Pass the Dish

With Thanksgiving just a couple of days away, the holiday season is truly upon us! Of course this means the season of eating is also upon us!
Sharing a meal with family or friends during the holidays is what it’s really all about but for some of us, it can be tricky. The most important part of all these events is just being with those you love and the food is very much secondary.
However, these gatherings can be a source of stress for some and we need to be mindful of this. Someone might be trying hard to lose or maintain their weight. Someone else may have a food intolerance or allergy. Some may have emotional issues around food. Whatever the reason, just being thoughtful and aware can make all the difference. The last thing you want is conflict at the table during a holiday gathering. This is no time to force food on those who don’t want it, or to preach your way of eating to others. The holiday table is no place to get riled up or judge-y. Here are a few things to think about as you navigate the holiday eating season!

Be true to you!

If you have a particular way of eating for health or ethical reasons, you’re vegetarian or perhaps have a food intolerance or whatever it might be, don’t feel pressured to eat all the wrong things for you just to make others happy. You are the one who has to live with the consequences of this.

You’re not eating for someone else, you’re eating for yourself.

For example, I have a dairy intolerance. If I eat dairy I am not going to feel good later, not to mention that I know that eating food my body doesn’t tolerate has long-term health consequences, so why would I do it? Some people may not be familiar with food intolerances and allergies and so may push food not fully understanding how they work. They may think “oh it’s just one piece of pie with ice cream, what harm can it do”?

Kindly, but firmly pass!

Plan ahead.

To avoid confusion and stress, be upfront and let your host, family or friends know about your eating needs in advance and explain what you’re about. You don’t want to show up and throw your host into a tizzy wondering what they’ll feed you. Also, they may not know where to begin cooking for you, so offer to bring a dish or two, so you know there will be things you can enjoy. If you’re staying at the home of your host, arrive with ingredients in hand, or hit their local grocery store when you get to town. Make sure you have enough to share, and who knows, maybe you’ll introduce people to something new and delicious! Maybe you’ll even create a new tradition?!

Set your intention.

Thinking all this through before the event and setting your intention will help you stay on track. For example, what will you eat? How much you will eat? Seconds, or no seconds? Will you have dessert or not?

No, means NO!

Let’s say you’re working on maintaining or losing weight, you don’t want to derail all your efforts because you feel pressured or you’re not prepared. If you have a plan going in you are much more likely to be successful. Don’t make a big deal out of it either, just take what you want in the quantities you’re comfortable with and pass the dish to the next person. Also don’t be afraid to pass a dish without taking any. Most of the time people are so busy they’ll hardly notice this. If someone does bring it up, be ready with an answer, such as “I’m not eating {fill in the blank} at the moment” or “I’m saving room for more vegetables” or “I’m watching what I eat, but thank you”.

Stand up for yourself and your body!

Know yourself.

If will power is a problem for you, again, you need to plan for it. Let’s use dessert as an example. If you’re someone who can have one taste and stop, then do it. However, if you’re someone who has one taste and then before you know it, the whole slice is gone, then you need a diversion. At dessert time, plan to have a cup of tea or coffee and a small piece of dark chocolate. This way you’ll feel you’re still part of the celebration and won’t be sitting twiddling your thumbs while everyone else is on their 3rd slice of pie!

Beyond the event.

I think it’s so important to think past this dinner or event. Think about the next morning. If you stay true to you, you will wake up feeling fabulous, healthy and proud. You won’t wake up still feeling as stuffed as the turkey from the night before, sluggish and worst of all disappointed in yourself or guilty :(


Sometimes, despite our best intentions, things go awry. DO NOT beat yourself up about this!! Be kind to yourself, look back at where things went off course and learn for the next time.

Love is fuel.

The MOST important thing is to savor the time with your loved ones. Fill yourself with joy and love and you won’t need to worry about filling yourself with food.
A “quick tip” if you are working on weight management ~ eat your veggies first. They’ll fill you up, nourish you wonderfully and you will be less likely to over indulge in the other higher calorie foods.
You know I’m all about vegetables, so I thought I’d include some fantastic recipes for the season.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Cinnamon Butternut Squash, Pecans, and Cranberries

This is a delicious and beautiful holiday dish from Julia at Julia’s Album You’ll find lots of other fabulous recipes on her website, geared towards busy people who want to eat well without spending tons of time in the kitchen! brussels

No Bake Pumpkin Tarts (Vegan + Paleo)

These wee tarts could hardly be cuter! Thanks to Megan at Detoxinista Megan is on a mission to make healthy living easier and more accessible. She shares quick and easy recipes made with only all-natural ingredients, to prove how delicious real foods can be. LOVE her mission!! DSC02830

Quinoa Stuffing with Butternut Squash, Cranberries and Pistachios

The peeps at BuzzFeed have compiled “24 Healthier Thanksgiving Recipes that are actually DELICIOUS”. One stop shopping! The Quinoa Stuffing with Butternut Squash, Cranberries and Pistachios looks like an amazing alternative to the typical version. enhanced-8740-1416250307-6 How will you be celebrating Thanksgiving this year? Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like to share? Share below, we’d love to hear. Happy Thanksgiving! xo email_signoff1_name

A Familiar Face

I recently recalled a memory from my childhood, so that I could “view it” again and include my recollection of it in my college application essay. It’s been quite some time since I went to college the first time, and I barely remember writing such a thing?! After I was a few paragraphs in, I thought maybe I should Google how to actually write a college essay?! I found more tips than I could read through, but in the few I did, they all suggested including an anecdote. Given that I was applying for a Masters in Nutrition and Integrative Health, I thought it would be good if my anecdote was food related.


There I was, maybe 10 years old standing in my auntie Mary’s kitchen in North Tolsta on the Isle-of-Lewis (the most northerly of the Hebridean islands off the northwest coast of Scotland). This small village at the end of the road was where I spent all my summers growing up and many of my fondest childhood memories are from this magical place. It was a typical day at 49 North Tolsta. There was a huge pot of soup on the stove along with the tea kettle, which was a permanent fixture. I asked auntie Mary what kind of soup she was making that day and she reached into the pot and pulled out a sheep’s head. I looked into the space where its eyes had been and gasped in horror, which I know auntie Mary thoroughly enjoyed! Auntie Mary knew I was a bit squeamish about things like that. Although I loved the island and the way of life, it was only mine for 3 months of the year and so I wasn’t fully immersed in the culture. DSC_0136

Family fun :)

Looking back there were many occasions when auntie Mary either humored me, or used me for entertainment purposes. Like the time she sent me to the hen house to collect the eggs. She gave me a basket and sent me off. It was dark in there despite it being morning. There were wooden boxes filled with straw suspended by rope from the ceiling that made comfy nesting boxes for the hens. One box was empty and I was excited to see a couple of eggs in it and promptly popped them in my basket. Plump hens had taken up residence in the rest. My instructions were that if the hens were in the box, I should just slip my hand under them and collect the eggs. Right! I tried, really I did, but I was sure that they were going to peck me every time my hand got close. I went outside to find a stick, thinking I could gently prod them and encourage them to stand up. This didn’t go too well either! This tactic gained me one more egg and having given it my best, I headed back to the house. Auntie Mary looked in the basket and seemed surprised by the 3 eggs. Sheepishly I told her that’s all the eggs there were. Years later, I found out that she knew all along but had sent just me for fun!

Daisy, Daisy!

Every evening my uncle Murdo would bring the cow home from its day of grazing to be milked. Auntie Mary would sit there on the small wooden stool and make milking a cow look easy peasy. Over the years there were a few different cows in the barn. I saw all animals as pets and so naturally I wanted to know the cow’s name. Auntie Mary told me it was Daisy. Years would go by and no matter the cow, whenever I asked, it was always Daisy. It's just nice that she humored me :) IMG_7347

The wrap.

You’re probably all wondering how on earth I wrapped my Auntie Mary stories into my essay? Well, I kept it brief and just focused on the sheep’s head soup. I wrapped it in by saying that we hear all the time that there’s a health crisis in this country. We have moved so far away from the way our grandparents (and for some of us, our parents) ate and we need to find our way back, in some reasonable, realistic modern day way to this method of eating – real, whole foods! I then recalled my summer’s on Lewis where everyone had a croft where they grew vegetables and feed for their animals, they had a cow, a few sheep, chickens and at least one member of the family was usually a commercial fisherman and luckily for me that was my cousin Donald Murdo. Queue the sheep’s head story. I look back on these days and I know I was eating a healthy, nutritious diet full of homegrown, homemade real food and how valuable and precious that was. Although, I wouldn’t mind not having the image of that sheep’s head burned into my memory! I’m not sure if this is what did it or not, but thankfully they accepted me in the program and I start this exciting new chapter January 2016. Thanks for the memories, Auntie Mary! DSC_0042 Do you have any strong childhood memories? Share below. email_signoff1_name

Sweet Dreams

Sweet Dreams

My husband has said many times, that he doesn’t think I slept for 10 years! Yikes! I’m not sure how totally accurate his 10 year estimate is, but anything even close to that scares me to think about. How did I survive? Looking back, I honestly don’t know! bed-890579_640 In my particular case, I blame stress and out of balance hormones for my decade of lost ZZZZs. Stress and hormones are a bit of a vicious cycle. Out of balance hormones can cause you to sleep poorly, leaving you tired and less able to cope with everyday life and therefore lead to stress. Stress can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones in your body, leading to poor sleep and other symptoms. So it’s a bit of a chicken and egg question as to which came first? I wonder if my out of balance hormones led to poor sleep and therefore stress or was it my stress that caused the hormonal crazies in the first place?! I may never know, and at this point, knowing isn’t as important as making sure it never happens again.

If I knew then!

I just wish I knew then how important sleep is to the body. Of course, I knew it wasn’t ideal to sleep as poorly as I did, and I wasn’t happy about my sleeping issue, but somehow I got by and learned to live with it. It became my “new normal”. Certainly over the years I tried to solve it and did make some good progress in latter years, but not before it took its toll.
Not only does it feel good to get a good night’s sleep but your good health depends on it!
While you sleep your amazing body is hard at work repairing cell damage, reducing inflammation, detoxifying and keeping your immune system strong. If you’re not getting the right quality or quantity of sleep your body cannot achieve all it needs to do to keep you in tip top shape. For me personally, I think my poor sleep contributed to my poor health. I’m not saying I got breast cancer just because I didn’t sleep, but I do believe that my immune system was compromised because of it. No one thing gives you cancer, I think of it as a “perfect storm” and for me I truly believe that my decade of lost sleep put me in a vulnerable situation and gave disease an opportunity and an “in”. Please don’t make the same mistake! I would love to save anyone the pain of dealing with a health crisis and so I’m getting on my wee “soap box” here and pleading with you all to prioritize your sleep.

Tips for a better nights sleep!

  • Commit to an amount of sleep and back out your bedtime from there. The recommended sleep range for adults is 7-9 hours. It might seem like a huge deal to go from 5 hours to even 7 hours, so try adding a ½ hour each night for a week and then another ½ hour the next week and build up. The key is to start and the goal is to re-set your body clock so that you have a regular bedtime and wake time.
  • Your bed is for sleep and romance only! NOT for watching TV, computer use and playing Words with Friends. You know who you are ;)
  • Treat your bedroom as a Sanctuary. De-clutter and create a calm peaceful environment conducive to a good nights sleep. Don’t keep work by your bed or stacks of papers or files in the bedroom. These things distract the mind and create a negative vibe in what should be a peaceful oasis.
  • Plan ahead. Try not to eat too close to bedtime as your body will be too busy digesting when it should be relaxing and repairing.
  • Wind down with a nice cup of tea (you know I’m a big fan). I always have a cup of chamomile tea in the evening, but I try to have it 90 minutes before bed, so that I’m not running to the bathroom during the night.
  • Dim the lights. Turn off bright or overhead lights later in the evening. Soft, lamplight will help you to relax and wind down readying you for sleep.
  • Orange is the new blue! If you’re using your computer or phone in the evenings, surfing the web, catching up with all your Facebook friends or shopping then be sure to download a screen-dimming app. I admit this is part of my nightly routine, so I totally get it. My solution is the f.lux app that dims and warms my screen with the evening. You simply tell it where you are in the world, and it does the rest! This way, you avoid staring at the sleep disrupting blue light that tricks and confuses your body into thinking its daytime.
  • Quiet time. Create at least 30 minutes of quite right before bed. This means, turning the TV off and no more screens.
  • Buzz kill! Don’t drink caffeine too late in the day. Even if you’re one of those people who think caffeine doesn’t stop you from getting to sleep, it can disrupt your sleep. I’m a bit hardcore on this, and think stopping caffeine by noon is ideal, but if you’re trying to make a change here, start by backing up your last caffeinated drink gradually over a couple of weeks.
  • Blackout! Sleep in a dark, quiet room. All those little lights that are on everything these days seem intense when you’re lying in the dark and can also cause sleep disruption. I went around my bedroom and used electrical tape (opaque and comes in lots of colors) to cover any offenders. Black out shades are a great way to keep streetlights or that full moon out of your bedroom, but a quick, easy solution is to sleep with an eye-mask (which I do when I’m in a hotel room).
  • Cool it! Studies show that in general the ideal temperature for sleep is quite cool, around 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures too much lower or higher than this can cause restlessness. Temperatures in this range facilitate the decrease in core body temperature that in turn initiates sleepiness and help you drift into bliss.
Whatever your reason, or dare I say “excuse” in some cases for not getting an adequate amount of sleep, I’m here to tell you, you need to find a way to fix it. Good sleep is the foundation of good health and needs to be a priority. I often hear people say, “I can get by on 4-5 hours of sleep” like that’s a cool thing. Well, it’s not. I know life is busy and full and some days you just don’t know how you’ll get it all done. What seems to happen for many people is that sleep is very much at the bottom of the priority list and basically gets whatever (little) time is left. Sleep well and you will give your body the tools it needs to fight for you. How’s your sleep? Do you struggle with getting to bed on time? Have you found the perfect formula for a restful night? Please share below and sweet dreams to you all! email_signoff1

Do you believe in Magic?

I have to admit that I’ve never been a big fan of magicians and their magic tricks (sorry to any magician’s who might be reading this). It’s just not my thing. I wonder why? Can I not allow myself to forget the practical and realistic and believe that what I’m seeing is truly magic and not just a skilled trick of the hand?!

I do, however believe in magic of a different kind.

This past summer I read a book that would make me believe in a new kind of magic, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. I have to admit that my initial attraction to the book was brought on by my love for order and tidiness in my home and life, however, this book offers SO much more than this. The clue to this should have been in the book’s title but before I delved in, I just assumed that it meant that once your house is in order, you magically feel proud and satisfied! IMG_1832

This is where I was wrong.

The book begins by explaining the author’s history of a life-long passion for organizing. Having grown up in Japan, where space is limited, keeping order in the house was essential. From a young age Marie Kondo tried every method of tidying only to find that sooner or later, things became cluttered again. She struggled with the why of this for many years. Her passion to answer this question, led her to develop her own method, which she named “the Konmari Method”.

Let the magic begin.

One distinct difference to the Konmari method is that you tidy by category and not by room. For example, when dealing with your clothing you must gather all your clothing together in one spot. This means everything in your daily closet everything from the coat closet, the guest room closet (don’t pretend you don’t do this!) and out of season storage. This way you can see and deal with it all in one fell swoop! The next revolutionary step is to ask the million-dollar question…

Does this spark joy?

Rather than asking have I worn this in the last year, or does this fit well, the Konmari method asks you to touch each piece and ask “Does this spark joy?” asking out loud is even better! OK, I know it sounds a little funny at first, but trust me, you do get a feeling, and the more you touch things and the more you ask the question, the easier the answer comes to you. Just this question alone has changed how I approach everything in my house and everything I have brought into my house since. This has extended to when I’m shopping. I ask myself this question and I hold everything I buy, from a set of measuring spoons to a pair of shoes, to a higher standard before making a decision as to whether they are coming home with me.

Thank you for your service.

