MY TOP 10 HEALTHY SNACKS FOR 2018 - A PERFECT GIFT FOR THE NUTRITIONIST OR FOODIE IN YOUR LIFE!


TOP 10 HEALTHY SNACKS - A PERFECT GIFT FOR THE NUTRITIONIST OR FOODIE IN YOUR LIFE!

The year’s best healthy snacks curated by me, holistic nutritionist, Laura De Sanctis. *In-house nutritionist with Mindful Snacks and Founder of Go With Your Gut. 

If you're anything like me, you're constantly thinking about food. . . especially when it comes to snacks. As a holistic nutritionist, I get asked all the time what are the best foods to snack on anywhere...but especially at the office and even when you’re on the go. To help answer your questions, I connected with some of my favourite snack companies. Below are my top picks for the BEST healthy snacks of 2018...and snacks which I recommend are the per-fect holiday gift for the nutritionist or foodie in your life.

Since you're probably not going to try every new snack you see in the grocery store or online this year, I did it for you. In 2018, you'll see more plant-powered foods and snacks than ever before. Plant-powered is here to stay. For health, environmental, ethical and sustainable reasons, more and more companies including Google, and even the general public are turning towards a more plant-based, vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. I’ve also selected these snacks as ways to help sneak extra nutrients into anything you eat, whether at home or at work, on the go, and of course, to help you stay on your healthy A-game.

By reading this list you’ll know what to skip and what to pick up. Consider this your comprehensive list of all things worthy, from dried fruits that pack a more than a nutritional punch, to kale chips that are healthier than chips, and date balls that taste like Ferrero Roche. I’m in heaven! There’s even fruit and veggie strips, healthy organic energy bites with only a handful of ingredients, and organic popcorn with just 35 calories per cup...the incentive to be healthier...period...just got that much easier! PLUS the nutritionist or foodie in your life who loves healthy foods will thank you for finally selecting snacks with healthy nutrient profiles and anti-inflammatory powers (wahoo)! With 2018 around the corner, and going back to work too...isn’t it time you skip the high calorie sub-par snacks or muffins at your favourite coffee shop or at your work cafe, and grab one of these nutritionist approved snacks instead?!

Check out some of my fav's, below:

Nomz Energy Bites
I’m all about Nomz Energy Bites. With only 90 calories per single serving, these energy bites are mostly vegan and gluten-free. Made with only seven ingredients: almonds, dates, pecans, hazelnuts,cocoa, coconut oil and sea salt…. Nomz is one of the perfect energy bites to snack on, especially when you’ve hit that 3 pm wall, and you feel like you just can’t pull through and stare at your screen for another two hours. Don’t worry...I got you! That’s why I created this handy-dandy list!

Why I love Nomz so much, is because they focus on whole ingredients: nuts (healthy fats and natural protein), dates (fibre and natural sweetness), cocoa (anti-oxidants), coconut oil, and sea salt. They also taste like Ferrero Roche...but are packed with flavour and all the healthy nutrients you need. Undeniably, these are one of the best and most tasty energy bites of the year! Is your mouth watering yet? I know mine is! Plus Nomz are perfecto for those following a Paleo diet. 

To learn more about Nomz visit: nomz.ca or check them out on Instagram at: @nomzorganic

2. Veggie Go’s - Fruit and Veggie Strips

That’s right...you heard me..fruit and veggies together in one. Now this is not like your standard fruit roll-up you ate at school as a child. This here is the real deal. One, Fruit and Veggie Go’s strip is 1 serving of fruit and veggies. What I love about this product, is that the founders Lisa and John have a thing for real food...like me...and after working on organic farms, they incorporated their love for fruits and veggies as a delightful snack.

