My name is Lisa Tsakos, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, corporate speaker and author. This blog provides professional advice from a nutrition and weight loss expert (me!) about corporate and family health. Here you'll find recipes and articles that address work-related challenges like eating on-the-go and maximizing your productivity with the right foods. You'll also find out about how you can help your children develop strong immune systems and healthy bodies. As a nutrition instructor, I often found myself thinking, "When I have kids, this is how I will feed them." With two toddlers, I have the opportunity to practice what I have been preaching and to try out my theories. So far, they seem to be working! Follow me on my journey and also on Twitter @NuVitalityHW.

16 Dec 2014

Colourful Christmas Salad Recipe

Wow, the holidays are here already! Only a few short days left to shop for gifts, decorate and organize the holiday menu, but the cookies, chocolate and Starbucks Peppermint Mocha Latte's (350 calories in a Tall) have been in full view for weeks. All these little extras top up our weight by about 6 pounds come January! (READ MORE: 10 Steps to Healthy Holidays)

If you're like me, you're doing double time at the gym and building your menus around veggies and salads, so I couldn't help but laugh when I read this post from BuzzFeed Life on a friends Facebook page, The 8 Soul-Crushing Stages of Eating a Salad for Lunch

That's pretty much how I feel when eating a restaurant salad, because nothing beats a beautiful homemade salad, especially this one. This is my favourite holiday salad - but with a few minor modifications, it's a year 'round staple at my dinner table.

You will need:
1 5 oz. package of arugula leaves
1/2 pomegranate
1/2 package baby tomatoes, washed and halved
1 small avocado
2-3 oz. blue cheese
2 oz. aged cheddar cheese (white), grated (optional)
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Dressing: (prepare more or less according to taste)
Whisk together:
2 tbsp. extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. maple syrup

Wash and dry the arugula and place in a large bowl. 

Cut the avocado into cubes, and peel the pomegranate, discarding the peel and pith. Add these, along with the tomatoes to the salad and mix well. 

Drizzle with dressing and toss until salad is well-coated. Place the salad in a pretty bowl. 

Grate the cheddar (if you're including it) over the salad, sprinkle the sliced almonds over top and serve.

This green & red salad even looks like Christmas! Let's call the arugula the ivy, and the pomegranate seeds and tomatoes resemble berries and ornaments. The white cheddar - well that's snow, of course! 

If you don't like the dressing, feel free to use another one (even ranch would go nicely on this combo).

Happy holidays everyone, and wishing you many blessings in the New Year!

31 Oct 2014

Happy Halloween!

This Halloween, the kids and I are in earthly limbo.

A couple of months ago we decided to move from Toronto to Halifax for a much needed break from big city life. Moving across the country into a new life is pretty scary, so while some work is being done on our new home, we’re waiting out the renos in a familiar place – Nana’s house in Ottawa. Queen Elsa and my adorable ferocious little lion deserve a fun Halloween before journeying to the mysterious place called Halifax they’ve been hearing so much about. 
To kick off the day’s festivities and while the kids got ready, we enjoyed some pre-trick or treat treats. I have to admit, making them was just as much fun as eating them! 

First the salty: 
Gluten-free rice crackers topped with hummus. The evil eyes were made by slicing black olives. Hummus' fiber and protein help balance blood sugar levels before little fingers begin peeling back chocolate bar wrappers. 

Then the sweet:
White chocolate dipped strawberries. I found this 'Strawberry Ghosts' recipe on celiac.com.
Instead of the shortening the recipe called for, I substituted coconut oil. And after struggling to make the eyes and mouth with chocolate chips, sliced blueberries and sliced black grapes, I settled for raisins. They were much easier to manage and they looked great.

The family favourite? Chocolate. Obviously.

We also made scary eyeballs with black grapes.
What are you looking at?
I had already begun stocking up on Halloween treats for our neighbourhood trick or treaters when we decided to move. Costco has some wickedly healthy snacks that I would have been proud to hand out. One of my all-time favourite snacks, Snapea Crisps, comes in individually wrapped packs. Florida Naturals dried fruit snacks are an awesome alternative to gummy bears or artificially coloured and flavoured fruity snacks. For more healthy snack ideas, have a look at last year's Halloween blog.  

Pumpkin carving is serious business in my family.
Unfortunately, the neighbourhood squirrels had their way with our pumpkin. Perhaps the squirrels in Halifax won't be as hungry. 

Have a happy & safe Halloween!

6 Aug 2014

Is the Gluten-Free Diet Right for Me?

"Isn't whole wheat supposed to be healthy?" 

This is a question I'm asked at almost every seminar. For years, many of my recommendations have centered around a fiber-rich diet (nicknamed "the brown diet" by one of my clients). Countless studies have suggested that whole grains are an important component to a healthy diet and may prevent chronic health conditions. So why are many of us now avoiding whole grains altogether? 

That's a loaded question, and researchers are scrambling to find the answer.

'Gluten free' is everywhere - at grocery stores, restaurants and in the chatter around the water cooler. The gluten-free market is the most profitable in history, and food manufacturers are working to bring more, better tasting GF products into your home. Should it be avoided by everyone? That's a good question. Some say that only those with celiac disease need strictly avoid gluten, but with the rise of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, my recommendation nowadays is that everyone reduce or eliminate gluten from their diet as a preventative measure. The symptoms of gluten intolerance are not necessarily related to digestion; in fact, most of the improvements people have reported to me relate to inflammation and mood. 

Check out the list below to help you determine whether or not a gluten-free diet is something you should consider.

READ MORE: Beyond Wheat: Gluten-Free Living

If you choose to eliminate gluten and fiber-rich grains from your diet, be sure to include other fiber sources, especially vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts and seeds. Some other options include ground flaxseed, chia (commercially sold as Salba™) and psyllium husks or hulls.

Check all that apply:  

o   I feel tired after eating bread, pasta or other starchy foods.

o   I experience bloating, gas, cramping and/or diarrhea after eating certain foods such as bread and pasta.

o   I have been diagnosed with IBS.

o   I have acid reflux.

o   I have osteoporosis.

o   Starchy foods should promote healthy bowel movements, but they make me constipated.

o   I have unexplained aches and pains.

o   I suffer from brain fog or bouts of fatigue.

o   I have angry outbursts or cannot control my temper sometimes.

o   I have eczema or psoriasis, dandruff, or other types of skin rashes.

o   I suffer from regular headaches or migraines.

Awareness about gluten intolerance and celiac disease is sweeping the world.

Gluten-related problems are becoming a major public health issue. Although the cause is unknown, celiac disease, an auto-immune disorder in which the sufferers cannot properly digest gluten, is four times more common now than 60 years ago and affects about one in 100 people.

In celiac disease, nutrients pass through the damaged small intestine unabsorbed, leading to devastating health and digestive problems. Undiagnosed or untreated celiac disease can quadruple the risk of death.

Symptoms vary from person to person and can often mimic other bowel disorders. They may include severe gas, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, distension, bloating, steatorrhea (fatty stools), weakness, anemia, depression, osteoporosis, bone or joint pain, infertility, or blistering, itchy skin.

However, it isn’t only those with celiac disease that should avoid gluten. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), a relatively new diagnosis, may afflict as many as 6% of the population worldwide. NCGS has been coined to describe those who cannot tolerate gluten and experience symptoms similar to those of celiac disease, but who do not have the antibodies and intestinal damage as seen in celiac disease.

The symptoms include digestive problems like bloating, gas and diarrhea following the ingestion of gluten and may include headaches, brain fog, joint pain, mood swings, angry outbursts and more.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is part of the tough, elastic protein found in wheat, rye, barley, oats, and many other grains. It gives bread and baked goods a spongy and elastic texture.

Gluten can be found in breads, cakes, pastries, cookies, biscuits, crackers, battered foods, cereals, snack foods, pastas and pizza. Because gluten is also used as a thickener and filler, it is found in soups, gravies, sauces, processed meats, pickles, sweets, instant pudding and even in some brands of chocolate! Read food labels carefully. Gluten can be found where you least expect it!

The hallmark symptom of gluten intolerance is bloating after eating a starch or grain. For many of us, starch is a regular part of the day, beginning with toast or cereal for breakfast. Should you notice that your belly is flat upon awakening but becomes bloated immediately after eating a starchy food, suspect gluten. An indicator of more advanced gluten intolerance is a developing sensitivity to everyday chemicals such as perfumes and paint fumes.

A strict gluten-free diet has proven helpful to patients who are fortunate enough to recognize the symptoms.

With gluten-related problems, the 80/20 rule does not apply. An article published in 2001 suggests that for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity eating gluten just once a month increased the relative risk of death by 600%.

If you suspect gluten sensitivity, a simple blood test administered by your doctor will confirm your suspicion. 

This is an excerpt from The Kitchen Clean-Up (3-week Program) developed for Health Systems Group in 2014. For more information or to implement this type of program at your organization, contact me! (416) 821-2759.

1 Jul 2014

Teaching kids about food from farm to table

In the spirit of the 2014 strawberry season, I feel inspired to re-publish this - one of my favourite posts: 

At an innocent young age, my husband was asked where milk comes from. He replied, "the store." 

