B.GOOD Toronto Review

Last Monday I was invited to kick off the week with a patio party at B.GOOD with some pals and some seriously delicious food. Obviously I grabbed my fellow health foodie friend Jaclyn and travelled all the way downtown to get in on the action.

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We actually have a B.GOOD up at Yonge & Eg, where I live, which I never really checked out before (why??) but ever since learning about their menu, and meeting the cool people behind this company I've already been back. Like, multiple times.

This is not your average burger joint (but they do have great burgers when the mood hits), absolutely everything on their menu can be gluten-free (!!!) and they have so many genuinely healthy options. When you walk in they even have a list of all the local farms that supply their ingredients (so cool, right?) 

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They took us on a tasting through their menu and I was so super impressed! I really had no idea that B.GOOD has so much to offer! Plus, they're really proud of the fact that they can accommodate anyone so if you're vegan, dairy-free, paleo, whatever, they're here for you.

Their dishes are chef designed, legit tasty food, but also clearly crafted with nutrition in mind. The fat, protein, fibre and greens game was on point. Take for example this Watermelon Feta salad...

 Ingredients: watermelon, feta, arugula, baby spinach, white bean salad (cannellinis, snap peas, corn, sun dried tomato), toasted corn, mint, balsamic glaze, red wine vinegar and olive oil.

Ingredients: watermelon, feta, arugula, baby spinach, white bean salad (cannellinis, snap peas, corn, sun dried tomato), toasted corn, mint, balsamic glaze, red wine vinegar and olive oil.

... first of all, if you're thinking "WTF" I GET IT! I was all grimacing emoji when I saw this one come out. I thought, sure it looks cool but who puts cheese and watermelon together? Yikes...

Well, I had my mind blown because this combo is EVERYTHING. The salty feta, juicy sweet watermelon, and bitter greens just make sense together. Like they are long lost friends who just met up for a reunion and decided to throw an epic party in your mouth.

Then B.GOOD decided to up and ante and threw some white beans in! I love this because it adds a ton of blood-sugar stabilizing protein and fibre to the mix. This perfectly compliments a high glycemic ingredient like watermelon to create a low glycemic meal!

Wow, they scienced the heck outta that one and it's still insanely delish. Gold star.

 Ingredients: mesclun, avocado, grilled corn, tomatoes, black beans, toasted corn, chipotle puree, balsamic vinaigrette.

Ingredients: mesclun, avocado, grilled corn, tomatoes, black beans, toasted corn, chipotle puree, balsamic vinaigrette.

Okay but THIS salad, totally stole my heart. The Southwestern Chicken salad is SO LEGIT, I've actually gone back to B.GOOD multiple times in the last week to eat it (perfect for those nights I wrap up work for the day and realize I have no food in the house - whoops).

They say that the salad contains "toasted corn" which is basically like half-popped popcorn. One of my fave salad hacks that I always share with clients is to add popcorn instead of croutons for a higher-fibre, gluten-free crunch factor. I was so stoked to see this as an ingredient in many of their salads to replace typical croutons. 

They provide nutrition info for all their dishes and this salad clocks in at about 450 calories with 11g fibre and 26g protein, which is awesome. It checks all the boxes for protein (chicken), healthy fats (avocado), fibre (black beans), I feel super good eating it, it doesn't break the bank, and it's definitely my favourite item on the menu by far.

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All in all it was a awesome experience with awesome people and amazing food. I'm so glad I checked out B.GOODand I will for sure be back again (and again, and again...)

Photography by: Josh Tenn-Yuk curtesy of B.GOOD Canada

Disclaimer: B.GOOD generously sponsored this blog post. All opinions are completely my own (like always) and I do spend my own money there all the time. Of course, I'd never lead you guys astray.

4 Steps To Kick UTIs Naturally

If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection, you know pain. According to the statistics, they affect 150 million people per year, worldwide, so that means 150 million of you know that UTIs are the ACTUAL WORST.

In fact, by age 35, about half of women will have experienced a UTI. 20% of women aged 18-24 will get a UTI once per year! Not the kind of thing you want happening on an annual basis.

I fell into this category myself, as I struggled with recurring UTIs for years and years. It was horrible. I would take antibiotics multiple times per year, and it actually got to the point that my doctor had a standing prescription for me. This is not ideal as it increases risk of developing an antibiotic-resistant UTI which is really, really bad news.

Obviously, this was long before I’d ever heard the words “gut microbiome” or knew that taking multiple courses of antibiotics was not exactly ideal.

The thing is that, when a UTI strikes antibiotics are pretty much necessary. Since I’ve never had luck treating a full-fledged urinary tract infection 100% naturally, I believe strongly in preventing them from occurring in the first place.

It’s been about 2 years since my last UTI (win!), so I want to share what ended up working for me, and the tips and tricks I learned along the way. I’ve teamed up with Genuine Health for this post, since they just released their advanced gut health probiotic women’s UTI, which is specifically formulated to prevent urinary tract infections. I love this product because it combines a lot of my tips into one daily supplement. The Genuine Health advanced gut health probiotic women’s UTI also contains strains specifically selected to support skin, vaginal, and (of course!) gut health. Keep reading and I’ll explain how to use it as a part of the routine I adopted to prevent UTIs personally.

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1.     Eat a High-Fibre, Low-Sugar Diet

When I was suffering with chronic UTIs, I was also completely addicted to sugar. Not like the “I keep Tootsie Rolls in my desk” kind of sugar addiction, I would start my day with a huge bowl of gluten-free corn pops and sweetened soymilk then skip lunch in favour of multiple bottles sugary juice throughout the afternoon.

I also baked a fresh batch of cookies every single night.

I am not kidding, if you tracked down my roommates from this time, they can attest to the fact that I constantly had cookies or cupcakes in the oven. Looking back, I’m sure I was consuming well over 200g sugar per day. Kind of scary.

The problem with a high sugar diet is that it increases inflammation and feeds all the wrong types of bacteria. This combined with repeat use of antibiotics was a recipe for UTIs, I just didn’t know it at the time.  Even when I changed my diet to contain fewer added sugars, I would still eat huge amounts of fruit (I’m talking 5+ bananas a day).

The situation didn’t really improve until I started eating a normal amount of fruit (2-3 servings per day), and limiting added sugars. This, combined with a high-fibre diet really helped to bring my microbiome back into balance since fibre also feeds the food bacteria in your gut.

 

2.     Take Probiotics and Eat Probiotic-Containing Foods

Taking probiotics was a game changer for me, and the biggest benefit was that I stopped getting UTIs. In fact, when I see clients who struggle with recurring UTIs or yeast infections, I always ensure they leave my office with a probiotic in hand.

Fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, etc. do contain probiotics, but I still recommend taking a probiotic. Fermented foods contain varying strains of bacteria in varying amounts, while probiotic supplements are formulated to contain clinically proven strains. It’s not that one approach is better when we are talking about optimizing microbiome health, I think both are important and have a place.

These are the specific strains to look for if you’re struggling with UTIs or yeast infections, as they are proven to protect against uropathogens and balance vaginal pH:

  • L. rhamnosus
  • L. fermentum
  • L. gasseri
  • L. acidophilus

One of the reasons I’m loving the Genuine Health advanced gut health probiotic women’s UTI is that it was formulated to contain all of these strains. It’s also shelf stable, so I keep it in the bathroom next to my toothbrush (and vitamin D3!) so I don’t forget to take it. The best time of day to take your probiotic is the time of day that’s most convenient for you! Taking it in the morning or before bed works best for most people.

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3.     Stay Super Duper Hydrated

The more frequently you urinate, the less time bacteria will have to multiply in your bladder. Going to the washroom a lot might be annoying at first, but I’ll take frequent peeing over a UTI any day!

Aim for half your body weight in ounces as an absolute minimum. If you do a sweaty workout or live in a hot climate, you’ll need to increase based on that.

If you’re not a big water drinker, you can add chlorophyll or cut up fruit and herbs to your water to make it a little more tempting. Here are some of my favourite combos:

  • Cucumber + fresh mint
  • Strawberry + fresh basil
  • Orange + a cinnamon stick
  • Grapefruit + a sprig of rosemary
  • Lemon + parsley
  • Lime + cilantro

It’s also important to remember to pee before and after certain bedroom activities, if you know what I mean. This tip is key… I cannot stress it enough!

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4.     Take a Cranberry Supplement

When I first started experiencing recurring UTIs, I would drink “cranberry juice” (aka. apple/grapejuice with heaps of added sugar and a few drops of cranberry juice) by the bottle. It didn’t help, and all the added sugars actually made the issue worse.

Cranberry supplements were the ultimate game changer for my UTIs. At first I would take them only when I started experiencing symptoms and that helped me avoid antibiotics sometimes, but when I started taking them daily I stopped getting them at all.

Cranberry works because it prevents the bacteria that causes urinary tract infections from being able to multiply. Once a UTI starts, the bacterial colony multiplies so quickly that it doubles in number every hour! That’s why a little tingle evolves into a full-blown stabbing pain in such a short period of time.

When you take cranberry regularly, you prevent the bacteria from adhering to the walls of your urinary tract where is multiplies, creates a biofilm, and causes a serious issue requiring antibiotic treatment.

Taking a lot of supplements is annoying, and I found myself losing motivation to take cranberry once a few UTI-free months passed. This is why I am so, so obsessed with the Genuine Health advanced gut health probiotic women’s UTI, because they added organic whole fruit cranberry powder right into the plastic-free, delayed release capsule – CRAN naturelle™.

I’m not a fan of taking multiple pills every day, so I really appreciate this efficiency. This is why, for me, it’s a new staple for supporting the overall health of all my little bacteria pals. If you want to try it yourself you can click here to find a store near you that carries it!

If you have any tips that have helped you with UTIs, leave a comment so I can share what works for you guys! If you already have a UTI, please be sure to go to your doctor since untreated UTIs can progress into a more serious issue. Incorporate these tips into your daily life to prevent future UTIs.

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Disclaimer: this post was created in partnership with Genuine Health, which lets me support my blog and continue to provide tons of valuable free content to you. Sponsorships are carefully considered and I only accept partnerships with brands I love, buy from, and 100% believe in. I am so grateful to be able to help people with the work I do, and partnerships like these make it possible!

 

Veggie Noodle Coconut Pho (Vegan + Paleo)

A little while ago, I created a poll on my Insta stories to see whether you guys prefer vegan or paleo recipes. This was possibly the most polarizing question I've ever asked and hundreds of votes later, I had zero clarity.

Seriously, it was split down the middle. 

At first, I won't lie, that stressed me out. But lately, with all the shit going down in my life (sign up for my newsletter if you want personal updates because I feel weird sharing actual life stuff on socials), I'm trying to find the upside in all situations. PMA as Jeremy would say ("PMS" as I usually shout back). 

So instead of getting stressed out that half of you guys want vegan and the other half of you want paleo, I'm choosing to be REALLY excited at the opportunity to help you all eat more veggies. Let's face it, whether you're vegan, paleo, keto, low fat, low carb, raw foods, or anything in between (and I hope you fall somewhere in between because #balance) we can all agree that veggies are key.

So I'll be sharing more recipes like this one: veggie-based, with endless customizations for wherever you fall on the diverse spectrum that is healthy eating.

Need more carbs? Add some rice noodles.
Love plant protein? Get some tofu up in there.
Wanna keep it paleo? Top with shredded chicken.
Living that keto life? Add some steak and maybe a poached egg.
Need some extra gut love? Make it with bone broth!

There are as many ways to shake it up as there are dietary theories - and they all sound with a foundation of rainbow-coloured veggies.

PS. I love Ripe Nutrition broth in this recipe! Either the vegan mushroom, or the liquid gold collagen. If you live in Toronto you should give them a try. Not sponsored... just obsessed. ;)

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print recipe
Veggie Noodle Coconut Pho (Vegan + Paleo)
It's called veggie noodle pho, because the veggies ARE the noodles. This creamy coconut soup uses rainbow coloured plants instead of regular noodles! Easy to customize, and perfect for just about anyone, from vegan to paleo.
Ingredients
  • 2 medium zucchini, spiralized
  • 2 large carrot, peeled into strips with a veggie peeler
  • 1 cup enoki mushrooms, ends cut off
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, minced
  • 4 cups broth (veggie or bone broth)
  • 1/2 cup canned coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 cup green onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Instructions
Add the spiralized zucchini, carrot noodles, enoki mushrooms and ginger to a medium-sized saucepan. Pour the broth over top and bring to a simmer over medium heat until veggies have softened (about 5 minutes). Add the coconut milk and sesame oil, remove from heat.Use tongs to divide the veggie noodles between bowls. Pour the broth over top and garnish with cilantro, green onion, and sesame seeds.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 bowls
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4 Things No One Tells You Will Happen When You Lose Weight

You know in the movie Mean Girls when Cady has the sudden realization that there are a million reasons to be insecure about your body? "Before I just thought you could be fat or skinny." 

That was totally me up until I was 19 or 20. Honestly, I just never really thought about nutrition, exercise, or my body size at all. I was so focused on how much I could learn, work, and what I could create. I loved food, cooking, and eating. I was always the party mom cooking dinner for my roommates and baking cookies after midnight.

It just never really occurred to me that regularly eating half a pan of cookies at midnight might not be the healthiest thing in the world.

Then I remember the exact moment I decided I was too fat. It was a random August Saturday, I was alone in my Toronto apartment... maybe I saw myself in the mirror at a different angle or something? It was a sudden realization hit me, "I need to lose weight." In hindsight, what I needed was some body positivity, but at the time I decided to change my lifestyle. 

That day I downloaded the Couch25K app on my phone and started running. I went to the bookstore and bought the first diet book I saw that promised a plan for weightloss. Overnight my entire lifestyle changed. Obviously, this was before I ever studied nutrition.

I lost about 30lbs really quickly. I was running 5k every day, eating what I thought was a healthy diet, and happy to see the number on the scale going down every day. Back then, it seemed like a simple problem with a simple solution. 

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(Ah, I've never shared these pictures before!)

On my weight loss journey, though, I ended up encountering some issues. While I felt really alone, I now know all of them are a common (even universal) side effect of dieting. No one really talks about these things though, so I want to share the 5 things I wish I had known before I decided to pursue weight loss.

1. You will get REALLY cold.

I never used to be particularly bothered by the cold, but after I lost weight that changed. I became super sensitive to the cold and started wearing sweaters outside even in the summer.

Now that I understand weight loss, it makes perfect sense that this happens. Not only do you lose body fat, which literally keeps you warm by definition, but you also slow down your metabolism by losing weight. To compensate for the caloric deficit, your body will preserve energy where it can and one of the ways is to turn down the thermostat.

If you're feeling really cold and have recently lost weight, ask your doctor about checking in on your thyroid to make sure it's working properly. You should also consider seeing a nutrition professional to help ensure you're eating the right foods and eating enough to avoid damaging your metabolism. 

2. If you're shedding weight, you'll be shedding hair. 

These days, I have probably 40% less hair than I used to. Isn't that crazy?! This is one of the big changes that no one told me accompanies weight loss.

When you starve your body (which is what you're doing, for better or worse) there is less left over to make long, healthy, thick hair. This is particularly annoying because it can really exacerbate the negative body image most people are already dealing with on a weight loss journey. 

This can be prevented to an extent by eating a nutrient dense diet, so you are still meeting nutrition requirements even if your calories are reduced. Protein is especially important for healthy hair, so aim for around 30% of your calories to come from protein. 

3. Your confidence had nothing to do with your weight. 

When I was getting close to my "goal weight" I learned that my goal weight wouldn't be enough. I was already planning to lose more. At my lowest weight, I was 114lbs, freezing cold all the time, with thinning hair and an irregular period... and I still wanted to lose more because I didn't feel confident yet.

It turns out that if you don't love your body at your current weight, you probably won't love it at a lower weight. We're brainwashed to think that losing weight will make us like our bodies more, but it's pretty much BS... you will have way more work to do. 

If you have a desire to lose weight, you should really analyze the reason behind it. Want more energy? Want to feel sexy? There are probably steps you can take to get closer to those goals that have nothing to do with dieting or weight loss. You should start working on that stuff, because we all eventually learn that weight loss doesn't guarantee happiness. 

4. You're not the only one who binge eats.

This side effect was definitely the WORST one. If you've lost weight, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Someone people call it 'rebound eating' because it's intrinsically linked to restrictive dieting and weight loss. Basically, our bodies are expertly programmed to NOT DIE. If you are losing weight, your body doesn't understand that it's by choice and all the protective mechanisms that we evolved to survive starvation will kick in.

This is especially common when the caloric deficit is significant - so if you're in a rush to lose weight SLOW DOWN.

Losing weight too quickly puts you at risk for increased hunger hormones, decreased satiety hormones, and an obsessive hunger that will not go away. There is a big difference between overeating and binge eating. If you're feeling out of control or helpless when it comes to your food intake, know that you're not the only one who struggles with this! I highly reccomend seeking out a nutrition professional who specializes in eating disorders and disordered eating.

The good news...

... is that most of these are preventable if you skip crash dieting and actually do a program that's designed for long-term health. 

Weight loss really is a science, and it's hard to outsmart your biology. Slow and steady wins the race, guys! I really wish that I had known all the ways food can boost metabolism, which nutrients prevent cravings, and how to exercise in a way that wasn't just focused on calorie burning. 

TELL ME: Can you relate to any of these issues? Do you want me to go more in-depth on any of this info? Leave me a comment because I always want to know what you think!

If you're on a similar journey and could use some guidance, book a free discovery session with me and we can chat about if nutritional counselling would help! Or check out my monthly meal plan membership here.

 

December 2017 Favourites (Protein Powder, Skin Care, Natural Oil Stain Remover, Etc.)

Oh hey 2018, I didn't think we'd be meeting each other so soon!

Now that the holidays are finally behind us (sorry, I know I'm a Grinch) I thought I would share a few of the things that got me through the last 30 days. Thinking about doing this every month so let me know if you're feeling it! Nothing is sponsored or paid, I'm just really into all these things and want to share them with you guys.  

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1. Designs for Health PurePaleo Protein

All my clients and friends know that I am straight-up obsessed with this bone-broth based protein powder.

Here's why I love it:

  • Hypoallergenic: because it's not derived from dairy, pea, or egg whites, it's well tolerated by everyone I know who has tried it.
  • Delicious: unlike most plant-based proteins, this one isn't gritty at all. In fact, if you didn't know better you'd think it's whey because it's just that creamy.
  • Hair, skin, nail, and gut health: since it's derived from bone broth, this formula is actually 70% collagen. Because of that it brings all the benefits of collagen supplementation. In my case, this means epic nail growth and fewer food sensitivities thanks to the gut benefits.
  • Some like it hot: unlike a whey protein, which should never be heated, I like using this protein in hot recipes. I add it to my bulletproof coffees and matcha lattes to make them creamy and boost the protein. I also like stirring it into oatmeal.

2. St. Francis Hepato DR Tincture

This tincture is one of my favourite ways to support my liver and balance my hormones (always a work in progress, haha). Ladies, if you're not taking care of your liver you are not detoxing excess hormones.

Hepato DR contains some of my favourite herbs for liver support including dandelion, milk thistle, globe artichoke, and wild yam. I take it on an empty stomach first thing in the morning and before dinner (if I remember). 

I also learned a ton about St. Francis Herb Farm recently through watching their Instagram stories. I think it's really amazing to see a family-run company growing their own herbs and making their own tinctures right here in Ontario! Especially since there are so many supplements on the market right now and it's hard to figure out where everything comes from. This is one of my favourite companies to support and I want them to be around for a long, long time!

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3. The Ordinary Skincare

Okay, I am so not a beauty blogger but let me talk about this for just a second! I've been dealing with brutal cystic acne for most of my life, but it's gotten particularly bad in the last  few years since I stopped using hormonal birth control.

I've always been into really natural skincare, which to be honest hasn't gotten me anywhere. I've spent a ton of money on fancy oils, organic facials, and other products that didn't help at all. (Actually, in the case of 'oil cleansing' it made things sooooo much worse!)

Now, I know that good skin is dependent on a healthy gut (I'm sure my Celiac Disease isn't helping me) and healthy hormones, but I have recently seen just how much of an impact the right products can make as well! I discovered The Ordinary skincare line of recommendation from a friend and within literally days, my skin started transforming.

Here's what I'm using:

  • Niacinimide + Zinc (AM + PM)
  • 2% Salycilic Acid (AM)
  • 1% Retinol (PM)
  • Azalaic Acid Suspension (PM)

No, this line isn't all-natural or organic... but if you struggle with acne, you know that finding something that works is just worth it. For now, this is making a huge difference - I'll keep you posted and maybe share a full review.

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4. Genuine Health Fermented Gut Superfoods

Throughout December I partnered with Genuine Health to help spread the word about their newest supplement, a prebiotic fibre and polyphenol supplement meant to promote amazing gut health. This post is not sponsored by them at all, I just want to share that I am genuinely loving this product, it's become a part of my daily routine.

Every day I mix 1 scoop of the Fermented Gut Superfoods (I usually use the orange ginger or berry flavour) with a tablespoon of Greens+ (also from Genuine Health) into 1L of water. This is the first thing that goes into my body each day because I'm not really a warm lemon water kinda girl. I also take a probiotic with this most days, and it makes me feel good to know that the probiotic colonies will have plenty of fuel to munch on when they land in my guts. 

Plus, one scoop of this stuff has 6g fibre which you know I'm kind of obsessed with.

5. Bob's Red Mill Psyllium Powder

Speaking of fibre (lol when am I not speaking of fibre?) I finally started using psyllium powder after having a bag that sat in my cupboard for ages and O-M-G! I am so hooked on this!

First, can I just say: BEST. POOPS. EVER! Wowowow.

I add 2 teaspoons (which is 8g fibre) to my smoothies and oatmeal. I even started baking with it in these muffins, and find it keeps me feeling so much fuller for so much longer. I feel like I'm basically always eating, so that's appreciated. 

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6. WizeMonkey Coffee Leaf Tea

If you follow my IG stories, you know that I gave up coffee for the last 2 weeks of December. At the same time I also discovered this company which sells tea made from the leaf of the coffee plant. Coffee leaf has nothing to do with the berry, which are only harvested for about 3 months out of the year.

During the remaining 9 months, coffee farmers don't actually have an income. This company is changing that by producing a delicious tea made from coffee leaves which are always in season! How cool is that?

The tea itself is pretty low in caffeine, comparable to green tea. I also find that it tastes exactly like green tea, but without the bitterness. You also can't oversteep it! I like the mint flavour the most.

7. Thursday Plantation Eucalyptus Oil

I'm not really an essential oils person, but lately I've been getting into the koolaid. I went to an event with Thursday Plantation in December and took home a few bottles of their oils - among them was Eucalyptus. 

The real reason I'm obsessed with it is that this is legit a miracle product that can REMOVE OIL STAINS FROM CLOTHES! Even after they have gone through the dryer - seriously! I used it to fix a bunch of my favourite tops that had been retired to lounge status due to oil stains. One of the stains was a year old and it still came out with just a few drops of Eucalyptus oil and a re-wash. It's also super inexpensive, and has a bunch of other uses.

Let me know - should I do a monthly favourites round-up? Do you have any faves that I should check out? Leave me a comment, you know I love hearing from you!

One Bowl Lemon Raspberry Protein Muffins

Oops, it’s been a minute hasn’t it? My bad, sorry for the lack of posts during the holidays these past couple weeks. Has anyone else been feeling super sleepy and unmotivated lately with the lack of daylight?

It’s super depressing to wake up to pitch black and not see sun for the first couple hours of the day. Then it’s dark again by 5 p.m. which makes it so hard to schedule days for the very important business of taking food pics. I swear Daylight Savings Time is a personal attack on food bloggers.

But I'm rambling, because I’m really here to talk about these muffins and trust me, you want to know all about them!

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When I got into the kitchen to make this recipe, I was actually just trying to create an insanely healthy snack for myself. I didn’t think they would taste that great, because let’s be real…  healthy muffins and tasty muffins are usually totally different muffins.

But not today! These little dudes are like mini rays of sunshine that you can eat and feel hella good about. They’re puffy, sweet, tangy, and have just the right density. Honestly, I expected them to mostly taste like cardboard, so I’m pretty stoked.

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Nutritionally, they’re also total show-offs…

Per TWO Muffins (because who could ever eat a single muffin):

180 calories
9g fibre
11g protein
less than 1g sugar

Plus they’re gluten-free (duh), dairy-free, and contain no added oils or sugars! I do use monk fruit sweetener in my baking (I like Lakanto, but pro tip: you can also get it for cheap in bulk at Bulk Barn) but you can replace it with a nutritive sweetener like cane or coconut sugar if that’s your thing. 

They’re great to eat for breakfast or a snack to keep you feeling full in between meals. I like having them before I work out in the morning, or around 4 p.m. to prevent me from feeling starved by dinnertime.

Try them and let me know what you think!

print recipe
Lemon Raspberry Protein Muffins (gluten-free, high fibre, sugar-free, low calorie)
These muffins are as delicious as they are healthy - which says a lot! A serving of 2 muffins has 180 calories, 9g fibre, 11g protein, and less than 1g sugar. They come together in just 45 minutes, and you only have to wash one bowl, yay!
Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 cup oat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons psyllium husk powder
  • 1/3 cup granulated sweetener (monk fruit, erythritol, stevia, coconut sugar, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cup liquid egg whites
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
Instructions
Preheat your oven to 350F and line a muffin tin with liners. Spray liners with cooking oil spray (like coconut or avocado) to prevent sticking.In a large bowl, combine the oat flour, baking powder, psyllium husk powder, sweetener, chia seeds and sea salt. Mix until well combined.Add the egg whites and lemon juice to the bowl and stir until batter forms. It will be thin at first but thicken up significantly over a minute or two. Once it's thicker, stir in the raspberries. Divide the batter between muffin cups and bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Storage: muffins can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen for longer.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12 muffins

High Fiber Flax Cracker Recipe (Gluten-Free GGs Crackers)

Having Celiac Disease sucks a lot for many reasons... one of which is the FOMO that accompanies missing out on cool new food trends. Lately my instagram feed, inbox, and office has been filling up with GGs fiber crackers and a lot of people asking me what the deal is with this new health food trend.

I basically sing the praises of a high fiber diet every day of my life, so, on one hand, it's really exciting to see people getting stoked for fiber. On the other hand, of all the high fiber foods in the world... why are people suddenly so obsessed with wheat bran crackers? Surely there are better high-fiber foods out there.

I did some digging and figured out it all stems from Lauren Evarts of The Skinny Confidential, who has recently become obsessed with these crackers specifically. They're becoming known as a weight loss miracle product. I guess it's kind of the new American dream to have a mega influencer fall in love with your product and talk non-stop about it, so that's cool!

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Eating fiber has AMAZING benefits, so let's talk about those quickly:

  • Appetite regulation because fibre swells in your stomach and keeps you full for longer.
  • Better blood sugar control, since high fiber foods are lower on the glycemic index.
  • Ability to remove excess hormones and cholesterol from the body by absorbing and eliminating it. 
  • Ability to absorb and eliminate both toxins and nutrients (like fat and protein) from the GI tract, lowering total absorbed calories of a meal.
  • Bigger, better bowel movements, meaning better skin, and lower risk of colorectal cancer. 

So are GGs crackers all they're cracked up to be? They're bland and cardboard-ish but high in fibre, so they'll certainly offer a ton of benefits.

But if you're like me, and have Celiac Disease, gluten sensitivity, FODMAP intolerance, SIBO, or otherwise cannot eat wheat... these wheat bran crackers are totally off the table. 

Since I want people eating more fibre, I created these DIY gluten-free GGs crackers that are super simple and easy to make. Since the flax seeds remain whole, they pass through you and the calories are not fully absorbed. They're still bland but meant to act as the perfect vehicle for all the toppings your heart desires so you can lose the FOMO when looking at all the pretty Instagram pictures.

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How to use:

  • Each cracker has 7.5g of fibre, 2-3 crackers is one serving.
  • Top with healthy fats like avocado or nut butter, and protein like smoked salmon or hard-boiled eggs.
  • Eat one serving with breakfast and as an afternoon snack to keep you super full (and regular).
  • Include lots of protein, fat, and fibre at your other meals to stay satiated, balance blood sugar, and meet nutrient needs.
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High Fiber Flax Crackers (Gluten-Free GGs Style)
These gluten-free high fiber flax crackers are the perfect replacement for GGs crackers to keep you full, improve digestion, and boost metabolism.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups whole flax seeds
  • 2.5 cups filtered water
Instructions
Stir the water and flax seeds together and let soak overnight. In the morning, the water will be full absorbed and the seeds with be gelatinous.Preheat your oven to 200F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.Spread the flax seeds evenly over the parchment paper. They should form a solid layer about 1/4 inch thick. Use a sharp knife to press cut lines into the flax seeds. This will make them easy to break apart when they're done. Place them in the oven and dehydrate for 4 hours. If they are still damp after 4 hours, return them to the oven and continue checking every 45 minutes.Once completely cooled, break them apart and store on in a container the counter for up to a week. They can be stored in the freezer for longer periods. Notes: you can play with flavours, try adding cinnamon, honey, and raisins for a sweet cracker. Oregano and sea salt would make a great savoury cracker to use when making mini pizzas. Crackers stay crunchiest when they're exposed to the air, so they're best stored in a container with a loose lid.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 15 crackers
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5 Things You Can Do to Stop Bloating by Friday

When you struggle with bloating, your social life can take a hit. No one wants to be out with a crowd when your stomach is throwing a temper tantrum and making you wish you’d chosen a different outfit.

Bloating can come on all at once, or build up as the result of multiple bad decisions made over time. To help you guarantee a bloat-free body when you’re out socializing, I’ve put together this 5-day survival guide. If you do these 5 things from Monday-Friday, you’ll be feeling like your best self by the weekend.

1. Hydrate Intelligently

You don’t need a nutritionist to tell you that drinking a lot is good for you. But, not all sources of hydration are created equal! Stick to flat water, unsweetened herbal teas, and optionally fruit-free green juices if you want them.

Avoid these common beverages that can cause bloating:

Sparkling waters and sugar-free soda: even if they’re marketed as better-for-you, carbonated drinks can cause bloating because they’re filled with air! Swallowing air can lead to bloating, stomach aches, gas, burping and more so it’s best to avoid these drinks if you struggle with any of those issues.

Coffee: when we drink coffee, our stomach becomes less acidic which can cause a whole slew of digestive issues. We want our stomach to be highly acidic so that it can properly digest all foods. Low stomach acid leads to undigested food, which can ferment in the gut and cause bloating, gas, and weird bowels.

Fruit juice: consuming excess sugar can lead to imbalanced gut bacteria by over-feeding the bad microbes. When we have more bad guys than good guys, we’re more likely to feel bloated, tired, and even more likely to gain fat.

2. Choose Easy-to-Digest Foods

I’ll repeat this message until I’m blue in the face: EVEN HEALTHY FOODS CAN CAUSE BLOATING! If your strategy for having a flat belly is to eat a bowl of chickpea salad for lunch, it might actually be backfiring on you.

