast to connect to a signal once you get outside. You simply start the watch once you begin your run and it does the rest for you. It tracks your time, your distance, your calories burned, your pace, and everything else you could ever want. Once you get back from your run, simply connect the watch to your computer and it uploads all of your results to your personal web screen. This way you can track and monitor your progress, you can see your best and worst times and paces, and it will map out your route for you and keep it tracked for the next time.

Friday, 16 May 2014

PB and J 'Ice Cream'

I ate this ice cream for breakfast today!  The "ice cream" is actually just frozen bananas blended into a soft serve or ice cream consistency.  I ate the first serving last night, immediately after blending, which was soft, and the second half, returned to the freezer overnight.  In the morning, it was firm like ice cream.  Personally, I enjoyed the ice cream style better, so I recommend freezing it after blending!

When bananas are ripe, slice them into medallions, and lay them on to waxed paper in a container and freeze for at least two to three hours before blending. 

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 bananas, sliced and frozen
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp dried cherries (or cranberries)

Directions

Place all three ingredients in a food processor or high powered blender.  Blend for a few seconds, then turn off and scrape the sides of the food processor.  Blend again, and repeat as necessary.  Pour the contents into a container and return to freezer for ice cream consistency. 

Nutrition

Calories 199
Fat 8.5g
Carbohydrates 30.0g
Fibre 4.5g
Sugars 15.5g
Protein 5.2g

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Coconut Cookies


These cookies use oat flour as the base, which can be used as a gluten free option (be sure to purchase oats labelled gluten free, as regular oats may have cross contamination).  Oat flour can be purchased already ground from a bulk foods store, or you can grind your own in a food processor.  The addition of coconut sprinkled on top is optional.


Makes 36

Ingredients

2 cups rolled oats, ground to a flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut (optional)
Canola spray, for greasing

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray baking sheets with canola.

Add rolled oats to food processor and grind to a flour.  Pour oat flour into a bowl and add baking soda.  Set aside.

In a second mixing bowl, add peanut butter, maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla and mix with a fork.  Pour dry ingredients into wet, and fold ingredients together until batter is uniform.  Spoon heaping tsp sized dough onto the cookie sheet, allowing for a couple inches space between cookies.  Take a pinch of shredded coconut and sprinkle on top of each cookie.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and allow to set before moving cookies to a cooling rack. 

Nutrition

Calories 102
Fat 6.2g
Carbohydrate 9.3g
Fibre 1.2g
Sugars 4.6g
Protein 3.6g

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Spicy Dark Chocolate Bark




New research shows that dark chocolate is beneficial because microbes in the digestive tract ferment both the antioxidants and the fibre in cocoa, which creates anti-inflammatory compounds that have been linked to improved vascular health.  The health benefits are associated with raw cocoa, of which dark chocolate has a higher proportion than milk chocolate.

When selecting a dark chocolate, opt for a higher percentage of cocoa for greater health benefits.  For example, dark chocolate chips from the baking aisle are typically 50% cocoa, but good quality dark chocolate can be found in the chocolate aisle ranging from 50-90% cocoa.  For this recipe, I recommend using a chocolate in the 70-80% cocoa range.

Dark chocolate has a low melting point, so it is recommended to work with chocolate over very low temperatures.  To melt chocolate, the easiest way to control the temperature is by melting it in a bain marie or double boiler.  If you do not own this piece of equipment, you can easily create your own with a soup pot and a metal mixing bowl.

  • Fill a soup pot with water one inch from the top.
  • Turn the stove to low heat to let the water simmer.
  • Place the metal mixing bowl on top of the pot, making sure that the bottom of the mixing bowl is submerged in water by at least one inch (make sure water does not get into the mixing bowl).
  • Break up dark chocolate into smaller pieces and place inside the mixing bowl.  
  • Stir the chocolate constantly to prevent it from burning.  
This recipe combines the Spiced Pumpkin Seeds and the benefits of dark chocolate! 

Serves 24

Ingredients

4 oz. hulled pumpkin seeds (unsalted)
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp chili pepper flakes
Pinch cayenne pepper
Dash sea salt
12 oz. 72% cocoa dark chocolate, broken into pieces

Directions

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.  Toast pumpkin seeds in a skillet over medium heat.  Cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Combine with cinnamon, chili flakes, cayenne, and salt.  Allow to cool.

