Learn more about Nutrition and it’s effect on living a healthy lifestyle. Nutrition is a factor in stress and weight gain.

How your Diet can Kick Pre-Diabetes to the Curb

By Jennifer Keirstead, Holistic Nutritionist 

Fresh vegetables

Fresh vegetables

Along with stress reduction for staying clear of insulin resistance, as discussed in our prior blog by Kirkland Shave, what could be more impactful in preventing Pre-Diabetes than what you eat? Working powerfully together as the one-two punch in regulating blood sugar, lowered stress and a healthy diet are vital to avoid insulin resistance, and ultimately Type 2 Diabetes.

Tips for Preventing Pre-Diabetes with Diet:

  • Focus on a diet full of healthy fats, protein and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs include whole grains complete with all of their fibre and nutrients intact.  Some of my favorites include millet, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat and steel-cut oats.
  • Eliminate processed foods from your diet, such as packaged snacks, refined sugar, baked goods, cookies, candy, fruit juices, soda and aspartame.
  • Avoid hydrogenated oils or trans fatty acids such as margarine and canola oil. Replace these fats with the healthy ones found in avocados, eggs, nuts and seeds, flax meal, plain yogurt, olive and coconut oil.
  • Enjoy organic, nutrient-rich meat and wild fish, such as grass fed beef, lamb, organic chicken and fatty fish such as wild salmon and cod.
  • Limit refined grains. These are characterized as being “white” and void in fibre and nutrients, and include anything with white flour (breads, rolls), white rice, processed cereals and white pasta.

Ideally, the majority of your diet should consist of leafy green vegetables, squashes, eggs, nuts and healthy meats for protein, and good fats, while avoiding sugar and refined or simple carbohydrates.

Did you know?

An increase in trace minerals can help regulate blood sugar levels.  Supplements such as chromium, magnesium and zinc can be found at your local health and vitamin store.  Food sources high in trace minerals include dark leafy-green vegetables such as chard, spinach, kale, collards and sea vegetables.  Instead of regular table salt, choose Celtic sea salt as an excellent source of trace minerals.

King Kale

King KaleBy Jennifer Keirstead, Holistic Nutritionist

Kale seems to be the new, up and coming super food. One reason is it’s loaded with naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. Kale is a great source of vitamin C, beta carotene (vitamin A) and also contains various B-vitamins. It’s loaded with minerals, including bone-loving calcium and magnesium.  It contains plenty of trace minerals and will provide valuable toxin-busting antioxidants to your diet.

This humble green, leafy vegetable can be found in any grocery store and even better news, grows well in the cooler temperatures of fall and even California winters, so you’ll likely see it fresh and perky, waiting for your purchase, at this very moment.

When shopping for kale, it should be brightly colored and quite firm. Take a pass on kale that’s faded in color and wilted. If it looks yellowish in color, it may mean it was harvested too late. Avoid bunches that have bruised leaves, as this means they’re already slowly decomposing. Remember, leafy greens should always be purchased organic since they’re very vulnerable to absorption of toxic sprays.

Consuming dark, leafy greens like kale on a regular basis can help with gentle, daily detoxification.

How to Use It

Cooked Kale

These greens can be used in any soup, stew, or side dish where you would use Swiss chard or spinach. You can also lightly steam the greens and add a little fresh lemon and sea salt – yum!

Salads
Slice the green leaves as thinly as possible to create the best texture. Kale by nature, is a tough vegetable. Thin slicing makes it easier to consume raw.

Commercial Kale Chips
These chips you increasingly see in the stores are dehydrated at very low temperatures, so they are qualified as a raw food. They make a great snack for adults and kids!

Homemade Kale Chips
Why not make your own? Baked kale chips are quick and easy. Bake only as much as you plan to eat in a sitting as these chips lose their crunch in a few hours. Google “kale chips” and you’ll find plenty of recipes to choose from.

Smoothies
Green leafy vegetables make an excellent addition to your favorite smoothie. Start off by adding just one or two leaves and see if you even notice it. A small handful of kale leaves with the stems removed (or not) boosts the nutrition of any smoothie. Try our Green Goddess Smoothie after your next workout.

Enjoy your kale!

How is Sprouted Grain Bread Different?

By Jennifer Keirstead, Holistic Nutritionist

Now you can Have Your Bread and Eat it Too

Sprouted Grains

Sprouted grain bread is becoming increasingly mainstream, and for good reason.

Sprouting is the practice of germinating seeds. This process makes the seeds come to life, as they literally begin to grow little shoots, making their nutrients more digestible.