Choose easily digested foods that are less likely to ferment in your gut and cause bloating later. Here is a helpful list of foods that are associated with bloating and what you can try instead.

... Use this!

Chicken and Fish
Pumpkin Seeds
Collard Greens
Red Peppers
Shredded Romaine or Spinach Salad
Flax Crackers or Flax Wraps
Non-Dairy Coconut Milk
Garlic-Infused Olive Oil
Maple Syrup
Carrots
Greens

Intead of this...

Beans and Lentils
Almonds
Broccoli
Onions
Coleslaw
Bread
Milk
Garlic
Agave Nectar
Cauliflower
Grains

Build your plates around a high-quality protein with plenty of veggies like lettuce, peppers, spinach, carrots, cucumbers, parsnips and kale.

3. Eat Enough Fat

To keep your guts happy, make sure to include a heart serving of high-quality fat at every single meal. This helps digestion run smoothly, increases your absorption of many important vitamins, and gives your good microbes the fuel they need to repair damaged gut lining.

Eat at least 2 tablespoons of fat per meal!

These are my favourite sources:

Extra-virgin olive oil
Avocado oil
Raw seeds
Olives
Grass-fed ghee
Coconut oil
Coconut butter
Extra-dark chocolate (85-90%)
MCT oil
Grass-fed butter

4. Get that Fibre In

Whole grains and beans are a great source of dietary fibre, but can also cause digestive issues for many people. However, if you eliminate these foods you must take care to ensure you’re still getting enough fibre to keep having healthy bowel movements (constipation = bloat).

Here are some great sources of fibre to include when you’re not eating grains and beans. Make sure to include fibre at every meal and aim for at least 30g per day.

Ground flax seeds
Psyllium
husk
Green vegetables
Chia seeds
Coconut butter

 

5. Move Around

This tip is less obvious, but when you remain in a seated position all day it can impair digestion. Humans evolved to walk at least 10,000 steps per day, and our digestive systems need to move around to function properly.

When we are sitting down for long periods of time, gas bubbles have nowhere to go and can end up getting trapped and causing bloating an discomfort. Exercise isn’t something you should do for the sole purpose of re-shaping your body, it’s an important part of maintaining good health including good digestive function. Movement doesn’t have to be intense at all, a 15-minute walk outside every couple hours can make a huge difference.

Is this information helpful? Leave me a comment to let me know if you want to see more tips and hacks for better digestion in future posts.

 

 

Anti-Bloating Rainbow Chopped Salad Recipe (Vegan, Low Carb, Low FODMAP, Vegan)

If you struggle with bloating, you should probably stay away from most salads.

Why?

1. Raw veggies are much harder to digest!
2. Common ingredients in dressings like garlic and honey can cause major bloat.
3. Toppings like dried fruits and fried crunchy bits are not helping your belly feel good.

But sometimes you just want to tuck into a big rainbow bowl of goodies! Or have a raw veg side dish to serve alongside your fave proteins.

This recipe works for both full meals and side dishes. It's packed with protein and healthy fats, plus tons of micronutrients to keep you feeling amazing... without causing a ton of bloating. 

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If you're in need of a healthy recipe to bring along to holiday dinners this season, look no further! This salad is low in carbs, high in healthy fat and fibre. That means it's super satisfying and will balance your blood sugar to prevent cravings and overeating Christmas cookies.

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print recipe
Rainbow Chopped Vegan Salad (Low Carb, Low FODMAP)
This colourful chopped salad is low FODMAP, high-flavour, and won't leave you feeling bloated! It's the perfect side dish to bring along to a dinner party but has enough healthy fat and protein to stand alone as a meal.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 english cucumber, chopped
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • 2/3 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 mdium lemon, juiced
  • to taste sea salt and black pepper
Instructions
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keeps well in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 meals or 8 sides

10 Gift Ideas for a Healthier Holiday Season

The holidays are fast approaching and, to be honest, I'm kind of a grinch around this time of year. Shopping is one of my least favourite activities, and I hate giving gifts that don't have substantial meaning behind them. I usually end up throwing out boxes of chocolates, toffees, and other strange unappealing treats I would never choose for myself.

I warned you, I'm a grinch.

But this year I decided to put together a little gift guide to help make the season a little better for us all. There's something for everyone on this list that is bound to be used and genuinely appreciated. Plus, you'll be getting your loved ones through the holidays with (a little) less junk food and hideous ornaments.

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CAST IRON ($40+)

When you give someone cast iron cookware, you are giving them a useful tool that will last forever. I received a 12-inch Cast Iron Skillet from Lodge as a gift last year and can honestly say it's the most used gift I've ever received! Even a small piece is bound to be greatly appreciated by anyone who loves to cook. Lodge is my favourite brand and the only one I have used personally so I linked to them, but I'm sure there are other great products out there too!

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FOUR SIGMATIC MUSHROOM STARTER KIT ($60)

This is a gift that any of your healthy foodie friends will get stoked on! Four Sigmatic have turned medicinal mushrooms into to fun (and tasty) drink mixes. The kit comes with a box of each: Chaga Mushroom Elixir, Mushroom Coffee, and Mushroom Hot Cacao. If you're buying for multiple people, the boxes are also great stocking stuffers. 

DIY KOMBUCHA KIT ($20)

For the person in your life who is spending WAY too much money on kombucha... we all know someone. Kombucha brewing is not only super simple and economical, but it's also really fun and empowering! And this is the gift that keeps giving since they'll surely have excess kombucha to share with you once they start fermenting their own. ;)

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KEEP CUP ($35)

I am so, so obsessed with my 16oz glass and cork Keep Cup. This is the perfect gift for anyone in your life who is always on the go. It's great because it doesn't keep your drink un-drinkable-y hot for 12 hours like other to-go bugs I've tried. Plus, it's beautiful always gets tons of compliments from strangers (pretty cool for a coffee cup).

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BERKEY FILTERS ($300+)

If you're looking for something extra special, consider giving the gift of pure water to someone you love! The water we drink is one of the biggest ways we can impact our overall health, and since replacement filters for the Berkey systems are so inexpensive, they're actually the most economical option when you consider the lifetime value of the filer.

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BEAUTY BROTH ($75)

If you're gifting to someone in Toronto, why not send them a delivery of super healing bone broth? My fave pick is the Beauty Broth from Ripe Nutrition because they offer delivery, and their broth s actually the best! (Plus they have a vegan option.)

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NATURAL CALM ($5)

Natural Calm is my favourite magnesium citrate supplement, and their assorted travel packs are the perfect $5 stocking stuffers. Each pack contains 5 different Natural Calm flavours, and are the perfect warming bedtime drink to help combat magnesium depletion which, let's face it, pretty much everyone struggles with. 

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MUSE MEDITATION ($300)

Know someone who constantly says they want to start meditating, but just never does? The great thing about Muse is it gives immediate auditory feedback on brain activity so there's no sitting and wondering "am I even doing this right?" 

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23 AND ME ($220)

Give a gift that will benefit someone for their entire life with a genetic test that can evaluate carrier status for a variety of conditions (like Celiac and Alzheimer's) as well as offering a deeper look into ancestry. 23 and Me offers reports on health risks, lifestyle choices, and can connect distant family members who have taken the test as well. 

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SMART SWEETS ($5)

Want to give out some sweet treats this season, but without adding to the sugar coma most people remain in from November to January? Smart Sweets are a totally sugar-free gummy bear treat that kids and adults alike can enjoy. They're also prebiotic and insanely delicious. 

I hope you found this list helpful! If there's anything you think I should add, let me know in the comments. Happy gifting!

Orange Ginger Prebiotic Breakfast Jar Recipe

If you're on a mission to love up your gut, you probably wake up every morning and take a probiotic with a glass of warm lemon water. Classic ritual. But unless you're putting in just as much effort to FEED and NOURISH those bacterial strains, you're basically planting seeds then not watering them.

You see, probiotic supplements mostly act as tourists in our bodies. They travel through, see the sights, hang out by the Eiffel tower (errr... the large intestine?) and then they say their goodbyes. But it doesn't have to be this way! If you travelled to a country where the weather was perfect, the food was amazing, and the people were friendly... you'd be pretty tempted to stay, right?

Prebiotics create a gut environment that bacteria will flourish in, so you'll get more out of your probiotic supplements. You'll also feed the native bacteria that will always stick around while creating a more diverse microbiome. This means better moods, a stronger immune system, and better nutrient absorption for you  - win-win!

SO, WHERE CAN YOU FIND PREBIOTICS?

Foods that contain fructans and/or galactans are prebiotic. Obviously, you cannot head to the grocery store and ask them which aisle they keep the fructans and galactans in... so here's a handy list of awesome prebiotic foods:

  • onions
  • garlic
  • asparagus
  • chicory root
  • green bananas
  • dandelion greens
  • Jerusalem artichoke 

All these foods should be eaten raw to get maximum prebiotic benefits. 

I know, I know... not a super appetizing food list. Getting tons of prebiotics in your diet means getting familiar with some new foods that are sometimes hard to find, sometimes hard to prepare, and sometimes... kind of gross - raw dandelion greens? I'll pass.

That's why I was so, so thrilled to learn about Genuine Health's new fermented organic gut superfoods+.  As a nutritionist who is totally obsessed with gut health, I love anything that makes it easier for people to get more gut-loving nutrition in their lives!

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This amazing gut-loving food-based supplement has been fermented to provide a great source of amplified and concentrated plant nutrients for gut and overall health. It's more than a fibre supplement! It contains 22 fully fermented plant-based superfoods and prebiotics to nourish a healthy gut flora. Polyphenols feed your gut too, so I love that they included nutrient-dense plants like spinach, sweet potato, broccoli, beets, pomegranate, and so many more!

I won't lie, I'm kind of obsessed... this delicious powder can be shaken up with water OR added to recipes... which brings me to the recipe I'm sharing today.

And man, is it a good one. 

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These Orange Ginger Prebiotic Breakfast Jars are the perfect follow-up to your daily probiotic because they literally FEED YOUR GUT! Plus they're filled with anti-inflammatory ginger and it’s the perfect seasonal breakfast recipe for the winter months when citrus and pomegranate are in season. I used the Orange Ginger flavour of the Genuine Health fermented organic gut superfoods+ to enhance the flavour of the entire recipe.

Chia seeds are the perfect pairing to a prebiotic meal with their soluble fibre that helps remove excess cholesterol from the body and makes for some epic poops! Filled with healthy fat, protein, and fibre these breakfast jars will balance your blood sugar and keep you going strong all morning!

