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I’m Sweet Enough Menu

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail I'm Sweet Enough MenuI’ve been on a kick-sugar kick lately.  But you’ll know that, of course, from my two previous blog posts:

In fact, the recipes in this menu are from my I’m Sweet Enough 7-Day No Sugar Added Challenge (if you wish to join in, please sign up here before Friday April 30th).

By “no sugar”, I actually mean “no added sugar”.  Sugar that naturally occurs within whole foods is perfectly healthy.  And it often comes along with other healthy nutrients as well as fibre.  Berries are an excellent example.  They are brimming with health promoting phytonutrients, as well as fibre which slows their digestion and release of sugar into the blood.  But when we start mucking about by processing these foods and stripping out the fibre (in the case of fruit juice, in this example), we get into trouble.

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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!

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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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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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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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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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Hive Five Honey Menu

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Hive Five Honey MenuA few weeks ago a friend surprised me with this bee-utiful selection of five savoury infused honeys from Hiveshare.  It really made my day!  After all, honey looks just like liquid sunshine and couldn’t we all use a little more sweetness in our lives right now?

It also inspired me to get “buzzy” in the kitchen to try them all out.  So this month, rather than a menu, I have cooked up a collection – one recipe for each of the infused honeys.  I hope you are equally inspired to try them.  Of course, if you don’t have these infused honeys, you can substitute with regular raw honey.

Read on for more about the properties of pure, raw (unpasteurized), local honey and also about how you can have a share in your very own hive!  Artisanal honey from Georgina, Ontario…no tricks, all treat!  And if you are carving a pumpkin tonight, save the seeds for these Spiced Honey Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.  Any one of the infused honeys would work wonderfully here depending on which flavours you want to amp up!

Albeit natural, honey is a type of sugar.  So as a nutritionist I don’t recommend you devour whole pots of the stuff.  But what Winnie the Pooh would call “a small smackerel of honey” is truly a treat!  So enjoy these recipes and share them with your family and friends!  Sign up here to receive the recipes from the Hive Five Honey Menu.  And hive five!

Hive Five Honey Menu

Chipotle Honey: Chipotle Shrimp & Avocado Salad (try this smoky honey also in chili or roasted veggies)

Habenero Honey: Habanero Jerk Chicken & Kale Salad (habanero honey adds a sweet & spicy kick to chicken wings and ribs as well)

Garlic Honey: Honey Garlic Tilapia with Steamed Bok Choy (garlic honey is also divine on meats or pepperoni pizza)

Smoke Honey: Sweet & Smoky Paprika Cabbage (this honey adds BBQ buzz to anything grilled and is also fab in chili)

Turmeric Honey: Golden Turmeric Honey Hot Chocolate (try turmeric honey also in tea, yogurt, in curries or even on roast salmon)

Join The Nutritional Reset community here to receive this month’s menu today (as well as each month to come)!  And read on for more about raw honey and how you can own a share in your very own hive…

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My Mom’s Faves Menu

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail My Mom's FavesI have been thinking a lot about my mom recently.  Partly because she passed away in September (eight years ago now and I still miss her and always will) but also because she really loved this time of year with all the fresh tomatoes and corn.  These were some of my mom’s faves.  I simply can’t eat a cob of corn without picturing my mom slathering hers with butter and salt and digging in with gusto.  My mom was a great preserver of the harvest as well…making countless jars of jams, jellies, chutneys, brandied peaches and pickles.  For my wedding she made both rhubarb and sage jellies (to match the pink peonies of my bouquet and the light green of my bridesmaids’ dresses) to give as favours to our guests.  

And my mom was a fantastic cook!  Whenever I’d mention I was coming for a weekend visit, in less than an hour I’d get an email from her with an incredible menu of brunches and dinners with mom asking “is this okay?”  Okay???!!  I’d give anything for one of her dinners right now…they were super delicious and all made with that most important ingredient, love.

So I was thinking that at this time when we perhaps cannot be with our loved ones, either due to loss or the inability to travel or simply sit at the same table (if from different households), one way to connect is through food and our shared memories of times around the table.  If my mom were here today, these are some of her faves that I would cook for her.  Since she isn’t, I’ll make them anyway and relive the fun times we had cooking (and drinking wine) together and laugh.  And, knowing me, probably cry a little too.  But she wouldn’t want that.  The last thing she said to us was “Go home, have some wine and have some fun!”  Words to live by.