Add chocolate to bain marie over low heat.  Melt, stirring frequently.  Add toasted seeds and stir.  Pour chocolate onto baking sheet and allow to set in refrigerator.  Break chocolate into pieces before serving. 

Nutrition

Calories 102
Fat 6.4g
Carbohydrates 9.4g
Fibre 0.7g
Sugars 7.4g
Protein 2.2g

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Chocolate Energy Balls


This recipe was given to me by one of the members at the gym, and they are the perfect energy boost for a mid-day snack!  You can eat them straight from the freezer, or let them thaw for a more chewy consistency.  I always double this recipe when I make it, since the small bags of nuts in the baking section of the grocery store are 1 cup each (although doubling it will not work with a small food processor, only a large one).

Makes 24 (approximately 1 inch diameter)

Ingredients

1/2 cup raw unsalted almonds
1/2 cup raw unsalted pecans
1/2 cup raw unsalted peanuts (or cashews)
1 cup organic raw cocoa
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup pitted dates
1 tbsp hot water or melted coconut oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (or agave nectar)
1/2 cup raw unsalted walnuts
Optional:  Unsweetened coconut or chia seeds to coat

Directions

In a food processor, grind almonds, pecans and peanuts into a fine powder.  Add cocoa and salt and process a few seconds more, until mixed.  Pour the mixture into a bowl and set aside.

To the food processor, add dates, hot water and maple syrup.  Process until smooth and creamy.  Add the cocoa and nut mix back to the food processor and pulse briefly.  Scoop the mixture out of the food processor and put back into the bowl.

Add the walnuts to the food processor, and process for a few seconds, until the walnuts are in small pieces.  Pour the walnut pieces into the bowl, and using a spatula, fold into the cocoa nut mix.

Roll spoonful size pieces into balls, and coat with coconut or chia seeds, if desired.  Layer onto waxed paper and freeze until serving. 

Nutrition

Calories 100
Fat 6.5g
Carbohydrates 11.3g
Fibre 2.6g
Sugars 7.1g
Protein 2.6g

Monday, 12 May 2014

Ham, Broccoli and Cheddar Calzones



These calzones are quick to prepare, and can be made in advance and frozen for lunches or weeknight meals.  You can use a frozen pizza dough, or make your own (see Lauren's whole wheat pizza dough recipe here).

Makes 4 calzones

Ingredients

1 pizza dough, thawed
350g of smoked ham (precooked), diced
2 broccoli florets (about 2 cups), chopped
1 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
Black pepper, to taste
Canola spray, for greasing

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a small baking pan with canola.  Chop broccoli into bite sized pieces and place on the pan.  Season with black pepper.  Put the broccoli in the oven and roast for 20 minutes, until tender.  While broccoli is cooking, dice ham into 1cm cubes.  Remove broccoli and set aside to cool slightly.

Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees F.  Divide pizza dough into four equal pieces.  Set three aside.  Spray a large baking sheet with canola.  Place one dough on the sheet and roll it out until it is thin, in a rectangular shape.  On one side of the dough, add 1/4 of the ham pieces, broccoli, and cheddar in a line.  Fold the dough over and press down the sides with your thumb to seal it shut.  Use a paring knife to make four diagonal slices across the top of the calzone to allow air to escape.

Repeat steps with remaining dough pieces.  Bake for 14-15 minutes.  Allow to cool for 3-4 minutes before serving.  

Nutrition

Calories 420
Fat 24g
Carbohydrates 27.2g
Fibre 4.0g
Sugars 0.9g
Protein 23.5g



Saturday, 10 May 2014

About Lauren and Amanda

We've known each other since we were 4 years old.  We met in kindergarten and continued in school together all the way through our undergraduate degrees, and are still friends all these years later!

We decided to write this blog to combine our loves of fitness, healthy eating and cooking.  We aim to create recipes that are:
  • Made with whole ingredients
  • High in protein, fibre and unsaturated fats
  • Low in added sugars, saturated fats and calories
  • Easy ways to squeeze in more servings of veggies and fruits  

About Lauren


I am a high school food and nutrition teacher with the Toronto District School Board, and a former personal trainer and nutritionist.  I have written for Oxygen magazine, Clean Eating magazine, and the Dietitians of Canada cookbook.  I graduated from Brock University with a Community Health Science degree, Ryerson University with a Food and Nutrition degree, and York University with Teaching degree (needless to say, I love school!).
I got my first gym membership 18 years ago at the local YMCA, but really fell in love with fitness during high school when Amanda and I joined a local gym called Fitness Alive! I love weight lifting, running, and spinning, and have always dreamed of competing in a fitness show. I met my fiance in a gym, and can't imagine a world without delicious food and fitness!
About Amanda

I am a certified personal trainer, group fitness and spin instructor with a degree in Physical Education from Brock University.  Weight lifting is my exercise of choice, but I also enjoy spinning, skating, and playing volleyball.

