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Spicy Shrimp & Black Bean Quinoa Bowl

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Spicy Shrimp & Black Bean Quinoa Bowl

Raise your hand if you like spending hours in the kitchen, especially once summer rolls around. Your hand isn’t up? Well, neither is mine. I’m all about healthy meals that are quick. Not to mention easy to scale up to serve as leftovers for my lunch (or even breakfast) the next day to minimize my time in the kitchen. This Spicy Shrimp & Black Bean Quinoa Bowl ticks a lot of boxes. As well as being quick to prepare, this recipe:

  • relies on staples I always have on hand (quinoa, canned beans, frozen shrimp),
  • uses a pre-made spice blend (read on for ideas) and
  • is high in protein and fibre (which most of us don’t get enough of) to keep you energized for hours.

It’s also super adaptable. Don’t like shrimp? Just sub in chicken, beef or pork. Or make it with tempeh for a vegetarian version.

And while it is simply delicious as is, you can layer on easy extras if you want to gussy it up. Read on for some inspired ideas and more on the beauty of black beans. I recommend serving this with an ice cold Partake Beer. It’s non-alcoholic but tastes just like the real deal. In summer, I love their Peach Gose! Enjoy!

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Invest in Exercise for a Healthy Retirement

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Invest for Your Retirement ExerciseIn my former career, I worked in companies that managed investments for institutional pension funds. So I’m well aware of the importance of investing for retirement. It’s something I’m sure we all agree on. The idea is to save money (making wise investments to grow that money) so, when the time comes to retire, you have enough invested that you can live the way you want. Save money now so you have the money you want in retirement. Simple. Well, the same is true for your health. Invest in your health now, so you have the health you want in retirement.

And we all want the most bang for our buck, right? Well, in terms of return on investment, there’s not much that can beat regular exercise. So my advice is to invest in exercise for a healthy retirement. And just as any amount of nutritious, home-cooked food is an improvement on a junk food diet, any amount of exercise is better than sitting all day.

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A Duo of Soba Salads

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail A Duo of Soba Salads

Briefly (teasingly) we had salad weather here in Toronto. It was glorious and, even though the temperatures dipped back down again, it’s reassuring to know that salad days are (almost) here again. I love salads because they are so versatile. Not to mention forgiving. No need to worry about timing things just right so everything’s hot on the table at the same time. In fact, you can often do the prep in stages and then toss everything together at the last minute. Working from home makes this easy. When I need a break from my desk, I pop on over to the kitchen and dice a little of this or that or add some whole grains to the Instant Pot to save time later. With these soba salads, you can even make the noodles ahead of time!

I like to make salads that are all-in-one affairs. They include high quality protein, complex carbs (like whole grains, legumes/pulses or pasta), lots of vegetables (and sometimes fruit) and often nuts or seeds. I’m a big fan of Asian flavours, too, which inspired me to post this Duo of Soba Salads:

Both salads are simple yet super flavourful, with ginger, citrus, hoisin and miso accents. Locally grown romaine and carrots add delectable crunch to the first salad while spring asparagus features in the second. Super-nutritious, 100% buckwheat soba is at the heart of both. I hope you enjoy them!

Sign up to my newsletter today to receive the recipes for this Duo of Soba Salads. And read on to learn more about why soba is as healthy as it is tasty.

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Dishing It Up on Fads & Foolishness

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Dishing It Up on Fads & FoolishnessAs today is April Fool’s Day, let’s foray into some fads and foolishness in the world of wellness. I hope you enjoy these stories! Though please take them with the proverbial grain of salt.

And remember that the best route to optimal health is to make long term, sustainable changes to your lifestyle, rather than pandering to fads. It is the distinctly un-faddish things – things like eating whole, unprocessed foods, more fruits and vegetables, moving your body throughout the day, getting your heart rate up regularly and sleeping well – that will make you healthier and happier. There are no quick fixes. Yes, it takes work. The rewards, however, are well worth it.

