inspiring intentions

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While New Years is the traditional time to set goals and intentions, for some reason those never seem to stick for me. We make them and they are quickly forgotten. I'm sure many of you have experienced the over zealous crowds at the gym in January only to see things are back to normal by March. 

For me, it's the transition out of summer and into fall that really inspires change. It just seems more logical doesn't it? School starts again, work starts after summer vacation, we say goodbye to warm weather and hello to cold. Establishing good habits and intentions now seems like a great way to get ahead of the game doesn't it? You will be well on the way to positive change by the time everyone else even thinks about it in January ;)

I like to think of this as my personal new year. My time to lay intentions down for who I want to be and the direction I would like my year to take. Intentions to me don't mean specific goals like working out 3 times a week or eating more meals at home. To me they are more like principles to guide the way I think and act. If I can act in accordance with my intentions, my goals tend to fall in place and I can say i am happy with the year, no matter what else happens!

I wrote a post as a part of Suzanne at hello veggy's Inspiring Intentions Guest Post Series and I hope you'll head over to check it out!

photo credit: Ian Sane via photopin cc

pep talk for the next time you’re ready to give up on clean eating: a guest post from eat well. party hard.

Hello friends!

Today I am so excited to be hosting Claire from Eat Well. Party Hard. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of reading her blog, Claire is a fun, enthusiastic and inspiring woman whose approach to healthy eating and living is so inspirational and accessible to anyone whether you are an experienced health nut or a complete newbie. She posts recipes and tips aimed at making healthy eating fun and enjoyable which is exactly in line with my beliefs. She is currently teaching English in China so her blog is full of great anecdotes of trying to be healthy in a place where the language an food is completely foreign. Her good humour and positive outlook is infectious and I know you will all love her.

She’s here today to share something that I think everyone should keep in his or her back pocket. Transitioning to or even living a healthy lifestyle can be hard at times. You have so many forces and temptations pulling you in another direction. When you feel lost or are losing motivation a letter like this to remind you of why you have chosen a (at times) more difficult path can be comforting and can reaffirm why you are doing this is in the first place.

So now, with that long-winded introduction, take it away Claire!

A pep talk for the next time you're ready to give up on clean eating

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Hey, friend.

Things are really tough right now. I get that. At this moment, nothing would make life feel easier than digging into a bag of Doritos, or popping open a can of Pepsi.

But here's the thing: you're better than that.

When you set new clean-eating goals for your life–to smash your sugar addiction, to cut refined carbohydrates, maybe to curb your meat intake–you did so with a purpose. You wanted something, and you wanted it bad, and you knew this was one tiny step on the road to getting there.

But the road's been pretty hard, hasn't it? There have definitely been some bumps along the way. That energy crash around 3pm, when a bag of Skittles seems like it could save the world. Or that whiff of fresh muffins from the bakery next to your apartment; how is one supposed to get through the day without giving into that? Or–and I always find this one the toughest–Pizza Fridays/Taco Tuesdays/Burger & Beer night out with friends. "Aw, come on, you're seriously ordering salad? You're no fun anymore, dude."

With temptation to fall back into old habits taunting you at every turn, I totally get the desire to just yell F*ck it! and down a Snickers or two in defiance. And hey, is one candy bar going to kill you? Probably not.

BUT.

Before you rip open that wrapper, stop a second. Breathe. And remember these things:

1. You are not alone.

Immediate circle of real-life friends giving you crap for trying to change your habits? Get new friends. They're totally out there.

I'm not saying that isolating yourself from your social group will solve every problem–and by all means, it's important to keep close to your tribe. But it's also important to find a network of people who truly support your efforts to improve, and for that? The internet is a gift from above. Whether you wanna make long-distance, online friends through outlets like Heathy Vegan Fridays or VeggieBoards, or connecting with a crew nearer to home via MeetUp is more your jam, there approximately 2.5 bajillion fellow humans pursuing the same goals you are–it's just a matter of saying hello.

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2. Change really is happening–though you may not be measuring it.

Wanna know a surefire way to forever feel disappointed with yourself? Place all of your worth on outcomes, not efforts.

"I didn't lose ten pounds in two weeks–I'm a failure. Someone please pass me the brownies."