After university, I worked on cruise ships for four years, working the first year in the fitness centre, and the following three years hosting cooking shows with the chefs on board.  In that time, I traveled to 42 countries across six continents.  My favourite countries to visit were Japan, Australia and Turkey.

I currently reside in Ottawa, Canada, where I manage a corporate fitness and wellness centre.  

Friday, 9 May 2014

How does exercise reduce stress?

You've probably heard that exercise reduces stress, but how?  

To understand how this works, you need a basic understanding of the nervous system.  The nervous system is divided into the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), sympathetic nervous system (SNS), and enteric system.  Each of these systems has a role in controlling bodily functions, and they are active at all times, but depending on the situation, one will take over.
  • PSNS is responsible for "rest and digest."  When the body is at rest (when your resting heart rate is below 100 beats per minute), the body can focus on digestion, feeding, urination, and the secretion of norepinephrine (also known as noradrenaline).
  • SNS is responsible for "fight or flight."  When the body is under stress (heart rate is above 100bpm), the body focuses on directing blood flow to the muscles, dilating the pupils, and secreting epinephrine (also known as adrenaline).
  • Enteric system is responsible for controlling reflexes.

Stress:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Stress comes in many varieties, but they are not all bad!  

Good:  Positive stress
Stress can be positive when the right amount allows us to increase alertness, precision, strength, etc. to achieve a particular goal.  For example, the right amount of stress right before delivering a presentation will keep you alert and on task.  Positive stress improves our performance and will allow us to return to a relaxed state after the stressor has been removed. 

Bad:  Negative stress
Stress is negative when it too much stress prevents us from achieving a particular goal.  For example, too much stress right before giving a presentation will cause you to have trouble breathing normally, speaking clearly, etc.  Negative stress will decrease performance, but still allows us to return to a relaxed state after the stressor has been removed.

Ugly:  Chronic negative stress
Prolonged stress does not allow our body to return to a relaxed state.  In this stressed state, the SNS remains active, which suppresses the PSNS.  When the PSNS is suppressed:
  • Heart rate remains elevated, preventing relaxation or sleep.
  • Digestion is slowed, causing constipation.
  • Bile production is slowed, reducing the absorption of vitamins.
  • The hormone cortisol is produced, causing cravings, increased appetite, increased fat deposits, and suppressed immune function.

How does exercise help? 
Exercise is considered a good form of stress.  It places a positive stress on the body that, through training (a regular exercise routine), the body learns to manage.  The regular secretion of adrenaline will train the body to produce the “right” amount of adrenaline, and allows the body to a resting state faster.  Epinephrine and norepinephrine are more effective at rest in regular exercisers than in non-exercisers.  Any form of regular exercise (cardio, resistance training, yoga, sports, etc.) is shown to have a positive effect on stress management!












Thursday, 8 May 2014

Chicken Wing Burgers


I love burgers and I love chicken wings, so I figured why shouldn't I combine the two?? These burgers were amazing - seriously delicious! They were juicy and light, and full of hot, spicy flavour. The trick to keeping the fat and calories low, is choosing the right ingredients. I love all cheeses, but cooking with blue cheese is great because it is so full of flavour - a little goes a long way. While I will take full credit for the recipe, I do have to give a shout out to my fiance for manning the bbq! 

Ingredients

1 package lean ground chicken
1/4 cup Franks hot sauce - Buffalo flavour
1/4 tsp salt
2 egg whites
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (not packed) + 5 Tbsp crumbled blue cheese

Directions

1. Preheat bbq and spray with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl combine the ground chicken, Franks, salt, egg whites, and bread crumbs.
3. Crumble 1/2 cup blue cheese and lightly combine.
4. Divide into 5 patties and place on the bbq. Let cook for 8 minutes, then flip and let cook another 8 
    minutes. 
5. Top each burger with 1 Tbsp crumbled blue cheese.

*I like to go bunless and pair my burgers with homemade sweet potato fries... but feel free to add a bun 
  if thats how you "roll"

Nutrition (1 burger)

Calories 215
Fat 11 g
Carbohydrate 8.3 g
Fibre 0.4 g
Sugars 0.9 g
Protein 21 g




Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins



Yes, I realize it's not October.  But pumpkin puree was on sale!  I also think pumpkin should not be ignored the other 11 months of the year, because it's packed with vitamin A and fibre.  You can use dairy milk, unsweetened almond or coconut milk in this recipe.

Makes 12

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1 15oz can pumpkin puree (398mL)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
Canola spray, for greasing

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a muffin tin with canola spray. 

Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and set aside.  In a second mixing bowl, combine eggs, pumpkin puree, oil and vanilla and mix.  Combine wet and dry ingredients and add milk.  Fold mixture together, being careful not to over mix. 

Pour batter into muffin tins about 3/4 to the top and bake for 20-22 minutes.  Insert a toothpick, when it comes out clean, muffins are done.

Nutrition

Calories 148
Fat 5.6g
Carbohydrates 21.7g
Fibre 1.7g
Sugars 7.4g
Protein 3.1g







Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken


Typically, Buffalo chicken isn't the healthiest option, since it's usually breaded and fried.  This slow cooker version is a delicious alternative!  Blue cheese dressing or ranch dressing can be used to top a wrap or salad.  I was able to find blue cheese dressing made with Greek yogurt instead of mayo/soybean oil.

Note:  The sodium content is quite high on this recipe, due to the sodium in hot sauce, so if you are on a low-sodium diet, I do not recommend this recipe.

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

1kg boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup low sodium chicken broth (I used Pacific brand, which is organic)
1 small red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Black pepper, to taste
1/4 or 1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Wing sauce (1/4 cup for mild, 1/2 cup for medium)

For wraps:
Romaine lettuce
Whole wheat tortillas
Blue cheese dressing

Directions

Sprinkle diced onions and minced garlic in slow cooker pot and place chicken breasts over top.  Pour chicken broth over chicken breasts and season with black pepper.  Put the lid on and set to high heat for 4 hours.

With 30 minutes remaining, remove the lid, and break the chicken pieces apart using a wooden spoon so they are shredded.  Add hot sauce and replace the lid.  Cook for remaining 30 minutes.

Nutrition (chicken only, does not include tortilla or dressing)

Calories 249
Fat 9.5g
Carbohydrates 1.4g
Sugars 0.7g
Protein 36.9g



Tuesday, 6 May 2014

New Cookbooks and Protein Fudge


For my birthday last week, I received a few new cookbooks, thanks to my sister and my boyfriend!  These books might seem like a strange combination (meat, dairy and eggs vs. gluten free, vegan cookbooks), but I don't like to discriminate against any foods, so I like the options this provides me. 

Back to Butter by Molly Chester and Sandy Schrecengost
This book is based on traditional European farm raised foods (eggs, dairy and free range organic meats), combined with the health benefits of Middle Eastern ingredients (ghee, chickpeas, etc.).  I am not familiar with ingredients such as ghee, so I have been researching the benefits of using ghee over butter.  The book includes an introduction to the applications of different fats, and offers tips for choosing the best quality eggs and meats.  The recipes I am most excited to try are:  Sticky Chicken (aka Maple Dijon Chicken), and Chilled Sweet 'n' Sour Asparagus.

Find the book here

Bunner's Bake Shop Cookbook by Ashley Wittig and Kevin MacAllister
The popular Toronto bakery, Bunner's Bake Shop, specializes in gluten free, vegan and nut-free desserts.  This book provides the recipes for their scones, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, cupcakes, and savoury foods.  Mixing gluten free flours (fava bean, garbanzo bean, rice flour, etc.) to produce a light and fluffy treat can be very challenging, and this book takes the guesswork out of it.  The recipes I am most excited to try are:  Supersonic Granola, and Date Squares.

