How I Found My Excuses

From 2016 to 2018: My excuses gained strength over 18 months and I gained about 30 lbs.

Being a No Excuse Mom means different things to different people. For many, it signifies the transition they made while dropping their excuses as to why their health, and themselves as a whole, weren’t a priority in their lives. For others it is solidifying the healthy habits they have already established into their lifestyle. The common thread for No Excuse Mom is making us, as mothers, a priority because when you take care of yourself you can better take care of the precious ones in your life.

Personally, I fell into the latter category when I became a member of the NEM tribe. I was a stay at home mom first and foremost plus a part-time personal trainer. Health and fitness have been a big part of my life ever since high school when was a dancer.  Marrying young, I lost a bit of that passion as I navigated military spouse life but it quickly rekindled when I had my daughter in 2007. I was so in awe of the amazing feat my body had accomplished, creating this beautiful child and nourishing her for the first few months of her life. I made it a priority to take care of my body with healthy food choices and lots of movement through traditional gym workouts, yoga, and dancing (I still teach). I was blessed with my son in 2013, shortly after gaining an ACE Personal Trainer Certification and was absolutely thrilled to become part of the No Excuse Mom movement in 2014 after discovering Maria Kang on Instagram. It was a perfect fit for my lifestyle and passions! I established the still strong NEM local group at Fort Meade, Maryland and soon took on the role of Region III Manager. It was a wonderful time in my life that awarded me amazing experiences, friendships, and memories.
My life then took a complete derailment in the spring of 2016 when my husband of 11 years told me he was leaving. As you can imagine, I was sent reeling as my life seemingly crashed down around me. I made the decision to step away from Facebook for various reasons, which is the main communication mechanism for the No Excuse Mom community. Eventually, and with much heartbreak, I stepped back from the organization completely and stopped personal training so I could start earning a steady income at a 9 to 5 job.

                This is when the excuses started building.

It is commonplace for the members of No Excuse Mom to celebrate how they “lost their excuses” on their health journey, and for obvious reasons. Sharing ones triumphs is a great motivator to others on similar paths! But I now recognize that by traveling that road backwards, in a sense, I have the opportunity to analyze how these excuses take hold in the first place. My hope is that this knowledge will serve to add another layer of insight for those starting their fitness journeys AND prevent those who have made those huge strides worth applauding from having relapses and repeating the same mistakes.

Excuse #1: My physical health is not a priority.

At the core of No Excuse Mom is the idea that your well-being influences the well-being of your family, friends, and community. After all, if you aren’t taking care of yourself, how can you best take care of others? After I separated from my husband my main focus was re-stabilizing my life while simultaneously shielding my children from the immense pain I was feeling.  I was entrenched in job hunting, setting up childcare for my youngest, and then shifting my lifestyle from a stay at home mom to a working mom. While I had periods of hyper focus, they were often interrupted by severe depressive thoughts and apathy. I was often so burned out that I no longer cared what I ate. I overate unhealthy foods as a coping mechanism. I didn’t see my workouts and nutrition as something worthwhile because there were so many stressors in my life. I was in therapy each week and was only concentrating on my mental and emotional health.
In hindsight, regular exercise would have been a fantastic way to manage the dark thoughts and anxiety that ran rampant through my brain and the pizza and cookies did nothing to combat my constant fatigue. Had I used the tools that I preached to my clients I would have been much better off. While my mental health and the logistics of shifting to a single mom were important, my physical health was important too. It all ties together in a symbiotic relationship and neglecting one part only hinders the others.

Before: Life as a SAHM, part time personal trainer, and NEM Leader meant my health and fitness were a big priority.

 

Excuse #2: The weight I am gaining isn’t that big of a deal.

In the grand scheme of things, gaining a few extra pounds on my then lean physique was totally fine. I stayed in a healthy weight and body composition range for about a year, but during that time I was slowly gaining body fat by overeating and atrophying my hard earned muscle due to lack of exercise. By the time my clothes were starting to get snug, I was too comfortable with “treating” myself to sweets and overeating at dinner. That was my new normal because I had given myself slack for so long. I am all about splurging in moderation, I actually think it is a very healthy practice, but moderation slipped into daily overindulgence without my even realizing. It is very difficult to retrain habitual thinking and it wasn’t until I was 30 pounds heavier and near the “overweight” BMI range that I started to make serious changes. We all have seasons in life and I don’t beat myself up for gaining some weight, but turning a blind eye for too long will eventually lead to big issues.

Excuse #3: I don’t have enough time.

This is a big excuse for everyone. We live in a fast paced world and most moms are pulled in fifteen different directions. Between working three jobs, keeping up with extracurricular activities for the kids, and the time suck that is East coast traffic, I didn’t see how I could possibly fit in time to work out and/or meal prep. The fact of the matter is that if something is a priority you will find a way to squeeze it in. I reprioritized and now I hit the gym in the morning before work on weeks that I don’t have my kids, leaving the evenings free for errands, social engagements, or another job haha! I make extra portions of anything I cook for a healthy lunch the next day or another quick dinner on busy weeknights. Sometimes I have to buck up and meal prep at 9:30 at night, but I know I will otherwise spend just as much time scrambling to make something later while adding to my big ole’ bucket of stress. Making time to exercise also gives me more energy, essentially adding another productive hour to my evening to clean or simply decompress after the kids are in bed.

Current: Now that I have settled into my life as a divorced working mom I have slowly gotten back on track on my health and fitness journey.

Excuse #4: I just need to get through this week and then I will start exercising and clean up my diet.

Each week seemed to bring struggles whether it was fighting with my ex or just dealing with the day to day stress of being a mom fresh to full time work. For 18 months I kept telling myself that it would be better next week and I would start out that Monday on the right foot, but I think I can speak for everyone when I say that “next week” doesn’t hold that magic we are hoping for. Life never stops and neither do the stresses, deadlines, and lovely surprises like flat tires or sickness. I will ALWAYS have a full plate each week. Some times of the year will be fuller than others (holidays, dance recital season, traveling), but motivation isn’t dependent on the calendar. You can start working on yourself wherever you are in life, no matter the circumstances. The intensity of the effort and subsequent changes may ebb and flow but positive change is still positive change, no matter the size. I plan to start school in the summer or fall, and I know it will be rough to keep up on my health journey, but in the end I will be much better off continuing the hard work than putting it on the back burner until the end of the term.

Do any of these excuses sound familiar?
What other ones might you add from your personal experience?
Comment below and share your thoughts!

