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!

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9 Fresh Ideas for Spring

Although its taking a long time coming in my neck of the woods, spring is definitely on the way! And what better time of year than spring to try something new? So in honour of the changing season, here are my 9 suggestions for embracing the season of renewal:

1. Try Some New Recipes  – my friend Sue actually inspired this article when she posted an idea on Facebook about handing cookbooks to her kids and telling them to each pick 2 new dinner recipes for the coming week. Brilliant! What a great way to change things up. Dust off your cookbooks and foodie magazines and hunt for a couple of yummy new dishes to experiment with (or check out the archives on my blog for some Lori Wilson classics ; ) Time to toss those same-old-same-old winter menus!

2. Switch up Your Pit Stick – as an all-natural deodorant devotee, I’ve found that it’s best to keep a few good brands in the vanity that I can keep rotating to maintain their effectiveness. They seem to work like gangbusters for a month or so and then I need to swap them out for a bit. Although I always keep Purely Great and Weleda on hand, my new fav is Penny Lane Organics Lavender Deodorant Stick – it’s chemical-free and works well even during my sweatiest workouts.

deodorant-lavender-pennylaneorganics

3. Read SOAT – I have been a huge  fan of author Elizabeth Gilbert since she first published Eat, Pray, Love in 2007. I just adore the way her words jump off the page like she’s a close friend who is speaking directly to me (check out her blog and follow her on Facebook to see what I mean).  That’s why I couldn’t wait to dive into her latest fictional work “The Signature of All Things“. Now I’m going to be honest and admit that I started and stopped this book at least 5 times before I dug in and got hooked but you need to keep in mind that it’s an epic novel so don’t give up – trust me it’s well worth the read.

soat

4. Make A Small Change To Your Living Space– it doesn’t have to be anything big – perhaps you just grab a frame and hang up that picture you’ve been meaning to hang, shift the furniture around in the living room or paint one wall bright red. My hubby and I bought a new quilt for our bed for $60 while we were in the away on vacation in March and it makes me so happy every time I walk into my bedroom. Sometimes even a small shift can bring a fresh perspective.

5. Buy Something New for Your Wardrobe– To celebrate a good friend’s birthday, I went on a little shopping trip with a few pals a couple of weeks ago. We hit up one of my favourite local stores I purchased a bright pink short-sleeved shirt that I plan to wear the heck out of this spring. Grab a new scarf, a dangly pair of earrings or a funky new pair of jeans and see if you can add a bit of colour and energy to your wardrobe.

6. Start a Meditation Practice – Thanks to a great tip from my dad, I’ve recently rejuvenated my own meditation practice via a fantastic free app called Headspace on my mobile device. Meditation guru Andy Puddicombe guides you through 10 minutes a day of quiet contemplation and offers insights into the importance of this routine. I’ve also signed up for Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s free 21-day meditation session called “Finding Your Flow that will be starting in mid-April (I did their other free course back in the fall and loved it).

headspace

7. Tend To Your Pearly Whites – Tea, coffee, red wine, chocolate, lemon juice….all things that I love and all things that can wreak havoc on my teeth. In an effort to keep them nice and white without undergoing a chemical bleaching, I am a big fan of daily Oil Pulling using pure coconut oil. I also read an article by author Kimberly Snyder about rubbing orange peels on the teeth a couple of times per week to amp up tooth whiteness and another post from one of my favorite bloggers – Wellness Mama–  about swishing activated charcoal in the mouth to remove stains. Yes these ideas might sound wacky but all of these options are natural, economical and definitely worth a try!

8. Drink Up Some Fresh Juice – According to nutritionist Meghan Telpner: “Juicing is the easiest way to get essential nutrients in- detoxifying your liver and other organs, increasing energy and your mood and helping to make other foods more digestible….For those trying to include more raw fruits and veggies into their diets, juice is the answer. For anyone looking to shed some junk from the trunk, clear up the skin, have shinier hair, and way more energy and vitality…guess what? You got it. Juice. is. the. answer.” If you own a juicer, it’s time to pull it out of the cupboard and get juicing. If you don’t, you can hit up a juice bar for a shot of wheat grass and a green juice chaser. And if by chance you live in the Burlington, Ontario area – my good friend Lisa has started a business providing beautiful and nourishing fresh juice- home delivery and full cleanses are also available.  Contact her via her at lisa@flowfit.ca for menus and more information. (photo below courtesy of Lisa Faley – www.flowfit.ca)

juice

9. Get Outside– Yes it’s cold (at least in Southern Ontario) but nothing makes me feel more clear-headed than a good brisk walk. Whatever your exercise of choice (walk, run, bike, skip, dance) – try to get outside every day even for a jaunt around the block and some deep breaths of fresh air. Guaranteed to give you a new outlook on life.

