Category Archives: Lifestyle

Should the Government Regulate Junk Food?

No one likes to be told what they can and cannot eat. Food is one of the key personal freedoms, but should it be? As the world struggles with an increasing obesity rate and overburdened health care systems, it seems at times like we are our own worst enemy.

Governments around the world regulate the sales of alcohol, tobacco, and, increasingly, recreational marijuana. Some have also instituted “soda taxes” that increase the cost of pop in order to encourage people to choose healthier alternatives. However, there has been no concentrated effort to extend such a plan to junk food as a whole.

Given that this segment of the food industry is quite substantial, any such plan would immediately run afoul of the many lobbyists employed to represent the major companies involved.

However, groups like the World Health Organization are becomingly increasingly vocal in their attempts to get governments more involved in addressing the problem. It’s tough to argue from a financial perspective: decreasing the number of people with chronic health issues brought about by poor lifestyle choices will also dramatically decrease the amount of money countries must direct towards healthcare.

That argument for action has suggestions on how to make this economically viable, like providing financial incentives for those involved in the production of healthy foods. They also advise other measures, such as tightening the regulation of fast food advertising aimed at children, and making it less profitable for companies that focus their means of production on unhealthy, highly processed foods.

These are encouraging ideas and one hopes they will increasingly come into play around the world. In the meantime, however, education seems to be the best choice. Helping people to fully realize the risks that a bacon double cheeseburger has on their well-being might encourage more consumers to think twice.

When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza Pie…or a Nice Light Salad

One of the most romantic things you can do for your significant other is plan a special, candle lit meal for two. Usually these types of dinners are rich, heavy and generous with the alcohol. While this type of decadence may seem like a great way to celebrate, reward, or just connect, it may lead you to fall asleep before the real romancing starts, or if you manage to stay up, you won’t be feeling your best which definitely defeats the purpose. Here are some meal ideas to make you feel cool and heat things up:

  • Crab cakes and a light salad: especially good for summer, try adding apple to the salad for extra brightness. You can prepare most of it in advance, which will keep clean up to a minimum. Try serving it with a white wine spritzer made with a citrusy sauvignon blanc.
  • Flank steak flat breads topped with sautéed bell peppers: this cut of beef is super lean, but it still feels like a treat because it’s steak. You can add little chipotle to the peppers for a nice spiciness without making you sweat. Try it with sangria made with red wine a no-sugar added cranberry or cherry juice.
  • Pasta with pesto, cherry tomatoes and bocconcini: have your own Lady and the Tramp moment with something a little healthier (even better if you make your own pasta and pesto from scratch). This is also a great way to showcase heirloom tomatoes when they’re in season and make the meal look extra special. Go full Italian and try it with a Campari and Soda: the bitterness will offset the sweetness of the tomatoes.

With all of these, the best plan of action is to prep as much before hand as you can, so that you can spend more time romancing and less time in the kitchen. Showering your loved one with indulgences may seem like a good idea (and I’m not saying never do it), but taking care of their body while treating them to something lovely lets them know that you’re thinking of their overall well being too, showing commitment and caring.

I Like to Move it Move it (Not Really Though)

They say that after dealing with death and divorce, moving is one of the most traumatizing events a person goes through, and after my last move, I’m inclined to agree. I don’t have a lot of advice to offer about boxes, bubble wrap or any of that jazz, but I can tell you how what we ate made a difference in how well the move went. Moving days are hectic, which in and of itself makes eating healthy more difficult, but add to the fact that all your dishes are impossible to get to and you’ve probably spent the last week making sure to have as little food in your place as possible (less to move) and you’ve got a recipe for a day spent eating infrequently and unhealthily, which, aside from being bad for you, will also deprive your body of much needed nutrients while you’re making it work even harder than usual:

