Thursday, December 30, 2010

Healthy Apple-Berry Crumble Makeover

I am happy to report that my healthy Christmas treats were pretty well received (for a first try).  Thank you so much to my guinea pigs (i.e. family and friends) for being taste testers and giving me great feedback to improve my recipes.

Well, there was no debate on this next dish, it was the true winner, hands down:  Apple-Berry Crumble!

I modified this recipe slightly to lose some of the sugar, and focus on the natural sweetness of the fruit.  My family had this after Christmas dinner and it was light, crunchy and so easy to make.  Try it for yourself!

Apple-Berry Crumble (Make 15 servings)

6 granny smith apples, peeled and sliced
4 tbsp lemon juice
5 cups of mixed berries (I used 1 bag of frozen strawberries, blackberries and raspberries)
1 cup oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp oat bran
1/3 cup butter

Preheat over to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish.

Mix apples with lemon juice and spread across the bottom of the pan.  Top with berries.

To make the crumble, combine oats, sugar, cinnamon, bran and butter until it clumps in pea-size pieces.

Spread crumble over apples-berry mixture and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Serve warm with frozen yogurt :)

Nutritional Information (Approx.)
131 calories
4.6 g fat
22.4 g carbs
1.1 g protein 
4 g fibre

Stay Healthy, 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Post-Holiday Plan

The last five days have been a whirlwind of family, friends, gifts, food and drink.  I had a fantastic holiday (and I hope you did too), but I have to admit I am glad to finally have some down time to relax.

 And get beck to my regular workouts and eating habits.

Like me, you probably ate more treats than you care to mention.  It is alright to indulge every once in a while.  Enjoy it and savour evey bite!

It can also be challenging to keep up an exercise routine during the holidays.  I snuck a run in on Boxing Day (lovely) and some weight training, but it is nice to be back on schedule.

Whether it has been two days or two weeks, here are some tips to get you back on track after the holidays.

Don't Be To Hard On Yourself
So, you may have had a bit too much to eat over the holidays.  Healthy living is measured over time, not a few days.  Dust yourself off and jump back in to your regular meals.

Start Slowly
If it has been a while since you have exercised, take it easy.  Start with a walk after dinner, maybe some light weight training and gradually build up to your normal schedule.

Drink Water
If you enjoyed a few (or many) beverages over the holidays, make sure you drink lots of water.  Alcohol is very dehydrating and your body will thank you.

How did you do over the holidays?  Did you get your workouts in?  Any other tips for getting back on the wagon?

Stay Healthy, 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Healthy Holiday Makeover, Part 2

And away we go...

I originally wanted to make macaroons, but I didn't have enough coconut (silly me, only bought one bag).  I decided to use oats make some balls! (Inspired by Mama Pea).  Verdict:  Conditional pass.  They taste pretty good, but turned out a bit doughy.  Perhaps I will make them a bit smaller next time.  Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Chocolate Raisin Oat Balls (Makes 25)

1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/8 tsp sea salt
2/3 cup coconut milk
3 tsp honey
2 tsp maple syrup
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease 2 cookie sheets.

Mix flour, oats and salt.  Add milk, honey and maple syrup.  Batter will be very sticky.  Add raisins and chocolate chips.  Mix up by hand.

Use hands to form 1.5 inch balls and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Allow to cool and enjoy!

Nutritional Information (Approx)
81 calories
3.1 g fat
12 g carbs
2 g protein
1.2 g fibre

It was my job to make something for Chrismas dessert this year.  I wanted to bring something uber Christmasy:  aha, gingerbread!  Cookies just didn't seem special enough so I decided on a cake.  This recipe was super easy and I make a few minor adjustments :)  A little bit higher in calories and fat, but it is Christmas! I will give you the verdict next week and let you know what the family thought. 


Gingerbread Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting 
 (Makes 20 slices)

1 1/4 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat bran
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup low fat butter milk*
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup molasses
2 flax eggs

Preheat oven to 2350 degrees and lightly grease a 9x13 pan/

Combine flour, bran, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and baking powder.  In a separate bowl, mix milk, applesauce and molasses until smooth.  Add flax eggs.

Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until incorporated.

Pour batter into greased pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Allow to cool and top with icing.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup light cream cheese

Nutritional Information (Approx)
181 calories
7 g fat
28 g carbs
2 g protein
1 g fibre
*No buttermilk, no problem!  Add 1 tbsp of vinegar to 1 cup of skim milk and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Happy Holidays!

Stay Healthy, 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Healthy Holiday Makeover, Part 1

 I am usually a traditionalist when it comes to holiday baking.  Every year I make lemon squares, butter tarts and shortbread.  This year, in light of my recipe makeovers, I thought I would try something a little different.  

And in the spirit of holiday giving, you are getting two recipes today for the price of one! :)

For the first recipe, I came across this and used it as inspiration.  I swapped the butter for bananas and replaced the raspberry jam with chocolate chips.  For a first attempt, not too bad.  The coconut-banana-chocolate combination is a true winner.  On the down side, the crust turned out a little tougher than I would like.  I may under cook it next time.  Enjoy!


Coconut Banana Bars (Makes 30 bars)

1 cup banana, mashed (about 2 ripe bananas)
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1/4 cup wheat bran
3/4 cup light coconut milk
 2 flax eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 pkg unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9x13 pan.

Mash bananas with a fork.  Add flour, bran and coconut milk.   Mix until combine and spread batter into pan (if it seems a bit to thick, add a few more tablespoons of milk).

Bake crust for 15-20 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Cream sugar with the flax egg.  Add the coconut and chocolate chips.  Spread coconut mixture over crust and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Allow to cool and cut into squares.

Nutritional Information (Approx.)
85 calories
2.6 fat
15 g carbs
1.6 g protein
1 g fibre

For the second recipe, I was inspired by Oh She Glows and Angela's delicious blondies.  I couldn't find any candy canes anywhere, so I improvised.  I doubled the recipe and gave it my own twist, replacing the Earth Balance with applesauce and walnuts with almonds.  These are fantastic!  The combination of mint and white chocolate reminds me of the peppermint bark that I so love.  These are my new holiday favourites and I hope you like them too!

Peppermint Almond Blondies (Makes 50)

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup wheat bran
3 tsp baking powder
2 flax eggs
I cup brown sugar
1 cup applesauce
2 tsp peppermint extract
2 tbsp coconut milk
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup scotch mints, cut in half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease 2 8 inch pans.

Combine flour, bran and baking powder.  In a separate bowl, mix flax egg, sugar, applesauce, extract and milk.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined.
Add chocolate chips, almonds and mints.

Divided batter into pans and bake for 35-40 minutes.  Allow to cool and cut into squares.

Nutritional Information (Approx.)
52 calories
1.8 g fat
8.3 g carbs
1 g protein
1 g fibre

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!

Stay Healthy,

Monday, December 20, 2010

Coping with Chronic Pain, Part 3: Exercise

Warrior III
Parts 1 and 2 talked about different options to help you try and manage your pain.  In the next few installments, I would like to go into more detail for each option and offer some tips that I hope you find helpful.  First up...

As a sufferer myself over the past five plus years, I have found regular exercise to be one of the most effective ways to manage my pain.  

I didn't always feel that way.  Moving hurt too much.  Then depression set in and what do we do when we are depressed?  We eat.  So I was moving less and eating more.  Not a good combination.  