These are gluten-free, certified organic and made with apple puree, beet puree, flax seeds, cinnamon and lemon juice. Just 1 strip is just 15 calories. PLUS what I love about this product is that in 1 serving you only have 5 grams of carbohydrates...so eating this won’t spike your blood sugar like a fruit roll-up would. Each strip contains about one-half cup of fruits and veggies. To learn more about Veggie Go’s visit: veggiegos.com

3PUR Popcorn - The PUR Company

From the founders of PUR gum (aspartame-free gum and mints) PUR popcorn rocks my socks off! With just 35 calories per cup ( in a 20 gram bag) in their Sea Salt flavour, this tasty popcorn beats movie theatre popcorn anytime. Driven by taste and inspired by wellness, this popcorn only has three (3) ingredients: popcorn, sunflower oil and sea salt and made with 40% less oil than it’s competitors. What I love about this snack is that it’s vegan, made with 100% whole grain, and certified nut-free so it’s safe for the kiddies to take to school too. Plus PUR popcorn is made with no preservatives, no MSG and no GMOs. It’s a healthier popcorn to eat anytime, anywhere and even when you’re watching a movie. The salt flavour is just salty enough...that you don’t need to add any extra flavours and it doesn’t have any grease, like movie theatre popcorn does. All 3 flavours (Sea Salt, Sweet and Salty and Caramel & Sea Salt aka Toronto Mix) are all-natural, non-GMO, 100% whole grain corn, low calorie, gluten free, nut free, kosher, and made locally here in Canada with PUR love.

Caution, eating these in close proximity to your co-workers may want them craving a handful. To learn more about PUR popcorn visit: thepurcompany.com or on Instagram at: @thepurcompany

4. nudfud - Banana Crisps

Banana chips just got up-graded! As Rihanna says: Where have you been? All my life, all my lllifffee. I was never a fan of banana crisps until I tasted nud fud. These banana crisps seriously are an upgrade from the boring grocery store dispenser banana chips. Organic, vegan, grain-free and gluten-free, these raw snacks are perfect to munch on alone, on oatmeal, coconut yogurt, smoothies, salad or even...dipped in nut butter. My favorite is the spirulina banana chips. With only 133 calories per serving, 15 grams of carbohydrates, and 8 grams of fat, these tasty treats are the perfect on-the-go snack. I also love how nud fud banana chips are packed with Vitamin A, 50% Vitamin A to be precise, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron. Nud fud is also tree-free, nut-free (so it’s safe for the kiddies to bring to school too), sugar-free (hip hip hooray!) and non-GMO.

To learn more about nud fud (pronounced nude) visit: nudfud.com or on Instagram at: @nudfud

5. Patience Fruit & Co. - Organic Dried Fruit Blends

Patience Fruit and Co. are made of dried cranberries combined with dried tart cherries, dried blueberries, sugar and/or apple juice as well as sunflower oil. Containing 90 calories per serving, and with 0 grams of saturated or trans fat, they are perfect for eating alone or topping with some Greek or coconut yogurt. I even love adding them to my salads. Made in a peanut-free facility, organic and non-GMO these classic blends of dried fruit beat the classic, sugar-laden fruit Gushers, anytime! For more information on Patience Fruit & Co visit: patiencefruitco.com

6. Kewaza - Energy Bites, from the makers of KOA Natural Foods

Want to be the new office hero for 2018? Bring in some Kewaza healthy bites. Yes, you read that correctly. Long gone are the days of bringing in donuts for your team at the office. Kewaza healthy bites are organic, vegetarian, non-GMO, only 90 calories and 11 grams of carbohydrates per serving. If you’re a peanut butter lover, like me, you must try the Peanut Butter Cookie Dough flavour. With four (4) flavours: Banana Chocolate Chip, Cookie Dough, Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cookie Dough, Kewaza healthy bites are made with plant-based proteins including raw organic pea protein, cranberry protein and raw organic hemp seed protein. What I love about Kewaza balls(aside from the peanut butter goodness) is that a portion of sales for Kewaza energy balls also goes to Woman Empowering women (WEW). To learn more about Kewaza visit: www.koanaturalfoods.com 

7. Healthy Crunch - Artisanal Kale Chips

Watch out all other brands of kale chips! These are next level kale chips! I can’t tell you enough how much I love Healthy Crunch kale chips. I eat them when I’m craving something crunchy and find they are a great healthy substitute to chips. Healthy Crunch kale chips are organic, gluten-free, peanut-free and nut-free….so they are safe to munch on anywhere….well maybe except in the boardroom for your Monday morning one-on-one weekly meeting with your boss.

