Sugar the FDA Approved Cocaine

cagehumansugar

Now just that title alone will get some eye rolls and maybe even prevent some people from clicking to ready the full post.  But you know what… be critical! Be critical of everything I write and everything you see and hear.  Critical doesn’t mean cynical… we need give intentional thought to our source of information and only then, deem it either important to us, or not.

I have gotten my information from multiple clinical trials done on both humans and rats in laboratories all over Canada and the United States… too many to list them all, but here is a short list.

I bought my kids their Halloween costumes over the weekend and thus the anxiety of the sugar onslaught of this holiday has begun.  I explain the harmful effects year after year, I negotiate with them as to how much “poison” I will let them eat and even buy their candy from them (which is getting $$$ as they age) …because trick-or-treating is seriously FUN!

But we have the research; we have the information; we know that refined sugar is addictive and creates harmful chemical reactions within our bodies… and yet it is still very much the norm to give it to children at parties, special events and holidays.

sugarhascaus

I get the “everything in moderation” idea. 80/20!  But is our level of moderation enough when it comes to this addictive stimulant? Mainstream media is marketing sugary treats with artificial dyes (that’s another post) to our kids. Schools are rewarding kids with ring pops, suckers and skittles. It’s our job as parents to take the information that we now have and apply it to our kid(s) and demand that influential institutions like daycares and schools do the same!

Let’s explore a little of that research…

sugar-cocaine

This graphic shows the area of the brain stimulated by cocaine and sugar is the same… the deal is that both substances increase the release of dopamine (the happy chemical) in the brain. Now I’m not saying that I don’t want kids to be happy but this release is an unnatural amount. An amount that comes with consequences…namely addiction.  Now it might not sound too bad to be addicted to being happy, but unfortunately that is not the only consequence. Refined sugar creates oxidative damage among your cells, increases cell mutation and creates instability in your blood glucose levels (leading to diabetes).

Our kids deserve better… we know better, so let’s do better! 

How much added sugar should we eat?

(these numbers are based on a diet of 2000 calories)

As Canadians we eat an estimated 110 grams of added sugar per day (26 teaspoons)

As Canadians we should be eating no more than 48 grams (12 teaspoons) of added sugar per day…but this comes with negative health effects (so why is this the top limit recommendation?)

To avoid adverse health effects caused by sugar we should be eating no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons)

FRUIT DOES NOT COUNT! EAT FRUIT 🙂

Now you know!  Happy Halloween 🙂   Honestly have a great time dressing up, going to a party where there are spooky gross things! Have fun trick-or-treating!  I bought cute Halloween rings and bouncy balls and squishy toys (all .99 cents/pack) to give the kids in my neighbourhood.  My kids will be going door to door and they will be selling me their candy for pennies on the dollar, and it will be 100% worth it for me. My kids will also appreciate ANY and EVERY house that doesn’t give them candy because then they get to keep the cool stuff that their mom didn’t think to buy!

We can start the change at home and hope that schools and other institutes alike follow suite.

Artificial sugar creates artificial happiness…

Keep it real 😉

 

Arlicgay and Emonslay

Sometimes it can seem that information about foods that hurt and foods that heal is like reading piglatin!  It can get complicated and contradictory… so here are two simple foods, easy to incorporate with both with the ability to boost your health.

GARLIC and LEMONS

While we are fighting off those seasonal colds we may as well take care of our heart while we are at it. We all know that lemons are packed with vitamin C, which is an immune booster same goes for the allicin in garlic!  I think the saying goes “heal 2 birds with one stone” 😉 Cardiovascular Disease is the leading cause of death in the world so we should get on top of this statistic so that we don’t contribute to these disturbingly high numbers.  If you are eating saturated fats (animal products) and are over 10 years old, your arteries will show the beginning stages of arteriosclerosis, sad but true 😦    

The combination of garlic and lemon juice has been proven to not only reduce inflammation but also lower the fat levels and lipoprotein or LDL (bad cholesterol) in your blood.  To over simplify, a heart attack is caused by trying to push thick liquid through constricted tubes. So if we can relax those arteries and blood vessels and at the same time keep the liquid (blood) running through them clean, we can lower the chance that we will suffer the fate of most.  

Garlic-and-lemon

How much garlic and lemon juice do you need?

… about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 20 grams of garlic (3-4 cloves).  Pretty easy to include in your salad dressing, cup of tea, mashed potatoes, stir fried veggies, soup… you should be consuming them in the same meal but they don’t need to be in the same dish …but in case you’d like to consolidate, it makes a delicious guacamole!

WHAT THE FLAX!

