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

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

Spring Cleaning For Your Body

It’s not just your home that can use some spring cleaning. There are some paths to health that use the natural rhythms of the seasons to assist the body’s own natural cleansing systems. For instance, in traditional Chinese medicine, each season is associated with a different organ, and spring is the season of the liver.  Other health systems teach that certain foods or plants assist in this process of cleansing the body.

For example, good liver cleansing foods are beets, dandelion greens, springtime greens and asparagus (which are in season in spring). Reducing fatty foods, meats, alcohol and coffee also support liver cleansing. Springtime is considered a transition season; our bodies wish to shed the weight we naturally accumulate over the winter. Eating fresh greens and reducing heavier foods is good advice at any time, and if it’s good for the liver, that’s even better!

Calorie Counting – why it’s so inaccurate

Joanne Holden of the USDA’s Nutrient Data Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., reported to the Chicago Tribune that the USDA has the world’s largest database with information on 100 nutrients for over 7500 foods.  The lab’s main purpose is to manage databases, including the USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, the “gold standard” for nutritionists and the food industry.   The USDA database of 100 nutrients is remarkably small compared to the thousands of nutrients, like antioxidants and phytochemicals, that we now know exist.

The sources of calorie counting

The caloric value of a food or a food component may be determined by measuring the heat of combustion of the food in a bomb calorimeter and then multiplying the heat of combustion by correction factors for incomplete digestion and incomplete oxidation of the food in the body. In about 1900, Wilbur Olin Atwater and his associates at the Connecticut (Storrs) Agriculture Experiment Station, used this approach to determine the caloric values of a number of food components (i.e., the protein, fat, and carbohydrate isolated from various foods). They determined factors appropriate for individual foods or groups of foods, and they proposed the general caloric values of 4, 9 and 4 kcal per gram of dietary protein, fat, and carbohydrate respectively for application to the mixed American diet.

The conversion factors determined by Atwater and his associates (from 1900) remain in use today, and caloric values of foods are calculated using these factors. The caloric values reported in food composition tables are commonly estimated by first determining the approximate composition of each food (i.e., the water, protein, fat, carbohydrate, and ash contents) and then by multiplication of the amount of each energy-yielding component by the appropriate conversion factor.

The correction factors for caloric values do not account for variation of individual absorption, for the influences of an individuals intestinal bacteria on absorption (these change depending on history of travel, antibiotics and present diet), for variation in nutrient density of today’s foods compared to foods from those used in the Atwater research of 1900, for the exclusion of the several thousand nutrients that were unknown in 1900 but that were inadvertently included in the absorbable calories formula and really should not have been.

Consider that the formula for determining calories in food was determined in 1900. Nutrition density of foods was higher in 1900, when food was certainly less processed, more organic and more local (the USDA itself reported in 1999 that the nutrient densities of foods in America was half that of the 1950’s).  The number of known nutrients to science in 1900 was fewer than 16 (current science accepts several thousand nutrients and the USDA lab in Maryland is slowly increasing its nutrient database to just over 100).  Recent metabolic studies and observations, largely supported by and stimulated by blood sugar measurements within the world’s diabetic population, show great variation in how humans absorb food energy, or calories.  These combined factors lead to questioning how accurate, or more appropriately, how inaccurate the common calorie counts of food are.

Moreover, both meal timing and meal composition are steadily gaining in acceptance and validity in helping determine how efficiently (or inefficiently) calories are used by the body.  Ultimately, the validity and usefulness of calorie counts is questionable and certainly individual when compared to other lifestyle factors.

Know Your Vices: Caffeine

loving coffeeEveryone’s favorite breakfast beverage is suspect.Whether it’s coffee or tea, most North Americans are drinking a caffeinated bevy in the morning and that could make trouble for people who have a hard time losing weight. This is a continuation in a blog series on vices where we talked about alcohol last month.

The caffeine link to weight gain was first identified in the late 1990’s when Diabetes Education Centers reported seeing clients having unexplained and irregular blood sugars. 30% of people were more susceptible to weight gain than the rest of the population by the effects of caffeine consumption. It is unclear whether or not the reported effects of caffeine are due solely to the caffeine, or to a combination of other compounds that are ALWAYS found with caffeine. This means, for some people, even taking a decaffeinated beverage still results in weight-gain because although the caffeine is removed, other compounds are not. A third of the population more sensitive to caffeine consumption and weight gain, suffer one or more of the following: hypoglycemia, food cravings, sweet cravings, insulin resistance and depression. These all potentially set up several feedback loops that are detrimental to weight loss.