A small snack size of Healthy Crunch kale chips made of 35 grams, has 180 calories, are certified vegan, and eco-certified. Healthy Crunch kale chips are also packed with Vitamin A and Vitamin C. In one 35 gram package, there is up to 70% Vitamin C, 40% Vitamin A and 15% Iron. That sure beats regular chips any day!

To learn more about Healthy Crunch visit: www.healthycrunch.com or on Instagram at: @healthycrunch

8. Enerjive - Quinoa Crackers

Now these aren’t your standard crackers that you put in soup, these are crackers with an upgrade! Enerjive crackers are gluten-free, made with low sodium and include 5 grams of protein....plus they also taste great! They're also vegan, peanut-free, dairy-free, gluten-free and non-GMO, so they are safe to take at work, at school, serve to family and friends with some vegan cheese...really, they're great to eat anywhere! Enerjive crackers are made with pea protein, brown flax seeds buckwheat and millet flour as well as sunflower seeds. Nine crackers or a 27 gram serving size is 120 calories.

To learn more about Enerjive visit: www.enerjive.com  or on Instagram at: @enerjiveinc

9. Three Farmers - Pea Pops

These crunchy roasted chickpeas by Three Farmers are delicious as a snack or even salad topper. With 10% iron, 7 grams of protein and 7 grams of fibre per serving (a 40 gram serving) and a variety of taste profiles, including Balsamic and Cracked Pepper, Sea Salt and Lime, and Sriracha Slap Pea Pops, these chickpeas really kick it up a notch. Three Farmers Pea Pops are big on flavour and big on crunch. I love them for snacking at my desk, or adding them to a salad as a topper, instead of croutons. Nut-free, gluten-free and non-GMO, Three Farmers Pea Pops are an office hit.

*Nutritionist tip: Chickpeas are packed with protein and fibre. Chickpeas are a tasty to-go snack that are rich in both soluble and insoluble dietary fibre. They are a good source of protein and they don’t have the high calories or saturated fats found in comparable protein sources. Packed with a powerful nutritional punch, Three Farmers Chickpeas include iron, phosphorus, copper and zinc. They incorporate the heart healthy Omega-3 Polyunsaturates thanks to the usage of Camelina oil to bind the seasoning to the chickpeas. As well they are rich in Thiamine and Manganese.

In terms of Food Trends, Whole Foods predicts that 2018 will be the year Middle Eastern flare will fully hit the mainstream. Consumers will look beyond the hummus, pita and falafel, snacks like chickpeas will gain in popularity.

10. MadeGood - Organic Granola Bars made with vegetables

How about some gluten-free granola goodness?! This list couldn’t be complete without adding a healthy snack bar to the mix. MadeGood Foods carries healthy gluten-free granola bars that are packed with taste and nutrition. These MadeGood granola bars are per-fect for the day when you’ve skipped your morning breakfast or for that mid-day pick-me-up.   

These granola products are organic, school safe and contain the nutrients in one (1) serving of vegetables from six (6) vegetable sources. So what exactly does that mean? Yup, you get one full serving of veggies worth of nutrition, without the taste of veggies, with this little guy. Just think, the taste of chocolate but with the nutrients of broccoli! How fabulous! Each MadeGood serving (one bar or one square in a 24 g pillow pack) contains nutrients of one full serving of vegetables from six different sources: Beets, Spinach, Broccoli, Shiitake Mushrooms, Carrots, and Tomatoes without the veggies taste.

MadeGood Foods minis and bars are made in a facility that is free from the top eight (8) allergens: peanut, tree nut, wheat, dairy, egg, soy, sesame and fish.  One serving size for a granola bar (24 grams, single serving size) ranges from 80 - 90 calories depending on flavour profile. All products are certified organic, certified gluten-free and Non-GMO verified.For more information on MadeGood Foods visit: www.madegoodfoods.com OR check them out on Instagram: @madegoodfoods

*MadeGood is a family owned and operated business based in Toronto.

Here’s to no more excuses for eating healthy!

Are there any more healthy snacks that are perfect for the nutritionist or foodie in your life? Also, I'd love to know if there are any healthy snacks that deserve a spot at your office desk this year? If so, leave your suggestions in the comments below.

