Rosemary Quinoa, Bean & Butternut Squash Stew

Happy Holidays!

I hope you’ve all been enjoying the holiday season, staying warm, and eating lots of tasty treats!

“Santa” was kind enough to bring me a juicer for Christmas! I took some time today to test it out and made some green juice (kale, spinach, celery, cucumber, lemon, and green apple), then froze the leftover pulp in an ice cube tray so I can easily throw them into green smoothies. I can’t wait to try making fresh orange juice :)

Green Juice

I had so much fun with it that I wanted to make something else, so I decided to try juicing some veggies to create broth for soup. From there I improvised, throwing whatever I had lying around the kitchen into the pot, until I ended up with this delicious stew! It’s the perfect meal to sit back and relax with after a busy week of holiday celebrations :) It’s also vegan and gluten-free!

Rosemary Quinoa, Bean & Butternut Squash Stew

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

Vegetable Juice
1 tomato
1 small onion
1 red pepper, de-seeded
2 carrots
1 stalk of celery

Stew
Vegetable juice & pulp
500 mL no-salt-added vegetable broth
2 cups chopped butternut squash
1/2 cup quinoa
1 can white cannellini beans
1-2 handfuls each of kale and spinach
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp garlic powder
A couple of pinches of dried sage
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. To make the vegetable juice, put the tomato, onion, pepper, carrots, and celery through a juicer. Pour the juice and pulp into a large stock pot. Add the vegetable broth, squash, quinoa, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the quinoa is cooked and squash is tender. You may need to add some more water as you go, if necessary.

2. Add the beans, kale, and spinach and simmer for another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve in large bowls and enjoy!

Rosemary Quinoa, Bean & Butternut Squash Stew

Be Well xo

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
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Day 2
Quinoa bowl drizzled with homemade ginger-peanut sauce
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Day 4
Zucchini-white bean sliders with roasted butternut squash
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Day 6
Chili-lime lentil tacos with cauliflower tortillas
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Day 8
Garlic lemon spaghetti squash & sautéed veggies
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Day 10
Cilantro lime rice, black beans, kale, squash & homemade guacamole
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Day 11
Spicy coconut curry rice noodles
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Day 16
Brown rice pasta in a cauliflower “alfredo” sauce, topped with chia seeds
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Happy detoxing!

Be Well xo

Meatless Monday: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

In my last blog post I had mentioned how I finally ran a full 5k without stopping to walk, and that my goal was to continue decreasing my time so I could try to complete it in less than 28 minutes on race day.

Well, apparently training has been doing my body good, because just last night I ran 5k in about 28 minutes! Since I have three and a half weeks left until race day, I’m going to continue working hard to see if I can get down to about 26 minutes. It’s hard to believe how far I’ve come in less than 2 months, but it just goes to show what a little persistence and motivation can do! I’m actually starting to ENJOY running, to the point where it’s become an important part of my daily routine.

Making a conscious effort to eat well and drink plenty of water has definitely helped with the training process. Now that the cooler weather is approaching, I’ve been making a lot of homemade soup. It’s perfect to make on a Sunday because you can keep half of it on hand for quick meals throughout the rest of the week, and then freeze the remainder in individual freezer bags for nights where you don’t feel like cooking.

Nothing screams fall like fresh squash from the farmer’s market! Butternut squash is my FAVOURITE. This recipe is super simple and super tasty – like.. lick-the-bowl-it’s-so-yummy, tasty. You laugh now, but when you make this recipe I guarantee you’ll be tempted to lick your bowl clean!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
4 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
Seasonings, such as garlic powder, dried rosemary, or sage (I used about ¼ tsp of each)
Salt & pepper, to taste
3 cups no-salt-added vegetable broth (plus more, in case the soup is too thick for your liking)
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 375oC. Place the squash and onion in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, whatever seasonings you plan to use, and a little bit of salt and pepper. Gently mix so that everything is nicely coated in oil, and then pour into a large roasting pan. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until tender, stirring the mixture a couple of times.
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  2. When done, blend the squash, vegetable broth, and Greek yogurt using a large blender or food processor until smooth and well-combined (I had to blend everything in a couple of batches because there was so much!). Transfer to a large pot set at low to medium heat and stir constantly until heated through. If the soup is too thick for your liking, feel free to mix in a bit more broth or water. Enjoy with a light, green salad or fresh bread!
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Be Well!

Fueling Your Body to Optimize Your Workouts

Only one month left until race day! Surprisingly, I’ve managed to stick to my training schedule for the most part and have kept myself motivated enough to go for a run at least 2-3 days a week. Just last night I finally made it through the full 5k without stopping to walk – in just over 30 minutes! My goal now is to continue improving my time so I can finish the race in less than 28 minutes.

What I’ve quickly discovered as my training continues is just how important it is to eat the right foods prior to and after a workout. Seeing as I don’t get home from work until 6:30 and it starts to get dark now at around 7:15, my window of opportunity for outdoor exercise during the work week is getting smaller and smaller (the idea of running around outside in the dark on my own makes me uncomfortable). Therefore, it’s becoming increasingly important for me to prepare pre-workout snacks and meals in advance to ensure I have enough time to digest my food and run when it’s still light outside.