  • The day before, pack up plastic bags full of veggie sticks, almonds and pretzels for easy to reach snacks that you can munch as you load and unload your belongings
  • Start they day with a protein and carb filled breakfast to make sure you have enough energy to last in case you miss out on lunch hour (though the snacks should help here). If you can, try to have just enough yogurt (single serving cups, drinkable ones, or single serving tubes are great here) and granola bars for you and anyone else in the household that is moving (look for lower sugar varieties, to avoid crashing). If you’re helping someone move, try a veggie filled omelet with brown toast, or make your own breakfast burritos filled with lots of black beans.
  • While moving, it’s important to stay hydrated, be sure to have lots of water bottles on hand, especially in the summer
  • For dinner? I say go ahead and order that pizza! You’ll want to reward anyone who’s helped you move, and frankly, you’ll have done so much lifting, walking and stressing that the extra calories won’t be felt. You should still make an effort to add as many veggies as you can and avoid super fatty meats (most places will offer chicken-a much leaner choice than pepperoni). You’ll be so tired from moving that the any sluggishness you feel from a big pizza dinner won’t really be felt.

 

 

Salads That You’ll Want to Eat

One of the sad facts of healthy eating is that yes, those of us who follow this lifestyle tend to eat a lot of salad. All too often people try to shame us with taunts of “you don’t win friends with salad!” or “yuck, rabbit food!” but no longer! Here are some great suggestions to up your salad game and make it feel like a luxury decadence instead of a healthy chore:

  • Have you ever tried Haloumi? It’s a firm, salty cheese and makes a great protein addition to a salad. Cube it and sear it in some olive oil (it won’t melt) them toss with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs like dill or cilantro and a hummus lemon dressing
  • Speaking of herbs, are you including them in your salads? Fresh, delicate ones like basil, dill, and cilantro work best, and bring a lot of flavour with no guilt
  • How about upping the nutrients with some unexpected fruit in a savoury salad? Cherries, peaches, strawberries, pears, and apples are all great choices to start with. Be sure to follow the seasons where you are to get the freshest (and most nutritious) ones.
  • Olive oil is a perfect, heart healthy way to start off a homemade dressing, but consider adding other oils too for flavour. Walnut, almond, and sesame oil are all readily available at most large grocery stores and can really add a new dimension to your dressing
  • Do you have a favourite comfort food? Why not try re-imaging it as a salad? Fajitas are an easy choice, but why not a chicken cordon bleu? You can grill the chicken, dice some lean ham, sprinkle a little grated swiss and make a punchy Dijon dressing to get all the flavour of the classic dish, but with the addition of as many greens as you can handle

What to Do for Dinner When the Weather Won’t Make up its Mind.

 

Summer’s finally here! ish. Ok, so there’s been more rain and less sunshine than we were all hoping for this year, making it harder to get our grill on and forcing us back to craving those carb and fat heavy winter comfort foods. Here are some ways you can combine the best of both world’s and combat this unco-operative season:

Soups:

These are a great choice because you get the comforting and restorative warmth of a soup and the option of adding some of the first fresh produce of summer. Use asparagus and peas as creamed soups without the cream, or as additions to a classic minestrone.  Bonus: if it does warm up, you can always make a classic Gazpacho (consider a white Gazpacho for an even more refreshing meal).

Sandwiches:

You can pair them with one of the soups from above, or on their own for a tasty and portable meal. Consider radish and avocado for something both rich and crisp, or add a big handful of fresh herbs or greens to mix it up with your favourite classic: a BLT with arugula or a bunch of basil with a tuna melt can revamp the old standby for the new season. Bonus: there’s no need to turn on the stove!