Whole grains naturally contain valuable vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, and phytochemicals. When grains are sprouted, it makes these valuable nutrients more bio-available; offering more absorbable nutrients.

A wise teacher once told me, “You are what you absorb, not what you eat.”

Dr. Mary Enig explains how sprouted grain breads contain enzymes to effectively break down gluten and other difficult-to-digest wheat components. She notes, that “if you’re diabetic, sprouted breads have a lower glycemic index and won’t cause post-meal blood-sugar levels or blood-fat counts to spike upwards.” Enig also points out that if you’re reducing calories, sprouted wheat breads provide ounce-for-ounce, more protein and nutrition than many pre-packaged, highly-processed “diet foods.”

Sprouted grain differs from other whole grains in 3 important ways:

  1. Sprouting activates live enzymes;
  2. Sprouting increases vitamin content;
  3. Sprouting neutralizes anti-nutrients like phytic acid, which bind up minerals, preventing your ability to fully absorb them.


When examining the nutrient density of sprouted wheat to un-sprouted wheat on a calorie-per-calorie basis, you’ll find that sprouted wheat contains four times the amount of niacin and nearly twice the amount of vitamin B6 and folate compared to un-sprouted wheat. It also contains more protein and fewer starches than non-sprouted grain, making it more suitable for those suffering from blood sugar issues.

As you may already know, we love Sprouted Manna bread at Mountain Trek! Try one of the sprouted grain breakfasts we offer our guests.

 

The Discomfort of too much “Comfort” Food

Getting a Handle on Emotional Eating

The holiday season is here, and eating healthy can be hard when you are surrounded by temptation. The holidays can also be stressful and trigger psychological reasons to munch, even though we’re not hungry. Whether it’s due to loneliness, or to distract from an issue brewing in our life, it’s tempting to snack or over-eat to fill a void that isn’t in our stomach.Donut

We equate a lot of emotion and nostalgia with food, from associations formed in childhood and clever advertising that equates eating with happiness. But we’re certainly not happy when we gain weight and become burdened by extra pounds, elevated cholesterol, heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes.

Recognizing the triggers that compel you to snack is an empowering eye- opener.  Observe yourself to become aware of your eating habits, and with each mouthful, understand exactly why you are eating, and if you’re really hungry or not.

Eating in response to emotions or certain situations can be a habit well ingrained since childhood. But you can break that habit.  Here’s how:

  • Commit to a daily log of everything you eat, and when. Include a column for writing the reason you’re eating at that time. Is it because you’re hungry or something else?
  • Recognize your eating patterns, and become aware of emotional issues that are “eating you” and trigger you to over-eat.
  • Consider therapies such as counseling, life coaching, or hypnotherapy to address unresolved emotional patterns, and meet with a Nutritionist to establish new food choices.
  • Catch your negative food choices (like reaching for the chips) and choose another action.  Distract your mind by replacing the snack with another activity. Fill up with water or a cup of tea, write in your journal, do something physical like a walk, stretch- you get the idea.  Set new habits in motion, which make you feel better about yourself and motivate you to keep at it!
  • Keep only healthy foods in your kitchen, and stop buying junky snack food.  If you find yourself craving something sweet in the evening, try chamomile tea with honey or natural sweetener, or a few dates instead of chocolate to reward yourself.
  • Relieve stress in other ways besides eating.  You know, that e-word (exercise!), meditation or by doing something creative.
  • Incorporate new routines and activities in your life to reduce boredom, and decrease your “trigger” times. Instead of watching TV, talk to a friend, do housework or a project you’ve put off for too long.

Enjoy the holiday season, knowing your waistline doesn’t have to expand!

Nutrition Tips for Beating the Winter Blues

Part 1 of Blog Series, “Combating Seasonal Affective Disorder” 

By Jennifer Keirstead, Holistic Nutritionist 

Do you get the winter blues, and eat more sugar and junk food than you care to admit?

The weather and season affects our mood and health in profound ways. The lack of sunlight affects our serotonin and melatonin levels, and disrupts our circadian rhythm – the body’s internal clock for sleeping based on exposure to light.

Seasonal Affective Disorder “SAD” is characterized by the onset of depression at certain times of year. Even if you don’t develop all the clinical symptoms of SAD, the most cheerful among us can still feel these seasonal effects.  From low energy, irritability, depression, and cravings for carbohydrates and sweets, the symptoms of SAD can be difficult to manage.

