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.

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