More good recipes for work lunches!

Thanks to my readers for telling me they enjoyed my recipe post (and also for letting me know that you read my blog!).  I decided to post a few more recipes that we make at our house that are great for leftovers.

Meatza
This is a great one if you’re gluten free (no pizza crust) and is great for varying ingredients!
Start with some ground beef (amount will vary based on how big of a ‘meatza’ you want).  Add in an egg, some breadcrumbs (skip for gluten free obviously), and some pizza spices (I add garlic powder, parmesan cheese, oregano, and italian spices).  Mix all together and then spread out on something oven safe (cookie sheet or 9×13 pan work good).  This is your pizza “crust”, so make it fairly thin and flat.  It will shrink some, and be a bit greasy depending on the leanness of your beef.
Add pizza sauce or tomato paste.
Then go crazy with your toppings!  We usually put mushrooms, onions, peppers, and ham on ours.  Add whatever you like on your regular pizza.
Top with cheese….mozza is always delish, but feta is also very yummy.
Bake for 20 min at 350F.  Be sure to make a big batch so you have some extras for lunches.  One normal size package of ground beef usually makes enough for 2 extra lunches for us.

Chilli
I’m not going to post a chilli recipe as there are tons out there and I’m sure you have one you like.  We vary ours a little each time we make it anyways.  But this is a great, high protein, satisfying lunch that you can prepare and throw in the slow cooker.  Make as big of a batch as will fit in your slow cooker and freeze the extras.

Taco Chicken Bowls
Another Pinterest recipe that I love.  Here’s the link.
It’s a slow cooker recipe that takes about 5min to throw together.  Chicken breasts, salsa, a few spices and you’re done.
I’ll usually make some rice to go with it….makes it go a little further for lunches.  So yummy!

Taco Salad
Again, I don’t have a set recipe for this, but here goes…
Brown some ground beef while adding some taco spices (I just add chilli powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne, and garlic powder to taste.  Much better for you than the prepackaged store bough stuff).
Shred some iceberg lettuce in a bowl.  Add in whatever veggies you like in taco salad….I like peppers, green onion, celery, and cilantro.  Crush up some tortilla chips, add in some cheese, sour cream, salsa, and guacamole.   Stir and eat!
For your lunch the next day separate the chips so they don’t get soggy, hamburger so that you can reheat it, and wet stuff (salsa, sour cream, guac).  Basically leave only the veggies together.

Basically anything you make for supper the day before you should try to double it so that you leave yourself leftovers for work the next day, or something quick for supper that next night if you didn’t plan ahead.

Feel free to comment and share some recipes you like to have for work lunches.

So you want to be a healthier shift worker?

Of course we all want to be healthier!  Anyone who works shift work knows that we have a higher risk of almost everything (disease, earlier death, etc).  So why would anyone choose a job where shift work is the norm?!  Because we LOVE it and are passionate about it!  So, what can you do to try and minimize the risks?  I have a few ideas, some of which I’ve discussed in previous blog posts but are worth mentioning again because they are just that important!

  1. SLEEP!  Sleep is so so so important!  Not just after your day shifts and night shifts, but every single time you sleep!  You need to strive for 8 hours or as close to it as possible.  I discussed some nights shift sleep tips in this blog post.
  2. FOOD!  You need to eat real, whole foods and stay away from packaged foods that are full of sugar and other garbage!  See this blog post about sugar, and this blog post about reading food labels.
  3. WATER!  Everyone needs to drink lots and lots of water in a day.  I know you’ll need to pee lots, and that sometimes this is not a great thing on a busy shift as a Paramedic (unless you want to have to use your patient’s bathroom!).  So, just drink as much as you can!  No, Red Bull and coffee and pop don’t count!  Here’s a few tips to help you drink more water.
  4. STRETCH!  Even just for 5-10 minutes a day.  Before shift, during shift, after shift, at home, whenever!  I wrote about a few on duty stretches that are easy to do in uniform here.
  5. EXERCISE!  I don’t care what you do, just get out and move!  Run, walk, ride your bike, go to a class at a gym, sign up for a community association program (bonus…these are usually cheaper than at a gym!), anything!  Find something you enjoy doing and/or find a buddy to do it with you!  You’ll help keep each other accountable!
  6. LAUGH!  I hope you work somewhere as fun as I do and can laugh a TON with your fabulous co-workers!  Find some fun friends outside of work that you can have a blast with as well!  Go to a funny movie, anything that will make you laugh!  It truly is the best medicine!

None of these are new ideas, and I know you’ve all heard them before.  But maybe this is the one time you’ll take one of the suggestions to heart and change something in your lifestyle.

Feel free to share any tips you have to become a healthier Medic!

WATER WATER WATER!

DRINK MORE WATER!  How many times a day/week/month do you hear that?  Have you ever tried to drink as much water as “they” recommend in a day?  How did you feel (other than having to pee all the time?!)?

Dieticians of Canada recommend 3L of water for men and 2L of water for women PER DAY! That is a TON of water.  Now, they do state this can come from milk, juice, etc. but also state that water is the best choice.

How on earth can you possibly get even close to that recommended amount?  Here are a few ideas:
1. Drink a glass of water as soon as you get up in the morning.
2. Keep a water bottle with you at all times during the day and sip on it continuously (at work, in the car, at home, at the gym).
3. Have a glass of water with each meal.
4. Make it taste good (if you don’t like the taste of plain water).  Add fresh foods like lemons, strawberries, mint, cucumber, limes, etc…the possibilities are endless.  One of my favourites is mint and cucumber, it’s so refreshing!  Try to stay away from other additions to your water (Crystal Light powders, squeezable squirter things, etc)…they add unnecessary crap (like sugar).  And it goes without saying that pop doesn’t count toward your water intake!
5.  Add (or subtract) ice!  I HATE warm water.  So I bought myself a really awesome, large, water bottle that keeps ice and my water cold all day long…even in the summer.
6.  If you are really bad at remembering to drink water….there’s an app for that!  There are actually apps out there that will set an alert to remind you to drink water.

Yes, you will have to pee more!  But I guarantee you’ll feel better!   Less headaches, less craving those not so healthy foods, better digestion, less UTIs (if you’re prone to them), the list is endless.
It should also go without saying that the more active you are, or the more you are sweating, the more water you need to consume (on top of the 2-3 L that is recommended).

Happy water drinking!

 

References:

Dieticians of Canada:
http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Water/Why-is-water-so-important-for-my-body—Know-when-.aspx

 

What motivates you?

I bet many of you struggle to maintain motivation to eat healthy, be consistently physically active, and many other healthy lifestyle struggles.

As a Peer Fitness Trainer, I have recently started trying out a few challenges with some of my coworkers that I can tell want to make some changes in their lives.  These challenges are still fairly recent and new, but so far they are appearing to be quite successful and a lot of fun for both myself and the person achieving them (way to go to those people who’ve successfully completed one of my challenges!).

But, it’s got me wondering…why do people need some sort of challenge from an external source (i.e. me) to hold them accountable for their actions?  Why isn’t the internal motivation of “I want to be healthier” or “I want to feel better” or “I want my pants to fit better” enough?

I definitely don’t know the answer, but I do know that external motivation is the key factor in a lot of people achieving their health and wellness goals (myself included).  Think about it…people sign up for a fitness class with a friend.  Why?  Because they know they will keep each other accountable and actually attend the classes.  People sign up for group sports for the same reason…accountability.  Money can also be a motivating factor….if I’m spending all this $$$ on these classes I better actually attend the classes.  Weight loss groups work in a similar way…being held accountable to the group, or the weigh ins, or the inches lost, etc, etc, etc.

I don’t care what motivates you, but you HAVE to find that person or reason to get yourself going!!  Here are some suggestions for keeping yourself motivated and accountable:

  1. Find a buddy!  This would be my #1 recommendation!  Find a friend who has the same interests as you (whether it’s fitness or nutrition) and hold each other accountable at all times.  Start a FB group, or text message group and talk as often as you need to in order to stay on track.
  2. Ensure your goals are SMART:
    S:  Specific.  “I’m going to walk 30min a day 3x a week” vs. “I’m going to walk more”
    M: Measurable.  “Eat at least 4 servings of vegetables a day” vs. “Eat more veggies”
    A: Achievable.  If you hate running, do NOT make a goal that you are going to run!
    R: Realistic.  “I’m going to do yoga 5x a week and run 3x a week and play soccer 4x a week…as well as work full time, spend time with your family, etc”.  That is definitely not a realistic goal in my world!
    T: Time.  There has to be a deadline.  For example…my first SMART goals I made with my coworkers had a deadline.  Once that deadline hits I made contact with them to see how they did (and also contacted them through their challenge to see how it was going, and made them aware that they could contact me at any time).  And, it allowed us to make new SMART goals with a new deadline.
  3. You have to want to make a change.  Be honest with yourself.  If you have no ambition or desire to make the change (no matter what it is or how big or small it is) it won’t be successful.  Everyone wants to be healthier or fitter or look better in a bathing suit, but if you aren’t serious about it it’s not going to work.  You just have to think a little harder about a more achievable or SMART goal that you actually want to accomplish and can be successful at.
  4. This one fits in with the “T” of SMART goals….but make sure your goal has a deadline.  Training towards something will also help you be successful.  Some examples…a run (there’s tons of races around Saskatchewan and area in the summer!), a physical test (our PFT test, a hiring physical, etc), your wedding, someone else’s wedding, a certain birthday/anniversary, etc, etc, etc.  Having that end goal is often huge for people!

