Sleep eluding you?

Sleep eluding you?

Have you said “bye bye” to sleeping through the night?

Are you feeling exhausted or “running on stress hormones” all day?

Do not fear, I have some great tips (and an amazing recipe) for you!

The science of sleep is fascinating, complicated and growing.

Sleep is this daily thing that we all do and yet we’re just beginning to understand all of the ways it helps us and all of the factors that can affect it.

Lack of sleep affects just about everything in your body and mind.  People who get less sleep tend to be at higher risk for so many health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer; not to mention effects like slower metabolism, weight gain, hormone imbalance, and inflammation.  And don’t forget the impact lack of sleep can have on moods, memory and decision-making skills.

Do you know that lack of sleep may even negate the health benefits of your exercise program? (Gasp!)

OMG – What aspect of health does sleep not affect???

Knowing this it’s easy to see the three main purposes of sleep:

  • To restore our body and mind.  Our bodies repair, grow and even “detoxify” our brains while we sleep.
  • To improve our brain’s ability to learn and remember things, technically known as “synaptic plasticity”.
  • To conserve some energy so we’re not just actively “out and about” 24-hours a day, every day.

Do you know how much sleep adults need?  It’s less than your growing kids need but you may be surprised that it’s recommended that all adults get 7 – 9 hours a night.  For real!

Try not to skimp!
(Don’t worry, I have you covered with a bunch of actionable tips below.)

Tips for better sleep

  • The biggest tip is definitely to try to get yourself into a consistent sleep schedule.  Make it a priority and you’re more likely to achieve it.  This means turning off your lights 8 hours before your alarm goes off.  Seven. Days. A. Week.  I know weekends can easily throw this off but by making sleep a priority for a few weeks your body and mind will adjust and thank you for it.
  • Balance your blood sugar throughout the day.  You know, eat less refined and processed foods and more whole foods (full of blood-sugar-balancing fiber).  Choose the whole orange instead of the juice (or orange-flavoured snack).  Make sure you’re getting some protein every time you eat.
  • During the day get some sunshine and exercise.  These things tell your body it’s daytime; time for being productive, active and alert.  By doing this during the day it will help you wind down more easily in the evening.
  • Cut off your caffeine and added sugar intake after 12pm.  Whole foods like fruits and veggies are fine, it’s the “added” sugar we’re minimizing.  Yes, this includes your beloved chai latte.  Both caffeine and added sugar can keep your mind a bit more active than you want it to be come evening. (HINT: I have a great caffeine-free chai latte recipe for you below!).
  • Have a relaxing bedtime routine that starts 1 hour before your “lights out” time (that is 8 – 10 hours before your alarm is set to go off).  This would include dimming your artificial lights, nixing screen time and perhaps reading an (actual, not “e”) book or having a bath.

So how many of these tips can you start implementing today?

Recipe (Caffeine-free latte for your afternoon “coffee break”): Caffeine-Free Chai Latte

Serves 1-2

  • 1 bag of rooibos chai tea (rooibos is naturally caffeine-free)
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter (creamy is preferred)
  • 2 dates (optional)
  • Cover the teabag and dates (if using) with 2 cups of boiling water and steep for a few minutes.
  • Discard the tea bag & place tea, soaked dates, tahini & almond butter into a blender.
  • Blend until creamy.
  • Serve and Enjoy!

Tip:  You can try this with other nut or seed butters to see which flavor combination you like the best.  Cashew butter anyone?

References:

3 Important Supplements if You’re Over 45

3 Important Supplements if You’re Over 45

Yes, while I always say that it’s better to get your nutrients from food first sometimes supplements are necessary.

Unfortunately there are just some all-too-common nutrients that we simply don’t get enough of.  And they’re absolutely critical to optimal health and wellness.  Especially as we age.

Here I sifted through the supplements that are available on the market and boiled them down to three that can have the best effect for us.