Then I realized that I had to change the way I looked at exercise.  I went from teaching ten fitness classes a week plus my own workouts to nothing.  I couldn't do it all anymore, but I had to do something.  Here are some things to think about when it come to chronic pain and exercise:

      • We have good days and bad days. If you need to rest, rest.  If one kind of exercise is not working, try something else.  The important thing is that you keep trying. 
      • Often we are in so much pain that we don't want to move at all.  As I mentioned in the first post, exercise is a slippery slope for us so we need to find balance. 
      • If you have never exercised regularly in the past, start off slowly.  You may also want to enlist a personal trainer who is able to teach you correct form and modify exercises.
      • If you are an avid exerciser, you may find that you are not able to workout at the same level of intensity you once could.  It can be very frustrating, but don't get discouraged.  You can be active, you may just have to learn to do things a little differently and listen to your body a little more.
      • Yoga is a sufferer's best friend.  There are poses to help you build strength and stretch your muscles.  Meditation and relaxation are also fantastic to help with some of the depression that comes with the pain. 
      • Although it can be intimidating for some, pilates is also very helpful.  All of the exercises can be adapted to your level and it really helps you connect with your body - how it feels, what muscles are working, how movement and breath work together etc.

        Which kinds of exercises work for you?  What didn't work and why?

        Stay Healthy, 

        Friday, December 17, 2010

        Healthy Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bar Makeover

         This week I have given peanut butter bars a healthy makeover in a guest post for my friend Mara at What's For Dinner.

        Check out these delicious bars here and have a great weekend!
        Stay Healthy, 

        Wednesday, December 15, 2010

        Move of the Month: The Hundred

        The Hundred

        I have decided that it is time to bring back the Move of the Month.  (Maybe next time I will have a video post :)

        This month I have chosen the pilates hundred.  Even people who don't practice pilates are familiar with this exercise.  It is wonderful to use as a warm-up for the abdominals and lungs. 

        The hundred can be taught in stages until the participant is ready to to do the full exercise.  This description is of the advanced exercise (pictured above).

        The Hundred
        1. Lay on your back with your feet flat on the floor.  Line up your knees with your hips and your heels with your glutes.
        2. Ensure that your back is neutral (there is a slight space between your lower back and the floor), your chest is open and your shoulders are away from your ears.  
        3. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Contract your abdominal muscles and use your pelvic floor (Kegel muscles).
        4. Inhale and as your exhale, lift your right knee over your hips with your shin parallel to the floor, toes pointed.  Repeat with the left leg.
        5. Inhale and exhale to extend your right leg to the ceiling.  Repeat on the left leg.  Turn the hips out slightly and squeeze the inner thighs together.  The heels should touch with the toes to the ceiling to form a "V" shape.
        6. Inhale and as you exhale, tuck your chin into your chest and slowly peel your spine off the mat with your arms at your side until your shoulders are off the floor.  Make sure you use your abdominals to lift, not your head or neck.  You should be looking at your thighs.
        7. Pump your arms as you quickly inhale for five counts and exhale for five counts (one cycle).
        8. You are aiming for 10 cycles, but do as many as you are comfortable
        9. To finish, exhale to bend your right knee and place the foot on the floor.  Repeat on the left.
        10. Keeping your chin tucked in to your chest, exhale to slowly lower your upper body back to the floor.
         What is your favourite pilates exercise?

        Stay Healthy, 

        Monday, December 13, 2010

        I (Do) Heart Running

        My trusty running shoes.
        As you may recall in this post, I talked about my dislike for running.  How I gave it the college go and it just wasn't for me.

        Well, I may have changed my mind.  I am totally hooked.  I now understand what everyone is talking about.  The freedom, the "runner's high", the solitude.

        How did I get there?

        After I wrote that post, I realized that I still needed a way to work on my cardio.  I don't currently belong to a gym and I wanted to get outside and enjoy the fall weather, so I kept on trekking.  

        I had always done a combination of walking and sprinting, but noticed over the past few months that I was running more than I was walking.  The clincher happened this last week.  I have been sick I was unable to run for a few days and I realized that I missed it.

        Me, the anti-runner missed running?

        I just had to admit it:  I like running and I am looking forward to the day when I can run 5k without walking.

        I am not sure what changed in me.  Maybe I am more open to it?  Perhaps it is because running gives me a clear fitness goal?  Maybe it happened when I noticed a change in my body and energy levels?  All I know now is that running works for me and I am so glad I stuck it out.

