21-Day Elimination Diet

Well, I did it! Despite the wind, rain, and cold weather.. I ran my first 5K race and finished in EXACTLY 26 minutes! I was surprised at how quickly time seemed to pass while I was running, and was even more shocked to learn that I had actually achieved my goal of running it in 26 minutes. Prior to race day, my fastest time had been just under 28 minutes. I guess the adrenaline rush and desire to escape the awful weather helped!

I’ve now started tackling a new challenge – a 21-day elimination diet. Since the beginning of November, I’ve eliminated wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, and coffee from my diet. Am I crazy? Perhaps. But for the past couple of months I had been finding I often felt sick after eating, as well as super tired.

After looking a bit more into my symptoms, I decided it might be worthwhile to try a 21-day elimination diet in order to detox and “re-charge my batteries”, so to speak. It’s also a helpful tool to figure out whether you have any food allergies/sensitivities, which could very well be the source of my discomfort.

I’m currently 16 days in and it’s been an interesting journey! The first few days were definitely the hardest and I battled some pretty intense cravings – mostly for wheat products, like bread. I also suffered from headaches for the first little while due to caffeine withdrawal. I probably should have gradually cut back instead of jumping from my usual two cups a day to nothing more than green tea.

After the first few days things started getting a bit easier. I had to really plan ahead and prep meals in advance in order to avoid giving in to cravings. I even re-organized my cupboards by placing the things I could eat on the bottom shelf and things that were “off-limits” on the upper shelves – just sliiiiightly out of my reach ;)

Now that this cleanse is almost over, I can honestly say I have noticed some changes. For starters, although I’m still tired most days (nothing new there), I now have the energy to make it through the day without coffee – something I haven’t been able to do in years. Literally. I’ve also noticed I’m able to fall asleep a lot faster. Finally, most of the negative symptoms I had been experiencing for the past couple of months have disappeared – no more headaches, bloating, stomach cramps, and less joint/muscle pain. Once the weekend hits, I’ll be starting to re-introduce certain foods back into my diet to see if my body experiences any of those symptoms again. Hopefully all goes well!

If you’re thinking about trying an elimination diet, I would say that it’s definitely worthwhile. As long as you plan ahead and are willing to get creative in the kitchen, you might just find the three weeks pass by fairly quickly. The hardest part is planning around social events! It was pretty tricky to find foods to eat when going out for dinner with family/friends, so I had to make a few exceptions sometimes.

Looking for some ideas to help kick-start your own elimination diet? Here are some of the meals I’ve made so far. I included links to recipes where I could!

Day 1
Garlic lemon brown rice pasta with mushrooms & kale, and a side of steamed lemon-ginger carrots

Day 2
Quinoa bowl drizzled with homemade ginger-peanut sauce

Day 4
Zucchini-white bean sliders with roasted butternut squash

Day 6
Chili-lime lentil tacos with cauliflower tortillas

Day 8
Garlic lemon spaghetti squash & sautéed veggies

Day 10
Cilantro lime rice, black beans, kale, squash & homemade guacamole

Day 11
Spicy coconut curry rice noodles

Day 16
Brown rice pasta in a cauliflower “alfredo” sauce, topped with chia seeds

Happy detoxing!

Be Well xo

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.

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.