I get this question All. Of. The. Time... I get it, water is not the most flavourful thing in the world and if you're bored with just drinking water, I have good news for you - there are options!
Just a note: I am not affiliated with any of these companies. These are products that I enjoy and recommend because I think they taste great :).
My absolute FAVOURITE homemade iced tea has got to be "Passion" tea by Tazo. This boxed tea makes an iced tea that tastes almost like juice and is an extremely refreshing summer drink. I recommend placing two tea bags in a large pitcher, filling the pitcher with water and leaving it in the fridge to steep overnight. Some people recommend brewing the tea with hot water and then allowing it to cool in the fridge... I am a lazy cook and if I can cut out a step, I will 😉 .
Okay so this one is sort of water, but it tastes so much more exciting! We bought a Soda Stream a year ago and since then we have been making endless batches of sparkling water. We usually have cut up lemons on hand for a fun twist on plain sparkling water. Dasani, Perrier and Nestle make a flavoured sparkling water that you can get from most grocery stores, which give you some options for a tasty drink that does not require you to purchase an extra kitchen gadget (because let's be real, we all have too many). Note: Many sparkling waters contain sucralose, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners that we want to limit. Always look at the ingredient list to double check. Tip: Drink this sparkling water in a wine glass with a few pieces of fresh fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc) - it will feel like a treat!
Kombucha is fermented tea that you can either make at home or purchase at your local grocery store (yay!). My favourite store bought kombucha has got to be the grape flavour by Synergy. Interested in learning how this drink can benefit your overall health? Click here.
Following along with the gut health theme, I MUST recommend the fermented coconut water drink called Kevita. You can purchase Kevita at most health food stores and many commercial grocery stores as well (the Superstore in the Calgary area carries it). I absolutely LOVE the mango coconut flavour and my clients tell me that the lime flavour is a great substitute for a mojito 🙂 .
Steaz is a stevia-sweetened green tea drink that has wonderful flavour and is quite easy to find (most major grocery stores are now carrying it). Tip: Don't drink them in the evening... I once had two in an evening and was awake all night. You're welcome.
Zevia is the "step-down drink" for many of my pop and diet pop drinking clients and believe it or not, this stuff has gotten GREAT reviews! I personally enjoy the "Ginger Root Beer" flavour but there are lots of options to choose from (cola, orange, cream soda, etc). The wonderful thing about these sodas is that they contain no sugar and are sweetened with stevia and they have NO caramel colour (the caramel colour in many sodas is extremely unhealthy). Yes, this means the root beer is actually clear! A little strange when you pour it into a glass but it tastes fabulous!
I don't recommend this vitamin water as being a great source of nutrition. Instead I recommend it as a tasty alternative to soda and other flavoured beverages because it is sweetened with stevia and erythritol rather than sucralose, aspartame or other nasty artificial sweetener. Wondering why I don't recommend these other artificial sweeteners? Click here.
Are all of these drinks super healthy? No. But do they make a great substitutes for water when the alternative is soda, slushi or juice? Absolutely!
Remember that healthy eating is NOT black and white. Something is not "healthy" or "unhealthy" and what we need to do is be content with choices that are better than choices we've made in the past. For example, if you transition from drinking Sunny D to drinking 100% real orange juice, that's AMAZING! If you switch from drinking soda to drinking juice, AWESOME! It's all about the journey and it's all about balance and enjoyment.
Have you tried any of these drinks? What do you think? Is there something else available that is a healthy alternative as well? Share in the comments below!
Yours in Health,
So often we prepare particular foods simply because it's a habit or we feel as though we would be missing something if they weren't on our plate (think starchy carbohydrates: pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, etc.) They can be filler foods that aren't overly nutrient dense but we eat them regularly anyway because they are easy to prepare and require minimal thought. What if I told you that you could swap out rice occasionally in place of cauliflower and you may not even notice?
Cauliflower is a great source of vitamin C (yes, the vitamin that oranges are famous for), vitamin K, folate and fibre (just to name a few). As an added bonus, cauliflower is lower in calories per serving than rice, meaning we get a larger portion (and let's be real - larger portions are always better).
