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Sliding Down a Sugary, Slippery Slope

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Sliding Down a Sugary Slippery SlopeAre you sliding down a sugary, slippery slope?  You know the one I mean.  The one that begins innocently enough in the fall with a slice (or two) of Thanksgiving pecan or pumpkin pie and then a wee bit of Hallowe’en candy a few weeks later.  You gain momentum with heaping helpings of holiday treats followed by boxes of Valentine’s chocolate.  Before you know it, you’re gathering and gobbling the Easter bunny’s chocolate eggs (not to mention, if you love them as much as I do, hot cross buns).  Suddenly, you find yourself awash in sugar.  You have more of a sweet tooth than you used to and sugary treats have become a daily ritual, not just a holiday indulgence.

Does this sound familiar?  If so, you’ve just slid down a sugary, slippery slope.  I know I have.  Read on for more about how easy it is to do this and why you really, really want to climb back up.

And I hope you’ll join me for my I’m Sweet Enough 7-day No Sugar Added Challenge (more on this at the end of this post).

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Dishing It Up for March 2021 – The Afternoon Tea Edition

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Dishing it Up The Afternoon Tea Edition

I happen to be enjoying my afternoon cup of tea as I write this, which inspired me to create an Afternoon Tea Edition of Dishing It Up this month.  My afternoon tea ritual involves:

  • tea (obviously and always),
  • a treat (on occasion, though I seem to be finding more occasions as the pandemic wears on)
  • and usually some food porn (either in print or on video) to spark kitchen creativity.

Rarely, it evolves into an afternoon nap.  So, with my ritual as my guide, please sip, savour (and hopefully don’t snooze through) this Afternoon Tea Edition of Dishing It Up.

The Afternoon Tea Edition

  • Science Reveals Why Tea Is Good for Your Heart
  • Bake like it’s 1869 with Grainstorm
  • ‘Buttergate’ goes viral
  • Cook, Eat, Repeat
  • The science of siestas

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Gobble Your Greens Menu

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Gobble Your Greens MenuIf there’s one thing that nutrition science agrees upon, it’s that vegetables and fruits are unequivocally good for our health.  Yet most of us still don’t eat enough of them each day.  And that’s why I chose to encourage you to gobble your greens for the March page of my 12 Healthy Habits Calendar.

Cooking with dark, leafy greens is one of my fave, fast ways to boost my daily veggie intake.  I use them in everything and anything (from salads and smoothies to soups, stir-fries, curries and more) and I’ll happily gobble them at every meal of the day.  If I’m short on time, pre-washed organic greens make things super-speedy.

Each recipe in this menu serves two and calls for the equivalent of a 142 gram /5 ounce container of pre-washed organic leafy greens (kale at breakfast, arugula at lunch and spinach at dinner).  Along with the other veggies in the recipes and adding in two fruits, you’ll consume roughly eight servings of fruits and veggies for the day.

Why gobble your greens?

Because greens are good for:

  1. blood sugar balance,
  2. digestion,
  3. brain health and mood,
  4. stress relief,
  5. strong bones,
  6. detoxification,
  7. reducing inflammation,
  8. your immune system,
  9. glowing skin and
  10. healthy aging!

Ten terrific reasons to gobble your greens, I’d say.  Scroll on down for more about a few of the phytonutrients responsible for some of these health-promoting effects.  And I hope this gives you the green light to go ahead and gobble your greens!

Sign up here to receive the recipes for my Gobble Your Greens Menu.

Gobble Your Greens Menu

Breakfast: Kale & Kimchi Scrambled Eggs (this protein, probiotic and plant filled breakfast will power up your morning)

Lunch: Warm Carrot, Sweet Potato & Arugula Salad (warm salads are a tasty way to transition from winter to spring eating)

Dinner: Seared Cod, Lemony Spinach & White Beans (this dish is simple, flavourful and satisfying; if you don’t have fresh cherry tomatoes, diced canned tomatoes work well too)

Join The Nutritional Reset community here to receive this month’s recipe collection today (as well as each month to come)!  

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Top 10 Time-Savers in the Kitchen

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Top 10 Time-savers in the Kitchen“But I don’t have time to cook.”  I hear this pretty much every time I suggest to my clients that preparing their own food is one of the most powerful things they can do to improve their health.  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing though.  Because it is hard to find the time to cook from scratch every morsel you put in your mouth.  But there are strategies and shortcuts you can employ to increase the proportion of home-cooked food you eat.  And, by doing so, take control over your plate, palate and portion size for prime health.

I have sprinkled many of these tips throughout previous posts.  But I figured it was high time to gather them in one place.  So, without taking up any more of your time, here are my top 10 time-savers in the kitchen.