You can also say SEE YA to that mid-day bloating that hits you after a low fibre breakfast like muffins from the coffee shop. They are great to make-ahead for your busy mornings, so you can grab-and-go with no excuse to fall back on that coffee and muffin that won't exactly love up your gut. 

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I hope you love these breakfast jars, and can't wait to hear how they make you feel! To learn where you can buy Genuine Health’s fermented organic gut superfoods+, take a look at their store finder.

print recipe
Orange Ginger Prebiotic Breakfast Jars
The perfect make-ahead breakfast to fuel your on-the-run mornings while loving your guts and nourishing your inner garden. Prebiotic fibre, fermented gut superfoods, fat, and protein with a delicious citrus ginger flavour.
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 2 large navel oranges
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 scoops Genuine Health fermented organic gut superfoods+ (Orange Ginger flavour)
  • 1/2 cup full-fat canned coconut milk
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey (or maple syrup)
  • 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
  • 1 large pomegranate (about 1 cup arils)
Instructions
In a bowl, combine the chia seeds, zest of ONE orange, cinnamon, ginger, and the Genuine Health fermented organic gut superfoods+. Stir to combine well.Add the coconut milk, almond milk, juice of ONE orange (the same orange you zested), and honey. Whisk well to combine Let set in the fridge for 3 hours.Peel and slice the second orange. Assemble the jars by layering the chia pudding, orange slices, hemp sees, and pomegranate arils. Store in the fridge for up to 4 days. Enjoy the bloat-free breakfast!
Details
Prep time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings
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Disclaimer: this post was created in partnership with Genuine Health, which lets me support my blog and continue to provide heaps of valuable free content to you. Sponsorships are carefully considered and I only accept partnerships with brands I love, buy from, and 100% believe in. I am so grateful to be able to help people with the work I do, and partnerships like these make it possible!

5 Healthy Foods That Might Actually Be Making You MORE Bloated

par·a·dox: a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.

I want to talk for a moment about what I lovingly call the "fart paradox." Before you stop reading - hear me out - it doesn't involve a whoopie cushion or elementary-school-aged boys.

The fart paradox goes a little something like this:

Situation 1: you binge out on white bread and butter and basically feel fine.
Situation 2: you grab a super healthy veggie-packed salad for lunch and spend the rest of the day looking 6-months pregnant and coughing over your farts.

Seems a little backwards, no?

If you're frustrated that the "healthy choices" often end up causing the whoopie cushion effect... look out for these 5 foods that might secretly be crashing your flat belly party.

1. Beans (and Lentils!)

The musical fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot!

But really though, legumes are a great source of fibre, plant-based protein, iron, anti-oxidants and more... but they're also a great source of highly fermentable carbohydrates. This can mean serious gas-attack for your guts if you have any intolerance to fermentable foods. That hummus and veggies snack probably isn't doing you any favours in the bloat department. 

Some of the fermentable carbohydrates can be broken down if you buy your own dry beans and soak them for 8 hours with 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in the water. Once they have soaked, drain and rinse well so none of the soaking water remains. Then, cook them yourself with a 2-inch piece of kombu seaweed in the water (this is optional but helpful), ideally in a pressure cooker. T

his might make a difference in your bloating, but if you're highly sensitive you might find that your gut needs a break from legumes while you address the underlying cause of your gut issues. 

2. Sugar-Free Gum

"But Ashley, I get the healthy gum without aspartame in it!"

Hear me out, gum chewers!

Even if you're choosing the "healthy" sugar-free gums from your health food store, they are likely loaded with sugar alcohols which absolutely cannot be digested by the human body. This means they travel UNDIGESTED through your intestines and lead to a heck of a lot of gas, bloating, and even diarrhea if you're super sensitive. 

Check the ingredients for: xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol, or erythritol. 

If you've been chewing a lot of gum lately, go a week without and see how you feel.

3. Cruciferous Veggies

I often hear form people who tried swapping their white rice for cauliflower rice and, despite the best intentions, end up feeling mich worse.

Cruciferous veggies like cabbage, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower are some of the healthiest foods on this planet. They protect against cancer, detox excess hormones, reduce the effect of environmental toxins, and seriously love up our livers. 

But they can also cause a heck-tonne of gas to build up in the body.... and not just regular gas. Anyone who has ever smelled "broccoli farts" knows what I'm talking about! The sulfur content of these foods causes the kind of gas that will clear a room.

Since these foods are super healthy, I don't suggest eliminating them completely... but maybe steer clear on date night. 

4. Goat Dairy

There is an annoying myth out there that dairy from goats will not cause GI upset that dairy from cows causes. The truth is that goat's milk contains almost as much lactose as cow's milk does. If you are lactose intolerant (or sensitive) this is not a solution! 

Goat's dairy can be better tolerated by some people due to the different protein structure, but if you have lactose intolerance, you probably won't feel any better. Food sensitivity testing can help uncover if you're lactose or casein sensitive so you know what's actually going on. 

If someone tells you to choose goat's dairy for lactose intolerance, turn and run away from them because this is a complete misconception! 

5. Carbonated Water

There's been a huge influx of fashionable sparkling waters on the market lately. They're sugar-free, zero-calorie and embraced by everyone from the super- strict Whole30 community to the glam fashionable LA vegans.

Some people even have carbonation machines at home to make their own sparkling drinks. While this is a valid way of receiving hydration, it's not a great strategy if you're trying to beat the bloat. 

I view these drinks as a straight-up delivery method of gas into the body. Truly, I cannot think of anything that would cause more bloating than drinking actual air! What goes in must come out and if you're putting a heap of gas in, well... you can fill in the blanks. 

Are you eating these foods?

If you're trying to get to the bottom of your bloating, try to cut down on these foods before jumping into an elimination diet - you'd be surprised at how much better you might start to feel!

Grab a copy of my IBS-Friendly Weeknight Dinners recipe book for meal ideas that are guaranteed to prevent bloating, without skimping on nutrient density.

Tips for Vegans Eating a Low FODMAP Diet

I've been sitting on this post for a while because I wasn't sure if it that many people would be interested, but since opening up the Love Your Guts Facebook group, it's been a hot discussion topic. Hopefully, this helps those of you who have been asking!

I hear from a lot of people attempting to follow a low FODMAP diet without using any animal products. While it's not easy, it's also not impossible! Since my strategy involves meeting every person where they are, I love a challenge and helping clients find ways to stick with what they know while taking that first step forward. 

Today I'm sharing some of my best tips for getting good nutrition on a diet that eliminates many plant-based staples like bread, beans, and avocados. 

Tip #1: Don't Try to Do This Alone!

My first tip is to seek out a professional who has experience working with both Low FODMAP diets and plant-based diets. Having guidance can make all the difference in how quickly you start feeling better, meet your macro (and micro) nutrient needs, and prevent you from developing a disordered relationship with food. 

The first professional you meet might not believe that vegans can successfully attempt a low FODMAP diet, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's true!

Don't be afraid to meet with multiple professionals to find one that's a good fit. Most holistic nutritionists and dieticians offer a complimentary meet and greet sessions so you can get to know them, their experience, and decide if you'll be a good fit to work together. Ask questions about their knowledge and experience working with IBS, FODMAPs and plant-based diets. Go with your gut. It's okay for this process to take a while, having the right professional on your team is worth the work. 

(pssssst, if you want to book one with me, click here)

Tip #2: Choose Soy Over Other Legumes

The soy products tofu (in block form, not silken) and tempeh are one of the few dense plant-based protein sources that are also low in FODMAPs. You might be tempted to avoid soy, based on fear-mongering internet pseudo-science... but soy products will help you meet your nutrition needs on a Low FODMAP diet that's also free on animal products. 

You can try to include small servings of other legumes (like chickpeas) as well, but because of their FODMAP content, most people with IBS cannot tolerate them in high amounts. Since small amounts won't provide the protein you need to meet your tequirements, they should be viewed as more of a condiment than a staple.

Include a few servings per week of quality soy products and choose tempeh often, as it may be more beneficial than tofu. Just about 100 grams of either will clock in around 20 grams of protein. Gluten-free soy sauce (tamari) is great as a seasoning, but won't add much protein to meals. 

Avoid whole soybeans, soy milk, edamame beans, silken tofu, isolated soy protein, TVP, and soy-based mock meats. All these products are typically high in FODMAPS. 

If you're worried about soy, worried about FODMAPs, and worried about animal products... it might be time to assess your relationship with food. I say this with so much love, but it's easy to develop fear around food and if the restrictions are starting to pile up it might be time to address that. Eating a restricted diet will starve off your gut microbes and make it seem like you have more food intolerances than you actually do. If this sounds like you, consider diversifying your diet even if it causes temporary digestive issues. 

Tip #3: Hemps Seeds Are Your New BFF

Another great low FODMAP plant-based protein source, so make friends with these powerful little seeds. Just 3 tablespoons of hemp hearts offer up 10 grams of protein, which is pretty good! 

In addition, hemp seeds are also packed with linoleic acid (omega-6), alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) and gamma-linolenic acid (omega-6) which are all considered to be healthy and essentials fats. 

Spoon hemp seeds (sometimes called hemp hearts) onto salads, add them to smoothies, or use as a replacement for oats in baking! I say spoon instead of sprinkle, because you really need to eat a lot of them to get enough nutrition from them.

Luckily, these seeds have a sweet, creamy flavour and are just as delicious as they are nutritious. 

Tip #4: Meal Prep and Batch Cook

Cook ahead, find meals that work and repeat them, have a plan. Having healthy food ready to go will make sticking to a Low FODMAP protocol much easier.

Here are some things you should always try to have on-hand:

  • cooked grains (white rice, quinoa, gluten-free pasta)
  • marinated tofu cubes (soaked in tamari)
  • chopped veggies (cucumber, carrots, cherry tomatoes)
  • low FODMAP dips or seed butter (sunbutter, tahini, pumpkin seed butter)
  • soups, stews, and other dishes that are easy to batch cook

Tip #5: Supplement Strategically

In addition to the usual B12 and D3 supplements you're probably already taking (and if you're not, get on that because you really need to be), consider adding an amino acid supplement to help your body meet it's protein requirements.

Don't shy away from fortified non-dairy milks (like almond milk) as long as they are unsweetened and don't contain added fibres. 1 cup of these fortified milks will provide about a third of your calcium needs for the day.

A micro-algae-based DHA supplement can also help boost your DHA to similar levels that a person eating animal products would have. DHA is very anti-inflammatory and our bodies often don't make enough of it even with plenty of ALA in the diet.