As a child, my father lived in a tiny Greek village. His family raised goats, from which they drank fresh goat milk and made cheese and butter. I grew up hearing stories about his natural upbringing (trying to imagine life without indoor plumbing and electricity) and have been lucky enough to visit his village to see for myself the fig tree that he and his siblings slept in and the mountain springs from which they filled buckets of water daily. Feeding one's family was hard work (especially when you have 9 kids!). My father has never lost his appreciation for the effort it takes to create a loaf of bread and to this day, has a hard time wasting food.

Living in a big city where food is plentiful and taken for granted, it's important to consider how our food got to the table. It's a priority in our family. After all, if we are to produce future generations of health- and environmentally-conscious people, our kids must learn about the origins of their food.

Since Olivia and Ben were born, they've made weekly visits to a little farm where they can nuzzle friendly goats and have staring contents with cows and sheep. They have watched goats and cows being milked, newborn piglets grow into full-sized pigs, and unlike many adults, they know the difference between a lamb and a sheep! 

In the summer, Olivia loves to explore my dad's enormous vegetable garden and he teaches her about every plant and herb (and of course, she wants to taste everything!). Yesterday we took the kids strawberry picking on an organic farm. Olivia got right into it, intent on collecting enough perfect strawberries to fill her yellow Easter basket. Because it was an organic farm, I wasn't concerned about her tasting the unwashed strawberries (in fact, strawberries don't have to be washed unless there is dirt on them. I would never consider not washing strawberries that were not organic!). 

Today we ate organic yogurt topped with fresh strawberries, made strawberry smoothies, strawberry-banana popsicles, froze bags and bags (and more bags) for muffins and post-strawberry season smoothies, and shared as many as we could with our neighbours. Organic strawberries begin to soften the minute they're picked. No time to lose! 

Tomorrow, we'll try this recipe for Greek Yogurt Popsicles that I found on Liberte's website.

Greek Yogurt Popsicles
3 cups 2% Greek yogurt 
¾ cups raw honey 
1 ½ cups fresh strawberries

Stir the ingredients together, pour into BPA-free popsicle molds, freeze, and enjoy! Makes 6 popsicles.

I'll let you know how they turn out!

16 Jun 2014

Radio MD Interview

Tune in to RadioMD for an interview with me this Wednesday, June 18 at 12:10 p.m. EST.

Join me and hosts Andrea Donsky & Lisa Davis to discuss healthy eating strategies for people on-the-go. We'll talk about some of the biggest diet pitfalls busy employees encounter and share ideas for planning ahead and healthier fast food options.

For more information, visit http://radiomd.com/show/naturally-savvy 

Kitchen Cure Workshop

Much can be learned from traditional diets, and Ayurvedic medicine, which dates back 5,000 years, has mastered the art of using herbs and spices to enhance both the taste of food and our health. 

I've always wanted to learn how adding specific herbs and spices to food can prevent bloating, gas, fermentation, and how it can improve digestion. Imagine enjoying a glorious bean or cauliflower dish without the gassy aftermath!

My friend and colleague, Nahid Ameen, Ayurvedic expert and holistic nutritionist, is hosting a 'Kitchen Cure' workshop next Monday, June 23 in Toronto. Join me to learn about how ingredients that are in your kitchen right now can improve your health, reduce pain, help you cope with stress and more! 

Check out this link for all the details:

Hope to see you there!

4 Jun 2014

There is Still Time to Get Fit for Summer

Three months ago, I told myself I had plenty of time to get in better shape for summer. So, I hit the gym. Hard.  Then work got busier, then overwhelming, and here we are on June 4, in worse shape than I was in March. Are you in the same boat? Don't dispair! I pulled this one out of the archives for us. Below are a few tips for losing a few pounds safely and fast.  

Whether you like it or not, the hot summer days are just around the corner. If those last few pounds aren’t coming off fast enough, before you convince yourself that you won’t mind wearing long pants all summer, try these effective weight loss and fitness techniques. They’ll help you get into tip top shape fast!

Eat dinner early:  Your body needs time to digest a meal, and let’s face it, after dinner most of us are watching television or reading - not burning up calories in a gym or on the soccer field. Eat most of your calories early in the day (that’s when you need them and the nutrients they provide) and the fewest calories at dinner. Keep dinner simple: a combo of protein (1/3 of your plate) and loads of veggies and salad (2/3 or more of your plate). If you’re longing for a late night bite, snack on plain yogurt or vegetables and bean dip.