Supplement #1: Vitamin D

If you live in North America chances are you are low in vitamin D.  It’s the “sunshine vitamin” and we just aren’t able to hang out in shorts every day of the year.  Even if we did we’d wisely use a bit of sun protection too.

Vitamin D is very important for everyone but especially women over 45.  Want to know why?

It helps to protect our bones!

Vitamin D helps our body absorb and keep the calcium we get from our food and drinks.  And we all know that calcium is one of the main things our bones are made of.

Want to know something funny about vitamin D (but it’s true, I swear)?

People who get enough vitamin D tend to fall less frequently.  Especially as we get older.

Seriously!

Vitamin D can help your bones stay strong and help you fall less.  Win-win!

Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral needed for over 300 reactions in your body.

Yes, 300!

As with vitamin D it’s very common for us to simply not get enough.  Not even the 320 mg per day that’s recommended.

Low levels of magnesium have been linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, low bone density, and even migraines.

Magnesium is found in so many healthy whole foods like beans, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables.  In fact, the magnesium element is central to a plant’s chlorophyll – it’s actually what causes green plants to be green!  And most of us just don’t get enough green plants into our bodies on a regular basis.  (You know I have a recipe with green leafies for you below, right?).

Magnesium is a very common supplement and is often added to multivitamins.

Omega-3s and don’t forget about the 5s, 7s, and 9s!

We’ve all heard that we need to get more omega-3 essential fatty acids, right?  They’re good for our hearts, brains, and help to reduce inflammation.

These are all good things when it comes to our health and wellness.

But not all of us are ready, willing, and able to eat fish three times per week.

While fish oil supplements contain the “brain healthy” fats called EPA and DHA, those two are not technically the “essential” fats.  The plant omega-3 known as ALA is essential and that is because our bodies can convert ALA into EPA and DHA when necessary.

Omega-3 supplements can be found in forms of flax oil, algae oil, fish oil, or even fish liver oil.  But not everyone can take them which is why having a vegan option is a life-saver!

Pro Tip:  Fish liver oil (e.g. cod liver oil) also contains vitamin D so check your labels and add the amounts together to know how much vitamin D you’re actually getting.

Conclusion:

Three supplements to consider now that you’re 45 are: vitamin D, magnesium, and omega-3s.  It’s nearly impossible to get them through food.  My best recommendation is to make sure you’re getting enough through fruits and vegetables in concentrated form.  The Juice Plus Trio Blend will take care of the vitamins and minerals while the Juice Plus Vegan Omega Blend will ensure you’re getting all your essential fatty acids.  

Always read the supplement labels to see if there are warnings that would make them inappropriate for you.  And, of course if you have any medical conditions or take medications or other supplements it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor before starting anything new. 

Recipe (Vitamin D, Magnesium & Omega-3s): Salmon Quinoa Buddha Bowl

Serves 2

  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup quinoa (cooked)
  • 1 can wild salmon
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • ½ red onion (diced) (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • dash salt and pepper

Split spinach, quinoa, wild salmon, sesame seeds, and onion (if using) between two bowls.

Mix sesame oil, rice vinegar, and lemon juice together and pour on top of prepared Buddha bowls.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve & Enjoy!

Tip:  When looking for canned salmon try to get the ones with the most vitamin D and make sure cans are BPA-free.  Good quality canned fish is usually in the “natural foods” section of many large groceries.

References:

Simple Meal Prep Ideas

Simple Meal Prep Ideas

When it comes to staying on track with your nutrition meal prepping ahead of time is the way to go.  And if you’re a busy mom like me I don’t have to tell you how important it is to plan ahead in between kids activities, your job, appointments, etc. I have to pay extra attention to my nutrition.  As a fitness instructor and trainer I’m always putting my body to the test.  Packing my meals ensures I’m eating well no matter what.

And because life is life there will always be something going on.  As the saying goes, “if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail”.

So let’s dive into some great ideas on how you can meal prep, what you’ll need and some bonus recipes to set you up like a boss for the week!