 Flax seeds are one of the original medicines used by Hippocrates, I’m sure you all remember his famous quote

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”   (oh how far we’ve strayed)

Flax seeds are a high-fiber super food!  Omega-3 essential fatty acids, “good” fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy effects. Essential fatty acids are not made in our bodies but are exactly that…essential and therefore we must consume them. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of a-linolenic acid (plant oil). 

flax

There are a long list of benefits to flaxseeds, I have named a few in the following list…and really when there are ZERO negative side effects how long of a list of benefits do you really need?! 

Mother Nature has provided us with an amazing nutrient but man did she ever package it tightly! Our digestive system can’t break through their tough outer hull, so we can try to carefully chew these little guys but come on…they are super tiny and most of them will just end up going in one end and out the other.  Grinding them up and using them in your porridge, morning cereal, pasta sauce or mixed into a smoothie are great ways to get the benefits. You can also cook and bake with flax as their beneficial properties are NOT destroyed with heat! (yay) 

Some FLAX Benefits

  • increased metabolic function – supports weight loss
  • lowers blood pressure
  • reduce risk of cancer
  • reduce inflammation
  • reduce constipation
  • improves insulin sensitivity

Just 2 tablespoons of flaxseeds per day just might keep the doctor away!

School Lunches

Well the first week is done and no matter what your kids ate this week you made it through!  GOOD JOB!     …but we don’t want to just make it through all year.

Last year I didn’t plan very well and found that each morning my first thoughts were, “crap what do I have in the kitchen to put in the lunches?”  …secondary thought was, “will my kids eat it?” …third, “is it healthy?”

You might be thinking, oh c’mon Jenny of course it’s healthy you post lots of healthy foods… but my kids are still kids and my girl is trying to survive on chocolate I’m pretty sure and my son can’t believe that chips aren’t a food group! lol  They have their preferences and unlike me, they like variety.  (I literally eat the same thing for breakfast every day and I LOVE it! …sometimes on the weekends I’ll feel the pressure to eat the same breakfast as my family… but this post isn’t about my crazy habits)

So this year I have vowed to procrastinate less, involve the kids more and be prepared for the inevitability of the MON-FRI lunches.

I have a PDF here for you to check out…  school lunches (1)   This gives you a visual and some suggestions on how to pack your kids a healthy lunch.  This can also be made into an activity for the kids to participate in.  (pictures below)

As you can see on the PDF I have included some non-vegan items. I really wanted to help as many families as possible make lunches WHOLE FOOD BASED… in an ideal world we would all be feeding and eating WHOLE FOOD PLANT BASED but just eating whole food would be a great start!

This is what our first 3 school lunches looked like. The potato salad we had for dinner the night before and I just planned to make extra to have enough for their lunch.  Hubby took it too cause lunch isn’t just for kids 😉  The other lunches I made the morning of… We have our whole grains (granola, whole grain bread), fruit (blueberries, oranges, bananas), vegetables (carrots, peas, potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes), healthy fats (coconut whip, seeds, avocado) and protein  – people there is protein in almost everything!  (hummus, carrots, chis seeds, coconut, banana, etc)

The paper chart featured here isn’t part of this week’s lunch prep.. it’s actually the beginning of next week. I let both kids make 2 charts like this. This gives me 4 lunch ideas. Some items will be repeated because, for example both kids like oranges, but that’s great! It gives me a foundation and a grocery list to make our lunches from.  Just having these ingredients in mind will create opportunities for you to keep lunches creative and easy.  Sooooo many things can be wrapped or sandwiched in whole wheat or flax wraps and healthy seeded breads. Just because your kid get a wrap every day next week, doesn’t mean they aren’t getting variety. Pasta salad is such a great go-to lunch because you eat it cold, so no “heating up” worries and both fruits and veggies can be chopped and added in.  Seeds are a great way to get those healthy fats in without breaking the “no nuts” policy and once again, there is seriously protein everywhere so it’s not even something that needs to be on your radar.

These meals are of course plant-based, because that is how our family eats.  REAL TALK if you do eat meat or cheese or eggs, check out my post on Hot dogs, lunch meats and cancer… so you can make an informed healthy choice for your little one.  Also, you can just make them some chicken or fish or scrambled eggs for supper. Once a day for animals fats is ENOUGH 🙂

Plant-based comfort food

At the beginning of the year the Canada Food Guide released some new recommendations to give Canadians the best chance of staying healthy and disease free. One major change that became a hot topic for discussion was the recommendation that “among protein foods, consume plant-based protein more often”.  Well this is a little vague for most of us since the media has taught us that the word ‘protein’ is synonymous with ‘meat’. So what exactly does “plant-based protein” look like on the dinner table? Below is a family favourite that include plenty of plant-based protein.    

chickpea spaghetti

I chose this recipe to share because it’s important to make familiar yet nutritious food for not only the kids but also adults that are interested in making some changes.  Making dietary changes to improve your health and the health of your loved ones doesn’t need to take away the comfort of food. This meal contains leafy greens to provide the valuable vitamins and minerals that we need, chickpeas are an excellent source of protein and the onions, garlic and nutritional yeast not only create anti-inflammatory reactions within the body but are also a great boost to your immune system.  

