Thursday, April 26, 2012

Say No to Nightshades

I was asked to write a blog post for my boss about the No-Nightshade diet for her patients who suffer from arthritis, inflammation and chronic pain. This blog post is dedicated to my mom.  I hope she reads this and thinks about trying this diet because I would love for her to not hurt so much all of the time. I love you mom.
Painful inflammation is a problem for so many people, especially those with arthritis or other forms of chronic pain. For some people, it is recommended to try a No-Nightshade Diet for about 6-12 weeks to alleviate or eliminate the pain. A No-Nightshade Diet is a diet specifically designed to eliminate certain foods that contain alkaloid compounds that can build up in our tissues and alter our metabolism in a negative way. 

Foods known as Nightshades that contain these toxic alkaloids are:
- Bell peppers (green, red, yellow and orange peppers)
- Chili peppers (Jalapeno, Anaheim, Fresno, Pimento, Ancho, Chipotle, Habanero…etc)
- Eggplant
- Potatoes (all types but not including sweet potatoes)
- Tomatoes
- Tomatillos
Spices – typical in ethnic cuisines such as Mexican, Spanish, Caribbean, African, Indian, and East Asian.
- Cayenne
- Chili powder
- Curry powder
- Paprika
- Cape gooseberry
- Goji berry
- Pepino
- Tamarillo
- Tobacco

There are four mains tricks for success in this diet. The first is to be true to the diet because  some people are highly sensitive to these foods and even just a tiny bit (sneaking a french fry off of your friend’s plate) can trigger pain.

The second is to prepare your own food to ensure that you know exactly what is going into your mouth. Nightshades can sneak into so many processed and store bought foods such as gravy, sauces, fish sauce, condiments, salad dressings, baked beans, nuts, seasonings, breads, baked goods, crackers, breadings, stuffings, and cola drinks.  They may also be labeled on packages as flavours, natural flavours, natural flavourings, spices, potato starch, food starch, vegetable starch or vegetable protein, so you have to think of all the little extras that you add to your food to ensure that total elimination happens in your meals.

The third trick to success is to not be deprived and to know what you can have and what you can use to spice up your meals. If you love potatoes, try substituting into your diet foods like turnips, sweet potatoes, fried plantains and artichokes. Use summer squashes and zucchini in place of tomatoes.  Add lots of flavourful herbs and spice to your meals with garlic, cumin, basil, rosemary, oregano, turmeric, ginger, chives and onion.

The fourth and most important tip is to track everything you eat and write down your symptoms each day. Over time you will be able to track if and how long it took for the pain to subside. If your symptoms disappear while on the diet, you will know that nightshades are affecting your health and that their elimination will prove to be an effective long-term treatment for you. Plus, you can take the diet further and introduce one nightshade back at a time. For example, add just tomatoes back to the diet. If your pain gets worse again, take the tomatoes out and wait for the pain to subside. Then add green peppers back to your diet. Maybe they won’t bother you like the tomatoes did. Maybe they will. Each person reacts to these food items differently and some people may react to some foods but not others. Carefully tracking your food and symptoms is the key to knowing how your body responds to nightshades.

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
- 1 large butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, and cubed
- 1 onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 Tbsp cup of olive oil

- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoon basil
- Dash of salt and black pepper
- 1 cup of sodium reduced chicken broth
- A few dashes of white wine (optional)
- Sprinkle of Romano cheese (optional)

In a large saucepan, heat the oil until hot and add onions. Cook over med-high heat, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes (don’t brown it) If you are using the white wine, add at this point, then add the butternut squash, basil, chicken broth and lightly sprinkle with pepper. Cover, bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer until the squash is tender - about 10 minutes depending on how big the pieces are.

Next, put through your blender or food processor to make a smooth sauce (or blend it lightly for a chunky sauce). Pour over hot pasta and top with 1-2 tsp of shredded Romano cheese. Enjoy!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Ch Ch Ch Chia!

My new favourite food is highly addictive.

  • Take as much fat-free plain Greek yogurt as you have in the fridge (or as much as you want to use...maybe just a 1/2 cup or so to try this out).
  • Add roughly equal part cold water and stir stir stir until well combined.
  • Toss in at least a few good tablespoons of Ruth's Chia Goodness and stir stir stir until well combined. I use the Apple Almond Cinnamon version.
Now just let it chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, or even better overnight. The yogurt mixture becomes nice and sweet with an altered change of consistency.