What you’ll need for storage:

  • Plastic or glass containers
  • Zip-lock bags
  • Dry-erase markers
  • Lunch box
  • Lunch bag

What you’ll need for planning:

  • A calendar
  • Recipes
  • Your grocery list
  • A little creativity!

Here are your action steps

  • Look over the recipes and write out your grocery shopping list
  • Wash all produce and let dry on a kitchen table
  • Chop what needs to be chopped
  • Roast your veggies
  • Grill your meats
  • Hard-boil your eggs
  • Cook your quinoa
  • Blend your salads without dressing and place in containers topped with a paper towel to absorb moisture.  Use a combination of romaine, green leaf, spinach, baby kale.
  • Let your cooked food cool before storing

You can either portion off your meals now or store in large containers and prep your lunch box the night before which is what I do because I have a little more time.

What should you pack for optimal nourishment?

I like to focus on always packing a mix of fiber, complex carbs, protein and some fat.  As you can see in the image below it’s not so difficult.  For example you can focus on packing a salad with mixed greens, grilled chicken, pork or steak, half of an avocado or some roasted root vegetables, quinoa salad and a couple hard-boiled eggs.  If you use this formula you’ll always have something healthy to eat.  You can load your salads with garbanzo beans, shredded carrots, perhaps dried cranberries, nuts and a little goat cheese.  Always pack your dressing on the side.  See below for some super simple and delicious ideas.  Toss those bottles of old dressing away!

My go-to lunch box is from BentGoFresh.  When you have a bento style lunch box it takes the guessing work out of portion sizing.  Make sure your lunch box is designed to keep your food fresh for a several hours, is leak proof and dishwasher safe.  You can learn more about BentGoFresh and their awesome line of lunch boxes including some really cool ones for the kids by going here.

Recipes that are perfect to-go!

Roasted sweet potatoes and beets

  • 1 large sweet potato cut peeled and cut into large cubes
  • 2 small beets peeled and cut into cubes
  • Zest of an orange
  • Vegetable oil and a little salt

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss ingredients together.  Spread evenly on baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes tossing half-way through.  Tip: I like to use my toaster oven rather than the big oven when I’m not roasting large quantities!

Quinoa salad

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa: bring 1 and 3/4 cups of water to a boil. Add quinoa with a pinch of salt.  Cover and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed.  Let cool.  Tip:  If I’m in a hurry I’ll spend the quinoa over a cookie sheet to cool faster.
  • 1 can drained garbanzo beans
  • 1 can drained kidney beans
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 small can of drained corn
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and boom.  Yes, that’s it!  This is a favorite.  You can top this quinoa salad with avocado, serve it as a main meal or side.  You can also add halved cherry tomatoes and shredded carrots. Get creative.

Perfect marinade for chicken

I love using chicken tenders for meal prepping because they cook super fast and if you make sure not to overcook them they will be nice and tender.  Tip:  I slightly undercook my chicken tenders and then place in a plate and cover with tin foil.  The residual heat will continue to cook the chicken without drying it out.

  • 1 package of chicken tenders: about 6 pieces
  • 3 crushed or thinly chopped garlic cloves
  • Juice of one small lime or half of a lemon
  • Zest of said lime or lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients together.  Let the chicken sit in the fridge for 30 minutes or you can cook right away.  Use medium to high heat on a non-stick pan.  Cook for 4 minutes on each side, careful not to over cook or burn.  Transfer to plate and cover with foil until cool.

Simple salad dressings.

You can whip these up in no time.  If you want to plan ahead do it on Sunday.  Adjust the flavor as your wish.

Sweet balsamic

  • 1 part balsamic
  • 2 parts olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of Mrs. Dash garlic and herb

Orange dijon

  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons orange juice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Honey apple

  • 1 part apple cider vinegar
  • 2 parts olive oil
  • Drizzle of honey
  • Pinch of salt

Lemon and herb

  • Juice of one lemon
  • Zest of said lemon
  • Double the amount of olive oil
  • Mrs. Dash garlic and herb
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For more delicious and healthy recipes download the 2 Week Detox plan.