Zig zag your calories:  A technique used by athletes, the idea behind this method is to keep your metabolism on its toes. When you’ve eaten approximately the same number of calories for a while, metabolism naturally slows down a little – or a lot if you’ve been eating fewer calories than your body needs to maintain itself. First, determine the minimum number of calories your body needs each day by multiplying your current weight by 10 (for example, if you weigh 185 pounds, multiplied by 10 amounts to 1,850 calories each day). Eat this many calories (or slightly less) from Monday to Friday, but splurge on Saturday and Sunday, eating about 300 or more extra calories. This helps to reset your metabolism and will actually burn more calories over time. Overindulging on calorie-dense healthy foods, such as avocado, salmon, and extra nuts in a trail mix will serve your body better than a slice of New York Cheesecake.

Lose the bread:  Everyone loves bread, but we can all live without it. With the exception of good quality, fiber-rich breads, a slice of toast provides little more than carbs and yeast, both of which can promote an imbalance of intestinal microflora leading to sugar cravings and yeast infections. Let’s not forget gluten, the main source of which is wheat. If you can’t do without, at least buy gluten- or yeast-free bread, and a ‘whole grain’ should always be listed as the first ingredient. 

Sweat:  Sweating remains one of the most effective ways to lose weight and detoxify the body through the skin at the same time. Cardiovascular exercise is beneficial since your heart and muscles are being conditioned while you burn calories. Engage in activities that use large muscles, such as jogging, running or swimming. Put on a sweat suit and an upbeat song on your MP3 player and dance around while cleaning your house. Hot yoga, a sauna, or steam room will help, too. Please remember to drink water throughout these activities to avoid dehydration.

 Use a stability ball:  Proven to be more effective than floor or mat exercises, a stability ball will help you achieve a six-pack in time for swimsuit season. Abs are small muscles and can be worked regularly, so don’t be afraid to do some crunches every day. To get a washboard tummy even faster, reduce some of your starchy carbs, especially in the evening.

Green tea:  The fat-burning benefits of green tea have been well-researched and proven. The most current research suggests that both caffeine and EGCG are needed to achieve green tea’s maximum fat-burning effect. Luckily, both are present in brewed green tea, so enjoy a polyphenol-rich cup daily. 

Since getting to the gym has been a challenge lately, nature has become my treadmill. A 20-30 minute run outside saves the 40 minute trip to and from the gym, and I keep 10 pound weights in my bedroom to sneak in a few more exercises while choosing what to wear or tidying up my room. 

Boy, am I grateful that 1-piece swim suits are back in style.

27 May 2014

Watermelon Mint Cooler Recipe

It's early morning but oh-so hot already - not that I'm complaining! 

I came across this recipe in the July 2014 edition of Style at Home Magazine. It's the perfect drink for a hot summer day or following a long morning run in the park. Coconut water provides electrolytes to help you stay hydrated in the heat. 

Over the weekend, I planted a pot of organic mint in the garden and am already finding many interesting ways to enjoy it (one of which involves a splash of rum :) 

A BIG welcome back to summer!

15 May 2014

Interview with 'The Gentle Colonoscopy Prep' Author, Carla Roter

If you've had a colonoscopy, you know two things: 

1. The treatment itself is uncomfortable; and
2. The preparation is even worse. 

Cramping, diarrhea, hunger, bum rash, hours on the toilet - clearing out the inventory before your pipes can be checked out is no fun. It's no wonder many forego the test altogether, but it could save your life. This is why Nurse and Colon Hydrotherapist Carla Greenspan Roter wrote The Gentle Colonoscopy Prep: Carla's Dietary Guide to Your Preparation and Aftercare.

The easy-to-read 45-page booklet clearly describes how to prepare your body for a colonoscopy, covering all the crucial aspects from what you should eat and drink to preparing yourself mentally and emotionally.

Carla provides a protocol for the 7 days before your test, as well as an aftercare protocol. Plus, she arms you with loads of recipes for tasty soups, stews and smoothies to help you through the process.

On a personal note, I often speak of Carla during my seminars. Hers was the colon therapy clinic I worked at early in my career as a nutritionist, and it was undeniably the most memorable work experience of my life! With over 25 years experience in colon health, Carla taught me so much. Working with her, I was able to see first hand how the body processes and eliminates food and waste, cementing my belief that a healthy gut is the key to excellent overall health

(By the way, I'll be giving away a copy of the book on Twitter, so watch for my tweets at NuVitalityHW.)

Carla has been talking about writing a book as long as I've known her. Of all the gut-related books she could have written, she elected to write about preparing for a colonoscopy. To me, that speaks volumes about the importance of having this test. A colonoscopy will not heal you or improve your health in any way. It is a screening exam for colon cancer or polyps that could turn into cancer. Here is what Carla had to say about her book: 

LT: This book is unique. Why did you decide to write it, and who should read it?