I know what you're thinking. "Why would you water down the deliciously thick Greek yogurt like that?" If you've never had Chia seeds before, they swell up when combined with liquid so they will expand and make the mixture thick and delicious. What's also great about doing this is that it will take you twice as long to eat your yogurt so you won't have to buy it as often. I also really like this because I can only eat small amounts of yogurt at a time without making myself sick, so I can trick myself into thinking that I am eating more yogurt than I actually am since the original amount of yogurt was watered down and revitalized.

Chia seeds are great for you and I highly recommend researching them and learn more about their greatness. The health benefits and science behind this seed is really interesting. Taken from Ruth's Foods website, Chia seeds:
- Have more Omega 3 than flax or salmon
- Have 5x more calcium than milk
- Are one of nature's best sources of fibre
- Are about 20% complete protein
- Are a great source of iron and other minerals
- Are very low glycemic due to its "gel quality"

Give it a try! If you don't like it then just invite me over and I'll take it off your hands.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Burger Love

I wrote a blog post about PEI Burger Love for Rachelle's blog and felt the need to further this with my own blog about my own burger Veggie Burger Love. I have a special rule that I always follow when I got a restaurant for the first time. If there is a veggie burger on the menu, I always order it. For me, the respect and effort that a restaurant puts into a veggie burger is a clear sign to how the rest of the menu will be. I am always HUGELY dissatisfied when my meal arrives and I find a burger patty that obviously came out of a box and they just tossed on the grill to heat. Boooooring! What I love is when the kitchen takes the time to invent and create a veggie patty made out of lentils, beans, veggies, seeds, etc, until they get the recipe that works for their business and are proud to serve to their vegetarian customers. No I am not vegetarian but I do not eat beef (if you need an update on my cow love, check this older blog post out) but I love veggie burgers and I always hope that restaurant owners take the time to create a meal option for those who opt out of eating meat but still want a culinary burger masterpiece.

Of all the restaurants that I have eaten in and all of the veggie burgers that I have devoured, here are some of the best that I have ever had.
- Daniel Brennan Brickhouse (Charlottetown, PEI) - Margie Loo's Vegetarian Burger. Loved the sweet relish paired with the garlicky cream sauce. This one might be my favourite of all time so far. Maybe.
- Cedar's Eatery (Charlottetown, PEI) - Veggie Burger. When I first bit into this burger I thought they screwed up and gave me a regular beef burger. It was so meaty and rich I mistook it for actual meal. Absolutely delicious.
- The Outer Clove (Nelson, BC) - The Orbit Burger. Definitely the messiest veggie burger but is stuffed full of flavour. I always order this when I visit the restaurant.
- The Kootenay Bakery Cafe (Nelson, BC) - Veggie Burger. When I worked here I would load it up with sprouts and shredded carrots then top it off with salsa verde and garlic cream cheese. Heaven!
- Calactus (Moncton, NB) - Big Marc Burger. Lots of flavour and lots of love.

I was feeling the need to make some burgers for myself and they turned out excellent! They are vegan and gluten free (if you have gluten-free oat flour or you can use chickpea flour). I wanted to share the recipe for everyone else to enjoy! Damn I should have taken a picture of the one I had for lunch! It was a beauty.

- 2 cans drained and rinsed kidney beans (I soak and cook my own beans, so roughly, about 3 cups of cooked beans)
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup onion, diced
- 5 cloves garlic (yeah, I like a lot of garlic)
- 1/4 cup oat flour
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley
- 2 tbsp tomato paste (or use ketchup if you don't want to open a can of tomato paste)
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp salt and pepper

Directions: Toss the parsley and garlic in a food processor and finely mince. Add the onions and pulse until well chopped. Add the kidney beans and pulse until well blended but some chunks of bean still remain. Spoon out into a bowl and add all the remaining ingredients. Allow to sit in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavours meld together. Preheat oven to 375F. Shape into 8 patties and put on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, flip, then bake another 15 minutes. ENJOY!

Awesome Photos

I stumbled upon this website which got me looking at these photos and they are amazing! I just had to share them with the world. Bored Panda just might be my new favourite website to spend far too much time on. I LOVE photography and someday when I am a true adult and have a house of my own or at least a place where I can decorate my heart out, I plan on having my walls covered with interesting photos. Black and white landscapes might be my favourite.

These are a few of my favourites but check out all of them. I couldn't help but giggle at most of them.

