May 2 2016

Eating while bored

Boredom affects our food choices. 


Apparently we like to eat high fat, high sugar snacks when we are bored. Researchers from the British Psychological Society believe there is a relationship between low levels of dopamine in our brain and reaching for the fatty snacks. Dr. Sandi Mann thinks that if we can’t boost the brain’s dopamine levels through interesting activity we look for other ways to stimulate our brain which includes eating chips. She says,

“Bored people do not eat nuts.”


Next time you find yourself doing repetitive tasks alternate with a minute of exercise or meditation, both natural ways to increase dopamine, as is sunlight, massage and sleep. Just keep away from the junk food.

Change your mind, change your health,


Apr 25 2016

Vicious cycle


Do you eat more when you are sleep deprived?

You know those days when you haven’t slept well and you would give anything for a nap, but it just isn’t possible. You may find yourself  trying to boost your your energy with food, and if you are like me, you probably aren’t choosing fruit and vegetables. Sleep deprivation does effect our brain’s ability to function.

Sleep deprivation reduces our decision making ability and increases activation in the pleasure seeking areas of our brains. Being tired decreases our higher order brain functions, those areas that help make complex decisions, ones that help us make choices.

Sleep research has proven that being tired increases the chances of eating high fat, high calorie food and reduces the chances that health, or even taste, matter much when it comes to eating when sleepy.


Now, new research from the University of Adelaide shows that eating high fat diets increases daytime drowsiness and reduces the likelihood of getting a good nights sleep. Researchers found a direct relationship between fat intake and daytime sleepiness as well as sleep apnea.

Poor sleep makes us feel less energetic during the day, which leads to increased cravings for sugar and fat, which leads to less sleep. It’s a vicious cycle, but it could work both ways. Get a good night’s sleep for better food choices and make better food choices for better sleep.

Change your mind, change your health,



Mar 28 2016

Is chocolate a health food?


You may have had a little chocolate this weekend and since the average American consumes about 4.5 kg,  or about 10 pounds, of chocolate a year. You may have also heard that chocolate might not be so bad for you.

Comparing a regular Hershey’s milk chocolate bar that has 13 grams of fat, 24 grams of sugar and 210 calories to an organic, dark chocolate bar, the milk chocolate has less calories and fat, but what really matters?

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So far the science is that the darker the chocolate, with fewer ingredients the more likely it is to confer health benefits.

According to some pretty good research, cocoa can improve arterial function quite quickly after eating it. Even in coronary arteries, which is important. People who ate cocoa had better arterial function. The problem is that the dairy and sugar in milk chocolate, both counteract the benefits of the cocoa. Although calories still count for your waist line, the darker the chocolate the better it is.

If you are going to enjoy a little chocolate, make it dark, or better yet use cocoa powder like in this Healthy Chocolate Milkshake recipe and enjoy the benefits.

Change your mind, change your health,


Mar 14 2016

The real thing


I always suggest that people choose real ingredients. If you are going to eat processed foods, and really who doesn’t, eat ones with real ingredients that you can recognize. I also realize that we all look for short cuts. The easy way. Whether it is losing weight or getting fit, there is no easy way.  It is not that hard, but there are no short cuts, no cutting corners. 

Which brings me to the recent news that sucralose, also known as Splenda, may cause leukaemia. Splenda is used in many “sugar free” products, because it is stable at high temperatures, making it an easy baking substitute for sugar. Sucralose may also change your gut bacteria, leading to changes in calorie regulation. The independent Italian lab that published the results  is different than previous studies in two ways. First, other studies have been industry funded and second it looked at life long consumption in mice, the other studies were for shorter time frames. 


This research coincides with other studies showing that people eating “sugar free” foods consume more calories and have more abdominal fat.  One study on adults over the age of 65, shows that drinking diet pop increased waist circumference 3 times as much as those who didn’t. The diet pop drinkers waist circumference increased by 3.2 inches compared to the 0.8 inch increase for the people who didn’t drink the diet stuff.