CR: In the course of my work and personal life, my peers, friends and clients told me how they feared getting a colonoscopy and how sick they got because they were losing electrolytes. Many didn't finish drinking their pharmaceuticals because it made them too sick and then they never wanted to do it again. I was determined to create helpful solutions to ease clients’ and friends' discomfort, so I developed a diet that works in harmony with your body and is simple enough for anyone to follow.

There was a doctor on CBC the other day who flat out stated that doctors are not nutritionally aware. They are not taught nutrition or prevention in medical school. They are taught how to give drugs.

LT: How important is having a colonoscopy? Should everyone have one?

CR: The medical establishment recommends people have colonoscopies after the age of 50. People with colon cancer in their families are also encouraged to get screened. Nurses are seeing more and more people with inflammatory bowel conditions, and younger and younger people are suffering as well.

LT: I love your quote on page 3: "Just as marathon runners need to prepare their bodies with the right fuel before their runs, you need to prepare your system for a colonoscopy." To me, this sums up the purpose of the book. Can you explain the importance of preparing for a colonoscopy (including emotionally)?

CR: You want to ease into the procedure rather than shocking the body. When you take the week to eat mushy, simply foods, your body is prepared. When you go from your normal diet to food deprivation and the bowel cleansing preparation, your system can be shocked.  Most people who get colonoscopies are in their 50's - 80's, so their bodies need more time to adjust. 

Undergoing any medical procedure can be nerve wracking, so it is important to educate ourselves about the procedure, and it's important to have a plan to ease our anxiety.  In the book we have an entire page talking about mentally preparing for a colonoscopy.

Buy the book on Amazon

LT: Can anxiety play a role in having a bad experience with a colonoscopy? How are emotions (like fear) tied in to intestinal health? 

CR: As far as I know the medical establishment is doing bowel and brain connection research. 

LT: Whole grains, beans, and nuts & seeds are recommended as a fiber source to maintain intestinal health, but they're on your 'Foods to Avoid' list (pg. 10, days 1-4). Can you explain why?

CR: When I was preparing people for colonoscopies using colon hydrotherapy, I found that in a few who went for the procedure there was still some fibre left in their large intestines. Fibre takes longer to digest than pureed foods. Foods that take longer to digest can get stuck in the pockets of the intestines. We want light fibre sources like chia seeds, hemp hearts, etc. We encourage essential fatty acids. I find as a nutritionist that bread and complex carbohydrates take longer to digest than the "baby diet."

LT: This will make a lot of people happy: Under beverages, a glass of white wine is allowed! Can you explain why?

CR: If people enjoy their wine, we don't want them to avoid everything that they love, it will also ease their anxiety. Have a glass of wine with your pureed food. Yum!

LT: What is the importance of the after care protocol? 

CR: When you have an operation in the hospital, they don't give you steak the next day, nor the day before. This kind of procedure is one you recover from more quickly when you are easy on your body with a soft diet.

LT: Can someone follow your program long term? If so, what are the benefits / possible risks? 

CR: Anyone can follow this program long term as it is easy to digest and easy on the body. The only thing I would recommend differently is to reduce the amount of magnesium you are taking, or discontinue it all together. This diet certainly can't hurt you.

LT: Over the past 25 years you've seen practically every type of intestinal and digestive disorder. What are your best tips for prevention? 

CR: Live, love, laugh. You can't be fanatic. Laughter helps many things. We need to poop our way to health. There are huge claims on colon hydrotherapy and misinformation that needs clarifying and research.

LT: Do you feel that everyone should try a gluten-free diet?

CR: No.

LT: Like you, I believe that good health starts with a healthy colon. What are some guidelines one should follow to maintain good intestinal, and therefore, good overall health? 

CR: I think the book has huge value to overall intestinal health. In the book we talk about essential fatty acids with large amounts of fibre. These are good for our bodies, our brains, our absorption and assimilation. We talk about probiotics in the book - these are very important for intestinal health. I have recipes for food probiotics such as beef kafas. This detoxifies and gives us large amounts of healthy bacteria and good flora. If one is getting enough of these food probiotics you most likely don't need the supplements.

We need to let go more, laugh more, and chew more slowly. 

The Gentle Colonoscopy Prep is available on Amazon
Learn more details about the book here.
Watch Carla's live interview on Liquid Lunch here

5 May 2014

The Healthiest Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are packed with vitamins, minerals, disease-fighting phytochemicals and fiber. The antioxidants like vitamin C, lutein, and zeaxanthin that are contained in leafy greens can help keep you looking and feeling young by helping your body produce more collagen, protecting your joints and by reducing your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Below are a few of the healthiest leafy greens.

