7 Ways to Keep your Pants Buttoned up this Thanksgiving

We humans are a funny creature. There’s something we love about stuffing ourselves silly at holiday meals, even if we feel awful after it.

I’ve gone through more than a few holiday feasts on both ends of the spectrum: trying to make race weight for a fall event while sadly munching celery in the corner – to post season binging, where I could hardly roll myself out of my chair after.

I can easily say my best festive meals were balanced. Enough great food to leave me feeling satisfied, without so much I felt stuffed.

1. Drink a ton of water pre-festivity. Not so much you’re going to land in the hospital with hyponatremia… but enough you’re not thirsty and compensating for mild dehydration with food.

2. Try to time a quick and dirty quality workout before dinner. Your body will then be primed to soak up those calories and put them to good use. Plus food tastes so much better after a workout. Doesn’t it?

3. Stick to the veggie plate for appies and the fruit plate for dessert. Think more about “sampling” the other stuff.

4. Eat your meal on a big bed of greens. Not only will they provide you with a huge hit of nutrients and fill you up, but it’s hard to fit a ton of stuff on your plate when lettuce is threatening to push everything else off.

5. Don’t wear sweat pants… or pyjama pants. Wear pants that don’t give. And for god sakes don’t open the button.

6. I also try not to waste empty calories on stuff I don’t love or isn’t special. If someone baked their grandma’s age old pumpkin pie recipe from scratch, hell yeah I’m eating that. If someone brought cookies from Costco however, not so much. Unless you LOVE cookies from Costco, then those empty calories were not in vain.

7. Relax and enjoy yourself. If someone asked you if you think you could loose 100lbs by only eating kale once a month for a whole day, you’d probably roll your eyes. Same goes with indulging. The key is to not tax your digestive system so much you feel awful… while enjoying a day you will never get to see again with family, friends and food 🙂

Wait, does Costco even sell cookies?

Please feel free to leave your own tips and tricks in the comment section or subscribe to future post by clicking the FOLLOW button.

Five Things to Keep in your Fridge for Clean Eating

I was stunned when I first saw the report. Rice: lit up in red on my food sensitivity test. Rice. The only food you can eat on the elimination diet because it’s so universally digestible. Beside it were the words gluten, eggs, dairy and cashews. All the foods.

All the foods that supply the calories in my diet. All the foods I eat before afternoon runs. All the foods I love to eat. Well, now what?

One thing about me is that I easily fall into routine. I could live my whole life eating the exact same thing. I drink out of one coffee mug, prefer one spoon and one bowl. I get that my preschooler wants the pink bowl. I get it.

Thankfully after the initial turmoil of changing my diet entirely, I’ve gotten into a groove. And I’m better for it. Really, all of the foods on my red list are staples in processed food.

In fact, my life is probably a whole lot easier now… since the decision of what to eat never looms over me. I have limited choices since I rely on the pre-made meals in my fridge. It’s the whole “Steve Jobs” turtleneck thing.

Here are the top five things sitting in my fridge right now that have made my cleaning-eating, whole-food powered, plant-strong diet easy peasy:

I have become a huge fan of overnight oats. After crawling off the treadmill in the morning after a crusher workout I can literally just grab a spoon and dig in. Here’s how I make them:

1. Oats: 1/2 cup steel cut oats. They are crunchy, chewy and satisfying.

2. Milk: 1 cup. I use coconut or almond but you can also use dairy or plain yogurt. You could also use protein powder mixed with water.

3. Healthy Fat: I use 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds or 1 tablespoon of hemp seeds and 1 tablespoon of chia. I tried 2 tablespoons of chia one time but it soaked up all the liquid.

4. The Good Stuff: I add 2 tablespoons of sugar-free peanut butter powder and fill the rest with frozen berries. From time to time I also add organic raisins, shredded unsweetened coconut, poppy seeds or whatever I might be craving. If you’re adding nuts or seeds, do so in the morning so they don’t get soft.

I make a bunch of these for the week. You could heat them, but quite frankly, I’m usually too lazy. This is how I roll:

1. Grain or Root Vegetable: Quinoa, amaranth, sorghum or sweet potato. You could also do brown rice or pretty much any other grain or grain-like starch.

