February 25, 2015

Ditch The Toxic Skin Care - Try Exotic Plant Oils!

In the past year, I have tried using plant oils for my skin, in place of moisturizers. I love how my skin has responded, looking smooth and radiant, while using these oils. I do have normal/dry skin but even oily skin can benefit.

Sample Set of Exotic Oils
What is better about plant oils? Well, for one thing, without water in the mix, chemicals and preservatives are unnecessary. The oils are certified organic and cold-pressed. They are nutrient-rich, containing essential fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants.

I would highly recommend going to EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to see whether the products you are using (or contemplating purchasing) are acceptable when it comes to toxicity. I try and stick to cosmetics and body care that rate a 2 or below. They don't have every single product being produced there, but you will be surprised to see how toxic many commonly used items are. Our skin absorbs whatever we apply to it, so it makes sense for your long-term health to avoid carcinogenic or allergenic ingredients.

Full selection of New Roots exotic skin care oils
I regularly alternate Baobab oil (non-greasy yet moisturizing), Rosehip Seed and Argan oils after cleansing my face. It works best to rub a few drops between your palms and apply to still damp skin. The oils leave a slight glow/sheen and make a great base for other products you might apply to your skin for day, such as a natural, non-chemical sunblock or mineral makeup.

Most of the time, using oil rather than formulated products is the way to go for body care as well. Coconut or olive oil make great body moisturizers and are really cost effective when purchased in a large container - and you can eat them too! Ideally, anything you put on your skin, you should be able to consume.

New Roots has a reasonably priced line of exotic plant oils you can try, including a handy boxed set of several favourites. The packaging is changing though, so keep an eye out for the new version, pictured below.

New Packaging - I inadvertently photographed the French side, there is English on back
I am really looking forward to trying more of these oils. They all have unique properties - benefits include anti-aging, increased elasticity/hydration, wrinkle prevention, healing stretch marks/scars, fading sunspots/hyperpigmentation and improving dull, dry skin.

Go here to get more information about the individual New Roots oils so you can choose the best one(s) for your skin. The Tamanu Oil is particularly healing (great for cuts or rashes), the Goji Seed Oil is great for anti-aging, Seabuckthorn Seed Oil has natural sunscreen properties and Baobab is non-greasy and easily absorbed, yet relieves dry/damaged skin. If you can't decide, try the Skin Lovers Oil, which is a blend of several of the most popular choices!

Excited to try this one at bedtime - it has anti-aging properties!


February 18, 2015

How to Survive a Deep Freeze Winter!

North of Toronto - LOTS of snow!!
It has been freezing cold in Southern Ontario! This harsh weather is hard to take after awhile, so here are a few tips to survive and thrive in snowy conditions:

1. Layer up: In this weather, you cannot have too many layers! I don't think I have left the house with less than three layers of clothing in the past few weeks and usually more. Start with a thin pair of silk long johns or tights. I also usually have a turtleneck on, as a base layer. Then add sweaters and leggings or jeans that can tuck into boots. I have the softest men's cashmere turtleneck I found at Goodwill for $14 that I have been wearing nonstop this winter, as it is so cozy and warm. Always have some cushioned wool socks (I like hiking socks) on your feet (plus slippers in the house) and tall boots when you venture outside. Top off with a hat and a warm coat, preferably with a hood you can flip up for extra protection and something on your hands - mittens are the warmest choice!

2. Exercise: When you have on enough clothing to guard against the elements, you can then venture outside to get a little outdoor exercise, fresh air and the rare rays of sunshine when they appear. Doing this will elevate your mood! Embrace the weather and go skating or skiing. If you just can't face the outdoors, due to extremely inclement weather, do what you can inside at home - squats, pushups and other calisthenics are easy to do anywhere. If you have a treadmill or other exercise equipment, hop on there and get your heart pumping. Do some stretching or follow some exercise videos found online. If you belong to a gym or other exercise studio, make sure to make appointments to get there whenever you can as well. As a last resort, if you cannot navigate the sidewalks due to snow and ice, go to the biggest mall you can find and walk. Bring along your portable device and listen to something interesting, music or a book on tape you can download from the library. Just don't be distracted and actually go into the stores or you will won't get your heart pumping and will end up spending more money you might have intended. If you have access to an exercise class held in a heated room, that would be a bonus, I just got back from a "hot stretch" class that was heavenly. I feel so much more relaxed!

