September 21, 2014

Shopping at Costco Part 3 - More Nutritionist Approved Pantry Staples

Costco is a big place and it takes awhile to get through all the aisles. Make sure you have enough time and energy before venturing into big box stores! Here are a few more essential pantry items found on the shelves at Costco:

Sea vegetables are a great source of iodine, an essential mineral which is deficient in many people due to either inadequate intake or receptors being blocked or displaced by similarly shaped minerals (in the same column on the periodic table) such as bromine (dough conditioner in bread), fluoride (from dental treatments and water) and mercury (from dental fillings and fish). These Kirkland Roasted Seasoned Seaweed snacks provide a salty, crispy, crunchy experience that is miles ahead of potato chips. Yes, they do have a little oil (sesame) and are not organic, but I still think they are a great treat with nutrients we do not usually see in the Standard Canadian Diet and the value is fantastic. These are great for traveling or lunches too.

My absolute favourite crackers are Mary's Organic Crackers! They are crunchy, delicious and also gluten-free. They are fantastic topped with almond butter, hummus or avocado. I like to add some vegetable toppings such as chopped tomato, grated carrot or sliced cucumber.

I really like using raw honey, but this organic honey at Costco would be great for baking (where it will be heated anyhow) or in hot tea.

For those who like a cup of coffee in the morning, Costco has organic coffee beans. Coffee is a highly sprayed, pesticide-laden crop so it is absolutely essential to buy organic coffee. Unless you seek out organic sources for your coffee, you are placing yourself at undue risk for diseases like cancer.

I was happy to see some steel cut oats on the shelves at Costco. Previously, they only had packets of extremely processed, chemically flavoured and sugar infused instant oatmeal. Oats are a great source of fiber and have been known to stabilize blood sugar, enhance immunity, reduce heart disease, strengthen blood vessels and lower cholesterol levels. They are also delicious (I like mine topped with pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of dark maple syrup) and keep you feeling satisfied all morning.

So that is it for this shopping trip as far as pantry staples go - next time, I will show you some items from the frozen food case to have on hand!

September 19, 2014

Shopping at Costco Part 2 - Nutritionist Approved Pantry Staples

Continuing our shop for pantry staples at Costco, keep in mind that it is important to stay hydrated (so bring some water or herbal tea in a travel mug) and eat something before starting out. It is easy to lose energy and motivation to venture down all those aisles! Also, if you are hungry, you may somehow inadvertently end up with a huge bag of caramel and cheese popcorn in your cart!

Coincidentally, Costco sells some great metal, thermos type to-go containers for hot beverages. They are completely sealed so you can even throw a container full of hot tea in your purse and the contents stay hot for a very long time! When you want a sip, just push a button.

Hemp hearts (or seeds) are a fantastic superfood, containing complete, plant-based protein, magnesium (which is calming), essential fatty acids and fiber. This large bag is a great value. Hemp seeds taste great by the spoonful, sprinkled on salads, yogurt (dairy or non), cereal like oatmeal or blended into smoothies, where it forms a creamy "milk". I like to store the hemp hearts in my fridge or freezer, although they last well in the cupboard too.

Coconut oil is one of the most versatile products you can have on hand. It can serve as a super mouthwash (google oil pulling if you are curious, it claims to whiten teeth and kill bacteria), moisturizer for face and body, cooking oil (it has a high smoke point) and is delicious in delectable treats like raw cheesecakes, for instance. Costco has a big tub of shelf stable, virgin, organic coconut oil at a great price, $25.99 Canadian.

Walnuts make a delicious, crunchy snack. They contain Omega-3 fatty acids and protein. This big package is less than $20 and should last a long time. I soak these (removes enzyme inhibitors and bitterness) with sea salt for a few hours and then dehydrate for crunch. Keep them in the fridge or freezer to maintain freshness unless you have a big family!

I use vanilla extract in my morning coffee (fake Dandyblend or real organic), in smoothies and in recipes for treats. Costco has a big bottle at a great price!

I buy my organic raisins in bulk, but these would be great to have on hand, especially if you have kids, for a quick snack or in a lunchbox:

Sea salt is another staple at my house (along with pink Himalayan and Celtic salts). These will last you a long time - they come in a three pack

When tomatoes are not in season, if you have not taken the precaution of preserving your own home-grown tomatoes, purchasing canned tomatoes is the best option - however, we do not want metal cans, due to the harmful BPA (cancer-causing Bisphenol A in the can lining). I like to use these glass jars with Italian tomato puree:

I will be posting another bunch of great Costco pantry finds tomorrow!

September 18, 2014

Nutritionist Approved Pantry Staples at Costco - Part 1

My recent trip to Costco (in Vaughan, Ontario) included spotting a lot of great dry goods and other shelf stable, minimally processed or unprocessed, whole food products to have on hand. I have found that every Costco location is unique and not all have the same products. Things do change quite often, so make sure to poke around a little if you have time!

Chia seeds are truly a superfood, delivering tons of nutrition. They are packed with fiber, complete protein and essential fats. They also contain minerals that are important for bone health, so are great for people who do not wish to consume dairy. The antioxidants in chia help fight off free radicals that can lead to aging and disease. They help you feel full and do not raise blood sugar. They are super easy to incorporate into your diet - a tapioca-like pudding can be created in a couple of hours or you can toss them into smoothies or sprinkle on cereal.

I usually prefer to mix up my own cereal combinations from whole, raw, unprocessed ingredients, but for those in a rush, here are some healthy, organic and gluten-free options, containing chia, hemp and buckwheat. As you can see, you pay for the convenience of having these three ingredients combined into one bag with a little flavour added:

Cranberry Vanilla flavour:

Apple Cinnamon flavour:

For those on the gluten-free wagon, I found some ancient grain pasta that makes a delicious substitute for the usual wheat-based penne:

Here is another delicious, gluten-free grain substitute which conveniently combines quinoa, amaranth and millet:

Come back soon to see Part 2 of my Costco pantry staple shopping trip!

September 4, 2014

Eight Easy, DIY Money Saving, Non-Toxic Ideas for Personal Care Products!

Over the past few years, I have discovered many inexpensive, natural solutions to pricey packaged products, which often contain toxic chemical ingredients.

The following super simple recipes utilize ingredients that cost pennies, many of which you probably already have in your home:

1. Grind together equal parts of raw oat flakes or groats plus almonds in a spice grinder, coffee grinder or high speed blender; rub on damp skin to exfoliate and nourish, then rinse with water and pat dry.

2. Olive oil mixed with salt (equal parts) makes a great DIY exfoliating and moisturizing manicure treatment to keep your cuticles free of dry skin and hangnails.

3. Apply olive oil to your face at night to moisturize (the oil in vitamin E capsules are also great); olive oil also makes a good body moisturizer when rubbed on still damp skin as soon as you finish your shower or bath.

4. Coconut oil is another excellent body moisturizer; it can also replace mouthwash due to it's antiviral and antibacterial action - swish for 10-20 minutes, spit out (not in sink) and then scrape your tongue and brush your teeth.

5. Make your own remineralizing toothpaste by stirring together 1/4 c. coconut oil, 1/4 c. calcium carbonate, 2 T. baking soda, 2 T. granulated xylitol (which tastes sweet and is anti-bacterial) plus 1/4 tsp. vanilla or mint extract; another flavour option is to add several drops of an essential oil, like cinnamon or grapefruit. Store in a small glass jar. I like to save the tiny jam jars you get on planes for this purpose!

6. While you are in DIY mode, whipping up some deodorant is also easy! Mix 2 T. each coconut oil and baking soda plus 1 T. cornstarch or arrowroot powder. For a nice scent you can add a few drops of high quality essential oils. For both the deodorant and the toothpaste, warming the coconut oil (by placing it in a small bowl, then placing that bowl in a larger bowl containing hot water) makes it liquid and easy to incorporate the other ingredients. Pour into a small glass jar and cool for a creamy, solid texture. In summer, store in the fridge.

7. Preparing your own homemade eyeglass cleaner is another incredibly quick task. Simply combine water, plus an equal part of rubbing alcohol, with a couple of drops dishwashing detergent. Pour into a spray bottle, then mist your glasses and polish with a clean, dry cloth for streak-free results.