        What I said in my last post is still true, you do need to find and activity you enjoy.  I have learned to keep my mind open to different ways of challenging myself.  You never know, what you "hate" may turn out to be the best thing you ever did.

        Have you every done a workout that you hate and now you love it?  Share away!

        Stay Healthy, 

        Saturday, December 11, 2010

        Natural Cold Remedies

        Ah, Choo!

        I wanted to thank everyone for the birthday wishes, you have all made my heart smile:)

        Unfortunately, I have been battling a nasty cold all week (I have lost my voice too, which I am sure will make some people happy.)  I have been trying over-the-counter medications, but they don't seem to be working for me so I thought it was time to get creative with some home remedies.

        While there is no cure for the common cold, I have done some research, got some great suggestions from fellow bloggers and came up with the following list of remedies you can try for yourself.

        Healing Foods
        Drinking keeps the body well hydrated. There seem to be a consensus that warm liquids are good for soothing the throat and treating a cold. This includes warm water or tea with ginger and/or honey and chicken soup.  You may want to avoid coffee, alcohol or milk products as they can be irritating.  Salt can also be helpful for a throat and the nose.

        Rest and Stay Warm
        Take a few days off of work to avoid spreading your cold around the office.  The body is run down and needs to rest.  Keeping warm will help make you more comfortable and perhaps allow you to get more sleep.

        Natural Supplements
        Many people have found that echinacea, zinc lozenges and Cold FX are very beneficial if  taken, as directed, at the first signs of a cold.  Organo oil, garlic and vitamin C may also be helpful to take during your cold to shorten its severity and duration.

        What do you think? Have you tried any of these remedies? Do you have any ideas that you can share?

        Stay Healthy, 

        Wednesday, December 08, 2010

        Coping with Chronic Pain, Part 2


        In Part 1, I talked about how diet, exercise and natural supplements can help you deal with your chronic pain to make your daily life a little easier.

        In Part 2, I am going to tackle sleep, medications and alternative therapies.

        (Note: Everyone is different and some of these treatments may not be right for you. Talk with your doctor or health practitioner just to be sure).

        If you suffer with any kind of pain, you know that good quality sleep can be difficult to achieve. It is thought that some patients with chronic pain do not achieve REM sleep and therefore, do not wake up fully rested. Better sleep can help improve your mood and reduce pain. There are natural (melatonin and valerian) and prescription (Ambien and Lunesta) medications available that may be helpful. A few other tips include:
        • Sleep in total darkness
        • Avoid stimulation (like the TV or computer) at least 30 minutes before bed time (This has worked best for me)
        • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day

        For some people, prescription medications are a last resort, but they do have their place in treating the pain and depression that come along with your chronic disorder. I am currently taking Cymbalta and Elavil, which seems to be helping me so far (knock on wood). Some other medication that have been shown to be helpful are: Savella, Paxil ,Zanaflex, Flexeril, Ultram and Lyrica

        Alternative Therapies
        I my experience, I have found many alternative therapies helpful. When dealing with pain, you may need more frequent treatments than a healthy individual and it may take many weeks so notice any changes. The good news is that many insurance providers cover these kinds of therapies. The bad news is that we often need more treatments than our insurance covers, so it can get costly. Here are some treatments to that I have tried, which provided me with some relief:

        Have you tried any of these treatment options? Did they work for you? Am I missing something? Let me know by posting below!

        Stay Healthy,

        Monday, December 06, 2010

        Fast Fitness Q & A: Back Fat and the Plateau

        It has been a long time since I have done a Fitness Q&A and I want to thank everyone for their great emails. Keep them coming!

        And without further ado...

        Q: I have "Back Fat". What can I do to target that area?

        A: Unfortunately you cannot “spot reduce”. When you exercise, your body with burn the fat from the area where it is most readily available.

        By adding some type of cardiovascular exercise to your routine (such as running, dancing and group fitness classes) to tap into fat stores AND some strength training exercises (including some for your back and abdominals) to tone and build muscle, you will rev up your metabolism and lose overall fat (including that area on your back!).