Feel free to spice up your cauliflower rice however you'd like - this is just a simple recipe for quick and easy preparation! Want to spice up your dish even more? Add garlic, onions, shredded carrots, eggs, coconut amino (or soy sauce) and chopped chicken breast for a healthier spin on chicken fried rice.
This breakfast "cookie" is not a typical sweet cookie (although it does contain a touch of dark chocolate because it's cool to have chocolate at breakfast 😉 ). I recommend making these cookies ahead of time for quick grab-and-go breakfast for yourself and your children.
[yumprint-recipe id='26']I recommend adding a protein source to this breakfast (hardboiled egg, plain Greek yogurt, etc.) to complete the meal and to help keep you fuller, longer!
This post comes at a good time – right after our homes have been plagued with glorious Easter chocolate… if only we didn’t consume SO much of it and if only it didn’t CALL to us as it sits leftover and forgotten in our children’s baskets.
This is probably one of the top questions I hear from my clients - they want to know WHY their sugar cravings are so strong and what to do about it. We've all heard that sugar is "addictive" and we've talked about the impact of sugar on brain chemicals here but did you know that you can make some lifestyle, nutrition and supplement changes to help balance your brain chemistry and reduce sugar cravings?
Let’s discuss some surefire ways to get your sugar cravings under control. Some of these are obvious and others may be a new concept for you.
We will start with some of the most obvious tips. These may sound insignificant but I can assure you, they will make a huge difference in whether or not you’re back at that candy dish at the office or the basket full of chocolate in your home.
1. Eat on a regular schedule and include protein with all meals and snacks.
We’ve all had those moments where we allow our blood sugar levels to plummet and as a result we make poor nutrition choices (hello jelly beans). Would you believe me if I told you that we make those poor nutrition choices because the blood flow to our brain is actually REDUCED when our blood sugar levels are low?
If we let our blood sugar levels drop below optimal levels (you will likely feel tired, irritable and/or dizzy) it is a protection mechanism for our body to crave simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates will bring our blood sugar level up high and fast, exactly what our body thinks we need at this time. The issues with these cravings are that we typically don’t go for something naturally sweet like a piece of fruit, we instead go for something highly processed made with large amounts of refined sugar.
One study that demonstrates how stabilizing blood sugar levels reduces the urge to consume carbohydrate-rich foods focuses on women dealing with bulimia. 20 research subjects were put on a sugar stabilizing diet and within 3 weeks all 20 women had stopped binging (Dalvit-McPhillips, 1984).
One of the best ways to combat these low blood sugar levels is to eat on a regular schedule and to include protein at every meal and snack. Protein helps to keep you fuller longer and slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream. Let’s put this into practice – instead of choosing JUST a piece of fruit for a snack add some nuts, nut butter, a hardboiled egg or some leftover meat from your last meal. This combination of carbohydrate and protein will help keep your blood sugar levels stable longer.
2. Eat 25-45 grams of fiber per day.
Fruits, vegetables and whole, unprocessed grains contain fiber but one of my favorite ways to get fiber in is by incorporating chia seeds in my diet on a regular basis. Let's look at the nutrition profile for chia seeds and why they're such a great addition to your nutrition plan.
1 ounce (approximately 2 tablespoons) of chia seeds contains the following nutrients:
• 11 grams fiber (throw 2 tablespoons of chia seeds in your smoothie and you’re almost half way to your daily goal!)
• 4.7 grams protein
• 9 grams fat
• 178.9 mg calcium (18% of your recommended daily intake)
• Excellent source of antioxidants (we talked about antioxidants and health here)
Chia seeds absorb over 10 times their weight in fluid (1) making them extremely filling, as they form a gel in our bodies when we eat them. The research linking chia seed consumption and weight loss is limited right now but including chia seeds in your diet on a regular basis is going to be extremely advantageous to your health.
Chia seeds also act as a prebiotic (food for the beneficial bacteria living in our intestines). We must supply nutritious food for these good bugs in order to keep them thriving.
I recommend adding 2 tablespoons of chia seeds in your smoothie or to your yogurt daily for optimal benefits. You can buy chia seeds at most grocery stores (likely in the "natural foods" section).
