Healthy Living for People Who Are Too Busy for It.

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Healthy living can be time consuming. It requires time purchasing food, time preparing meals and time spent exercising. Many healthy meals can even be more time consuming to eat due to the higher fiber and water content (and resulting lower caloric density). For many of us, this can be a challenge when our time is already occupied with other commitments.

Personally, this is something I have struggled with over the past few months as I have been working well over 40 hours a week on a regular basis in addition to other commitments that I have. This has resulted in having to strike a balance between maintaining my overpacked schedule, my health and my sanity.

This has led me to develop a few guidelines that I follow to make healthy choices while working within the parameters of my current day-to-day life.

Diet:

  1. Always hit my essential checklist: Beans, Greens and Omega-3s.
  2. Have at least 1 “real meal” per day: The meal is often as simple as a veggie, grain and bean stir-fry or pasta based dish.
  3. Start the day off strong with a healthy and filling breakfast: For me I usually go with either oatmeal or Ezekiel cereal with fruit, flax seeds and either nuts or peanut butter powder.
  4. Eat enough calories of healthy food earlier in the day to avoid bingeing on junk food at night: I eat around 2300 calories/day. I aim for about 500 calories in both breakfast and lunch in addition to about 400 calories in snacks. This will leave me with another 900 calories when I get home (usually a meal and snack). When I don’t do this I end up bingeing on unhealthier calorie-dense foods like potato chips.
  5. Mentally categorize foods based on the amount of time or effort it takes to make it. I divide my meals into 5 min., 30 min. and 1 hour. I then choose a meal based on how much time I have. This helps when I tell myself I don’t have time to pack lunch and decide to resort to less than ideal choices when it is inevitably time to eat.

Exercise:

The exercise component is a bit harder to manage. I find the best option is to look at my schedule at the start of the week. I figure out which days I will realistically be able to workout and commit to exercising whenever I have the chance. I utilize my days off for longer workouts where I push myself to my limits.

Sometimes this may only end up being 2 workouts per week, sometimes I can get 5 in. But if I have the time I make sure I do something, even if it is just a quick 30 minute workout.

I also follow the rule that if I have time to watch TV, I have time to workout.

The Lesson Learned:

What this all comes down to is doing the best I can with the time and resources I have available. Sometimes this means accepting good enough rather than over stressing myself  to meet my ideals. It is about remembering that the purpose of healthy living isn’t about health in itself, but making healthier choices to improve my quality of life overall.

 

 

Quick and Easy Vegan Parmesan

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One of the great uses of cheese is how easily you can make it a topping for almost any savory dish and it almost always will make it more delicious. This is part of what makes giving up cheese one of the hardest parts about going vegan. While this recipe isn’t made to taste like parmesan, it works as a healthy and tasty alternative that has a similar use and effect.

Sprinkle it on top of pasta, a salad or anything else you can think of.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup of Roasted, Unsalted Cashews
  • 1/3 cup of Nutritional Yeast
  • 2 tbsp of Garlic Powder
  • 2 tbsp of Lemon Pepper
  • 1 tbsp of dried Oregano
  • 1 tbsp of dried Parsley
  • Add salt and pepper as preferred.

*Makes 6 servings

Directions:

  1. Add cashews into high speed blender (e.g. Vitamix) or food processor until it forms a powdery texture. Stop once a powdery texture is reached, otherwise it will turn into a nut butter.
  2. Mix nutritional yeast and seasonings with cashew powder in a bowl.
  3. Sprinkle onto pasta, salad or any other recipe to your liking.

 

 

Chickpeas Are the New Chicken Breast: Why I Love Pulses

PULSES

Since I started eating a plant based diet, pulses have become one of my main staples. I usually have at least 3 servings a day (~ 1 can of beans). When it comes to making new recipes, I often use chickpeas where I would have previously used chicken breast. I use them so often because they are nutritious, satisfying, versatile and one of the cheapest foods in the grocery store.

2016 was declared the International Year of the Pulse by at the 68th UN General Assembly. The reason they decided to promote this food group is because they are healthy, sustainable and affordable.

So what are pulses?

Pulses are a part of the legume family. Legumes are any plant whose fruit is enclosed in a pod (Pulse Canada). Examples are soybeans, peanuts, chickpeas, lentils and green beans. A pulse is a type of legume that includes the dried seed. Dried beans, chickpeas and lentils are just a few examples. Pulses are high in protein, high in fiber and low in fat.

The health benefits of pulses:

  • Low glycemic index – They provide you with the carbs you need to stay energized, but don’t provide the blood sugar spike that white pasta or white rice would. They help stabilize blood sugar and keep you fuller longer.
  • High in protein – Pulses range from containing about 20-27% of calories from protein. This makes them a good option for people following plant based diets or people who are reducing their meat consumption for various reasons.
  • High in fiber –  Fiber helps keep you fuller longer. It helps stabilize blood sugar. Fiber also helps lower LDL cholesterol, one of the key contributors to heart disease.
  • High in iron – Pulses are high in iron. Iron is needed to create hemoglobin, a substance in your red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Not getting enough iron will result in anemia, characterized by not producing enough red blood cells.

 

The Environmental Benefits of Pulses:

  • Water efficiency – 1 kg of lentils requires 50 liters of water, compared to 13,000 liters for 1 kg of beef. 1 kg of 85% lean ground beef contains about 2500 calories, 1 kg of dried lentils contains about 3500 calories. This means beef requires about 502 L/ 100 kcal, whereas lentils require about 1.42 L/ 100 kcal. (This was based on an infographic by the FAO. *They didn’t specify if that was the water used for 1kg dried or cooked lentils.).
  • Soil nitrogen  – Pulses can fix their own nitrogen in their soil. This results in them needing less fertilizer than other crops.
  • Great replacement for meat – Animal agriculture is one of the leading, if not the leading contributor to climate change. It has been cited as contributing anywhere from 18%51% of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, it is also a major contributor to deforestationoverexploitation of marine life and pollution.
  • Lower on the food chain – One of the reasons plant based foods are better for the environment is because they are lower on the food chain. More plants go into feeding the animals for your food than just eating the plants directly.

Affordability:

Pulses have many health and environment benefits, but they are also one of the cheapest foods in the grocery store. 1 lb. of dried beans costs about $1.50, compared to about $4 for 1 lb. of beef (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). 85% lean ground beef contains about 1137 kcal/lb., whereas 1 lb. of dried lentils contains about  1584 kcal/lb. This comes out to $3.50/1000 kcal of beef and $0.95/1000 kcal of lentils.

Their high protein and micronutrient content combined with their low cost makes pulses a great food to promote to fight food insecurity in developing nations.

IYP-Pulses-Facts-infographic

Recipes that Include Pulses:

Chickpeas and Corn Salad

Pesto Hummus

Chickpeas with Mustard and Capers Sauce

Tempeh and Black Beans Fajitas

Buffalo Chickpeas

Chickpeas and sweet Potato with Basil and Garlic Tahini Sauce

Chickpeas Avocado Salad

Chickpea Tomato Curry

Southwestern Stir Fry

Black Bean Salad

 

 

Learn More:

What is a Pulse? – Pulse Canada

Nutritional Benefits of Pulses – FAO

Health Benefits of Pulses – FAO

Recipe for health: cheap, nutritious beans – Harvard Health Blog

Pulses and Climate Change – FAO

Pulses Contribute to Food Security – FAO

International Year of the Pulse

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Sundried Tomato and Basil Cashew Spread

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Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups of Roasted Unsalted Cashews
  • 0.25 cups of Unsalted Pine Nuts
  • 2 tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 6 Cloves of Garlic
  • 0.25 cups of Basil
  • Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
  • 0.5 cups of Sun-dried Tomato
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Add a small amount of water into blender/ food processor if needed to make it blend.

*Makes 8 servings

Directions:

  1. Add ingredients into high-speed blender or food processor.
  2. Blend.
  3. Move ingredients around if the blender/food processor gets stuck.
  4. Add in a small amount of water if needed to keep things blending.

*Check the capabilities of your blender/food processor before making this recipe.

Review: Teeccino

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After recently quitting caffeine, I had a void to fill in my morning routine where my coffee used to be. While the caffeine boost was part of the reason I drank coffee, I also liked the morning ritual. Even though I enjoy herbal teas, I wanted something with a fuller, more robust flavor. In looking for an alternative to coffee, I discovered Teeccino.

Teeccino is a blend of herbs, fruits, grains and nuts that are roasted and ground to brew and taste like coffee (more here).

I ordered a sampler pack of their coffee ground form and tea bags of the French Roast and Hazelnut flavors.

So far I have tried the Almond Amaretto, Chai, French Roast and Hazelnut flavors. I enjoyed all of them, but the French Roast is my favorite and so far is the one I plan on having as my everyday coffee.

The coffee grounds were able to brew just like coffee, although I would recommend having your coffee pot drip as slowly as possible to get a richer flavor.

When it comes to the tea bags, make sure it sits for a couple of minutes before adding in your milk/plant milks. I tried adding coconut milk to it right away, and the flavor didn’t end up as strong that time.

Overall, I would recommend this product to anyone looking to cut back or cut out coffee, or people who just want to try a new interesting warm beverage.

You can buy it online at Teeccino’s website, Amazon, health food stores and some regular grocery stores.

Brussel Sprouts with Tahini

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This is one of my favorite recipes to use when I want a quick, easy and delicious way to add more veggies into my day. I use this same recipe with spinach, broccoli or really any other veggie I’m in the mood for.

Ingredients:

  •  3 cups of Frozen Brussel Sprouts (1 package)
  • 3 tbsp of Tahini
  • 2 tbsp of Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 tbsp of Lemon Juice
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Paprika
  • Oregano
  • Lemon Pepper
  • Salt

*Makes 2 servings

Directions:

  1. Cook Brussel sprouts as directed on package.
  2. Mix with the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Eat and enjoy!

 

How to Make New Year’s Resolutions That Last

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I think New Year’s can be a good tool for mentally have a fresh start at a goal. That said, it’s no secret that majority of people who make a New Year’s Resolution don’t stick with it. Anyone who belongs to a gym has probably witnessed the difference in how crowded the gym is in January vs February. 

Here are some of the methods I have used to change my own habits.

  1. Make small and manageable changes gradually. Rather than completely overhauling your diet, going on a juice cleanse or going to the gym every day, try something more manageable. For example, adding vegetables in to what you already eat or going to the gym 3 times a week.
  2. Focus on the process. Focus on the steps you have to take rather than the destination. If your goal is weight loss, rather than focusing on losing weight, focus on eating healthier and exercising regularly.
  3. Don’t quit the second things don’t go your way. Slip-ups are bound to happen. The key is to move on and keep working towards your goal.
  4. Focus on the progress you’ve made. It can be frustrating when you aren’t being as successful at your lifestyle change as you want. Maybe you aren’t losing weight as fast as you want or haven’t been going to the gym as frequently as you planned. Rather than focusing on your perceived shortcomings, focus on whatever progress you have made and work from there.

 

Happy New Years!

 

Read More:

Making Lifestyle Changes that Last – American Psychological Association

Why it’s hard to change unhealthy behavior – and why you should keep trying. – Harvard Health Publication