I hope these suggestions put some spring in your step! I for one am ready to bid goodbye to a long, cold and harsh winter. Yay spring!

The Upside of Crying at Target

I recently had a really good cry. A long and stressful week culminated with a Friday morning trip to Target where I ended up at the cash with a big pile of goodies. After frantically checking my purse- I realized that I had no money and no phone! Shit! As I loaded the toddler back into the van to head back home the tears just started flowing. “Why are you sniffling like that mommy?” my little guy kept asking.

My oldest son was at home when I came to collect my wallet and immediately asked what was wrong. I told him it was nothing – I was just feeling a little sad and he said “it’s okay mom – it’s good to let your feelings out.” So darn wise for a 12-year old.

After I dried my tears, stopped my blubbering and blew my nose- I really did feel much better. I headed off for a coffee and repeat trip to the store in a much better frame of mind. I was able to laugh at myself and the absurdity of sobbing over something so ridiculous. (As a side note I’m pretty sure I freaked out the cashier at Starbucks because she asked me at least 5 times if everything was ok – guess the red puffy eyes totally gave me away.)

My son’s words got me thinking about how often I rush through life and suppress or ignore my emotions or just totally numb them out with coping mechanisms. My go-to’s – chocolate, reality TV, red wine, Candy Crush and People magazine just to name a few. Especially with the advent of our cell phones, it’s so much easier to zone out with mindless games, Facebook, Twitter and texting than to stop, breathe and really check in with ourselves and how we are feeling. And what I realized in that moment was that by feeling that sadness, I made way to feel better, to laugh and to move forward.

This video features the comedian Louis C.K. He’s actually talking about why he refuses to get cell phones for his children but the overall message is much more powerful. Have a watch and remember that as much as we all love our devices, it’s a good idea to put them down every now and again, to slow down and to let ourselves just be……even if that means crying in the check-out line at Target ; )

Why I Joined The Food Babe Army (and you should too!)

I have always loved a good mystery. As a child I devoured mystery novels and even fancied myself quite the crack detective for a while when I joined forces with a couple of girlfriends and solved The Case of The Missing Pens in my grade 4 classroom (sadly it doesn’t make headlines when the culprit returns the loot and then proceeds to cry so hard that you feel terrible and have to call your dad to help calm him down).

Nowadays I still love mysteries but I am even more intrigued by the brave people who take on real-life investigations and expose fraud and lies being told to the general public. And unfortunately for us – one of the greatest perpetrators of this misinformation is the food industry.

I heard about The Food Babe (aka Vani Hari) a couple of months ago and I have been completely blown away by what I have learned from her website and Facebook page. Vani is a food blogger and activist from North Carolina who has taken it upon herself to uncover the truth about what is really in the food that we are all buying and eating. And let me tell you guys – it is really shocking!

vani hari

Trust me when I say that if you care at all about the food you are putting into your body and the bodies of your children and loved ones – you need to check out her site. Here are a just a few of the things that I appreciate about The Food Babe:

She is not afraid to name names – shame on you Pepperidge Farm, Starbucks, Godiva Chocolate, Gatorade, Panera Bread, Kraft Foods, McDonalds and countless others who are duping us with claims of “healthy”, “nourishing” and “kid-friendly” foods while passing off cheap, toxic and genetically modified ingredients that can have devastating long-term health effects. And the kicker – a lot of these artificial chemical additives are banned from the same foods served by the same companies in other countries!

She proves that one person can wield a lot of power and can inspire an “army” of followers to incite positive and impactful changes – For example, when Vani found out that the well-known food chain Chipotle did not have a list of their ingredients on their menu or website, she contacted the company, wrote on her blog and mobilized her army to hold the restaurant accountable for their claim of serving “food with integrity”. Shortly after she began her campaign, Chipotle contacted her directly. They made the decision to not only release the lists of ingredients, but also started labeling and swapping out many of their genetically engineered ingredients.

She offers alternatives – it can be overwhelming when you find out that your go-to foods are full of toxins and GMO’s but Vani has also researched companies who manufacture and sell clean, organic and toxin free foods that you can feel good about eating. Pretty much every article that she writes exposing toxic companies and products to avoid- also includes a list of good alternatives.

She provides recipes and tips – aside from alternate products and restaurant choices , she also offers tons of great recipes that are tasty, healthy and made from whole real foods. You can check out the “recipe” section on her site.