3. Spice things up!
Adding cinnamon to your food can actually help you to stabilize your blood sugar levels and prevent the spike (and subsequent plummet) in your blood sugar levels after a carbohydrate-rich meal. Research shows that cinnamon can reduce blood sugar levels by 3-5%, which is comparable to older generations of diabetic medications (2).
The type of cinnamon you use matters. Most cinnamon that we find in the grocery store is Cassia cinnamon and can cause liver toxicity in large doses (I do not recommend doing the cinnamon challenge – the European Food Safety Authority suggests that 1 teaspoon is a daily maximum of Cassia cinnamon for people sensitive to a component of cassia cinnamon called coumarin). The cinnamon you want to purchase if you are trying to stabilize your blood sugar levels is ceylon cinnamon. You can find ceylon cinnamon at most health food stores.
5. Be sure you’re taking a vitamin D supplement – especially if your sun exposure is limited. When Vitamin D levels are low, levels of ghrelin (the hormone that tells us we're hungry) is affected making us feel hungrier more often, which leads to excess consumption (3). Read more about vitamin D here.
6. Adequate omega-3 intake. As we’ve discussed previously when we’ve covered inflammation, regular intake of a good quality omega-3 supplement is key in keeping inflammation under control. Omega-3 fats are beneficial fats for our brain and they also play a role in insulin (our storage hormone that we produce when we consume carbohydrates) control.
7. Chromium picolinate. Chromium picolinate has been shown to reduce cravings for fat and carbohydrates. In one double-blind placebo-controlled study, study subjects supplemented with 1000 mcg of chromium picolinate daily for a two-month period. Compared to the placebo group, the subjects supplementing with chromium picolinate had a decrease in appetite and fewer fat cravings (Anton, 2008).
If you’re following all of the tips above and still not getting any relief, your sugar cravings may stem from an imbalance in brain chemicals due to suboptimal gut health. Our gut is literally our second brain and without a healthy gut, the balance of our brain chemicals suffers.
Without getting too deep into the chemistry, let’s look at what may be beneficial. Remember – do not begin taking any supplements without consulting your physician or pharmacist. Supplements can interact with various medications. Please also be sure to take a pharmaceutical grade supplement to ensure you are actually getting what is written on the label.
8. Supplementing with l-glutamine and a good quality probiotic. L-glutamine is an amino acid that plays a major role in healing the gut lining. Taking l-glutamine and a good quality probiotic are the first steps in healing the gut and establishing a thriving population of good gut bacteria.
How does gut health impact our sugar cravings you may ask? Well, believe it or not, sugar cravings can be caused by a simple imbalance in brain chemicals and because it is in our gut that many of these brain chemicals are produced, our gut health is imperative if we want to balance our brain chemistry to combat cravings. An example of this is serotonin – serotonin is an excitatory neurotransmitter that reduces our appetite and most of our serotonin is produced in the gut. Many obese patients have lower levels of serotonin than non-obese patients, meaning that the obese patients will have a more difficult time controlling their appetite than the non-obese patients (4). If we want to have adequate serotonin production, we must have good gut health.
When taking a probiotic, I recommend taking it at the end of the day with your last meal (read more about probiotics here). Your current health status will determine the dosage of l-glutamine (I recommend working with an integrative dietitian or naturopath to determine dosage).
I hope these tips are helpful and will assist you in combating the post-Easter sugar cravings.
Still have sugar cravings? Whip up these DELICIOUS refined sugar-free brownies . Thanks so much for reading. If this information was helpful please share ☺
Yours in Health,
Dalvit-McPhillips S. A dietary approach to bulimia. Physiol Behav 1984;33:769-775
Anton SD, et al. Effects of chromium picolinate on food intake and satiety. Diabetes Technol Ther. 2008;10(5):405-12.
Docherty JP, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, exploratory trial of chromium picolinate in atypical depression: effect on carbohydrate craving. J Psychiatr Pract. 2005 Sep;11(5):302-14.
I hate to toot my own horn... but I must say, these are very likely the BEST whole food treat I've ever made! It took 3 batches to get it perfect (and the taste testing process was tough) but I think it is finally ready to be shared (oh the things I do for you guys)!
These brownies have a peanut butter cup twist and will make your tastebuds dance with delight! The best part? They are completely free of refined white sugar and are also gluten free AND dairy free (for my food sensitivity sufferers and die-hard primal eaters out there).
I have many clients who are sensitive to nightshade vegetables. Nightshades, for those of you who don't know, include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers and all of the spices that are derived from these foods. This recipe has been adapted from the Merit and Fork website (I am a lazy cook, so I've shortened a few steps and omitted some ingredients).
Bacon gives a wonderful flavour to everything (just make sure if you're following a gluten-free diet that you purchase gluten-free bacon). This recipe will take you all of 30 minutes from start to finish so use tonight to get a batch of soup prepared and ready to go for the weekend. Tip: make recipes that you LOVE for the weekend so you are less likely to get off track with your nutrition.
Who doesn't love the combination of peanut butter, banana and chocolate? These muffins are extremely simple and delicious. They are a great mix of healthy ingredients with a touch of sweet making them the perfect treat for people of all ages!
So many of my clients are sensitive to gluten and/or dairy meaning they typically avoid muffins at all costs. However, this recipe is 100% gluten and dairy free making it a great option for many of my clients and any of you out there who are also living with food sensitivities. Remember - if your goal is weight loss and you're constantly consuming foods you're sensitive to (and thus increasing inflammation in the body), weight loss will be extremely difficult!
Prepare a batch of these muffins this weekend and let me know what you think in the comments below!
So many of us pop anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil and Tylenol on a daily basis but what if the true solution was sitting in our fridge? If you suffer from achy joints, arthritis or frequent headaches this post is especially important for you!
We often think of inflammation as only occurring when we have an injury or arthritis but most of us are walking around with low-grade inflammation all the time. Inflammation occurs when our immune system attacks what it determines as foreign invaders in our body. This inflammation should only last a short period of time and then our body should return to normal, however because of our diet and lifestyle habits sometimes this inflammation does not go away.
Chronic inflammation is the building block of many chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease and autoimmune conditions.
This one probably doesn't come as much of a shocker. Sugar comes in many different forms and can be called so many different names but the sugar that I am talking about here is the white, refined sugar that is added to the foods we eat. The best way to limit or avoid added sugar in foods is to read the ingredient list. There will be naturally occurring sugars in fruits, vegetables and dairy products so sometimes just looking at the nutrition facts label will not allows us to determine whether or not a food contains added sugar or if the sugar on the label is simply from the fruits, vegetables or dairy products that the food contains.
The many names of sugar
If you remember from my previous post on reducing sugar intake, there are many “code names” often used by food manufacturers to “trick” consumers into thinking the sugar that their product contains is “healthy” or that there is no added sugar at all.
Here are some of the names that are often used for sugar. Keep these names in mind when you’re reading ingredient lists.
Agave nectar, molasses, cane sugar, confectioner’s sugar, date sugar, diastatic malt, florida crystals, galactose, golden syrup, icing sugar, maltodextrin, muscovado, refiner’s syrup, barbados sugar, brown sugar, caramel, corn syrup, demerara sugar, diatase, fructose, glucose, grape sugar, invert sugar, maltose, raw organic sugar, rice syrup, treacle, barley malt, buttered syrup, carob syrup, corn syrup solids, dextren, ethyl maltol, fruit juice, glucose solids, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, panocha, sorghum syrup, turbinado sugar, beet sugar, cane juice crystals, castor sugar, crystalline fructose, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice concentrate, golden sugar, honey, malt syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, yellow sugar
Trans fats are the man made fats that use to be more frequently used in processed foods. Luckily, trans fats are now considered by the FDA to be harmful to our health and therefore they have been removed from many of our food products.
Make sure you’re using the right oils for cooking and that you’re using a good QUALITY omega-3 supplement if you're not consuming enough from fatty, cold water fish. When we consume damaged fat it causes inflammation in the body (this includes omega-3 supplements). Recent research has shown that 4 out of 7 omega-3 supplements sold in Canada contained damaged fats. This is why it is critical to ensure that your supplements come from a reputable company whose supplements are undergoing regular testing (preferably by a third party).
Underlying Food Sensitivities
This is one of the major causes of inflammation I see with my clients. This inflammation usually manifests itself as achy joints and headaches and the biggest food culprits are typically gluten and dairy. If you try removing the foods that contribute to inflammation in the body and increase your intake of anti-inflammatory foods but still experience some symptoms of inflammation I recommend eliminating foods containing gluten and dairy for two weeks and reassess how you feel.