Instead of beating yourself up over the results that haven't materialized in exactly the way you'd pictured, reflect on the actions you took to move closer to those results.

"I haven't lost the weight I'd wanted yet, but I ate 12 clean, super-healthy meals this week and only two junk ones; that's five more healthy meals than I ate the week before, and seven more healthy ones than I ate the week before that. I'm actually making steady progress!"

See the difference?

3. The new life you're designing? It's worth so much more than what's in front of you right now.

Back to reality: look at that Snickers bar in your hand. What's it worth to you, really? About three minutes of sweetness, saltiness and comfort, right? But what about a minute after that–guilt? Or 40 minutes after that–ugh, a sugar crash? Or a few hours after that–annoyance at the fact that cravings, not you, are still running the show?

A deeper satisfaction than a candy bar can ever provide awaits you in the future–I swear it does. And though you haven't completely achieved it yet, you know for yourself that this is true. A cleaner, lighter, addiction-free and more conscious life is totally possible, and you're on the path to it this very second. Trust me here, okay? It's seriously gonna rule, and you deserve it.

bio_photo Claire Suellentrop is a catalyst for purposeful change. A passionate whole foods enthusiast and organizational whiz, she shares lifehacks that allow busy people to make healthier food choices on Eat Well. Party Hard. She's happiest when helping others take greater control of their lives through knowledge and action, and fuels her own weird life with a plant-based diet, black coffee and whiskey. She'd love to hear from you at eatwellpartyhard (at) gmail (dot) com.

let’s talk about skin

Skin can be a tricky and sensitive subject. It is one of the first things people see when they look at us, the barrier between us and the rest of the world. So naturally, when it isn’t cooperating it can be a source of stress and insecurities. While there are so many causes of skin issues and I can’t hope to address them all in one blog post, I have been getting questions recently on tips for what to eat for better skin. Thankfully there are a whole host of foods in the plant-based world that can help your skin look and feel its best!

I have a ton of recipes that include all of these foods so make sure to browse my recipe index for ideas. I’ve provided a link for my favourite recipe in each section to get you started.

The Basics

Organic fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants and critical vitamins and are low in toxins. Try and choose organic whenever possible since they are grown in more nutrient rich soil and have lower exposure to environmental toxins and are guaranteed GMO free!

Drink lots of filtered water to help flush toxins from the body and keep your skin hydrated. If you aren’t able to detoxify all the bad stuff coming in, it will make an appearance on your skin! Other great options for hydration include green tea which is rich in antioxidants and kombucha for a dose of living enzymes and good bacteria to help your body digest your food properly and get all the skin-loving nutrients from it!

Now for more specifics…

Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acid Foods

These fatty acids provide your body with the building blocks to produce anti-inflammatory prostaglandins and help maintain the integrity of your cell walls. This helps with everything from inflammatory conditions like acne and eczema to dry skin.

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Other Healthy Fats

Other healthy fats like monounsaturated fats found in foods like olive oil and avocado as well as the good saturated fats like MCTs found in coconut oil help keep your skin moisturized from the inside out. Your skin needs fat so trying to avoid it can be very detrimental to your healthy glow!

  • Foods to add: avocados, olives, coconut, nuts and seeds
  • Recipe to try: Kale Avocado Pesto

Vitamin A

Carotenoids helps with natural skin turnover and are potent antioxidants.

  • Foods to add: red, orange and yellow coloured foods like tomatoes, mangoes sweet potatoes and carrots. Green veggies like spinach and kale are also high in this important nutrient too.
  • Recipe to try: Bruschetta Quinoa

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Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps in the production of collagen which is vital to our skin’s structure and maintaining a youthful appearance. It also helps to fight inflammation and it an important antioxidant to help fight the aging process!

  • Foods to add: fruits and veggies particularly citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, sprouts, kale
  • Recipe to try: Massaged Kale Salad

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Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant and helps protect the skin from free radicals which age us and protect us from sun damage as well as helping to reduce inflammation.

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Zinc

Zinc helps regulate sebum production in the skin by helping metabolize testosterone (sebum is the stuff that clogs our pores and makes our face shiny). It is involved in the generation of new skin.