Top 9 Diet Mistakes

Dieting is a multi-billion dollar industry that grows every year — right along with a large majority of the population’s waistlines. Something is wrong with that, wouldn’t you say?
What’s going on? Why do millions of people desperately want to lose weight, but fail?
In most cases, they’re making some of the following diet mistakes. Learn to not make these mistakes, and you’ll be on your way to weight-loss success.
 Mistake #1: Is following any type of extreme diet. This would be your typical low-fat, or low-carb, or extreme low-calorie diet that we hear so much about. Weight loss may be a side effect of a short-term diet, but diets can have detrimental effects on long-term health. Furthermore, many people gain back the weight they originally lost and more. This is why people should learn how to implement healthy strategies for a lifestyle, not just as short-term fix. The healthiest diet of all is one that can be maintained over the long haul and has you eating real food that doesn’t eliminate any of the three macronutrients: Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat. For weight loss, it is still important to find out what your daily estimated energy requirements are and eat below that amount, but again eliminating any particular food group is not necessary and can actually be detrimental to long-term, and many times even short-term success.
Mistake #2: Taking on too much, too soon. This is the single biggest reason why most people fail in their diets. They become so excited about starting a diet that they give up all their favorite foods on the first day. Then they grow discouraged and give up. To avoid this, try to slowly adapt yourself to new eating habits. After a month, you’ll have changed your diet drastically without experiencing the shock of a complete turnaround.
Mistake #3: Eliminating fats. In fact, you need healthy sources of fat to maintain essential body functions, sustain energy levels, slow digestion and feel fuller longer. For years, nutritionists and doctors have preached that a low-fat diet is the key to losing weight, managing cholesterol, and preventing health problems. But that actually proved to be a big fat lie (pun intended). It’s more than just the amount of fat; it’s the types of fat you eat that really matter. Despite what you may have been told, fat isn’t always the bad guy in the waistline wars. Bad fats, such as trans fats and saturated fats, are guilty of the unhealthy things all fats have been blamed for—weight gain, clogged arteries, and so forth. But good fats such as the monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and omega-3s have the opposite effect. In fact, healthy fats play a huge role in helping you manage your moods, stay on top of your mental game, fight fatigue, and even control your weight. Including healthy fats in your diet is good for you and can actually help you lose weight. Healthy fats include: vegetable and nut oils, nuts, seeds, avocado, fish and tofu.
Mistake #4: Eliminating carbohydrates. Carb-free diets are popular because of the dramatic weight loss that can occur. But this is typically due to several reasons. First, most of the weight lost is from water, not fat. Second, when you’re on a carb-free diet, most processed foods are eliminated — and these are the foods that tend to add the most calories. Once you return to your old eating habits, the water weight returns, as do those high-calorie processed foods that lead you to gain weight. Complex, high-fiber carbohydrates like brown rice, beans and lentils should be part of any diet regimen.
Mistake #5: Reducing calories too much. This often leads to yo-yo dieting. When you follow an extreme diet, you’ll lose a lot of weight at first — but then your body will catch on and lower your metabolism to accommodate the reduced supply of fuel. Then, when you return to your normal diet — wham! You regain that weight because you’re now consuming more calories.
Skimping on calories ultimately decreases metabolic rate as the body tries to conserve energy. This is why low-calorie eaters may feel lethargic. Furthermore, as metabolism slows, the body subsequently burns fewer calories, leading to a greater susceptibility for weight gain when more calories are inevitably consumed. To keep energy levels high and metabolism revved up, it’s important for people to meet their daily calorie needs. And since the body uses energy-yielding carbohydrates, protein, and fat in very specific ways, consuming each in proportion to the other is essential to ensure sufficient energy to complete daily tasks, feel good, and to maintain an optimal state of health.
Mistake #6: Eating too much healthy food or choosing incorrect portion sizes. Eating too much of anything leads to weight gain. No matter how healthy the food is, a calorie is still a calorie. To lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than your body burns, no matter the source. Also, many people aren’t aware of what an appropriate portion size really is. They eat much larger portions than they need to, which inevitably leads to weight gain.
Mistake #7: Skipping exercise. Many people are trying to lose weight — but only 15 percent exercise regularly. Clearly, there’s a disconnect here. You may not enjoy exercise very much — but if you want to lose weight, you simply have no choice.
Mistake #8: Consuming too much alcohol. Many people believe that alcohol doesn’t contain a lot of calories. This is especially the case with red wine. In fact, alcohol is loaded with empty calories (for example, five fluid ounces of red wine contains 125 calories). Limit your intake and include the calories in any alcohol you consume as part of your daily calorie count. Sorry — there are no freebies!
Mistake #9: The “one-size-fits-all” approach.  Don’t assume that what worked for Jim or Jane will work for you. Dave may be able to eat dessert after every meal without gaining a pound, while Mark gains three pounds just looking at a piece of cake. Melissa may be able to fast all afternoon with no cravings, while Judy craves sugar on the three-hour mark after her last meal. When it comes to our unique bodies, metabolism and genetics, we aren’t all created equal. What works for someone else may not work for you. Also know that people often post their successes MUCH more than they post their struggles. Just because the struggles and ups and downs aren’t posted about as much, doesn’t mean that every single person doesn’t face them. So understand there might be some trial in error and figuring out what works for you with your weight loss journey, and that is okay!
Felicia Newell, BScAHN, MScAHN(c), RD(c)
Official NEM Nutritionist
For the past several years, Felicia has been working at a university research centre with a focus on food security (Food Action Research Centre), and has taught university level nutrition courses. Her passion lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has recently published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FeliciaNewellNutrition
Instagram: @felicianewellnutrition

12 Best Healthy Snacks to Prevent Being ‘Hangry’

12 Healthy Snacks (4)
Note: This post is brought to you by Official No Excuse Mom Nutritionist-Dietitian Felicia Newell, and is also posted on her website.
Do we all know the dreaded feeling of being ‘hangry’? I think we do, but just in case…
Urban Dictionary definition (because that counts right?): “When you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both. An amalgum of hungry and angry invented to describe that feeling when you get when you are out at a restaurant and have been waiting over an hour to get the meal that you have ordered”.
My definition of being hangry:
That point where you’ve been so busy, you keep telling yourself…“I’ll get something to eat after I finish this task…”
(one hour later) “I’ll eat after I complete this other task…”
(two hours later) “I don’t care, don’t talk to me, I’m freaking starving.” (or some variation)
Co-worker/Friend/Anyone: “I have a box of donuts, would you like to have 1…or 6?” (again, or some variation)
You: “For the love of god, give me the whole box.”
Anyway, you get the point, right? We’ve all been there. Lost track of time, didn’t get a chance to eat, and now we are at the point where it doesn’t matter if it’s a bag of Doritos or a baby donkey (kidding of course…just a metaphor) put in front of us, either way we’re going to eat it.
Well here are some of the best nutrient-packed healthy snack foods, to either grab on the go or pack for lunch, to avoid the case of those ‘hangries’.
1. Hard-boiled Eggs
I know this ones not overly exciting (it gets better, I promise), but one egg contains a measly 78 calories and six grams of protein (more protein = more full). They’re also packed with Vitamin B, which helps break down that fat for instant energy. Have some nice crunchy veggies along with it, and boom. As long as you keep hard-boiled eggs stored inside the shell, they’ll last in the fridge for up to a week. Alternatively, mash it up, and add some sliced pickles, olives, and feta cheese, and your taste buds certainly won’t be bored.

Best Healthy Snacks | Energy Bars | Protein Bars | Eggs | Weight Loss
2. Homemade Protein/Energy Bar

I think protein bars are great because they are an excellent on-the-go snack, that can really help tie you over until your next meal or snack, especially if they have a decent amount of protein (10g or more), and fibre (3g or more, but ideally 5-10g). I say homemade, because you can control what goes in them. Check out my blog post here, which contains some homemade protein bar/ball recipes, and you’ll find 10 more protein bar recipes here in this blog. If you do opt for a pre-packaged protein bar, aim for one that is around 200 calories, less than 5% DV saturated fats, and with the above protein and fibre recommendations. A great example is Genuine Health’s Fermented Protein Bars.
3. Frozen Yogurt Pops with Nuts and Berries

Dietitian St. John's | Nutritionist St. John's | Best Healthy Snacks | Energy Bars | Frozen Yogurt Pop | Weight Loss
To cool yourself during those summer afternoons you may be tempted to grab sugar-filled ice-cream and popsicles. Which is okay sometimes of course, but to help with overdoing it, try this tasty frozen treat as a lower sugar, nutrient-packed option. Chop up berries and nuts of choice (strawberries and almonds and/or walnuts are great choices), and mix in a bowl with your favourite  yogurt and some lemon or lime juice (optional). Pour the mixture in a popsicle molds and freeze for four hours. Delish! Alternatively, you can pour the mixture in a glass dish, freeze, and then break into pieces of ‘bark’, and store in a container in the freezer.
4. Smoked Wild Salmon with Crackers or Cucumber (lower calorie/carb option) and Goat Cheese

Dietitian St. John's | Nutritionist St. John's | Best Healthy Snacks | Energy Bars | Smoked Salmon | Weight Loss
I mean yum, who doesn’t love the whole smoked salmon and goat cheese combo? Okay sure, some people might not like fish, or cheese, but who are these people and how do they exist? (Again, kidding! If you use crackers, aim for 3g of fibre for more and stick to one serving, and a small amount of salmon and goat cheese on each. For a lower carb/calorie option (because I’m all for reducing carbs and calories sometimes, because we do tend overdo it on those guys at times, let’s be honest), use cucumber instead of crackers. Still delish, and great for entertaining as well!
5. Watermelon with Feta, Dill and Hemp Seeds

