My Favourite Healthy Recipe: “Fiesta Stir-Fry”

I admit, I have two separate Pinterest boards related to food. One is called “Food Porn” and the other is called “Health(ier) Recipes.” The reason that I call the second one “health(ier) recipes” is because the word “healthy,” when describing food, is so loaded. Almost every food and drink can be criticized for something, whether it’s because the food is non-organic, non-Paleo, GMO, highly caloric, non-nutritive… I mean, we’re even being told when we should drink water to reap the most benefits. Is there seriously a wrong time of day to drink water?

Healthy has become complicated.

But it doesn’t have to be. If we look at the definition of health, it usually includes something about being “free from illness or injury” and when we look at the definition of healthy, it usually includes something about being “good for you.” It’s pretty simple. My personal definition of healthy food is the stuff that makes you feel good (not bloated), that keeps you full longer, and that helps curb cravings for less nutritive food.

So based on that definition, I present my recipe for “Fiesta Stir-Fry.” What I love about this recipe is that it is made from ingredients I often have on hand- and so many ingredients are optional, so you can play around, modify and enjoy!

Fiesta Stir-Fry
Serves: 2-4
Prep: 5-10 minutes Cook: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
2 boneless chicken breasts, diced (can be omitted if vegetarian)
1.5 cups quinoa (red or white)
1 Tbsp. olive oil (or some other fat that will prevent ingredients from sticking to the pan)
1 tsp. minced garlic (optional)
1 can diced tomatoes, or 2-3 plum tomatoes, diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (can be omitted too!)
1 red or white onion, diced
1 avocado, sliced (optional)
1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
3 Tbsp. chili powder (I prefer a more mild variety, but this is up to you!)
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. stevia or 1 Tbsp agave syrup (optional)

Directions:
1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.
2. In a LARGE frying pan, heat oil/fat over medium heat. Add onion and garlic (if using) and sautee until soft and fragrant. Add chili powder and cumin. Add chicken to pan and cook until no longer pink.
3. Add diced tomatoes and black beans. Cook for a few moments, until sauce from tomatoes is simmering.
4. Add sweetener (if using) to frying pan.
5. On plates or bowls, arrange cooked quinoa, then cover in tomato/chicken/bean mixture. Top with avocado and cilantro, if using.

Enjoy!!!

Visiting a Naturopath

I am very, very lucky. My health benefits cover up to $500 of naturopathy appointments. The downside of this incredible privilege is that the remedies that a naturopath suggests are not covered by my plan, so B12 injections, probiotics, fish oils, etc. come at a price. That said, this small proportion of what I have to pay for opened by eyes to how expensive the process can be. And goodness, I love the naturopath and would recommend it for virtually anyone. However, I recognize that the appointments and products are out of budget for many people.

Here’s some wisdom I will suggest that I learned from my naturopath when I used to go regularly:

1. Learn when to take your vitamins and supplements. It’s good to consult with a doctor or naturopath about the best time of day to take supplements. I learned from the naturopath that the calcium/magnesium supplement I was taking in the morning would be much more effective at night. Who knew?

2. Dry brushing. Oh my goodness, I can’t recommend this enough…. spend $5 on a pair of exfoliating gloves. Before you turn on the water in your shower, scrub your skin in light circles, starting at the soles of your feet, all the way up to your heart. Dry brush your whole body (except your face). Then shower (and wash your exfoliating gloves regularly). Your skin will feel so soft, and the regular practice of dry brushing is good for circulation. This is especially recommended in the winter, with all that dry skin you’re carrying around!

3. Elimination diets can tell you a lot, but they might not tell you everything. It’s definitely a good thing to try once, because you will learn a lot about how your body reacts to different foods. Unfortunately, I was sick through a lot of my elimination, so I didn’t learn as much as I would have liked to. I should have done the right thing and started the process again, but it’s a really hard regime to follow. I plan on doing one again when summer patio drinks aren’t calling my name.

4. It’s really lovely to be heard by a medical professional. If you’re like me, you don’t have a consistent physician. It was so nice, in my intake appointment, to spend an hour with someone answering questions like “how often do you sneeze?” and “do you ever see circles around lights?” My naturopath made me feel heard, and also empathized with how frustrating day-to-day crummy symptoms can be.

5. Check out elimination/candida diet recipes! There are so many great foods that you can eat on these diets that are so clean and nutritious! I lost a fair amount of weight on the elimination diet, and though these diets are not intended for weight loss, it was good for me to see that I am capable of controlling my weight after putting on some excess pounds.

6. PROBIOTICS! I swear by these little miracles. Especially before travelling, I am certain to double dose on probiotics, a trick that my naturopath taught me. I also travel with a lot of probiotics. My stomach takes some time to adjust to novel foods and to jet lag, so I loved trying to tackle pains with probiotics before I turned to alternatives like Pepto.

I’d love to hear about people’s experiences of visiting a naturopath. I find these medical professionals so wise, and they certainly have a lot to share. Check your health benefits- if you’re able to go visit one AND have it covered, then what are you waiting for?

Ending Dietainment: Cheerios Ad Campaign

(I apologize. This is a rant that is kind of off-track from the posts you’ve been seeing on this blog, but it’s been something that I’ve been thinking about a lot today!!)

Yesterday night as I was watching T.V. before bed, this commercial came on:

Cheerios and “Dietainment”

Though I immediately connected with the intention of the message, I couldn’t help it. Something within me was triggered. I can’t state enough that I wish mass media would be more vigilant, more socially-aware, more accountable, less aggressive, less racist, less sexist…(and I could go on forever). Nonetheless, I’m not sure it is the most effective use of time, resources, our voices and our efforts to address this at the level of the “media.”