2. Vegetables: My go-to’s are broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, beets, celery (all cooked) and raw kale and peppers. I pretty much just put whatever I have on-hand in there.

3. Protein: Organic tofu, chicken breast, black beans… the possibilities are endless.

4. Sauce and Seasoning: I almost always put an organic teriyaki sauce on and then sprinkle my favourite thing ever, nutritional yeast (not to be confused with bakers yeast) all over because it makes it tasty cheesy and delicious.

These are awesome on salads and Buddha bowls. I often make the Tumeric Pumpkin Seeds from Run Fast, Eat Slow and just put them on everything I eat until they’re gone. Other hits are toasted almonds, sesame seeds, walnuts and pecans. They aren’t as healthy as the raw variety but man are they tasty.

I also put Glory Bowl sauce on everything until its used up. It makes everything taste AMAZING.

And of course, almost everything I eat eventually gets covered in nutritional yeast. It’s packed with B-vits and protein and well, yum.

I always have cooked grains on-hand. It makes it super easy to just swap out whole-food grains for whatever the rest of the family is eating like pasta or hamburger buns. If you don’t have them cooked and in the fridge you probably won’t spend the 45 minutes cooking them, so always have them at the ready.

This is another huge time saver. When I get back from the grocery store, I chop everything up and put them into their own containers so healthy plant foods are the quickest, easiest snack in my fridge.

I’d love to hear more tips for going clean! Please feel free to add yours in the comments below 🙂

Striking the right balance as a parent

Striking the right balance as a parent

Parenting today seems very polarized when viewed through the idealized lens of social media. On one hand, you have the Pinterest perfect colour coded craft rooms and coordinated family planning binders. On the other, you have the “messy house, happy kid” movement where each moment of life is absorbed by awesome fun. You have fat shaming and fit shaming. You have obsessively planned pre-k homeschool modules and you have articles that suggest the same hyper-attentive parenting practices cause narcissism.

It’s almost dizzying. And it makes me tired.

Until you realize that one thing is missing in every one of these scenarios. Balance.

And what really could be better for kids than a balanced mommy and a balanced home? I know I’ve had days where my life has swung out of balance… and it feels terrible. Maybe it’s bedtime and the house is a mess, maybe we didn’t even read one book, or maybe (cringe) I missed my workout. It feels like I’m off my axis. Slipping.

I know it too when my life is in balance. For me, that doesn’t mean a spotless house, a day full of planned and perfectly executed preschool activities or a day full of workouts. It means that I’ve contributed a bit to each area in my life that keeps me healthy and happy. It’s a peaceful feeling.

Of course, balance is different for everyone. If they are truly happy in a messy house, they are probably better parents for it. If putting in an hour to finish knitting a scarf is what keeps them in balance, get the needles out.

Mothers spend more time now with their children than they did in the 70s – when most women didn’t work outside the home. I think that’s a good thing. But I also think it’s ok to leave kids to their own devices every now and again to make sure the house is in order or get some exercise.

I know, it’s not particularly glamorous and it’s hard to post a picture of perfectly balanced mediocracy on your Pinterest board or Facebook wall… but it’s what I strive for. And I’m ok with that.

Everyone needs to put the environment in the forefront.

Everyone needs to put the environment in the forefront.

Again… another petition on my Facebook feed. It’s a worthy cause. Obviously worthy, like putting a stop to factory farming or saving the ocean. Not any sort of two-sides-to-the-coin business. Everyone with a conscious agrees. No one would vote for dumping oil tankers in the sea or chaining pigs to the floor so they can’t move.

I feel bad skipping over it but I also feel overwhelmed and annoyed by its very presence there.

Shouldn’t it be somebodies job to make reasonable decisions like this on our behalf and go about mobilizing people to make our world a better place?

Oh wait. It is.

Yesterday the Liberals won a majority in BC. I have nothing against the Liberals… outside of Christy Clarke being pretty clearly anti-environment. Which I am against (although again this seems like a pretty rational dislike?).

I wonder how anyone could be anti-environment.

Seriously, don’t you think it’s about time we do something about this insanely huge problem loaning over our heads? You know, the end of days?