Kale. When it comes to greens, kale is considered a ‘superfood’, leading the way in beta-carotene, vitamin C and lutein (a potent antioxidant shown to protect eyesight) content. Kale's ruffle-edged leaves range in color from green to purple to black depending on the variety.
Use kale for: Steaming sautéing or juicing, or snack on baked kale chips instead of potato chips!  

Spinach. Packed with vitamins A, C and folate, a B vitamin that helps protect against breast cancer, spinach also delivers more potassium than other greens, helping to keep blood pressure in check. Cooking spinach reduces its oxalate content, making calcium and other minerals more available.
Use spinach for: Spinach can be lightly steamed or eaten raw in salads. Add it to juices, smoothies, soups, pasta dishes, and casseroles.

Arugula. This cruciferous vegetable is a surprisingly good source of calcium, potassium and antioxidants.
Use arugula for: Arugula’s peppery taste makes it a great addition to salads and frittatas or scrambled eggs. Use it in place of basil to make a zesty pesto!

Collard Greens. Nutritionally similar to kale but with more fiber, collard greens have a chewier texture and a stronger cabbage-like taste.
Use collard greens for: In the South, collards are slow cooked with either a ham hock or smoked turkey leg. Boil, steam, or chop collard greens into soups or casseroles. Its wide leaves can be used as a wrapper instead of tortillas or bread.
Spicy Swiss Chard Chips
Swiss chard. Swiss chard provides more vitamin K (an important vitamin for blood clotting) than any other green. The prettiest of the green leafy’s, Swiss chard’s red stems, stalks, and veins make it easy to find at the grocery store.
Use Swiss chard for: Sautéeing – its texture is perfect! Add it to stir-fries or soups. Tired of kale chips? Try Swiss chard chips instead.

Cabbage. Available in purple and green varieties, this cruciferous vegetable is a great source of cancer-fighting compounds and vitamin C. In fact, purple cabbage is one of the most antioxidant rich vegetables you can eat – and it lasts a long time in the refrigerator. Use cabbage for: Cabbage can be cooked, added raw to salads or stir fries, shredded into a slaw, or made into sauerkraut. Raw cabbage juice (prepared using a juicer) tastes surprisingly good!

Great things come in small packages. Microgreens – the ‘baby’ greens of kale, spinach, arugula, and broccoli that are harvested just 1-2 weeks after planting – are a treasure trove of vital nutrients, providing up to 6 times more nutrients than their mature counterparts.
Use microgreens for: Ranging in flavor from peppery to tangy, use microgreens to punch up salads, soups, and sandwiches.

Cooking Greens

There are so many leafy greens to choose from and each has its merits (except for iceberg lettuce, the ‘polyester’ of vegetables!).
Add or swap out other greens or vegetables in recipes with arugula, kale, radicchio, spinach, endive, Swiss chard, cabbage, dandelion and bok choy.
The healthiest way to enjoy greens is lightly steamed. Some greens cook instantly (like spinach) while those with thicker stems (like kale and Swiss chard) can take up to 5 minutes.

To cook greens:
Place them in a steamer over water that is already boiling.
If stems are thick (1/4 inch/5 mm or larger), chop the stems off and cook them first.
Remove from heat and plunge cooked greens into a bowl of ice water to stop cooking and to preserve the colour.
Squeeze out the liquid, then chop and either serve or stir-fry with garlic.
Drizzle with olive oil, sesame oil, flax oil or other cold-pressed oil and lightly season. 

3 May 2014

Nutrition on the Road: Healthy Eating for Truckers, Cops and Others Who Drive for a Living

Long haul truck drivers, police officers and couriers know first hand that being on a the road for long stretches of time certainly is an obstacle to good health. Any occupation that requires driving for hours without opportunities to stop for food or washroom breaks typically results in weight gain and high blood pressure. To top it off, distracted driving laws will soon prohibit you from eating a meal or snacking while driving (a good thing for the rest of us, but inconvenient for you).

Police officers who work shifts will prioritize sleep over healthy meal preparation and often end up eating (really unhealthy) fast food during the night shift. Besides donut shops and pizza, what else is open at 3 a.m.? If you're driving during the day, how many restaurants have parking for semi-trailers? And what are you to do when nature calls and you're on the highway? 

For those who work on the road, there are significant occupation-based factors that interfere with health, but with a little knowledge and creativity, nutritious meals that will keep you healthy and alert at work can be prepared with minimal effort.

