Healthy Check Foods: Good or Not Good

July 9th, 2010

HlthChk_logo_Eng_smMany people ask me if the health check symbol really means anything.  Well for most part the answer is yes – the health check symbol is a good place to start.  I however have a bit of a bias and find it does not always serve you well in grocery shopping items, but in restaurants it is much more effective for the message it is wanting to give.

Restaurants are much more strict in the criteria they must follow.  The items have around half fewer calories than the average item, and the total fat is significantly less.  The only one you want to watch out for yet is the sodium.  It is very challenging to make a super strict criteria on sodium in restaurant meals as that would mean NO MEAL would probably fit the criteria except maybe steamed vegetables.  

Health Check symbols on a menu item must follow this guide:

Large Entree – must include 2 food groups or more and include vegetables and or fruit.  The sodium cannot exceed 960 mg, and it must have 15 g or more of protein.

Soup - per cup soup can now not exceed 480mg (versus the old amount of 650 mg), and have at least 2 g of fiber.

Pizza - per 250 g must have 17 g or less of fat, 10 g or more of protein and no more than 960 mg of sodium.

This may not seem like much, but remember that most meals are packed and full of things you could not even imagine.  An order of chicken tenders at one restaurant chain has a whopping 112 grams of fat in 1 serving!  That is more than double what my daily needs are and don’t forget this type of fat is the heart clogging kind.

Here is a list of the items that have been given a health check symbol in Canada:

Pizza Hut

  •  Pizza: Grilled Chicken Rustico – 360 cals, 10 g fat, 680 mg sodium
  • Pizza: Grilled chicken Arrabbiata – 380 cals, 10 g fat, 680 mg sodium
  • Pizza: Margherita – 360 cals, 10 g fat, 640 mg sodium
  • Pizza: Giardino Fresco – 400 cals, 10 g fat, 670 mg sodium
  • Pasta: Mediterranean Vegetable – 430 cals, 10 g fat, 10 g fiber
  • Pasta: Mediterranean con Pollo – 450 cals, 10 g fat, 11 g fiber

Boston Pizza

  • Chopped Chicken Salad – 280 cals, 9 g fat, 210 mg sodium
  • Pollo Pomodoro Linguini – 510 cals, 11 g fat, 820 mg sodium
  • Chicken Stromboli – 660 cals, 16 g fat, 600 mg sodium
  • Spicy Garlic Chicken Pizza – 650 cals, 12 g fat, 860 mg sodium
  • Garden Greens – 60 cals, 3 g fat, 110 mg sodium
  • Lemon Baked Salmon Filet – 310 cals, 7g fat, 260 mg sodium

Swiss Chalet

  • Chicken on Kaiser White meat – 440 cals, 8 g fat, 560 mg sodium
  • Garden Salad (no dressing) – 30 cals, 0.3 g fat, 25 mg sodium


  • Mushroom, Spinach + Cheese Frittata – 270 cals, 5 g fat, 860 mg sodium
  • Nat’s Veggie Sunny Start – 410 cals, 15 g fat, 710 mg sodium
  • Oatmeal and mixed fruit topped with yoghurt – 400 cals, 10 g fat, 400 mg sodium
  • Asian Chicken Salad – 290 cals, 7 g fat, 500 mg sodium
  • Seafood Fusilli – 590 cals, 8 g fat, 900 mg sodium
  • Chargrilled Chicken Burger – 500 cals, 12 g fat, 840 mg sodium
  • Creamy Chicken Curry – 610 cals, 9 g fat, 890 mg sodium

Use this guide as a smarter start to your restaurant pickin’s!

Did you find a healthier menu item in your favourite restaurant you would like to share? Please share it in your comments below and help others make faster smarter choices.

Quick & Easy Quinoa Vegetables

June 30th, 2010

Recipe from: Trish Berkshirequinoa-chiles-corn-400x400

Thanks for this tasty creation ideal for summer!

