3 Tips for a Healthy Return to the Classroom or Office

It’s hard to believe that September is around the corner … again. This year, we are faced with many unknowns and perhaps a higher level of stress as back-to school, and for many, back-to-the-office is happening in the face of pandemic uncertainties.

Whether or not we are in the face of a pandemic with seemingly never-ending variants, it’s critical to take control of what we can to stay healthy and support our immune system. Nutrition – both food and supplements – play a big role in both, so this month, I am sharing links to 3 previously written blogs that I hope you will find useful to help put your best health-boosting foot forward as so many of us step back into the classroom and office.

 

#1 – Grab & Go Breakfasts

In this blog, I share 5 yummy recipes for grab-and-go breakfasts and a short discussion on the ‘eat or skip breakfast’ debate.

#2 – Avoid Lunch Bag Let-Down

In this blog, I share some ideas for healthy lunch packing … and what can make the difference between lunch-bag-happiness and lunch-bag-letdown!

#3 – Supporting our Immune Systems

Supporting our immunity is key to overall health – especially in the face of a pandemic. In this blog, I share 10 simple things that you can do to support and build your immunity.

8 Tips for a Healthy and Tasty BBQ Season

BBQ season is finally here! One of my favourite summer time activities is to have an entire main course cooking on the grill while I enjoy my backyard…and the dinner guests who are joining me!

Before Sparking Up, Read This!

Barbecuing foods – meat in particular (I’ll be using the word meat as a catch-all to include red meat, pork, poultry, and fish) – leads to the formation of  two compounds: heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These compounds have been shown to cause tumours in animals and some sources state that they may also increase the risk of certain cancers (breast, colon, stomach, and prostate) in humans. That’s the not-so-good news. The good news is that in this month’s article, I’m sharing some tips that will limit/prevent the formation of HCAs and PAHs so that you can enjoy healthy and delicious summer-time cooking! So without further ado, here they are!

# 1 – Parboil before you grill

Parboiling is simply boiling (or steaming)  meats until they are partially cooked. Parboiling before grilling is great for chicken, sausages, and ribs. Since the meat will be partially cooked before you grill it, it needs less time on the grill. The less time meats are grilled, the less time there is for the formation of HCAs and PAHs. To parboil meat (again, think chicken, sausages, and ribs – I’ve never parboiled steak – can’t imagine it would be good!), simply place the meat in a large pot of boiling water and cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove with tongs, season as desired, then grill. Other benefits of parboiling include more tender meat and avoiding under-cooked BBQ chicken or pork.

#2 – Keep the pieces of meat that you’re grilling small

Smaller pieces of meat need shorter grilling times. Buy smaller cuts of meat and/or cut meat into small pieces, including small cubes for shish-kebabs and skewers. I bet that most of you are familiar with a couple of common guidelines when it comes to how much meat you should eat at mealtimes. One of these is that the piece of meat should be about the size of a deck of cards; the other is that it should be about the size of the palm of your hand. Right about now, I bet the meat-lovers reading this are running around the house looking for a deck of cards so they can put it in the palm of their hand to see which one is bigger! A guideline that I follow is that meat makes up no more than  ¼ of my meal/plate, with the rest being veggies, as in the photo below. Veggies are full of powerful cancer-fighting vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that can also help to ‘neutralize’ the potential negative health effects of HCAs and PAHs from grilled meats. Bonus! Eat your veggies…and strive for many different colours on your plate!

grilled dinner

 

#3 – Reduce the drippings

Drippings can hit the flames and cause grilling flare-ups that will char the meat. You can reduce drippings and flare-ups by:

  • Trimming excess fat and skin from meats before grilling
  • Using tongs, grilling baskets, or other utensils that will not pierce the meat when you are flipping/turning it over
  • Parboiling also helps to reduce the fat (especially for ribs and sausages)
  • If flare-ups do happen, have a spray bottle filled with water on hand to get them under control

#4 – Flip the meat frequentlygrilled salmon burgers

Flipping the meat frequently helps to avoid over-cooking and charring.

#5 – Use lower temperatures

Cooking temperature has been identified as the most important contributor to the formation of HCAs and PAHs. Using lower temperature cooking has been shown to decrease the formation of these compounds.

#6 – Marinate

Marinating meats for at least 30 minutes before grilling has been shown to significantly reduce the amount of HCAs and PAHs created during grilling.

marinating chickenIf you Google “marinade for _____” (fill in the blank with your favourite meat), you’ll get loads of options. I usually don’t follow recipes to make marinades; I just wing it by mixing together something savory (e.g. tamari sauce), something acidic (e.g. fresh lemon juice or some type of cooking vinegar), something sweet (e.g. a splash of honey or maple syrup), a bit of oil (usually olive, or sesame oil) and something aromatic (garlic, fresh and/or dried herbs, and spices).

I’m sharing a few very basic marinade recipes at the end of this article. You can increase or decrease the amounts proportionately so that you have enough for the amount of meat you’ll be grilling. Generally, you will need half a cup of marinade for every pound of meat. The meat doesn’t have to be completely submerged in the marinade; just make sure that you turn it frequently so that all sides of it get a good chance to get coated and soaked. My preference is to use a glass container to marinate foods.  I encourage you to be creative and add whatever you like to these marinades, and/or invent your own unique combination. 

#7 – Cut off the burnt bits

If despite your best efforts, there are charred or burnt bits on your grilled meat, cut them off before eating.

Think outside the (BBQ) box

When we think of grilling, we often just think of meat. Grilled veggies are amazing (and as an added bonus, they are less of a risk regarding HCAs and PAHs). You can grill just about any veggie, or combination of veggies, for a wonderful side dish – and some grilled veggies make great meat substitutes, like my Portabello Mushroom Cap Burgers. My go-to method for grilling veggies is to toss them in a few TBSPs of olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkle of sea salt before putting them on the grill. Sometimes I toss in some crumbled sheep feta when the veggies are still warm (when they’re grilled and have been taken out of the grilling basket of course!). Mmmm! How many different kind of veggies can you find in this batch of grilled veggies I made? :o)

grilled veggies

Here is one more suggestion when it comes to grilling: avoid wrapping things in aluminum foil to cook them on the grill (or any other way for that matter). Cooking in aluminum foil is going to add aluminum to your food, and although current research is inconclusive, some suggest there is a link between the accumulation of aluminum in the body (through any means) and an increase in certain diseases, in particular, Alzheimer’s Disease. When it comes to my health, I prefer to error on the side of caution and take control of what I can, so I choose to avoid using aluminum foil when it comes to any kind of cooking.

And finally, here are three basic marinade ideas to get your creative (and digestive) juices flowing! The instructions for all three of these marinades are the same – simply put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until they are well blended. Add the chicken/fish/beef and marinate in the refrigerator for as little as 30 minutes or as long as 3 hours..

 Mediterranean Chicken Marinade

This marinade makes a delicious ‘Greek’ flavoured chicken. Serve with a big Greek or green salad and you’re all set! Makes 1/2 a cup.

  • ¼ cup of olive oilgrilled chicken
  • ¼ cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 clove of fresh garlic, minced
  • ½ to 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • A pinch of sea salt

 

 Asian Inspired Fish Marinade

This marinade is perfect for salmon. Makes about 1/2 a cup.

  • 1/4 cup of organic tamari  saucegrilled asian salmon
  • 2 TBSP of olive oil
  • 2 TBSP of rice vinegar
  • 1 TBSP of maple syrup or unpasteurized local honey
  • 1 TBSP of sesame oil
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 TBSP of fresh ginger, minced

 

Red Wine Steak Marinade

This is a great marinade for steaks and cubes of beef for shish-kebabs. Makes about 1 cup.

  • 1/2 cup of red winegrilled steak
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • 1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 TBSP of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp each of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ tsp each of oregano and ground cumin…or any herb/spice you like with your steak! (optional)

Enjoy!

MCT Oil for Weight Management, Cognitive Health, and More

MCT oil. It’s been touted to offer a load of health benefits including:

  • sustained energy
  • weight management
  • appetite control
  • gut health
  • fat burning
  • managing Alzheimer’s Disease and other cognitive/neurological conditions
  • antimicrobial and antifungal powers
  • supporting cardiovascular health
  • balancing blood sugar levels

So what exactly is MCT oil?

MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides. MCTs are a unique type of dietary fat which are quickly metabolized by the body and NOT stored as fat. As they are not stored as fat, the energy (aka calories) that they provide can be used immediately by the body’s muscles and organs – including the brain.

I’m guessing you probably know someone who is following a ketogenic diet to lose and/or maintain their weight. Ketogenic diets restrict carbohydrates and focus on burning fats for energy.  MCT oils are a clean form of fat-burning energy that is coveted by ketogenic diet gurus. Long-term studies suggest that MCTs reduce body fat, increase muscle mass, and suppress appetite. While weight loss is the most common reason people go on a ketogenic diet, other less talked about reasons include cognitive improvement/memory support, cardiovasular health, and blood sugar management – which have some common ties.

MCT Oil and Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is often referred to as ‘Type 3 diabetes’. Many research papers I’ve read on the topic of AD and other forms of dementia cite impaired utilization of glucose in the brain as an early event in some cases of neurological aging of the brain.  More simply stated, the cells of the brain become insulin resistant, making it difficult for glucose, a preferred fuel, to enter the cell to be used as a source of energy. This is where ketones can come to the rescue.

Ketones do not rely on insulin to enter brain cells. They can cross the blood-brain barrier and enter cells, offering an alternative to glucose and the potential to provide a source of energy for the cells in the aging brain. In patients with AD who were fed either a high carbohydrate diet or a ketogenic diet for 6 weeks, marked improvement of verbal memory was found in the adults who were fed the ketogenic diet. In other words, ketone levels were positively correlated with memory performance. 

In recent years, studies have repeatedly shown that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain, and vice versa. This is the case with MCTs, with many studies stating that MCTs promote cardiovascular health by lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol and raising protective ‘good’ cholesterol.

What Type of MCT Oil is Best?

Some of you may have heard that coconut oil is a good source of MCTs; however, not all MCTs are created equal/metabolized equally. Coconut oil is predominately lauric acid (a ‘C12’ MCT). It will still offer benefits associated with MCTs; however, the benefits are significantly amplified when a concentrated form of a certain MCT (a ‘C8’ MCT) is consumed. I regularly use coconut oil in my meals and snacks, but now I will be adding MCT oil to my daily supplement routine as dementia/AD is in my family history – on both my mom & dad’s side of the family.

Biotic Research Canada’s Bio-MCTTM is a unique therapeutic 100% ‘C8’ MCT oil. Each bottle of Bio-MCTTM contains approximately 16 ounces/475ml of MCTs extracted from non-GMO sources of coconut/palm kernel oil. At a dose of just 15ml (1 TBSP) per day, a bottle will last one month, and offers a super-charged way to deliver the many health benefits of MCTs to your brain, heart, muscles, gut, and more. 

To order a bottle of Bio-MCTTM, send an email to info@perfectresonance.com with the subject line “MCT oil” and I’ll contact you with order, payment, pick-up, or delivery (anywhere in Canada, shipping fee will apply) options. A bottle costs $64 + HST (as of April 8 2021 – subject to change) and will last one month when taken at the recommended daily dose. If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, then this 16-ounce bottle of of prevention is worth every penny.

Take control of what you can.

References

Vandenberghe C, St-Pierre V, Pierotti T, Fortier M, Castellano CA, Cunnane SC.
Tricaprylin Alone Increases Plasma Ketone Response More Than Coconut Oil or
Other Medium-Chain Triglycerides: An Acute Crossover Study in Healthy Adults.
Curr Dev Nutr. 2017 Mar 22;1(4):e000257.

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mct-oil-benefits#TOC_TITLE_HDR_6

https://bioticscanada.com/products/detoxification/antimicrobial/bio-mct-tm-new/

Fiddlehead Ginger Soup

We’re heading into fiddlehead season! Woohooo!

Many years ago, I had a client who would bring me freshly picked fiddleheads around this time of year. She’s long since moved from Ottawa, but she inspired my love for these unusual ‘vegetables’. 