The restaurant is on fire and we are here disputing how much the staff should be paid and rearranging furniture.

As a parent, this really concerns me. The one thing I really want for my child is a future. Any kind of future. A future of any kind. And for that to happen, we need to make some big changes now.

Forget the pipeline. Forget it. Even if it wasn’t environmentally disastrous, we need to put all of our resources into fixing what we broke.

The entire planet.

Now we are here deciding whether we should rewire the gas lines in a burning kitchen. No. For peat’s sake, the answer is no. Ok, it might not make things that much worse, but probably better to grab a pot of water and get to work. I don’t care what political party you come from.

I guess I just feel that too much of these issues are pushed along through the grassroots. They go nowhere, but good, concerned people are pushing so hard because it’s their only recourse. I’d like to see the people who should and can actually do something take charge.

They’ve got to.

Slavery in Canada?

Slavery in Canada?

I think after what happened in that factory in Bangladesh (there are now more than 1,100 dead), we are all taking a look at the way our consumption choices directly affect those who make that consumption possible. And for the first time in the history of Canada, those exiting the workforce will outnumber those entering it. So we are obviously going to have to rely on countries with larger populations to meet our ravenous consumer needs.

That’s a problem. Obviously. Historically we have relied on increasing immigration for skilled workers as the solution to that problem – and we have never been consuming as ravenously as now.

Increasing immigration for skilled workers worked. As a bonus, it also added to the unique cultural fabric that our fine country is woven from.

The Harper government has found us a new solution though.

Skilled workers have seen a drop in VISAs granted to them by 20%. The number of refugees permitted permanent residency has seen a drop of 25%.

So whose been picking our fruit?

Temporary foreign workers. 30% more of them. Workers and people that have little rights living in Canada. Doing our dirty work. Thanks again Harper for lowering the Canadian standard.

TFWs (temporary foreign workers) are not usually temporary as the name suggests. They often come for eight months out of the year and repeat the trek four months later. They are here two-thirds of their lives. Sounds as if they are living in Canada to me.

Two-thirds of their lives in a country they have little rights in – without their families. In fact, family class immigration has declined by 15%. Quotas for spouses and children are down by 4,000 a year. There’s a moratorium on bringing your parents or grandparents over. And that’s for immigrants. Forget brining any of your family with you if you’re a TFW. That’s part of the criteria. They want workers who are leaving families back home that they will spend every day longing for. That way they know they’ll be easy to ship home at the end of the contract.

But where does that leave us? With the multicultural fabric that our society is woven from severely frayed. Complaints about TFWs usually involve drinking and other bachelor behaviour. I don’t know about you but I might be looking for the bottom of the bucket if I wasn’t able to go home to my family at the end of the day… for eight months of the year.

Shortages are often more about poor wages and working conditions than about any real worker shortage. Plugging the most desperate and vulnerable people into these jobs, jobs that are also incidentally the most dangerous, is not the answer to a sector that needs restructuring.

Workers are tied to at times abusive bosses. They are forced to hide sickness and injury. We simply don’t deal with their problems. We send them home. In fact, BC is the only province that restricts TFW from accessing basic medical care. Citizens can change jobs and apply for MSP… unlike temporary foreign workers. A frightening parody to modern day slavery if there ever was one.

They often work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week with no overtime pay. They are untrained and health and safety measures are bypassed.

There is no mandatory monitoring process for the program. You check yes or no on the application, and that check mark matters little in the decision process.

Ironically, they pay fully into services for social protection but as of recent, are ineligible for even the most basic benefits like EI, parental, maternal and compassionate benefits.

As a recap: desperate people with little training and no medical care are working the farms where your food comes from. They get hit with pesticides and loose an eye, they get sent home half-sighted.

Purewal, a blueberry farm that is part of the TFW program, seems particularly heartless. Their records include a death, numerous injuries and countless violations.

In 2005, they were found housing 50 people with hardly enough water for two people to shower at the same time, no heat, 6 beds to a room, 1 washing machine, no dryer or clothes line, no indoor cooking facilities and only one working toilet.

Live in nannies have it not much better. Even with the bump in minimum wage to $10/hr, they often get paid for 40 hours but work around the clock. They too are easily trapped in abusive situations as their work contracts are also tied into specific bosses. If they speak up, they go home. Live in nannies have the special carrot that is a chance at citizenship after working two years and stating four. But even those carrots are disintegrating under Harper. There are 50% less residencies available in the live in nanny program.

It has always seemed odd to me that Filipino mothers leave their children to raise Canadian kids, while the moms of those kids go to work. Surely, there must be a better way. I am sure this works great for some families… but I can imagine that given the conditions this is not always the ideal situations for families or their nannies. It is, at it’s core, a system that opens itself up to the potential for abuse and mistreatment to go unchecked.

I hate to end it like this. I do. But there is no one answer here. I do know that it must start with a bit of human decency. And we can go from there.

Hungry for Change movie review

Hungry for Change Movie Review

I watched this film the other night as part of the free online screening event. The film can be viewed until March 31st, 2013 for free by clicking on the photo.

Here’s what I thought…

1. THE MESSAGE made this movie well worth my time. Diets don’t work. I don’t need to be sold on that… but somehow, I never considered why that is. I have always said healthy eating is about adding and replacing, not about eliminating. I am sure I am not alone in the Ah-Ha moment provoked by the film’s statement, “I want it but I can’t have it” being the diet mentality and, “I have it but I don’t want it” being the healthy mindset. This has been the primary shift in my own journey from dieting years ago to healthy eating now, even if I couldn’t identify it.

That and the fact that people don’t even realize that there are any other options outside of the SAD (standard American diet) or SAD low calorie diet, which both contribute to illness via malnutrition.

2. PROCESSED FOOD (coupled with a sedentary lifestyle) is undeniably the main culprit in today’s obesity crisis. I have never seen, nor can I imagine, a person being capable of getting to the point of obesity eating food that came from the ground.

They mention that the standard process for converting your average slender lab mouse into a chubby tubby is nothing more than adding a sprinkle of MSG to their diet. From my research, it appears that an endocrine destabilizer and a hefty amount of food are the standard protocols to fatten up mice. However, I did find research that suggested adding MSG to the regular diet of mice made them fatter than your average American. So, although I have zero experience getting lab rats to beef up, I am not sure that I believe that the standard protocol is to add MSG to their diet… even if the point is still valid.

I do wish that they touched on the role of enzymes for complete digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Conversely, they should have touched on the role of preservatives and their role in disabling enzymes even if ingested in separate foods (i.e. putting processed salad dressing on salad). Of course, this is the job of preservatives… great at preserving foods but very disruptive to actually digesting them. The film seems to support a raw diet… touching a little on raw milk and the dangers associated with BBQ’d meat (which really needed no academic support) so they could have went one little step forward.

They also went after the carcinogenic chemicals that are added to fake food to make them taste like real food. The ones that don’t require a parking spot on the label. McDonalds fries have a lot more ingredients than oil, potatoes and salt. Like hundreds more.

A few points bugged me though. Aspartame and caffeine make your brain cells explode? Nothing about the role of excitotoxins. No rational explanation. The film just went on. Mercola could have explained it better (and he does on the last link of this page).

The whole sugar is as bad as heroine line is well, yikes. Good god, have these people ever seen a heroine addict I wonder. Maybe they should check out the riff-raff at Dairy Queen and then have a wander down Vancouver’s Lower East Side. See? Different. Much different. The comparison is there. Both are highly refined and addictive white chemicals from an otherwise fairly benign source. Sure, it’s no apples to oranges… but it’s certainly kumquats to oranges. I’m sad they dropped the ball on an otherwise great point with such a ludicrous statement.

3. JUICING is processing people. Aren’t we talking about eating, whole, unprocessed foods in their natural state? Ok, it’s minimally processed food and an improvement on the SAD. It’s a definite improvement over juice sold at the market. But why remove the fibre from a perfect food (unless you are ill, pregnant, or otherwise have trouble digesting it). For me, the Vitamix is a much better way to make fruits and vegetables into liquids (outside of wheat grass since you should not be ingesting the fibre… in this case a masticating juicer is best.) Maybe Vitamix wasn’t willing to shell out the financial support that Juice Master was. Although there is plenty of research that shows that chewing food is important for complete digestion… so why not encourage people to eat plant based natural foods. Maybe give them some resources. So much for taking the high road and being able to finger wag at corporate America’s control over the food industry. Juice Master.

4. DETOXING is a diet. It’s short term. Most people see it as a quick and intense weight loss or quick road to health and wellness strategy. And it has been pretty much shown as unnecessary – your food should be detoxing you. There may be spiritual or personal reasons to do it not addressed in the scope of this film. Fine. Leafy greens and gelatinous seeds are good for you. Awesome. Detoxifying. Great. Eat them every day.

5. CHEESY side story. She’s not even fat. I do love how her hair miraculously gets curly and her house suddenly gets more windows when she starts juicing. Talk about promotion Juice Master Jason. Oh and the self promo of her watching the video on a tablet midway. Yeah, we’re already watching the movie. Maybe add that to the trailer? I also like how they are listing the virtues of love and social networks for the entire movie but as the film closes the main character goes beyond it. Apparently pony tail elastics and love are unnecessary as soon as juicing comes into your life. I would have liked to see her buck up and talk to the guy. Maybe start jogging.

Overall though, a great movie… if not for a few flaws. The central message was awesome and they had some new ways of presenting critical information. This is a particularly important film for those who cannot see beyond the SAD.



Eating, Naturally.

Eating, Naturally.

Of all things, I want to raise a happy child who becomes a happy adult. Sounds simple. Of course, it isn’t.

Nobody knows what really creates happiness. All we know is that it’s a complex interaction between various things.

And the recipe is different for everyone.

I can tell you what doesn’t bring you closer to it. Easy sailing.

In the good old days, you’d have to forage for every bit of food, and work for every tool you had. It must have been some satisfaction to have killed an antelope or carved an arrowhead out of rock. True appreciation. These days we have so much and enjoy so little.

I know where conventional meat comes from for instance, so I don’t eat it. Many consumers are unaware or have suppressed their natural horrors at what we as a society do to animals. I don’t take meat for granted.

I did realize over the weekend at a workshop at Jivala Culinary Institute however, that I disrespect the other foods in my plant based diet. We probably all do.

How many times have I polished off nearly an entire pineapple half in one sitting? That pineapple took 2-3 years to grow. And I ate it over two snacks exchanging emails in front of my laptop. Not only is that hard on the digestive system, but it’s hardly necessary. Your body can only use so many micronutrients at one time. And as for enjoyment, well, the poor pineapple died for a full tummy.

I was also introduced to the philosophy that nature provides best in the ideal amounts. Leafy greens would be most easy to grow and come by (which can be confirmed by anyone who has ever planted them in a garden), therefore should have a central role in the diet. Fruits, grains, legumes and meat would be far more difficult and energy depleting to obtain… therefore would be eaten less frequently. Someone living off the land would be more likely to plant seeds than eat them, so they share a similar spot on the natural plate. It’s then really easy to see that although most natural foods are healthy, eating them in the portions that we are intended to process them in is easily as important.

Dangerous health foods

Dangerous Health Foods

It was another one of those moments – the ones that I have had too often lately. You got me again processed food industry. No, I was not hit hard by the whole “nutella… not a wholesome breakfast choice?… really?” thing. No, no. It wasn’t the usual suspects: fat free peanut butter, microwave popcorn or sugar free food. It was almond milk. I know… NOT almond milk. I drink the stuff by the truck load. I feed it to Ama before bed. When people think processed food, they often think really processed. But in all truth, anything that is not raw is processed… even boiled potatoes. The big question is… do you know what every ingredient on the list is? That sad and scary reality is that even if you can pronounce it, it may still do more harm to you than good. Even if it’s a natural food. Like a seaweed derivative… in something as saintly as almond milk. Or it may not even be listed. Here are the top five offenders in my book. Feel free to add in your own surprise unhealth super foods in the comments!

5. Soy foods. This should come as no surprise to anyone up on nutrition. Those processed weenies are no better than the real thing – they have to put a lot of sodium and various chemicals to make them taste authentically like ground anus. Soy is also best consumed sprouted and fermented. I don’t think the phytoestrogens mean that one should never consume soy products. But one should consume them in moderation. And since soy is everywhere, that means avoiding it. Studies have shown that two glasses of soy milk a day for a month have a significant effect on hormones. Tofu every other week at dinner? OK. But just think of the effect of the tofu crazy on people’s systems… soy milk on soy cereal for breakfast, soy deli meat on soy cheese and soy chips for lunch, soy ground round and soy dessert for dinner. Egads. When you do eat soy, also make sure it’s organic… since it’s one of the most prominent GMO crops.

4. Protein bars and meal replacements. Your meal replacements should still be food. Not all protein bars are an absolute right off. I eat Genki (lentil based), Lara (date and nut based) and Simply Bars (high protein low sugar no articificial sweeteners) when pressed for time. Which since I had Ama, is daily. But these are food, made from food. Take Body for LIfe bars. We have all been told the first five ingredients are the most important. In BFL bars these are soy protein, whey protein, high fructose corn syrup (third ingredient!), vegetable oil, and sugar. Following those five ingredients are another 36 junk ingredients and then… sucralose (artiificial sweetener) for good measure. I guess to make sure there is absolutely nothing redeemable about these hunks of yuck. There are 210 calories in this bar, 60 calories that come from protein, 63 calories that come from fat and 72 calories that come from sugar. And yet they felt they still needed to add sucralose? I guess you need a lot of sugar to cover the taste of a junky chemical mashup. Oh right, and only 1 gram of fiber. Of course they broke open a multi-vitamin and popped that in so it looks like a nutritious product. Sounds like, Body for Death or Disease might be a better name. The point here is that you should look into what is in your preferred supplemental nutrition. It may not be something you want in your body.

3. Cereal. Not all cereal is awful. But most of it is… and all of it is processed. Special K is on my hit list… with 0 grams of fiber – it’s made from ground white rice and sugar. You are starting your day off on an insulin roller coaster ride. You should have more than 5 grams of fiber and less than 8 grams of sugar per serving. Of course, best if that sugar can be contained in dried (not sugar coated) fruit. I like Nature’s Path spelt flakes. But again, they follow into my processed food allotment. The better cereal substitute is always soaked steel cut oats (you can even eat it cold).

2. Decaf. When pregnant, I followed my doctor’s advice diligently on drinking decaf instead of regular. Only near term did I find out that the solvent typically used in the process of decaffeination was potentially harmful, ethyl acetate. The jury is still out on this chemical but I’d say have a look into it yourself. Of course, best to drink Swiss Water or naturally decaffeinated if you are avoiding chemicals. Ethyl Acetate is found naturally in fruit but of course, manufacturing is always cheaper than extraction… so we now reproduce it. On a side note, in a study at Harvard decaf was shown to increase the blood lipids responsible for heart disease.

1. Almond milk, coconut milk, flax milk, soy milk and hemp milk. Collectively known as non-dairy milk (although this label makes me think of non-dairy creamer which raises the yuck-not-meant-for-consumption flag), a substance called Carrageenan is often used as a thickener. And I knew it was. But I thought it was seaweed. Apparently as it degrades in processed food products, it causes a potent inflammatory response. This is particularly important for people with conditions made worse with inflammation. But also since many of the foods we (OK I, I love my almond milk) consume often contain this little nasty. I realized that the type of almond milk that I was currently consuming (Silk) had none. Blue Diamond, the type I had switched from since Silk makes such a lovely foamy latte, contains it. Good bye Blue Diamond hello Silk. Maybe if we all become more aware of what’s in our food, and say goodbye a little more, companies will start looking more closely at what they’re putting in their food too. I just wish it was the other way around!

My new dietary (life) approach

My new dietary (life) approach

My husband has started a blog about my foray into a plant-based diet and how it has affected him. It’s a funny outlook from someone who has been raised to feel that meat is the ultimate food. With my new dietary outlook, he has also taken an interest in different nutrition plans. He came home yesterday laughing about the Paleo Zone diet. You know, just like how our caveman ancestors balanced their macronutrient intake to be a perfect 30/30/40 ratio in the Paleolithic era. Of course, being a Crossfitter and having lots of Crossfitter friends who are doing either Paleo or Paleo Zone, I didn’t think much of it. You know, Zone crossed with Paleo makes Paleo Zone. It was hilarious to me to see it from the eyes of my bag of bagels for lunch husband.

I took Ama to the doctor yesterday for her routine check-up. The doctor asked about food, and I said she eats well but that I supplement with DHA and Vitamin D just to be sure. He noted that as long as she eats lots of leafy greens and nuts, she should be fine for even calcium, iron, calories and healthy fats. He had just read a study where “vegan” kids only required B12 supplementation, and were found to be much healthier than their “non-vegan” counterparts… with larger head circumferences. He reiterated what a vegan was several times. I told him I was on a plant-based diet so I knew the term. I don’t use it though. I am not a vegan. It’s too strong a term for me. It’s a term that invited scrutiny of everything you are eating and everything you are not eating.

I started swinging toward a plant-based diet after sitting in on a session at the Canfitpro Vancouver conference. It was a lecture promoting raw food veganism and I left inspired to give it a go. Not because the presenter, Scott Josephson, was well informed and infectiously passionate about eating raw food. Which he was. He left an important message with me: that it isn’t about diving into a new lifestyle to fit the mold even if that mold doesn’t fit you, it’s about making a healthier you.

He pointed out that you don’t have to eat only raw foods, and that you don’t have to eat only vegan foods. You can just eat more of these foods. And in eating less of these foods, you make a huge impact on the lives of animals, the environment and yourself. I didn’t have to stop eating honey sourced from the interior. I didn’t have to stop wearing silk or throw out all the stuff in my kitchen that had animal derivatives. In fact, he suggested going in slowly. It’s about making positive lifestyle changes that work for you, feeling their wonderful effects, and naturally doing more.

I have started sprouting, dehydrator cooking, making my own coconut yogurt and mostly eliminated animal products in favour of vegetable foods. I feel good. Food digests well, I never feel overly full but always satisfied. I feel like I am making a positive contribution to the world of food choices. Without buying expensive organic grass fed beef, I can buy a lot more non-GMO organic vegetables.

But the take home, is that that’s what feels good to me. It’s all about what feels good to you. Label or no label.

Unusual tips to take the stress out of the holidays

Holiday Tips

The holiday season doesn’t have to be stressful; in fact, it shouldn’t. Follow these tips to find more enjoyment, and less stress, in your season.

1. Do your shopping and wrapping early. Make sure each gift is tagged and organized according to where and when the gift will be given. The earlier the better – but if you don’t have it done yet, aim to have it done for Friday.

2. Spend one day super cleaning your house and decorating, and another super undoing and cleaning. Make sure to schedule it in ink and have fun. The decoration day is easy to make festive. The take down day requires work… pizza and movie night to cap it off? Make space for new stuff?

3. Think easy and healthy entertaining. Whole grain crackers and hummus for an appetizer, a lightly dressed bagged spinach salad, a one dish meal with lean meat and veggies baked in the oven or slow cooker, and a healthy dessert do the trick just fine. Try not to cut corners by purchasing dessert. They are normally laden with heart destroying fat and sugar. A fruit crumble is so easy and you can cut the sugar way back and use a healthy oil. You can even make some ahead and freeze them.

4. Do not offer to bring something to every party. Sometimes, you just have to enjoy!

5. Don’t over indulge. The holidays cover a very large span of time and if you do, you will likely end up feeling heavy, sluggish and without the energy you need to enjoy them. There is no such thing as over-enjoying. A big piece of cake is no more tasty than a sliver, but it will make you feel terrible. No enjoyment there.

6. Make time for your fitness! Now is not normally the time for big goals but make at least one SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) to keep you going. You can probably find a Christmas or New Year’s Day 5k in your area. These events work well since running is often the easiest way to maintain your fitness when you have no time for the gym. Experienced runners can also focus in on their speed and keep their calorie burn and fitness up with shorter, faster, interval based workouts when they can’t do the big mileage.

7. Every outing doesn’t have to be food related. Make plans with friends and family to do a Christmas-light tour or go tobogganing. The fresh air, fun and exercise might make for long lasting memories and give you a chance to escape the holiday stresses.