3. Cocoon: Sit by the fire or under a comforter with a steamy cup of fragrant tea and a good book - surrender to winter and just enjoy being warm and comfortable inside. This is my personal favourite way to cope. Travel brochures to exotic, warm locations are also kind of fun to peruse when it is frightful outside. Browse healthy cookbooks and make some delicious, nutritious foods! Take a hot bath and watch a movie with popcorn. Saunas and steam rooms are also really awesome.

5. Get away if you can: This is even better if planned well in advance, since you can book things at the best price and have something to look for all winter long. Knowing that you are going to be able to escape winter during March break with your family can be the lifeline you keep in mind whenever you feel like you just can't take it any more!

6. For commuting, always have on hand: your cell phone, a snow brush/scraper, a cover for your windshield (or park in a garage), a hot beverage and snacks just in case you have problems, touchscreen gloves are handy, a charging cable to plug into your cigarette lighter for your phone and good tires! Drive carefully, avoid storms and rush hour! Take transit if you can and avoid the stress of driving yourself.

If you live in a sunny climate, be grateful! We look forward to joining you and stripping off the extra clothing in a few months.

December 15, 2014

How to Pick the Best Teas at DAVIDsTEA!


Taking time to brew a delicious, steaming hot cup of tea is a comforting ritual - especially when the weather outside is frightful! Tea is full of beneficial properties for our health and is a great way to wean yourself away from coffee if you would like to reduce your intake of caffeine.

DAVIDsTEA is a beautiful shop, full of good-for-you treats, whether for yourself or someone else. Tea makes a great gift. The shop carries related accessories (such as tea strainers, mugs and even tea-scented candles!) as well as a huge assortment of loose leaf teas. You do need to be picky though, since some of the teas contain less desirable ingredients, but there are still a great diversity of good choices.

In addition to a plethora of black, green and white teas in a multitude of flavours, DAVIDsTEA also carries many herbal and caffeine-free options. Rooibos, a slightly sweet and antioxidant rich leaf, is one of my favourites, especially the one I picked up from DAVIDsTEA recently, Creme Brulée - caramel flavoured heaven in a cup!

One of the delicious Maté blends at DAVIDsTEA
When it comes to choosing from the many options, keep in mind that many of the teas at DAVIDsTEA are organic and flavoured naturally so I would tend to pick those. If you look at the brochure listing of teas, you can find the organic choices by looking for a tiny leaf to the right of the tea name.

Ask your server which teas are free of artificial colours and flavours. The choices that fit that description for Rooibos teas at DAVIDsTEA include Cinnaberry, Creme Brulée, Earl Grey Rooibos, Green Rooibos, Pure Vanilla, Rooibos and Super Ginger. 

I hope you wander into this delightful store some time soon and treat yourself or someone you love!

December 3, 2014

Are You An Introvert or an Extrovert?


Are you an introvert or an extrovert? It has nothing to do with being shy or outgoing. Yes, the person quietly sitting in the corner and not saying much is most likely an introvert, but the person who is the "life of the party" could be one too. The difference is that the latter will have to go home and take some time alone to recover from their exertions.

You can be a shy extrovert or an outgoing introvert! Many public speakers (something most people fear more than death) are actually introverts who find it easier to be on stage than engaging in small talk afterward.

I have been interested in this subject for years, so when I heard this podcast by Chalene Johnson, a motivational coach, I was happy to find one of the best explanations I have come across regarding how to figure out whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. The episode aired on Wednesday, November 26, 2014.

I have read pretty much everything I could find on personality type, especially the Myers-Briggs version of assessment. I am pretty close to the line between introvert and extrovert, so could never figure out exactly where I fit in, but now I am certain - I am a sometimes outgoing introvert who looks very much like an extrovert in social situations. This would explain how I can have a lot of fun at a party but also spend extended periods of time on my own and be completely content - a good thing when your work involves a lot of research, thinking and creating.

