It's a lean, green, inflammation-fighting machine! I recently bought a huge box of organic baby spinach and then, true to Toronto form, the weather dropped 20 degrees to bone-numbing cold the next day. My desire for fresh salads came to a grinding halt.
It was shortly before that when a patient of mine told me about adding spinach to smoothies. I was a bit surprised as it was something I had never tried before. I expected stringy and leafy bits to be left behind which I think is why I never gave it a whirl (ha ha... blender...whirl...!). Until this past week when I've been enjoying one of my favourite leaves a la Popeye! Almost.
Spinach is amazingly rich in nutrients, specifically folate, vitamins K and A, and a whole range of trace minerals. It's high in fibre and low in calories. It's anti-inflammatory, filling, nutritive, and keeps you regular. It's great fresh in a salad, mixed with rice and beans, or wilted down in a curry.
But in a blender? Really? If I haven't lost you yet, here's the recipe for what I've been eating daily for the past 2 weeks. It's basically a super nutritious chocolate milkshake:
1 cup of baby spinach
1/2 cup vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup water
1 scoop unflavoured protein powder (I use a mixed vegetarian source)
1 tbsp organic cocoa powder (purely to beef up the antioxidants...)
1 tbsp raw honey
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
Calories: 290 Protein: 30g Fat: 10g (almost all unsaturated good stuff) Carb: 27g
You might already know that my favourite kitchen gadget is my Cuisinart SmartStick (no, I do not work for them!) so that's all I use to blend this up which works fantastically, as always.
Spinach for breakfast...who knew!?
It's around now that I start to hear about falling off wagons. I see the most injuries and concerns regarding weight loss (no one has ever, literally, fallen off a wagon as of yet...phew). For many, it really is a fresh start at a new lifestyle. For others, more of a social pressure and short-lived burst of steam. Here's the top resolution traps I see (all aimed at quick-fixes, you'll notice):
1. Too much, too fast. This usually ends in very demotivating injuries. Like any fitness activity, think of your new goal as "starting training". You will get fit, but you need to give your body some time to figure out the new demands placed on it and to adapt to them. The human body does this incredibly fast but needs a gradual increase rather than sudden. If you feel anything start to hurt or "not feel right", take it down a notch. Breathe. It might be a good idea to see an ND or chiropractor to evaluate your form so you can hit the ground running...properly! Set yourself up for a long-term goal. Start slow and get stronger.
2. Switching to "diet ___". There's actually little evidence to support artificial sweeteners helping with weight loss, and even some linking them to weight gain. We do know that the body's physiological mechanisms don't respond well as simply as had hoped (big surprise!) so it's best to just cut down on the sugar. Again, this can be a gradual transition. Drop by one sugar in your coffee, switch to water with a lemon (or cucumber, sprig of mint, etc) instead of pop, or switch to dark chocolate.
3. Eating more brown bread and pasta. Yes, there's a bit more fibre. No, it will not help with weight loss. Flour-based carbohydrates are simple carbohydrates, even if there's a few seeds sprinkled in for good measure. This might help to understand the difference between a simple carb and a complex carb: If you put it in water and come back in an hour what does it look like? Mushy, gooey, soup-like grossness? Then it's a simple carbohydrate (think bread, pasta, cookies, muffins, etc). Does it look the same as when you put it in the water? Then it's a complex carbohydrate (think rice, beans, sweet potatoes, veggies, fruits). What happens in the water is what happens in your body. More energy and enzymes are needed to break apart complex carbs, meaning they don't spike blood sugar or insulin the way that simple carbs do. Don't get me wrong, whole grain options are definitely better options than their simple white alternatives, but you may be disappointed of you're using them for weight loss.
4. Skipping breakfast. Even if you're still putting your pants on as you head out the door, there's fast options for how to ramp up your metabolism first thing. Starting your day with a healthy dose of protein will get your metabolism going and keep you feeling fuller for longer. This helps with carb cravings later on in the day. Smoothies can be assembled the night before (or thrown together in the morning), eggs can be boiled ahead of time, and steel-cut oats can be made in large batches.
5. Eating less. Less calories in means weight loss, right? In its extreme, yes. When you're not providing the body with the basic caloric needs, metabolism slows, cortisol increases, and physiology favours storage of energy. The body thinks there's a shortage of energy coming in, so it slows everything down a bit to accomodate. Also, when people don't eat regularly they tend to overeat later in the day or at night. Try snacking throughout the day, eating every 2-3 hours, and keep your protein up. Begin tracking your nutritional intake on fitday or myfitnesspal and see how you're doing. Compare how you feel on days you eat more to days when you're not.
Approach it not as a new year's resolution but as a get healthier lifestyle. If you need some specific guidance or want to know what you can do differently, ask your ND or nutritionist. We love food plans!
After a whirlwind of a December and a slow (and cough-ey) start to January, I made lentil soup today and surprised myself at it's deliciousness. It was an off-the-cuff kind of thing which is why I didn't expect much. Plus, it's me.
Ah, lentils. They're packed with fibre (16 grams per cup), have tons of protein (18 grams per cup), they take relatively little time to cook, and are a great source of b-vitamins and minerals. Delicious, nutritious, filling, and versatile, I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!
1.5 cups green lentils (not yet cooked)
1.5 cups organic vegetable broth
2 medium-sized carrots
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp minced ginger
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
Boil lentils until soft (about 25 minutes). Drain off water except for about 1/2 inch in the pot. Coarsely chop onion, carrot, ginger, and garlic and sautee in olive oil until soft (about 10 minutes). Add this mixture to the lentils along with broth and the herbs and spices. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Puree in a blender or use my favourite kitchen buddy, an immersion blender, until relatively smooth but still a bit hearty.