1 Cup Quinoa
2 Cups Water
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cloves minced garlic
1 chopped red bell pepper
½ cup corn kernels
½ zucchini chopped
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 green onion chopped
½ cup feta cheese cubed

1. Bring the Quinoa and water to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover for about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, let sit for 5 minutes.  Drain with mesh strainer.
2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in the garlic and cook about 2 minutes.  Add the red pepper, corn and zucchini, continue cooking about 5 minutes.  Season with cumin, oregano, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute more.  Then stir in the cooked quinoa and green onion.  Remove from heat and add feta cheese.

Delicious hot or cold.  Enjoy!

Hydrating At Its Best

June 29th, 2010

waterMany of us tend to question the old myth that we need 8 cups of water a day to stay functioning and supple in our life.  I looked further into this theory and this is what I discovered:

  • Urine output accounts for about 1.5 liters of fluid each day
  • You lose 4 cups of water by the simple body functions of breathing, sweating and the prayerful bowel movements
  • If you engage in short bouts of activity (such as showing off at the gym) – add on another 1.5 – 2.5 cups of water
  • Women who are breastfeeding need to add another 1 liter of water a day to account for the fluid that makes up their breast milk
  • When you are sick and have a fever, your body is naturally losing more water to try to stay cool and your water intake needs to be higher simply to help ‘cool off’ your internal system
  • If you live in a hotter climate your water loss through your skin is even greater

Knowing that our body literally removes about 2.5 liters (or 10 cups) of water each day it makes sense how the theory came to be.

The Institute of Medicine advises that men consume about 3 liters (or 12 cups) of water each day and women consume 2.2 liters (or about 9 cups) of water each day. Remember too that the average persons body weight is about 60-70% body water.

So if you are like many who struggle to get water in here is a tip:

  • Find ways to decorate water – a cold pitcher in the fridge with cut up lemons, oranges, grapefruit, raspberries or kiwi’s can be a big hit
  • Carry a water bottle with you at all times
  • Focus on getting in more water rich fruit

According to ‘the fruit pages’ the highest percent of water containing garden produce is:  Tomatoes, strawberries, carrots, lemons, red pepper, papaya, melons and grapefruit.

I think that calls time for a fruit salad!

Is Bottled Water Safer?

June 3rd, 2010

Many of us have a thought process that goes something like this… ‘Bottled water must be better for me as I am paying for it.’  We often think that when we pay for water we are getting a higher quality product than what is cobottled-waterming outside our tap.

Canadians be alarmed.  A new report that was from Montreal based C-crest Laboratories inc. conducted research in numerous brand name bottled water and their results were quite eye opening.

The United States bacterial limit of water is to  have no more than 500 colony forming units (CFU) per millimeter of water.  When testing various tap waters in numerous Canadian cities that number was found to be about 170 CFU which is well below the safe level.

The bacteria in this new report of bottled water has a ‘revolting’ figure or 100 TIMES the safely permitted limit.  That means they found 50,000 CFU on average in this bottled water.  The specific brands of water will not be revealed, but keep in mind the most popular makers are Coke, Pepsi-co and Nestle should fall into the most recognized bottles too.

In summary – that is one point for tap water that not only saves you money, but apparently has less bacteria you could get ill by.

Are Energy Drinks Safe?

May 15th, 2010

Thirty-one percent of U.S. teenagers say they drink energy drinks, according to Simmons Research.  In a different report looking at college students attending a state university, it discovered 51% of students consumed energy drinks 1- 4 times a month .  What was most alarming is this volume of drinks tripled when accompanied with alcohol while partying.  

And why do many go to these energy drinks?  energy-drinks

  • 67% said it was because of lack of sleep
  • 65% said it was to get more energy
  • 54% said it was to drink with alcohol while at a party

What should concern most of us with younger adults (and children) drinking these beverages is how they are using them.  Many energy drinks are packed with different forms of caffiene, herbs and amino acids that can literally set anyone up on a crash course of energy highs and energy lows and mess around with normal fluid levels in the body.  What worries me is how many people are mixing these beverages with alcohol despite the clear warning on the can ‘do not mix with alcohol.’