In holistic folklore circles, fiddleheads are sometimes referred to as a ‘tonic’ for the female body, perhaps because they are a good source of manganese which aids in the formation of mother’s milk and prevents post-partum depression. Some sources point out the resemblance between the shape of fiddleheads and the fallopian tubes of the female reproductive system. What do you think? Interesting, huh?

One thing is for certain – fiddleheads are delicious and they are packed with vitamins, minerals (especially iron), and antioxidants. They are delicious steamed with butter, sauteed in garlic and olive oil, pickled, used for tempura and so much more. If I had to pick a veggie that they most resemble in terms of taste and texture, I’d say asparagus … sort of! Anyway, one of my favourite ways to enjoy fiddleheads is in a delicious soup. Here’s my recipe!

What You’ll Need

  • 2 tablespoon butter or a combo of butter and olive oil
  • A large sweet onion, chopped (1.5 cups)
  • 1 TBSP grated fresh ginger root
  • Sprinkle unrefined sea salt
  • 1.5 cups fiddleheads
  • 3 cups of homemade chicken broth
  • Sprinkle turmeric

Step 1: Prep

IMG_3414Put butter/butter and olive oil in a pot on medium-low heat and add the chopped sweet onion and grated ginger. You can add more or less ginger depending on your taste. Sprinkle with a dash of unrefined sea salt to make the onion ‘sweat’ and cook until the onion is soft/translucent.

Step 2: Cooking

525672_407098425978620_486371697_n[1]Add cleaned and steamed fiddleheads. Before steaming them, soak them in a big bowl of water with a pinch of salt for a few minutes to get rid of all the brown husks and then rinse the fiddleheads well before steaming them for 10 to 12 minutes. Then add them to the pot with the homemade chicken broth, bring it to quick boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.

WARNING: Fiddleheads can cause food poisoning if they are not stored, prepared, or cooked properly. Check out these food safety tips for fiddleheads from the Government of Canada.

Step 3: Serve

Pour everything into a blender and puree on high speed for a minute or so until creamy and smooth. Garnish with a sprinkle of turmeric or anything else you would like! I topped mine with a few tablespoons of organic kefir and some fresh parsley. The colour didn’t turn out so well in this photo, but the soup was a beautiful green colour. Add salt to taste.  Enjoy!

The Power of Green

In this video, I’m wishing you all a Happy St. Patrick’s day and sharing some info about the health-boosting powers of green veggies, herbs, teas, and a few green supplements … and if you just have to have that green beer, I share a way you can turn it green naturally!


How to Cook Beets Without Making a Mess

Peeling cooked beets can get really messy! In this video, I’ll show you an easy mess-free way to peel cooked beets that also helps to minimize waste – including wasting the nutrients that are concentrated right under the root veggie’s skin!

Veggie Rice Paper Wraps

These veggie rice paper wraps are a hit among veggie lovers and carnivores. They are fun to make, and easy enough to get many hands (even little ones!) involved. They make a great starter to a meal, or they can be a meal on their own, and are even great to have on hand as a snack! They store well for several days and you can change up what you put in them – and what you dip them in – to suit your taste. Get creative!

I’ll be dividing this recipe into two parts: one part for the wrap, and one part for the dip we decided to make to go with the wraps.

What You’ll Need For The Wraps

  • A package of rice vermicelli noodles. These are completely optional – and if you do use them, you’ll only need one ‘fold’ of noodles as you don’t really want to put a lot of them in each wrap. Prepare them as per package (which is usually just soaking them in hot water for 15 minutes or so) and then drain and rinse under cold water and set aside.
  • A package of round rice paper ‘wraps’. I used the medicum-sized ones.
  • An assortment of colourful julienned veggies to suit your taste. I used a couple of carrots, a cucumber, a yellow bell pepper, and an avocado. Use what you like. Bean sprouts or other sprouts would be a great addition. We kept ours vegan, but you could add some cooked chicken or other protein if desired.
  • Fresh herbs to suit your taste. I used basil, and would have also used mint and/or cilantro had I had some. Whatever you use, use the leaves only.
  • Some chopped up nuts for some textire. I used peanuts.
  • A vessel that is deep enough to hold an inch or so of warm water and wide enough to allow you to soak the rice wraps in fully flat. I used a large skillet.