Pastas:

For comfort food, almost nothing beats a big bowl of noodles, but how to convert the winter fav into something that’s not too heavy for a mild, sunny day? Instead of a rich, slow cooked sauce like Bolognese, toss the cooked pasta with a bit of fresh tomatoes, pesto, and parmesan. Or add basil, bocconcini, and balsamic to the tomatoes and pasta for a caprese style meal. You’ll still get the carbs and cheese that make a cold day bearable, but the pops of freshness will remind you that spring (and summer) is on the way! Bonus: pasta salads make great additions to picnics and bbqs, just be sure to stay away from mayo based dressings, not only do they add unnecessary calories: they can also go bad if left out in the sun too long

 

Bean There Done That

Thanks to a certain song about their magical properties, beans continue to get a bad rap, and that needs to change! Not only are they are great source of non-animal protein, they’re also very easy on the budget. When people think beans, their minds mostly go to either chili or baked beans, which are great, but if those are your only two recipes, then it’s easy to forget about including them more often in your meal rotation. Here are a few suggestions to make them more exciting:

  • creamy white beans: this works best if you’ve got dried beans and a lot of time on your hands, but the efffort is actually minimal (as is the case with pretty much any bean recipe to be honest). Simply put a 1:4 ratio of beans to water in a pot, along with some rosemary or thyme or both, a few peeled, whole garlic cloves and an onion that is peeled and cut in half length wise. Simmer the beans for a few hours (how long this takes will depend on the age and size of the bean) and season with salt and pepper once they reach the desired level of creamy-ness.
  • Versitile Black Beans: follow the basic instructions from above, omit the herbs, but include an orange that has been cut in half. If you’re feeling spicy, throw in some diced  jalapeno or chipotle peppers.
  • Comforting Split Peas: maybe not technically a bean, but legume is close enough, and you follow the same method, so I’m counting it. This time, in addition to the garlic and onion, add some dice carrot and celery. Feel free to toss in whatever hearty herbs you like, and some dried mustard will add a nice subtle kick. Spilt peas tend to cook faster than beans, so keep a closer eye on it.

All three of these can be un-veganized by adding either a smoked ham hock during cooking or some  cooked bacon/other pork at the start, before you add the beans and water to the pot. They are all great on their own, but try experimenting by serving them with different grains, breads or veggies. You can even purree them for dips or spreads!

Jam it Up!

Once upon a time, before Facebook and hipsters, the humble mason jar was an important tool used to preserve the bountiful summer harvest; partly for it’s general deliciousness, but mainly because it was cost effect. Since most people in rural areas didn’t have the money or access to large grocery stores, preserving was very necessary. We’ve already covered the art of pickling here, now it’s time to go over the basics of jamming!

  • Get all your tools ready: you will need to process the jars as you would with making pickles, so follow the instructions from that post. Any cutting boards, a ladle for filling the jars, knives and ingredients should be at the ready before you get started
  • Prep your fruit. This means any peeling, pitting or chopping. Depending on the texture you’re looking for, you can do anything from a fine mince to a rough chop to leaving the fruit whole and just smashing them a bit with a potato masher once the start to soften in the pot
  • Most jam recipes need a 1:1 ration of fruit to sugar to succeed. While this may seem excessive, remember that you’ll be consuming the jam in moderation, and that sugar plays a key role in both preserving and setting the jam to the right consistency
  • While you shouldn’t play around with the amount of sugar, feel free to experiment with things like spices, citrus zest, herbs or other flavour enhancers to make the jam your own. You can even play around with different combinations of fruits (peach raspberry? Cherry-blueberry? the options are endless)

Since making jams and jellies tends to be more of a science than an art, it’s important to research difference recipes and follow the instructions accurately to ensure proper consistency (though how you choose to influence the flavour shouldn’t affect that). Jamming is also a fantastic way to feel truly connected to your food and if you have children, a nice way to get them involved and teach them to appreciate the amount of labour that goes into crafting something that they would otherwise think takes no more work than plucking it off a store shelf.