If an item is headed to the “Discard” pile, you don’t just toss it on there, but first you must thank it. This could be “thank you for all the wear I’ve had out of you”, “thank you for making me look so good at parties”, “thank you for teaching me what doesn’t suit me” (for all those things worn once or with tags still on). You get the idea. I got so excited about this whole method and powered through every category in my house. I donated bags upon bags to the local hospital thrift shop every week. When I was having a crazy productive day, I’d be there twice in one day! Many things also found their way into the trash and recycling and with every bag and trunk load that left the building the house breathed a little lighter. My husband never quite knew what he was coming home to every day and just kept saying, “I hope I’m not next!” :) That Randall! There is a recommended order that you approach this whole process, (of course there is) beginning with clothing, books, papers, komono (miscellaneous e.g. makeup, kitchen items, spare change), sentimental items and photos. She starts you out with the easier categories and works up to the more difficult ones, by which time you’ve become a pro at asking the all important question. IMG_1836

Where does the magic come in?

Well, it’s not in the finished result of orderly drawers with space to spare and cleaner surfaces with less to dust. The true magic comes from looking at things in a deeper way, dealing with things you may have been avoiding and the emotions around them, and ultimately in letting go of things. So often our “things” have many memories and emotions caught up in them. Some of these memories are good and some are sad or difficult. For me the hardest categories were papers (due to stacks of medical files), boxes of my mother’s belongings (who passed away 9 years ago), and let’s not forget the BIG bag of bras :) Well, Marie Kondo’s method helped me open up files and boxes and bags that had been “behind closed doors”, not necessarily cluttering my house but most definitely cluttering my mind. We often hold onto these items because of an attachment to our past, or a fear of the future.

Silence is golden.

These things no longer shout at me from inside a box or cupboard. I came face-to-face with them all and I touched them and read them, saved some, and parted with some and even turned some into my photography project “Cups of Prevention”! Who would have ever thought?! Not me! So yes, it was a magical, life-changing, freeing experience and I am now a true believer in…

The life-changing magic of tidying up!

Do you have things that shout at you from behind closed doors? Are you ready to embark on a life-changing journey of “tidying up”? Or maybe you have some fabulous tips to share with all of us – we’d love to hear. Please share below. email_signoff1

Balancing Act!

stones-944145_1920 As this is my first health/nutrition post since finishing “Cups of Prevention” I thought this would be a good time to step back and take a more global look at what the secret to good health and disease prevention is.


No one thing brings good health. No one food will keep you well! No one supplement will keep disease at bay. It is a combination of elements that create the magic. I’d love to introduce you to one of the most important concepts I believe I learned in my program with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. This concept is “Primary Food” and “Secondary Food”, the brainchild of Joshua Rosenthal, the school’s founder. Drumroll please!

Primary Food

  • Relationships
  • Career
  • Exercise
  • Spiritual Practice

Secondary Food

  • The physical food we eat.
The first time I heard this concept, I was hooked! How much sense does this make? A lot! Let’s explore Primary Food. As human beings we are multi dimensional and require the right combination of things to be “working” in our lives in order to be truly happy and consequently, healthy.


Maybe you’re not in one or maybe you’re in an unhappy relationship or marriage. Maybe you don’t have a good support network of friends or family around you and feel isolated and alone. A response to this might be that you come home from work to an empty house or a house full of negative energy and a trip to the fridge for a big tub of dip to help that big bag of potato chips taste even more comforting is top priority. Later on you find yourself reaching into the freezer for the tub of ice cream. These “tubs” of junk are often a substitute for the relationship that’s missing or not working in your life. On the flip side, remember those early days when you were head-over-heels in love? You were so excited, giddy and high on love that you didn’t even feel hungry. Love was nourishing you and feeding you in every sense of the word!


Maybe your job is a source of stress and anxiety and you dread going to work everyday and especially on a Monday morning. You live for weekends and vacation and the day you might retire. You might be the boss, feeling overwhelmed by all the responsibility that comes with that role, or you may hate your boss and the way he or she treats you. Many people feel trapped in a job they hate because of money, opportunity or fear of change. Whatever the issue is, all the kale in the world won’t make you healthy and happy if you’re miserable 8-10 hours of the day! An important note here is that a satisfying career may also be a hobby you’re passionate about, an artistic endeavor, volunteer work that you love or anything that gives you purpose and satisfaction.