8. Get rid of toxic fabric softeners - instead, try throwing a few whole cloves in dryer (put them in a tiny, sheer fabric bag from the dollar store) to make your clothing smell nice; include some crumpled tin foil in the load to get rid of static cling!

August 28, 2014

Five Free or Inexpensive Activities to do in Paris!

Luxembourg Gardens in Paris
1. Ride the bus! Number 69 takes you past many of the landmarks of Paris (starting near the Eiffel Tower) and ends up at Pere Lachaise cemetery, where tons of famous people are buried, including Jim Morrison, Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde, Proust and Chopin.

2. Take the escalator up as far as you can, and then climb to the rooftop of department store Galeries Lafayette for a free panoramic view of Paris, including the iconic Eiffel Tower.

3. Go gaze upon the serene, Gothic beauty of Notre Dame, both inside and out. Then go wander the cobblestone streets of the nearby Latin Quarter.

4. Get some exercise on your way up the hill, then check out the view from the steps of Sacre Coeur in Montmartre. After that, mosey on over to Place Tertre to see artists at work and selling their wares.

5. People watch at Luxembourg Gardens! If you have a few euros to spare, pick up a cafe creme and croissant "a emporter" or a scoop of rich, dark purple Berthilion cassis sorbet (trust me on this, for a burst of intense flavor you can't go wrong with this flavour) find a chair and relax.

August 24, 2014

Look Younger, Live Longer? The Case for Inner Health, Outer Beauty

Genetics, bone structure and cosmetic procedures (which may make you look smoother, but not necessarily younger and sometimes just strange) aside, there is some proof that your appearance is dependent on your internal health.

Handcrafted soaps from Marseilles
Once people reach the middle of their lives, the way they have lived up to that point is literally written all over their faces and bodies. Unless drastic measures are taken to turn around those habits of a lifetime, the prognosis for the decades to follow (hopefully 30+) years is not good.

This article, based on a 2008 study, explains that you really are what you eat and it shows on your face.

There are a lot of natural lifestyle changes that can be done to enhance your health, well-being and appearance. Of course, eating real, whole foods (mostly plant-based, at least half raw), exercising (especially resistance training), relaxation, sleep and being a positive, happy person with supportive relationships is key. We need to ensure balanced hormones and avoid toxins as well.

Using natural, unprocessed alternatives instead of mainstream, packaged products full of chemicals and toxins, will save your health and your pocketbook too!

Coconut oil, for example, can serve many uses, from body moisturizer to hair conditioner to mouthwash and it is very economical. With a little effort, you can also craft some of your own personal care products by combining pure ingredients with essential oils. There are whole books written on this subject and a google search yields countless ideas that use such basics as baking soda, avocado, honey, yogurt and olive oil. Vitamin E capsules are an easy night treatment for facial skin too.

If you are not the DIY type, seek out products that are made without harmful ingredients. You can check to see if the cosmetics and other personal care products you use are toxic and even carcinogenic!

August 17, 2014

Little Life Box - Sample Health Conscious Products!

Who doesn't love a present? Little Life Box is a Canadian subscription service, packed with goodies for health conscious consumers. The boxes are shipped on the first Monday of every month. The samples even come gift wrapped! 

If you decide to send the box to someone else, you can be sure they will be thrilled to get such a nice surprise - Little Life Box will even include a handwritten note from you! 

A vegan option is available and you can save some dollars by pre-paying for multiple months. If you fall in love with one of the products, you can go to the website for #littlelifebox and read more about where to purchase the item.

Here are just some of the samples included in my box:

Just opened, ready to dive in!
Delicious, crunchy crackers - also gluten-free
Matcha - great source of antioxidants!
A treat - gluten-free, nut-free, whole grain
Another guilty pleasure - discovered these in Britain this year!
Vegan Quinoa Granola
When you don't have time to juice here is a great option
TWO yummy nut & seed bars!
This soap smelled heavenly
Hemp is a great protein & good fat source
Great for travel!

August 12, 2014

8 Ways to Instantly Look More Youthful!

As we approach or bypass the mid-point of our lives, we are happy to still be here, enjoying life.

