Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Real Food Challenge

Here is the story of a family who decided to go on a whole foods based diet for 100 days.

This blog is compelling, as the family is now on day 60, and they write about the challenges, revelations and things they have learned.

Eating a whole foods based diet is something that I advocate for as a Holistic Nutritionist. Most of my clients make this transition slowly, as it does come with some challenges - especially when convience is king in our society. There are many benefits to cutting out processed foods - and I like this family's down to earth summary of why they did so - which you can read here

Now you can take a pledge to eat only real, whole, unprocessed foods for 10 days on this site!

Will you take the REAL FOOD CHALLENGE??

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Top Ten Stress Busters

Stress hormones wreack havoc on the body. The more stressed we are the harder the body has to work to get normal, vital tasks done. Digestion shuts down under stress, as do most other non-vital functions. Even low level, long term stress takes its toll.

Next time you get a stress headache, before you pop a pill to kill the pain, consider that this is a message from your body, letting you know that things are out of balance...

Here is an excellent article from To Your Health Magazine, highlighting the Top 10 Stress Busters!
From the list:
1) Breathing
2) Organization
3) Adequate water
4) Healthy Snacking
5) Exercise
6) "Me Time"
7) Music
8) Reading
9) Focusing on the Positive
10) Better Sleep

Sound familiar? We all know these things help us to de-stress, the challenge is putting them into practice!

So - I challenge you to do one of these things each day, in an effort towards better self-care and improved health!

What do you do to de-stress?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Eggplant Ideas

These lovely, antioxidant-rich purple veggies are springing up at markets around town! Eggplants, or aubergines, are a great source of fibre, potassium, mangenese and B vitamins.

Keep your eye out for different varieties - this veggie is available in a cornucopia of other colors including lavender, jade green, orange, and yellow-white, striped, as well as in sizes and shapes ranging from a small tomato size to that of a pumpkin!

Grilled eggplant is a summer favourite, and is enjoyed in many cultures around the world. Try some of these recipes at home!

Here are five ways to smoke up your summer grill with eggplant.

Grilled Eggplant Slices With Tomatoes and Feta: Nothing picks up the smoky flavor of a backyard grill quite like eggplant.

Grilled Eggplant and Pepper Salad: This somewhat spicy dish is the North African version of a salad made throughout the Mediterranean.

Spicy Grilled Eggplant Slices: In Italy, cooks often fry eggplant for this simple dish. Grilled eggplant works even better.

Smoky Eggplant and Yogurt Purée: Much like baba ganoush, this dish relies on yogurt instead of tahini for its unique flavor.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Its Blueberry Time!

I absolutely love freshly picked blueberries. They bring back great memories for me. My parents have blueberry bushes in their garden, so when I was younger we would be handed pails and sent out to pick for what seemed like hours! Then we had the luxury of stuffing our blue-stained faces with blueberries for weeks on end!

In BC blueberries are now in season! There are lots of farms around Vancouver, in the Fraser Valley where you can go blueberry picking too! This makes a great day out, so if you are looking for something to do this weekend, check out one of these farms! http://www.bcf

Alternatively, if you do not have time to pick yourself, berry stands are popping up in parking lots all over North Vancouver. There is one on Marine Drive in the Tim Hortons parking lot. Also there are daily stands on the Low Road. Or - hit your Farmers Market this weekend - blueberries,
raspberries and blackberries are perfectly ripe and waiting for you!!!

What are you going to do with all of these blueberries?

I am a bit of a purist, and enjoy them as they are...but if you want to get more creative, check out some of these sites for great recipes!
They make great baby food as well!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Wish

In case you have not yet seen TED...its an amazing site for those looking to learn, or be inspired, about just any topic.

Jamie Oliver was given the TED Prize this year, for his speech about launching a food revolution.

In my mind its simple, realistic and exciting. If enough people are inspired by him and his philosophy, we could really turn things around.

Jamie's TED Prize Wish: "“I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity."

What do you think? What can you do to help advance this movement - to teach children and families to reconnect to their bodies, and their communities by cooking real food, at home?

Could you make a commitment to start with your own family? Maybe even just a few nights a week? Take it further into your community?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Waste Not Want Not... How Every Budget Can Afford Local, Organic Food

Buying quality ingredients, local, organic produce and dairy, pastured meats and all those great whole grains is not cheap. I understand why people struggle with the concept of making these changes, and making it work for their budgets. This is not right, its not the way it should be - getting your kid a happy meal should not be cheaper than feeding them fresh fruits and vegetables. But (for now) this is the world we live in. This is a subject you will likely see me blog more about in stick with it.