This month in Dishing It Up on Fads & Foolishness …

  • Heinz Launches New Hot Cross Bun Mayonnaise this Easter
  • Giant meatball with woolly mammoth DNA unveiled by cultured meat startup
  • Compostable takeout bowls contain ‘forever chemicals,’ study finds
  • Wellmania on Netflix
  • WeightWatchers going into prescription weight loss business with telehealth provider acquisition

Read on for a bite-sized summary and links for each story …

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Farro & Beet Salad

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Farro & Beet Salad

I can’t seem to get enough of this Farro & Beet Salad! It’s a deliciously satisfying combo of earthy roasted beets and garlic tossed with nutty, chewy farro and simply dressed with extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon and dill. The flurry of microgreens adds colour and boosts nutrition. Even better, microgreens make me think of spring right around the corner. So close, you can taste it!

You may recall from last month’s recipe post that broccoli sprouts are powerhouses of sulforaphane, a compound that acts against the formation of cancer at the molecular level. Broccoli microgreens are the next best thing. Living Earth Farm grows broccoli microgreens as well as several other varieties right here in Toronto. I’ve also made this salad using their basil microgreens and their cilantro microgreens (I told you I can’t seem to get enough of this salad) and each worked beautifully.

If your beets have greens that are as gorgeous as the ones in the photo, chiffonade them into the salad as well as (or instead of) the microgreens. Other bitter greens like arugula, dandelion or radicchio are also fantastic additions.

This Farro & Beet Salad is wonderful warm or at room temperature and can easily be made ahead. Feel free to scale up the recipe to serve a crowd. I like to crumble feta or goat cheese over top and sprinkle it with toasted pumpkins seeds. And it plays well with just about anything, roasted chicken and salmon being my current favourites. For a meatless meal, add about a cup of cooked chickpeas per serving.

Sign up to my newsletter today to receive the recipe for this scrumptious Farro & Beet Salad. And read on for more about why I’ve been craving this salad and the bevy of benefits from feasting on farro and beets

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February Blahs Busters

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail February Blahs BustersIs anyone else feeling the February blahs? It’s not uncommon to battle the blues mid-winter, so I thought I’d offer up some February blahs busters, as well as invite you to contribute yours. You won’t be surprised that they are related to diet and exercise. But that’s not only because of my profession (and passion). It’s because they truly work.

I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called Stutz, made by actor Jonah Hill about his therapist, Phil Stutz. He wanted the wider world, particularly those who did not have access to therapy themselves, to have the tools that Dr. Stutz gave him to manage his own mental health issues. The first thing Dr. Stutz asks people to do is work on connecting with their Life Force. He represented this as a pyramid of three layers of relationships: with the physical body, with other people and with yourself.

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail February Blahs BustersThe first layer of this is to get your physical body working, in terms of proper diet, exercise and sleep. What really caught my attention was Stutz saying that improving these three things can account for 85% of the initial improvements in mental health. I repeat, 85%! And what is so empowering about this is that beneficial changes in these areas are well within our grasp.

Below are some of my favourite February blahs busters in each area. They may seem obvious but you’d be surprised how few people actually do them. And I invite you to add your favourite February blahs busters to the blog comments.

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Spicy Chicken & Broccoli Casserole

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Spicy Chicken & Broccoli Casserole

Broccoli is my husband’s favourite vegetable. He could happily munch on it nightly. So I try to cook up interesting ways to include it at mealtime because, let’s face it, steamed broccoli can get boring. And broccoli that has been over-steamed is beyond boring, it is blech. And also the reason why many people don’t like broccoli, because overcooking it turns it into unpalatable, sulfurous mush.

Roasting it is much tastier. Especially if you first toss it with paprika- and hot sauce-spiked avocado oil along with mini-potatoes, prosciutto and sautéed chicken breast, as in this Spicy Chicken & Broccoli Casserole. Try it and I think you will agree. Read on for more about the benefits of broccoli and a bonus recipe.