How to Stay on Track during the Holiday Season

How to Stay on Track during the Holiday Season

Holiday Eats and Festival Treats - My Top 5 Healthy Tips to Staying on Track During the Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us, and that means more holiday parties, more indulgence, more cookies and sweets, candies, hot chocolate, and for some people, more alcohol. Every year I hear how stressful it can be to 'stay on track' and stay on point with nutrition and wellness goals during this time.  While the average person is gaining 5+ pounds during the holiday season, the only thing you will be gaining and should be gaining this year (and after reading this blog post) is more mindfulness and confidence around food and staying healthy!

Read More

A Nutritionist's Guide: Top 10 Tips on How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

A Nutritionist's Guide: Top 10 Tips on How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

Since you're probably not going to try every new snack you see in the grocery store or online this year, I did it for you. In 2018, you'll see more plant-powered foods than ever before. Plant-powered is here to stay.  I’ve also selected these snacks as ways to help sneak extra nutrients into anything you eat, whether at home or at work, on the go, and of course, to help you stay on your healthy A-game.

Read More

The Importance of Eating Organic - My Top 5 Tips for Eating Organic

In celebration of National Organic Week, which takes place from September 16 to 24, I have dedicated a series of blog posts to the importance or organic foods and my food philosophy. I encourage everyone to eat organic and support their local farmers when possible.

As a holistic nutritionist, I get asked frequently why people should eat organic foods. Call me old fashioned, but I love building a companionship with plants. I love touching  plants, eating and actually tasting fruits and vegetables that were made in balanced nutrient rich soil and natural bacteria.  Well...maybe that’s the Italian in me. From an early age, I had a love for plants and an appreciation for vegetables and homemade sauces and soups. I remember every late August to early September I grew up making home-made tomato sauce or sugo, as we call it in Italian, and eating summer salads with green onions, tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers, picked fresh from my grandfather/Nonno’s garden. I promote and eat organic foods, as it is clean, wholesome food with little to no chemicals and, if it’s packaged, less ingredients. When I started to make a shift towards eating a healthier diet, food started to taste really good.  Even my clients agree, that when you start eating healthier food, you actually stick to eating healthier food.

When it comes to food and our health, everything starts from the inside out. Your health shows on your face and your body.  The food that you eat will either make you look good and feel good, or provide the opposite. With a simplistic approach, I believe organic food can be used for more than just your kitchen,and to fill our bellies, but also applied to beauty enhancements - again making you look good, with raw honey face masks or coconut oil hair treatments.

While everyone’s health and wellness journey is different, there is no one-size fits all to why people should eat organic. I always say it’s about options not rules.  

Below I’ve included my top 5 tips to eating organic food:

  1. Shop Local - Get out in your city and find your local farmer’s market. You can purchase local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. It’s essentially like having exclusive access to get the best produce each week or month. Ask for tips on how to best prepare these ingredients, investigate where your food is coming from and talk to the people who actually grow it. PLUS having a guaranteed box of hand-picked veggies every week helps you stay on track for your health and wellness goals.

  2. Keep It Simple - Eating organic doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s okay to cut corners sometimes and whip up a pot of organic vegetarian friendly chili or vegetable soup and eat it for a few days, rather than order pizza or takeout. Fresh fruit from the farmer’s market is another one of my favourite last-minute snacks or to use in easy peasy smoothies. Organic berries are great to freeze immediately since they often go bad quickly in the fridge or use them in your smoothies instead of ice.

  3. Eat Seasonal Foods - Fruit is a cooling food. Foods such as these reduce our body temperature and should not be eaten during a cold time of year. Our ancestors ate seasonally because they had no choice. Fresh greens grow in spring and summer, fruit ripens and is best enjoyed in the summer, while root vegetables are available during the fall. Eating locally grown food in accordance with the seasons, will help your body live in harmony and balance with the earth.

  4. Eat Real, Whole Food- We need to start establishing a connection with whole food again.  In Michael Pollan’s philosophy, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, he asks Was it picked from a tree, pulled from the ground or caught in the ocean?  Where exactly did your food originate from? Choose more fresh fruits and vegetables - the don’t come with a calorie count or labels or marketing healthy claims. Eating whole, real foods are guaranteed to energize you and improve your mood. *Go With Your Gut Tip - Whole Foods don’t have an ingredient list (think apples, avocados, etc.) or choose foods with a short list of ingredients that you can pronounce but more importantly, understand!