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Whole Grains

When we eat refined grains, our body has to dump out insulin in response which triggers a hormonal cascade leading increased oil and cellular production (think clogged pores) and inflammation! Choosing whole grains to prevent a blood sugar spike and to provide fiber helps combat this cycle. Whole grains are also rich in the B-vitamin biotin which is crucial in helping your body process fats.

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Fermented Foods

Bacteria is such an important part of our overall health, so making sure we have an optimal balance of good and bad bacteria is important! Choosing fermented foods will make sure your good bacteria flourish so they can help us obtain all the nutrients from our food and keep inflammation in the body down.

  • Foods to add: sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, non-dairy yogurt, miso, raw apple cider vinegar
  • Recipe to try: Chipotle Tempeh Burgers

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Foods to Avoid

Trans and hydrogenated fats, coffee, dairy, refined grains, refined sugars and fried foods all make skin issues worse so avoid these as much as possible! When it comes to healthy natural sweeteners (like coconut sugar, maple syrup, dates, honey, etc.), they are still sugar so keep their use to a minimum to avoid blood sugar spikes. 

And Remember…

  • Your skin is your body’s largest organ and one of a few used for detoxification. So if you taking in too many toxins or aren’t detoxifying properly through other organs like your liver, kidneys and colon, you are going to see it in your skin! Make sure you keep your liver happy and are eliminating properly. That means fibre and antioxidants!
  • Hormones play a huge role in your skin’s appearance! Make sure you are providing your adrenals and thyroid with solid nutrition, getting appropriate rest and keeping your stress levels to a minimum. Also, having too much circulating estrogen can wreak havoc: avoid external estrogens in plastics and eat lots of estrogen detoxifying foods like cruciferous veggies and pumpkin seeds! Avoid foods like coffee (yes, even decaf).
  • If you aren’t digesting your food properly you are not only not getting all the nutrients from your food but you are also taxing the body, creating toxins. And those toxins have to come out somewhere…Aim for good digestion by using probiotics, digestive enzymes if necessary and practicing food combining principle whenever possible. Also consider stimulating stomach acid procudtion by using apple cider vinegar, lemon juice or ginger before meals. If your stomach acid is really low (like it is for me) supplement with Betaine HCl (supplemental stomach acid) until levels are up to par. If anyone wants tips on how to do this, just email me!

Healthy Skin from the Outside In

It’s very important to consider what you are putting on your skin as well! Most commercially available products are packed with toxins that will do more harm than good. Choose your products wisely and when possible make your own! Here are some of my favourite recommendations:

  • Coconut oil or almond oil to moisturize
  • Oil cleansing instead of face wash
  • Witch hazel as a toner
  • Avocado face masks
  • Evening primrose oil or vitamin E as serum
  • Tea tree oil for spot treatment
  • Lavender oil to calm redness

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Finally I want to mention a couple products I was lucky enough to sample from Gabriela. She makes 2 wonderful products that exemplify exactly what you should look for in skin care: simple ingredients and no fillers. Her products all contain pomegranate seed oil which is a powerful antioxidant to help revitalize your skin and reduce signs of aging and tiredness.

Her Citrus Chiffon Skin Brightening Scrub contains jojoba oil, pomegranate seed oil and olive oil to help nourish and brighten your skin and I found after a couple times using it may skin was so soft and bright! I used it every day for about a week and then a couple times a week to maintain after that. My skin hasn’t been so soft in ages! I also tried her Almaretto Lip Softening Balm. This product does contain beeswax (so it’s not vegan) but contains coconut oil, vitamin E and pomegranate seed oil. This product left my lips so soft even when faced with an extremely dry work environment!

Her products are not expensive at all and she ships all over the place! I highly recommend her products if you are looking for a natural alternative to conventional products but aren’t quite ready to make your own ;)

Do you guys have any tips or advice for healthy skin? Favourite products or at home remedies?

guest post: hydration and your brain

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photo credit: [cipher] via photopin cc

You all might have seen a little while ago, I posted a review of KOGE supplements. One of the owners, Andrew, also offered an article he had written about water to publish on my site. Since I am a big fan of the company and he asked oh so nicely (;o)) I am going to share it with you all now!  I’ve added in my 2 cents in a couple places in italics, because I couldn’t help it, I love the topic!