Love lots of coffee Hypoglycemia from the initial cortisol (aging hormone) release creates food cravings to combat low blood sugar. Many people who start the day with coffee consume more food in the afternoon as a rebound effect. This creates a dis-proportionate consumption of calories and a concomitant insulin response that moves energy into fat storage. Regardless of when you consume your caffeine, however, if you are susceptible to hypoglycemia you may find yourself consuming a disproportionate amount of your calories at odd time as opposed to spreading your food out across the day in order to level your blood sugars and your insulin responses. If consuming a caffeinated beverage in the morning results in feelings of satiety and results in you not having an adequate breakfast, then you are enforcing a stress response making your next meal absorbed and stored as fat at a more efficient level (known as Sumo Syndrome).

Studies show that caffeine contributes to insulin resistance thus making it ineffective at moving sugars from your blood into your cells; this resistance is a precursor to diabetes. There is a link to increased fat storage as a result of your cells not receiving timely sugars from the blood. Your built-in defense mechanism is to store whatever energy your cells can instead of burning the energy. Insulin resistance has multiple undesirable effects related to metabolism like weight gain and poor health. Insulin resistance is quite common in adults who are overweight. Since caffeine consumption will exacerbate this metabolic disorder further, if you are trying to lose weight you should monitor yourself for your reaction to caffeine.

If consuming caffeine throughout your days is a consistent pattern then you are constantly running your body on an elevated level of cortisol. For some people, this leads to another level of food cravings, particularly for carbohydrates and sweets. As well, constant elevations of cortisol cause your body to destroy serotonin, thereby destroying dopamine, which is the neurotransmitter that allows you to feel good. Not only does this move more people into depressed moods, it also sets up the second level of food cravings; the cravings for serotonin-producing foods. Serotonin-producing foods are carbohydrates and sweets. So if you’re wondering why you snacked on cookies in the afternoon, it could have something to do with that coffee you drank with breakfast. Usually the more caffeine consumed, the more your body urges you to eat.

About one third of human beings have one or more of the above listed mechanisms as part of our genetics and lifestyle. And like anything, repeated exposure for those who are more susceptible means it is hard to lose any belly fat created by these mechanisms. The best advice is to enjoy your cup or two of caffeine daily and get your healthy eating patterns in place. If after that you still aren’t reaching your goals, then perhaps it’s time to remove the caffeine and see if you are one of the more sensitive beings to caffeine (like me).

Know Your Vices: Alcohol

beerWe’re not saying not to indulge, but we are recommending that you get to know your vices a bit better in order to make good decisions about when you do decide to have a drink. How alcohol affects weight gain or weight loss depends on genetics, diet, gender, potential ‘sensitivity’ to it and your habits.  No single food item affects humans in so many varying and differing ways.

All alcoholic beverages contain calories, most of which come from the alcohol, regardless of whether the beverage is wine, spirits or beer. Your body processes alcohol first, before fat, protein, or carbs. Alcohol is not a carbohydrate but it does contribute to weight gain by slowing down the burning of fat. When you drink alcohol, it’s broken down into acetate (basically vinegar), which the body will burn before any other calorie you’ve consumed or stored, including fat or even sugar.  Drinking alcohol raises acetate levels 2.5 times, and this sharp rise is what appears to stop fat metabolism.

Fat metabolism is called lipid oxidation and alcohol temporarily inhibits lipid oxidation making it harder for your body to burn fat that’s already there. Consuming higher fat foods like cheese or other high-calorie snacks while drinking, exacerbates the storage of fat. They become the last thing to be metabolized by the liver after the acetate and carbohydrates.

red wine tasting manFacts About Alcohol:

Hard liquor is distilled and thus contains no carbohydrates. The current “Zero Carb” campaign for vodka and whiskey is a gimmick.

When grapes are made into wine, most of the fruit sugars (carbs) convert to alcohol.  A 5-ounce glass of wine supplies roughly the same amount of alcohol and number of calories as a 12-ounce light beer or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits.

Low-carb beers are simply the old light beers with a new label and ad campaign. The old Miller Lite has 96 calories and 3.2 grams of carbs in 12 ounces. The “low-carb” Michelob Ultra has 96 calories and 2.6 grams of carbs. Coors Lite has 102 calories and 5 grams of carbs. The differences are tiny—hardly worth mentioning. In contrast, a regular beer has 13 grams of carbs and 150 calories.

The Bottom Line

Beer, wine, and liquor have calories because alcohol has calories—not because of carbs. The alcohol is used to produce acetate for energy and thus interferes with burning fat.  This changes in intensity for many reasons, including genetics, age, and what foods are being eaten with the alcohol.  Because the beverage affects body weight from deeper metabolic processes, the low-carb beers and wine or carb-free spirits are simply marketing gimmicks.

Bottoms Up!

Kirk’s Detox Tips: Spring Clean Your Body

Detoxing is the body’s way of spring cleaning. With winter well behind us, the sun warming our bodies and fresh food growing, the planet and our bodies are in line for renewal. The following are tips for supporting toxin release and making the most of a cleanse or just a great way to invigorate your body.