Alcohol is a suppressant and an energy drink is a stimulant. When these two items are mixed together the individual can become misconstrued as to their true level of alcohol intoxication and usually consume more than they normally do. Various deaths have been reported across the world from this ‘mixing’ and some countries have even banned the beverages.

Do not forget about the amount of caffeine these drinks bring.  To compare apples to apples see how each of these items compare for their amount of caffeine in 1 cup (or 8 ounces):

  • Herbal Tea ~40 mg
  • Pepsi 30 mg
  • Jolt 75 mg
  • Brewed Coffee from home 80 mg
  • Starbucks Coffee 160 mg
  • Monster 80 mg
  • Red Bull 80mg
  • Rockstar 80 mg

Now you may look at this list and say ‘Hmmm.. it seems to be like a cup of coffee.’  However it is not like a cup of coffee as it has many additional ingredients that add to the degree of alertness you will get.  Some additional ingredients usually include:

  1. Guarana - another form of caffeine usually in the form of theobromine and theophylline which acts as a stimulant
  2. Taurine and L-Carnitine – both 2 amino acids the body normally produces and have been linked to energy levels.  These amino acids are not of great concern though, as their lacks solid evidence that they do indeed give more energy in beverage form and can merely be viewed as an ‘inexpensive add-on.’
  3. Ginseng - this long time herb known to give energy and help the body cope with stress and fatigue.  
  4. Ginkgo Biloba – another herb linked to improving memory and assisting with circulation.  
  5. Milk Thistle - this is a good herb for supporting a healthy liver and ironically it is put in drinks to help combat the effects on the liver from drinking the beverage with alcohol. However, the amount is so little that it would  not benefit anyone.
  6. Creatine – This helps supply energy to muscles to help achieve greater muscle mass gains. This ingredient is often found in beverages targeted towards athletic males.  Creatine overload can give stress to organs such as the kidneys and the liver  so must be monitored closely.
  7. AND THE SUGAR!!!!

My advice: be aware of the bigger picture as to why you or your children are choosing energy drinks.  If it is because of lack of energy ask yourself: Is 7 hours of solid sleep happening and if  not how can I/we get that?  Is your diet focused on more boxed, canned and cooked food? Maybe you need more raw plants going into your body.  What is your water intake in the day?  Are you practicing daily stress-calming strategies such as reading, stretching or praying?

There are many ways to find more energy naturally.  Make sure you sign of for my free nutrition newsletter where you can see any upcoming seminars that may help you ‘kick the habit’ and find that youthful edge.  A Nutrition Check-Up with me can too help you smooth out your eating/drinking edge especially for the summer season.

TV Commercials Plague Children with Fatty, Sugary Food

May 1st, 2010

The University of California examined children watching television stations and the types of food advertisements on them.  It should come as no surprise as numerous reports tell the average child spend about 4 hours in front of the tube every day.junkfoodad_wideweb__470x358,0

When they compared children’s television networks to networks for the general audience they found the kids stations had 76% more food commercials per hour!  The time slot that had the most saturation of these foods were Saturday morning from 7-10 AM  - the key time that kids spend watching their weekend cartoons.

About 7.7 food commercials were shown every 30 minutes which works out to be  1 food commercial every 8 minutes.  These food companies are very smart – as they know children are very vulnerable and cannot understand the ‘bigger picture’ of what these commercials really mean.  Businesses are geared on setting up their future consumers and food is an easy target.

  • Fast food restaurants, sugary food, chips/crackers and sugar-added beverages accounted for 70% of the food commercials
  • 34% were for food ‘on-the-run’
  • and only 1 nutrition related public service announcement was found for every 63 food ads

As a parent you can work against this early ‘brainwashing.’  Control and monitor the amount of time the kids spend in front of the TV.  Many experts recommend no more than 1.5 hours per day.  Some other useful tips:

  • Break TV time up - give 30 minutes after school, and 30 minutes in the evening
  • Participate or encourage some physical activity for 30 minutes and then TV can come after
  • Say good bye to your VIP card for getting over 100 stations – remember the more stations you have the more you will probably watch as you can watch shows you enjoy around the clock
  • An after school extra-curricular activity is important – any sports team is perfect
  • Implement this family rule: No TV until all home-work is complete
  • Have open conversations with your children (especially if they are older) about what the commercials are, what they mean and what impact they will have on their lives.  Just because Loreal says ‘you deserve’ a new hair color each week does not mean you need to or that it is good for your hair.

Food Companies Goal to Reduce Salt

May 1st, 2010

thumb_mcain_wfpizzaSixteen food companies have come together in a New York initiative, to cut the amount of sodium in their goods.  This project is called the National Salt Reduction Initiative is designed to cut back the salt intake of the nation by 20%.


Companies such as Heinz, Starbucks, Kraft,McCain and others have come on board. this plan includes 62 categories of packaged foods and 25 categories of restaurant foods.  Some food items will have sodium cut backs of 25% over a five year period.  Some examples include:

  •  Heinz is reducing sodium by 15% in all ketchup in the U.S starting May 1st
  •  Kraft is working toward a 10% average sodium reduction across most of their food items, such as Oscar Mayer bacon
  •  Starbucks plans to have smaller portions and the removal of unnecessary ingredients in most items

The question lies in if these lower sodium items will be available in Canada.  The other point we all must remember is when a food company removes an ingredient that largely impacts the flavour (such as salt), a replacement must go into that food so it is still tasty for the consumer.  Will this change the fillers and preservatives that are present? Possibly.  It is really a good time to start reading the ingredient list more carefully.

In Canada, sodium is of big concern as Stats Canada estimates the average person consumes 3092 mg of sodium per day, and remember the healthy level you want is 1500 mg.  What is more alarming is where our children are sitting at.  

  • three quarters of toddlers exceed the safe upper limits of salt
  • 90% of children 4-8 years exceed the safe upper limits of salt

With 22% of adults with high blood pressure, and 42% unaware they even have it, we all need to step up to the plate and be more accountable for our health.  When we eat more sodium than the healthy level (1500 mg for adults and less for children), our kidneys have no choice but to hold on to more fluid which raises the volume of water held in our blood which puts un-needed pressure on our blood vessel walls.

In short – become the food critic and read labels and go to restaurants already equipped with their nutrition information often found on the restaurants website or other healthy websites.  My fitness pal is a site I often find hard to get information.

Get Skinny With This

March 29th, 2010

New reports state that the average Canadian consumes anywhere from 4.5 grams – 14 grams of fiber each day. That is shockingly low but not surprising considering so many of us are lead to believe we are getting more of this key nutrient than what we really are.  Our world now is made for us to live in convenience and mother nature’s super foods have been replaced with fast, hot, sweet, maybe salty, drive-through items.

When you get enough fiber you literally will feel satisfied. This will not only lessen any temptation to reach into the cookie jar, but will keep your blood sugar levels more stable so you are ‘balanced’, and will lessen the amount of fat that trickles onto your waistline.

Here are some tips to add more ‘fiber’ to your day

Eat the plant whole.

Whether it is a grain or a fruit or vegetable – eat it in whole form. On your label shop for ‘whole’ grains, wheat’s or oats. If you do not see the word whole in front of the grain then part of the husk has been removed (the fiber) and then digests faster and causes a greater fluctuation in our blood sugar.  With fruits and vegetables start the new habit of NOT removing the skin and including that on your plate.  Maybe orange and banana peels do not count but I will admit… I have had one mom say to me that she even eats the kiwi peel.  Good for her I said, that is true dedication.

Grind this up.

Ground salba seeds or flax seeds are a great omega 3 food source with a great deal of fiber too.  My advice: add 2 tablespoons of either of these to your morning hot or cold cereal, shake or even salad.  

Uncover the ‘magical fruit’.

Beans and lentils hold great fiber and so many people steer from these pulses.  A great way to start this addition is make it a new habit to cook one meal a week with beans, legumes or lentils as your base. This could include a chick pea salad, maybe a vegetarian chili or bean quesadilla. There are countless ways you can get beans into your day.  Here is a chili recipe to get you started – but maybe skip the ground turkey.  