Take it away Andrew!

Drink Water & Gain an Extra 20% of Brain Power?

When the human body is dehydrated, brain function decreases by 20-30%. Considering an estimated 75% of North Americans are chronically dehydrated means that three-quarters of the North American population is not experiencing their full cognitive potential.  A study done by a research team in the United Kingdom found that the brain uses metabolic resources inefficiently during and following episodes of dehydration. Their research also found that dehydrated participants needed to exert a higher level of neuronal activity in order to achieve the same performance level their hydrated selves were able to achieve.

During times of physical stress (including dehydration) the body is programmed to allocate water resources to certain high body systems such as the brain. Researchers found that when the body is in a state of water deprivation, brain systems used for ‘higher functioning’ (such as the planning and visuo-spatial processing systems) are given less resources for functioning. Yikes! Just think of all the potential ideas, innovations, companies, and technologies that are ‘on hold’ because someone just needs to consume a few more glasses of water in their day. *(Gabby: did you also know that some research has pointed chronic dehydration to a host of problems from diabetes to cholesterol to asthma? Read: “Your Body’s Many Cries for Water” by F. Batmanghelidj)

Here are some easy ways to increase your water consumption and your mental potential:

1. Eat Fruits & Vegetables high in Water Content

· Zucchini: 1 cup of zucchini contains over 100ml of water and is high in fiber

· Cucumber: 1 cup of sliced cucumber contains 100ml of water and is soothing to the stomach

· Mushrooms: white mushrooms are made up of 93.9% water and contain Vitamins B7 and the antioxidant Selenium

· Pineapple: 1 cup of pineapple has 223ml of water plus contains enzymes that help with digestion

· Cherries: 1 cup of pitted cherries has 127ml of water and is also high in fiber

· Apples: 1 large apple has 191ml of water and is a great source of quercetin (a natural allergy suppressant) *(Gabby: I can personally attest to the beneficial impact on quercetin and allergies- I started taking it a couple months ago and my usually bad seasonal and animal allergies have been minimal!)

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*Gabby: And let’s not forget some of my most favourite fruits: melon! Particularly watermelon- it's called WATERmelon for a reason! Plus it’s in season right now and perfectly sweet.

2. Choose Cooked Oatmeal or Soaked Chia Seeds for Breakfast:  One cup of cooked oatmeal has 197ml of water, plus the soluble fiber has a great affect on cholesterol levels. Chia seeds soaked overnight in water or almond milk is a great breakfast choice especially when topped with grated apple and toasted almonds.

*Gabby: The same can be said for most cooked grains! Remember, it is always better to opt for a whole grain version than a refined- and this included whole grain flours in breads and baked goods. When you cook the whole grain you add in water which is hydrating and much more filling! Hence why you can eat more baked goods that cooked whole grains ;) So during the summer and for more brain power choose cooked whole grains more often!

3. Flavour Your Water:  Adding fresh fruit or herbs to water is a great way to make water taste amazing and improve metabolism. Throw some cucumber slices and thyme to soothe the digestive tract, or lemon and rosemary to increase memory and metabolism.

Even if you’re not a fan of water, I hope you enjoy these simple alternate ways to hydrate and the cognitive benefits that are sure to follow!

As we head into the warmer  months, our need for water increases so thank you Andrew for the great info!

I want to share a couple more tips for staying hydrated…

  1. Coconut water- nature’s sport and electrolyte drink. Packed full of important minerals, coconut water (no sugar added please) is a wonderful and delicious way to hydrate
  2. Avoid caffeine and other diuretics like alcohol: thinks like coffee, black tea, wine, beer and liquor all sap water from your body. So if you are going to drink them, keep the servings modest and increase your water consumption to accommodate.
  3. Remember to balance electrolytes too- our body needs water, but we also need things like sodium and potassium for loads of functions in the body like nerve signal transmission.
  4. Make drinking water fun! Put it in your favourite glass (like a wine glass perhaps?) or use a fun straw (I love glass straws from Strawesome).
  5. Remember to filter your water! Reverse Osmosis is the best option, but anything you can afford is better than nothing. In Toronto, our water is fluoridated which puts us at risk for toxicity as well as numerous other hazards from hormones, to pesticides to bacteria. I like Santevia pitcher filters).