        Diet is also a very important in overall health so consult a dietitian if you need help with your meals planning.

        Q: I have bee
        n exercising regularly for many years. I usually do a combination of cycling and weight training at my local gym. I have noticed that my body hasn't really been changing over the last few months and I was wondering why. Is there anything you can suggest?

        A: First, let me congratulate you on maintaining an exercise program and staying active. It sounds like you have hit an exercise plateau. What does this mean? If you keep doing the same routine from month to month, your body will get used to these demands and no longer respond by changing. You will simply maintain the same level.

        If you want to see changes in your body, you need make some changes to your routine. A few of my previous post have some ideas about what to do when you hit a plateau adding intensity and mixing up your workouts.

        Got more questions? I am all ears!

        Stay Healthy,

        Friday, December 03, 2010

        Healthy Brownie Makeover

        I have been sick the past few days and what better way to pass the time (and make me feel better) than to try another recipe makeover!

        I take back what I said about my Chocolate Chip Cookies. Although they were delicious, this brownie recipe absolutely wins the prize for my favourite treat!

        I found this recipe and made a few substitutions. I added wheat germ, milk and chocolate chips. I increased the amount of cocoa and applesauce. Then I substituted mint for the vanilla and a flax egg for a regular egg.

        The result: An oooey, gooey, minty brownie that is not too sweet, and very chocolatey.


        Mint Chocolate Chip Brownies

        3/4 cup whole wheat flour
        1/2 cup wheat germ
        3/4 cup cocoa powder
        1 tsp baking powder
        1/2 tsp salt
        1 cup applesauce
        1/2 cup sugar
        1/4 cup milk
        1 tsp pure peppermint extract
        1/2 cup chocolate chips (or more :)

        Preheat over to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish.

        Mix flour, wheat germ, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl add applesauce, sugar, flax egg, milk, peppermint and beat until smooth.

        Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined. (The batter will be thick). Add chocolate chips and stir.

        Spread batter into dish and bake for 20-25 minutes. Try not to overcook as you want brownies to be just slightly underdone.

        Nutritional Information (Approx.)
        56 calories
        1.4 g fat
        10.6 g carbs
        1.6 protein
        1.5 g fibre

        Stay Healthy,

        Wednesday, December 01, 2010

        Coping with Chronic Pain, Part 1


        Chronic pain. It exists in many forms. Arthritis, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome and the list goes on. Roughly one in every three people in North America suffer.

        Do you? I do.
        I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia about four years ago. I have posted about it a few times, most notably here. It has been a long process and I am currently seeking a second opinion because I feel I might have something in addition to/instead of fibro. (I will keep you posted.)

        So why am I talking about it today?

        I have learned a few things over the years about managing pain and I thought it might be helpful to share them.

        In part 1, I will talk about exercise and diet. (Note: Everyone is different and some of these treatments may not be right for you. Talk with your doctor or health practitioner just to be sure).

        This is always a tricky one when you suffer with pain. If you do too much, you may end up sore for days, but if you don't move at all, you run the same risk. Start off slowly by devoting 15 minutes a day of light activity (such as walking) and gradually increase the time and intensity of your exercises week to week. I have found yoga to be a great way to stretch out my muscles and relax my mind.

        Some studies have shown that dairy and gluten are linked to chronic pain, and may people have found much relief from removing them from their diet. I tried this, but it didn't make a difference for me. I found that eating a clean diet of whole grain, fruits, vegetables and avoiding sugar works best for me.

        Natural Supplements
        There are many supplements that can be beneficial in treating chronic pain. There are many great brands out there, so do your homework before you invest. The ones that I have found most helpful with my condition are:
        • Multivitamins
        • Omega 3
        • MSM
        • Relora
        • Probiotics
        Stay tuned for Part 2...

        What diet and exercise changes have worked for you? Please share your stories!

        Stay Healthy,


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