I can blabber on all I want about how to get motivated, but unless you find that thing that gets you started all this talk is just talk!  I just hope one of my suggestions will sink in and help one of you!

Please comment and share with me what motivates you!  I’d love to hear it!

Front Label Trickery

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 15.38.00.png
http://www.theexercisepro.com

I would bet you have seen some of these health claims (& likely many others) on food labels of items you’ve bought.  And I’d bet that you have been suckered in to buying items based on these claims…I’ll admit that I have.

Here are some truths behind some of the common health claims you’ll see on food labels in Canada…

“Calorie Free” – less than 5 calories per serving size.  The “per serving size” is the catch here…you then have to look at the nutrition label to see how big the serving size is.  The serving size may only be ¼ or less of the actual size you’ll eat at a time.

“Low calorie” – 40 calories per serving size.  Same catch as above…you have to check the serving size.

“Reduced calorie or fat or sodium ” – the food is processed or otherwise modified so that it contains at least 25% less calories/fat/sodium than the regular version.

“Fat-free, Non-fat, etc” – less than 0.5g per serving size.

“Low fat” – less than 3g of fat per serving size.

“Lean” (as in ‘lean ground beef’) – contains 10% fat or less.

“Extra lean” (as in ‘extra lean ground beef’) – contains 7.5% fat or less.

“No saturated fat” and “Trans fat free” – less than 0.2g of saturated fatty acids or trans fats per serving size.

“Low in saturated fat” – less than 2g of saturated fatty acids per serving size.

“Cholesterol free” – less than 2mg of cholesterol per serving size.

“Low cholesterol” – less than 20mg of cholesterol per serving size.

“Sodium free” – less than 5mg of sodium per serving size.

“Low in sodium” – 140mg or less of sodium per serving size.

“Sugar free” – less than 0.5g of sugars per serving size.

“No added sugar” – no added sugar, and no ingredients that contain added sugars. (“unsweetened” falls under this category as well).

“Source of fibre” – contains 2g or more of fibre per serving size.

“High source of fibre” – contains 4g or more of fibre per serving size.

Any vitamin or mineral that claims it’s a “source of” – contains >5% recommended daily intake (RDI) of that item.

“Good source of” or “High in” a vitamin or mineral – contains >15% RDI of that item.

“Excellent source of” a vitamin or mineral – contains >25% RDI of that item.

“Fortified” or “Enriched” – usually means the food has been altered or processed.

“Natural” – the manufacturer started with a natural source, however once processed it usually doesn’t resemble anything natural.

“Organic” – trust only “certified organically grown” if you want true organic foods.

“Made with wheat, multigrain, etc” – doesn’t tell you how much whole grains are in the product.  Look for 100% whole grain products.
The list is long, but all items in the list are similar and misleading.  You MUST check the serving size as there are no regulations on this (meaning, the manufacturer can make the serving size ridiculously small and then include a health claim from the list above).  You also need to be aware of what “high in” or “low in” means in regards to fats and nutrients.  Zero does not mean zero in the world of health claims!

And as I said in the previous post…it is best to choose items with no ingredient list when possible (whole foods), or choose items with a small ingredient list and items you can pronounce!

References:

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/nutrient-content/eng/1389905941652/1389905991605

http://www.freedieting.com/food_labels.htm

 

 

 

 

Sugary Sugar Sugariness

There is a lot of misleading information out there about sugar!

I want to start this post with a disclaimer…I am not a nutritionist, dietician, or any other food specialist…and I only have minimal nutritional education as a Peer Fitness Trainer through the IAFF. But, over the years I have done lots reading and learned some information about food nutrition labels and ingredient lists.

There are a few loose rules manufacturers have to follow when it comes to food labels (I use the term “loose rules” on purpose).

They are required to list the total sugar content, but they don’t have to separate the natural from the added sugars.  So, it’s impossible to know how much of the total grams of sugar are natural (i.e. fructose) vs. added (i.e. high fructose corn syrup).

We’ll first talk about the nutrition label and how to determine how much sugar may be in the product you want to buy.   I’m only going to touch on the part of the nutrition label that discusses sugar.

Total carbohydrates – listed first, in grams, and includes all of the useable carbs (starch, dietary fibre, all sugars, and complex carbohydrates)

Dietary fibre – usually listed next, in grams.  Is indigestible, doesn’t raise your blood sugar, and slows down the impact of the other carbs.

Sugar – usually listed 3rd, in grams.  Total amount of sugar from natural (i.e. fructose) and added sugars (i.e. high fructose corn syrup).  They are not required to separate out natural vs. added sugar, so you will need to read your ingredients to take a closer look to see if you find any added sugars (I discuss this in more detail below).

Sugar alcohols – not always included, but if it is it will be listed next.  Manufacturers would choose these because they are lower in calories than the other sugars, but they still have the same effect on your body.  Tricky!

Now, the sum of all these numbers rarely adds up to the “total carbohydrates” because some starches are not required to be listed on the nutrition label.

Nice and confusing, hey?!

Now that you’re even more confused about nutrition labels lets touch on ingredient lists! The best choices of foods don’t have ingredient lists at all (whole foods such as meat, fruit, veggies, nuts, etc).  But, if you are going to buy a packaged food, try to buy ones with the smallest ingredient lists and with ingredients that you can pronounce!  And remember that the ingredients are listed from most to least, so if you see a sugar listed close to the top it’d be best to avoid that item if you can.

As far as sugars on ingredient lists…there are apparently over 60 different names for added sugars.  There’s no way you can remember them all, but there are a couple ways to help you identify them a little easier.

  1. anything that ends in “ose” (i.e. maltose, sucralose, etc).
  2. anything with “dex” (i.e. maltodextrin, dextrose).
  3. anything “syrup” (i.e. high fructose corn syrup [HFCS], malt syrup, rice syrup).
  4. anything “tol” (i.e. sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol), which are sugar alcohols.

It’s very sneaky how manufacturers can get us eating extra sugars when we think we are making wise choices.  It is important to be informed on how to read labels and ingredients to make the best choices for you and your family.

Watch for my next post on front label trickery!  These manufacturers are sneakier than you realize!

 

References:

http://www.sugarscience.org/hidden-in-plain-sight/#.Vx0wW8evHHQ

http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/family-nutrition/food-labels/how-read-package-label

http://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/labelingnutrition/ucm274593.htm

 

Work lunch recipes

I know a lot of people struggle with what to pack in their lunches for work and I’m no different.  Especially when I’m trying to plan lunches for 4-5 twelve hour shifts in a row, and when you love to snack as much as I do!

Thought I’d share a few of my favourite healthier recipes that I like to bring to work to help keep me full throughout the day.  Most of them I have found on Pinterest, which is a great place to find all kinds of recipes for all kinds of food.  And, I’m big on normal ingredients…I don’t want to have to hunt for some oddball ingredients that cost a ton or will sit unused in my pantry forever if the recipe is no good!

Applesauce Carrot Muffins
These are delicious, and fairly healthy.  The sweetness comes from honey and applesauce.  The only un-fun thing about making this is having to shred ¾ cup of carrots…I hate shredding carrots!

Quinoa Breakfast Bars
These are also delicious and are great if you have a sweet tooth like me (if you add the chocolate chips…which of course I do!).  I adjust this recipe most times I make it depending what nuts I have on hand, and don’t usually put raisins in.  I do not have chia seeds (nor do I know where to buy them…maybe Bulk Barn?), so I never add those.  Quinoa may be an odd ingredient for some, but I bought a bag at Costco and it lasts forever.

Quinoa Omelette Bites
Egg “muffins” do not have to be just a breakfast food.  These are filling and full of protein with the quinoa and eggs.  I used whole eggs, not egg whites, and I added some chopped up ham.  This is another recipe that you can add whatever ingredients you like…meat or other veggies (onions, peppers, mushrooms, etc).

Peanut Butter Granola Bars
These are sooooo yummy!  Medjool dates may not be a common pantry item for you, but I make these fairly often that I use them up.  I also vary the nuts and seeds that I put in based on what I have on hand (or what’s on sale…nuts are expensive!).

Please comment and share some of your favourite “snack” recipes that you make for your lunches.
Happy eating!