Anyway - in this reality (although I would suggest we can change it, and be part of a food revolution!) there are actually a lot of ways to justify the extra expense. No, I am not talking about tree-hugging, feel good - its better for the environment, the community, the animals (it is!!! and I blog about all of this all the time too!), I am talking about cold hard cash today.

I spend between $22 - $27 on a whole chicken almost every week. A conventional rotisserie chicken purchased from your average supermarket, which is already cooked, and super convient is only around $7-$9, yes, I know. But my whole chicken - uncooked, and frozen to be rock-hard is from a local farm, where the chickens roam around, eat their natural diet of bugs and grass, giving it a totally different nutrient spectrum --- did you know you can get Omega 3s from chicken, if they are not raised on corn?!. The other main difference...TASTE. My chicken tastes like what chicken should taste like. I swear to you that if you tried this chicken, your bland white meat, costco chicken breasts would never look the same.

Anyway - how can I justify $27 for my chicken? (purely looking at

- It feeds me (a pregnant and hungry woman, and my husband who is training for an Ironman and could probably make a living travelling the world entering eating contests) for 2 large dinners. So - price that out to $13.50 per meal now (getting more reasonable, right?)

- I use the bones and carcas to make my own chicken stock! Sounds old fashioned, or like a lot of hassle - but trust me, its one of the easiest things I do in my kitchen (some instructions). Before I started doing this, I would buy a carton of organic chicken stock for a whopping $6 almost weekly. Now my freezer is stocked (pardon the pun), and I get the equivalent of 4-5 of these cartons (a $24 savings!). Wondering what I do with the stock? Cook all grains in it...yum lots more flavour and amazing health -promoting minerals.

- I NEVER throw chicken away anymore. Before things would often expire in my fridge (talk about a waste of money!), but now, since I buy the chicken frozen, it gets thawed during the day and cooked that night. Savings here too!

Other ways I ensure that my good, hard earned money is not wasted when we buy expensive, local organic foods:
- If fruit is beginning to get soft, I chop it up and throw it in the freezer. This means I never waste food - and I have lots of great ingredients for smoothies on hand!

- I save vegetable stalks in the freezer too, and add these to the stock when I cook it up, for extra flavour and nutrients!

- We eat the WHOLE food. Buying beets? Did you know that the greens that grow on top are excellent in salads or stir fries?

- Sauce! Soft tomatoes make great sauce!

- Buy dried! Dried beans cost 1/4 of the price of canned beans!

So, get creative, think about the way people used to cook, and waste not, want not.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Food As Medicine? Home Remedies

I had a really great question from a client today, who had read something about cinnamon and honey being a great combination for improved health.

A few weeks back, when lots of mamas I know were struck with the cold, I was recommending lots of garlic, and honey and ginger tea.

These ideas generally come from the practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayuvedic medicine, both of which strongly believe in the healing power of foods. In my training as a holistic nutritionist I have been exposed to these schools of thoughts, and have put some of these remedies to the test in my own life with amazing results.

Here are some of the more common, and most interesting ones - things you can keep in mind and try out when you feel a cold or a headache coming on, or if you are looking for relief from joint pain:

Cinnamon & Honey
Taken daily in a tea form, or when added to hot food like oatmeal, these foods will combine to have an antimicrobial effect in the body (as would a tablespoon of raw honey on its own). The cinnamon acts as an expelling agent, and is thought to speed up the work of the honey, and help the body to push out whatever it is fighting.

This combination is also thought to help with weight loss (likely because cinnamon helps to balance blood sugar), and if applied as a paste to joints can help
relieve pain.
*Be sure to use raw, unpasturized honey, otherwise there will be no effect as enzymes have been killed in the cooking process.

Honey & Apple Cider Vinegar
Making a hot drink out of these two, or even a salad dressing (classic combination!) is thought to have an anti-inflammatory effect. That makes this combination great for athletes, and those with joint inflammation. This is also midly detoxifying.

Ginger, Garlic and Spring Onion
Want to kick something quick? Make a tea from these ingredients, chopped up, and allow to steep for 5-10 mintes. Drink this all day long, and benefit from the pungent herbs which will work to gear up your immune system and expel whatever you are fighting. Honey and ginger is a common combination for this reason as well.

Raw Garlic
Everyone knows it drives away vampires, and that is exactly what you can hope it will do with a cold, or parasite! This pungent food will help to move things out of the body more quickly, so munch away, or make a salad dressing with some raw garlic in it.

Rosemary water
Add some leaves from a rosemary stalk to your warm water, and watch as your headache lifts! Pepermint may also have a similar effect, but rosemary can work surprisingly quickly, especially for headaches associated with tiredness or fatigue.

Happy Healthy Healing!

Monday, July 19, 2010

What is your favourite food?

Yesterday was my birthday. And my favourite foods are the most vinegary varieties of just about anything.

So, when I came across this recipe, for a homemade version of salt & vinegar chips, I thought I should share it - in case you too have a reason to celebrate, and love the tangy, sour, scrunch your face up, almost in pain loveliness of vinegar!

This is from one of my favourite food blogs - Enjoy!

Grilled Salt & Vinegar Potatoes

The original recipe calls for white vinegar. I used a white wine vinegar instead - but you can use either. I suspect you could actually experiment over time w/ different types of vinegar. I used fingerling potatoes that were on the large size, but any waxy potatoes will do.

2 cups / 475 ml white wine vinegar

1 pound / 16 oz / 450 g waxy potatoes (see head notes), cut into 1/4-inch slices

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, plus more for seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

fennel salt* to taste (optional)

Pour the vinegar into a medium saucepan, then stack (or arrange) the potatoes so the vinegar covers them completely. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are just fork tender. You want them to hold their shape, so they don't fall apart on the grill later. Let the potatoes cool in the vinegar for 30 minutes. Drain well, then very gently toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Heat the grill to medium high. Grill potatoes, covered if possible, until golden on one side, then flip and grill the other side - roughly 3 - 5 minutes per side. Serve sprinkled with salt or fennel salt to taste.

Serves 4.

*To make fennel salt: toast 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds in a skillet, pound to a powder with a mortar and pestle, then combining it with about two tablespoons of flaky sea salt.

Adapted from a recipe in Martha Stewart Magazine, June 2009

What is your favourite food?

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Great Dairy Debate

Many health advocates will say that people should stay away from dairy. The reasons behind this recommendation are outlined here in this hard-lined anti-dairy article, "11 Reasons to Stop Eating Dairy" from

I recommend reading the article in full, but here are the main points of this argument:
1) cow's milk is meant to fatten up baby cows, not humans
2)natural and synthetic hormones given to cows can interfere with our own hormonal function
3) most cows are fed inappropriate food - this is relevant because it means that most cows are chronically ill, and therefore require lots of antibiotics to stay alive, and producing milk.
4)dairy is acid-forming (too much acidic food is thought to demineralization the body, and contribute to lots of disesases and nutritional deficiencies)
5) countries where people eat the most dairy have the HIGHEST rates of osteoporosis (hence, our justification for eating dairy for the calcium doesn't seem to actually help!_
6) dairy cows are poorly treated, and often sick animals living in confined spaces
7) pasteurization kills the good stuff in milk, and makes it harder to digest - causing more allergies
8)dairy is mucous forming - not ideal for those with frequent colds or allergies
9)dairy consumption has been linked to arthritis
10) homogenization makes it harder to digest - more allergenic
11) pesticides in the cattle feed make thier way into our dairy

While I would agree with all of the above points, which can all be substantiated by nutritional research, I do not recommend that everyone stop eating dairy.

Many of these problems come from the way the cows are raised (on industrial scale feedlots and dairy farms), and how we process the diary products. The solution, therefore, is to seek out organic dairy products, which will mean that the farms where the milk is produced have met much stricter standards for operation.

Under new USDA Organic laws (relevant in Canada as well), dairy cows must have access to pasture daily, which means these cows will be eating more of their natural diet - grass - which will in turn mean that the cows are healthier, and the milk is more nutrient dense. Dairy, and beef from cows that eat a grass-fed diet are no where near as acid forming as conventional diary and meat products. In fact, they provide omega 3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory, and health promoting.

Organic also means that the cows are not being given antibiotics or hormone treatments - which wind up in our milk from conventional dairy. Organic means the cattle feed is pesticide and GMO free, which also make our dairy products more healthful.

So while you will find that buying organic dairy products is likely pricier than buying conventional milk, cheese and yogurts, I would strongly advocate for realigning your budget to make this possible. Dairy products can be health supporting for children and adults, when quality products, sourced from good, organic farms are consumed in moderation.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Did you buy Quinoa at Costco?

Ok, so its fair to say that I post quinoa recipes often. This is not because I am obsessed with quinoa...its actually not even on my top 5 favourite grains, if you must know!

But other people seem to love it! Perhaps its the fact that it cooks up quick, or maybe its because somehow quinoa has been marketed quite heavily in the last few years - making appearances in all of the mainstream health and diet mags. OR...maybe its because you can buy it at Costco!

Several of my clients have mentioned that they 'picked up some quinoa at Costco', presumably because they thought it was healthy, but 'don't know what to do with it'. I can only presume that if you too bought quinoa at Costco, you have a lot of it, and are looking for some inspiration!

So here we are!

Quinoa (say KEEN-wah) is the "wonder grain": high in protein, provides calcium, iron, phosphorous, vitamin E, and lysine, is gluten-free, easy to digest, and quick to cook. Higher in unsaturated fat and lower in carbohydrates than most grains (technically, it’s a seed), and it’s also a complete protein, since it contains every essential amino acid. It is an excellent replacement for rice or millet in cereals, main dishes, soups, side dishes, salads, and desserts and it cooks in half the time as rice.

Rinse and drain it, then cook it like pasta (in a large pot of boiling water) or rice (two parts water to one part grain). It makes a delicious breakfast (with sweet or savory additions), pilaf, and salad; it can also be added to baked goods.

To prepare: rinse thoroughly by rubbing grains together in water in order to remove the bitter outer coating (saponin). Bring 2-3 cups water to boil and add 1 cup quinoa, reduce heat and simmer 25-30 minutes or until tender. Cook in stock for rice like dishes, or add dried fruit for breakfast flavours.

Spicy Quinoa, Cucumber and Tomato Salad

This refreshing summer salad can sit in the refrigerator for a few hours without deteriorating, so it makes a great choice for bringing to work or to a summer picnic.

1 cup quinoa

3 cups water

Salt to taste

2 cups diced cucumber

1 small red onion, finely minced (optional)

2 cups finely diced tomatoes

1 to 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers (to taste), seeded if desired and finely chopped

1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus several sprigs for garnish

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 avocado, sliced, for garnish

1. Place the quinoa in a bowl, and cover with cold water. Let sit for five minutes. Drain through a strainer, and rinse until the water runs clear. Bring the 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add salt (1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon) and the quinoa. Bring back to a boil, and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and translucent; each grain should have a little thread. Drain off the water in the pan through a strainer, and return the quinoa to the pan. Cover the pan with a clean dishtowel, replace the lid and allow to sit for 10 minutes. If making for the freezer, uncover and allow to cool, then place in plastic bags. Flatten the bags and seal.

2. Meanwhile, place the finely diced cucumber in a colander, and sprinkle with salt. Toss and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Rinse the cucumber with cold water, and drain on paper towels. If using the onion, place in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for five minutes, then drain, rinse with cold water and drain on paper towels.

3. Combine the tomatoes, chiles, cilantro, vinegar, lime juice and olive oil in a bowl. Add the cucumber and onion, season to taste with salt, and add the quinoa and cilantro. Toss together, and taste and adjust seasonings. Serve garnished with sliced avocado and cilantro sprigs.

Yield: Serves six.

Advance preparation: The quinoa freezes well, and the assembled salad will keep for a day in the refrigerator. The leftovers will be good for a couple of days.

Nutritional information per serving: 236 calories; 14 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 25 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams dietary fiber; 12 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during cooking); 6 grams protein

Recipe and info from the NY TIMES, available at

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Save those Summer Fruits - Berry Applesauce

Looking for easy ways to savour the summer fruits which are all perfectly in season?
This homemade applesauce is one of my favourites! If you freeze it in small portions you can take it as a snack throughout the year. Great for kids too - or even as a baby food!

And, it utilizes my favourite kitchen appliance - the slow cooker (great for hot days when turning on the stove is absolute torture)!

Berry Applesauce

6 large apples (any variety will work), peeled and sliced
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup unsweetened applejuice
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Place ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. After cooking, blend with an immersion blender, or simply mash them for a chunkier sauce.

Cool and enjoy straight from the fridge for up to a week - or freeze and enjoy all year long!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Baby Steps Workshop - Success

Last week I had the pleasure of hosting a workshop for an amazing group of mamas and their adorable little ones! Despite the heat these ladies and babies turned out to learn about introducing solid foods, how to make your own baby food, and what to look for when buying pre-made products!

We made some sweet potatoes, cherry and banana puree and learned the benefits of homemade rice cereal!

In no time these little ones will be covered from head to toe in
wholesome, nutritious, healthy baby foods!