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A Flash in One Pan Dinners

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail A Flash in One Pan DinnersFebruary is upon us.  The groundhogs all agree that we are in for an early spring.  This is something to be grateful for.  And that is the focus for the February page of my 12 Healthy Habits Calendar.  A good way to bid farewell to the February Blahs is to focus each day on a few things that went well in your day.  And then reflect on what these tell you about your world.

One thing I am grateful for each day is being able to whip up a tasty and healthy dinner with a minimum of fuss or cleanup.  I am always on the lookout for quick one pan, one pot or tray bake style dinners.  Dinners like the Sausage & Apple Tray Bake from January’s Dishing it Up post, for example.  They are a cinch to assemble, generally quick to cook and super fast to clean up!

Of the three dinners here, the first requires a large tray and the other two need pots with tight-fitting lids.  For the Lemon Turkey Quinoa Skillet, I like to use my wide but deep Le Creuset 3.6L Sauté Pan, as the broader base and domed lid works well when adding a lot of leafy greens (in fact, I use this pan almost daily, it is so versatile).  Tight-fitting lids are important as these last two recipes feature quinoa.  I love quinoa for quick dinners as it is high in fibre like a whole grain but cooks in only fifteen minutes or so.

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Dishing It Up for January 2021

 Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Dishing It Up

In this month’s issue of Dishing It Up…

Consider this month’s Dishing It Up a warm-up for February’s page of my 12 Healthy Habits Calendar where I ask you to focus on things that go well each day.  They don’t have to be big, just everyday things that you are grateful for.  Here are some of mine from recent days…

Simple-to-make yet scrumptious Sausage & Apple Tray Bake
Online grocery shopping & delivery with Fresh City Farms
My Eierschalensollbruchstellenverursachern
Juicy joints: CARs Morning Routine
A catchy, uplifting, danceable tune: Treat People With Kindness

Here’s a taste of each from the sampler platter…

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Feed on Fermented Foods Menu

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Feed on Fermented Foods MenuYou may be wondering why I chose to focus on fermented foods to kick off my 2021 menus and for the January page of my 12 Healthy Habits Calendar.  Well, there are two reasons:

  • First, we tend to do a number on our gut bugs (aka gut flora or microbiota) in December.  This is because our traditional holiday diet shifts markedly to more refined carbs, added sugars and alcohol.  And the holidays can be psychologically stressful, which may also have a detrimental impact.  Fermented foods add beneficial live bacteria (probiotics) to our diets and give our gut microbiota a helping hand.
  • Second, it’s a pretty simple healthy habit to adopt.  And when we succeed at an initial change, it encourages and empowers us to take on another.

So why is feeding on fermented foods so easy to do?  Because this is one of the few “prepared food” groups I’d recommend.  While we certainly can ferment our own foods (and some do), it is not always practical.  As a result, there are a number of high quality producers out there to meet demand.

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Holly Jolly Brain Candy

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Holly Jolly Brain CandyMy Holly Jolly Brain Candy collection of confections is unapologetically chocolate-centric.  I’m a card-carrying chocoholic and, hey, if ever there was a time when we could use more chocolate, this is it!!  It’s natural to turn to sweet treats to cheer ourselves up in times of stress and holidays are often focused around feasting.  But as you know from my Food For Thought post, excess sugar (particularly refined sugar) leads to inflammation in the brain, not to mention the rest of you.  So rather than reach for commercially prepared, processed candies and confections, why not make your own?

These are all quite simple to make.  And instead of gobbling heaping helpings of refined sugars and poor quality ingredients, you feast on high quality dark chocolate and natural sugars like dates and maple syrup.  And they contain fibre and healthy fats.  Fibre is food for our gut microbes, which are involved in brain health and behaviour, including our reactions to stress and anxiety.  And both fibre and fat slow the digestion and absorption of sugar which helps keep your blood sugar stable.  And when it comes to the absorption of sugar into the blood, slow and steady wins the race!

Let’s compare Turtles and may the slowest Turtle win

Compare my Dark Chocolate Turtles to Nestlé TURTLES Classic Recipe, for example:

My Dark Chocolate Turtles:  Dark chocolate, dates, pecans.

Nestlé TURTLES Classic Recipe: Milk chocolate (sugar, modified milk ingredients, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, soy lecithin, natural vanilla flavour, salt), caramel (glucose, sugar, modified milk ingredients, water, modified palm oil, salt, natural vanilla flavour), pecans.  May contain peanuts and other tree nuts.

My turtle is an entirely different species.  Each one of my turtles has two grams of fibre where there is zero fibre in Nestlé TURTLES Classic Recipe.  And with mine there’s not a “modified” anything in sight.  Yes, they require a little more work than opening up a box, but not much more.  And that’s a good thing as you are less likely to mass produce them and binge.

These treats contain brain-boosting antioxidants, fibre, phytoestrogens and healthy fats from dark chocolate, dates, oats, chickpeas and nuts.  Read on for more about the brain-healthy benefits of dark chocolate and dates.

And if you don’t feel like cooking, simply serve up a spread of some of your finest dark chocolate, clementines and a bowl of whole nuts and get some exercise in with a nutcracker.  Decorate your platter with a few sprigs of holiday evergreenery and you have a quick, nutritious and festive treat!

I generally don’t encourage a lot of sweets because even natural sugars are still sugar.  But at this time of year, everyone indulges.  So I hope you choose instead to enjoy these healthier treats (in moderation of course, just as you would alcohol) so you don’t do your head in…or your waistline.  😉

Happy holidays to you and yours and wishing you all a healthy New Year!

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Holly Jolly Brain Candy

Dark Chocolate Turtles (I prefer these to Nestlé’s version as I can use superior quality dark chocolate and they are more nutritious; have some fun playing with the variations suggested in the notes or create your own classic recipe)

No Bake Dark Chocolate Coconut Cookies (nothing but yummy chocolate, oats, coconut, vanilla and sea salt; make sure your vanilla doesn’t contain water or your melted chocolate will seize when you add it)

Coconut Chickpea Blondies (chickpeas, almond butter, maple syrup and cinnamon star in these scrumptious squares, making them higher in protein and fibre than in sugar; and if you don’t tell about the chickpeas, no one will ever guess, trust me)

Pistachio Pomegranate Bark (back by popular demand from my 2018 Holiday Collection, the ruby red pomegranate seeds, green pistachios and dusting of shredded coconut adorning this dark chocolate bark make a very festive presentation; and pistachios are one of the most vitamin B6-rich foods around, important for regulating mood; if you buy them in-shell you are less likely to overindulge)

Join The Nutritional Reset community here to receive this month’s collection of confections today (as well as each menu of the month to come)!  

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Food for Thought: How Best to Feed Your Brain

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Food for Thought Feeding Your BrainAs 2020 comes to a close, I have been thinking a lot about my brain.  Partly because who among us hasn’t felt like we were losing our minds at some point during this pandemic year?  And partly because it feels like my brain has been misbehaving of late.  I recently read that up to 80 percent of women going through menopause (this includes me) have the potential to develop neurological symptoms (and an increased risk of dementia).  Food for thought.  And enough to send me to my library to refresh my memory on how best to feed your brain.

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Veg for Victory Menu

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Veg for Victory MenuNovember is the month we remember those who fought and died to preserve our freedom.  In their honour, this month’s menu harkens back to the Victory Garden or War Garden.  Folks were encouraged to grow their own food to allay shortages and support the war effort.  More produce grown in front yards meant more transport freed up to move food, soldiers and munitions to Canada’s allies overseas.  A secondary benefit was how victory gardening boosted morale and brought communities together.

Traditional victory gardens included very nutrient-dense foods, such as the beans, peas and kale found in this menu, as well as Swiss chard, cabbage, squash and root veggies like beets, carrots and turnips that store well for winter consumption.  Homeowners also kept hens for their eggs.  And the U.S. Food Administration’s first campaign in WWI encouraged citizens to participate in Meatless Tuesdays and Wheatless Wednesdays in order to reserve more of these foods for the troops.  So this menu is meatless and wheatless as well.

The title of the menu, Veg for Victory, has a double entendre.  Because eating more whole, nutrient-dense plant foods is a winning strategy when it comes to coronavirus.  Vegetables are full of anti-inflammatory and immune-supportive compounds.  And filling up with veggies, rather than starchy carbs and highly processed foods, will keep you at a healthier weight with lower risk of COVID-complications.

I’m not suggesting you should grow your own food, only that you eat more vegetables and fruits.  Aim high!  Go for 6 to 8 servings of veggies and 2 servings of fruit per day (half your plate).  But if you “dig” your own victory garden, now’s the time to start your research for spring.  Here’s one small plot victory garden design to seed your creativity.

The triple entendre of the title is the slang meaning of the word veg, as in to while away your time at home rather than being out and about.  Right now, consider it your patriotic duty to veg.  Socializing only with members of your household and limiting all but essential activities is another way we will win victory over coronavirus.  Perhaps you can use some of your “found time” to try these these meatless and wheatless victory garden inspired recipes.  I hope you enjoy them!

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Veg for Victory Menu

Breakfast: Breakfast Tacos with Mashed Peas & Edamame (a verdant, veggie- packed take on breakfast…start your day sunny side up!)

Lunch: Kale, Lentil & Sweet Potato Salad (this salad ticks all boxes for winter: warm, comforting and full of flavour)

Dinner: One Pan Paprika Tofu & Veggies (I love the simplicity of one pan dinners; you can make this with tempeh if you prefer the nuttier flavour of fermented soybeans)

Join The Nutritional Reset community here to receive this month’s menu today (as well as each month to come)!  

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