From a Nutritional standpoint, there’s a lot you can incorporate in your diet alone to help your body adapt to the darker days and combat SAD:  winter vegetables

  • Omega 3 fatty acids from food and/or supplement capsules. Dietary sources include hemp seeds and oil, flax meal and oil, wild fish, sesame seeds, walnuts and chia seeds. These fats have a powerful role in helping cells take up essential hormones, including those involved in mood regulation. Having enough Omega 3 in your diet helps prevent depression, heart disease, inflammation, and strengthens the immune system.
  • Eggs from free-range chickens are packed full of choline, which has been shown to regulate mood and energy levels.
  • Sprouted, whole grain breads are easier on the digestive tract than regular wheat bread, and is lower in sugar. This helps prevent your levels of blood sugar from crashing, and will helps maintain our energy and ultimately our mood.
  • Protein is essential for energy and stamina, and helps your brain produce dopamine, norepinephrine, and other neurochemicals that keep you calm yet alert.
  • Fresh, raw vegetables, ideally organic, which are packed full of vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
  • Nutritional supplements such as super greens, Vitamin D and all the B’s are essential to keep your immune system revved up, and have more energy and vitality.

What should you skip in your diet to prevent the winter blues?

Sugar. We know, this isn’t as easy as it sounds but give it a try.  Next time you are feeling particularly low, pass on the cookies and indulge in a serving of sashimi instead. 

Eat well this winter to improve your mood and well being!

Are Protein Bars Really a Health Food?

Are protein bars healthy for you?

By Jennifer Keirstead, Holistic Nutritionist  

Investigating “Healthy” Meal Replacements in a Wrapper  

It seems that in today's fast-paced world, we’ve developed the need for quick snacks and meal replacements. Protein bars saturated the market in the 80’s and have since been widely accepted as a healthy snack, or a quick meal on-the-go. While these bars are indeed a quick and easy source of, "fast food", they certainly aren’t a replacement for a healthful meal; nor do most of them substitute as a whole foods snack.  Finding a protein bar that can actually stand up to a good quality meal; loaded with vitamins, minerals and fibre, is pretty much impossible. This is because most protein bars are made from processed ingredients, preservatives and flavour enhancers. In fact, most protein bars aren’t much better for you than that Hersey’s chocolate bar, and some brands actually contain more sugar than a candy bar!  This is certainly a red flag, as after some label reading, I found some protein bars to contain upwards of 300 calories per serving. Most health bars and even protein bars also contain trans fats, simple carbs and processed sugars. Here are some common ingredients found in so called, “healthy” protein bars:

  • Genetically modified soy protein;
  • Poor quality vegetable oils such as high fructose corn syrup, canola oil, peanut oil or palm kernel oil;
  • White, processed grain;
  • Refined sugar;
  • Refined salt.

As an alternative, I suggest making protein bars at home. When you make things yourself, you have control over the ingredients going into your body. Here’s one of my favorite recipes.

Healthy Protein Bars Recipe

Home-made Protein Bars:

 Ingredients

  • ½ c.  raw almonds, slivered
  • ½ c.  raw pecans
  • ¼ c.  raw hazelnuts, ground up into a flour (I use my coffee grinder)
  • ¼ c.  unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ¼ c.  pure almond butter
  • ¼ c.  virgin coconut oil (check your local health food store)
  • 1 tsp.  pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp.  raw honey
  • ¼ tsp.  sea salt
  • ¼ c.  dried, unsweetened cranberries
  • ¼ c.  dried, unsweetened apricots
  • sprinkle of hemp seeds (on top)

Method 

  1. On a cookie sheet, lightly toast nuts and shredded coconut until just golden brown. *You may need to shake the tray once or twice to make sure they cook evenly.
  2. Once toasted, pour mixture into a food processor and pulse until nuts are chopped and mixture becomes coarsely ground.
  3. In a small pot, melt coconut oil and almond butter on medium-low, via stovetop for about 20 seconds. Remove and stir until smooth.
  4. Next, add vanilla extract, honey and sea salt. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Fold in nut mixture and hazelnut flour, until mixed thoroughly.
  6. Fold in cranberries and apricots.
  7. Press mixture into a coconut oil-greased, 8 x 4 glass loaf pan and sprinkle with hemp seeds.
  8. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes, or until firm.
  9. Cut “loaf” width wise, as this should make 6 hearty – sized protein bars.
  10. Store bars in refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap.