 

Prep: 10 mins Cook: 30 mins

Ingredients: tomato sauce, spices (oregano, thyme, basil, nutritional yeast, chilli peppers, paprika, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, clove), garlic, onions, red peppers, canned chickpeas (drained and rinsed), fresh parsley, spaghetti 

Directions: Boil the spaghetti in water with about 3 bay leafs to give the pasta nice flavour – I also put about a tablespoon of a basil, thyme, oregano spice mix into the water – while the pasta is boiling. Between boiling water and waiting for pasta to cook this should be enough time to make your sauce.

Sauce – chop onions and garlic and start frying them on low heat, add a small splash of water and then add your spices:

  • a healthy tbsp each of oregano, thyme, basil, turmeric and paprika
  • a dash of black pepper (you only need about 1/8 of a tsp to ensure proper absorption of the turmeric) 
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp clove

Let these fry up over low heat until you see the onions starting to become clear, add your sliced red peppers, tomato sauce and chickpeas.  These should have time to simmer together while the pasta cooks.

Taste it – if you like your pasta sauce a bit on the sweet side I recommend a splash of maple syrup! 

Serve it with some fresh parsley (or herbs of your choice) and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast on top (like parmesan!)

RECIPE ALERT!

My daughter and I were invited to a summer’s end potluck and this recipe popped into my mind.  I had made it in the past but somehow even though my family loves it, I had forgotten about it…until now!

CURRY CHICKPEA PITA

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You can find variations of this recipe in plant-based cook books but personally I like this combo best 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 green onions (chopped)
  • 1/2 large carrot (shredded)
  • handful of cilantro (chopped)
  • handful of sunflower seeds
  • handful of pumpkin seeds
  • handful of dried cranberries
  • handful of daiya cheese (optional)
  • 2 or 3 chopped pickles
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp yellow curry
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 lemon slice freshly squeezed
  • black pepper
  • a few blobs of vegan mayo… you’ll have to just mix it and decide how creamy you like it.  

There is no method, just mix it all into a bowl!  That is about the best I can do with measurements 🙂  I just eyeball, dump and shake while I cook.  Don’t be afraid to taste it and add more or less of those flavours you love.  There are lots of veggie options that make a nice addition like sweet red pepper, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, fresh garlic, etc.  Have fun!

We stuffed this mixture into a pita for our potluck but it can be eaten straight up, with crackers, or on spaghetti (which is how we ate the leftovers).

This salad tastes great when you make it, awesome when you arrive at your potluck and even better the next day as the spices give out more and more flavour.

Hot dogs, lunch meats and cancer…

I have a goal this year. Last year I had the same goal but I encountered resistance and basically took no for an answer. NOT THIS YEAR!

This year I plan to make it a priority to get processed meat out of school fundraisers and stop schools from participating in selling processed meat to kids. 

That’s my mission.  It wont be easy.  I already tried explaining to the school division who passed it to the principle, who passed it to the parent committee who passed it off to individual parent choice.  The problem for me is that we look at schools as a place of education, this is a place that is supposed to be setting our kids up for making great future choices. As parents we don’t know or remember everything that school teaches our children. Teachers are always learning new ways to teach our kids, better methods and more current information. So for a school to take a backseat to something as important as nutrition and sell kids a class 1 carcinogen that causes cancer is 100% unacceptable in my books!

Every 50 gram serving of processed meat increases cancer risk by 18%… 1 typical hot dog that you would see at kids birthday party or school hot lunch is 75 grams.

Schools need to know better, do better and be on the side of educating and encouraging the parents to do better. This is not a place for ambivalence.  These are our kids lives. 

Take a moment to remember that doctors used to smoke in hospitals, in fact in the 1930’s – 1950’s doctors even promoted “healthy cigarette brands” and prescribed the use of cigarettes to their patients….sounds ridiculous to us now.

Take a look at your school aged child, in 50 years they will be telling stories about how schools used to sell them ham and cheese subs, pepperoni pizza and how they could buy hot dogs from the school lunch program or at school celebrations….and it will sound ridiculous.

Despite great marketing attempts at making these products sounds healthy, these are all examples of carcinogenic processed meat.

Go CANADA!

“Truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self evident.” Arthur Schopenhauer

I’ve seen the science and read numerous studies and personal success stories from both patient and doctor perspective on the health benefits of plant-based eating. So making the transition a few years ago only made sense. But ever since I’ve been trying to educate those around me. It’s hard for people to break away from the mainstream media ideas, especially when they align with their own personal history and traditions.   But I strongly believe that when we know better we do better, it just takes more time for some people, and often the support of major government organizations.

canada-diabetes-infographic

This mainstream breakthrough is going to change the lives of hundreds of thousands of people…and I couldn’t be more excited!

In 2013 plant-based diets for diabetes were in the ridiculed stage, labelling a plant-based diet as a fad diet.  Although the research was there to show significant improvement and often elimination of type 2 diabetes on a plat-based diet, it was still not officially recommended by doctors or any mainstream organizations. Doctors and diet educators at the time didn’t educate their patients about the benefits of a plant-based diet on the basis that they didn’t believe they would implement the change…so the information wasn’t even given.

Fast forward to 2019, type 2 diabetes is the fastest growing disease among Canadians. The Canadian Diabetes Association is now officially recommending a plant-based diet because of it’s ability to improve body weight, A1C, total cholesterol, non-HDL cholesterol and reduce the need for diabetic associated medications.

The evidence for the benefits of plant-based nutrition continues to mount. This now includes lower rates of stroke, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, obesity, myocardial infarction, and mortality as well as many non-cardiac issues ranging from cancer to a variety of inflammatory conditions.

We have the science, the challenge lies in overcoming the inertia of culture, habit and marketing of unhealthy foods.  This is why having a culturally recognized authority on diabetes, such as the Canadian Diabetes Association, recommending a plant-based diet is a HUGE positive health step for Canadians!

 

$4.2 trillion industry

The health craze is happening!  …in fact it has been happening for a while now. As a kid, I remember my mom trying different diets to lose weight and and gain more energy. Sadly I remember these diets going just as fast as they came.

fad-diets-definition

Reality is that in order to have a “health craze” you need to be living in state of “unhealthy”.  If everyone was running around with boundless energy, strong muscles and appropriate fat-to-muscle ratios we wouldn’t give a lick about the next fad diet!

So what do we need to do?

We need to take a step back and look at what we our filling our cupboards with and in turn our bodies with.  We need to look at the fuel that we are providing our bodies with and the results we are getting from that fuel.

FOOD IS FUEL… every time we eat or drink it is an opportunity to either feed or fight disease.

The health and wellness industry is currently a $4.2 trillion industry because it is our human instinct to want to not only live but to thrive. We have built a society that counts the hours in each day, and for most people, fills every waking moment.  Feeding ourselves is just getting in the way and we have created an unlimited resource of shortcuts to keep on keeping on!  Our health has been taken for granted and put on the back burner… and now we spend more time and money than every before in history trying to gain it back.  We have forgotten…

good-fast-cheap2

 

Our food and soil climate cannot sustain the kinds of meals tradition dictates and does not contain the kinds of nutrition that our grandmothers enjoyed.  As the decades pass, life evolves and changes and our food choices need to as well.

How can you start?

  • throw out your conventional ideas about what a meal should look like (MEAT, starch, vegetables)
  • shop on the exterior of the grocery store
  • eat WHOLE foods
  • give your self an 80/20 goal (80% of what you eat and drink will fight disease, 20% will feed it)  *because we are human, not perfection
  • integrate more plant-based foods into your diet
  • STOP obsessing about protein – you will get enough! SERIOUSLY!
  • if you buy packaged food READ THE LABEL first, don’t eat what you can’t pronounce
  • kids need a healthy diet MORE than adults do… don’t give your kids crap food because they will “run around and burn it off”, you are just feeding disease in their tiny growing bodies
  • eat thoughtfully and feed your kids thoughtfully, not out of habit

 

Our current habits have created our current health climate.

Your habits create your health.

Fuel your body for how you want to feel each day… and if you don’t know how reach out for help 🙂

 

 

Meal Prep

Last week I had the chance to work with an amazing woman who organizes meal prep for families.  I love this concept… you sign up and pre-pay online, you choose how many meals you would like to take home and freeze for easy whole food family dinners.  On her sign up page there is a drop down menu of 4 meals to choose from, pick your favourites and show up!  She has all the recipes broken down into steps and how you need to chop – cook – or mix the ingredients!  BRILLIANT

It’s so easy to just do the step on the little sticky note and then move onto the next sticky note, meanwhile we all got to chat and get to know each other 🙂  The final step is assembling the meals in freezer ready packaging that includes cooking instructions.

3 hours later 8 women had prepared and packed 71 plant-based meals!

During this meal prep we made Roasted Yam and Black Bean Burritos, Lentil Soup, Sweet Potato Pineapple Indian Curry and Plant-based Chickpea Burgers