We don't want to give up on looking as good as possible though! These days, 60 is the new fortysomething. Just look at a few of many naturally beautiful celebrities, such as Lauren Hutton, Jamie Lee Curtis, Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren, who have lines and wrinkles, but look naturally youthful and beautiful.

Aging gracefully requires putting forth a little effort, incorporating habits like healthy eating and regular exercise for long-term benefits such as strong bones and the ability to keep active and vital as long as possible.

Happily there are are a few "immediate gratification" strategies to institute if you want to look younger while you patiently wait for the many benefits from long-term lifestyle changes to kick in!

STOP doing the following, if you want to quickly and effortlessly look younger than your years!

1. Dying your hair a dark, too blonde or unnatural colour: Shades like solid black or bright red that do not flatter come to mind. The harsh contrast will emphasize lines, wrinkles and sagging in your face. A shade slightly lighter than your natural colour or some subtle highlights looks best, unless you are brave enough to embrace the silver highlights mother nature has given you!

2. Powder cosmetics: These products cake and seriously highlight any lines you have in your face. Dewy finishes work best, but search out products without toxic components endemic to the beauty industry, such as fragrance, phthalates and parabens. Check out this site to see how your personal care products stack up!

3. Wearing baggy clothes and painful shoes: You may have gained a few pounds around the middle, but don't resort to oversized apparel which will make you look bigger and sadder than you are. Going the opposite direction and buying things that are too snug is also a bad idea. Don't worry about the label size - try things on and choose what skims your curves. Wearing all one colour (a dress or matching pants/top) with a contrasting jacket over that subtracts pounds. A comfortable wedge or platform shoe that adds a little height helps too. Uncomfortable shoes, despite being pretty, are aging, since the pain will show in your face. Eventually, the damage to your feet will cause that frown to be permanently etched on your brow.

4. Slouching and looking glum: Good posture subtracts 5-10 pounds. A big smile lights up your face, distracts from lines and makes you look much younger. Need I say more?

5. Glittery eyeshadow: Looks garish (especially in a bright colour) and shows off those wrinkles. The older you get, the better you look with minimal makeup.

6. Neglecting to exfoliate: Exfoliation gets rid of dead skin cells on the surface that make your complexion look dull and dry. Regular scrubs will enhance cell turnover, encourage collagen growth and give you a healthy glow, due to enhanced circulation.

7. Drinking tea or coffee instead of water: Both of the first two options are dehydrating. Sure, you can have your cup of caffeine, but make sure to also drink a lot of water to plump up the appearance of your skin. A pinch of sea salt in the water will help your cells to hold onto it as will sipping it slowly throughout the day instead of guzzling.

8. Neglecting to add a little colour: Wearing some colour near your face (a pretty top or scarf) will reflect into your skin and give you a brighter, prettier appearance, as will some non-toxic lip colour or blush (see previous link to check out some good choices)!

August 8, 2014

My New Logo!

My new logo! This is the transparent version - it actually looks a little better on a white background.

I sketched out a few versions of my  design, then website developer extraordinaire made it look professional!

London B&B Caters to Dietary Restrictions - The Wellness Home

While visiting London recently, we found a really great place to stay - The Wellness Home, on the west side of London, in a cute area of shops called Chiswick. London. It was mere steps from the tube and and easy to get downtown quickly on the District or Piccadilly line. The hosts, Valerie and David, are very welcoming, helpful and pride themselves on their eco-conscious establishment.

We stayed in a comfortable and spacious twin room on the main floor, which has an ensuite bathroom with shower. There is a sitting room to use, but we were out sightseeing and just came home to crash!

Breakfast included more delicious, healthy food than you could imagine! Some of the delicious offerings were: homemade granola, muesli, nuts and seeds, bread, cheese and jams. You can also ask for a boiled, free-range egg if you are so inclined. I particularly enjoyed some fantastic vanilla coconut yogurt with an array of wonderful fresh fruit.

With a little notice, the hosts are happy to provide gluten-free and dairy-free options. We were very pleased to have some almond milk for our tea and a piece of gluten-free toast.
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