Healthy Living for People Who Are Too Busy for It.

38917954_m-e1436494155706

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.

 

 

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

Review: Teeccino

teeccino1

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.

I Quit Caffeine!

caffeine_withdrawal_inside

I recently decided to start a new experiment with my life and quit caffeine. I have been a regular coffee drinker for over a decade, and my caffeine consumption was exceeding 400 mg per day (sometimes over 500). This is more than what many health organizations recommend. I also don’t think as a healthy person in my twenties, I should be dependent on a substance just to have enough energy to get through the day. So I decided to quit. Cold turkey.

I planned in advance to make sure that I didn’t have anything to do the first 2 days (although day 3 turned out to be the worst), and was well stocked with ibuprofen ahead of time.

Day 1: Relatively easy. No headache until the evening and was only slightly fatigued.

Day 2: Had a more noticeable headache and was fatigued all day. I was also more irritable and was resorted to some recreational eating during the day. I kept my appetite in check by drinking a lot of herbal teas. I saw coffee everywhere. I didn’t physically crave it, I was just very well aware that drinking coffee would make everything feel better.

Day 3: Slept more the night before. I woke up with the headache at its peak and getting out of bed was a struggle. Had to go from 2 ibuprofen to 3. I was exhausted and out of it all day and ended up going to bed at 9:30.

Day 4: Headache was gone and I finally started to feel like a human again. My energy levels weren’t 100%, but I felt functional.

Day 5-7: My energy levels increased each day. They are now where my energy was with caffeine, except I don’t need a drug to keep them up and I don’t deal with the crashes every few hours. I still can’t focus as well as I did with coffee, although I’m hoping that will improve over the next week or so.

My workouts this week were lighter than normal, and I mostly focused on cardio. But I actually felt more of an endorphin rush from my workout than before when I would usually drink a coffee before working out.

Learn More:

Caffeine: How much is too much? – Mayo Clinic

Caffeine Myths and Facts – WebMD

Coffee – You Are Not So Smart

 

 

The Easiest Changes You Can Make for Your Health

Fruits-and-Vegetables

1. Replace refined grains with whole grains.

While refined grains are problematic and linked to many diseases, whole grains are health promoting. Whole grains are a healthy source of carbs, protein, fiber and various vitamins and minerals. They are also relatively inexpensive and generally aren’t labor intensive.

2. Drink more water.

Water is one of the most basic of human needs. Drinking more water will likely reduce the amount of other beverages and keep you hydrated throughout the day.

3. Eat more fruit.

Fruit is one of the most health promoting foods you can eat. Eating more fruit will satisfy your sweet tooth, provide many nutritional benefits and help prevent going after unhealthy sweet foods like cookies and candy.

Try having your favorite fruit between each meal and every time you crave sugar.

4. Do physical activity you enjoy.

January tends to be a busy month for gyms everywhere. If going to the gym feels like a chore, then it is unlikely you will follow through with it. Try spending that time doing physical activity you like or at least don’t mind.

5. Eat vegetables with every meal.

Vegetables are probably the most health promoting food group. Unfortunately many people struggle to even meet the minimum recommendations, and the most popular vegetable is french fries. One of the easiest ways to upgrade your diet is by adding more veggies in. You can add spinach to your smoothie, sprouts to your sandwich and have some broccoli with dinner.

*French fries and pizza don’t count.

Strategies to Make Healthy Choices During the Holidays

514_400x400_NoPeel

With all the sweets and rich foods around the holidays, it is easy to undo an entire years worth of good choices in the span of a couple of weeks. The social pressure from parties and tradition also add onto how easy it is to backslide.

1. Bring healthy foods to holiday parties.

This guarantees that you will at least have some healthy options to eat.

2. Keep the junk and rich foods for the holiday itself.

Indulging on Christmas won’t hurt. Indulging for the entire month of December and early January will.

3. Try to make the same foods in less processed, lighter forms.

This could mean reducing refined sugars, using less processed oils or using whole grains rather than refined. E.g. For stuffing you can use more veggies, less added fats and whole wheat rather than white bread. You can also make fruit based desserts instead of desserts that revolve around added fats/added sugars.

4. Find time to exercise.

With scrambling to fit in various holiday activities, it can be easy to miss a few workouts. At the very least try to do a quick at-home workout with your own body weight or run for 20 minutes. Otherwise the holidays can be a starting point for a fitness rut.

5. Go light with the alcoholic beverages. 

Liquid calories are one of the easiest ways to add on a few pounds during the holidays. Limit yourself to 2 drinks. Eggnog is probably the worst offender at around 350 calories per cup.

6. You don’t have to have every treat available.

Just because it only comes once per year does not mean you have to cram every option available while it lasts.

How to Eat Healthy When You Crave Intensity

1

During my fat days, one of the reasons I struggled to lose weight was because what I considered diet foods were boring, bland and unsatisfying. While I often experience sensory overload, I also crave (controlled) intensity. This shows itself in preferring complex music, loving colorful environments and craving very flavorful foods. During the time when my weight was the most out-of-hand, I was eating at a dining hall. Along with some mediocre-at-best healthy options, there was an abundance of delicious unhealthy options, not to mention limitless dessert and soda. When I got an apartment and got to cook my own foods, figuring out ways to make healthy foods delicious was key to me being able to successfully lose weight. Along with making healthy eating affordable and convenient, I think this is another aspect a lot of people struggle with when trying to lose weight.

1. Use Fats to Bring Out Flavor

coconut-oil

Fats help bring out flavor in food. This is why low-fat versions of foods are often less delicious and need salt and sugar added to replace the flavor lost from fat.

While eating diets high in fat can be problematic, using appropriate amounts can do a lot to make a dish taste better. And dietary fat is a necessary component to a healthy diet. Optimally you want your fat to come from whole food sources (nuts, seeds, coconut, avocado, olives) and added fats (oils) should be limited because it is more calorically dense and less nutritious.

2. Experiment With a Variety of Spices 

tumblr_m18v2l2bd21r4v4g3o1_500

Spices and herbs are a great way to add flavor without adding calories. Spices such as cayenne may also help you slow down when you eat, which may help eat more mindfully and receive the signals of being full with less food consumed.

3. Use Herbs

herb1

Herbs are a great way to add flavor while reaping many health benefits.

4. Add Salt

sea-salt

Salt is a flavor enhancer in food, as well as being one of the 5 basic tastes. Sprinkling moderate amounts of salt onto your meal can make a big difference in making your food more delicious.

While most Americans eat excessive amounts of sodium, this is primarily from processed foods. If you are eating unprocessed food, just remember 1 tsp of salt is about 2300 mg of sodium.

5. Add Citrus Juices

citrus_fruits

Juice from citrus fruits like orange, lemon and lime can be a great healthy way to boost flavor and add nutrients. This is also a good option if you get bored of water.