Discovering your personality type can be healing, especially if it turns our you are quite different from those in your family of origin. We all have strengths and weaknesses, so knowing what yours are can help you make better choices when it comes to the big decisions in life.

If you are intrigued by trying to understand yourself (and those around you), here is a free online personality typing test (based on the Myers-Briggs method) so you can get an idea of where you fit in.

November 26, 2014

Coping with Special Occasions on a Restricted Diet (Gluten-Free, Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian)


This past weekend I attended my nephew's wedding, which was a very exciting event for our family, especially since he is the first grandchild to get married.

Attending a special occasion when you are on a particular diet can be a challenge. Whether you are gluten-free, paleo, vegetarian, vegan or on any other restricted diet, you may need to plan ahead to ensure your blood sugar stays stable. Otherwise, you may end up paying the price with a massive headache and subsequent inability to fully enjoy yourself!

Make sure to have a snack that includes protein and some good fat before you go to the ceremony. There may be a long delay before you get to eat again! A smoothie that incorporates protein is a good choice that is quick and easy to prepare. Pack some nuts, seeds, a hard-boiled egg or a protein bar in your purse, just in case there is nothing suitable to consume at the reception.

For those on a gluten-free diet, if there is a buffet, you can probably find at least a few things that are okay to eat - raw vegetables and fruit are a couple of examples. For a sit down meal, if you eat meat, you likely will not have a problem (unless the meat is doused in mystery sauces). However, if you are vegetarian or vegan, you are going to have a more difficult time, since pasta seems to be the ubiquitous veg dining choice of caterers everywhere!

If you don't want to draw attention to your dining predilections, have a few bites, if you are not allergic or intolerant, and then just push things around on your plate. No one will be monitoring your intake (unless you draw attention to it yourself) so just eat what you can and don't make a production of it! You can always refuse bread or desert. Special diets are so prevalent these days that most people will not raise an eyebrow in any case.

If you are close to the bride or groom, you might wish to inform them ahead of time of your predicament (since if you don't plan to eat at all, they can save the expense of your plate), but another option is to call the caterers at the event yourself (to see if they can accommodate your special diet) - that way you know what you are going to be dealing with ahead of time.  I like that idea since you can avoid burdening the busy couple with your problems! Another idea is to skip the dinner and turn up afterward for the party.

Due to our Irish heritage (celiac disease is much more prevalent in that population), many of our family have discovered an intolerance to gluten, so there were gluten-free options at the reception. My main problem was trying to not scarf down too many of the gluten-free sweet treats available!

October 31, 2014

More Nutritionist-Approved Costco Finds!


If you have been searching for almond flour to do some gluten-free baking, you can now find a big bag at Costco!


Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil is essential to have on hand for delicious salads.


Organic Green Tea is super high in antioxidants. Take a break and sip a cup of green tea instead of that chemical infused Pumpkin Spice Latte you had in mind!


Yummy Medjool Dates, plump and delicious - great in raw brownies.


Asparagus is a "clean 15" vegetable, so safe to buy in conventional form due to low pesticide residue.


It was exciting to find this organic, cultured butter at the Etobicoke location of Costco in Toronto. Butter is not so bad for our cardiovascular system as we previously thought (recent studies have exonerated saturated fats while implicating refined carbohydrates and sugars) so unless you are vegan, you can indulge a little. I still would exercise extreme moderation! It is important, however, that you use organic butter since pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones are concentrated in the fat of conventional dairy. If you are vegan, coconut oil makes an acceptable substitute.


Costco has a great selection of organic, pre-washed greens including baby spinach, baby romaine and baby kale. These are very handy to throw into a smoothie, salad or soup.


Organic eggs are also available at the Etobicoke location. Make sure you eat the whole egg, since a great deal of the nutrition is in the yolk.



Lemons and limes are alkalizing and useful in all kinds of recipes! I add a whole lemon or lime to my green juice (instead of apple or other fruit) to keep the drink low in sugar but still tasty.


Pom Pomegranate juice is another antioxidant-packed drink. Mix this half and half with some Perrier or San Pellegrino then sit back, relax and enjoy a refreshing, fizzy treat.


Every store seems to have different stuff, so peruse the aisles at your local Costco - there are all kinds of great deals to be found on foods that are really good for you!

October 6, 2014

Low Carb Grain-Free Vegan Pasta!


Who doesn't love a big bowl of pasta on a chilly fall day? What is great about this version is the noodles are actually made of zucchini, so it is super nutritious!

I love my spiralizer, which quickly turns zucchini into thin strands of "spaghetti", but you could also use a less expensive/bulky julienne vegetable peeler to create the strands. The spiralizer I have works well with sweet potato as well, and can create things like "curly fries" from white potatoes.

The zucchini pasta is delicious raw or you can cook it slightly in the sauce (as I did here) for a texture that is very close to al dente pasta.

The sauce pictured above combines cooked tomato sauce (I had a jar of roasted garlic sauce kicking around) with a raw pesto made of fresh basil (from a pot I grew this summer), garlic, walnuts, hemp seed, lemon juice, salt & freshly ground pepper plus olive oil.

October 1, 2014

Beans, Beans .... How Not to Toot!


Many people are very afraid of beans!  They tell me that they cannot eat them due to the unfortunate bodily issues that arise later on. That is a real shame, as beans are very nutritious - a great source of fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and complex carbohydrates. They help with weight maintenance also, since they help you feel full.

I am here to tell you that you can enjoy beans and do not have to suffer this way. You can eat beans without any flatulence at all!  There are a few little known, secret to most, yet traditional methods to ensure their digestibility. I eat beans every day and never have any issues when I follow the following procedures. What is great about beans as a carbohydrate source is the high amount of protein that is provided as well.

When preparing beans properly, it is necessary to think ahead a little (just like you would for defrosting meat) but the steps are not time consuming. It will take just a few minutes of hands-on work to get your beans ready to cook:

1. Buy organic beans or seeds. Non-organic beans will not germinate. Neither will split peas or lentils (dal) as they have had their outer hull removed. Cooking these without soaking will result in less gas than other beans/seeds but may be more gassy than soaked whole beans or seeds.

2. Soak them (I usually do at least 4 cups), in twice as much filtered or spring water for at least 8 hours. Drain through a large colander or sieve with lots of holes. Let them sit there until they start to sprout, rinsing whenever you pass by, at least a couple of times per day. Don't let the tail get longer than the bean. Germination increases the protein value and digestibility.

3. Some types can be eaten raw - adzuki, garbanzo (chick peas), mung and lentils are all good that way, but I usually cook them. Don't sprout kidney beans - they are toxic, so just soak them thoroughly and then cook.

4. When you cook them, rinse then just cover with fresh water, throw a 4" piece of seaweed (such as a large strip of kombu) into the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until cooked to the desired softness. For salads, you will want a slightly more "al dente" bean, but make sure the beans are completely cooked or gassiness will ensue.

5. Cooking time is less for soaked beans and will vary with the size and type of bean. You can speed things up with a pressure cooker or throw them into a slow cooker in the morning (not for kidney beans, they need to boil first).

6. Add salt to beans AFTER they are cooked as it can keep the beans from softening completely. If you have prepared more than you can use up within a few days, they freeze very well!

This is what happens when you let them go too far!

September 29, 2014

The Best Way to Nap for Energy, Productivity and Weight Loss!

You had a sleepless night and are walking around like a zombie. Or, you had to be up super early and now are having trouble thinking straight. You are wondering how you are going to make it through your day.

Lack of sleep is a big problem. It can lead to decreased productivity, fuzzy thinking, weight gain, illness and even accidents and injuries. So, if you want to be energetic, lean and cognitively sharp, learning how to catch up on your sleep deficit is really important!

The Art of the Catnap - Theo manages to nap almost anywhere!
Should you take a nap to try and catch up with your sleep deficit? Or is it better to tough it out and try and hit the sheets early?

If you have even as little as 5-10 minutes, a short nap will enhance your cognitive abilities and alertness. Find somewhere to lie down, put your head down on your desk or just shut your eyes and lean back in your chair. Sleeping in an upright position will keep you from slipping into deeper stages of sleep. Of course, setting a timer is a good idea too. You may even be able do this at work on your break!

If you can find 10 to 20 minutes for a break, it turns out that a 10 to 20 minute nap to recharge is often the ideal solution for sleep deprivation. It will refresh and re-energize you, but since you will not go into REM sleep, you won't wake up groggy and feeling worse than ever.

However, depending on your situation, a longer nap could be in order as well. Taking a half hour nap is not usually a great idea, unless you down a cup of caffeinated coffee just before the nap. You will start to slip into deeper sleep and will likely feel terrible upon awakening due to sleep inertia. The nap will help your thinking ability, but the grogginess will be brutal. The coffee is a good solution for some people (you know who you are) since the caffeine will kick in just as you have to get up. Don't do this too late in the afternoon or you will mess up your sleep again!

If you have time for 90 minutes of napping, you will have completed a full sleep cycle, with all the stages included. This nap will enhance your memory and creativity and you should avoid the miserable feeling of sleep inertia which results from interruption of REM.

Finally, practice good sleep hygiene on a regular basis to avoid this problem, including a regular schedule, no screens for two hours before bedtime, in bed before 10 pm, dark room, quiet room, cool room and avoid caffeine after noon if you are sensitive to it.

September 22, 2014

Nutritionist's Picks from the Freezer at Costco - Part 4

It is nice to have a few frozen items on hand to use when you are in a hurry. Frozen foods can have even more nutrients than fresh (especially when fresh produce has been picked long before it even hits the store shelf and transported from a distant land). 

Here are a few favourite items spotted at my local Costco location:

1. Sweet Organic Corn - this is delicious in soups and stews. I love corn chowder and Mexican flavored bean dishes (chili, burritoes, tacos) with some corn thrown in for sweetness and crunch. Buying organic corn is crucial due to the fact that corn is one of the most genetically modified foods and we do not know the extent of health problems stemming from GMO foods.


2. Organic Green Peas - these add color, flavour and even some protein to dishes. They are super high in manganese, Vitamin K and fiber. Despite their rather common reputation, they really are a superfood. They also have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant benefits! They contain a unique phytonutrient called coumestrol (a polyphenol) which has been shown (with daily consumption of green peas or other legumes) in studies to prevent stomach cancer. The compounds found in green peas and other legumes are also proven to help reduce the incidence of Type II Diabetes. I usually use them in vegetable soups and stews.


3. Blueberries (Non-Pesticide Sprayed) - Costco used to carry organic blueberries in the freezer, but these are the next best thing and the price is unbelievable. Blueberries are known to be super high in antioxidants and their skins have a beneficial effect on insulin release and blood sugar regulation. They are beneficial for weight loss too!


4. Pineapple - If you are on a budget, frozen fruit (especially in winter time, especially in places like Canada) is a great buy. Some fruits are very important to consume only if organic (google "dirty dozen, clean 15" to find out which ones to watch out for) but some regular produce fruits and vegetables are okay, including pineapple. Pineapple, super high in Vitamin C and manganese, also contains copper and many other vitamins. It is anti-inflammatory and provides digestive benefits. The core and skin of pineapple are particularly rich in bromelain and enzymes, so juicing the core (or soaking the skin in water and drinking that, as they do in some South American countries) will provide health benefits beyond those provided by eating the fruit.



5. Mango - Both pineapple and mango are on the "Clean 15" list, so okay to consume in non-organic form, which is a good thing as they are hard to find as organically grown. Mango is sweet and delicious in smoothies, adding a creamy texture similar to banana. As you can see from the photo, I have a hard time keeping it in stock in my own freezer!





6. Finally, for those who eat fish and seafood, there is a large selection of frozen options, including marinated wild salmon, sole and halibut. Just steer clear of breaded and deep fried concoctions, and watch your intake - Dr. Oz was recently diagnosed with very high levels of mercury after over-consuming "healthy" salmon on a regular basis!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...