Tomatoes contain something called lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant meaning it has the ability to combat free radicals in the body which otherwise would cause damage to other cells in our body. Food fact: the bioavailability of nutrients in most foods decreases when cooked (think: vitamin C is damaged by heat); however for tomatoes it is the opposite. When we cook tomatoes the bioavailability of lycopene actually increases.
Food sources of omega-3 fats include fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines, tuna, herring), walnuts, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds to name a few.
As we’ve discussed in a previous post, balancing the ratio of omega-6 fats and omega-3 fats in our diet is key. Omega-6 fats are pro-inflammatory fats and omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory fats. The ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats in our body is between 1:1 and 4:1. This ratio should keep us in an anti-inflammatory state and will help to prevent some of the chronic diseases listed above. However, most of us are walking around with an omega 3:omega 6 ratio of 1:15 meaning we are dealing with low-grade inflammation all of the time. This type of chronic inflammation puts us at higher risk of developing unwanted disease.
Chia seeds have been very popular in the media today and for good reason – this little seed is a nutritional powerhouse. Chia seeds contain the plant form of omega-3 fats and they are a great source of antioxidants. Flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and walnuts contain the omega-3 fat called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) that is converted into the useable fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Unfortunately, the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is estimated to be less than 5% in healthy individuals. Food fact: Flaxseeds MUST be ground in order to digest and absorb any of the healthy fats. The oil in flaxseeds is easily damaged by heat, air and light. I recommend storing ground flaxseed in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Recommended daily intake: In general, 1-3 grams of good quality omega-3 fatty acids per day is a good starting place (3 ounces of wild salmon delivers about 2 grams of omega-3 fat). According to American Family Physician omega-3 doses of 3 grams or more per day has been found effective at reducing morning stiffness and the number of joints that are tender or swollen in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. Remember - choose a high quality omega-3 supplement to avoid the inflammation-causing side effect of consuming damaged fats. I like the brand NutraSea and recommend it regularly to my clients.
Don’t fear the long word – anthocyanins are water-soluble flavonoids pigments that give the bright red-orange to blue-violet colors to fruits and vegetables. Research suggests that the health benefits of anthocyanins goes beyond the fact that they contain a significant amount of antioxidants and that some unidentified chemical properties make them potent anti-inflammatory foods (1).
Anthocyanin-rich fruits and vegetables include berries, red and purple grapes, cherries, red wine, eggplant, blood oranges, black plumbs and red cabbage.
Food fact: Red wines are higher in antioxidants (anthocyanins) than white wines because the anthocyanin is mostly found in the skin of the grape, which is used in the fermentation process when making red wine but not when making white.
Spice Up Your Life
Some of the most potent anti-inflammatory spices include turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper and ginger. These spices have been used in ancient times as medicine for reducing inflammation and preventing illness. The research is not strong enough right now to suggest dosage recommendations so for right now just keep these spices on hand as easy additions to any meal! Food fact: When using turmeric for it's anti-inflammatory properties, add black pepper as well to increase absorption.
Do you have any other tips or tricks you use to combat inflammation naturally? Share them in the comments below.
Thanks so much for reading!
Yours in Health,
These ribs have got to be the BEST ribs I've ever made - they fall off the bone and are absolutely delicious! One of the greatest things about this recipe is that it contains NO store bought BBQ sauce or ketchup (which we all know - many brands contain a lot of added sugar or even worse - high fructose corn syrup). Throw these in your slow cooker this weekend - you will not be disappointed!
This recipe is a potluck go to. The recipe is easy and it makes a large batch so it's great for feeding a crowd. I used peanut butter in this recipe but you can use almond butter or sunflower seed butter for a slightly different taste. The only recommendation I make: please don't substitute the red pepper with green pepper - the red pepper gives the salad a sweetness that is just right!
A quarter of a cup of uncooked quinoa contains approximately 6 grams of protein - making this whole batch clock in at 24 grams. I recommend my clients aim for 25-30 grams of protein at a meal so you will have to add an additional protein source to this recipe (both chicken and chickpeas work great).