Updated: Oct 20, 2021
As I sat down to write this blog post, I noticed that it’s been 6 months since I’ve written anything, which makes sense because that’s how long my kids were home with me when schools closed back in April 2021. Now that I have my life back, I’d like to share what’s been inspiring me lately when it comes to health and wellness.
What I’m Reading
One of my favourite books right now is Atomic Habits by James Clear. Clear is an expert on creating and breaking habits. When it comes to accomplishing health goals, it all comes down to creating good habits. I’ve noticed when counselling clients lately, that I can provide them with all the healthy recipes, suggest they add more exercise to their day and create time for meal prep, but without a strategy and a plan to create the habit of cooking, exercising and meal prep, it usually doesn’t happen. This book has enriched the counselling sessions with my clients, but is a motivating read for anyone who wants to add better habits to their life!
What I’m Researching
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is all the rage in the health industry right now. I’ll keep it high level because there is a lot on the topic. Basically IF is a method of eating that requires you to fast (avoid anything with calories), and eat for restricted periods of time. Calorie-free liquids like still or sparkling water, black coffee and tea are fine.
There are many health benefits of IF such as: weight loss, improved gut health, better sleep, metabolic benefits, improved blood glucose and insulin levels, neuroprotection, and aids in autophagy (the body’s way of eliminating damaged cells and generating healthy ones). I once heard it described as a way to give your body a break from everything that is involved in eating and digesting food in order to focus its energy elsewhere in the body.
There are many different ways of IF, but the most popular seems to be 16/8, which is fasting for 16 hours and eating for 8 hours. For example, if you finish dinner at 6pm, you would stop eating for the rest of the night, and eat your first bite of food at 10am the next day. Sounds reasonable(ish), but for my busy/working/parent clients who are just trying to keep their head above water, and get a healthy meal on the table; having a strict deadline for dinner on top of it all, can be a lot.
I can’t deny the health benefits of IF, but in my opinion, long periods of fasting is not sustainable for the average busy person, and may not be advised (always check with a healthcare professional before extreme IF). That being said, there is a way to experiment with IF that is approachable for the average person. For my clients, I recommend the 12/12 fast, which could be eating their last bite at 8:30pm, and their first bite at 8:30am the next day. I love this strategy because it promotes mindfulness around eating habits that aren’t serving your health such as, late night snacking, (extra calories and poor quality sleep), and morning munching (like finishing your kids’ breakfast leftovers - don’t judge, we’ve all done it).
What I’m Eating
I tend to find a favourite breakfast, and eat the same thing every day for a year. For the past 5 months, it’s been my Chocolate Breakfast Pudding. I make it every few days (store it in an airtight container in the fridge), top it with my Grain-Free Granola and some fresh berries - IT. IS. THE. BEST.
Chocolate Breakfast Pudding
Makes 4 Servings
1 large ripe avocado
½ green(ish) banana
1 tbsp. natural peanut butter or almond butter
¼ cup cocoa powder (alkali-free - Yupik Organic is a good brand)
2 tsp. MCT oil or coconut oil
½ cup unsweetened nut mylk
Optional add-ins: 1 tsp. honey, 1 scoop collagen, 1 tsp. cinnamon, pinch of sea salt
Method 1. Blend everything together in a food processor until smooth and creamy.
2. Enjoy a ½ -⅔ cup serving and top with nuts, grain-free granola and berries. Stays fresh in the fridge for 3-5 days.
What I’m Cooking
Have you caved and turned your heat on? Fall brings cooler temps, and changes in seasonal produce. Butternut and acorn squash, root vegetables like beets and carrots, sweet potatoes and the “top-shelf” cruciferous veg like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are in season and readily available right now. These hearty veggies always have me craving soups, chilli, roasted vegetables and slow cooker recipes - anything that’s going to warm me from the inside.
My favourite way to spend a Sunday afternoon is with the fire on, Taylor Swift’s Folklore or Evermore album playing (I’m a full blown Swifty now) and batch cooking something warm and delicious. This past weekend I made the best Curried Butternut Red Lentil soup. Even though butternut squash is in season right now, I had a couple bags of chopped, frozen ones that I needed to use (time-saver!) and I love using red lentils in soups, stews and chilis because they cook really fast - enjoy!
Curried Butternut Red Lentil Soup
6-8 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced, or 1 ½ bags frozen
4 tbsp. Olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
1 yellow onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. grated ginger*
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. chilli flakes (add later if serving to kids)
1 tsp. salt
1 cup red lentils
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 can coconut milk
Kale, finely chopped
Chilli flakes or hot sauce
*Peel and chop ginger into 2-3” chunks, freeze and grate the frozen ginger into soups and dressings - avoid the stringy, wet mess!
Heat oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.**
If using fresh squash: peel, seed and dice. Toss fresh or frozen diced squash in 2 tbsp. olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool for 10 minutes.
In a large pot, heat remaining olive oil on medium heat. Add onions and saute for a few minutes.
Add spices, garlic and ginger. Cook for 1 minute, avoid burning. Deglaze pan with a splash of stock.
Add lentils, squash, remaining stock and coconut milk. Stir to combine.
Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
Leave chunky or puree using an immersion blender.
Serve immediately, stir in desired toppings and adjust seasoning to taste.
Refrigerate in an airtight container for 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.
**If you’re pressed for time, you can skip the roasting step. I prefer the flavour of roasted butternut squash, but it tastes great both ways!