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Watermelon on its own contains 86 calories and less than 1 gram of fat making it an excellent fruit to those working on losing some weight. Cut the fruit into cubes and place it in a bowl with some crumbled feta cheese (a little goes a long way for flava). Add a tablespoon or two of hemp seeds for added protein, fibre, and Omega 3s and other nutrients (if you haven’t tried hemp seeds before, you seriously should), sprinkle with some chopped dill and/or red onion (optional) and enjoy!
6. Nuts, Seeds, and Nut Butters
Nuts and seeds (unsalted), and nut butters such as no sugar-added almond butter, or low sugar peanut butter. They’re great to eat because they’re rich in healthy fats, protein, and fibre. They also contain nutrients and hard-to-get minerals like magnesium, which can help regulate sleep, digestive issues, and stress (magnesium is all the rage lately, and for good reason). Keep in mind that portion control is key with this type of food; ¼ cup nuts per serving, or one to two teaspoons of nut butter at a time. Have an apple or another type of fruit with your nuts, and you’re good to go!
7. Oatmeal with Fruit and Seeds
Oatmeal is specially served as a breakfast meal but having a smaller portion (e.g., ½ cup), and using toppings such as: chopped fruit, dates, honey, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, chia/hemp/flax seeds, etc. (the list really can go on), you can prepare a fibre and protein rich snack. Oatmeal has fibre, which has been shown to cholesterol levels and to help manage blood sugars.
8. Roasted Chickpeas
Another delicious low-calorie, high-fibre snack. It is the ‘International Year of the Pulses’, and chickpeas are a member of the pulse family! Pulses are a cost-effective, sustainable protein source that are rich in fibre, and have high levels of minerals such as iron, zinc, and phosphorous as well as folate and other B-vitamins. Drain and pat dry a can of chickpeas, mix in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, chili powder, salt and pepper (or any seasonings of choice). Pour the coated chickpeas onto a baking tray, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) and bake for 30-40 minutes, until brown and crunchy. Alternatively, there are some delicious, pre-packaged roasted chickpeas on the market, such as The Good Bean Chickpeas.

Dietitian St. John's | Nutritionist St. John's | Best Healthy Snacks | Energy Bars | Roasted Chickpeas | Weight Loss9. Chicken (or Chickpea for vegetarians), and Greek Yogurt Spread on Crackers or Cucumber
This is a simple one. Chicken, or chickpeas are a great source of protein, and chickpeas even have added fibre. Greek yogurt is also a good protein source. In a bowl add 1 small cup of leftover cooked chicken or chickpeas and 3 tablespoon of plain Greek yogurt (optional: add pepper and lemon juice to taste). Mix the ingredients together and spread it on crackers or sliced cucumber.
10. Sweet Potato Protein Cookies

Dietitian St. John's | Nutritionist St. John's | Best Healthy Snacks | Sweet Potato Protein Cookies | Weight Loss
Got a hankering for a cookie? Give these bad-boys a try (not sure why they would be considered ‘bad-boys’, it just felt right, and it’s midnight and I might be a little loopy at this point). Filled with good-for-you ingredients, pack these cookies for the perfect on-the-go alternative to candy bars or other less healthy baked goods (aka donuts). Recipe here.
11. Sweet Potato Chips

Dietitian St. John's | Nutritionist St. John's | Best Healthy Snacks | Sweet Potato Chips | Weight Loss
Can’t live without chips? Don’t lie to me you, I know all you chip-lovers out there would never give up your chips! And you shouldn’t have to, let’s be real. There are no ‘bad’ foods, just overall ‘bad’ diets. Do your best to eat healthy 80% of the time, and include some less healthy foods in there as well (that’s where that whole moderation thing that we dietitian’s like to talk about). Getting off track a little, but ‘anywho’, these sweet potato chips aren’t exactly healthy, but making them yourself means you know exactly what goes into them. Plus, they taste better than the bagged kind, trust me. Recipe here. Have a couple unsalted nuts, and/or one serving of fruit with these, so you’re less likely to eat 3 servings of chips.
12. Healthier 4 U Popcorn
Approximately 87% of the population enjoys popcorn (disclaimer: completely made-up statistic). Instead of drenching popcorn in butter, flavour it with a creative mix of herbs and spices. Think of homemade popcorn as a canvas for pretty much whatever flavour combination you’re craving. Check out the awesome infographic below for proof. Learn more here.

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Do you struggle with knowing exactly what foods will help you reach your goals? Download the exact grocery list that I provide for my clients to help them reach their goals, for free here!
Want answers to your food, nutrition and wellness questions? Join Sustain Nutrition’s free online Facebook wellness community! Link to access the group is here.
For more information on the healthy weight management and nutrition services Sustain Nutrition offers, visit here.

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Healthy Weight Management | Nutrition Counselling | Sustain Nutrition | Nutritionist | Dietitian | Weight loss | Best Healthy Snacks

 
Felicia Newell is our Official NEM Nutritionist. She has a Bachelor of Science in Applien Human Nutrition, and is currently working on completing a Master of Science. Felicia is a Dietitian (candidate) and a mom of 4 boys under 6. She wears many hats, and knows what it is like to live healthy in a busy world, where our environments aren’t always supportive of making healthy choices. Felicia has over 10 years of education and experience in Nutrition, and is passionate about helping others.
For the past several years, Felicia has worked at a university research centre with a focus on food security, food access, and policies relating to food; she has taught university level nutrition courses; she has recently started her own nutrition counselling business titled ‘Sustain Nutrition’; and she is currently working at a large chain grocery store helping her community make healthier choices. One of Felicia’s passions is helping others fight through the confusing misinformation that is out there in the ever-changing and growing world of food and nutrition. Felicia has published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’. You can view it here.
Read more about her story here, and on her Facebook page,  visit here website here, and follow her on Instagram: @sustain.nutritionClick here for more NEM experts.
 

6 Tips for Self-Motivation

One of the very first (and most difficult) steps to making a lifestyle change is finding the motivation. Without it, we may know the ‘right’ things to do, but not quite be able to put that into practice.
You, like many others, might struggle with self-motivation from time to time. This means you may have a hard time getting yourself to your regularly scheduled workout, or will try and find more and more reasons to stray away from your healthy changes.
But guess what? You won’t be alone! We all struggle with motivation sometimes, but here are some tips that can help you self-motivate and reach your goals.

A healthy dose of motivation coupled with determination will get you almost anything in life (again sometimes it just takes time and effort to find it). So how do you know if you’re genuinely motivated?

  • Motivation will tell you to get to your workout no matter what.
  • Motivation will nag you to put down the doughnut.
  • Motivation makes passing on fries a reflex.
  • Motivation makes a sweat drenched workout exciting.
  • Motivation constantly reminds you why you do what you do.

The key to staying motivated is similar to fuel in a car—you don’t need the motivation tank to be full to drive, you just need to prevent it from running empty. Do not waste precious time and energy on staying highly motivated because motivation has a natural rhythm. Most people see a drop in motivation as a signal of failure, but it’s not. Weight loss and lifestyle changes are not a linear process; it is an up and down roller coaster ride – as with success in anything in life.
Self-Motivating Tip #1: Find Your Motivator.
Motivation stems from having a goal. What is your goal? Why do you want to get into great shape and/or make a lifestyle change?
Once you uncover your personal motivator you’ll find that motivation flows quickly your way.
Take a minute to really uncover the reason that you want to lose the weight. Don’t say something vague like you want to ‘Be thinner’ or ‘Look more attractive.’ Dig deeper – there is a very specific motivator in your life, you simply need to uncover it.
Here are some possible motivators…

  • I want to have more energy to keep up with the kids.
  • I want to improve my health through weight loss to extend and improve my life.
  • I want to lose 15 pounds before my vacation.
  • I want to restore my confidence to wear sleeveless shirts.
  • I want to regain my figure to impress and attract my significant other.

It’s great that you have the family wedding to motivate you in the meantime, but try and find some other motivators so that when the wedding has come and gone, you will still have that drive and determination.
Keep reminding yourself why you started in the first place, and that continuing to push forward in any way will get you further 3 months, 1 year, 5 years from now. Many people find asking the following questions help:

  • If I stop making changes, how will I feel in six months or one year from now?
  • If I stop making changes, what will my health be like?
  • If I stop making changes, how will my family and friends be affected?

Self-Motivating Tip #2: Make It Official.
When you write something down it tends to feel more official. Write down your motivator for getting into great shape, and post it where you will see it often—next to your alarm clock, on the bathroom mirror, or in your car.
Each time you see your written motivator take a moment to visualize yourself accomplishing your goal. Try to make the scene as clear in your mind as possible. This is a powerful tool for maintaining your focus and direction.
Even posting on Facebook your plans and goals can be a huge motivator – the more you tell people about your goals, the more drive you will have to achieve them.
Self-Motivating Tip #3: Be Practical.
It’s game plan time. You know what you want, and now you need to map out exactly how you’ll achieve it. It is important to be practical in your planning, rather than throwing out ideas that you know you won’t stick with. The secret to success is to break down your healthy living goals into mini goals that are easy to manage. Start with one small, clear goal that is right for you. This is often referred to as developing ‘SMART’ goals. SMART stands for goals that are: specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time-framed. Setting “SMART” goals can also help you achieve bigger goals you may want to set for yourself over time. For more info on SMART goals, visit here.
With any weight loss goal it is important to 1) maintain a healthy diet, and 2) participate in a consistent and challenging exercise program.
Plan a routine that will fit into your schedule and you’ll be more likely to stick with it. It is important to sit down and find the best days and times to fit it in. Then write it in a schedule and treat it like a an important commitment!
Self-Motivating Tip #4: Call For Backup.
Enlist the support of your friends, family and co-workers if you can. Tell everyone about your goal to lose weight and get fit, you’ll be surprised how supportive most people will be. By being open about your goals you’ll likely be an encouragement to others to make healthy changes in their own lives. And if they don’t that’s okay! But finding at least one person and supporter could help significantly. Even an online community such as a local free ‘No Excuse Mom’ group, or the larger ‘No Excuse Moms’ Facebook support group could help you stay motivated.
Self-Motivating Tip #5: Be Easy on Yourself.
If you notice that your motivation is waning, give yourself a break from your diet or exercise plan for one to three days. The problem with motivation is that the more people try to ‘catch’ it, the more elusive it becomes; by allowing it to run its natural course and at the same time having a set of habit-changing skills (such as a meal plan for the week), you’ll stay on track and your motivation levels will run their natural course.
Self-Motivating Tip #6: Practice Integrity in Other Areas of Your Life.
For example, clean out your closet (finally), pay off your debts, make good on your promises to friends, family, or co-workers. Practice sticking with promises or commitments you’ve made in other areas of your life in order to strengthen your own subconscious belief that you are able to uphold the promise of losing weight that you’ve made to yourself.
If you need help with developing SMART goals, finding your motivation, or someone to provide you with the knowledge and support to help you with your journey, I now offer 25% off my services for NEM members (use the promo code NEM25). Click here to see an overview of the services I offer. All counseling programs include a customized meal guide (breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks), calculation of Total Estimated Energy Expenditure (daily caloric requirements to reach your goals), continuous one-on-one counseling and support, recipes, progress assessments and plan adjustments (if necessary), and more.
– Felicia Newell, BScAHN, MScAHN(c), RD(c)
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Felicia Newell is our Official NEM Nutritionist and has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Human Nutrition, as well as a Master of Science in Applied Human Nutrition. For the past several years, Felicia has worked at a university research centre with a focus on food security, food access, and policies relating to food; she has taught university level nutrition courses; and she is currently working at a large chain grocery store helping her community make healthier choices. One of Felicia’s passions is helping others fight through the confusing misinformation that is out there in the ever-changing and growing world of food and nutrition. Another one of her passions lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.
Read more about her story here, and on her Facebook page, or follow her on Instagram: @felicianewellnutrition. Click here for more NEM experts.

Make Your Own Protein/Energy Bars!

Protein bars used to be more aimed for hikers who are on the go for long periods of time, or extreme athletes on the go. Now they are becoming more mainstream and used as snacks, and that’s okay, it’s just important to choose the right ones, and use them in the right way depending on your goals.
The protein and fibre in these bars, can help keep you full and satisfied if you need something quick to tie you over until your next meal. You can eat them on the go to help prevent you from getting too hangry…we all know how we can make bad decisions when we’re hangry. These types of bars are also going to manage your blood sugars and energy levels much better than a sugary chocolate bar alone, where you get a spike and energy, and then a crash, whereas the protein and fibre in the energy bars will help delay digestion and help manage blood sugar and energy levels).
If you’re choosing a store bought protein bar it should ideally be: high in protein (10g or more), high in fibre (3g or more), low in calories (150-250 cals, depending on your goals and if you’re male or female), low in saturated fat (1.5g or less), low in sugar (around 10g or less), and low in total net carb (ideally 15-30g, again depending on your goals and if you’re male or female). If you get more vitamins and minerals in there such as calcium or iron, then that’s even more nutritional bang for your buck! You also want to consider your ingredients list for things like where your protein is coming from and the types of ingredients in the bar.
Now for the recipes! The best thing? None of them have to be baked, and all can be kept in the freezer!
Chocolate Espresso Protein Balls
IMG_8632
Ingredients:
‌• 1 cup oats (gluten free, if needed)
‌• 2 Tbsp Chocolate Vega One Nutritional Shake
‌• ¼ cup chocolate chips
‌• 10 chopped dark chocolate covered espresso beans, OR, two tsp espresso coffee powder
‌• ½ cup almond butter
‌• ½ cup flaxseed meal
‌• 1 Tbsp chia seeds
‌• ⅓ cup maple syrup
‌• 1 tsp vanilla extract
‌• 1 pinch of salt
Directions:
Mix all ingredients together (By hand or stand mixer) in a bowl and then refrigerate for 20-45 minutes to set (optional).
Remove and make into balls, with a small scooper or your hands.
Note: You can also roll these into toasted coconut flakes or raw cacao powder, and you can also press these into a pan, chill, and then cut into bars.
Place in an airtight container to refrigerate. Will last 5-7 days but most likely they will be long gone before that!
Recipe courtesy of: Vega
Lemon Coconut Energy Balls
IMG_9327
Ingredients:
‌• 8 pitted Medjool dates
‌• ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
‌• Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
‌• ½ tsp vanilla extract
‌• ½ cup coconut flour
‌• 1 serving Vanilla Vega Protein & Greens, OR, Vanilla Vega One Nutritional Shake
‌• Pinch of salt
‌• 1-2 Tbsp almond milk, if needed
‌• Unsweetened shredded coconut (I used toasted coconut), for rolling
Directions:
Place dates, applesauce, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla in a large food processor. Process until dates look nearly pureed and mixture is very-well combined.
Add coconut flour, protein powder, and salt. Process until mixture forms a smooth ball of “dough.” (If mixture looks too dry, add almond milk.)
Roll into 12 balls (or more).
Place about ½ cup coconut in a small bowl and roll balls in coconut, if desired. I rolled the balls in almond milk first to make coconut stick better. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, or freezer. You can also press these into a pan, chill, and then cut into bars.
Recipe Courtesy of: Vega
Raw Hemp Chia Seed Bars
IMG_9075
Ingredients:
‌• 3 1/2 cups oats (gluten-free, if needed)
• 1/2 cup Hemp Hearts
• 1/2 cup chia seeds
• 1/4 cup flaxseed meal
• 3/4 cups almonds (ground in tiny pieces), or almond meal
• 1/2 cup agave syrup, honey, or maple syrup
• 1/2 cup applesauce
• 3/4 cups almond or peanut butter
• 1/2 cup coconut oil (melted/liquid)
• 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions:
In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients together (oats, hemp seeds, chia seeds, ground flax seed meal, ground almonds or almond meal).
In a medium sized bowl, mix all wet ingredients together (honey or other liquid sweetener, applesauce, almond butter, melted coconut oil and vanilla extract).
Take the wet ingredient mixture and combine in the large bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until well combined, using your hands if needed.
Put the mixture in an 8 x 8 glass baking dish and press the mixture firmly. Put in the refrigerator or freezer to chill or until the mixture is firm.bCut into even size bars or smaller sized squares.
Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve because they will get soft if left out at room temperature.
IMG_1575
Recipe courtesy of: Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts
Enjoy!
felicia2
Felicia Newell is our Official NEM Nutritionist and has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Human Nutrition, as well as a Master of Science in Applied Human Nutrition. She is also a Registered Dietitian (candidate). For the past several years, Felicia has worked at a university research centre with a focus on food security, food access, and policies relating to food; she has taught university level nutrition courses; and she is currently working at a large chain grocery store helping her community make healthier choices. One of Felicia’s passions is helping others fight through the confusing misinformation that is out there in the ever-changing and growing world of food and nutrition. Another one of her passions lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.
Read more about her story here, and on her Facebook page, or follow her on Instagram: @felicianewellnutrition. Click here for more NEM experts.

Make Your Own Smoothies!

Let me first tell you…you may or may not know this…but you do not need smoothies, shakes, protein drinks, meal replacement smoothies – whatever you want to call them – to lose weight, or gain muscle, etc. Okay…now that’s out of the way…but let me explain why.
All of the nutrients (and more) found in smoothies, can be also included in regular snacks and meals. In other words, a smoothie is no better than a bowl of Greek yogurt, berries, and mixed nuts and seeds; or a piece of baked chicken, ½ cup of quinoa, and half plate of veggies, etc., etc. However, smoothies are a great way to get in nutrients if you are busy, on the go, and need something quick and convenient, or if you simply enjoy having one!
What I do recommend as a healthy diet for the general population, and one that supports weight loss, is one that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains or other complex carbohydrates, dairy products or dairy alternatives, seafood, lean proteins, legumes and nuts while reducing red and processed meat, refined grains, and sugary foods and beverages. While also – and these are just some examples – moving more, reducing the amount of calories you eat/eating at a caloric deficit (for weight loss; which means you figure out your Total Daily Energy Requirement (TDEE) – from a professional, or a reputable online site – and eat about 5-600 less than that per day), gaining help and support from a professional if necessary (or even a supportive friend or group), getting adequate sleep, trying to manage stress, working on becoming more organized, and reducing the negativity in your life (weight loss has a psychological component as well, and when we feel better in other aspects of life, we can be more successful in reaching our goals).
Another thing I want you to know, is that you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on shakes per month if you would like to use smoothies/protein shakes. They can be made with as many or little ingredients as you have access to, and still pack an extreme nutrient punch and keep you full until your next meal.
Here is a list of smoothie ingredients to chose from. All you need is at least one from each category (ideally), and you will have a great smoothie!
 
Protein:

  • Plain yogurt
  • Plain, chocolate or vanilla unsweetened milk (cows, goats, almond, soy, cashew, or rice, depending on preference)
  • Plain kefir (high in probiotics)
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Almond butter
  • Tofu
  • Protein powder (whether you go for the most nutritious out there, or a more cost effective one – do what works for you and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it!)
  • Almonds, or any other type of nuts (small amount)

Fruits: (can be fresh or frozen, if fresh it is best to use some ice)

  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Peach
  • Banana
  • Apple
  • Melon
  • Cherries
  • Apricot
  • Pomegranate seeds

Vegetables: (I find these are the best to use)

  • Carrot
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Avocado
  • Cucumber

Flavour and Added Nutrition:

  • Flaxseed
  • Chia seed
  • Hemp hearts
  • Old-fashioned oats (will add complex carbs and fibre to keep you full longer)
  • Spices (e.g., cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cayenne)
  • Vanilla extract
  • Coconut water
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Mint leaves
  • If you must have added sweetness, use a small amount (1 tsp or less) of your choice of sweetener or sugar (however, the fruit, vanilla beverages and extract, and cinnamon will usually add enough): stevia, Splenda, sugar, cane sugar honey, pure maple syrup
  • Completely optional and not necessary if you’re adding your own nutrients, but some other options for added flavor and nutrients are:

Note: blend ingredients in a blender or magic bullet (easiest for cleanup).
 
Tips on Purchasing Smoothie Ingredients:
Any time you make healthy swaps in your pantry, it doesn’t have to happen overnight. You may not be used to buying all of these ingredients, and you may not the means or access to get everything right away. Here are some general tips for stocking up the pantry in general, and for smoothies:

  • Purchase 1-2 new ingredients at a time.
  • Check local flyers for sales. More and more grocery stores are having sales on healthier items such as chia, flax and hemp seeds. There are also apps such as ‘Flipp’ that check local flyers for you when you search for a specific ingredient.
  • The larger you can buy of the item the better (if possible), it will last you longer and give you more time to add other staples to the pantry. However, certain items will also have sample sizes you can buy or find (e.g., Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts small package for $2.99, and Vega One Single Protein Packages for $3.99),
  • Frozen is better for smoothies than fresh in my opinion, as they keep for a long time in your freezer, and won’t go bad in your fridge within the week.
  • Even a smoothie with 5-6 ingredients from the list above (1-2 from each category), will be delicious and nutritious.

For more tips on eating healthy on a budget, see my previous post.
 
Protein Powder Examples:
Vega One (My personal favourite, as it is high in fibre, protein, and many other nutrients; made from all natural, nutritious foods; vegan; gluten-free; 6 servings of greens; also includes probiotics and digestive enzymes)
Kaizen Naturals
Garden of Life Raw Organic Meal
LeanFit Complete Green or Whey Isolate Protein (available in some grocery stores or at Costco)
 
Tips When Choosing a Cost-Effective Protein Powder: 
Look for:

  • Low sugar (ideally 3g or less; make sure it is not top 3 in the ingredient list)
  • Low saturated fat (ideally 1.5g or less)
  • High protein (ideally 15-30g, depending on goals)
  • High fibre (ideally 3-5g)
  • Nutrients such as vitamins and minerals (calcium, vitamin D, iron, magnesium, etc., are an added bonus).
  • Whey Protein Isolate is better than ‘Whey’ only
  • For Vegans: hemp and soy protein powders are great because they contain complete proteins, however, other options such as brown rice protein and pea protein are still great, as long as you are getting other protein sources throughout the day.

 
Smoothie Recipes:
Kale and Berry Power Smoothie
IMG_8067

  • 1/3 cup of blueberries
  • 1/3 cup of strawberries
  • 1/2 cup of spinach or kale leaves (remove the hard parts of the kale stalks)
  • 1/3 of a cup of unsweetened vanilla milk of choice, or water (kefir for greatest nutrition and digestive benefits)
  • 1/3 cup yogurt of choice (Greek for highest protein)
  • 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed
  • 1 tablespoon of hemp powder or seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

 
Chocolate Banana Smoothie
IMG_8072

  • 1/3 cup of unsweetened vanilla milk of choice, or water (kefir for greatest nutrition benefits)
  • 1/3 cup yogurt of choice (Greek for highest protein)
  • 1/2 of a frozen banana
  • 1/2 to 1 scoop protein, or 1-2 tbsp hemp, chia, or flax seeds, or 1-2 tbsp natural peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

 I hope this helps some of you with making your own smoothies, and not feeling like you have to buy expensive smoothies or products to work towards a healthier lifestyle! 
 
felicia2
Felicia Newell is our Official NEM Nutritionist and has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Human Nutrition, as well as a Master of Science in Applied Human Nutrition. For the past several years, Felicia has worked at a university research centre with a focus on food security, food access, and policies relating to food; she has taught university level nutrition courses; and she is currently working at a large chain grocery store helping her community make healthier choices. One of Felicia’s passions is helping others fight through the confusing misinformation that is out there in the ever-changing and growing world of food and nutrition. Another one of her passions lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.
Read more about her story here, and on her Facebook page, or follow her on Instagram: @felicianewellnutrition. Click here for more NEM experts.
 