Vani’s story is a perfect example of just how influential a single person can be-not just in educating others, but also in encouraging major food chains to do the right thing and make positive changes. You may have heard about her most recent petition to force Subway restaurants to remove the extremely toxic chemical “azodicarbonamide” from their bread. As of today, she has garnered 78,000 signatures and this number continues to grow. I was especially shocked to read about this additive because my family is very fond of Subway sandwiches….it’s just so darn upsetting to find out a food you are feeding your children under the guise of being a “healthier choice” is actually loaded with toxins. I signed Vani’s petition and I won’t eat at Subway until I hear directly from her that this ingredient has been removed.

subway

 

So what can you and I do? Check out Vani’s site, sign any petitions you are willing to support, encourage your friends and family to check out her information and continue to educate yourself about the foods you are eating. Thanks to The Food Babe, there’s a widespread opportunity for virtually anyone to participate, get inspired, and really make a difference!

Chaga Mushroom Tea Latte

I’m going to be completely honest and admit that there are many mornings you will find me at my favourite coffee joint in the drive-thru line up patiently waiting for my soy latte. I have a well rehearsed repertoire of excuses in my head to justify my “need” for a fancy take-out drink:

– I was up all night with a sick child and I desperately need a coffee today
– I worked out really hard this morning and I deserve a reward
– I’m going to start eating right and working out next week so I’d better get my treats in today
– I stayed up late working so I need a coffee to make it through the day
– It’s a holiday (insert any occasion here – including Ground Hog Day!) and I need to celebrate with a coffee
– I’m meeting a friend and I can’t be rude and not join her when she is drinking her coffee
– It’s Monday and I need to pick myself up for the week
– It’s Friday and I need to gear up for the weekend

Trust me, I could go on and on but I’ll spare you. Needless to say I really enjoy a nice tall latte filled with steamy soy milk and sugary add-ins to start off my day. But being something of a health nut- I am also well aware of the negative effects of indulging in this particular treat (not to mention that it costs $6 a pop!)

Although the pros and cons of coffee have been hotly debated I know for myself that I feel much healthier and my gut, skin and pocketbook are much happier when I stick to all-natural homemade concoctions. And yes I can see you rolling your eyes through my computer screen – but some of my concoctions really do taste great!

Because I’m a full-on food nerd, I was totally thrilled to find this bag of Canadian Chaga Mushroom pieces on a recent trip to my local health food store. This potent and unique superfood is “a slow-growing mushroom that develops on living birch trees, obtaining nutrients from its host and making them available to us.” Chaga is considered the most nutritionally dense tree growth in the world and is revered in ancient Chinese medicine as being the “king of plants“. Studies have shown Chaga to be the single most concentrated source of antioxidants known to man and it has anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting and cancer fighting properties. Wow!

The cool thing about these mushroom chunks is that you boil 1/3 of a cup of them in a liter of water and just let them steep like tea. Afterwards you strain out the chunks and you will be left with a mild-tasting dark brown liquid that you can add to soups, smoothies, tea, coffee or just drink it straight up. And since the mushroom is so potent – you can actually reuse the chunks several times!

chaga

This morning I added 1 heated cup of the Chaga tea to 1 cup of boiling water and blended it together with 1 tbsp. raw sesame seeds, 1 tbsp. hemp seeds, 1 tbsp. maple syrup, 1 tbsp. Dandy Blend, 1 tbsp. cacao powder, a small chunk of cacao butter and 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract. Voila! Yummy coffee drink that has a ton of health benefits! (I also added a cupful of the tea to our morning smoothie)

So for today, I am skipping the fancy take-out coffee and sipping my Chaga Tea Latte. One day at a time right? As for tomorrow – if you happen to see me in the drive-thru line just give me knowing nod and a wave…..because trust me, I’ll have my excuse ready ; )

The Amazing Healing Properties of Turmeric

I had no idea until about a year ago that a spice that often sat unused in my cupboard could be so incredibly powerful. I happened to be attending a health seminar in the spring- ironically the day after my son sprained his wrist when he rode his scooter off of a homemade jump on our driveway and landed painfully on his arm (totally normal 12-year-old behavior right?!). After listening to the teacher speak about the multitude of healing properties of turmeric, I rushed home and made a turmeric poultice for my son’s wrist. Yes his arm turned bright yellow but his wrist healed remarkably quickly and the pain and swelling decreased very rapidly.

turmeric 1

After seeing how quickly my son’s injury healed, I began to do more research into the health benefits of turmeric. And I soon found out that it has been used for centuries to cure and treat an astounding number of health issues. Turmeric can be used:

– for liver detoxification (and lord knows I need this one given my love of red wine ; )

– as a natural pain-killer

– to combat depression by naturally lifting your mood (winter blahs anyone?)

