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Meal Planning to Promote a Well-Nourished Week

Meal Planning to Promote a Well-Nourished Week

For many of us, weeknights are often action-packed with family, sports, and extra-curricular and volunteer activities.  Personally, it is very common that I am not home until 7-8pm and by that time, I am not only exhausted but I am also famished and have a tendency to eat anything in sight.  Surviving on foods that were often cooked quickly with poor nutrient content and lacking certain macronutrients only made be feel tired and unsatisfied.  My body and mind were in survival mode and this only contributed to stress and ineffectiveness in my various roles in life.

I decided that I had to undermine this survival mode my body and mind had been accustomed to.  This involved creating meals composed of whole foods to provide nourishment and changing patterns to encourage healthy eating behaviors.  As a result, my Sundays have been adopted as my day to cook meals and bake treats that will provide me with nourishment throughout the week.  I am still adapting to this new routine of spending at least 3 hours every Sunday preparing for the week to come, however, I find I am a much happier, productive and well-nourished individual if I am able to plan ahead. 

Any other reasons why meal planning could be helpful? The body thrives on routine.  Anytime we have irregular eating habits (i.e. skipping breakfast, returning home late and overeating), sleep habits, and so forth our body considers this a source of stress and responds with the “stress response”.  This can affect our mental acuity, blood sugar levels, immune function and can make it very difficult to lose weight.   Meal planning promotes regular meals and can make it easier to eat at regular intervals. 

Although meal planning is ideal for the busy individual or family, remember that HOW you eat is just as important as WHAT you eat.    This means that, despite having a tight schedule, you should try to sit down while eating and enjoy the taste and smell of the meal you have helped to prepare. 

Below are some tips that may be helpful for you and your family in creating healthy meals for the week. 

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  • Choose one day when you are not working that you will devote a couple of hours to in order to plan and cook/bake meals for the week to come.   I have found that 3 hours is often enough to cook a few meals (each with 3-4 servings each) and also bake one recipe.  When I create meal plans for patients, it often involves one day where most of the cooking/baking happens.
  • Ensure you have portable glass containers that you are able to place meals into for the week.  You can then transport these to work/school and also freeze them for later.
  • Look through recipe books/online resources and plan those meals that you will make for the week.   Make an ingredient list and ensure that you check you kitchen shelves before buying.  I have found in many cases that I have many if not most of the ingredients at the back of my fridge or pantry shelves and just forgot they were there.
  • Find recipes and do the grocery shopping on a different day then when you are cooking.  You could search for recipes on a break from work rather than going for coffee one day per week.  Grocery shopping on a quiet weeknight after work while the kids are at the extracurricular activities might be more pleasant than navigating the aisles on a busy weekend.
  • Create a diversity of meals.  It is not fun to consume the same foods or flavors for an entire week.  It becomes boring!  I often make a variety of meals so that eating never becomes mundane or not enjoyable.  For instance, this week I made split pea dahl with green peas/ red rice, vegetarian sushi, bison meatballs with vegetable baked potato.
  • Running out of ideas for meals.  Ask friends for their favourites or check back here regularly for recipes.  
  • Another way to increase the diversity of your meals and reduce the workload is to create food groups with your family or friends.  Here is how it works.  Each member of the group agrees to make one meal with enough servings for themselves and everyone else in the group.  You then exchange this on one set day and you then have a diversity of meals prepared for the rest of the week!
  • Ensure you freeze meals for later.  You may not always need them all in that week, but you and your family will have a selection of meals at later dates.  Ensure food is cooled before placing in the freezer, however, do not allow it to sit on the counter for long periods of time.   Keeping an inventory of what is actually in your freezer can be helpful.
  • Repeat recipes that you and your family love!
  • Ensure everyone in the family is aware of the meals that are available for the week so that they do not go to waste.  Consider a notebook, whiteboard, chalkboard where you can list the meals.
  • Consider cooking with other friends, family and including the kids in the process.  This can make it a little more enjoyable and possibly entertaining!
  • What does a well-rounded meal look like?  I like to use the Harvard Eating Plate as a visual for what our meals should be composed of.   I usually encourage half of the plate being composed of just vegetables rather than both fruits and vegetables.

If you have any other helpful tips, please feel free to share!  

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Finding Balance: The use of Acupuncture and Abdominal Massage to Enhance Fertility

This is an article I wrote recently for our clinic newsletter and thought I would share it with all of you online.   

Fertility issues are on the rise in Canada.  A recent study (2012) in the journal of Human Reproduction estimated that up to 16% of couples where the woman is 18-to 44 are experiencing infertility.  This rate appears to be rising in younger women as well and numerous contributing factors have been proposed including obesity, alcohol use and sexually transmitted infections.  The mental, emotional, physical, not to mention financial costs of engaging in assisted reproductive technology (ART) can be overwhelming.  The health of both partners is equally important when considering fertility.  Nutritional status, elimination and detoxification, hormone balance, mental health, and physiology/anatomical factors must be assessed to promote optimal health and wellness prior to conception and ART.  The therapeutic modalities of acupuncture and Arvigo Techniques of Mayan Abdominal Therapy™ have found an important place in fertility enhancement.  Although they are both traditional techniques employed by diverse cultures, these therapeutic modalities are gaining more research and support for their use within a conventional medical model.  For instance, acupuncture is commonly practiced prior to and proceeding in-vitro fertilization procedures in many fertility centres across Canada.

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Although both of these modalities have their foundation in different cultures and traditions, the guiding principle of each is the same: to establish Balance.  Acupuncture is a therapy that comprises one arm of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It involves using fine needles inserted into points that fall on meridian systems that run throughout the body.  Acupuncture treatment is directed at balancing Yin and Yang aspects of the body and mind.  Yin and Yang are opposing forces yet undeniably inter-connected; you cannot have one without the other. Yin is nourishing, promotes development and is associated with earth, darkness, cold, and moisture.  Yang is creative, expanding, movement and is associated with light, warmth, and dryness. Disease or illness in the body arises when yin and yang are not in balance and acupuncture and other TCM modalities (including herbs, diet) are implemented with the hopes of achieving balance.  Acupuncture can be used to regulate the menstrual cycle and ovulation, promote embryo implantation, and promote a viable pregnancy (Betts, 2010). 

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The Arvigo Techniques of Mayan Abdominal Therapy™ (ATMAT) are founded on the ancient Mayan technique of abdominal massage, which is an external non-invasive manipulation that repositions internal organs that have shifted.  Shifted organs can cause restriction in the flow of blood, lymph, nerve and Qi (chi). Dr. Rosita Arvigo learned these techniques from her mentor, Don Elijio Panti, the great Maya Shaman of Belize, Central America with whom she apprenticed for ten years. Don Elijio recognized the importance of the uterus and stated, "If a woman's uterus is out of balance, so is she." 

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By shifting the uterus back into place, homeostasis, or the natural balance of the body, is restored in the pelvic area and the surrounding organs. Maya Abdominal Therapy can be used for enhancing fertility by promoting optimal position of the uterus, which allows clearance of congestion in the pelvis and nourishes the uterine lining by promoting blood flow to this area (arvigotherapy.com).   The use of ATMAT for fertility enhancement is particularly effective when used in combination with acupuncture.  In addition to the physical therapeutic effects, these therapies allow the individual to reconnect with their body, engage in self-care, and promote balance of mind and soul. 

If you have any questions about either of these therapies and how they are used together, please feel free to contact Kyla Wright directly.  Kyla is a naturopathic doctor, acupuncture provider and is a certified practitioner of the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy.  

 

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Anytime-of-Year Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crust

Anytime-of-Year Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crust

(Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free)

This past Canadian Thanksgiving was a wonderful time spent with family in Yellowknife.  I was disappointed when after the delicious meal, I could not enjoy in Pumpkin Pie, a staple of any Thanksgiving meal and one of my favorites regardless of the time of year.  I decided that I would try my luck at baking a gluten-free, vegan pumpkin pie the following week just 1 ½ hours prior to attending a dinner party.  While I am always reluctant to try out a new recipe on friends (especially one that combined a variety of recipes and my own imagination), I was rewarded with a delightful pie and appreciative taste-testers.  The crust is from a recipe in Nourishing Meals Cookbook by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre.  If you are a fan of our facebook page, you probably already know that this is one of my ‘go-to’ cookbooks.  The filling is modified from gluten-free goddess, an online blog you can find at glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.ca.  I did not have any agar-agar or Ener-G egg replacer, so in order to make the pie achieve a shape, I had to add more xanthum gum. Just proves that you can do a lot, even if you do not always have all the ingredients!  Be creative, but know when to use which substitutions and how to use them correctly. 

Hope you enjoy!

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Crust:

1 cup raw pecans, finely ground

1 cup superfine sorghum flour

¼ cup arrowroot powder

1 tablespoon ground chia seeds

½ teaspoon sea salt

6 tablespoons organic palm shortening (I used one vegan Earth Balance butter stick)

4 to 6 tablespoons icy cold water

Filling:

1 14 or 15-oz can organic pumpkin or homemade pumpkin puree

1 1/2 cups full fat coconut milk (or vanilla soy/almond milk)

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 tablespoons coconut oil

3/4 cup organic sucanat

1/2 cup GF buckwheat or sorghum flour

2 tablespoons tapioca starch/flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½- 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Set out a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate.

To make the crust, place the finely group pecans, sorghum flour, arrowroot powder, ground chia and/or flaxseeds, and salt into a small mixing bowl and whisk together.  Add the vegan butter stick.  Add the cold water and quickly mix together using a fork.  (I combined everything in a food processor and it worked just fine)

Use your hands to form a ball.  The dough may be a little sticky; if it is, cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes.  Roll out dough in between two pieces of waxed paper, then removethe top layer of waxed paper, flip over and press into the pie plate.  Remove second piece of waxed paper.  Prebake for 10 to 12 minutes. 

In a food processor, combine the filling ingredients. Cover and process until smooth and creamy. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl, if necessary to incorporate all of the dry ingredients.

Pour into the prepared pie plate and smooth evenly. Bake in the center of a preheated oven for about an hour until done. The pie should be firm- but still give a little when lightly touched. The center should not be wet. It will fall a bit as it cools. 

Cool the pie on a wire rack completely. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until serving approximately 1 hour (very important or it will collapse).

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