I applaud Cheerios for starting the discussion, and here are a couple of my thoughts to add:

1. Marketing + Prosocial Messages = ?

We’ve all been here before, people. Dove’s campaign for real beauty left us all wondering how genuine a message of change can be when there is a thinly veiled attempt to sell a product. This always makes me go “yikes” a little inside.

2. The reasons I think the “Canadian” media is an ineffective target are that a) the Canadian media is only a sliver of what we consume… our neighbours to the south produce most of the dietainment media we see… and b) if it isn’t dietainment, the “media” will attack and humiliate and marginalize some other group in some other way. I know that’s cynical, but I don’t have a lot of faith in the industry. Weird, right?

3. Perhaps most importantly, we need to educate young people. Not just young girls. Young people. And middle-aged people. And old people. OK… all people.

I don’t know the best way to best educate people to be critical consumers of the media. It’s tricky, but if we bolster the abilities of people to recognize dietainment (thank you Cheerios, for integrating the buzzword), question it, roll it around in our heads rather than passively consume it, maybe we’re better off. Maybe it’s more effective to use a holistic approach to media literacy, rather than a single-pronged petition to the Canadian media about an individual aspect of what “they” are doing terribly wrong. If we educate one another and our young people about questioning and analyzing what we’re seeing, maybe we’ll approach sexual violence in advertising differently, dietainment differently and racist depictions or exclusions differently. The media are giving people messages constantly. Things do need to change, and I’m not sure the system will change anytime soon (again, I’m so cynical!) So maybe in the here-and-now, we can change the conversations we’re having. We can change the way we perceive and consume media. We can support brands that don’t depict and perpetuate violence, racism, hatred or shaming. This whole dialogue makes me think about the conversations people are having about the new sex ed curriculum in Ontario. It’s like there’s this notion that if we hide something hard enough, people won’t be exposed to it and everyone will then be “safer” and better off. But the fact of the matter is that if we equip people to responsibly and respectfully deal with the (let’s face it!) inevitable- whether it’s sexual development or the diet industry- isn’t that when we’re better off? If we give people, from a very early age, the skills to really analyze, consider, question and contemplate their decisions of what media they orient themselves to, and when and with whom they have relationships with…. I seriously think that is when we are all winning.

Bottom line: It’s important to remember that the media is trying to sell you something, so buyer beware.

(I should let you know before I go that I absolutely LOVE multigrain cheerios and it happens to be one of my favourite cereals!)

I’d love to know what others think and I’d love to hear what have you add to the discussion.

Signing up for Runs

Have you ever signed up for a run? Like getting tattoos or wine tours, signing up for runs is ADDICTIVE! Once you start with a 5 K, it’s impossible not to have the itch to sign up for more.

A lot of people ask why I pay for torture of a run- having to train, show up on race day and run in sometimes horrible conditions, and then have to recover for a week after. I mean, in what other situations do we pay to run a huge distance, sweating, crying, and shaking?

Here is why I sign up for runs: to have something to strive for.

I remember meeting a man at a race expo not too long ago. He explained that he does ultras, marathons, and triathlons regularly. Our motivations to engage in such craziness were similar. We both admitted that if we didn’t have a race day planned in the future, we’d have a lot more trouble getting out the door a few times a week for a jog. However, he also said that he signs up for races because he looks at his same-aged friends and sees them getting older in the worst ways. They are sore, stiff and bitter and he doesn’t want to suffer the same fate.

I told him that it’s strange, because running leaves me sore, stiff and bitter. He laughed and suggested that at least we know what it’s like, so when the inevitable aging part comes and we will be unable to accomplish the feats of our youth, at least we’ll know how to accept the soreness, the stiffness and the bitterness with grace.

I’ve now incorporated that motivation into my runs. I want to age gracefully and know that I did everything I physically could while I was capable of it.

Why are you signing up for a run?

Fad Foods Don’t Have to be Bad Foods

superfood_S

I have a lot of trouble with food changes. I’m extremely resistant when anyone suggests that chia seeds are amazing, or that kale chips are “even better than real chips.” The fact of the matter is that I will rarely enjoy the healthier alternative more than the sugary, salty, fatty version. That said, fad foods don’t have to be terrible. You just have to play around a bit to find a way to consume these foods (if you want to include them in your diet). Here are a couple of suggestions I have:

1. Kale… as I mentioned, I’m not really fond of kale chips. Instead, I like my kale in the 7 superfood salad available at costco or other grocers. The package comes with a dressing, but you can make it healthier by creating your own vinaigrette.

2. Grapefruit. I have always loved grapefruit, but you do have to ensure that eating this little miracle doesn’t interact with any medications you’re taking. I like slivering a grapefruit and topping it with stevia to make this one a sweeter treat.

3. Flax/chia seeds. I only use flax seeds at this point, but I am making a point of picking up some chia the next time I go grocery shopping. For me, the trick with flax is that you can add it to so much and it actually makes somethings taste better- like smoothees and oatmeal!

4. Spinach. I find the way that I can eat the most spinach is by sauteeing it with a little oil (grapeseed, olive or avocado), minced garlic and lemon. It amazes me how much of this amazing food you can eat this way!

5. Quinoa. This is an extremely versatile superfood carb. I like cooking a bunch and turning it into salads. One thing I also enjoy- cooking up some sweet potato until soft, mixing in an eggs and a bunch of quinoa. If you roll this into patties and fry it in coconut oil, you have an amazing vegetarian, paleo and often organic (if you buy the ingredients organic) snack.