3 Must Have Breakfast Foods

3 Must Have Breakfast Foods

Do you love your breakfast?  Do you have a short list of “go-to” recipes?  Do you need a bit of inspiration to start eating breakfast again?

Getting some protein at each meal can help with blood sugar management, metabolism and weight loss.  This is because protein helps you feel fuller longer and uses up a bunch of calories to absorb and metabolize it.  So I’m going to show you how to get the protein, as well as some veggies and healthy fats for your soon-to-be favorite new “go-to” breakfasts.

Breakfast Food #1: Eggs

Yes, eggs are the “quintessential” breakfast food.  And for good reason!

No, I’m not talking about processed egg whites in a carton.  I mean actual whole “eggs”. 

Egg whites are mostly protein while the yolks are the real nutritional powerhouses.  Those yolks contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.

Eggs have been shown to help you feel full, keep you feeling fuller longer, and help to stabilize blood sugar and insulin.

Not to mention how easy it is to boil a bunch of eggs and keep them in the fridge for a “grab and go” breakfast when you’re running short on time.

And…nope the cholesterol in eggs is not associated with an increased risk of arterial or heart diseases. 

One thing to consider is to try to prevent cooking the yolks at too high of a temperature because that can cause some of the cholesterol to become oxidized.  It’s the oxidized cholesterol that’s heart unhealthy.

Breakfast Food #2: Nuts and/or Seeds

Nuts and seeds contain protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  Nuts and/or seeds would make a great contribution to breakfast.

Now don’t be fooled by “candied” nuts, sweetened nut/seed butters, or chia “cereals” with added sugars – you know I’m talking about the real, whole, unsweetened food here.

Nuts and seeds are also the ultimate fast food if you’re running late in the mornings.  Grab a small handful of almonds, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds as you’re running out the door; you can nosh on them while you’re commuting.

Not to mention how easy it is to add a spoonful of nut/seed butter into your morning breakfast smoothie.

Hint: If you like a creamy latte in the mornings try making one with nut or seed butter.  Just add your regular hot tea and a tablespoon or two of a creamy nut or seed butter into your blender & blend until frothy. 

Breakfast Food #3: Veggies

Yes, you already know you really should get protein at every meal including breakfast; but this also applies to veggies.  You know I would be remiss to not recommend veggies at every meal, right? 

Veggies are powerhouses of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, and water.  You can’t go wrong adding them into every single meal of the day so if you don’t already you should definitely try them for breakfast! 

And no, you don’t need to have a salad or roasted veggies for breakfast if you don’t want to but you totally can!  You wouldn’t be breaking any “official” breakfast rules or anything like that.

Adding some protein to leftover veggies is a great combination for any meal.  Including breakfast.

I’ve included a delicious recipe below for you to try (and customize) for your next breakfast.

Recipe (Eggs & Veggies): Veggie Omelet

Serves 1

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 or 2 eggs (how hungry are you?)
  • ¼ cup veggies (grated zucchini and/or sliced mushrooms and/or diced peppers)
  • dash salt, pepper and/or turmeric

Add coconut oil to a frying pan and melt on low-medium heat (cast-iron pans are preferred).

In the meantime grab a bowl and beat the egg(s) with your vegetables of choice and the spices.

Tilt pan to ensure the bottom is covered with the melted oil.  Pour egg mixture into pan and lightly fry the eggs without stirring.

When the bottom is lightly done flip over in one side and cook until white is no longer runny.

Serve & Enjoy!

Tip:  Substitute grated, sliced, or diced portion of your favorite vegetable.  Try grated carrots, chopped broccoli or diced tomato.