Physical Activity

Maybe you exercise ALL the time perhaps even to an extreme, fighting thoughts or beliefs that you are never quite thin enough or quite perfect enough. Alternately, you may resist exercise altogether either because you simply don’t like it, think you don’t have the time for exercise or feel insecure about your abilities. The old “use it, or lose it” phrase comes to mind here. We need to move our bodies to maintain our strength and balance as we age. Not to mention the benefits of a boost in energy and feel good hormones that comes from exercising. Finding the right kind of exercise for you, whether it’s running, walking with a friend, yoga or weight work is essential. The key is to find something you enjoy and will stick with.

Spiritual Practice

A spiritual practice can mean so many different things to different people. For some, it’s going to church or their chosen place of worship and belonging to that “family” who offer support and comfort when needed. For others their spiritual practice might be found on the yoga mat or meditation pillow. Some may find it communing with nature, by looking up at the leaves on the trees or the stars in the sky. There’s no one-way to define this, but on some level we all need to feel “at one” with something. We are spiritual beings in a material world and as such, we need to feel a sense of connection to something or someone greater than ourselves. I just think this all makes SO much sense.
If any of these Primary Foods are waaaay out of balance, then chances are our Secondary Foods will be too. We often use food to fill voids, comfort ourselves and to help us de-stress.
The way to create balance is to first of all determine what area or areas of your life are actually out of balance. Only then can we begin working on bringing them back into the balance we need for true well-being. I had quite a bit of work to do myself around this :) but have made good progress and continue working on this everyday. Of course the food we eat plays a vital role in our health and well-being, but these primary foods are a way to nourish and feed ourselves on a deeper level. One does not exist successfully without the other. True health comes from balance in all these areas of our lives. How is your balance? Are you working on a certain area and how are you doing with it? Share below so we can all support each other to make positive changes. email_signoff1_name

Start Before You’re Ready

What does it mean to start before you’re ready?

When I thought hard about the times in my life I have done this, my mind took me waaaaaay back to when I was learning to ride a bike. I started out on grass with my older brother running along side of me holding the handlebars, as I weaved down the lawn. I was gaining confidence and was determined to be able to ride my bike by the time my dad came home from work, to surprise him. I waited at the top of the road knowing he’d be arriving any minute and as he turned in, I set off cycling towards him, wobbling away. I reached the now parked car just as he was getting out and was so excited to show him my new skill that I lost my focus and fell into the car and put a nice big scratch down the side! People are more important than cars! Thankfully my dad, (who had the patience of a saint), didn’t yell at me but, as I had hoped, was thrilled to see me (almost) master my new bike. Was I really ready to ride that bike? Not really, but when are we ever really ready for anything? If we don’t try or start, we run the risk of doing nothing. Playing it safe doesn’t make memories like these :)

To boldy go…

The next memory that popped into my head was starting primary school (grade school in the US). I could hardly wait to go. I had my new school bag packed for weeks before the BIG day and everyone who visited our house had to be shown my bag and all its contents. I clearly remember wanting to put an apple in there and my mum telling me it would go bad before it was time to go to school. Of course, I had my outfit planned too :) IMG_0311

The big day!

However, this was not the beginning of a new school year and I wasn’t starting school with lots of other new children. Because my birthday fell in April, I was allowed to start early after the Easter holiday and not wait till after summer. This was “optional” but as I was so anxious to get to school my parents enrolled me. So there I was, the only new pupil at school that day and suddenly all that excitement turned to fear. I walked into a classroom of children who would essentially all be in the year ahead of me after the summer break. Uh, oh, what was I thinking? Just when I thought I might cry, a girl came up to me and took my hand. I never looked back!

Ignorance is bliss

When I think about these childhood events, I wonder what was in me at that young age that gave me the courage to start before I was ready? Maybe the wonderful thing about being a child is that you don’t overthink things or think too far ahead, that you talk yourself out of doing something. As adults we love to come up with all the practical, rational reasons why we shouldn’t do something and we can talk ourselves out of just about anything and make ourselves believe it was the right decision.

What holds us back?

Mostly I think we’re afraid to fail. We’re afraid of being judged… and what will people think of us! Let’s bring back the boldness of our youth! Let’s DO, and TRY, and FAIL, and TRY AGAIN, and SUCCEED and feel BRAVE and PROUD and VIBRANT and ALIVE and BOLD! It’s never too late to start before you’re ready! What would you like to start? Please be brave and share below. email_signoff1_name