How to Stay Healthy When You’re Camping

What could be better than packing up a tent and sleeping, then heading out to the great outdoors? Getting closer to nature is a wonderful way to reconnect with nature and reset, despite the lack of showers, camping can be a very cleansing experience and if you’re from a large city, spending time away from the noise and light pollution will do you a world of good. Unfortunately, because of space constraints and a lack of electricity, it can be easy when camping to load up on carbs and sugar, which can undo all those good feelings. Here are some tips you can use to make sure your next wilderness adventure is as healthy as possible:

  • Think ahead and make frozen meals like chili (be sure to use lots of beans, and a lean protein like turkey). Pack it in individual tupperware or freezer bags and heat over a camp stove or fire-bonus: they can replace ice in your cooler
  • For snacking, use the frozen trick again and freeze batches of grapes. Also, Focus on things like pretezels, nuts, or popcorn (and make sure they’re all low sodium) instead of greasy chips or sugary dried fruits. Fill containers with carrot and celery sticks for easy snacking, but stay away from things like apple or pears that will brown and be unappetizing
  • Be sure to drink lots of water, pack more than you think you’ll need in case there’s not a reliable water source and be sure to freeze some and use them to keep your food cool
  • S’mores are a camping must, and I would never say don’t have them, but try to boost the health factor by adding fresh fruit like bananas or strawberries, and be sure to use dark chocolate. Also consdier shopping around for a healthier cookie base than the traditional graham cracker, there are lots of tasty whole grain or gluten free options if you’re willing to spend a little time huntin

Will. It. Pickle?

In this age of both convenience and artisan revival, it’s easy to pick up any number of crunchy, acidic additions, but how much more impressive (and healthy!) to make your own? The best part is, it’s super easy and infinitely customizable, just follow these simple guidelines and get pickling!

  • While you can pickle just about any fruit or vegetable, keep in mind how the texture will be affected by pickling; the heat and acid of pickling will soften the pickle subject up, so if it’s soft already, it could become mushy (in which case, you may be better off making a relish or chutney, which will have a lot of the same flavour profiles, but will better suit the texture)
  • Think carefully about the natural acidity or sourness of the pickle subject: if something is already tart (like rhubarb) you’ll want to add extra sugar (or sugar substitute like maple syrup or honey) to balance it out
  • Don’t forget to season! A little salt will go a long way, and helps keep things preserved without chemicals. And there’s no reason to stop at salt, why not add other spices too? A cinnamon stick or star anise, as well as classic pickling spices like coriander, juniper, and dill seed are all great choices
  • Decide how long you want the pickles to last, if this is a quick pickle to be used soon, you can utilize the fridge method (explained below) if you’d like to keep them longer and store them in some kind of root cellar situation, then you’ll have to take more care by sterilizing the jars and lids in boiling water, and sealing them by placing the filled and lidded jars in a pot of boiling water (or a pressure cooker) for about 15 minutes until you can be sure that any bacteria is eliminated. This method is called processing and means you can keep the sealed jars at room temperature for several months
  • Once you’re ready to pickle, start by adding a teaspoon or so of salt to the jar, as well as any spices you’d like, then cram the jar as full as you can with your pickle pick, cut into whatever size you’d like to enjoy them at (eg: you can slice, cube or julienne, the smaller or thinner the size, the softer the pickle)
  • When your jars are full, bring equal parts water and vinegar to a boil. White vinegar is the most popular choice, but apple cider and champagne vinegars are good choices too. Remember, the vinegar choice will influence the pickle flavour. Balsamic vinegars are not recommended because of their strong colour and flavour, expense, and slightly thicker texture
  • CAREFULLY fill the jars with the hot water/vinegar, stopping about a centimeter below the rim. Seal the jars right away, once cooled, they can be refrigerated, or you can proceed with the processing method. Pickles with be ready to eat in a few days, but try to wait a week to really let the flavours develop

***Fridge pickles are just that, pickles you keep in the fridge! The only real difference is that since you haven’t processed

How to Bring Some Healthy Choices to Your Next Picnic or BBQ

Summer’s finally in full swing, and with it comes backyard bbqs and picnic potlucks galore.  As much as well all love great food, it can get pretty tricky to keep things healthy when those tables are loaded down with heavy sides and sugary sauces. Here are a few recipes ideas to make sure that there are some healthy and tasty options, so you don’t feel too guily about those ribs and icecream sandwiches!