Problem Areas
1.     Excess sodium (limit: 1,500 mg/day)
2.     Excess dietary fat (limit: 75 g/day; avoid partially hydrogenated fats/trans fats) 
3.     Refined sugar & grains (white bread, white pasta, white rice…)  
4.     Dehydration

1. Too much sodium: 
The daily sodium limit for adult men and women is 1,500 mg a day. Fast foods are laden with sodium. Here are a few examples:

Sodium (mg)
Tim Hortons Bagel with cream cheese
760 mg
Egg McMuffin
820 mg
Wendy’s Baconator (single)
1,440 mg
Burger King Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich
1,420 mg
McDonalds Quarter Pounder with Cheese
1,190 mg
Pizza Pizza Pepperoni Slice (walk-in)
1,600 mg
Pizza Pizza Meat Supreme Slice (walk-in)
2,290 mg
Subway Cold Cut Combo
1,940 mg
Subway Meatball Marinara
1,900 mg

These numbers are astounding! You would never put this much salt in your food, but the sodium in fast food isn't even coming from salt. A lot of it is from MSG (monosodium glutamate) or other artificial flavors, or from sodium-based preservatives. Salt in excess of 1,500 mg leads to a build-up of fluid (water retention) and high blood pressure. If a pepperoni slice at Pizza Pizza was your only source of sodium in a day, it wouldn't matter - but when it's compounded with sodium from other fast foods, cold cuts, canned foods, soups, sauces, condiments and a little more from the salt shaker, it can be deadly.

Potassium is needed to balance sodium. Don't wait to be diagnosed with high blood pressure. Introduce potassium-rich foods into your diet now.

2. Too much fat: 
It's easy to get fat when you're sitting a lot, and it's even easier when the foods you eat provide more calories from fat than from other nutrients - and we're not talking omega-3 or any healthy fats. Instead, fast food offers trans fat, saturated fat (again, not from good quality grass-fed beef) and bad ingredients that raise LDL cholesterol (the 'bad' kind):

Fat (g)
5 Guys Hamburger
43 g
Wendy’s Baconator (single)
40 g
Burger King Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich
36 g
McDonalds Quarter Pounder with Cheese
26 g
Harvey’s Original Cheeseburger
23 g
Burger King Tendergrill Chicken Sandwich
16 g

You're making important decisions at work. If you drive a truck, it's imperative that you stay alert every moment that you're on the road, plus you're dealing with complicated machinery that is prone to breaking down. If you're a cop, at any moment you could be making a life-threatening move - and you may not be the only one carrying a weapon. It's not something we think about, but good blood flow to the brain is crucial for cognition, memory, and good decision-making. It's a priority! The 'good' fats from your diet help keep your arteries healthy and your circulation flowing. Whether you eat fast food or not, arm your arteries with a minimum of 1,000 mg of omega-3 fats every day. Supplements are widely available and can be taken any time of the day, with or without food.  

3. Too much of the white stuff:  
White bread, white pasta, white rice, white sugar - refined carbs don't provide any nutritional value. The fibers, vitamins and minerals have been stripped away. Many restaurants have introduced whole grains. Without question, they are definitely the better option over white, but don't expect them to offer a whole lot, especially compared to better quality grains that you could buy at the grocery or health food store. 

Whole grains provide many essential nutrients, especially fiber. No one enjoys being constipated, and sitting doesn't help. Just as a dog needs to walk to 'move' its bowels, we do too. Your body needs a minimum of 35 grams of fiber daily. Since that amount certainly likely isn't being supplied from your take-out meals, introduce extra fiber from other sources such as chia seeds, flaxseed, beans (canned, dried or roasted), oatmeal, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit. Grind up flaxseed into a sealed container and add 1 tbsp. to your meals (why not sprinkle some into a sub or burger?) or into a breakfast smoothie, yogurt or over a salad. When the opportunity presents itself, order a meal with beans or lentil soup. Snack on raw carrot sticks and crunchy raw green beans, red grapes or other fruit, and make a fiber-rich trail mix that you can snack on anytime.  

4. Dehydration:
Hydration is a complicated issue when you're working on the road. You appreciate the importance of drinking water, but stopping for a pee break is inconvenient. Often, it isn't even possible. Caffeine is a mild diuretic and is dehydrating. It actually makes us more tired. Instead, stay hydrated with water, coconut water, natural juices and if you need a caffeine-hit, have a cup of green tea. 

So, what should you eat when you're on the road?  