Which brings me back to the point about short cuts. There isn’t any. Eat real food, not too much and enjoy every last bite.

Change your mind, change your health,



Feb 22 2016

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream

This weekend a friend and I decided to drive into the city to pick up a few things. We stopped at the Farmer’s Market, a sports store, a bakery and Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) just because we were nearby. MEC, for those who don’t know, is a Canadian sports equipment co-op.

I must confess, I have a love/hate relationship with MEC. I mostly go to the clearance centre to see what is on sale. Which is where my friend found me with something she just had to show me.


My reaction is not fit to print. I have to say I see nothing sporty about the ability to make ice cream anywhere. This, to me, doesn’t fit the description of the core purpose of MEC,  to “inspire and enable everyone to lead active outdoor lifestyles”

How does an ice cream ball inspire active lifestyles? Maybe it actually inspires the eating of ice cream? If we had spotted the Ice Cream Ball at any other type of store I would have ignored it, but at MEC?

Obesity is a global problem. It is predicted that by 2025 there will be 70 million overweight and obese children, and this product is designed for children, it states on the back “Adult supervision required”.

Sugar is often blamed for the obesity epidemic. Recent studies have shown that simply cutting sugar from obese children’s diets for only 10 days improves every aspect of metabolic health. Children placed on a no sugar diet reduced cholesterol, blood sugar levels, blood pressure and markers of fatty liver even without weight loss.

There are so many ways that our environment increases overeating. If we keep food out of sight we make better food choices.  Companies spend billions, yes billions, on marketing to help create positive associations between children and their products. We are often overwhelmed with food decisions and we know that the more choices you have, the more you choose. Do we really need to associate playing ball with eating, ice cream or anything else?12768115_10207510870922356_3313443585281508353_o

Most psychological cues that we experience everyday are to get us to eat more. The environment where we make our food decisions makes it almost impossible to be responsible for our choices. We are living in a world that promotes eating unhealthy foods, makes food available everywhere, easily accessible, cheap, high calorie food. There is no need for this and I guess I expected MEC to be a promoter of healthy lifestyles, not a marketer for food products.

Exercise is not an excuse to overeat. Weight loss is hard and habits set in childhood last a lifetime. Want to play ball? Get a proper ball and if you want to have an ice cream, just go out for a treat and enjoy one.

Okay, end of rant. I feel much better now.

Change your mind, change your health,


Jan 18 2016

Can’t sleep? Maybe it’s your diet.


Can’t sleep? Maybe it is your diet.

Eating foods high in saturated fats, sugar and low in fiber results in less restful and restorative sleep.


A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine shows that what you eat has an effect on the quality of your sleep. Researcher Marie-Pierre St-Onge, PhD, stated

“Our main finding was that diet quality influenced sleep quality. It was most surprising that a single day of greater fat intake and lower fiber could influence sleep parameters.”

Sleep is critical for health and in the prevention of chronic disease. When people ate foods with higher fiber content they fell asleep sooner and spent a longer time in deep sleep.


A downward spiral?

Other research has found that when people sleep less than 7 hours they spent more time eating and drinking. Researcher Gabriel S. Tajeu, DrPH states that

“The association between short sleep and obesity risk is well-established and short sleep is associated with more time spent in secondary eating and, in particular, secondary drinking. This potentially suggests a pathway from short sleep to increased caloric intake in the form of beverages and distracted eating and thus potential increased obesity risk.”

Restorative sleep is critical for good health and one way to improve the quality of your sleep it to eat high fiber, low fat, low sugar foods before going to bed, like Noodles with Tofu and Broccoli

Change your mind, change your health,


Oct 19 2015

Food is everywhere

obesity_definition-300x156You might have noticed that food is now officially everywhere. In every type of store. From bookstores, hardware stores to convenience stores, you can’t get away from food or the opportunity to buy it.

And we are. Researchers from the University of North Carolina say that we are making more packaged food purchases at warehouse stores, convenience stores and mass merchandisers.