Why We Are Not Failures, And The Truth About Fad Diets

This post will discuss why changing our habits is not supposed to be easy, why we are not failures if we struggle to make changes, how to choose the right weight loss program, and how someone can lose weight in this day and age. 
A Brief Introduction – We are not failures…and why it’s not supposed to be easy.
There is a juxtaposition between the commonly held believe that weight loss is easy, and the extremely real, solid evidence that it is not. This leads many individuals to believe that weight is a reflection of personal weakness and failed character, and that success is predetermined by your ability to suffer and endure hardship (that is often required with fad/restrictive diets). Not only do these fad, and sometimes extremely restrictive diets not work, but these diets themselves may break people. Many people feel that if they cannot adhere to these restrictive diets long term, that they are failures and just can’t resist temptation. Could it simply be that in just 50 short years the world has gone from a willful place to one filled with weakness?
Here you are: you may have battled your weight possibly even since childhood, you’ve spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on various dieting efforts, and you’re blaming your own lack of willpower? As I see it as evidenced by your ongoing commitment over the years, you have incredible amounts of willpower. I’d go so far as to wager that in all likelihood, you have spent more willpower on weight management than on any other area in your life.
So is it a lack of willpower that has led to the tripling of childhood obesity rates over the course of the past 40 years? Have we suddenly raised a generation of toddlers and elementary school kids who just don’t have the same willpower of prior generations?
Of course not.
It’s not about willpower. If it were about willpower, if it were about just wanting it badly enough, the world would be skinny. It’s about change and it’s about beliefs.
In terms of change, the world is very, very different from what it was just 50 short years ago, and there are many, many things that have an impact upon a person’s choices and weight. These days, cheap calories are everywhere and everyone’s telling us to eat them. Where we used to go to buy gas, there are now junk-food supermarkets. Where eating out used to be a rare treat, it’s now affordable and convenient enough to be a multiple-time-a-week occurrence. And, of course, there are supersized portions and tens of billions of dollars a year of food industry advertising to now contend with, coupled with the fact that high fat/sugar/salt foods light up the pleasure centres in our brains and become addictive, on top of the fact that cost of living has increased dramatically and wage rates have not increased to match inflation (leaving people less and less money to live) – and the list goes on!
It’s a different world now, and the default in this world is weight gain, and simple, brute-force willpower doesn’t stand a chance (for most individuals anyway), without the right knowledge, support, and a few ups and downs along the way.
Why Extreme Fad Diets Do Not Work
A fad diet is a weight loss plan or aid that promises dramatic results. These diets typically don’t result in long-term weight loss and they are usually not very healthy. In fact, some of these diets can actually be dangerous to your health. Examples of these include the ‘Military Diet’, the ‘Cabbage Soup Diet’, extremely low calorie diets, etc.
Weight Cycling and Metabolic Slowdown
The more restrictively a person diets, the more likely they are to experience regular weight cycling. It’s like the infamous ‘yo-yo’ effect, but unlike a yo-yo, sometimes the upswing winds up at a higher location than where it started.
The biggest danger to aggressive weight cycling is metabolic slowdown. If a person undertakes an extremely restrictive diet, they are likely to lose a disproportionate amount of muscle – meaning that losing 50 pounds in a very short period of time will cause a greater loss of muscle tissue than losing the same amount of pounds slowly. Muscle is responsible for a fair amount of our total daily caloric burn, and is also of course responsible for much of our feelings of vigor and energy. Consequently, an ultra-rapid 50-pound loss may lead a person to not only lose the actual strength to continue with their efforts, but also suffer from a disproportionate loss of muscle and perhaps an amplified near-starvation adapted metabolic response.
This phenomenon may help to explain why it Is that people who lose large amounts of weight rapidly often regain more than they’d lost despite in fact not eating more than they used to. If that person goes back to the life they were living before their ultra-rapid weight loss (which many do at some point in their lifetime), even though they are not eating any more than they did prior to losing weight, they’ll gain it back more than they lost because their body now burns fewer calories than it used to. Also, the weight they gain back will primarily be fat, which is often why body fat percentages often climb higher following a weight cycle. Click here, here, here or here, for examples of research articles that explain some of the many mechanisms behind weight cycling and metabolic slowdown.
So, how do you choose the right weight loss program, you might ask?
Look for “Red Flags”
The weight loss industry is not regulated, and typically uses appealing marketing ploys, and/or anecdotal stories to make you believe that it is the be all end all weight loss solution. It is up to you to choose a safe and trustworthy weight loss program (not to say you aren’t allowed to get sucked into the wrong program once or twice – we’re all human!).
Here are some “red flags” that may tell you that a program does not meet your health needs:

  • Promises fast weight-loss (more than one kilogram (two pounds) per week).
  • Recommends a very low calorie diet plan (below 800 calories) per day) without medical supervision.
  • Does not encourage long term realistic lifestyle changes, including regular exercise and a healthy diet that suits your lifestyle and overall health. E.g., diets that recommend excluding large groups of food or extreme calorie restriction such as the ‘Military Diet’, ‘Cabbage Soup Diet’, etc.
  • Tries to make you dependent on their company by selling you products such as foods or supplements rather than teaching you how to make good choices from regular grocery store food.
  • Does not encourage long term realistic lifestyle changes, including regular exercise and a healthy diet that suits your lifestyle and overall health. E.g., diets that recommend excluding large groups of food or extreme calorie restriction such as the ‘Military Diet’, ‘Cabbage Soup Diet’, etc.
  • Employs salespeople who act as “counselors”, but are only trained on the program and the company’s products and not on healthy approaches to help you change your behaviour to help you lose weight.
  • Requires you to sign a long term, expensive contract.
  • Pressures you to sign up right away by offering a “special price”.
  • Does not tell you about risks that may go along with weight loss or their specific program (for example: if you have diabetes and take prescription medication, it may affect you differently after you lose weight).
  • Promotes weight loss aids like starch blockers, fat-burners, herbs, supplements or amino acids that have not been scientifically proven to have any health benefits. Talk to a dietitian or other health professional to find out this information.
  • Does not offer support or follow-up to help you lose weight and keep it off.

If it sounds too good or too easy to be true, it probably is.
So, even with a good weight loss program, how does a person lose weight in this day and age, when it seems that the default is to gain, the environment is toxic, and the deck is conclusively stacked against us, you might ask?
According to the founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, Dr. David Katz, it’s not about developing willpower, it’s about developing skillpower. The good news is that the skills required aren’t the classic triad of suffering, sacrifice, and struggle that fad diets normally require. The skills required are organization, planning, and thoughtfulness – and with those skills, it is possible not only to experience permanency with weight loss, but perhaps more important, it’s possible to enjoy a normal, healthy, and friendly relationship with food. ‘Skillpower’, while it does take time and often support to master, gets easier with time, as the more practice a person has with any particular skill, the better that person will get at it, and the more naturally it will come. It’s also about identifying what works for you and your lifestyle; which again, becomes much easier with time. We are so uniquely different – so comparing ourselves to others does not help.
– Felicia Newell, BScAHN, MScAHN, RD(c)
felicia2
Felicia Newell is our Official NEM Nutritionist and has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Human Nutrition, as well as a Master of Science in Applied Human Nutrition. For the past several years, Felicia has worked at a university research centre with a focus on food security, food access, and policies relating to food; she has taught university level nutrition courses; and she is currently working at a large chain grocery store helping her community make healthier choices. One of Felicia’s passions is helping others fight through the confusing misinformation that is out there in the ever-changing and growing world of food and nutrition. Another one of her passions lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.
Read more about her story here, and on her Facebook page, or follow her on Instagram: @felicianewellnutrition. Click here for more NEM experts.
 
 

Nutrient-Packed, Easy-To-Make, Kid-Approved Chia Seed Jam!

This chia seed jam is delicious, easy to make, and my kids even love it! An excellent source of vitamins, minerals (including iron and calcium), antioxidants and fibre, and a good source of protein and omega 3s…with a bonus of no preservatives and it tastes great.
 