Other supplements might be recommended, but your nutrition professional will offer guidance based on your unique needs. Some of my typical recommendations for vegans include amino acids, choline, l-glutamine, magnesium, and a good FOS-free probiotic.

I hope these tips help those of you who are following a Low FODMAP diet! If there's something else you're struggling with, or if you have any tips of your own to share leave me a comment. 

 

 

Join Me For #GutMonth: 30 Days of Focused Nutrition to Boost Your Gut Health

A few days ago, I put a poll out on Instagram asking if anyone would want to join me for a Whole30 this November. Why? Because after a super busy couple of weeks, during which I really let my nutrition slip, I need to focus on my gut health. I find that having sensitive Celiac guts means I'm prone to a whole lot of GI drama when I'm not super careful (read: when I eat a whole bag of chocolate covered almonds as a meal). Turns out a lot of you have been feeling the need for a little reset too, and wanted a little community Whole30.

Then I looked into the actual rules of a Whole30, and I knew there was no way I'd be up for that. No shade thrown to the actual program (Melissa Hartwig is literally my spririt animal) but I just know it's not right for me. First of all, I'm not a huge fan of "rules" when it comes to the food I eat (maybe because I have a medical diagnosis that gives me enough rules). Also, I have a pretty healthy relationship with food (and want to keep it that way) so I'm not about to cut healthy foods like raw honey or white rice out of my diet. 

So after some thinking it over, I decided to create a program of my own and invite others to join in with me! The most important part is the community aspect, which is the real reason I was interested in Whole30 to begin with. The idea of #GutMonth was born because I think we could all take 30 days to show our guts some love.

Having healthy, balanced gut flora and strong gut lining is associated with lower levels of inflammation, cholesterol, diabetes risk, digestive disorders, food sensitivities, and mental illness (seriously!). Plus, having a healthy gut supports your immune system and neurotransmitters, regulates appetite, and reduces cravings. 

What I'm Asking You to Do For 30 Days

1. Hit These Nutrition Targets

Vegetables: 4 per day
Lettuce, kale, collard greens, arugula, spinach, bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, zucchini, squash, sweet potatoes, microgreens/sprouts, fennel, etc.

Fruit: 2-3 per day
Berries, apples, pears, pineapple, papaya, plantain, avocado, lemons, limes, orange, grapefruit, kiwi, mango.

(Note: if you have IBS, use this chart to choose low FODMAP veggies and fruit.)

Animal Proteins: 2-4 per day (or see vegan options)
Organic chicken, grassfed beef, wild salmon, trout, haddock, cod, sardines, mackerel, shrimp, scallops, eggs, venison, bison, pork.

Vegan Proteins: at least 4 per day (if you are vegan)
1/2 cup tempeh, 1/2 cup lentils, 1/2 cup sprouted or pressure-cooked chickpeas, 1/4 cup hemp seed or pumpkin seed.

Healthy Fats: 3-5 per day
Extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, ground flax, coconut oil, coconut butter, ghee, shredded coconut, avocado. 

2. Eat These Special Foods Daily

  • Fermented Foods: sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir water, jun, miso, tempeh, full-fat yogurt or milk kefir (1-2 servings per day)
  • Resistant Starch: cooked then cooled white potatoes or basmati rice, green-tipped banana, plantains, pressure-cooked legumes (1-2 servings per day)
  • Bone Broth (1-2 cups per day)
  • Herbal tea (dandelion root, hibiscus, ginger, fennel, liquorice, lemon balm, burdock, mint, nettle, anise, clove, cardamom, milk thistle etc.) (unlimited cups daily)

3. Limit Intake of Less Gut-Friendly Foods

#GutMonth is more about what we are adding in than what we are taking out of our diet. Focusing on the above foods for 30 days will naturally limit these foods.

  • Most grains and legumes (except white basmati/jasmine rice and sprouted or pressure cooked legumes). Beans and lentils are optional, so if you suspect they are causing issues leave them out for the 30 days, then try reintroducing them. Vegans should not remove beans from their diet unless working with a nutrition professional to ensure adequate nutrition. 
  • All dairy products except ghee (and small amounts of full-fat yoghurt or milk kefir, if desired).
  • Added sugars (small amounts of raw honey or dark chocolate with case sugar are okay).
  • Inflammatory oils like canola, safflower, corn, and soybean.
  • Un-fermented soy products (avoid soy if you have a known sensitivity or have been told to avoid it).

4. Incorporate These Tips for Better Digestion

  • At mealtime, eat your protein first to let stomach acid digest protein more effectively.
  • Increase digestive enzymes by taking herbal bitters or raw apple cider vinegar before a meal.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking at least 2L room-temp water per day.
  • Avoid super cold foods like smoothies and salads, try to focus on warm foods to keep digestion strong.
  • Use warming spices like cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, nutmeg, cloves, garam masala, and ginger.

Some supplements can help promote better digestion and faster gut healing. While these are not personalised recommendations, you can do some research (or book a consultation) to determine which supplements are right for you.

 Optional supplements:

  • Probiotics
  • Prebiotics (resistant starch powder or Genuine Health fermented Gut Superfood)
  • Collagen powder (Bulletproof, Vital Proteins, Organika, and Great Lakes are all good brands)
  • Betaine HCL
  • Full-spectrum digestive enzymes
  • L-glutamine
  • Fish oil

Note: this information is for educational purposes only as these are supplements I often reccomend for healthy digestion and gut health. It's important to do your own research or to work with a professional to decide what supplements are right for you.

5. Join the Community + Have Fun

Join the private Facebook community so we can share wins, meal ideas, ask questions, and keep each other motivated. Join us here.

This isn't meant to be a diet, but a way to tune it your body and show your microbiome some love!

#GutMonth isn't a strict plan, but a way to bring focus to healthy habits that will keep your gut happy for life. Once the 30 days are over, you're encouraged to keep going with the elements of the program that made you feel amazing, and you can jump back in at any time!

This program can be made vegan, paleo, low FODMAP, AIP, or low carb by selecting the gut-friendly foods that fall within those guidelines. 

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5 Low FODMAP Staple Foods You Need to Be Eating for IBS

While you're healing from digestive issues, there are moments when it feels like you can't eat anything at all. To keep your belly full and your heart happy, I reccomend focusing on the foods that you can have and finding total joy in them. Dark chocolate, coffee, and peanut butter are all on the table, thankfully.

In the early days, the goal is to improve digestion as quickly as possible while still meeting caloric and nutrient needs. After all, you will not feel energetic, vibrant, and healthy if you are starving your body of essential fuel. 

To help you focus on abundance rather than restriction, while still getting your essential nutrients in, here is my cheat sheet of the 5 best foods to lean on, especially if you're new to an IBS (Low FODMAP) diet. These are things you should eat daily, with a healthy sprinkle of fun foods like chocolate and peanut butter to keep you smiling.

1. Soft Lettuces

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While lettuce is not a great source of energy (calories), it is an amazing source of micronutrients. These nutrients keep your cells healthy and happy, lower inflammation, fight free radicals, and contribute to longevity. You should be eating at least 5 servings of veggies and fruit daily.

Unlike heartier greens like kale, soft baby lettuces (like baby romaine, butter leaf lettuce, and baby spinach) are typically very easy to digest.

How to use lettuce:

  • side salads
  • stirred into grain bowls
  • smoothies (especially spinach)
  • as a wrap for sandwiches (butter leaf/Boston lettuce)
  • in gluten-free pasta salads

2. White Rice

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White rice is one of the most easily digested sources of carbohydrates. As long as you eat plenty of vegetables, you will get enough vitamins and minerals in your diet that you don't have to worry about choosing brown rice over white. Since most fruits need to be eaten sparingly on a low FODMAP diet, rice can provide much-needed carbohydrates. Basmati and jasmine rice are the best choices.

How to use rice:

  • base for meat/veggie meals
  • homemade sushi (with salmon and cucumber)
  • rice flour noodles

3. Bell Peppers + Tomatoes

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Bell peppers and tomatoes are a low FODMAP veggie option that can be easily incorporated into many delicious recipes. They provide tons of vitamin C (especially red peppers) and taste great. One of my best tips for following a low FODMAP diet is to fill your fridge with plenty of these veggies.

How to use peppers and tomatoes: 

  • in stir fries/curries
  • stuffed with meat
  • roasted and made into soup
  • grilled and served with protein and pasta
  • made into a dip 

4. Wild Fish

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All animal-based proteins are included on a low FODMAP diet, but some offer more benefits than others. Wild fish contain essential omega-3 fatty acids that help protect heart health, reduce inflammation, and support cognitive function. 

I reccomend choosing wild oily fish a few times per week like salmon, trout, herring, sardines, and mackerel.

How to use wild fish:

  • in homemade sushi
  • baked with zucchini and tomatoes
  • sauteed in avocado oil with homemade low FODMAP tartar sauce
  • on salads

5. Ground Flax Seeds

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Most high FODMAP foods are also very high in fibre. When you're just starting out, getting adequate fibre can be a bit challenging so ground flaxseed can help keep you regular. Ground flax is great because it can help normalize bowel movements whether you're struggling with constipation, diarrhea, or alternating bouts of both. 

Flax seeds are also high in the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). They can help balance our hormones, and even protect against some cancers. 

How to use ground flax:

  • add to smoothies
  • sprinkle over salads
  • stir into rice to boost fibre
  • use in baking (ground flax can be made into bread)

Nother tip to keep in mind is that it's important to work with a professional who can help ensure you're meeting nutritional requirements on a regular basis. A well designed low FODMAP diet should be filled with a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, nuts and seeds. These are just a few of the foods to include, but they are a great starting point when you're finding what works for your body.

If you have questions about meal planning for an IBS Diet or want to share your own staple foods I would love to hear from you in the comments!

5 Things I Wish My Nutritionist Had Told Me About IBS

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When I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, I thought that eating a gluten-free diet would fix my stomach issues once and for all. At least all the doctor's tole me that’s what would happen.

But even after being deemed “healthy” (aka. gut healed from Celiac) I still didn’t feel better. In fact, I was still struggling daily with insane bloating, gas pains, and stomach noises that seemed louder than a car alarm at 3AM.  Not romantic, I know. 

It was deemed IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and in my quest to feel better I sought out nutritional counselling which left me feeling even more helpless. Now that I’m a nutritionist (and totally IBS symptom free) I’m sharing the 5 things I wish my own nutritionist had told me.