Again, thank you Andrew for this wonderful piece. I will have another post in the coming weeks about water too so stay tuned for that!

  • What are your favourite ways to stay hydrated?
  • Any tips to share, or infused water recipes?

See you all on Friday!

grain-free, paleo and vegan carrot zucchini muffins!

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Hello my lovely veggies! Thank you all so much for all your votes in the Vegan Recipe Challenge! I came in 3rd and that was way more than I was hoping for!

It’s been a busy week around here- I'm so sorry to my fellow bloggers whose blogs I've been neglecting. I am trying the best I can to catch up and will read every one of your wonderful words. But I’m back and eager to share a ton of stuff with you! You can expect some delicious food coming up on the blog!

I'm constantly playing around with my diet, trying to come up with a combination that helps my tummy feel it’s best. For those of you who are new readers, I’ve suffered from very uncomfortable digestion for years and I’m on a quest to correct it! Read this post for a few things that I’ve found helpful recently.

So in playing around with my diet, one thing I’ve tried is cuting out grains. I know, crazy right? It’s something I never thought I would do and I always thought that “paleo inclined” eaters were insane! What do they do without quinoa? Fresh baked goods? No sushi? No BREAD?

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turns out you just need to find the right kind of baked goods!

Just goes to show you the lengths I’m willing to go to fix this problem. And it actually isn't too bad! .

You see, due to the make-up of grains, people with delicate digestive systems often find them aggravating. The carbohydrate content of the grain is primarily made up of starches as well as some sugars that require extra steps to digest. If you are unable to digest them properly due to a weak system, we are left with undigested fragments that are then used to feed the no-so-good bacteria in our system. This can lead to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and a crowding out of the good guys. The bad guys can also begin to produce toxic substances that can damage our intestinal lining, leading to something called leaky gut. And what leaky gut basically means is that the tight junctions between your intestinal cells become “loose” due to damage and now undigested proteins and particles can make their way into your bloodstream and cause inflammation, allergic responses and general havoc! All in all, not a pretty picture for proper digestion.

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So through cutting them out, healing can be brought to the digestive system. I by no means think this should be a permanent move, but can be extremely therapeutic for a time!

Now for the fun part- grain-free kitchen experiments! Grain-free baking was really daunting to me, but my recent success with my berry crisp and now these muffins is making me feel like all that fear was unwarranted. Now I can say I LOVE grain-free baking!

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I love that when you bake with nut meals and coconut flour, there is a ton of natural sweetness and healthy fats in there- meaning you can use less added oil and sweetener! Not only that, nut meals and coconut flour are so healthy! Lots of healthy fats and fibre! While they are not exactly low in calories, you’ll find that you are wonderfully satisfied after a small portion.

Like take these muffins. They certainly are not light bites. BUT they are filling, nutritious and delicious. And they surprisingly don’t feel heavy- they have a wonderful crumb that would satisfy the most traditional baker. I hope you all try them- I’m certain you’ll love them!

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Grain-Free Carrot and Zucchini Muffins (Vegan, Gluten-free, Sugar-Free, Paleo, SCD)

Adapted from these at Amazing Paleo.

Ingredients (12 muffins)

Dry

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut flour
  • ½ teaspoon of baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon of sea salt

Wet

  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • ¼ cup melted raw honey
  • ¼ cup melted organic coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Add-ins

  • ½ cup of grated carrots
  • ¾ cup of grated zucchini (unpeeled)
  • 1/8 cup of raisins (optional)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350. Grease with coconut oil or line a 12 muffin pan.

Mix all your dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix your applesauce, honey, coconut oil, vanilla and cinnamon. In a final small bowl, whisk together the 1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil, water, baking soda and apple cider vinegar. Now add the applesauce mixture to your dry ingredients and combine well. Now add in the coconut oil and baking soda mixture. Finally, mix in the carrot, zucchini and raisins.

Spoon the batter evenly into your muffin pan. You want to do this fast since you want to make sure the baking soda and vinegar will still be reacting to give some lift in the oven. Bake for 35min, or until tops are browned and a knife inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes then move to a cooling rack to cool completely.