I decided to do a bit more research to figure out what foods are the best to eat before and after a workout, because I’ve noticed on days where I eat properly that running longer distances is much easier (and therefore more enjoyable!). On days where I don’t eat enough, eat too much, or eat the wrong things I feel a lot more sluggish – sometimes even sick – and really have to push myself to get through a workout.

So here’s the gist of what I’ve learned!

Before a Cardio Workout
You should have a light meal/snack approximately 30-60 minutes before a cardio session. Carbs should constitute about 75-100% of the meal, while protein should constitute the rest. The carbs get metabolized quickly into glucose (energy), while the protein helps keep this energy supply constant for the duration of your workout. Aim for low Glycemic Index (GI) carbs such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, as they release sugar into the bloodstream more slowly and provide more sustainable energy. Don’t forget to hydrate well by drinking plenty of water throughout the day before your workout!

Examples of some good pre-cardio meals could include:

  • A slice of whole grain toast with natural peanut butter (or other nut butter)135
  • Plain Greek yogurt with whole grain granola and dried fruits
  • A homemade fruit smoothie, perhaps made with some yogurt, granola, or whey protein
  • A small bowl of oatmeal with nuts and fresh berries
  • Scrambled egg whites stuffed in a small whole wheat pita, with a side of carrot sticks

My go-to pre-workout snack typically consists of about ¼ cup of organic granola with a bit of almond milk, and a couple of organic whole grain crackers topped with natural peanut butter. Just enough fuel to keep me going, but not too much so that I feel full!

After a Cardio Workout
Within 30 minutes after completing a cardio workout, you should definitely re-hydrate with plenty of water, as well as a carbohydrate-rich snack or light meal. The key is to replace carbohydrates and electrolytes lost during your workout, so think whole grains, fruits and veggies! A bit of protein to help aid muscle recovery and growth is also important.

Examples of some good post-cardio meals could include:075

  • Apple slices topped with peanut or almond butter
  • A fruit smoothie made with yogurt and almond milk
  • Sliced fruit and/or veggies with a handful of walnuts
  • A small veggie omelet topped with sliced avocado
  • An open-faced sandwich with hummus and fresh veggies

My favourite post-workout smoothie is a combination of frozen banana slices, unsweetened almond milk, natural peanut butter, ground flaxseed, and chia seeds – deeeeelicious!

Of course, everyone has different fitness and health goals, so the above options might not appeal to you or your dietary needs. For those that are interested in some general information, I found this guideline to be really helpful (courtesy of Pinterest):

The Complete Guide to Workout Nutriton [Infographic]

Be Well & Keep Training Hard!

Training for Your First 5K

After much deliberation, I’ve finally decided to sign up for my first 5K run! On Saturday, October 26th I’ll be taking part in the Region of Peel’s “Run, Walk and Roll” 5K for the United Way with some of my co-workers.

It might not seem like a huge deal, but it’s a big step for me considering I HATE running. Don’t get me wrong, I love cardio – bike riding, swimming, hiking, dancing (despite my lack of coordination and grace)… that’s all very appealing to me. But running, on the other hand, is not my friend.

So what has motivated me to sign up for my first 5K? Well, first and foremost, it never hurts to try something new! More importantly, though, I felt like I was in need of a change – something challenging to make me push myself. With no gym membership and limited access to fitness equipment, my workouts were starting to get boring.

My biggest problem when it comes to working out is simply getting started. When I force myself to just do it, then I have no problem getting through a 60-90 minute workout. But after a day’s work and long commute home it’s so much easier to throw on some pj’s and relax!  So to motivate myself to get started, I downloaded the free version of the RunKeeper app. I set a goal to complete a 5K, and selected an appropriate training program to start in the next couple of weeks.

I got a head start on my training a few days ago by tackling a 3.5K route, and managed to run for about 40% of the way and walk the remaining 60%. I figured that’s not too bad for a person that hates running! My next task is to invest in some decent running shoes.  Shin splints are no fun!

If you’ve recently signed up or are thinking about signing up for your first 5K race, here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Invest in the essentials. Proper running shoes are key!  My mom is an avid runner and she insists that it’s best to get professionally fitted for the right running shoe.

2. Create and follow a running program. Smartphone apps are a great tool to use for free training programs. Set some calendar alerts in your phone so you’re less tempted to skip a workout!

3. Slow and steady wins the race! If you’re just starting out, don’t try and push yourself too hard. Running is a lot like weight training – your body needs time to adapt. Start your running program off by alternating between a few minutes of walking and a few minutes of running, until gradually you’re able to run the whole way.

4. Recruit a buddy. You’ll be much more likely to stick to your training program if you have a friend to accompany you along the way! You may even want to consider joining a running group, or try starting a running and/or walking group with co-workers over your lunch break.

5. Dress for success. I have to be up before 6:30 am every day for work, so unless I’m willing to wake up before the sun has risen (um, no thanks), it’s more convenient for me to work out in the evening. I find I’m much more likely to follow through with a workout if I immediately change into exercise clothes when I get home from work.

What do you like to do to prepare for a race, and how do you keep yourself motivated? Feel free to comment below and share some tips!

Be Well xo