– for its potent antiseptic and antibacterial properties (can kill yeasts and parasites internally)

– to reduce inflammation (sore muscles, headaches, arthritis… and even sprained wrists)

– as a powerful antioxidant

– to eliminate the cancer causing effects of BBQ smoke and cooking smoke (it has also been studied as an antimutagenic that potentially helps prevent new cancers that are caused by chemotherapy or radiation used to treat existing cancers)

– to keep the brain in tip-top shape and to ward off Alzheimer’s disease

– to accelerate wound healing and repair damaged skin

– to soothe an upset stomach

– as a natural immunity booster and preventative of flu bugs

(Sources: Josh Gitalis, Meghan Telpner, Wellness Mama, Web MD)

Very impressive! But how do you use the stuff? And better yet – how do you get the kids to take it? On a recent trip to a local organic market, I purchased turmeric in 3 forms: whole turmeric root (the kids asked if this was a bag of turds), turmeric powder and turmeric capsules. Here are some of the ways that I use it:

– I put a 1-inch chunk of the root or 1 tsp (or more) of the powder into our green smoothies every morning

turmeric root

– I sprinkle turmeric powder over top of our fresh juice

– I use turmeric powder in soups, curries and stews for power-packed flavour

turmeric powder

– I sprinkle turmeric powder over foods grilled on the barbecue to combat carcinogenic smoke residue

– I make this amazing Turmeric Tea recipe by Meghan Telpner (especially great to warm the body on these cold winter days)

– I take turmeric capsules to combat headaches and muscle soreness

turmeric caps

– I mix 1 tsp turmeric powder with a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil and use it as a topical poultice on sore muscles, bruises and injuries

I encourage you to try adding some potent turmeric to your diet to see for yourself its incredible healing powers! A couple of things to keep in mind: because all brands aren’t created equally, make sure you purchase only good quality turmeric AND remember to consult with your doctor or naturopath before taking any new herbs or supplements. And if you are using it externally on yourself or your kiddies – be aware that it will leave a yellow residue on the skin for a couple of days.

How do you use turmeric? Do you find it effective? I’d love to hear from you!

Spaghetti Squash Noodles and Why I Keep Trying

I follow a number of awesome food bloggers and they constantly inspire me to try out new foods and dishes. Recently, I noticed that spaghetti squash was popping up a lot on different sites as a gluten-free and high-fiber replacement for noodles so I decided to give it a whirl.

spag squash 1

As I was preparing to cook my lovely squash, I began to have some serious doubts. You see, sometimes when I am making something new for my family a little voice pops up in my head that says “the kids probably aren’t going to like this….in fact they’ll probably hate it….maybe I should make them something else to be sure they are getting enough to eat.” Do you ever do this? I seriously contemplated preparing a pot of regular noodles (that I know the kids love) just to hedge my bets.

But after staring at the yellow squash for a few minutes I decided to go for it. Ultimately, I want my family (myself included) to broaden our experience of food and to continue to be open to trying new things. If I relent and make a separate and often nutritionally lacking alternative, I’m essentially sending the message that healthy food is an option instead of the best and only choice.

According to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study; “Children are our future and it just makes common sense that the food they become accustomed to will likely be the food that they prefer for the rest of their lives. In today’s society most children consume foods that will produce serious adult onset diseases down the road, and they do not eat the foods that may offer dramatic protection.”

And in his book “Disease Proof Your Child Dr. Joel Fuhrman states: “As parents, we want what is best for our children. We would never intentionally harm them- in fact, we make sure to get them the best possible care, read to them, play with them, and ensure their safety at home, at school and at play. But when it comes to feeding them, somehow we don’t know what’s best……Most children in developed countries eat less than 2% of their diet from natural plant foods and move into adulthood eating 90% of their caloric intake from dairy products, white flour, sugar and oil.”

So I cooked the squash in the oven, whipped up my favourite tomato sauce on the stove top and lovingly served up heaping bowls of spaghetti squash noodles. And what was the outcome? Well, the older 2 took a few good bites (with slightly pained expressions) and declared that it wasn’t their favourite dish as they scraped the remainder into the wet garbage. And the toddler put a bite in his mouth, made a disgusted face and spit it all back out into his bowl. He even dramatically scraped the yellow bits off of his tongue with his fingers. Not good!

But that isn’t going to stop me. Oh sure we’ll still have regular noodles from time to time but I will keep offering up unique plant-based foods for my family to experience. My hope is that they will learn to love vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains as much as the less healthy alternatives and continue to enjoy nutritionally rich diets throughout their lives.

Oh and I should mention that the kids were mysteriously hungry shortly after dinner so we had a huge bowl of popcorn about an hour later…..you might want to keep that in mind when you prepare this dish the first time ; )

Spaghetti Squash Noodles

spag squash 2

Preheat oven to 375. Cut the stem off of the squash and then slice it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and guts. Brush the insides with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper and place the halves cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 40-50 minutes depending on the size of your squash. You will know that it’s ready if the “noodles” separate easily with a fork. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then scrape the inside of the squash with a fork to produce the noodles.

Place the noodles in a bowl and top with your favourite sauce.

Enjoy! (and keep trying)