Soaking/Prepping the Rice Paper

You can find rice paper at just about any grocery store. They come in various sizes, and you can choose whichever size you want depending on how large you want your wraps to be. I used the medium-sized ones as I like to tuck in the ends of my wraps when I make them. These are the ones I used:

Rice paper is thin and hard, so you have to soak it in warm water to allow it to become soft and pliable. This usually only takes about 10 to 15 seconds.  It is important that you only soak the papers ONE AT A TIME, as you are ready to use them as they become very stick once they’re soaked. Replace/replenished the warm water you soak the rice paper in from time to time. Here’s what my soaking station looked like:

Use your fingers to make sure that every part of the rice wrap gets submerged/soaked in water. You can see in the photo above that some of the edges curled up. I just gently pushed them under the water and also gently moved the rice paper around so all parts of it got a good soak. Since the rice paper gets sticky once it starts to soften, do your best to prevent it from folding in/over on itself (don’t panic if it does – you can usually carefully peel it apart!). Once the rice paper starts to soften, remove it from the water and place it on a smooth, flat surface. I used a cutting board, like this:

Select Your Fillings

Now comes the fun part – selecting your fillings! You can make your wraps all the same, or change them up for some variety and/or to cater to everyone’s taste! The only ‘rule’ to follow is to place all of your fillings closest to the edge of the rice paper that is facing you, in the first third of the circle so to speak. You can put as much or as little filling as you like, depending on how thick or thin you want the wraps to be. Not sure? Experiment! This is what ours looked like just before we rolled them up:

Get Rolling!

The rice wrap will be a bit sticky, which is great for rolling. Before you start rolling, make sure that all of your fillings are compactly placed. Then starting with the edge of the rice paper that is closest to you, pull it over your fillings and start to roll tightly, folding in the edges about halfway through your roll. Here’s a video to demonstrate!

Here’s what it looked like when we were all done rolling all our wraps -uncovered and then covered with damp paper towel … and since we didn’t eat them immediately, I also covered everything with plastic wrap (not shown below!) to make sure the rice paper didn’t dry out at all and then kept the wraps in the fridge until we were ready to eat them.

We ate most of these rolls within a few hours and stored the left overs in a sealed container, putting damp paper towels between the layers of wraps. They can be stored in the fridge for 2 or 3 days, but are best eaten freshly made.

These wraps are screaming for some dip, and it can be as simple as some store-bought tamari sauce as is or with a bit of sesame oil and grated fresh ginger root added, or plum sauce, or whatever sauce you think you’d enjoy with them. We chose to make a ginger-garlic-soy-peanut butter dip … 

What You’ll Need for the Peanut Dip

  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2 to 3 TBSP soy or tamari sauce (start with 2 – you can add more at the end if you think it needs it)
  • 1 TBSP sesame seed oil
  • 1 TBSP rice vinegar (if you don’t have any, you can use apple cider vinegar … that’s what I did this time around!)
  • 2 TBSP maple syrup
  • 1 tsp to 1 TBSP finely grated fresh ginger root (the amount depends on how much you love ginger!)
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • water (start with 2 TBSP and add more at the end if you want to thin out the dip)
  • NOTE – you can play around with this ‘recipe’ to suit your taste. I was tasting and adding as I went along!

Put all the ingredients into a small sauce pan over medium-low heat and stir until well combined. Warm for a minute or two. That’s it, that’s all … in fact, you really don’t have to ‘cook’ this sauce at all, but we like it a bit warm and I find warming it for a bit helps to bring all the flavours together.

It will still be equally delicious if you simply whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl or mix them up for a few seconds in a small food processor or ‘magic bullet’ type blender. 

Serve & Enjoy!

I like to cut the wraps in half on a diagonal cut to show off the colourful fillings, but you can definitely serve them whole! Arrange on a platter with some fresh herbs and a bowl full of dipping sauce.

Enjoy!