Enjoy!  These make an excellent snack to enjoy through-out the week. Just remember to try and stay away from not-so-healthy protein bars, thinking they all make healthful snacks, or even worse, meal replacements. After all, one of my favorite Food Rules by Michael Pollan is:  “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

To find more great recipes and to connect with Jennifer and ask questions about nutrition, download Mountain Trek’s Guide in your Pocket App for iPhone.

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Healthy Workday Lunch Ideas

By Jennifer Keirstead, Holistic Nutritionist 

Do you make your workday lunch, or buy one?

That little thing called lunch can actually be holding you back from meeting your goals to eat better. We know, it’s not always easy to eat a healthy lunch. Sometimes, you might not have the energy in the morning to pack something for later. Some days, you can’t even leave your desk. So, maybe you just snack on whatever’s lurking about the staff room, or hidden in your desk drawers. Other days, the temptation of quick and easy fast food overcomes you.

First off, a mid-afternoon break is critical to maintaining mental sharpness. When blood sugar starts to plummet, eating nutrient dense foods can help improve mood and mental performance. When we skip meals, we tend to binge to overcompensate at some point in our day.

Help keep blood sugar levels stable by eating a healthy lunch!

Here’s the idea.

Plan Ahead. Taking lunch to work means you have more control over the ingredients in your meal. Always make each dinner with the next day’s lunch in mind! Cook extra grains in the evening, like quinoa or brown rice. Then, combine with veggies, (raw, roasted or steamed), nuts, beans or legumes and make to-go salad bowls. You can also take homemade soups to work with you in a stainless steel thermos. Even prepare a few extra hard-boiled eggs to take as instant, protein-rich salad toppers.

A balanced meal is important any time of day, but is especially key when trying to avoid mid-afternoon blood sugar, burn-out. Make sure your lunch includes plenty of protein and fiber. These components will help to keep you feeling full and going strong throughout your busy day.

Try whipping up a few containers of leftovers on Sunday night. This way you’ll have a couple of lunches prepared for the early part of your work week. Grains and beans keep well in the fridge. Then, all you have to add are lots of greens, nuts or seeds and BAM, you’ve got real fast-food. Thinking ahead saves time and sets you up for success.

A few things to always have on hand at the office:

  • A bottle of homemade salad dressing. Make in a glass jar with lid. Keep in work fridge or dark, cool cupboard.
  • A lemon or lime to squeeze into drinks. Tea is the obvious one here, but it’s also great for water bottles. Citrus also brightens up leftovers. If your soup or pasta has lost a bit of freshness, adding a little lemon can go a long way. Or use to dress a salad. You can simply keep olive oil on hand, then fresh lemon juice is all you need.
  • Your favorite salad bowl and mug. Having a few favorite things from home, tends to make eating healthy at the office more appealing.

Last but not least, don’t be a Desk-Diner. You can bring the most healthful lunch to work but if you’re eating at your desk, it takes the focus away from your food. Instead, you’re sending emails, answering the phone, shuffling paper — the perfect recipe for overeating. So get up. Stretch your legs. Eat outside. Join co-workers in the staff room and eat with others. Engage in your eating.

You Are What You Absorb

Business Woman Breakfast

By Jennifer Keirstead, Holistic Nutritionist  

Are you speed-eating, and getting a “food hangover”?

Given that we rarely chew our food properly these days, you might say that chewing is somewhat of a lost art.  In this fast paced world of rushing here and there, we are literally shoving food down our throats, and inhaling our meals as if we’re not even conscious of what we’re doing.  We eat in our cars, on the subway, and while walking down the busy sidewalk.  I’ve even caught myself eating over the kitchen sink.

We’re hearing more about the “slow food movement”, but still too often, we’re finding ourselves with no time to even slow down to eat, and here’s the problem: with this “speed-eating”, comes a lost opportunity for optimal health and well-being.  This is why . . .

Many of us are quite familiar with eating our foods so fast, that we’re left burping, bloated and with what I often refer to as a “food hangover”.  Digestion is directly linked to the health of our cells; therefore chewing is a very basic way to improve our overall health.

The more we chew our food, the less work we leave for the rest of our digestive organs; including the stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder and all 27 feet of intestines.

Digestion begins in the mouth.  This is because our saliva produces the enzyme amylase, which begins the digestion of carbohydrates.  Food must be mixed and chewed very well in order to release its full potential of nutritional value.  As a bonus, you may also notice that the more you chew your food, the better it tastes, as more nutrients are released this way.  You’re always hearing, “you are what you eat” but looking a little closer we see that, “you are what you absorb.”  You can be eating the most nutritious foods in the world but if you’re not absorbing the nutrients, they’re of very little value.