Beans and Rice:

Rice and legumes together make a complete protein, so any vegetarians will be very happy to see this option. Bonus points for this dish: you can up the fibre with brown rice, the flavour by using a wide variety of spices (which also make s the dish infinitly costumizable), and the nutrients by adding as many diced fruits veggies as you can handle.

Watermelon and Cucumer Salad:

Easy and breezy, this is a great cool down option, and more grown up than sitting on a stoop and seeing how far you can spit the seeds. Start with chunks of watermelon  and cucumber, and than add salt and pepper (trust me on this!) as well as your favourit herbs (basil, cilantro and mint all work well. Don’t forget a hit of acid (metaphorically of course) lime juice and balsamic vinegar are great choices, just make sure the acid you choose pairs well with the herb you picked (lime goes with cilantro and mint, but keep the balsamic with the basil). Finish with a qulaity olive oil and you’re all set!

Sweet Potato Salad

A long time favourit at bbqs and picnics, traditional potato salad tends to be loaded down with heavy mayo dressing, with aside from being less than ideal health-wise, also contains eggs, which when left at the wrong tempurature for too long, could cause serious illness! Avoid these pitfalls by replacing the starchy white pototoes with roasted sweet potatoes or yams and dressing them with a punchy mustard based vinegrette and some thinly sliced red onions.

 

Peas Please

Peas are a great source of fibre and vegetable based protein, and since they’re one of the first fresh local produce of the season here, I always feel as though I should like them more than I do. Sadly, since childhood I have shied away from these bright green spheres of goodness, well, no more! If you or somebody you love has an aversion to peas, here’s a way to work them into meals that will get them (or you) converted in no time: purees! Now, it may seem like I’m trying to get you to eat baby food, and nobody wants that, no the kind of puree I’m talking about is much fancier and grown up than anything that came out of a tiny jar (though seriously, how cute are those jars?). Try boiling freshly shelled peas for a few minutes then blanching (ie dunking) them in a bowl full of ice water. Add them to a blender or food processor with one or more of the following, chaning the amount of liquid to dertermine how thick you’d like the puree to be!

  • arugla-makes it slightly spicy and extra bright green
  • spinich-the more super food the better
  • garlic scapes-a great way to make a healthy and creamy sauce for pasta
  • mint-a classic herb pairing
  • tarragon-an update on the classic
  • basil-for when you want italian without the garlic breathe

To all of these, you can thin the puree with leftover water from boiling the peas, or from heavey cream-depending on how decandent you feel like being. Try throwing in a bit of parmesean or lemon zest to add some zip, and always remember to season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

How to Save Money While on Vacation

Everyone looks forward to a vacation and often sacrifices quite a bit during the year saving for them. Trips provide a chance to get away from our daily routine and responsibilities, and it can be very tempting to go a little crazy. You’ve earned this, right? Well, yes, those long hours you put in at the office or doing overtime at your second job allowed you to spend a week in Hawaii. However, it is entirely possible to enjoy a vacation and not end up with a debt that takes months to clear.

Here are a few tips:

  • Make lunch your big meal of the day. Lunch menus are often cheaper than the evening ones, so why not make noontime your main feast of the day? The only drawback is that you might feel a bit sleepy in the afternoon.
  • Use public transportation. No offense to taxi drivers, but some of them in tourist spots actively take advantage of holiday goers who don’t know their way around or how much the local currency is actually worth. If your destination has a well-organized and safe public transit system, take that instead.
  • Exchange rates. Speaking of cash, exchange rates can vary wildly. Places that blatantly advertise their services with tourists in mind often have rather poor rates; you can actually do better just using an ATM. Do your research before you leave.
  • Accommodation. Yes, it’s great to stay in a Disney World hotel, but it’s probably going to cost you a lot more than picking a hotel just a few miles away.
  • Duty free shops. Souvenirs are great, but they can really set you back a lot of money. Don’t feel bad about using the duty free shop at the airport for some of your purchases.
  • Use local stores for basic things. Room service and stores on hotel grounds are convenient, but you definitely pay a premium for that convenience. If you have easy access to nearby stores, shop with the locals and pay less.