SlimKicker Giveaway: Round 2

As Nutrition Month draws to a close, I hope you’ve been inspired to adopt and/or maintain some new healthy eating habits.

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be a chore. It helps a lot if you prepare in advance, whether that be meal planning, cutting up extra fruits and veggies for the week, or cooking all your meals in a crock pot.

Speaking of crock pots… it just so happens that I’m teaming up with SlimKicker once again to run another giveaway contest!

SlimKicker is a health/fitness app that takes all of your health goals and turns them into a level-up game. You can upload an image of something you’ll reward yourself with, such as a pair of shoes, and when you reach a certain number of points, the app reminds you to reward yourself with that! SlimKicker also has lots of coupon codes, such as Oxy-Powder coupon codes.

Another detail about this app that I particularly like is a “virtual coach” provides you with personalized tips and advice based on your tracking activity. For example, if you were to log some exercise minutes, the app might provide you with a friendly reminder such as: “Lots of stress can negatively impact our bodies in many ways. Low to moderate exercise is a great way to combat stress. Go on a walk with a friend or hit the pool for a swim. Make time to escape the stress of daily life.” Check it out, it’s FREE to download!

CONTEST DETAILS
SlimKicker would like to hear your suggestions for new health challenges for the app, such as “doing 20 pushups a day for 1 week”, or “squatting during commercials”.

To enter this giveaway contest, you simply need to leave a comment on this post containing your idea for a new health challenge. The challenge idea should be fun, creative, and no more than 1-2 sentences. The staff from SlimKicker will choose their favourite submission to be featured on their website, and the winner will receive this prize:

slowcooker

A Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 6-Quart Slow Cooker! Perfect for cooking healthy meals in advance.

The contest will close at midnight (11:59 pm ET) on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 – 1 week from today!

*Please note that this contest is only open to residents in Canada and the USA.
**If your submission is selected as the winner, you will need to provide me with your email address so that I can put you in touch with the SlimKicker team in order to receive your prize.

GOOD LUCK! :)

Food Labels 101

National Nutrition Month continues! When it comes to healthy eating, the ability to read and interpret food labels is absolutely essential. I know it’s not always the most convenient thing to do. Most people don’t want to waste time at the grocery store comparing products; they just want to grab what they need and go. It’s important, however, to know exactly what you’re putting into your body! The health claims slapped onto products do not always provide accurate information about how healthy an item actually is. I’ll use the following example to demonstrate:

According to the claim on this box, one serving of this cereal contains 51% of your daily value of fibre. That’s all fine and dandy… if you’re a woman! Men’s fibre needs are higher than women’s, so if you’re a male, this product actually contains closer to 34% of your daily value of fibre. Just a quick sidenote – my intent is not to pick on a specific company or criticize a particular product.. I’m just pointing out a fact!

In addition to being mindful of health claims, here are a few other areas to pay close attention to:

1. Serving Size: I would recommend looking at this first. Calories only tell you so much – you need to know exactly how much food is considered to be one serving. Which would you prefer:  Cereal A which has 160 calories for a 1-cup serving, or Cereal B which has 150 calories for a 1/3-cup serving?

2. Fat: Yes, there is such a thing as “healthy fat”. Unsaturated fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are considered “heart-healthy”. These types of fats can be found in certain vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, and fatty fish, such as salmon and trout. Aim to consume saturated fats in moderation, and try to minimize your intake of trans fats as much as possible.

3. Cholesterol: This is a type of fat that is manufactured by the body and also found in certain foods – animal-based foods, to be exact (i.e. meat, cheese, eggs, etc.). If you have high cholesterol, it might not be a bad idea to reduce your intake of animal-based products and increase your intake of plant-based foods, like whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes.

4. Sodium: A recent news report stated that Canadians are consuming “sky-high amounts of sodium”. The daily recommended intake is only 1,500 mg, and maximum intake 2,300 mg. Pay close attention to the sodium content in canned soups, sauces, and other packaged foods. A label on a soup can might boast a sodium content of 300mg – but the serving size may only be 1/2 a cup! Do you know anyone that only eats half a cup of soup in one sitting, ‘cuz I sure don’t!

5. Fibre: Like I mentioned above, men’s and women’s fibre needs differ. Instead of relying on pre-packaged foods, consider seeking fibre from more natural sources, like fresh fruit, beans, and whole grains.

6. Sugars: Be very careful with added sugars. They often appear under strange names, like “glucose”, “dextrin”, and “corn syrup”. Yuck. Here’s a good resource with further information about hidden sugars.

7. Ingredients: The ingredients list is especially important to read, because it is here that you will be able to identify any hidden sugars or other strange things. Ingredients are always listed in order of weight, from most to least. Helpful tip: when shopping for whole grain products, quickly skim the list of ingredients to ensure that the first few ingredients listed actually say “whole grain”.

Source: Health Canada

When it comes to reading food labels, the bottom line is that it’s important to read all of the information as a whole – not just focus on certain items, like calories or fat. Next time you shop for groceries, try to take the time to really look at what you’re eating. If you need some help, Fooducate is a great app that can help you make healthier choices on-the-go! Alternatively, you can always call EatRight Ontario for FREE and speak to a Registered Dietitian!

Speaking of apps.. Some of you may remember the giveaway contest that took place last year, courtesy of the SlimKicker team. It looks like SlimKicker is now running a March Madness giveaway contest that just kicked off. You can sign up through Twitter for a chance to win a Bowflex Home Gym, valued at over $1,000! They’re also giving away 3 Amazon gift cards. I suggest you head over there now to enter the contest!

Be Well xo

*The information provided in this post is based on national standards for proper nutrition as recommended by Health Canada. I am not a Registered Dietitian or Certified Nutritionist, therefore the information presented here need not be interpreted as professional advice. You should consult a certified professional if you are seeking specific advice or recommendations about your diet.

Change Your Position, Change Your Health

I haven’t been sleeping well lately. For a long time, actually. I have difficulty falling asleep at night and frequently wake up feeling tired and lethargic, even on days where I’m able to get a solid 8-9 hours of sleep. I had brought the subject up with my doctor recently, but he informed me I was doing all the right things – eating well, exercising regularly, avoiding caffeine before bed, etc. I thought it had something to do with the fact that I was a vegetarian – low iron or vitamin B12, perhaps? Nope – blood work indicated both levels were fine. I figured maybe I just have a poor mattress, but I can’t exactly afford to buy a brand new one at the moment.

Then I had an interesting “a-ha” moment earlier today at work. Every Wednesday we offer free 15-minute seated massages to staff. Someone didn’t show up for their scheduled appointment, so the therapist offered me the spot. I’ve only ever had a massage once in my life because I’m extremely ticklish, but today I obliged because my muscles were feeling tense. As soon as the masseur placed his hands on my shoulders he said, “Ah.. You’re not sleeping well.” His hands applied pressure to various spots on my back and he said, “You haven’t been sleeping well for a long time.”

At the end of the massage he described how he thought I was sleeping – curled up on my left side, back rounded, shoulders tucked up towards my ears, with one leg bent and the other straight. I laughed, surprised, because he was exactly right. Who knew he could determine all of that from a 15-minute chair massage?? It had never really occurred to me that my sleeping position was having that big of an effect on my quality of sleep. I usually just gravitated towards whichever position I found to be most comfortable.

This led me to wonder if there are certain sleeping positions that have been found to improve sleep quality. I found this recent CBS news report which was helpful. I don’t normally like falling asleep on my back, but the news report suggested it might be my best option for improving my sleep quality and reducing back pain. I also found this graphic from The Wall Street Journal which was insightful:

A Better Night\\\

I’m going to give some of these suggestions a try over the next little while to see if there’s any improvement. The massage therapist also recommended that I do some stretches and deep breathing first thing in the morning in order to avoid muscle tension – I’ll be giving this a try too!

Have you been experiencing sleep issues lately? Maybe it’s time to change up your sleeping position!  Changing your position could change your health :)

Be Well xo

Meatless Monday: Curried Cashew Lentil Burgers

Two posts in a row, I’m on a roll!

I’ve got yet another tasty meat-free burger recipe for you all. Some of you may remember a couple of recipes I posted last year for asian-inspired quinoa veggie burgers and southwest veggie burgers. This recipe might be my favourite of the 3!

This protein-packed patty is chock full of heart-healthy fats and fibre, and not to mention super delicious. I got the recipe from my Canadian Living cookbook, “The Vegetarian Collection”. The full recipe is provided below, but I only made half of it since I was cooking for one :) I made one patty and saved what was left of the burger “meat” in the fridge for the following day. Hope you enjoy!

Curried Cashew Lentil Burgers

Makes 4 servings
Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted cashews
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups sliced white mushrooms
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
1 can no-salt-added lentils, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp curry paste
1/4 cup dry whole wheat bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:
1. In a medium skillet, toast the cashews over medium-low heat until fragrant (about 5 minutes). Transfer to a food processor.

2. In the same skillet, heat 1 tbsp of the oil over medium-high heat; saute the mushrooms, onion, garlic, salt and pepper until no liquid remains (about 5 minutes). I added a couple pinches of cumin and curry powder as well. Add to the food processor.

3. Add the lentils and curry paste to the food processor; pulse to combine. Mix in the bread crumbs and cilantro. Shape into four 1-inch thick patties.

4. In a large skillet, heat the remaining oil over medium heat; fry the patties until crusty, turning once (about 16 minutes). Carefully transfer the patties to whole wheat buns and top with your favourite condiments. I topped mine with slices of red onion, alfalfa sprouts and fresh cilantro. Delicious!

Curried Cashew Lentil Burgers

Happy Meatless Monday!

Be Well xo

Healthy Eating 101

March is National Nutrition Month! For the month of March, I’ll be publishing a variety of posts I like to call the “101” series. Each post will focus on providing some basic information and tips related to a particular area of nutrition*.

Nutrition is a topic that I love promoting, as it’s an area of wellness that I’m very passionate about and enjoy learning more about. Proper nutrition is important for maintaining good health and positive well-being. Despite what many people might think, maintaining a healthy diet doesn’t have to be a difficult task – you just need to remember 3 things: Balance, Moderation, and Variety.

A balanced diet refers to a diet that includes foods from the four major food groups: fruits and vegetables, starches and grains, milk and alternatives, and meat and alternatives. Of course, everyone has different dietary needs and preferences, but Canada’s Food Guide is a good place for most people to start in order to determine how much and which types of foods make up a healthy, balanced diet. Quick sidenote – yes, carbs are an important component of a healthy diet! Despite what some people might think, carbs alone do not contribute to weight gain. Excess calorie consumption in general can pack on the pounds. In fact, research shows that eating whole grains on a regular basis may actually help you lose weight.

Variety is the spice of life! It’s important to eat a wide range of foods from every food group because they each provide different nutrients. Eating a diet that is more varied can help ensure that you are getting all of the essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs for good health. Don’t be afraid to switch things up and try something new!

Ah, moderation.. the word that everyone refers to when justifying their decision to reach for a second helping of dessert. It’s okay to indulge once in a while and reward ourselves with a little treat. But what exactly does “moderation” mean? I was always told that it’s okay to follow the “90:10” or “80:20” rule, meaning that you should aim to eat healthy foods 80-90% of the time, and the other 10-20% of the time it’s okay to indulge a little bit. Some people refer to this 10-20% as their “cheat day”. My opinion is that moderation is going to mean something different for everyone. The bottom line is that you should aim to eat healthy meals and snacks as often as you can, but it’s okay if you slip up every once in a while. Just try not to beat yourself up over it – we are human, after all!

If you’re trying to eat healthier, there’s no better time to start than now. You just need to know where and how to begin! Try starting off with some of these tips:

1) Have a clear sense of your main goal. “Eat healthier” is too general. Try breaking it down into smaller, more achievable milestones, such as “For the month of March I will ensure that all the grains I eat are whole grains”, or “I will eat at least 8 servings of fruits and vegetables every day this week”. Behaviour change is more attainable and sustainable if it’s broken down into realistic objectives. Start small, then go from there!

2) Plan ahead. Having regular access to healthy meals and snacks will make you less likely to seek out fast food. We like what’s available and convenient for us. Try setting aside some time every Sunday to prepare your meals and snacks for the coming week. You’ll be more likely to stay on track if you’re organized and prepared! Here’s a snapshot of one of my Sunday prep sessions:

Sunday Night Food Prep

I made a black bean salad, a batch of homemade applesauce, hard-boiled some eggs, and chopped up some fresh fruits and vegetables for the week. It took about an hour to prepare, which can seem like a long time, but it made my life a lot easier for the remainder of the week!

3) Don’t feel like you have to do it alone. Recruit a friend or family member to join you in your quest for better health. It will be easier to stay on track if you have someone there to support and motivate you along the way! Smartphone apps can also be helpful virtual motivators. Some of my favourites include MyFitness Pal and SlimKicker.

4) Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek professional advice. EatRight Ontario is an excellent resource that provides free access to Registered Dietitians. They’re just a phone call away!

Stay tuned for the next post in this “101” series about how to read food labels! I’ll be posting healthy recipe ideas as well to help keep you motivated :) Try to challenge yourself for the month of March to eat healthy, wholesome foods – your body will thank you for it!

Be Well xo

*The information provided in this post is based on national standards for proper nutrition as recommended by Health Canada. I am not a Registered Dietitian or Certified Nutritionist, therefore the information presented here need not be interpreted as professional advice. You should consult a certified professional if you are seeking specific advice or recommendations about your diet.