The most popular types of food that are purchased are savory snacks, desserts, fruit drinks, soft drinks and milk in all types of stores including grocery stores. Packaged foods that are high in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. Packaged food now makes up 78% of all food purchases.

In another study from the University of North Carolina researchers followed more than 157,000 families from 2000-2012 and asked to scan the UPC codes on all their food purchases for one year. They found that 60% of the average family’s groceries is made up of highly processed foods.

If food is available in more places and the majority of that food is highly processed, high in salt, fat and sugar, is it any wonder that we are consuming more calories?


With more calories available everywhere we are more likely to eat. And eat highly processed, easily digested food, which leads to eating more food. Making the choice to not to eat even more difficult. While you can’t do anything about the availability of easy to eat packaged foods you can decide what you will buy and where you will buy it.


Change your mind, change your health,


Oct 20 2014

Genetic mutant

"Coffee and" stop in Twisp, Washington

“Coffee and” stop in Twisp, Washington

Normally in these posts I intentionally don’t include personal information, my reason for the facts is to state the latest research and you can decide what to do with it, but with this one I thought a little personal background was appropriate. If you don’t think so or would prefer to get your facts straight up, without the personal details, let me know, I would love to know what you like best.

Most of the time eating too much sugar will result in weight gain, unless you are a genetic mutant and you can eat all the sweet stuff you want and not gain a pound.

Often I think I could probably eat a little less sugar. If I have been to a town I can tell you where the best bakery is. My husband would, if he could, live on “coffee and…” coffee and cookies, coffee and muffins, coffee and cake, coffee and pie. While I normally prefer to eat real food, when you are riding your bike for hours or hiking, running or all the other things we do in our free time, baked goods are an easy, delicious way to replace calories burned. Not necessarily a nutritious way, but I would rather eat fresh, baked goods than some kind of bar – any kind of bar. The current favourite is our local coffee shop, Beamers’ Granola Bar. Made with peanut butter, dried fruit and nuts it is probably 500 calories packed in a delicious package and guaranteed to fuel a long ride or a big hike. I prefer that over the questionable ingredients of any type,  in any kind of bar you can buy, with an expiry date two years in the future.


While I do eat more added sugars on a day that I am out for hours being active, I try not to do this on other days. Eventually that would all catch up to me, but apparently some people can eat lots of sugar with no consequences when it comes to their weight.

Genetic mutants or more specifically people with a hyperactive gene called the Nrf2 can eat extremely high levels of sugar without gaining weight. You may know one of these annoying people. Specifically Nrf2 helps our cells repair damage and because we love our sweets, pharmaceutical companies are working on drugs that mimic Nrf2. That sounds great, but Nrf2 is not without it’s own consequences, increased Nrf2 is also linked with aggressive cancers. Be careful what you wish for and eat your sugar in moderation.

Change your mind, change your health,


Local ingredients list at the Cinnamon Twisp Bakery

Local ingredients list at the Cinnamon Twisp Bakery


Nov 4 2013

Sugar, it’s the new health food

Do you rely on the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Health Check symbol to choose heart healthy meals and snacks? Apparently it’s not worth much. First, the Health Check seal of approval was given to Harvey’s (yes, the fast food restaurant) and now to Fruit Source snacks.

An example of the Fruit Source nutritional value is on it’s Sunrype Strawberry Fruit Bar. One bar has 29 grams,  (seven teaspoons) of sugar. That means 116 out of the 120 calories in each bar is sugar, but it still gets the seal of approval from the Health Check program.

While I did post about the Health Check’s symbol last week the response from the Heart and Stroke Foundation, defending it’s decision to make sugar a health food deserves a bit more scrutiny. To get the Health Check seal companies pay to be involved. The Heart and Stroke Foundation has no guidelines around sugar consumption.