1.    Healthy Foods Can Still Hurt Your Stomach

My nutritionist suggested an elimination diet that had me starting my day with applesauce and flax seeds, snacking on carrots with raw almond butter, salads with avocado for lunch, and delicious veggie lentils stews for dinner. I followed it religiously and still felt gassy and bloated all the time.

Despite my diet looking like something Gwenyth Paltrow would promote, I didn’t feel healthy at all. It was really confusing back then, but now I know that most of the foods I was eating were actually causing my problems. In fact… apples, almond butter, avocados, many veggies, and lentils are all foods I recommend people with IBS avoid due to their FODMAP content. It took me a long time before I could eat small amounts of these foods and still feel normal. 

2.    Social Anxiety Can Make Things Worse

Lots of people with IBS also have anxiety and because of this, doctors and nutritionists sometimes chock up our issues to being ‘stressed out.’ I really disagree and think in many cases, the anxiety is caused by not knowing when you’re going to balloon up two pant sizes, or need access to a washroom STAT. That's pretty freaking stressful!

Anxiety can really impact your digestion, though, as it puts you in fight-or-flight mode. When you're in this state mentally, your body produces fewer digestive enzymes and impairs overall digestion. If you find that your stomach only seems to hurt at family dinners or big events, it could be that your nervous system is halting proper digestion.

These days I only eat light, easily digested meals when I'm at big dinners or events because I'm a naturally nervous person and even my super healthy gut can't protect me from that.

3.    Food Sensitivities Are Highly Individual

Some groups will tell you that all animal products cause digestive issues. Some will claim it’s the grains and legumes. Others still, claim lectins are the culprit.

The truth is that food sensitivities vary so much from person to person. This is why I start out with a FODMAP-free diet when working with IBS clients. By eliminating the most common IBS triggers, we can see if there is a real need to avoid meat/eggs/nightshades and everything else under the sun (spoiler: usually there is no need).

One easy way to tell if you should try a FODMAP diet, is to ask yourself this simple question: does my bloating get progressively worse throughout the day or is it intermittent? Bloating that builds up all day long is a sign of fermentation (FODMAPs) while intermittent digestive drama is often a sign of other food intolerances.

4.    Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes Usually Don’t Help

This might be an unpopular opinion, but after spending a lot of money on bottles of digestive enzymes, I never found one that made a difference in my actual IBS symptoms. Certain formulations of probiotic actually made things worse.

Working with clients, I have seen time after time that these expensive supplements don’t make a big difference with IBS symptoms. While I do see the value, and at times recommend them for certain people, the formulation matters a lot and they aren’t going to fix the underlying issue.

Because probiotics do have amazing benefits, I stick to FOS-free formulations to prevent more IBS issues from cropping up. 

5.    There IS an Underlying Issue

IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion. It’s a label used when nothing else seems to be truly wrong. Up-to-date nutritionists, dieticians, and GI specialists know to recommend a low FODMAP diet and reintroduction to manage symptoms but they often expect you to avoid your trigger foods for life.

The truth is that 80% of the time, IBS is caused by an overgrowth of either fungus of bacteria. With the right diet and supplements, this can actually be healed over time meaning that one day you should be able to enjoy healthy foods like apples, lentils, and avocados (I mean, what is life without avocados?) with minimal to no problems.

 

Did I miss anything? What do you wish you had been told about IBS from the get-go? Let me know in the comments!

"Feed the World" Butter Chicken

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When I was in kindergarden, there was one boy in my class with a peanut allergy. From the very first day, that was always how I knew him. Actually, I think that's the only thing I ever knew about him. He always had to sit alone during lunch and snack time because in those days, pretty much every kid took some form of peanut in their lunch bag (PB&J, granola bars, etc).

Fast forward to today and most elementary schools are peanut-free. Everyone you know has some kind of allergy, sensitivity, or dietary preference. Cooking for a crowd is stressful business now because odds are you'll be dealing with some combination of nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, or vegan eaters. But you're not a short-order cook and ain't nobody got time for making 5 different meals.

That's why I call this recipe "Feed the World Butter Chicken." Not (just) because it leaves leftovers for days (though this one is seriously perfect for batch-cooking), but because it can feed anyone, no matter what the dietary restriction.

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PLUS if you're serving plant-based eaters alongside omnivores, you can still make the same recipe but divide it into two pots at step 3 adding chicken to one and chickpeas to the other.

I know, I know, I'm a total life-saver. 

This recipe, made as-is, is 100% gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free (coconuts are not a botanical nut), paleo, Whole30 compliant, and keto-friendly. I'm sharing the basic recipe, as well as modifications I've tried for any and all special diets you might have to cook for. If I missed any dietary restrictions, just let me know and I will add it to the list. ;)

Modifications

Vegan/Vegetarian: add 3 cups of chickpeas instead of adding chicken
Low FODMAP: leave out the garlic and onions (and cook with garlic-infused oil if possible)
AIP/Nightshade/Lectin-Free: leave out the tomato paste and use turmeric instead of curry powder for a coconut chicken curry
Coconut Allergy: use avocado oil and almond milk instead

print recipe
Feed-the-World Butter Chicken
This recipe is naturally gluten, dairy, egg, and nut free, paleo, Whole 30 compliant, and keto-friendly. It can also be easily modified to be vegan, Low FODMAP, AIP, lectin-free, and/or nightshade-free! No matter how you make it, it's warming, cozy, and insanely delicious.
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 small can (about 1/2 cup) tomato paste
  • 1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups full-fat coconut milk
  • to taste sea salt
Instructions
Heat the coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger. Sautee for 2-3 minutes until translucent, stirring often.Add the cinnamon, curry powder, and turmeric. Cook for about 1 minute, until fragrant, then add the tomato paste.Add chicken to the pan and stir well to coat with the spices and tomato paste. Add water to loosen the paste (about 1/4 cup). Cover the pot and cook for about 10 minutes, until chicken is done.Stir in the coconut milk and simmer for another minute or two. Add extra liquid if you want it saucier, and season with sea salt. MODIFICATIONS: Vegan/Vegetarian: add 3 cups of chickpeas instead of adding chicken Low FODMAP: leave out the garlic and onions (and cook with garlic-infused oil if possible) AIP/Nightshade/Lectin-Free: leave out the tomato paste and use turmeric instead of curry powder for a coconut chicken curryTO SERVE: Serve with rice, roasted cauliflower, greens, naan bread, or anything else your little heart desires.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 servings
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Welcoming Fall and a Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal Recipe

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By this point, you've probably heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka. SAD). It's a type of depression related to the change in seasons, typically striking during the winter. It's commonly thought to be related the lack of natural light exposure and vitamin D deficiency that occurs during this time.

Some people, however, experience SAD at other times of the year. I fall into this category and honestly, I really struggle in the summer.  While the rest of the world is vacationing, hitting the beach and otherwise loving life... I often find myself feeling really sad, followed by intense guilt for not feeling happy during the summer, which leads to more sadness. 

Maybe it's the Pitta (fire) in me, overheating. Maybe it's because I'm a perfectionist and tend to let the perfect destroy the good. Whatever the reason, between June and August I just have a really hard time.

But then along comes September, and the crisp air breathes new life into me. The sunlight is less intense, the city doesn't feel as stifling, and I begin to feel like myself again. However difficult my summer, I always know that I will find joy in the fall.

Cliche as it sounds, you really cannot appreciate the good times until you have trekked through some not-so-good times. I'm so grateful for autumn, for harvest season, and for all the good I know is yet to come. 

My October began beautifully, at a retreat center outside Toronto. Last year I agreed to travel to Nirvana Retreat Centre the last weekend of September to cook nourishing, harvest-inspired meals for a wellness retreat hosting 12 amazing ladies. I'm so happy I made this commitment because the weekend didn't feel like work at all. Instead, I felt incredibly connected to myself, my passion, and my vision. As a holistic nutritionist, I find it easy to get caught-up in clinic work (seeing clients, creating nutrition plans) and forget how much I really love working with my hands and with food to provide nourishment for the people around me. 

One of the breakfasts I made the ladies was a Pumpkin Pie Baked Oatmeal, and it was a huge hit. This is one of my favorite fall breakfasts, since it's warming, comforting, simple, and delicious. As a bonus, it's a great breakfast to batch-cook and enjoy all week long. My favorite way to serve it is baked up in individual, single-serving baking pans and serve as a cozy morning meal. 

I also love this breakfast because it contains way more protein and healthy fat than you'll normally find in a regular bowl of oats. It's packed with fibre for amazing gut health and even sneaks in a full serving of veggies. 

The recipe is below and I hope you enjoy it! If you have any words of wisdom or a personal experience with SAD to share, I would love to hear them in the comments or in a personal message. These things are hard to talk about, but the more comfortable we become in sharing our truths, the better this world becomes. 

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print recipe
Pumpkin Pie Baked Oatmeal
This is the perfect cozy fall breakfast! Unlike a classic bowl of oatmeal, it contains over 20g protein, and a full serving of vegetables while being incredibly comforting and satisfying.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups rolled oats (gluten-free if needed)
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed (flax meal)
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree (canned is fine!)
  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or any milk)
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
Instructions
Preheat oven to 350F.In a large bowl, combine the oats, pie spice, baking powder, and ground flax. Mix well.Add the pumpkin puree, eggs, and almond milk. Stir until well combined. The batter should be slightly thicker than a cake batter, but thinner than a cookie dough. Pour the batter into an 8x8 baking dish or divide between individual baking pans/ramekins (depending on how you want to serve). Sprinkle the top of the oatmeal mixture with the coconut sugar and pumpkin seeds. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the center is firm.Serve hot or cold with a splash of almond milk or a dollop of coconut yogurt. The leftovers keep well in the fridge for up to 4 days, making this a great meal prep recipe!
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings
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What You Actually Need to Know About Saturated Fat and Coconut Oil

Let’s talk about coconut oil for a moment, shall we?

Actually, it seems like everyone is already talking about coconut oil. With the recently issued Presidential Advisory from the American Heart Association denouncing its use, many people are feeling confused and exhausted by conflicting information all over the damn place. The decision fatigue is real right now. 

This advisory has not changed how I feel about saturated fats or coconut oil at all.

Right off the bat, I want to say that it's important to understand this is not new information, just a review of old information. Literally nothing has changed. I still don't believe coconut oil is the solution to all health problems (sorry!). I also still believe saturated fat (including coconut oil) has a valuable place in a healthy diet... but, more on that later. 

Why the AHA Hates Coconut Oil

I think the major beef that the AHA has with coconut oil is its perceived status as a magical, health-elevating food. They said "A recent survey reported that 72% of the American public rated coconut oil as a “healthy food” compared with 37% of nutritionists."

It's true that in recent years coconut oil has become super trendy, because of nutritionists like myself and others recommending it over "vegetable" oils (like canola, soy, and safflower... aka. not vegetables). There's also some research that MCTs can help with weight loss, and since coconut oil contains MCTs (kind of) it's been praised for that.

Then things got blown out of context (as tends to happen when weight loss claims get involved), and a lot of people began going above and beyond to add coconut oil into their diets without considering overall diet quality. Supplement companies started selling coconut oil "chews" and other weird things, to help you "get your daily dose coconut oil."

Suddenly coconut oil was being touted as a necessary supplement, instead of just a heat stable cooking oil. It became a classic case of, if a little is good... a lot must be GREAT!

Let's be very clear - adding coconut oil to a poor diet is not protective in the same way that adding an extra serving of vegetables or fruits would be. If we are going to inspire people to make dietary changes, they should be changes that actually help them.

There was never really science to support this level of consumption.

The AHA very strongly believes that saturated fat = bad, and vegetable oil = good, so I can only imagine how distressing this was for them (thinking of a parent watching their teenaged child rebel... because that's probably how they feel about us). 

Finally the AHA actually denounces coconut oil as a healthy food. They're not telling us anything new at all but this is a pretty big deal, because usually individual foods are left alone while nutrients are labelled "good" or "bad." 

Even though we know that the AHA always believed saturated fats kill hearts, this is still a huge deal for most people... because most people don't read scientific studies, they read headlines. To many, this is the first they've heard of coconut oil being anything less than a miracle cure.

I’d like to take a moment to quote one of my absolute favourite food journalists, Michael Pollan who does a really good job of explaining why plain language isn't usually used in these recommendations:

“MP: In 1977, Sen. McGovern, who had convened this select committee on nutrition, was looking at why there was so much heart disease post-WWII. The thinking then was that people were eating too much animal protein. So his initial recommendation, quite plain-spoken, was to eat less red meat. Turns out the industry would not let the government say “eat less” of any particular food, so there was a firestorm of criticism. He was forced to compromise on that language. He changed it in a way that would prove quite fateful in many ways. He changed “eat less red meat” to “choose meats that will reduce your saturated fat intake.”

“There are a couple noteworthy things about that. One is it’s a lot less clear and a lot of people aren’t going to understand it, which certainly suits the food industry. The other is, it’s affirmative. It’s saying “choose meats.” In other words, eat more of something that will have less of the bad nutrient — saturated fat. We’re no longer talking about eating more or less of a particular food; we’re saying eat more or less of a particular nutrient. That became the acceptable way for everyone to talk about food. It didn’t offend the food industry because they could always change their products to have more of the good nutrient, less of the bad. And I think it was very confusing to people: Foods are not merely the sum of their nutrient parts.”

Yet the AHA stated point blank in their Presidential Advisory: "However, because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD, and has no known offsetting favourable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil.”

How is this possible?! Where is Big Coconut oil to defend their product’s integrity and prevent the AHA from publishing such a harmful statement? 

Well, first you should know where coconut oil actually comes from. I checked index mundi for the top 5 countries that that produce coconut oil, here they are:

1.     Philippines
2.     Indonesia
3.     India
4.     Viet Nam
5.     Mexico

This is not a food produced in America. (Yay, finally recommendations that are not based on industry bias!) However, consider that AHA promotes the use of canola, safflower, and peanut oil instead, and that all these products are proudly Made In America. (Nevermind, I guess.)

Another American industry that really cares about maintaining the status quo for the saturated fat and cholesterol = heart disease panic? The pharmaceutical industry, with statins being the most widely prescribed drugs in the country.

The advisory didn't just address coconut oil, though. Titled Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease, it's making the case for all saturated fats being bad for heart health. Coconut oil is just what made the headlines (possibly to distract from made-in-America butter a cheese from coming under fire?).

So now that's we've scraped the surface of the financial interests involved here, let's move on...

The AHA seems to exist to defend one hypothesis (which they no longer believe is a hypothesis). Saturated Fats = Heart Disease, so let's unpack that.

The Important Part: Evidence

The AHA's conclusion that dietary intake of saturated fat increases risk of heart disease is based on some very old research. The trials that are at the heart of this Presidential Advisory began in the 50’s or 60’s.

This obvious research gap is addressed in the paper, with the AHA stating that it’s simply too expensive to run a trial these days because researchers would need 20,000-30,000 participants to “achieve satisfactory statistical power.”

Yet, they haven’t they dismissed their core trials from the 50’s and 60’s despite the fact that they do not meet this requirement of satisfactory statistical power.

Why?

Perhaps because, although flawed, they confirm the AHA’s hypothesis that saturated fat should be replaced with polyunsaturated fat to reduce risk of heart disease.

A great example of this is the Oslo Diet-Heart Study providing half of the subjects (randomly chosen) intensive nutritional counselling to help them follow a “healthy” diet, while the control group received nothing at all. This means the “control group” received no placebo… making this in fact a randomized but uncontrolled trial.

During the trial, the group receiving counselling made changes beyond just replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats, thanks to the performance bias created by the poorly designed study. It’s reasonable to assume that if the conclusion of the study had not been in favour of the AHA’s hypothesis, this flawed design would have been reason enough to dismiss it.

This is just one example of ways that the core trials reviewed in this advisory were flawed.

The AHA dismissed some major trials including the largest clinical trial ever preformed, the Women’s Health Initiative (the largest, most expensive trial ever run... no big deal), which actually does meet their criteria for “satisfactory statistical power.”

Did they have good reason for rejecting these larger trials from being included in the Presidential Advisory? Sure. But what matters is that they fail to describe what their criteria was for a study to be considered. Best practise in this case would have been to consider studies based on their set-up, before even looking at the outcome. The AHA doesn't seem to have done this, which is really a shame since this would have given considerably more strength to their hypothesis if the results were consistent. 

Presumably they looked hard at the studies with conclusions that challenged their hypothesis, finding legitimate reasons to reject them. Meanwhile, they didn’t look quite as closely at the trials that had findings in their favour.

The thing is that with nutrition, most trials are flawed in some way. It is really hard to blind people to what they are eating for long periods of time. This makes it particularly important that scientists leave their biases at the door when attempting this kind of analysis. 

Most of the newer, rejected trials found that while saturated fat does have the potential to increase total cholesterol levels, that doesn’t necessarily increase risk for heart disease. Instead, the diet as a whole should be considered.

Also, cholesterol ratios matter. Not only HDL vs. LDL levels, but also the actual type of LDL particles that make up that number. Yes, we now know that not all LDL is dangerous, but the vast majority doctors are trained to prescribe medication based on old science, rather than run a test that has the potential to reduce the sales of the most widely prescribed pharmaceuticals in America.

Total cholesterol may not be as big of a risk factor as once thought. In fact, less than half of people who suffer from heart attacks even had cholesterol in the "danger zone." Most heart attack patients have "normal" cholesterol. So why are we still talking about this?? 

What you need to know: saturated fat probably isn't as bad for us as the AHA thinks. They've got something to prove... maybe because of the fact that statin drugs are the most widely prescribed and therefore a massive industry to mess with, maybe just because these scientists don't want to see their life's work disproven. Either way is spells bias. But that doesn't mean we need to start eating it in insane quantities.

The Health Benefits of Coconut Oil Were Already Inflated

There always seems to be a disconnect between what the science says, what the media says, and what people actually do with nutrition information. Coconut oil is a great example of this.

Science says: coconut oil has benefits including a small amount of medium-chain-triglycerides that might aid in weight loss, antimicrobial properties, and since new research shows that saturated fat intake alone is not responsible for heart disease, consuming some coconut oil may be beneficial but it probably depends on a lot of factors so don’t go crazy.

Media says: Coconut Oil – New MIRACLE Weight Loss Solution!!!!! 10 Reasons to Eat Coconut Oil With Every Meal! Baptize Your Baby In Coconut Oil!

What people actually do: cook french fries in coconut oil instead of canola oil, make boxed mac 'n cheese with coconut oil instead of margarine, eat an extra 400 calories from coconut oil per day in an attempt to lose weight.

Nothing has really changed in terms of evidence (again, the AHA isn't presenting anything new), but now coconut oil is being specifically labelled as a "bad food" while is was previously labelled as an "amazing miracle food."

This is why I cannot stress enough: no food will magically save you, and no food will magically kill you. It's just food. Really.

What You Need to Do With This Information

Here’s what I believe given the available information: we should moderate our consumption of all isolated macronutrients, and eat a diet high in minimally processed foods.

Refined macronutrients: protein powder, sugar/syrup (of ANY origin), and oils. These represent the processing of foods down to  their basic components: protein, sugar, and fat.

I’m not saying these foods are bad (because I don’t believe foods are “good” or “bad”), I’m simply observing that there seems to be a lot of controversy constantly surrounding them. In the interest of looking at “what has been truest, longest” I like to consider the fact that all these foods are relatively new to our species, and choose whole foods instead.

The foundation of your diet should be whole, minimally processed foods. At least half of your plate should belong to vegetables and fruits. Get most of your protein from fish, eggs, meats, legumes, nuts and seeds. Get most of you sugar from whole fruit and choose raw honey as an occasional sweetener. As for fats, try to choose whole fats like nuts and seeds, avocado, whole coconut, eggs, fatty fish, and grass-fed meats.

The idea that we should displace a whole food to make room for a refined one is completely ridiculous to me. Every time someone tells me they add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil to their smoothie, but avoid fruit "because of the sugar" I die a little inside. 

Of course, if this strategy makes you feel amazing and your blood work looks amazing, it's obviously working for you. But please be sure to actually take the time to check on your personal health, instead of blindly believing in some health guru, or e-news headline. Don't just guess and stress.

When it comes to oils (including coconut oil), my stance remains the same as always:

A couple tablespoons of oil per day can be healthy addition to your diet, which should be based on whole foods in the first place. 

My top picks for cold use(ie. salad dressing): olive oil, flax oil, walnut oil, virgin avocado oil.
My top pick for cooking: avocado oil, coconut oil, ghee, and sometimes olive oil.

In general, it's better to consider your diet as a whole than to focus on one tiny area, such as the oil you use. If you're eating mostly Kraft Dinner, ramen, takeout food and cereal, having some coconut oil is not going to save you. If you're eating a diet high in plant foods and getting exercise, having some coconut oil is not going to kill you.

It doesn't have to be this confusing. 

To quote Pollan once more: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."