Spring & Summer Packing List for Mountain Trek

Deep Breathing

This helps release built up CO2 and waste products. A simple and effective way to practice deep breathing is through cardio focused exercise like hiking or biking and doing yoga.

Liver Cleanse

Liver Cleansing

Cleansing is all about detoxifying our bodies with special focus on the liver and fat soluble toxic chemicals. By upping our intake of bitter green leafy veggies like mustard greens, collard greens and kale. Cleansing is also supported by taking Vitamin E supplements and minimizing or eliminating alcohol.

Kidney Support

Kidney Support

Fluids are tremendously important for detox. Offering the kidney support for cleansing water soluble chemicals can easily be done by consuming 10×8 oz. glasses of filtered water per day (minimum) as well as organic unsweetened cranberry juice which helps emulsify fats and is a powerful antioxidant.

Lymphatic Drainage

Lymphatic Drainage

We can do things to help boost our immunity and shuttle fluids and fats through the lymphatic system. Remove bio waste products and support weight loss through massage, yoga, and dry brushing the skin.



Sweating is a natural way to release toxins through the skin and can be accomplished by intense exercise, infra red sauna and relaxing soaks in mineral rich hot springs like Ainsworth Hot Springs located down the road from our main lodge!

Healthy Bowel Movements

Healthy Bowel Movements

Releasing waste is essential. Support this process by drinking lots of water, digesting fiber rich foods, and maintaining intestinal flora with probiotics.

By employing these simple practices on a regular basis you’ll quickly discover a shift in your overall health and feel your energy and vitality return.


Kick Your Cravings to the Curb

Cravings for TreatsCravings. We all get them. Those insidious little visits from our brains to our stomachs that beg for… chips!  Or chocolate! Or cheese and some of those tasty crackers that I know are in the cupboard. And those cravings can be responsible for a lot of the sugar and empty calories we consume throughout the day. They’re persistent when they come sneaking around demanding to be satisfied, but they can be beaten!
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Trim & Slim

Sugar has been directly linked to weight gain for both men and women. It is also the hidden culprit behind cravings. As we consciously change our diets and lessen the amount of sugars we consume, cravings too will subside.


One of the often overlooked causes of anxiety, panic attacks, and mood problems is imbalanced blood sugar. As sugar levels swing high and low, the body blasts out adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol to balance blood sugar levels so the brain doesn’t starve of glucose. By balancing sugars levels, in this case by limiting the amount we consume, adrenal hormones adrenalin and cortisol levels don’t bounce us all over the map. This also allows the adrenals to rest and lessens anxiety due to high levels of adrenaline circulating the body.

Panic attacks and anxiety are very common especially when blood glucose (sugar) levels are low, since it’s the adrenaline and cortisol that raise levels to safe levels. As we eliminate sugar from our diets, we eliminate the spikes of adrenaline and cortisol that counter the sugar crash.


Sugar comes in the obvious form of refined sugar and hidden as fructose in many prepared foods and as starch in carbs like potatoes, pasta and bread. Even high carb grains and legumes possess starches that break down to sugar. Sugar is present in everything from ketchup (each tbsp packs about 1 tsp of sugar or 2 cubes worth) to tomato soup (the whole can contains the equivalent of 7.5 tsp or 15 cubes worth)  and of course muffins (which pack on average, 10 tsp or 20 cubes worth). It’s important to read labels and educate yourself about where you’re getting your sugar. Maybe you’re not a junk food person, but maybe you’re picking up sugar from other sources you didn’t realize contained it.

You can find out more about sugar consumption and nutritional advice from Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD in her article Nutrition Guidelines: Are You Eating Too Much Sugar?

Mountain Trek SaladIt takes a little bit of commitment and some preparedness to do battle with sugar and your cravings but they can be beaten. So here are a few tips to keep you on the road to healthy eating and kick those cravings to the curb once and for all.

Replace your cravings with healthier food. Gotta have a snack? Grab some baby carrots or an apple, maybe some strawberries. Fruits and veggies are low in fat and generally lower in calories than meat and junk food.

When you feel a craving coming on between meals, wait 10 minutes. Most cravings last only a few minutes and then fade.

Replace your craving with an activity to occupy your mind. We of course recommend a hike but take the dog for a walk, dig in the garden or just get out of the house and run some errands.

Just don’t buy that stuff! Don’t bring junk food or other sugary foods into your home. If you don’t have quick access to it, it’s likely you won’t eat it.

Read the label. Educate yourself about the food you’re consuming and what it contains. You’ll be surprised what you find!

Use alternative sweeteners. When cooking, baking or making coffee, replace refined sugar with natural sweeteners like agave syrup, maple syrup or honey.