Then there were these which I love too!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Moncton and Back

It was a very busy couple of days. Rachelle and I headed to Moncton on Saturday morning to attend the Moncton Wellness Expo. The Moncton Well Expo is a big gathering of over 100 exhibitors and dozens of seminars all promoting health, wellness and personal growth. The kinds of people who were there displaying their business, products, school or whatever it may be, were very much into promoting a more natural, holistic and spiritual health rather than the scientific-centered kind of health that I went to school for. I found it fascinating listening to people speak about things like angels, acupuncture, acupressure, massage, aura readings, iridology and intuitive healing. Plus there were tables packed full of natural make-ups, vitamins, honey and food vendors, as well as lots of jewelry, clothes and photography. One of Rachelle's closest friends, Kim Doucette, is an Angel Therapy Practitioner (or a "medium" is the word the rest of the world would understand) so it was very cool to learn more about her and speak to her. I saw many people leaving her booth with red faces and tears streaming down their faces. I wanted to have her do a reading for me but she was booked solid before I had the chance to get over there to put my name in. The thought of angels being around us at all times is quite unnerving for someone like me who values her solitude.

Anyway, like I said, we headed out super early Saturday morning to get to Moncton by 9am to set up. My job for the weekend was to man the booth while Rachelle did, basically non-stop, iridology readings for the two days of the expo. Once word got around that there was someone doing eye-readings, our sign-up sheet filled up fast and we became a very popular booth. Plus we were giving out Vegan Black Bean Brownies to lure people over to the booth to talk to me. I am sneaky that way. (Note, if you try this recipe, take away 1/2 of a banana, up the cocoa by a couple tablespoons and add a couple shakes of salt.) They're really yummy and super moist.  Rachelle also did a 30-minute seminar speaking about Eating for Energy and that was a huge success. As soon as she completed the talk, a big rush of people flocked over to the booth for more info about her and what she does. The iridology readings were pretty much booked solid by the point.

The Enchiladas
After the first day, we were exhausted and super hungry, and since Rachelle knows Moncton like the back of her hand, she knew the best places to go to supper. We headed to Calactus which is an all-vegetarian restaurant which puts a lot of emphasis on serving beautiful food that is natural and fresh, as well as being able to provide some meals that are gluten-free and/or vegan. All I can really say about the meal is YUM! I had the Big Marc Burger (veggie burger of course) and Rachelle had the Enchiladas, both of which we split in half and shared. The food was so delicious and just bursting with flavour. I wish that I could go back right now and order everything on the menu to sample. After dinner we did some shopping and played tourist for a few hours. Then we headed back to the hotel to hang out with a couple of her friends who were in the adjoining room, and just chilled until we were too tired to keep our eyes open.

The next day was another long day at the expo but we shut down the booth a couple hours early so that we could, a) walk around and see the other vendors before we lost the chance to, and b) make a mad dash to Costco before it closed at 5pm (damn Sunday hours). If I lived next to a Costco, I would be a happy person. The frozen food section alone makes me giddy. Giant bags of frozen broccoli for a few dollars? Yes please! By the time we were done, our tiny car was riding low to the ground, packed to the gills, and we headed home after a busy busy weekend.

I feel I should say "The End" after this post. It just feels right.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Yes, Breakfast is THAT Important

I love breakfast.

Truly, I do. Sometimes in the evening when I'm reading in bed or sitting watching a show, I will dream about breakfast and how delicious it will be when morning arrives. I eat the same thing every day for breakfast; a bowl of homemade granola, a piece of fruit and a hot mug of coffee, and I have yet to tire of this meal after eating it day in and day out for months. Morning time is awesome because it involves breakfast.

I was inspired to share my love for the most important meal of the day because I just read an article from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition saying that men who skip breakfast have a much higher chance of developing type-2 diabetes than those who eat it every day. They followed up on 29,206 American men, 16 years after they reported their eating behaviours in a 1992 study. Sure there are many other factors that could contribute to people developing this disease, such as lifestyle, body weight and/or BMI and genetics, but researchers took these factors into consideration as well and after eliminating and adjusting these risk factors, the men from the study who skipped breakfast were 21% more likely to develop type-2 diabetes than those who did not skip it. Also, men who ate at 1-2 meals a day were 25% more likely to get the disease than those who ate at least 3 meals a day. Those are some pretty huge numbers.