Now that consumers are aware of the problems with the Health Check symbol they are using Social Media to criticize the symbol on these sugary snacks. The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s response  on their Twitter feed

And here they are, the Nutrient Guidelines for the Heart and Stroke Foundation:

Nutrient Guidelines

The Health Check nutrient criteria are developed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation’ registered dietitians based on recommendations in Canada’s Food Guide and are reviewed on a regular basis. The criteria are evidence-based. They are supported by research and are reviewed on an ongoing basis. Other factors that influence the criteria include


They also state in a press release on October 31, 2013

“The bottom line is that Health Check criteria are constantly evolving. As Canada’s only neutral, third-party, not-for-profit food information program, we are helping move the dial and make positive changes to the food supply so Canadians will have better access to, and be able to identify, healthy food choices wherever they are.”

There are a few problems with their criteria for measuring the value of food. First, the purchasing patterns of Canadians are not necessarily based on nutritional value. The market realities can mean anything. Policy directions from a Foundation that accepts payments from food companies? How is that neutral? How they are helping “move the dial” when they are using purchasing patterns as a criteria?  What about identifying healthy food choices through market realities? How do any of these help consumers make better (i.e. healthier) choices?

This is not what Canadians associate with the Health Check Symbol. They may think it is “heart healthy” or even good for you, but probably not paid advertising. Unfortunately this is another example of how consumers who think they are eating healthy aren’t getting all the facts.

Change your mind, change your health,


Sep 24 2012

How to read a food label.

Women read the labels more often than men and smokers don’t read labels. In a survey released on health, eating and shopping habits they found that female, label readers, on average, weighed 9 pounds less than those who didn’t read the label.  Reading the label leads to better choices. But what if you aren’t sure what those labels mean?

First, read the ingredients. In my opinion this is the most important step. The ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. This is mandatory information. The ingredients that make the most of the product are listed first, followed by the ingredients that make up the next largest portion of the food product.

Second, read the  Nutrition Facts Table. This can be misleading. First, look at the portion size. Even if it is a single serving product often the serving size is a portion of the whole, check carefully. The facts are based on the amount listed not the amount in the package. The % Daily Value is based on averages, as a benchmark to compare similar foods to see if there is more or less of a nutrient. It is also based on eating 2000 calories per day.

Third, don’t pay attention to claims on the front of the package. Not all health benefits mean that much. Now that gluten-free is the latest hot topic, everything has a gluten free label even if it has never had gluten in it to begin with, like rice, corn chips and many other products that are now promoted as “gluten free”. Just like natural, has no meaning there are more examples of misleading labels. For example KD Smart brand  promotes itself as “simply another way for moms to get some omega-3 into their family’s diet.” they neglect to mention that it would take 177 servings to get the same amount as found in one piece of fish.

Fourth, transfats and GMOs are not listed anywhere. To find out if your food product has trans fats add all the fats listed together, do they add up to the total fat listed on the label? If they don’t the remainder is trans fat. Worried about what genetically modified ingredients are and how they interact with humans? There are no studies on humans and very little knowledge about GMOs. The most commonly genetically modified ingredients are corn, canola, rice, sugar beets, cottonseed oil, salmon and soybeans. Choose organic if you want to know what you are eating, as it is not mandatory to label a GM food.

A few other things to consider, if a food has less than 5 calories per serving it can be called “calorie free”. Less than 3 grams of fat per serving it can be called “fat free”. Usually those fat calories are made up with sugar. Anything that ends in an “ose” is a type of sugar, for example, glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose. In Canada high fructose corn syrup can be labeled as glucose-fructose other types of sugar can include, honey, rice syrup, dehydrated cane juice, agave, dextrin, corn sweetener, molasses, malt syrup and more!

Finally, you may also be interested in where your food was produced. The labels may indicate, packaged in Canada, or a Product of Canada. Product of Canada is allowed if all or virtually all of the ingredients, processing and labour are in Canada. Made in Canada means that the last substantial transformation took place in Canada and must have a qualifying statement, such as “from imported ingredients”. Remember this doesn’t apply to foods packaged elsewhere. Prepared, processed or refined in Canada simply refers to the manufacturing process not where the ingredients originated.

Change your health,