Sign up here to receive the recipes from My Mom’s Faves Menu.  I hope you enjoy this menu and share it with those you love!

My Mom’s Faves Menu

Appetizer: Guacamole Corn & Feta Dip (Fresh corn and tomatoes in season were two of my mom’s faves.  Married with avocados and feta, what’s not to love?)

Main: Lemon Garlic Shrimp Spaghetti Squash (Great lashings of fresh lemon and garlic make this dish a winner.  I like to cook the spaghetti squash ahead as it’s easier to scoop out the “noodles” when cooled and you can drain away any excess liquid.  Then I just reheat it while I sauté the shrimp.)

Dessert: Raspberry Apple Crisp (Whenever I told my mom I was trying to lose weight and just wanted fruit for dessert, she’d serve up a crisp!  This isn’t my mom’s traditional crisp – I used nuts in place of grains and maple syrup instead of refined sugar and it is every bit as delicious.)

Join The Nutritional Reset community here to receive this month’s menu today (as well as each month to come)!  And read on for some nutritional tidbits about a few foods featured in the recipes…

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Suddenly Late Summer Menu

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Suddenly Late Summer MenuThe title of this month’s menu is a riff off the song Suddenly Last Summer, by the Motels (yes, I was a teenager in the 80s).  Suddenly, it’s Aug 29 and summer is almost over and I had yet to get my August Menu of the Month out to you.  And so…Suddenly Late Summer.

Summer seems to have whizzed by super fast.  The good news is that farmers’ markets in late summer brim with delicious local produce.  So, on these themes, I have put together a menu that includes some of my favourites (melons, cukes, peaches) and is also super fast to prepare.  In fact, Shish Tawouk is commonly served in fast food restaurants in the Middle East.  And it isn’t often I will ask you to eat fast food.

Sign up here to receive the recipes in my Suddenly Late Summer Menu.  I hope you enjoy this menu and the rest of your summer!  As always, I invite you to share these recipes with family and friends.

Suddenly Late Summer Menu

Salad: Watermelon & Cucumber Quinoa Salad (this is beautiful, refreshing and can be prepared ahead…and it has been fantastic for helping make a dent in the watermelons I’ve been getting in my local food box)

Skewers: Shish Tawouk (these are super fast to prepare, just remember to allow for at least one hour of marinating time but ideally four hours to overnight)

Spice Blend:  Shish Tawouk Spice Mix (this takes only seconds if you have ground spices in your pantry…and I’d recommend grinding some of these from fresh where you can, e.g. allspice, black pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon…read on about the joys of freshly grated cinnamon)

Sweet: Pan Seared Peaches with Dukkah (peaches locally grown and eaten in season are heavenly…you can grill these as well)

Join The Nutritional Reset community here to receive this month’s menu today (as well as each month to come)!  And read on for some nutritional tidbits about a few foods featured in the recipes…

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Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot Menu

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot MenuSometimes I am just too hot to cook.  And I don’t mean sexy.  I mean hot as in temperature hot.  When the mercury rises like this and I’m feeling hot, hot, hot, that song of the same name runs through my head and I’d rather be dancing around my kitchen than cooking in it.

This no-cooking-required menu is perfect for these sultry summer nights, showing you can still eat well without feeling hot, hot, hot.  And the hibiscus iced tea (a little like Jamaican sorrel), will keep you refreshed while bopping along to this Calypso classic!  Here’s a YouTube link to Arrow performing it live in Montreal with a happy crowd dancing along…back when crowds were still permitted.

Are you feeling hot, hot, hot?  Sign up here to receive the recipes.  Stay cool, stay well and, as always, I hope you enjoy the recipes and share them with family and friends!

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot Menu

BeverageHibiscus Iced Tea (deliciously refreshing before, during or after your meal)

Soup: Corn & White Bean Gazpacho (keep your cool and use canned white beans and frozen corn – though cooked and crumbled bacon would be an inspired garnish)

Salad:  Shrimp & Avocado Salad (if you buy the shrimp already cooked then the only heat you’ll need comes from the hot sauce; chicken breast also works well here)

Dessert: No Bake Chocolate Cookies (these would be extra-cool with a little vanilla ice cream on top)

Join The Nutritional Reset community here to receive this month’s menu today (as well as each month to come)!  And read on for some nutritional tidbits about a few foods featured in the recipes…

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