Getting Personal Here!

photoBefore falling in love with nutrition (hook, line & sinker), before becoming a Holistic Nutritionist & before I embarked on a total lifestyle change, I was the girl who was sick at least once a month (that's literal, no exaggeration there!). From minor colds & coughs to full blown flu bugs - it was as though I lacked any sort of immune system. If the latest virus was floating around, I could count on one thing -  I would catch it! I caught everything! It got to the point where I lost all trust & faith in my own body.

Looking back now, I'm not at all surprised at how often I would succumb to colds and flu bugs. My diet pretty much said it all. Breakfast entailed some sugar-laden commercial cereal and a large coffee. I'd often skip lunch and always hit a wall between 2-4pm where I would crave caffeine or something sugary like a doughnut (hello hypoglycemia!). On rare occasions I would have lunch it would sometimes be Skittles (terrible, I know!), other times some disgusting sodium-rich soup with ingredients I could barely pronounce and on good days it would be leftovers. My snacks were always processed and packaged and I was lucky if I drank 1 cup of water each day! Fresh fruits and veggies? I was lucky if I had maybe 2 servings of fruit and veggies per day! My diet pretty much consisted of refined carbs, meat and CHEESE! I was not exactly the poster child for healthy eating.

Aside from how often I would get sick, overall I felt terrible - my digestion was awful! I always suffered from stomach cramps after eating and experienced bloating/gas. I would get random bouts of dizziness and headaches a few times a month. My period would come with a vengeance - my cycle was unpredictable & my cramps would be so severe that I'd be keeled over crying in pain. My only relief at that time of the month was Advil.

My big revelation came when when I randomly chose to watch the documentary Food Inc. It was a complete eye opener for me. If you've never seen it, I highly recommend you do - very thought provoking (I'll warn you - many scenes are graphic and emotionally upsetting especially if you're an animal lover!) Before this movie, I barely gave any thought to where my food comes from or how it's produced. I thought if it's in the grocery store then it has to be safe for me, right?....right??....! I was truthfully a little ashamed of myself after watching this movie for being so naive and trusting. How irresponsible of me!  After watching that documentary - everything changed - I decided I wanted to change!

I went to see a Holistic Nutritionist to learn more about food and that's where my love affair with nutrition started! I was a sponge - I seriously couldn't soak up the information quickly enough. I implemented many changes  - some very quickly and some over a period of time. Water was my first biggest change! And lots of it! My focus shifted to whole, live, good quality foods! So I incorporated fruits, veggies, complex carbs, raw nuts/seeds, limited dairy & convenience foods and focused on a more plant based diet. The changes I could see and feel were amazing & addictive! My skin was clearer and brighter, my body shape changed in a way that I could never achieve with consistent exercise, my period regulated itself and my cramps became minimal (with additional support from my amazing Homeopath!). I had never been SO in tune with my own body before.

Eventually, I was ready for more changes! I decided to pursue a career in Holistic Nutrition because I was so passionate about the topic and because nothing else had ever felt so right. I also introduced myself to yoga and noticed further changes to my body! I felt stronger, leaner and had much more confidence in myself. Over the course of that year, I realized I hadn't been sick at all! I was finally introduced to my own immune system. It was no miracle - I knew it was the food and lifestyle changes I had made.

Today, aside from nutrition, I use a wide array of holistic health care to support and nourish my body from chiropractic to homeopathy. In our house water is the main beverage consumed aside from daily smoothies, fresh raw juices, herbal teas and coconut water. We strive to eat fresh, local, seasonal and where we can we buy organic. We frequent Farmer's Markets often and in the summer we grow some of our own organic veggies. When we grocery shop we primarily stick to the perimeter of the store and our cart is over 70% produce. 

If there's one recommendation I could make - it's to get informed! Be aware of your food & lifestyle choices. Get your hands on documentaries or food & health books and arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can. Go to workshops & seminars being offered around you, take a stroll through your local health food store, get to know some of the products there and try one new thing! Take baby steps in the right direction. 

If you need one-on-one guidance and support seek out a Holistic Nutritionist (like me!) to facilitate your journey!

- Valerie, RHN

Using Essential Oils

Here's the 'why' behind my love of essential oils:

Unlike chemicals found in most candles, bathroom sprays, cleaning agents etc., essential oils don't remain in our bodies. Meaning, they leave zero toxins behind! They are just as convenient, practical and pleasant as commercial products but without the nasty & toxic ingredients. 

My favourite methods:

  • On a handkerchief or tissue: use 1 drop of essential oil and sniff as needed.
  • Baths&showers: mix up to 8 drops max in a bath with the door closed so the vapours don't escape. Or up to 8 drops max on a facecloth or sponge in the shower.
  • Diffusers: These are especially made for use with essential oils. They come in various materials such as ceramic, stainless steel, clay etc. The essential oils are mixed with water in the top of the diffuser and a tea light is used underneath to warm the bowl. You can also buy electric diffusers as well.
  • Room Sprays: 4 or more drops of essential oils per 1 cup of water in a spray bottle which can be used on carpet, curtains, as a room spray or cleaning agent.
  • Water bowls: Add 1-9 drops of essential oils to boiling water, close all doors and windows and allow 5 minutes for the aroma to permeate the room.
  • Candles: Light a candle and wait until the wax begins to melt, then add 1-2 drops of essential oils to the wax. Essential oils are inflammable so be careful NOT to get them on the wick.

My favourite blends:

  • Baths: I love this Nourishing Oil mix because oftentimes I find that baths dry my skin out. The oils in this blend will float on the water and cling to the body once you're out. Mix 2 teaspoons of Avocado&Apricot oil, 2 tablespoons of Sweet Almond oil with 50 drops of essential oils of your choice. I personally like chamomile, geranium & lavender essential oil with this blend.
  • Air Fresheners: In a diffuser I mix the following essential oils, clove, orange and cinnamon. This blend is my go to for the Fall and Winter Seasons.
  • Steam Inhalation: I use these blends when I have a cold: 1 drop of thyme, tea tree, lavender & clove. Or in a hot bath I use: 2 drops of thyme&tea tree oil with 1 drop of eucalyptus and 3 drops of lemon.
  • If I'm feeling stuffed up or congested I put 1 drop of eucalyptus oil on a tissue and sniff as needed.

When it comes to essential oils and aromatherapy there are SO many different uses for them. I recommend buying a guide and using it as a tool for when and how to use what essential oils safely. Lastly, it's important to ensure that you're buying a quality oil. Look for reputable brands like Aromaforce, Aura Cacia etc. One easy way to tell if it's a quality oil will be the bottle, look for dark bottles vs. clear bottles.

XO Valerie

Wild Shrimp with Zucchini Sticks and Baked Stuffed Tomatoes

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My very first blog post!! (Finally!) Last night Chris and I made the most delicious dinner and I have received some great feedback from the pictures I posted so I wanted to post the recipe here for everyone to check out. We were really into the organic produce we came across and wanted to create two vegetable side dishes. The first, lightly breaded and baked Zucchini sticks and the second, baked stuffed tomatoes. We paired our veggies with garlic-butter wild shrimp but you could very easily pair your veggies with a side of brown rice or quinoa pilaf to keep it Vegetarian.

Just a little nutritional background here: Zucchini's are an amazing source of antioxidants especially when you consume the skin and the seeds and in this recipe we're incorporating both! They also offer anti-inflammatory benefits with a good source of fibre and omega 3 fatty acids. And not to mention they're in season right now!

Tomatoes are a rich source of phytonutrients and research has linked the antioxidant properties of lycopene (that's what gives the tomato its beautiful red colour) to bone health. Tomatoes have also been linked with heart health and are an amazing source of antioxidants.

Baked Zucchini Sticks: We used two green zucchini and it yielded roughly 3-4 servings. Wash your zucchini well and cut the ends off. Cut the zucchini into sticks and toss in a bowl with EVOO and a pinch of sea salt. In a separate bowl mix whole grain breadcrumbs (we got ours from Nature's Emporium and it was a mix of kamut and spelt), S&P, we like to use cumin and paprika to season with but really you could use any variation you desire. Now coat each zucchini stick in your breadcrumb mixture and coat well. Use a non stick baking sheet to place your breaded zucchini sticks on. Set your oven at 425 degrees and bake them for approximately 12 min.

Stuffed Tomatoes: We used two organic tomatoes, one for each of us. Again, wash your tomatoes well. Cut the tops off and very carefully cut just enough out of the inside of the tomato to make room for your filling. Season your tomato with S&P first. Your filling will be a combination of whole grain breadcrumbs, grated Asiago cheese(you can really use any cheese you prefer here), oregano and S&P. Stuff your tomatoes with as much of the filling as you desire and drizzle with a bit of EVOO before placing them in a 425 degree oven for 20 min.

This recipe is not only simple but it's seriously yummy! The zucchini sticks are especially kid friendly:) I hope you enjoy!! XO Valerie