Recipe:
– 4 cups fresh or frozen berries (I used 1 bag of Compliments frozen Jumbleberry Blend)
– 4 tbsp (60 ml) pure maple syrup or other sweetener of choice (I used Compliments organic pure maple syrup)
– 2-4 tbsp of chia seeds, which gel up and provide the jelly consistency (I used 4 tbsp to help soak up the water from the frozen berries, and I used Bobs Red Mill chia seeds)
Directions:
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the berries and maple syrup and bring to a simmer over medium to high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to med-low and simmer for about 5 minutes. Lightly mash the berries with a potato masher or fork, leaving some whole for texture.
2. Stir in the chia seeds until thoroughly combined and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens to your desired consistency, or about 15 minutes.
3. Once the jam is thick, remove the pan from the heat and stir. Add sweetener to taste if desired, but not necessary.
Tip: The jam should keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 weeks and it will thicken even more as it cools.
That’s it! Enjoy! 🙂
Felicia Newell is our Official NEM Nutritionist and has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Human Nutrition, as well as a Master of Science in Applied Human Nutrition. For the past several years, Felicia has worked at a university research centre with a focus on food security, food access, and policies relating to food; she has taught university level nutrition courses; and she is currently working at a large chain grocery store helping her community make healthier choices. One of Felicia’s passions is helping others fight through the confusing misinformation that is out there in the ever-changing and growing world of food and nutrition. Another one of her passions lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.
Read more about her on her Facebook page or follow her on Instagram: @felicianewellnutrition. Click here for more NEM experts.

Super Seeds!

Chia Seeds VS Hemp Hearts VS Flax Seeds – Have you seen the hype in the media and wondered which is better, or why they are considered so “super”? Then continue reading! 
Super Seed Bottom Line:

  • In fact all have great health benefits. Super seeds like chiahemp and flax are plant based alternative protein sources that provide are great sources of vitamins and minerals, fibre, healthy Omega 3 fats and phytochemicals (cancer fighting antioxidants that have other great health benefits).
  • Hemp hearts: If you are looking for a protein alternative, hemp hearts have the highest content. They also have high omega 3 content. They can also be added to yogurts, cereal or salads.
  • Chia seeds: If you are looking for a fibre boost, the richest source is chia seeds.
  • Flax: Reach for that flax to get some omega 3’s (especially if you’re not a fan of the flavour of hemp hearts). So be adventurous and start adding some seeds to your yogurts, cereals, salads or when cooking or baking.
  • All three are a great source of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

A little more about each seed:
 
Flax Seeds
Flax seeds are oval and flat shaped seeds that are slightly larger than sesame seeds. They have a crisp, chewy texture with a nutty flavour. Flax seeds can be brown or yellow in colour. They are a rich source of lignans; a phytochemical which reduces cancer risk by acting as an antioxidant.
Flaxseeds can be used as an alternative for fats in many recipes. 
Substituting fat: Use 3 tablespoons (45 ml) ground flaxseed for each 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of margarine, butter or cooking oil or 1 cup of ground flax seed for 1/3 cup of oil (3:1 substitution ratio). Flax can be substituted for all or some of the fat depending on the recipe. If you choose to substitute all of the fat in the recipe with flax seed, you will need to increase your liquid by 75% of the amount of ground flax you are adding because the flaxseed will absorb moisture. Just a note: Baking with flax as a fat substitute will cause baked goods to brown more quickly.
Can be a substitute for 1 medium egg: 1 medium egg = 1 tablespoon ground flax seed + 3 tablespoons water. Let this 1:3 combination sit for several minutes together before adding to your recipe. The flax will absorb the water and gel up in a egg-like texture. Use hot water for faster results.
Tips:

  • Flax seeds need to be ground in order to reap health benefits. Ground flax seeds are the most ‘nutritious’. Grinding the seeds makes them easier to digest and helps release their nutrients. Your best bet is to enjoy ground flax seeds to get the most this seed has to offer.   You can buy ground flax seeds or grind them yourself with the tools you already have in your kitchen. Grind flax seeds at home with a coffee grinder, food processor or blender.
  • They tend to be the least expensive to buy compared to hemp hearts and chia seeds.
  • What can you do with them? Sprinkle on cereal, yogurt, or salads, or bake with it in muffins or breads.

 
Chia Seeds
Chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. Salvia hispanica seed is often sold under its common name “chia” as well as several trademarked names. Its origin is believed to be in Central America where the seed was a staple in the ancient Aztec diet.
Chia seeds have recently gained attention as an excellent source of omega-3 fats and contain protein and minerals including as iron, calcium (18% of your calcium requirement, magnesium and zinc and antioxidants.
Chia seeds contain the most fibre/serving (11.7g) (compare that to recommended daily intake of 25 g for women and 38g/men!).
A note about fibre:
Both soluble and insoluble fibres are undigested. They are therefore not absorbed into the bloodstream. Fibre content is often listed under “Total Carbohydrates” on a Nutrition Facts label.  Because it is undigested, it provides 0 calories. Instead of being used for energy, fiber is excreted from our bodies. However they act a little different in the body…
Soluble fibre: forms thick viscous gel when mixed with water, slows down digestion, and takes longer to digest delays the emptying of the stomach and make you feel full. It has cholesterol lowering properties, helps manage blood sugars and diabetes. Examples: oatmeal, lentils, fruits and vegetables, beans, psyillum and CHIA.
Insoluble fibre: is a gut healthy fiber, helps regulate bowel movements, adds bulk/satiety to the diet, helps prevent constipation (when water intake is adequate), and passes through our intestines largely intact. Examples: whole wheat, grains, raisins, fruit and vegetable skins, brown rice, couscous.
Tips:

  • When making a food choice decision, don’t worry about choosing a specific type of fiber. Many foods such as oat, oat brans, psyllium husk and flax seed are rich in both insoluble and soluble fiber. Eating enough fiber is more important! The recommended intake of fiber for a healthy adult 26g.
  • As you increase the fiber in your diet, you may experience more intestinal gas. Increasing fiber gradually will allow your body to adapt. Because some fibers absorb water, you should also drink more water as you increase fiber.
  • How to reach 26g fiber/day:
    • Eating 26 grams of fibre daily may seem like a lot but can be obtained by:
      • Having 3-5 servings of each fruits and vegetables per day;
      • Fruit as between-meal snacks;
      • And choosing high fibre whole grains.

White VS Black Chia Seeds:
While large-scale, independent research has not been conducted because it would not be cost-effective, researchers and growers agree that black chia seeds and white chia seeds are nutritionally identical. If anything, a difference in nutritional content would more be attributed to different production locations rather than the seeds themselves.
Chia seeds can be easily digested without a need to grind the seeds (unlike flax seeds).
How to use: You can sprinkle chia seeds on cereal, rice, yogurt or vegetables or add to smoothies, add to baked products such as muffins!
 
Hemp Seeds/Hearts
The hemp seeds are actually the seeds of the plant cannabis sativa; however they do not have the same active ingredients as the recreational drug.  They have the similar nutrition benefits like other nuts and seeds as they are a great source of protein and are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.
Contains non-heme iron and zincwhich are important for body functions.
Hemp wins for the most protein per serving when comparing flax and chia!
Contains 3X more omega-6 than omega 3’s (Note: Omega 3 fatty acids from fatty fish (i.e., EPA & DHA) are associated with the heart health benefits.
They have a great nutty taste!! If you enjoy the taste of hemp seeds try them in yogurt, cereal, salads and smoothies. You can buy the seeds or hemp protein powder which has 15 g of protein per serving/4 tbsp. Approximate recommended protein intake (depending on a number of factors such as if you’re trying to build muscle): 0.8-1.5g/kg body weight, therefore 150 pounds = 68.2 kg; the approximate recommended protein intake would be = 54-102g/day.
Therefore one hemp heart serving = is roughly 20-30% of intake for day!
Here are examples of amounts of protein in other foods:

  • 1 cup of milk has 8 grams of protein
  • A 3-ounce piece of meat has about 21 grams of protein
  • 1 cup of dry beans has about 16 grams of protein
  • An 8-ounce container of Greek yogurt has about 15 grams of protein
  • 1 30g (2 tbsp) hemp heart serving has 10g protein

Felicia Newell is our Official NEM Nutritionist and has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Human Nutrition, as well as a Master of Science in Applied Human Nutrition. For the past several years, Felicia has worked at a university research centre with a focus on food security, food access, and policies relating to food; she has taught university level nutrition courses; and she is currently working at a large chain grocery store helping her community make healthier choices. One of Felicia’s passions is helping others fight through the confusing misinformation that is out there in the ever-changing and growing world of food and nutrition. Another one of her passions lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.
Read more about her on her Facebook page or follow her on Instagram: @felicianewellnutrition. Click here for more NEM experts.

Why Having Enough Iron in the Diet is Important

Ever feel tired and sluggish, but you don’t understand why?

You may not be getting enough iron in your diet, or, your body may not be able to absorb the iron that you do consume. Iron is a mineral that you need to carry oxygen through the body. Without enough iron you can become very tired, pale-looking and irritable. Women, young children, pregnant and pre-menopausal women, some athletes, vegetarians and many older adults are at risk for not getting enough iron in their diet. The following are guidelines on how to increase iron in the diet.

Heme and Non-Heme Iron

Food contains iron in two forms: “heme” and “non-heme”. Heme iron is better used by your body than non-heme iron. Heme iron is found in meat, fish and poultry. Non-heme iron is found in dried beans (such as kidney beans), enriched and whole grains, nuts and some fruits and vegetables. Non-heme iron can be better used by your body when you eat foods that contain heme iron at the same time. It is important to eat or drink foods rich in vitamin C such as citrus fruits and juices, cantaloupe, strawberries, broccoli, peppers and tomatoes. These foods will also help your body use non-heme iron.

Steps You Can Take

  • Include at least one iron-rich food and one food rich in vitamin C at each meal.
  • Add cooked dried beans or lentils to soups, stews or casseroles.
  • Choose breakfast cereals and flour that are fortified/enriched with iron. Read the Nutrition Facts box on packaged foods and choose those foods that are high in iron.
  • Choose dark green and orange vegetables and fruits more often. For example, choose spinach instead of lettuce for your salad.
  • Have spaghetti with tomato meat sauce rather than cream sauce.
  • Choose dried fruit as a snack more often.
  • Add raisins or other dried fruit to cereal or in your favourite cookie/muffin recipe.
  • Have a glass of orange juice with your cereal at breakfast.
  • Coffee or tea with meals may decrease iron absorption so have these beverages after meals.

Reading Food Labels for Iron

You will find the Nutrition Facts box on most packaged food products. Look for the Percent Daily Value (%DV) that tells you whether a food has a little or a lot of a given nutrient.

How much Iron Should I Aim For?

Age in Years Aim for an intake of *milligrams  (mg)/day    Stay below*mg/day
Men 19 and older 8 45
Women 19-50 18 45
Women 51 and older 8 45
Pregnant women 19-50 27 45
Breastfeeding women 19-50 9 45

*This includes sources of iron from food and supplements.
Vegetarians need almost twice the daily recommended amount of iron compared with non-vegetarians.  Iron from plant-based foods is not absorbed as well by our bodies as animal food sources.

Iron Content of Some Common Foods

You can find iron in both animal and plant foods.

  • Animal sources (called “heme iron”) include meat, fish and poultry.  Our bodies easily absorb this type of iron.
  • Plant sources (called “non-heme iron”) include dried beans, peas and lentils and some fruits and vegetables.
  • In Canada, grain products like flour, pasta and breakfast cereals are fortified with iron.  Our bodies better absorb this type of iron when taken along with meat/chicken/fish or a source of vitamin C.  Vitamin C rich foods include citrus fruits and juices, cantaloupe, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes and peppers.

The following table will show you which foods are sources of iron:

Food Serving size Iron (mg)
Vegetables and Fruits
Spinach, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 2.0-3.4
Tomato puree 125 mL (½ cup) 2.4
Edamame/baby soybeans, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 1.9-2.4
Lima beans, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 2.2
Asparagus, raw 6 spears 2.1
Hearts of palm, canned 125 mL (½ cup) 2.0
Potato, with skin, cooked 1 medium 1.3-1.9
Snow peas, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 1.7
Turnip or beet greens, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 1.5-1.7
Prune juice 125 mL (½ cup) 1.6
Apricots, dried 60 mL (¼ cup) 1.6
Beets, canned 125 mL (½ cup) 1.6
Kale, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 1.3
Green peas, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 1.3
Tomato sauce 125 mL (½ cup) 1.3
Grains Products
Oatmeal, instant , cooked 175 mL (¾ cup) 4.5-6.6
Cream of wheat, all types, cooked 175 mL (¾ cup) 5.7-5.8
Cereal, dry, all types 30 g 4.0-4.3
Granola bar, oat, fruits and nut 1 bar (32 g) 1.2-2.7
Cracker, soda 6 crackers 1.5-2.3
Oat bran cereal, cooked 175 mL (¾ cup) 2.0
Pasta, egg noodles, enriched, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 1.3
Milk and Alternatives
Yogurt, soy 175 mL (¾ cup) 2.0
Meats and Alternatives
Meat and Poultry
Duck, cooked 75 g (2 ½  oz) 1.8- 7.4
Moose or venison, cooked 75 g (2 ½  oz) 2.5-3.8
Beef, various cuts, cooked  75 g (2 ½ oz) 1.4-3.3
Ground meat (beef, lamb), cooked 75 g (2 ½  oz) 1.3-2.2
Lamb, various cuts, cooked 75 g (2 ½  oz) 1.3-2.1
Chicken, various cuts, cooked 75 g (2 ½  oz) 0.4-2.0
Pork, various cuts, cooked 75 g (2 ½  oz) 0.5-1.5
Ground meat (turkey, chicken, pork), cooked 75 g (2 ½  oz) 0.8-1.2
Turkey, various cuts, cooked 75 g (2 ½  oz) 0.3-0.8
Organ Meats
Liver, pork ,cooked* 75 g (2 ½ oz) 13.4
Liver (chicken, turkey, lamb), cooked* 75 g (2 ½ oz) 6.2-9.7
Kidney, lamb, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 9.3
Liver, beef ,cooked* 75 g (2 ½ oz) 4.9
Kidney (beef, veal, pork), cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 2.3-4.4
Fish and Seafood
Octopus, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 7.2
Oysters, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 3.3-9.0
Seafood (shrimp, scallops, crab), cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 2.2-2.3
Sardines, canned 75 g (2 ½ oz) 1.7-2.2
Clams, canned 75 g (2 ½ oz) 2.0
Fish (mackerel, trout, bass), cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 1.4-1.7
Tuna, light, canned in water 75 g (2 ½ oz) 1.2
 Meat Alternatives
Tofu, cooked 150 g (¾ cup) 2.4-8.0
Soybeans, mature, cooked 175 mL (¾ cup) 6.5
Lentils, cooked 175 mL (¾ cup) 4.1-4.9
Beans (white, kidney, navy, pinto, black, roman/cranberry, adzuki), cooked 175 mL (¾ cup) 2.6-4.9
Pumpkin or squash seeds, roasted 60 mL (¼ cup) 1.4-4.7
Peas (chickpeas/garbanzo, black-eyed, split), cooked 175 mL (¾ cup) 1.9-3.5
Tempeh/fermented soy product, cooked 150 g (3/4 cup) 3.2
Meatless (sausage, chicken, meatballs, fish sticks), cooked 75 g (2.5 oz) 1.5-2.8
Baked beans, canned 175 mL (¾ cup) 2.2
Nuts (cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia, pistachio nuts), without shell 60 ml (¼ cup) 1.3-2.2
Eggs, cooked 2 large 1.2-1.8
Sesame seeds, roasted 15 mL (1 Tbsp) 1.4
Meatless, luncheon slices 75 g (2.5 oz) 1.4
Hummus 60 mL (¼ cup) 1.4
Almond butter 30 mL (2 Tbsp) 1.2
Miscellaneous
Blackstrap molasses 15 mL (1 Tbsp) 3.6
Yeast extract spread (marmite or vegemite) 30 mL (2 Tbsp) 1.4

*Pregnant women should limit intake of liver to one serving every two weeks.

Source: “Canadian Nutrient File 2010”
www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/fiche-nutri-data/index-eng.php
 
 
Felicia Newell, BScAHN, MScAHN(c), RD(c)
Official NEM Nutritionist
For the past several years, Felicia has been working at a university research centre with a focus on food security (Food Action Research Centre), and has taught university level nutrition courses. She is almost complete her final internship required to become a Registered Dietitian. Her passion lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FeliciaNewellNutrition
Instagram: @felicianewellnutrition