Here’s the thing; the art of chewing doesn’t allow for modern-day habits such as eating on the run or grabbing a quick bite.  To chew properly, one must sit, relax and enjoy their food. However, this doesn’t mean that sitting in front of the TV is the best option either.  We want to engage in what I like to call “conscience eating”; almost like in our yoga practice.  We want to be focused on the food on our plate, what it tastes like, thoroughly chewing and even putting our fork down in between each bite.  Dining in the company of family and friends is encouraged because eating with others often encourages conversation, which slows down our eating; allowing us to chew.

The key is to be as relaxed as possible when we’re eating.  A relaxed mind equals a relaxed digestive system.  The act of chewing is actually relaxing in itself. So, we could actually say that digestion begins in the brain!

Chewing helps prevent the heavy feeling that sometimes follows a meal.  It also helps in the management of a healthy weight by slowing down the eating process, allowing the body to signal the brain when it’s full.  So even though it might take you a little longer to eat, understand that many of us eat much too fast and might pay the price with our health down the road.

Give it a try and chew your food!  After all, “your stomach doesn’t have teeth.”

Free (to) Range

Free Range EggsBy Jennifer Keirstead, Holistic Nutritionist at Mountain Trek

We all love eggs but did you know that not all eggs are created equal?

You’ve probably heard of “free range” before.  According to Wikipedia, “free range is a method of farming where animals are permitted to freely roam about. This principle allows the animals as much freedom as possible to live in a reasonably natural way.

PETA claims that, “Many animal products labeled free range do allow their livestock access to outdoor areas, but here’s the catch; there’s no provision for how long they spend or how much room they must have outside.” Often times criteria such as environmental quality, size of area, number of animals or space per animal, is not exactly accounted for. It has also been revealed that outdoor conditions can be extremely unsuitable for the animals due to the lack of trees and shade, grass and other vegetation.

Here’s the thing; chickens, like most other birds, are omnivores who love to graze in grasses, forage for worms, grubs and insects and dig for micro flora found in soil. These nutrients are more bio-available than those found in corn and most supplements that commercially-raised chickens are being fed. Chickens will eat grain and pellets but it certainly isn’t their ideal food. The exposure to natural light, as well as the opportunity to stretch their legs and gain predatory stimulation can’t be underestimated for their mental and physical health and well being.

Their living situation has a direct effect on the eggs they produce. Without a doubt, a low stress lifestyle and natural diet contribute to eggs with higher nutrient value, Many notice that some yolks are brightly colored yellow (almost orange), indicating an egg which is loaded with fat-soluble, antioxidant nutrients. Expect to find the more vivid colored yolks in the spring when the grass and bugs are plentiful. Also, bear in mind, variations will be seen due to differences in breed and age of chickens, their exact diet and the season.

Free Range HensSally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions, explains that,

“Eggs provide all eight essential protein building amino acids. A large whole, fresh egg offers about six to seven grams of protein and five grams of (healthy) fat. One egg serves up the valuable vitamins A, K, E, D, B-complex and minerals iron, phosphorus, potassium and calcium; as well as choline, a fatty substance found in every living cell and is a major component of our brain.”

Fallon expresses that by, “Subjecting chickens to a strictly vegetarian diet prevents them from achieving their ideal health by denying them the nutrients found through scavenging around the farm, barnyard and pasture. Compared to eggs from conventionally raised, caged hens; eggs produced by free-roaming, pasture-pecking hens, have far more omega-3 fatty acids and all other nutrients.”

So she advises getting “eggs from girls who have true access to the great out of doors.”

In more and more communities, local farmers and even your friendly neighbors are raising free-to-range, happy, healthy chickens. This is good news for the egg-lover. This way, we get to see with our own eyes, hens roaming free in environments in which they favor.

If you’re unable to buy eggs from a local farm or neighbor, the S.P.C.A. has a certified and trusted label; meaning the food products bearing this stamp have been inspected and certified to Canadian S.P.C.A. developed farm animal welfare standards. Battery cages and gestation crates are not allowed under this certified program. The program runs on “5 Freedoms,” which includes, “Freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury and disease, freedom from distress and freedom to express behaviors that promote well-being.”

It seems like a win-win to me. Free-to-range chickens are happily left to frolic and forage and therefore, we get nutrient dense eggs full of the nutritional components Mother Nature intended.

Jennifer Keirstead, RHN