Find the book here

Peanut Butter Comfort by Averie Sunshine
Averie Sunshine combines the popular peanut butter recipes from her blog, averiecooks.com, with an introduction to basic ingredients (baking soda vs. baking powder, types of chocolate, etc.).  There is a section on how to make your own natural peanut butter in 27 flavour varieties in your food processor, but most of the recipes use regular creamy peanut butter.  The recipe I tried was Peanut Butter and Jelly Chocolate Protein Fudge, for which I used my DIY Whey Protein to keep the cost down, and it was delicious:  DIY Whey Protein

Get the recipe here

Find the book here




Saturday, 3 May 2014

Sweet Potatoes vs. Potatoes




Broccoli Cheddar Baked Potato--recipe below

The last two decades have not been kind to the white potato.  While sweet potatoes have been given the title of being a superfood, white potatoes have been cast aside by many fad diets (Atkins, South Beach, GI, and the more recent Paleo to name a few) and given a bad rap.  So what are the differences between these tubers?

1.  Potatoes and sweet potatoes are not part of the same family of tubers.
Potatoes are a member of the Solanacae family, and are stem tubers.
Sweet potatoes are a member of the Convolvulaceae family, and are root tubers.
Note:  Yams and sweet potatoes are not part of the same family.  Yams are part of the Dioscorea family of tubers, but are also root tubers.

2.  Potatoes have a higher Glycemic Index (GI) than sweet potatoes.
Technically this statement is true.  The GI of both potatoes and sweet potatoes changes depending on cooking method.  Boiling tubers produces a lower GI than baking them.
GI of baked Russet potato = 111
GI of baked sweet potato = 94

However, the tables are turned when Glycemic Load (GL) is taken into account.  GI is a measurement of carbohydrate quality, while GL measures quantity and quality.  GL is determined by multiplying the amount of carbohydrate (quantity) by the glycemic index (quality) of that food.  The value is then divided by 100.
GL of a medium baked Russet potato = 33
GL of a medium baked sweet potato = 42

High GL carbohydrates produce a greater elevation in blood glucose and thus, greater insulin response.

3.  Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A.  
Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin that is important for vision, immune function, and organ function.  One sweet potato will provide adequate vitamin A to meet the Recommended Nutrient Intake for the day. 

4.  Differences aside, both tubers are high in potassium and fibre, and comparable in macronutrient values.
Baked Russet potato (100g)                      Baked sweet potato (100g)
Calories 97                                                 Calories 90
Fat 0.1g                                                     Fat 0.2g
Potassium 550mg                                       Potassium 475mg
Carbohydrate 21.4g                                     Carbohydrate 20.7g
Fibre 2.3g                                                   Fibre 3.3g
Sugars 1.1g                                                Sugars 6.5g
Protein 2.6g                                                Protein 2.0g

In conclusion, both tubers are nutrient dense carbohydrates that can be part of any healthy diet!

Sources:
Practical Nutrition for Sports Medicine and Fitness Professionals by Lisa A. Burgoon
Precision Nutrition http://www.precisionnutrition.com/regular-vs-sweet-potatoes

Broccoli Cheddar Baked Potato
Makes 2

Ingredients

2 Russet potatoes, rinsed and scrubbed
2 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
1 small broccoli floret, chopped into bite sized pieces (about 2 cups)
1 tbsp olive oil
Black pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Pierce holes on both sides of the potatoes and place directly on the oven rack.  Bake for 60 minutes.

While potatoes are baking, chop broccoli floret into pieces.  Spread evenly on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil and black pepper.  When the potatoes have 15 minutes of baking time remaining, put broccoli in oven.  Remove both potatoes and broccoli and set the broccoli aside.

Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise cautiously, as potatoes will be very hot.  Loosen the inside of the potato with a fork and place on baking sheet.  Top with broccoli and cheddar and return to oven for 5 minutes to melt the cheese.

Nutrition

Calories 311
Fat 16.6g
Carbohydrates 29.3g
Fibre 3.2g
Sugars 1.9g
Protein 11.3g

















Friday, 2 May 2014

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds






Pumpkin seeds get an added kick with this spice mix.  You can enjoy the spiced seeds on their own, or mixed into trail mix or air-popped popcorn. 

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

1 cup pumpkin seeds, hulled
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Dash of cayenne pepper
Dash of sea salt
Canola spray, for greasing pan

Directions

Spray a large frying pan and set to medium heat.  Pour pumpkin seeds into pan, stirring continuously for about 5-6 minutes.  The seeds will become fragrant and start to hiss and pop when they are nearly done.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Pour spice mixture over seeds and mix to coat thoroughly.  Allow to cool before serving. 

Nutrition

Calories 192
Fat 15.9g
Carbohydrate 7.6g
Fibre 2.3g
Sugars 0g
Protein 8.6g