  5. Get to Know Your Labels - For a food to be labelled certified organic the food is grown and processed according to federal guidelines that prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics and genetic engineering. Conventional foods (non-organic foods) don’t follow these restrictions, meaning they carry and/or contain antibiotics, herbicides, pesticides and other toxic chemicals that are harmful to our bodies.  A word of caution - if a packaged product is labeled organic, it doesn’t mean that the entire product is organic - only some of the ingredients are organic - so ready closely and look for the certified organic seals on the package as well as the number 9 on fresh product stickers to ensure the food is organic.

Eating clean, organic foods, means nothing is processed or from a box or can.  That means no gluten, dairy, soy, GMO corn - some of the top allergens, no refined sugar, no artificial sweeteners, no refined food, hydrogenated oils (canola oil, margarine, grapeseed oil, corn oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil).  

For me, my rai·son d'ê·tre for eating clean, organic foods, was to help reduce symptoms for IBS and inflammation in my body. I started to remove all the toxins I was ingesting from a daily basis when eating conventional products. My body had to work twice as hard to process all the chemicals and antibiotics that were hidden in my food.

I urge you all to educate yourselves on the EWG's 2017 Shopper's Guide to help you make informed choices about the produce you buy. Check out our 'Dirty Dozen' and 'Clean 15' lists to shop smarter here. As you transition to eating organic, and celebrate this new way of eating, it is crucial to keep in mind that you are nourishing not depriving your body. Eat foods that make you look and feel your best. If you don’t like spinach, no sweat. Substitute it for another favourite organic fruit or veggie. Don’t be shy about eating organic fruits or vegetables, try aiming to eat a variety a day. They’re so rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients, have numerous health benefits (in fact way too many to list here) and can promote detoxification as well as help reduce inflammation. So….whatchu waitin’ for?  Celebrate Organic Week with me, shop and eat organic!

To help inspire you, I’ve included my favourite place to stock up on all my organic fruits and veggies: Organic Garage located in various areas across Toronto and the GTA. Visit http://www.organicgarage.com/locations

Yummy Vegan Chocolate Turtles - A Perfect Treat for Valentine's Day

One of the best ways to improve your health is to eat foods that you've prepared. Many conventional, packaged food products (including chocolate) may seem convenient and affordable, but they are filled with potentially harmful ingredients and tonnes of refined sugar.  These types of foods spike blood sugar and have almost no nutritional value. 

Consuming too much sugar can lead to type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease and inflammation in the body.  Highly processed food, sugars, food additives and sweeteners make it difficult for our body to digest.   

I've found a healthy alternative to the standard Turtle chocolates. While I'm a big fan of chocolate, I'm not a fan of eating products filled with refined sugars, additives, colours and preservatives.  I prefer to eat food, even if it's a cheat meal or healthy dessert, that I've prepared myself.

These vegan chocolate turtles are perfect for a sweet treat after a meal and easy-peasy to make.  Plus there's no baking required!

Yummy Vegan Chocolate Turtles
Serves 2
*Vegan
*Gluten-free


Ingredients
4 Medjool dates, pitted and halved 8 raw pecan halves
⅓ cup dark chocolate chips*
½ teaspoon coconut oil
Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling

Directions:
1. Melt the dark chocolate and coconut oil together in a double boiler over the stove and set aside.
2. Press a pecan half into each of the eight date halves, then top with about a teaspoon of melted dark chocolate, to cover the top and sides.
3. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt, then place in the freezer to set for 10 minutes, or until the chocolate coating is firm.

Serve immediately, or store in the fridge until ready to serve. 

These yummy vegan chocolate turtles should stay fresh for a week, when stored in the fridge.

*Nutritional tip - Pecans are high in healthy fats and help burn calories. 

Coconut oil promotes weight loss and is a great source of energy.  It remains stable at high temperature and is a great source of lauric acid.  

*Photo courtesy of: tumblr