References:

Busting 5 Cholesterol Myths and What to Eat Instead

Busting 5 Cholesterol Myths and What to Eat Instead

You knew there was a bit of an over-emphasis (borderlining obsession) about cholesterol, right?

Before we jump into some myths let’s make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to what exactly cholesterol is.

Myth #1: “Cholesterol” is cholesterol

While cholesterol is an actual molecule what it is bound to while it’s floating through your blood is what’s more important than just how much of it there is overall.  In fact depending on what it’s combined with can have opposite effects on your arteries and heart.  Yes, opposite!

So cholesterol is just one component of a compound that floats around your blood.  These compounds contain cholesterol as well as fats and special proteins called “lipoproteins”. 

They’re grouped into two main categories:

  • HDL: High Density Lipoprotein (AKA “good” cholesterol) that “cleans up” some of those infamous “arterial plaques” and transports cholesterol back to the liver.
  • LDL: Low Density Lipoprotein (AKA “bad” cholesterol) that transports cholesterol from the liver (and is the kind found to accumulate in arteries and become easily oxidized hence their “badness”).

And yes, it’s even more complicated than this.  Each of these categories is further broken down into subcategories which can also be measured in a blood test.

So “cholesterol” isn’t simply cholesterol because it has very different effects on your body depending on which other molecules it’s bound to in your blood and what it is actually doing there.

Myth #2: Cholesterol is bad

Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for your body to produce critical things like vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, your sex hormones (e.g. estrogen and testosterone), as well as bile to help you absorb dietary fats.  Not to mention that it’s incorporated into the membranes of your cells.

Talk about an important molecule!

The overall amount of cholesterol in your blood (AKA “total cholesterol”) isn’t nearly as important as how much of each kind you have in your blood.

While way too much LDL cholesterol as compared with HDL (the LDL:HDL ratio) may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease it is absolutely not the only thing to consider for heart health.

Myth #3: Eating cholesterol increases your bad cholesterol

Most of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your liver.  It’s actually not from the cholesterol you eat.  Why do you think cholesterol medications block an enzyme in your liver (HMG Co-A reductase, to be exact)?  ‘Cause that’s where it’s made!

What you eat still can affect how much cholesterol your liver produces.  After a cholesterol-rich meal your liver doesn’t need to make as much.

Myth #4: Your cholesterol should be as low as possible

As with almost everything in health and wellness there’s a balance that needs to be maintained.  There are very few extremes that are going to serve you well.

People with too-low levels of cholesterol have increased risk of death from other non-heart-related issues like certain types of cancers, as well as suicide.

Myth #5: Drugs are the only way to get a good cholesterol balance

Don’t start or stop any medications without talking with your doctor.

And while drugs can certainly lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol they don’t seem to be able to raise the “good” HDL cholesterol all that well.

Guess what does?

Nutrition and exercise, baby!

One of the most impactful ways to lower your cholesterol with diet is to eat lots of fruits and veggies.  I mean lots, say up to 10 servings a day.  Every day.  And if you’re like me you’ll opt for over 26 different fruits, vegetables and berries in a convenient capsule form!

But don’t worry because the recipe below should help you add at least another salad to your day.

You can (should?) also exercise, lose weight, stop smoking, and eat better quality fats.  That means fatty fish, avocados and olive oil.  Ditch those over-processed hydrogenated “trans” fats.  My favorite way of ensuring consumption of healthy omegas is with this vegan omega blend.

Summary:

The science of cholesterol and heart health is complicated and we’re learning more every day.  You may not need to be as afraid of it as you are.  And there is a lot you can do from a nutrition and lifestyle perspective to improve your cholesterol level.

Recipe (Dressing to go with your salad): Orange Hemp Seed Dressing

Makes about ¾ cup

  • ½ cup hemp seeds
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • dash salt and/or pepper
  • Blend all ingredients together until creamy.
  • Serve on top of your favorite salad and Enjoy!
  • Tip: Store extra in airtight container in the fridge.  Will keep for about a week.

References: