Over Halfway through! My Top 5 “A-Ha’s” From the CNE Course So Far

Hey there – Nutrition Rockstar here! As we head into mid-November,  I’m now over halfway through the Meghan Telpner Culinary Nutrition Expert Program. My brain is literally spilling over with information and I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to participate in this powerful and positive life-changing endeavour.

This program has offered me everything I had hoped for and more. Within each comprehensive module, I’m learning about the power of food, how to prepare healthful and delicious meals, the science of healthy eating, how to avoid the pitfalls of healthwashing and “bad”vertising, how to extract medicine from food, how to live a healthy, balanced life and how to have fun and enjoy the process. And the best part is that I’m able to do the entire course from the comfort of my own home! I get the kids off to school, whip up a Dandy Latte, fire up my computer and settle in to learn from Meghan and her amazing team of experts.

Before I share my top 5 list from the first half of the course, I want to let you know that Meghan will be running this program again next fall and she has just opened up a limited time registration with the option of a 10-month payment plan. Trust me -if you are at all interested in learning more about nutrition or perhaps becoming a Culinary Nutrution Expert yourself – this is a gift that you simply must give to yourself. Just click on the CNE banner above or below to find out all about the program. And you can always contact me directly if you’d like more information about my experience (or if you’d like me to whip you up a superfood concoction with my newly acquired culinary skills ; )

And now onto my list! It was really freakin’ hard to narrow it down to just 5 things because my notebooks are literally filled to the brim with life-changing information, research and recipes. But after careful consideration, here are my Top 5 “A-Ha” Lessons from the first half of the CNE Course:

1. Preparation is Key – life is busy, busy, busy and it’s often easier to just hit up a drive-thru or order a pizza than to think about making dinner. But if you can spare an hour or 2 a week to plan out your meals and prep your ingredients – you’ll save time and money and your entire family will reap the myriad benefits of eating healthy, nutrient dense food.

2. Stop Counting Calories! – Ok seriously – this is one trend that I could never fully get behind. There’s just something about counting calories (and counting steps for that matter) that really seems like a surefire way to suck all of the joy and fun out of life. I’ve learned from Meghan that all calories are not created equally (thus the epidemic of people who are overfed and undernourished) and that it’s much more important to focus on nutrient load by eating whole, fresh, unprocessed foods than to worry about each and every bite.

3. Organics All the WayMeghan’s equally brilliant husband Josh Gitalis led us through a comprehensive module on “The Fundamentals of Nutrition“. I literally took notes until my fingers ached as he taught about the importance of healthy soil, fresh water, organic plants and the key macro and micro nutrients in our diet. One of the biggest “ahas” from this section of the course for me was learning about the difference between organic and inorganic farming. Did you know that the following things are prohibited from organic farming (but are often used on conventional farms): GMO’s, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizer, sewage sludge, drugs and radiation. Yeesh! Whenever possible – try to support farmers who are committed to organic farming principles so that you can enjoy the most potent nutrient rich food.

4. Don’t Fear the Fat – I was a teenager when the whole “low-fat” craze really took hold. I remember happily chowing down bags of candy and thinking I was following a perfectly healthy low-fat diet. Doh! There are tons of misconceptions about fats and sadly as a result of misleading advertising and healthwashing, many of us have become fat-phobic. But the truth is that our bodies need healthy fats for energy and optimal health (did you know our brains are 60% fat?) So don’t be afraid to incorporate healthy fats into your diet – nuts, avocados and raw, cold-pressed oils are a great place to start.

5. It’s Not Just About The Food– although the food we put in our bodies is a key to enjoying optimal health, there are also other factors that contribute to overall wellbeing. Meghan recently wrote a blog post about “Vitamin G” – the gratitude vitamin! Taking the time to feel grateful for the blessings in your life can have a major impact on your health and happiness. Also things like reducing stress (why not give meditation a try?), getting out into nature, finding a form of exercise you love, cultivating supportive and nurturing friendships and finding ways to be creative and have fun will all contribute to a joy-filled life.

Culinary Nutrition Expert ProgramI could literally go on and on about the lessons I’ve learned from the CNE course so far. Things like; why we should eat more plants, the importance of regulating blood sugar, how to use food as medicine and the straight poop on foods like dairy/meat/gluten/and white sugar. And I promise I’ll share more tidbits of wisdom in an upcoming post. But for now, I’ve got to get back to my studies! It’s not easy being a rockstar…but it sure is a lot of fun ; )

An Imperfect Rockstar

A few weeks back, I wrote a post about an amazing contest that was being run by Tuja Wellness with the prize of a scholarship to Meghan Telpner’s School of Culinary Nutrition. They were looking for a “Nutrition Rockstar” – and I am thrilled and humbled to announce that I am the very lucky winner. I am beyond excited to dive headfirst into the learning that is jam-packed into this incredible course.

Actually, “Rockstar” is quite a fitting moniker for a gal like me given that I already like to think of myself as a young, fun-loving, cool, plant-eating vegetarian hipster. Something of a “green smoothie goddess” if you will. A veritable whiz kid in the kitchen – my family gobbling up my kale and quinoa-laden dishes just like they were candy.

Ok yes – the reality might not be quite so rosy. Actually, I’m just a 40-something mom- neither as young or cool as I used to pretend to be who’s mostly just trying to keep my family healthy and well-fed. And by “healthy” I mean getting them to ingest their green smoothies without gagging or complaining bitterly. And by “fed” I mean with as much humour, taste and nutrient-rich plant foods that I can reasonably achieve and afford.

Funnily enough, our first assignment in this course is to craft our very own food philosophy. Something along the lines of the brilliant Michael Pollan who wrote:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

In Defense of Food

So I started wondering about  my own personal credo and I’m thinking that maybe something simple like my lofty goal of keeping myself and my family healthy and well-fed might be a good place to start.:

“Feeding a family of meat-free, animal-loving, plant-munching, green-drink guzzling hipsters.”

Lori Wilson

That sounds pretty darn  good! I’ll start with my own clan and then branch out and hopefully my honest approach to cooking and eating will inspire a few others along the way. My goal is that in addition to my own growth and learning, I will also share the ups and downs of this educational journey with all of you.

Yep – I’m going to pick up that “Rockstar” title and run with it goddamit! Thank you to Tuja Wellness and Meghan Telpner for taking a chance on me – a decidedly imperfect rockstar. I am dancing around my kitchen, belting out a tune and strumming my wooden spoon air guitar as I get set to cook up some culinary magic. Let the fun and learning begin!

 

 

How You Can Be 10% Happier

“What a bunch of hippy dippy baloney!”

– Lord Business (Will Ferrell) from The Lego Movie

I have always been attracted to the self-help movement. I have gone to countless lectures and read tons of books promising to help me love myself, stop worrying, solve all of my physical and mental woes, find the career of my dreams, become an amazing parent and on and on and on. Although I’ve learned lots of valuable information….to be perfectly honest – sometimes I really struggle to wrap my head around the concepts. And often there is an underlying feeling that tugs at the back of my mind – could all of this just be a bunch of crap wrapped up in fancy language?

Case in point – I’ll never forget the frenzy surrounding Gary Zukav’s  book The Seat of the Soul” after his appearance on Oprah back in the 90’s. I pretty much ran to the bookstore to buy his book and after slogging through the first chapter I grimly realized that I wasn’t going to understand a single word. No matter how many times I tried to persevere – it simply didn’t make any sense to me. Same damn thing with Eckhart Tolle – and I even took Oprah’s online course to help me out. Nothing. All I felt was very jealous of the people around me who seemed transfixed and transformed by “A New Earth“.

More recently, based on glowing recommendations from good friends, I signed up for newsletters from a few new-age self-help gurus. And you know what? Over half of the stuff I receive makes me scratch my head in confusion. Gems of wisdom like: “Only the mind decides on what it would receive and give.” “You can’t fear your way into Love, only with trust does Love blossom” and “Enjoy the in between what was and what will be.” Say what?!

But I am excited to share that I have stumbled upon quite possibly the best “self-help” book I’ve ever read. It was a stroke of good luck that I just happened to watch a video of ABC news reporter Dan Harris talking about how his on air panic attack set in motion a series of events that led him to discovering a way to become “10% Happier”. I was immediately drawn to Dan’s down to earth manner, his irreverent and hilarious skepticism and his brutal honesty about his own journey. I could relate to his struggles understanding “spirituality” and “self-help” and I liked his humorous approach to a subject matter that often takes itself far too seriously.

Click link below to watch the video: (email subscribers you may need to go to my site at http://www.lorileighwilson.com to view)

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-14350/why-i-embraced-meditation-after-having-a-panic-attack-on-live-tv-dan-harris.html

So just like my dash to the store for “Seat of the Soul“, after watching Dan’s video I made a beeline for Chapters to pick up his new book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story”    

dan harris

Honestly – I read the entire book in 2 days! And I can say as a person who has flown through more self-help tomes than you could shake a stick at – this is definitely worth the read. It’s like having a conversation with an intelligent and witty friend as Dan shares the story of his stressful and competitive career, his ensuing drug use and his struggles with depression and anxiety. He then goes on to interview and report on the top guns in the “spirituality” industry and starts untangling their confusing and often conflicting theories. I won’t give too much away but I will share that as a result of his research, he proposes a very easy and actionable plan that has been scientifically proven to make us less stressed and happier. And it takes 5 minutes a day.

So if you are interested in becoming 10 % happier (not a bad return on investment right?) – then grab a copy of Dan’s book. I would rate it a 10 out of 10. And I promise – there’s no frilly language, hard to understand theories….or hippy dippy baloney in sight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby Red Smoothie

I make a smoothie pretty much every single morning. Greens, banana, pineapple, superfood add-ins, frozen berries- blend and repeat. And although I know the ingredients are colourful and healthy – more often than not the resulting drink has more of a greeny-brownish hue. Not the most visually appealing (in fact the other day my youngest told me that his smoothie looked like diarrhea…..sigh)

My friend Lisa always says that the experience of eating (or drinking) begins with your eyes. And if that’s the case then perhaps a cup of poop coloured smoothie isn’t how my family wants to start their day. Fair enough. So I started tinkering with my smoothies to make them more eye catching.

I recently enjoyed a weekend away with a good pal and she gave me an awesome suggestion for a wonderful bright red vegetable that I’ve been overlooking in my smoothie recipes. This particular veggie has been proven to lower blood pressure, alleviate depression, boost stamina, fight inflammation, detox the body and is rich in vitamins and minerals. What magical ingredient did I find that not only makes my smoothie look beautifully ruby-red but also ups the health factor? Beets! These gorgeous and often unappreciated gems of the vegetable kingdom add brilliant redness and a subtle sweetness to a smoothie that is not at all overpowering.

beets

So kick those brown drinks to the curb and add a burst of colour to your next smoothie! And if you want to get extra fancy – try slicing a strawberry to pop on the side of the glass. Voila – beautiful and nutritious.

Ruby Red Smoothie

beet smoothie

4-6 cups packed spinach
1 banana
1 small beet (or 1/2 a medium beet)
1 2-inch ring of pineapple
1 -2 cups frozen strawberries (or raspberries)
Superfood add-ins (optional)

Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender and whir for 1 minute. Drink up the goodness!

Oh and one thing to keep in mind if you decide to add beets – you need to brace yourself because they will actually turn your poop just as red as your smoothie (believe it or not – this is actually a pretty effective selling feature for kids ; )

The Best Running Buddy Ever!

I’ve always struggled as a runner. I think it started way back in public school when all students were forced to participate in the Canada Fitness Tests. This involved a series of “challenges” including chin ups, rope climbing, sit ups and the most horrible of all…..the endurance run! It was probably only a few measly laps around the school track but I dreaded that freakin’ run every year like the plague. I was that kid who would complain of a cramp or a sore muscle and start walking half way through and then limp across the finish line long after everyone else had completed.

That early exposure to running convinced me that I was not cut out be a runner. It was painful, it was unpleasant and I just didn’t like it. Period. End of story.

funny run 2

 

But then when I was in my early 20’s, I lived with my aunt and uncle for a year and my uncle was (and still is) an avid runner. In his very gentle way, he convinced me to read a book on learning to run and my aunt and I gave it a try (run 1 minute, walk 2 minute- run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute – all the way until we were running 10 minutes straight). Shortly after, I joined a running clinic at the Running Room and before I knew it my sister and I were signed up for a half marathon.

That led to several years of training and 9 half marathons completed. Did I ever love running? Heck no! Was I quite likely the slowest runner on each course? Heck yes! But I shuffled along and did the training and collected my t-shirts and medals until I decided a few years back to take a running break. I told myself it was “better for my knees” and that “my boobs would get too saggy” if I kept running. Honestly it just wasn’t bringing me any joy. So I joined a power walking group, I signed up for a boot camp class and I took up yoga and pilates – and I didn’t miss running. Not. One. Little. Bit.

But this past winter was a doozy here in Southern Ontario and in an effort to keep ourselves somewhat active, my hubby and I rented a treadmill from Easy Fitness. I’d put my little guy down for a nap and pound out a few kilometers….mostly walking in the beginning and then running until I was up to 5km or so. And this spring I decided to park all of my lame-o excuses and take my running to the streets.

Is it still hard? Yes! Am I still painfully slow? Yes! But my amazing new running buddy is making my workouts much more enjoyable. I’ve certainly had my fair share of run pals in the past (Jodi, Christianne, Melanie, Tammy) but I’ve got to say this new guy is my favourite hands down. He never says things like “why don’t we pick up the pace a little?” or “let’s sprint to the next lamp-post!” or “holy crap you are slow today!”. He’s happy just to be out – just to be spending time with me. My floppy boobs and wheezing don’t bother him at all….in fact he doesn’t say a word as we shuffle through the streets in the early morning hours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ok yes he’s a dog. My little Scooby Doo…all 22 pounds of him.

And to be perfectly honest – he never actually breaks into a run…he just walks slightly faster than normal.

 

 

5 Healthful Gift Ideas for Father’s Day

It’s time to celebrate the wonderful men in our lives – dads, grandpas, uncles, husbands, brothers and friends. This coming Sunday is Father’s Day and I’ve rounded up a few of my favourite manly items to make your gift giving a little bit healthier. Here is my top 5 list that will make your special dad glow on the inside and on the outside-

1. Herban Cowboy Cologne: There is just something so darn attractive about a great smelling man! I grew up breathing in the familiar scent of Old Spice on my grandpa and the sweet aromas of Hai Karate and Drakkar Noir on my dad. But studies done by the Environmental Working Group have identified over 500 synthetic ingredients in perfumes and colognes- and these hazardous chemicals have been linked to everything from allergic reactions to central nervous system damage. (Plus artificial fragrances have always made my husband sneeze out of control.) Luckily the good folks at Herban Cowboy have come up with a wonderful smelling all-natural cologne that is safe to use and lovely to inhale. It definitely ups the sexy factor!

herban cowboy

2. Varidesk Standing Desk: “Can sitting for too long really kill you?” This was the title of an eye-catching article in a recent edition of Canadian Living Magazine. “According to Mark Tremblay, the director of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity (HALO) Research Group at the CHEO Research Institute in Ottawa, Canadian adults spend, on average, three-quarters of their waking hours each day sitting or reclining.” And all of this sitting is resulting in a wide variety of aches and pains, diabetes, heart disease and even death. So what is a viable solution? The incredible Varidesk is reasonably priced (around $300), can be set on top of your existing desk and “boosts circulation, improves posture, reduces risk of disease and improves overall health.”

varidesk

3. Book – my dad is a real thinker and he instilled a genuine love of learning in both my sister and I. He brought us along to seminars given by Og Mandino and Zig Ziglar when were quite young and shared with us the principles of some of his favourite motivational teachers including Dale Carnegie and Bob Proctor. Even today, his bookshelves are overflowing with books about optimism, leadership and positivity. Why not hit up your local book store and find an inspiring read for your dad? Here are a few goodies that I’ve nabbed from my dad’s collection- The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman and How To Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie.

dale carnegie

4. Beer – ok so beer might not be the “healthiest” thing on the planet but if the men in your life are anything like the men in my life – then they like nothing better than to kick back with a cold brewski. And if your guy plans to indulge (in moderation of course) then you should treat them to a Mill Street Organic. This craft beer is proudly brewed in Canada and is “Ontario’s first certified organic lager….adhering to rules that guarantee both the raw materials and brewing process are pesticide and herbicide free.” Ahhhh….clean, crisp and refreshing!

mill street

5. Vegetable Plants or Seeds – there is something very satisfying about being able to live off of the land. Granted, most of us don’t have the property to sustain a full-blown vegetable garden but we can still treat our dads to the joy of growing his own food. A small planter will nicely fit a little herb collection, a larger pot is perfect for cherry tomatoes and even a small slice of property can house cucumber plants, strawberries, peas, carrots and lettuce. Hit up a local greenhouse for your dad’s favourites and get growing – the results will be delicious! (nice garden tools can also be a big hit)

tomatoes

And if none of these ideas fit your lifestyle or your budget – well then might I suggest 2 other options: the gift of time or a homemade gift. Maybe a family bike ride, a nice long walk or a simple card made with glitter and glue and lots of love.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the amazing men out there who dedicate themselves to nurturing their families and acting as role models to their children. And to my own dad – thank you for teaching me kindness, generousity, curiousity and an impressive repertoire of killer jokes. I love you!

Asian Noodle Salad with Seared Tofu

I was busy grilling the tofu for this recipe when a friend popped by to pick up his daughter from a play date. “Mmmmm…something smells good Lori – what are you cooking?” he asked. “Marinated tofu steaks!” I proudly replied. “Oh gross – that’s nasty!” he quickly shot back. Guess I won’t be inviting him to dinner anytime soon ; )

Tofu (and soy products in general) might just be one of the most controversial foods out there. Depending on which research paper or magazine article you are reading- it’s either touted as a wonderful superfood or a hormone disrupting poison. And frankly there appear to be good arguments on both sides of the fence.

I have done quite a bit of research on my own and came across a great article on the Harvard School of Public Health website that gave a comprehensive overview of “smart approaches to choosing protein for your diet.” This particular quote came from the end of the “Straight Talk about Soy” section:

Eat soy in moderation. Soybeans, tofu, and other soy-based foods are an excellent alternative to red meat. In some cultures, tofu and soy foods are a protein staple, and we don’t suggest any change. But if you haven’t grown up eating lots of soy, there’s no reason to go overboard: Two to 4 servings a week is a good target; eating more than that likely won’t offer any health benefits and we can’t be sure that there is no harm.

One thing to also keep in mind when buying tofu is that over 90% of soy bean production in the US is genetically modified and the crops are heavily sprayed with toxic herbicides. So be sure to read the labels and choose a tofu brand that is non-GMO and organic.

And now there is the matter of taste – most people assume that it will either taste bland or disgusting. But believe it or not I actually like it and so do my kids. With the right marinade and seasonings, it can be really delicious. We eat it approximately once a week just cut up and sautéed in a stir fry, marinated and breaded in crispy tofu wraps or seared into steaks.

So – to tofu or not to tofu – that is the question? At the end of the day there is no magic bullet, one-size-fits all approach to healthy eating. Do your own research, read labels, listen to your own body and do what’s best for you. This salad would be tasty with our without the tofu but if you are a tofu fan or would like to try it for the first time then go for it! This salad will make you a tofu-lover for sure.

Asian Noodle Salad with Seared Tofu Steaks

tofu salad 3

1 package of organic non-GMO firm tofu, drained
1 cup of tamari (soy sauce)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. agave nectar
2 tbsp. pure sesame oil
2 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 package of soba noodles (buckwheat)
1 head of broccoli, chopped small
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup shelled peanuts

To marinate tofu: cut the block of tofu into 1 inch slices and place in a shallow dish with a lid. Cover with tamari and sprinkle with garlic powder and shake it around to marinate the slices. Place in the fridge for an hour, shaking occasionally.

tofu salad 1

To make the dressing: combine vinegar, agave, sesame oil, ginger, salt and pepper in a jar with a lid. Cover tightly and shake vigorously.

Cook soba noodles according to package directions – adding broccoli florets into the boiling water at the same time as the noodles. Drain noodles and broccoli and set aside.

tofu salad 2

The tofu can either be seared on a hot frying pan on the stove or on the barbecue. For stovetop: Heat olive oil in a large skilled over medium-high heat. Add tofu slices and cook approximately 5 minutes per side until lightly browned. For BBQ: Heat to medium high and place marinated tofu slices directly on the grill. Cook 2-4 minutes per side. Cut each slice in half lengthwise for serving.

Arrange lettuce on 4 large dinner plates or 6 smaller plates. Top with a portion of noodles/broccoli and tofu slices. Drizzle with dressing. Garnish with fresh cilantro and peanuts.

Enjoy!