Snack Attack.

Try to focus your snacks with a raw fruit or vegetable as your base item. Some of my favourite picks are baby carrots, broccoli, zucchini slices, raspberries, apples and pears.  Then you can compliment this produce with something you enjoy like yoghurt.

Water yourself.

Do not forget your water.  Water helps fiber do its job. Pay attention to how many glasses you drink in a day and start this week by adding 2 glasses more. Gradually build this up until you hit the minimum recommended level.  

Do you have a trick you find useful in getting more fiber? Please share!

Rev Up Your Sex Life

February 12th, 2010



With long work days, and running kids to and from many events it is no wonder we lose our ‘zest’ in the bedroom.  Here are some things you can examine in your life to see what is your missing link to more love.


  1.  Are you tired?  Be honest here.  Do you get the much needed 7-8 hours of ZZzzz’s each night? If not look at what is holding you back from your sleep and write it down. Then sit back and figure out what you can do to hit the sheets earlier. Get your spouse on board for this as remember – it is a team effort.
  2. Are you stressed?  When we are stressed we produce more cortisol which is a stress hormone that literally gives us energy. It is normal to have high cortisol levels when we wake up and they should naturally go down as the day goes on.  If you are stressed write down the causes of stress in your life.  Now brainstorm ideas on how you can either remove those stresses or find new coping mechanisms for them.                                                                 Example:  Your husband works late and you have to feed the kids for supper and bath them and put them to bed and then he comes home.  Possible solution: hire a part time nanny or even pay to get your house cleaned monthly or weekly so you can lessen one or more ‘to-do’s’ on your list.
  3. Look at what you are eating.  
  • Increase your vitamin E as this plays a role in producing testosterone and estrogen (asparagus and almonds are great choices)
  • Increase your zinc levels as this plays a role in sex hormones and can help boost libido. If oysters are not your thing add wild salmon a few times a week for supper or consider a pharmaceutical grade supplement.
  • Boost your antioxidants which increase blood flow to ALL areas of the body.  Berries to your day is perfect.

If you have ideas that you have found effective in your relationship to nurture the love nest please share them in comments below.

Getting Smarter Naturally

January 23rd, 2010

We all tend to slow down as we age in the brain as some reports say the brain shrinks about 2.5% every 10 years of adult life.  This does not mean you have to get less smart over time.

Our brain is made with millions of neurons that transmit messages to another through a synapse.  A synapse is the spacing between each nerve where chemical messages are sent from one nerve to another. As we age the chemical messages do not always make it in accurate form to their end destination but we can increase that accuracy over time.  Apply these tips to not only increase your brain ’smartness’ but lessen your memory loss so you can remember where you left your keys or if you locked the house when you left.

  1. Add DHA to your day – your  brain is about 50% DHA – an essential fatty acid commonly found in fish.  If you are not a fish eater or vegetarian make sure you consume walnuts, olive oil, flax or salba as these can get converted into the fats your brain needs or eat fortified DHA foods such as eggs daily.
  2. Give yourself a better breakfast.  A study looking at kids and sugary breakfast items – found they performed at the level of 70 year olds in memory and attention.  Simple sugar items to start your brain only provide you with a fast source of fuel that crashes usually in 30 minutes.  Oatmeal is the number one choice, and always accompany your morning with some fiber rich fruit such as raspberries.
  3. Get in the practice of doing things with your less dominant hand – try brushing your teeth with your left hand if you are right hand dominated. This really causes a few areas of your brain to work in ways it is not accustomed too and can strengthen the fibers within your brain making them stronger.  Tying a shoelace with the opposite hand is a great challenge too.
  4. Pick up a music instrument. They have found that music hits many brain functions such as finger movement, listening and emotional development which did boost IQ in 6 year olds by 2-3 points

Brain Enhancer Salad Dressing:

1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive OilHuile-dOlive1

1 tbsp white vinegar

Dash Sea Salt

Pour over the prepared greens and toss really well.  If you are looking for a different zest – try apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar.