IronSister Says: Thoughts on Carbs

Much like fats, carbohydrates are another one of those macronutrients that have a bad reputation. These bad boys are, in fact: life giving, energy producing foods, our body’s primary and ideal choice of nutrient for fuel and energy.  Again, like fats, there are more desirable, and far less desirable versions of carbohydrates – which is probably why we often hear, and spend so much time trying to eliminate them from our diets.  With a little bit of education, we can adjust out diets, not to eliminate all carbs, but to eliminate the bad ones, increase the good ones, and give our body’s a break from trying to use secondary energy sources (proteins and fats).
Carbohydrates are macronutrients – macro meaning we need them in large quantities (eat your heart out Dr. Atkin), along with fats, proteins and water.  Carbs are single or mid/long chains of molecules made of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen, they are broken apart during cellular respiration to essentially sugar in our blood, and with the use of hormones our cells mobilize and utilize these molecules to give us energy and keep our body well fueled.
Simple Carbohydrates are single sugar molecules, also known as monosaccharides.  When we eat these carbs, our body uses them immediately and without the need to break them down.  The good thing is that there is immediate energy available (useful for athletes or diabetic situations), the bad thing is that they are grossly over consumed leading to a host of many other problems.  When we eat simple carbs, our pancreas senses the large and immediate increase in our blood sugar levels and reacts by secreting the hormone insulin.  Insulin mobilizes the sugars from our blood to enter our cells where they are utilized to produce energy.  The issue that arises here is that large amounts of simple carb ingestion means large blood sugar level spikes, large doses of insulin doing their job, and then one big fat sugar low…. generally leading to “sugar coma” or the ingestion of more simple carbs for more energy.  With years of abuse, insulin may become resistant or less effective, and things like Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease are the result of that.
Complex Carbohydrates, on the other hand, provide us with longer and sustained energy as these are long chains of sugar molecules bonded together, also known as polysaccharides.  When eaten, our body wil break the chains apart, piece by piece, over a period of time, regulating our blood sugar increases and decreases, and providing us with the energy that we need to survive from meal to meal.
This may or may not be new information for you, but the key to increasing our complex carb intake and decreasing, or eliminating, our simple carb intake comes from proper knowledge of our food choices.  Simple carbs are generally refined, looking at grains for example, the bran (outer hull) and the germ (new seed) are removed to produce a lighter product which preserves for longer.  The refining process results in a loss of fibre, most vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, iron, zinc, copper, chromium, folic acid, magnesium and manganese.  As you can see, not only do these simple carbs mess with our body’s sugar regulating system, they also leave us with a nutrient deficit… all for the convenience of longer shelf life and ‘lighter’ food.  Whole grains on the other hand, complex carbs, non-refined, are low in fat, have no cholesterol and are high in fiber.  These foods will lower blood cholesterol and control blood glucose (sugar) levels, as well as increase elimination and decrease the risk of colon cancer.  For a little less cooking convenience, this seems worth it to me.
I am often asked about two things.  One thing being “enriched” grains.  This means that a few vitamins and minerals are added back into refined products including: iron, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin.  They could be considered “partially restored”.  This doesn’t really do anything about the blood glucose levels issue, nor does it restore all of the vitamins and minerals that were lost, you will still end up with a deficit in some form.  The second thing many people are curious about is fruit.  Fructose, or fruit sugar, is a monosaccharide, and therefore absorbed and used for immediate energy.  Fruit, however, is full of fibre, which aids in blood sugar regulation, and helps to control our glucose levels from rising too quickly.  Fruit would be the ideal food to be used for immediate energy, if needed, without the negative effects of a refined, simple carbohydrate type food.  This would be ideal for that afternoon lull that we often feel, or for athletes needing an additional energy boost during their training (as in – training for the Boston Marathon as one small example…)
If this leaves you hanging with nothing left to eat, let me encourage you to explore the wonderful variety of foods that are out there.  If you just don’t think you can survive without your breakfast bagel and Uncle Ben’s instant rice, I can assure there are many many substitutes, well worth the few extra minutes of preparation.  Consider experimenting with these grains in their whole form: Amaranth, buckwheat, corn, couscous, kamut, millet, oats, quinoa, brown rice, rye, spelt, and whole wheat. The less refined food you eat, the healthier you will be!
fig&fennel – IronSister mentioned to me yesterday that she has been asked to do a health segment on Breakfast TV in November. I’ll keep you posted as to when, so you can tune in!

IronSister Says: Thoughts On Protein

This post is a little bit fig & fennel and a little bit Ironsister.

fig & fennel – Usually my “Thoughts On:” section is about non food related topics. But I feel like I’ve had the conversation 50 times in the last few weeks, people saying things like, oh I can’t cook vegetarian, my husband plays hockey and needs protein. Or, well I’d eat vegetarian, but I work out so I need protein. So I wanted to address the topic of how to eat enough protein from non-meat products. It is, in fact, surprisingly easy to do! We do not eat exclusively vegetarian and I find no need to come up with an appropriate label for how we eat, but I usually cook a meal with meat in it about once a week, and we try to have fish once a week. So we eat mostly plant-based food. My personal motivations are as follows: health benefits, desire to be conscious of the environment, complete disgust of handling raw meat. There is a disgusting amount of animal cruelty out there, but I avoid these concerns by buying meat ONLY from local farms that are organic and provide a reasonable quality of life for their animals. This is a bit pricier, but we eat so little meat that I can afford to do so.

I know there is a substantial move out there among Foodies, which I embrace with a happy heart, to move towards more vegetarian cooking. I have some friends who cook pretty typical meat and potatoes type meals all week but plan a “Meatless Monday” meal. A number of smaller local restaurants I know have vegetarian meals one day a week. This is great because people can order something new, love it, or not, and realize that it’s not hard or intimidating to cook vegetarian.

I’m sure many of you have seen the video floating around Youtube and Facebook, about the benefits of eating less meat. The basic research of the mini doc is this: if everyone in Britain ate ONE less meat based meal per week, it would be the equivalent of taking 50 million cars off the road. This is MAJOR! How much more if all of North America did this?! Cows eat soya, which is unnatural to them and makes them produce more methane and it takes a skillion bags of soya and lots of energy to get ONE beef serving from a cow. Ridiculous.

You’d be surprised at how protein-frenzied and misinformed we are about the topic of protein needs. Here is some interesting info for you, brought to you by IronSister. We just did a workshop on all this stuff  so I’m all fired up about it…

Protein Requirements

NOTE: Ideal body weight does NOT mean how much you should weigh, it is the scientific formula for determining your nutritional needs. Just before everyone freaks out…

Recommended protein requirements: 0.45 grams/kg of Ideal Body Weight per day
Ideal Body Weight for Women: 100lbs for 60 inches + 5 lbs for every inch over 60 inches
Ideal Body Weight for Men: 106 lbs for 60 inches + 6 lbs for every inch over 60 inches

So let’s take a woman who is 5’4″. That means their ideal body weight is 120lbs. 120lbs = 55kilos. 55kilos x .45 = 24.75 grams of protein in food.

Protein Serving size (grams)
Beef, lean 4 oz (24)
Chicken breast 3 oz (24)
Fish 3 oz (16-18)
Turkey, 4 oz (9)
Cheese 1 oz (8)
Cottage cheese, ½ cup (16)
Egg 1 large (6)
Egg white 1 large (4)
Milk, skim 1 cup (8)
Yogurt, plain 8 oz (12)
Peanuts 1 oz (7)
Peanut butter 2 tbsp (8)
Pumpkin seeds ½ cup (20)
Sunflower seeds 1 tbsp (3)
Soybeans, ½ cup (14)
Soymilk 1 cup (8)
Tofu ½ cup (20)
Beans, black ½ cup (8)
Beans, pinto ½ cup (7)
Chickpeas, ½ cup (20)
Lentils ½ cup (9)
Beans, kidney ½ cup (12)
Milk, skim 1 cup (8)

Isn’t that amazing!!!?? It does not take a lot of work to get our needed protein. And look how easy it is to get it in NON meat things! Sprinkle 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds on your salad and voila! almost all you need in a day! Or think of just normal stuff, 2 eggs for breakfast, one glass of milk, peanut butter sandwich for lunch and some kind of beans in your supper = 36. 50% more than you need!!!  Please note, these numbers are relevant for active people as well. Unless you are doing some shocking level of physical activity, than the formula is a good guideline for you!

SO my friends…bottom line….eat more vegetarian and help save the world. Don’t forget mommies, YOU are Queen of the Castle, how you cook and how you eat is how your family will follow. Get creative and make some yummy vegetarian things and I bet you barely get any complaining.

Thoughts On: Happy Thanksgiving

To all my Canadian friends, family and readers…a most beautiful and happy Thanksgiving to you. I hope you all have someone to share a meal with, and hope that the weekend provides even a few moments of reflection on the blessings in our lives.

This year I am grateful for many things….

For Sexy Husband who I couldn’t possibly love more, yet somehow will by tomorrow

For Picky Princess, my Wonder and Foodie Baby, my Delight

For Friends who are Family and Family who are Friends

For good health, a safe home, and freedom to live and love how we choose

For good coffee, good wine, good food and good people to share it with.

Happy Thanksgiving to You!

Thoughts On: Cooking with Kids


my best little helpers making cookies


Today, Picky Princess had her little friend Sweet Hanna over for a playdate! In between playing, I had them help make lunch so that we could give you some new ideas for healthy lunches that your kids can help make! I’m a firm believer in including my kids in the cooking/baking/preparing process of meals, whenever possible. I try to make meal time fun and full of quality time and important life lessons about gratitude, caring for each other and community.

We started by making some cookies. I used the easiest recipe in. the. world. Adapted from Clean Eating Magazine’s Almond Butter Cookie Recipe. (see below). Because it’s all of 5 ingredients in one bowl, they girls stirred while I poured and we had batter ready in about 3 minutes.


cheese toast faces



quite proud of their creative cuteness


Next, the girls decorated cheese toast with some vegetables to make funny faces. They giggled and happily decorated! We used red peppers for smiles, arugula for hair, and olives for eyes. I cannot believe Picky Princess ate ARUGULA!


yogurt sundaes


While the cheese toast toasted, Sweet Hanna and Picky Princess made themselves a first course of yogurt sundaes. This was a HIT! The fact that they got to put anything they wanted on their own yogurt made them particularly enthusiastic to eat it!


Little Sister Nola


Sweet Hanna’s Little Sister Nola even got to make her own sundae. She’s only two but was happy to be included in meal prep fun!


Foodie Baby


And of course, I couldn’t leave Foodie Baby out.

I did minimal prep ahead of time, the girls cooked, ate, and cleaned up in 30 minutes. Sometimes we leave our kids out of the fun because we think it will all take a bit too long, are rushed, or stressed. But it’s amazing how helpful they can be when they are empowered to participate. Obviously I don’t include Picky Princess in every meal I make, but when there’s an easy meal, or tasks perfect for little fingers, I definitely try to include her(even if it means 2 minutes of extra clean up time)!

Recipe: Almond Butter Cookies

1 cup almond butter(I prefer crunchy)

1/2 cup succanat or cane sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 heaping tbs flour(I use spelt)

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Stir all ingredients in a bowl. Drop by tbs full onto parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until barely set, 8-10 minutes. Let cool slightly, enjoy! (ok seriously, how easy is that?) (I have also been known to add the odd square of dark chocolate to the tops of these cookies.)

Thank you to my friend Danielle for lending me her adorable girls!

Thoughts On: Why I Cook

Foodie Baby's got the joy

Food unites us. We are all equal at the table. No matter how rich or poor, how successful or struggling, how strong or weak, we all need to eat. Frequently.

Food provides us with reason to pause. To be grateful. To slow down(even for a second or two) and care for ourselves.

Food pleases our senses. Our smell, sight, touch.

Food nourishes our bodies. It gives us strength to do the things we love. To move and breathe and play. When we eat healthy food we have color in our skin, skip in our step.

Food comforts us. It invites community. It is welcoming.

Cooking allows me to be part of these valuable things. It allows me to be part of my children being nourished and growing, on the most cellular level. It allows me to have a table where people are welcome and cared for. To sit at my table is to be my family. Cooking allows me to teach my girls about gratitude and nature. About beauty and the miraculous. About kindness and generosity. Cooking stimulates all my senses, which is a gift to my creative soul.

It may seem menial. It may seem burdensome. It may seem mundane. But to me…these are my people who need to be fed. These are my friends who need to be loved. This is the earth, created to be enjoyed. This to me…is life.

Thoughts On: My Kitchen Table

My kitchen table is ugly. It really is. It looks more like a craft table, paint stains, burn marks from the glue gun etc. It’s also ridiculously small. Fits 4 people comfortably, but we manage to have up to 8 around it fairly regularly. It is by far the ugliest thing in our house. Sexy Husband and I bought it when we first were married. I think it may have been our first “big” purchase. Ugly ugly, very ugly.

It is, however, my favorite place in the house. Life happens at this (ugly) table. It’s a place where:
I’ve taught my child to print her name.
We’ve created beautiful masterpieces of crayon and fingerpaint.
We’ve enjoyed beautiful meals.
My friends have come and laughed until they’ve cried and cried until they’ve laughed.
Bottles of wine have led to long late night discussions.
Deep fears and secrets have been expressed and then shared.
Wedding cakes have been made.

Businesses have been started.
Recipes have been created.

Life changing announcements have been offered.

Dreams have been dreamed.

It’s a safe place. A happy place. A place where we sat for many hours studying when it was just Sexy Husband and university degrees. A place where we laughed for hours when IronSister moved in with us in Victoria. A place where our first baby used to lie on a sheepskin and watch us eat. A place where our second baby sits to discover the joys of blueberries and spaghetti squash.

Everyone who matters to me, my richest treasures are invited to this table. Come for coffee. Come for a meal. Come for dessert. Come for the conversation.
Welcome to our sanctuary. (just don’t mind that’s it’s ugly)

Thoughts On: Growth

family of little feet

I did some thinking today, while out on a long run.

It’s been so grey and cold and miserable here and finally the sun broke through and the chill in the air subsided. In a week, Sexy Husband and I are running the Calgary Harvest Half Marathon. This is my second half, and his first(although truth be told he runs circles around me without having to do a whole lot of training). The first one I did was last May, and it was the end of 8 months of dedicated training and slow movement, one kilometer at a time from being a total non-runner, to being…a runner. It still shocks me that this is something I can do! And while crossing the finish line was great and represented a major area of personal growth, it really wasn’t the achievement I was proud of. The growth, in life, doesn’t come from the accomplishment. It comes from living a life that is capable of producing an accomplishment. The living part. The accomplishment for me was that I lived for 8 months with consistency and discipline. Every hour of training reflected spiritual growth from hours of reflective gratitude, for such a beautiful world, and the freedom to do something I love. Hours of sacrifice. Hours of training my body to be healthy and my mind to be sound. Hours of taking care of myself. Hours of deep conversation the odd time I had company(what happens on the road stays on the road). Hours that I struggled and hurt and fought and won and…grew.

For me, it was never really about the Finish Line. It was about the training. I think this is usually were the victory is. We can all rattle off our accomplishment list, and we should be proud of it! But the growth usually comes from the less glamorous part of our lives…The day to day sacrifice and hardwork. The discipline, the studying, whatever the goal requires.

If you are working to lose weight, if you are working to get fit, if you are studying for a degree, or whatever your personal goals may be….KNOW that your victory is not a number, or a race time, or a piece of paper. It’s in every bite, every step, every page.

Today’s deep thoughts from the road.

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