Start Your Day Off Right with 20 g of Protein
Breakfast sets the stage for your appetite for the entire day. 
Boxed cereal may be quick, but it's not a good breakfast choice. Many commercial cereals contain the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of sugar per serving! A carbohydrate-laden breakfast leads to cravings for sugar and unhealthy snacking later in the day. Instead, protein in the morning is critical for lucid, swift thinking and alertness. 
Combine a protein-rich food with a source of fiber to stimulate digestion, metabolism, and to balance blood sugar. What can we grab that is healthy, quick and easy while we’re running out the door? How about a boiled egg and a slice of whole grain toast? Some Greek yogurt or an apple with natural peanut butter will do the trick, too. Too early to eat? Drink instead - a smoothie or protein shake will provide protein and all the nutrients you need, plus you can sneak in some fruit, fiber and omega-3 oil. 

Protein (g)
Hard boiled eggs
7 to 8 g per egg
Greek yogurt
6 oz. = 10 to 20 g
Regular yogurt
3-6 g per serving
Protein powder
1 scoop = 24 g
High-protein cereal
1 serving = 10 g
Trail mix
5 g per ¼ cup
20 g or more

Mobile Meals: Healthy Eating While At Work
First of all, get a cooler for your vehicle. Use it to store your meals, snacks, drinks and even supplements.

Having the necessary food containers takes the guesswork out portion control and keeps salads and sandwiches from becoming soggy. Stock up on glass or BPA-free containers with tight lids. Use them for:

  • Leftovers
  • Quinoa with tuna salad and a creamy dressing
  • Egg salad
  • Pasta / pasta salad
  • Noodle bowl
  • Rice bowl 
When preparing a meal, cook double the amount and pack half for lunch for the next day. If a chicken salad is Tuesday’s lunch, then a re-usable tub with a press top dressing holder goes a long way. Preparation is pointless if your lunch is left in the fridge. Place a reminder in a visible area to prevent forgetfulness in the morning rush.

Restaurants and grocery store salad bars offer better options than ever before. Spinach or quinoa salads topped with tuna and chickpeas, multigrain or gluten-free pizza crusts, grilled chicken on whole grain bread, and wraps stuffed with grilled veggies are great lunch options for those on the go. Don't wait til the last minute: If you're working a graveyard shift, buy these ahead of time on your next grocery shopping trip or at a restaurant before going to work and pack them in your cooler. 
Healthy Snacking
Apart from a good night’s sleep, eating a snack or meal every 2-4 hours will help keep energy levels (and metabolism) up. Instead of reaching for a chocolate bar or potato chips, arm yourself with convenient healthy snacks. Protein-based snacks like yogurt with berries, rye crackers with natural peanut or almond butter are excellent ideas. An apple or ½ cup trail mix are great snacks too.

Healthy Snack Ideas
Trail mix, Trail mix bars
Nut butter or hummus + crackers
Yogurt cups, Greek yogurt cups
Fruit, Raw veggies & dip
Protein bars
Protein shake (without aspartame)
ShaSha Buckwheat Snacks

Shopping & Stocking
Prepare a list of healthy, portable snacks and shop for groceries on the weekend so that food is available when you need it. A fridge full of food will keep you away from the drive-thru. Stock up on healthy dips like hummus, tzatziki and other healthy dips for snacks, sandwich spreads and vegetable plates. Keep your cupboards stocked with quinoa (cooks in 12 minutes), whole grain rice, pasta, whole wheat couscous (cooks in 1 minute), dried and canned beans, and dried fruit. Pack your fridge (and then your cooler) with organic yogurt cups. Organic yogurt provides more probiotics than non-organic and comes from cows that have not been given hormones or antibiotics. When veggies are getting ‘soft’, chop and toss them into a roasting pan with some herbs and drizzle with a little olive oil. They’ll make a great sandwich filling for tomorrow’s lunch. 

Only 15 minutes of daily exercise is needed to keep your weight stable and your heart and muscles in shape; however those 15 minutes must count. Get it out of the way by exercising as soon as you wake up or right after lunch. Interval training is intense, but it’s the most effective and time efficient form of exercise. For resistance, use your own body weight, dumbbells (secured in your truck) or resistance bands. A pedometer helps you keep track of your total daily movement. If challenging yourself is… a challenge, hire a trainer for a few sessions of one-on-one training.    

  • Include some protein with every meal and snack
  • Eat before you’re hungry 
  • Eat something every 3-5 hours to keep blood sugar levels balanced and energy levels high 
  • Avoid caffeine, sugar (including sweet fruit) and starchy foods close to bedtime

A few resources:
For on-the-go recipes:  LisaTsakos.blogspot.ca
Trail mix recipe: http://lisatsakos.blogspot.ca/2014/04/diy-super-easy-gluten-free-trail-mix.html