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Dishing It Up on Supplements

Dietary Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Dishing It Up on Supplementssupplements are big business. According to Types of Supplements: 2022–2023 Trends, a report from NutraScience Labs, the global market is projected to increase to US$272.4 billion by 2028. Regulatory practices vary widely [click here re: Canadian regulation of natural health products] and there have been reports of supplement companies making unfounded health claims. Some investigations have uncovered products that don’t contain the active ingredients they claim to (either in the labelled quantity or at all). And, as with any lucrative industry, it has its share of promoters who are motivated as much (or more) by boosting profits as by improving the health of the consumer. Also of concern is the misconception that supplements can do no harm because they are “natural” and readily available. But they can do harm if not taken appropriately, negatively interacting with prescription or other medications, for example.

Caveats aside, however, there is a place for high quality supplements when used judiciously. They come in a wide variety of formulations (and quality) so it is a good idea to first speak with a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner who will be able to ensure you have no contraindications for use and advise you on the formulation, dosage and duration of use that will work best for you. And always inform your doctor(s) and pharmacist of any and all nutritional supplements you are taking.

Food first, supplements second

One last comment before diving into the stories. Improving your diet should always come first. Whole foods contain multiple nutrients with synergistic effects that make them not only more readily absorbed by your body but also more effective. Supplements have their place, but they cannot match the effectiveness of foods and should never be considered an appropriate substitute for a poor diet.

Below are some recent stories of interest as well as a handout on how to read labels. The final story is about hydration. This may seem out of place but many common complaints, such as headache, muscle cramps, low energy and so forth, might well be improved by proper hydration. This, along with eating nutritious whole foods, will do more to improve your health than a whole handful of supplements, not to mention it will be less expensive.

This month in Dishing It Up on Supplements …

  • People With Cancer Should Be Wary of Taking Dietary Supplements
  • 11 Supplements That May Be Worth Taking
  • Don’t Rely on Amazon for Legitimate Supplements, Study Finds
  • How to read a supplement label
  • How staying properly hydrated may help you live healthier, longer

Read on for a bite-sized summary and links for each story …

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Eat anything you want. Just cook it yourself.

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Eat Anything You Want Just Cook It YourselfHappy New Year! As holiday feasting has come to a close along with 2022, thoughts have likely turned toward New Year’s resolutions to be healthier and/or lose weight in 2023. The plethora of diets out there (Mediterranean, DASH, Paleo, Keto, Low FODMAP, Vegan, Low Carb-High Fat, Low Fat-High Carb, MIND, Weight Watchers and many more) can easily have you calorie counting, confused and stressing over micro-managing your macro-nutrients (“gee, how many grams of fat, protein and carbs should I eat?“).

So let’s cut straight to today’s pearl of dietary wisdom, expressed so eloquently by New York Times bestselling author Michael Pollan and captured succinctly in this 3-minute videoEat anything you want. Just cook it yourself. Seriously, people overcomplicate matters. I promise you that this single step of cooking your own food will advance you leaps and bounds toward a healthier you.

And I want to help. Members of The Nutritional Reset community receive delicious, nutritious and simple recipes throughout the year to inspire home cooking. So if you aren’t already a member, sign up here for free. And then, go ahead and eat anything you want. Just cook it yourself. Read on for more about why this is so important and for my special offer: invite your friends to join The Nutritional Reset Community and I will send each of you my Big Batches for Buddies recipe collection to inspire you in the kitchen.

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The Greatest Gift

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail The Greatest GiftWe’re in the bell lap of 2022 and the holiday season is officially in top gear. A few years ago I offered up some timeless tips on how to Feast Festively Without Piling on the Pounds, which you may wish to revisit. This year, however, I thought I’d do something different and jumpstart the season with some holiday wisdom by way of analogy. During the gift-giving season, I think this analogy really drives home the point that a healthy body is truly the greatest gift of all.

I hope the perspective it offers will help you navigate the holidays as you make choices about what you eat and how you spend your time. Staying healthy has a lot to do with eating nutritiously, yes. But it also involves prioritizing exercise, rest/recovery and mental health. And if there is one thing I’m discovering as the years tick by, it’s that my body is less forgiving than it used to be. It is far better to avoid the “potholes” in the first place! Because, truly, the gift of a healthy body is the greatest gift you can give yourself this holiday season! And be sure to read to the end of the post for my personal gift to you – my collection of Healthy Holiday Recipes.

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