Contact Alicia if you would like to schedule a baby foods workshop with a group of mama friends!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Summer Salads

In summer most people naturally get a taste for lighter foods. This is not a coincidence, it is in fact your body's natural rhythm. In winter our bodies are in a building phase, in order to stay strong in the cold, fight infections and viruses, and conserve nutrients in a time when (there should be - if we were eating natural, local, seasonal foods only) many foods are scarce.

In summer we are fortunate enough to have access to a full bounty of fruits and vegetables, which make for great salads and smoothies! These foods help take our body into a natural cleansing cycle, where vitamin in take is high, but many of those building foods like root vegetables, grains, and meat are eaten less frequently.

I don't know about you, but I can't seem to get enough salad at this time of the year! (And there is PLENTY of it available at the Farmer's Market!)

Try out some of these great salad suggestions for lunches or dinners this week!

These salads all come from the Nourished Kitchen, a wonderful site to explore for education and inspiration!


Friday, July 9, 2010

Sunscreen Safety

Although my focus is on food, my goal is to support clients as they improve their overall health and wellness.

In my past life (well, until just a few months ago!), I was an analyst for a mutual fund
company. My work was evaluating the social and environmental performance of food and consumer products companies. I also did my master's research on corporate responsibility in the food industry. In short, this means I know a thing or two about environmental health, and food and product safety.

Cosmetics, household cleaners, carpets, clothes - everything around us has the potential to be harmful - if the manufacturers prioritize cost over public health. And unfortunately, this is far too often the case.

For a simple, easy to use, well researched and exhaustive guide to consumer product safety -- making sure your sunscreen, shampoo, baby lotion, kitchen cleaner and even cereal are top quality, and health supporting - check out this website Its an amazing resource, and I highly recommend punching in your favourite brands for info about ingredients and safety!

Yesterday, at my Baby Steps Workshop, I had a couple of questions specifically about baby care products- sunscreens and other creams. For a comprehensive sunscreen safety guide - check this out This credible group of some of the world's top scientists - called the Environmental Working Group finds, that most brand-name sunscreens either don’t sufficiently protect skin from sun damage or contain hazardous chemicals — or both. So check out the site, research your brand, and learn what to look for in these products.

And in the mean time, remember that shade, and a sunhat are really the best
sunscreens...especially in this heat!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Beat the Heat

It seems there is a heat wave on the West Coast, and the East Coast this week! What are you doing to beat the heat?

Here are some ideas for keeping cool!

Make your own healthy popsicles!
1)Take your favourite smoothie recipe (ones with berries and yogurt, and juice or water tend to work best), pour into paper cups.
2) Add a popsicle stick or chopstick & put in freezer
Enjoy healthy, sugar free frozen treats!

Cucumber Mint Smoothie (makes 2)
1 Cucumber
1/4 cup Fresh mint leaves (depending on how strong you want it!)
2 teaspoons unpasturized, raw honey
1/2 cup plain yogurt
water as needed

Blend all ingredients together and enjoy!

Iced Rooibos Tea (caffine free, and full of antioxidants!)
6 Rooibos Tea Bags
1 lemon or orange sliced (your preference)
10-15 mint leaves
a few teaspoons of honey - to taste
1 gallon boiled water

Place teabags, lemon, mint leaves and sugar in a large pot, pour boiling water onto this and leave to steep.

Let cool. Remove tea bags and place in fridge when cool. Serve over ice and enjoy!

And remember - stay hydrated!

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Quinoa Breakfast

    Everyone seems to love quinoa, but no one can pronounce it - right?

    Quinoa (Keen-wa) is a great grain, packed full of protein, fibre, and lots of vitamins and minerals. It cooks up quicker than most whole grains, so its great when you are on the go --- like at breakfast time!

    Quinoa Breakfast Cereal

    Makes 2 Servings

    • 1 cup quinoa (I rinse it well in a mesh strainer)
    • 2 cups water or milk of any kind
    • 1 apple, diced (about 1 cup)
    • 1 tablespoon coconut flakes
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 cup almonds or walnuts, ground
    • 1 tablespoon ghee (I used unsalted butter)
    • Sweetener options: Maple syrup, honey, agave, or stevia

    1. Combine quinoa and water or milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add apple, coconut, cinnamon, nuts, and ghee. Lower heat, cover pot and simmer about 15 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.

    2. Serve with the sweetener of your choice. Note from Debra: Try adding raisins, dates, rosewater, cardamom, or whatever variation floats your boat.

    ALICIA'S NOTE: Make a big batch, keep it in the fridge, and reheat each morning with a little milk for a healty breakfast on the fly!