Tis the Season to be Healthy: Gingerbread Houses

posted on December 21, 2015

Looking for a fun Holiday activity for the kids that does not involve copious amounts of sugar? Try this healthier version of a gingerbread house! (Note that I did not say “healthy” but “healthier” J).

Last night my husband had the idea that we should make gingerbread houses.  This was a Christmas tradition he really enjoyed as a child and wanted to pass it along to our girls.  But of course, mommy (aka Naturopath Mommy downer) wanted to find a creative way to engage in this fun activity without all the icing sugar and gumdrops.  After briefly looking online I combined a few ideas and decided on this version – graham cracker, peanut butter houses J.

All you need is graham cracker sheets, regular smooth peanut butter and healthy nut, seed, cereal and dried fruit toppings of your choice.  (We used coconut shavings, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and pretzels).

Heads up: PB is not nearly as structurally sound as icing.  It is sticky enough but does not harden so you may want to put the PB in the fridge before making the houses and store them in the fridge for a night after.

I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Nourishing Nettles Soup

posted on June 3, 2014

So far this year our CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) has brought us an abundance of leafy greens!  One of those greens is Stinging Nettle, which can be a tricky one to work with.  As the name suggests, it “stings” you if you touch it bare handed.  So, how do you prepare this stuff in to something edible?  Cook it! (And protect your hands with the prep!)

Before I get into the recipe, there is something to be said about Nettles.  Although it has the potential to bite you, the nutrients and health benefits are well worth the risk!

Nettle leaves are known to be rich in vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, manganese and iron.  It is especially high in vitamin K (a very important vitamin for bone health and blood clotting).  Many would call it a nutritive plant because of its nutrition profile.

Nettle is also quite the healing herb.  Its historical use for health conditions ranges widely and includes anemia, fatigue, allergy relief, arthritis and inflammation, digestive disorders, skin conditions and tonification of female organs.

Our farm provided a wonderful recipe for a nettle soup adapted from www.foragerchef.com.  I have adapted that recipe even more to make it more accessible for my family.  Give it a try!  Kids love it too!

 

Nourishing Nettles Soup

Ingredients: (As always, try to use organic)

3c of nettle leaves (if you have a high powered blender you can try it with stems)

3-4c of baby spinach

1 large or 2 small russet potato, diced

1 large white onion, diced

2 clove garlic, chopped

4c homemade, chicken or vegetable stock

2 tbsp coconut oil or unsalted butter

sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

DIrections:

  1. Sautee onion and garlic in the coconut oil with a pinch of sea salt for a few minutes or until translucent.
  2. Add stock and simmer.
  3. Add potatoes and simmer until soft.
  4. At the same time bring large pot of water to a boil. Blanch the nettles and spinach by dropping them in water for 30 seconds and then remove, placing them in a bowl of ice water. (this brightens the greens and preserves the nutrients).
  5. Once potatoes are soft add simmering potatoes with broth and greens to high-powered blender and process until smooth.

Enjoy!!

Spring Cleansing

posted on March 31, 2014

It has been a long and bitter winter and, at last, the season of change is upon us.  No better way to give your body a break from those hearty winter comfort foods than to embark on a spring detox!

 

When most people think of detox diets they think of restriction…avoid this, avoid that.  And although this is important to cleanse the body, what is equally important is what you do eat!

 

Here are a few fabulously detoxifying foods that you can enjoy in plentiful quantities to help restore and boost your immune and detoxification systems.

 

The GREEN goodies:

  • Asparagus – Ahh, the perfect side veg! It boosts your liver function and is protective for many chronic diseases.
  • Kale – high in antioxidants and wonderfully anti-inflammatory.  Excellent for your kidneys.
  • Broccoli – increases liver metabolism and protects the liver
  • Artichoke – increases bile to purge toxins.
  • Avocado – Worried about the fat? Don’t.  This fruit is packed with monounsaturated fats…the good stuff!
  • Dandelion greens – powerful liver tonic and can be sued to treat liver conditions
  • Green Tea – loaded with antioxidants, called catechins, and nutrients galore.  Studies show it is protective for heart disease and cancer and can aid weight loss.  Want a super charged green tea?  Try Matcha powder.

 

Nothing is more awakening for the body than CITRUS:

  • Lemon – helps flush out toxins and aids digestion
  • Grapefruit – thrust the liver into action mode for super detoxification

 

Get to the ROOT:

  • Ginger – cleanses the body by stimulating digestion, blood flow and sweat
  • Garlic – rich with sulfur, it can push heavy toxins out of the body
  • Turmeric – one of the most studied herbs for its powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Promoting of all detoxification systems

 

Looking for a great detoxifying start to your day?  Try this breakfast smoothie

 

The Green Get-Up

Ingredients: (try for organic if you can)

  1. 1.5 leaves of kale
  2. 1 tbsp shaved ginger (if you have a high powered blender, just put a 1 inch cube in)
  3. 2 tbsp Hemp hearts
  4. 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  5. ¼ avacado
  6. ½ apple or banana to sweeten
  7. 2-3 ice cubes
  8. cover with water or half water half hemp or almond milk

Optional – 2 tsp of real maple syrup, matcha powder instead of avacado

If one of these ingredients doesn’t appeal to, just leave it out J

 

Blend to oblivion and enjoy!

Immune System Ready...Set...Protect! 10 Ways to Stay Healthy this Season

posted on October 14, 2012

It’s that time of year again – cold and flu season!  Is your family prepared with strong immune systems?  Here are 10 easy tips to keep your entire family healthy and bug-free by boosting your immune fighting potential.


1. Steer clear – avoiding infection is the first step.  Wash your hands frequently especially before and after meals, using the bathroom, contact with someone who is feeling ill or after touching public fixtures and surfaces.  And do your friends a favour by keeping your germs to yourself by frequent washing while sick and not touching others. Avoid antibacterial soaps and gels as they may allow bacteria to build resistance (and they really dry out your skin).
2. Produce, produce, produce – One of the best ways to keep your immune system healthy is through a healthy diet and fruits and veggies are your best choice.  They contain a rich source of antioxidants which protect and repair cell damage.  This helps keep your immune cells robust and ready for action when exposed to infection.  When looking for the most antioxidant-rich produce remember the deeper the colour the more nutrition.  Stock up on the deep green, purple, blue, red, orange and yellow foods to get plenty of Vitamin C, E and beta-carotene.  Mix in some nuts to get your Zinc and Selenium too!
3. Dump the Junk – Stop suppressing your immune system with junk food.  Foods high in sugar (refined or even natural sugars) can halt your immune cell function leaving you susceptible to incoming infection.   1 tsp of sugar can reduce your active immune cells by half....which is only a couple of candies! Also, the heavy fats of chip snacking can diminish the strength of the immune system by igniting inflammation. (Mom and Dad, monitor and moderate the Halloween treats!!). 
4. Ain’t no sunshine when D’s gone – Or is it, “ain’t no D when sunshine is gone”?! Vitamin D (which we create in our skin from sun exposure) is a critical vitamin to our immune defence because it actually helps activate immune cells.   Those deficient in Vitamin D have less capacity to fight infection and get sick more often.  And guess what? Many Canadians are not only low but very deficient due to our short summers and low sun exposure.  Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D (fish is your best source) so you may want to think about supplementing vitamin D especially for the fall/winter months.  Consider a liquid supplement that the whole family can use which has superior absorption.  Talk to your doctor about dosing for the whole family.
5. Keep mucous in check – when you are sick and full of phlegm you should consider avoiding dairy products.  Milk and Dairy are mucous producing and can cause a heavier phlegm; which not only feels icky, but allows more infection to breed.  It can also have a suppressing effect on the immune system too.  If you are looking for a way to clear the mucous, consider a nasal lavage such as a Neti pot or Saline nasal spray to clear out your nose and sinuses.  You can also try a facial steam by breathing in the vapour of a hot bowl of water to loosen up the congestion.
6. Keep active – Although it is the time of year when most want to curl up in front of the fire, being active can possibly increase immune cells.  Recent studies note that those who engage in heart-pumping exercise most days of the week have a fraction of the colds of those that are inactive.  If you don’t have time to go to a gym, put your boots and snow suit on and play with your kids in the snow!
7. Rest to protect – Sleep not only rejuvenates your body and mind, but your immune system too! A lack of sleep can lower your immune potential by decreasing your defensive white blood cells and inhibit production of immune-enhancing compounds that are released during sleep. Don’t wait for the flu to knock you out...get your sleep now to keep your immune system healthy.
8. Calm those nerves – Stress is a major contributor to all disease and has a direct relationship with immune system impairment.  When stress is high, cortisol from the adrenal glands is also high and cortisol has a suppressing effect on your immune system.  As a double whammy, when the adrenals become tired, they can no longer support your immune system to function effectively.  Although stress can be unavoidable, it is all about how we deal with it.  If you are finding you are more “on-edge” than normal, explore appropriate ways to de-stress (ie. Yoga, meditation, exercise, walking the dog, reading etc).
9. Friendly bacteria? – Who would have thought that putting bacteria in the body can keep infection away?  By now probiotics (aka. good bacteria) are a regular health food buzz word, but what do they actually do?  A healthy bacterial flora lines all of your mucous membranes and helps, not only to keep bad bugs out by blocking them, but to actually improve the immune system response.  A deficient flora can leave you susceptible to infection, therefore supplementing with probiotics or increasing your fermented foods may be beneficial to keep your immune system healthy. 
10. Herbal help – Nature has provided some excellent herbs to heal our body.  After years of historical use, research has finally caught up and highlights many which support and boost the immune system.  Consider botanicals such as Astragalus, Schisandra, Golden Seal, Eleutherococcus, Echinacea and even Garlic to name a few. Although, they are mainly safe, your doctor can help you determine which are appropriate for you.


For more information on what you can do to defend yourself, consider seeking the advice of a Naturopathic Doctor.


Yours in Health, Michelle Cali, ND

 

Spring Cleaning...for your Body!

posted on March 27, 2012

It is a time of renewal and life’s new beginnings.  With the start of a new season and the warmer weather it is the perfect time to shed some winter storage.  Although your closet may need an overhaul, your body has been accumulating garbage too – toxins!

According to Asian Medicine Theory – Spring is a perfect time for the body to detox.  It is the season of the liver, our detoxifying organ.  We are also better able to handle the cooling detox foods such as fruits and vegetables.

Detoxing does not have to be a rigorous long-term process.  You have to consider what is appropriate for your body based on your state of health and life exposures.  Working with a Naturopathic Doctor can help you determine what is appropriate and best suited to you. Many find that detoxifying the body increases energy, enhances mood, improves digestion, aids weight loss programs and much more!

What does a typical detox involve?

A typical detox can involve any or a combination of the following:

  • Dietary modifications – following a clean and wholesome diet
  • Supplementation for Liver support
  • Reducing environmental exposures
  • Physical activity
  • Castor oil packs
  • Skin brushing and hydrotherapy

Getting Started

Ask a Naturopathic Doctor how to detox safely and effectively.  All detox’s are not safe for everyone.  It may not be appropriate for some conditions and medication regimens. A Naturopathic Doctor will design a detox program that is right for you. 

Basic Suggestions include:

  • Avoiding refined sugars
  • Avoiding food preservatives, additives and heavy pesticides
  • Drinking greater than 2L of water per day and minimizing coffee intake
  • Reducing chemical exposures in the home (most commonly through household cleaners and detergents)

Veganism – A Naturopath’s journey to kind eating

posted on October 21, 2011

As a Naturopathic Doctor my idea of a healthy diet always involves a balance of nutrition and enjoyment. Food is such a big part of our lives that enjoyment is not only necessary but key to long-lasting diet improvements.  Over the years I have come to realize that, for me, enjoying food goes beyond nutrition and flavour, it starts with food production.  This has fuelled my recent efforts to embark on a vegan lifestyle.

Veganism is described as a lifestyle that abstains from the use of animal products.  You may be thinking that, as a Naturopath, it must be natural to be vegan for the health benefits.  It is true that vegans, with a very high vegetable diet, reduce their risk of many conditions and diseases.  A vegetable-rich diet has long been known to manage a healthy weight, and lower the risk of almost all major causes of disease including heart disease and cancer.  Vegetables provide a great source of fibre, antioxidants and a variety of essential vitamins and minerals. Also, by consuming less meat, you may be reducing your saturated fat intake, and decreasing your exposure to a number of toxins, hormones and traces of pharmaceuticals.  Sounds good right? Well, in addition to benefitting your own health, changing to a vegan lifestyle can also benefit the health of our earth.  Raising animals for food, dairy and eggs has quite the impact on our earth.  Although this ecological impact has been threatening us for years, public awareness is becoming more prominent.  A recent publication put out by The Environmental Working Group (EWG) along with CleanMetrics Research exposes the heavy “footprint” that animal farming creates in terms of greenhouse gases. As our earth gains in population and our individual demands increase (especially in North America), a major shift in how we look at food is necessary. [FYI Check out “Meat Eaters Guide to Climate Change and Health” - www.ewg.org/meateatersguide]. 

With all of that being said, I still haven’t gotten to why I decided to become vegan – to pay homage to all the creatures that walk this earth with us.  Being an animal lover my whole life, I have always gone out of my way to create distance between animal meats for consumption and animals that roam the land or sleep in our beds.  I chose not to think about what happened before those pleasantly packaged meats showed up on our store shelves because I could not stand the thought of a suffering animal or critter or the fact that I may be supporting it. (My mother would verify this with a story about the ant log we set on fire while camping when I was a child...My screams as the ants came running out of their smoking ant holes still concerns her to this day).  The more pets I had, the more I became aware of their emotions.  Although some may say that I humanize these emotions, what is undeniable to any dog owner is the pep in their step when they hear the word “walk” or the solemn look on their face with the word “no”.  This got me thinking about farm animals...and with the onslaught documentaries specifically on factory farming in the past decade, I didn’t need my imagination to understand that animals are indeed suffering. 

For me, this was enough to educate myself on veganism.  After much reading I realized that this was a new and potentially challenging lifestyle, but one that I could be on board with while aligning my values and eating habits.  I have found joy in believing in something and following through on it every day.

Understand, I am not against the consumption of meat nor do I want meat-lovers to shy away from becoming informed. I respect the natural food chain and in fact, I am hoping that recent movements will promote a more natural farming industry.  I am a strong supporter of the ethical farming movement. 

However, as a Naturopath I do believe that many of us consume more meat than necessary – driving the increases in meat production.  So I challenge you to find joy in trying new food selections of the vegetarian/vegan variety.  Whether you agree with veganism or not, increasing your veggie intake can benefit your health and our earth!

Here is a veg recipe that I love.  Feel free to try it or make your own delicious version to help kick-start this challenge in your life:

QUINOA TABOULEH – Michelle’s yummy favourite!

A wonderfully healthy dish – full of colour, flavour and fabulous nutrients!  Eat as a side salad or add cooked beans and/or tofu to make it a hearty meal.  One of my new favourite dishes everyday; and while on detox. 

What you will need:

  • 1c organic quinoa
  • 2c water
  • ½ English cucumber – diced
  • 2 roma tomatoes seeded and diced
  • ½ small red onion - minced
  • 3 stalks of green onion – chopped
  • 1 ½ c loosely packed minced fresh parsley
  • 1c minced fresh cilantro
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1 lemon rind
  • 1/3c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt (or add to taste)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper (or add to taste)

To make:

  1. Wash quinoa thoroughly to remove bitter white coating, then rinse and drain
  2. Cook quinoa
  3. Rice cooker (easier!) – add washed quinoa and water to rice cooker and turn on!
  4. Stove-top – bring water to a boil in medium pot. Add quinoa nad reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until all water absorbed (leave lid on as much as possible - about 20 minutes).
  5. Place quinoa in a large bowl and set aside to cool and dry (put in fridge or freezer if wanting to cool faster – that way you can skip step 6 if wanting to serve immediately). 
  6. Add to bowl: cucumber, tomatoes, onions, parsley and cilantro.
  7. To make dressing: whisk together oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Pour dressing over salad and toss well to combine.
  8. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
  9. Serve chilled.

Enjoy!