What I find a bit disturbing about this study is that this is following up on men who reported their eating habits in 1992 and just think about how much worse we North Americans eat now. I bet that there are way more people skipping breakfast today than they did back in 1992. Not only are we always pressed for time, obesity rates have sky-rocketed which also means that more people are dieting now than ever. And what do people who are always on a diet tend to do to try to lose weight? Skip breakfast! If only people knew how important breakfast was for losing and/or maintaining body weight. Time and time and time and time again, reports and studies show us that breakfast is essential for our health and that if we eat breakfast then we will eat less calories throughout the day because we are more satiated from our morning meal.

What all of these studies also show is that people who skip breakfast appear to have higher rates of other negative health behaviours, such as smoking, exercising less, having higher body weight and more frequent alcohol use.  Hmmm. Interesting.

Working with Rachelle and listening to dozens of weight-loss clients talk about their eating habits, I've heard lots of people say that they are never hungry for breakfast and don't eat until lunch. Then as the weeks go by and they are somewhat forced to eat breakfast on the meal plan, they come to realize that they are suddenly hungry and excited about breakfast. Breakfast is so important because it kick-starts our body and our metabolism by getting the enzymes going that are needed to break down fat. Also, the non-breakfast eaters all had the same problem; they were gorging in the evenings because they would be starving by the time they got home from work. Most of their calorie consumption was happening all at once which overloaded the body, caused crazy insulin spikes and made the digestive system work way harder than it needed to so late in the day. How can we expect our poor GI to break all of this down while we sleep? We should at least give it some help by choosing to eat earlier in the day to get it going and keep it going as the day continued by eating on a regular basis and feeding it the nutrients it needs to power the body all day long.

And don't tell me that you don't have time to make yourself breakfast in the morning. Even if you have 2 minutes, you can make a breakfast to eat on the drive to work.
Step 1: Take a tortilla (whole wheat perhaps?).
Step 2: Spread some 100% natural peanut butter on it (go for crunchy for some extra texture).
Step 3: Peel a banana and place it on one end of the tortilla.
Step 4: Roll the tortilla around the banana and roll all the way. Pair it with your coffee, or preferably some milk or milk alternative, and YUM! Breakfast on the go!

So here's my message for you all. Eat breakfast! It may help prevent you from getting type-2 diabetes! Is that not reason enough to take an extra couple minutes in your morning to eat something? I think so.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


There is a moment in every single person's life (and for most of us, each and every day) in which we just want to bust loose. If you're sitting there at your work desk, looking out the window and admiring the modestly warm April sun outside your window, I bet you wish that you were outside doing something, anything, that will get you away from the desk and outside. Or have you ever been walking down the street and just have that urge to run? I don't mean the, "there's someone walking 6 paces behind me and breathing heavier than I am comfortable with and my heart is racing and my palms are sweaty and I need to bolt to save my life," kinda urge to run. I mean the feeling of having pent up energy that you just want to break loose because the sun is so warm and the mood is hitting you just right (or that triple venti latte is making your skin crawl). Am I crazy or does this sensation happen to other people besides me? Sometimes if I just want to get to my destination sooner, the drive to run is nearly overwhelming.

99.99% of us don't run when the moment hits us. Is it the fear of everyone looking and judging us as we flail down the street? Is it knowing that we'd only make it 3 blocks before we get a cramp and buckle over in pain? Maybe it could be as simple as carrying a heavy bag at the moment and running with it would prove to be impossible. Apart from the times when I am out walking the dogs in a giant field somewhere, I think only once in public did I ever give in and just booked it in a full run until I couldn't run anymore. It felt good though. Very satisfying.

This thought process kind of came to me when I was walking to work today and witnessed this little puppy trying with all of his might to run as fast as hit puppy legs could take him. Unfortunately he was on a leash and the owner put out zero effort to run with the little guy or at least attempt to calm him down. But I can't imagine how frustrated he must have been! He would run in one direction, get choked off by the leash, bolt in another direction, get choked again then try another direction again! I mean, as hilarious as this was to watch him try again and again and again to run his little puppy heart out, only to be defeated again and again and again by his confinement to the leash, my heart broke that he was trying to give into his animal instinct to run and burn off his energy and enjoy the sunshine.

I'm sure that most people have witnessed a dog break into a full run for no reason other than to just run and enjoy the wind whipping through its ears. Why don't we give in as easily as them? We have the freedom and a lot of us have the desire, but we chose not to. Just think about how good it would feel to get out there and do it. Little kids do it all the why not adults? Remember that episode of Friends when Phoebe and Rachel went running in the park and Rachel got a lesson on how running should be about feeling good and to not worry about what she looked like? Next time you deny yourself the right of your physical freedom, think of the poor puppy on a leash. Get out there and just run (or at least walk briskly).