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
 

Chocolate Avocado Mousse recipe - a perfect holistic treat for your honey!

As a holistic nutritionist, I often get asked "what do I eat?"  I admit, I have my cheat days, but it's all about finding balance.  I track what I eat, I'm  mindful when I eat, and I'm cautious about avoiding sugar.  But we all gotta live a little!

I've started to develop or try healthy alternatives to some conventional dessert treats.  While I'm not a cheese cake lover, I do love chocolate.  I also love avocado.  I've found a great dessert that combines both loves, and doesn't make me feel guilty for eating it once in awhile.  Aside from the health benefits from eating avocado (huge win!), don't all things taste better when made with love?

Here's to a healthy alternative to conventional store-bought chocolate mousse! It's a perfect Valentine's treat to make for your honey (or someone special). 

Try it out and let me know your thoughts. 


Chocolate Avocado Mousse Recipe
Directions:
1 avocado (organic if possible)
1/4 cup of raw cacao powder (raw chocolate)
1/4 cup of unsweetend apple sauce
1/4 cup of PURE maple syrup


- cut avocado in half, remove pit, scoop out insides and put into blender
- add in 1/4 cup of raw cacao (raw chocolate)
- add 1/4 cup of unsweetend organic apple sauce
- add 1/4 cup of pure maple syrup (NOT table syrup, pure maple syrup, from a Maple tree)
- 1 tea spoon of pure vanilla extract

Blend it up, start on low.
Blend it so everything is mixed together.  Less than a few minutes.
Enjoy!

Top it off with blueberries or raspberries!

Soup that hits the spot! Paleo-friendly Mushroom Soup

As a holistic nutritionist, I try to avoid buying soups from cans and packages as much as possible. One of the reasons I tend to make my own soups is because many store-bought conventional soups are packed with additives such as sodium, MSG, colouring agents and preservatives.  I prefer making my own soups that are gluten-free, soy-free and made with fresh ingredients.  

Home made soups are super easy to make and taste way better than store bought soups.  Making a big batch of soup, and storing the leftovers in the freezer is perfect for those bone chilling cold days - which is pretty much January to March. 

Soups up!  Give this soup a try and let me know your thoughts. 


Paleo-Friendly Mushroom Soup
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 pound cremini mushrooms, wiped with damp paper towel and chopped
8 oz assorted wild mushrooms or skiitake mushrooms, chopped
6 tbsp grass-fed organic butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups organic chicken stock or bone broth
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, heat 2 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 4 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the remaining butter, garlic, and all the mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes.
2. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat. If you are using an immersion blender, blend the soup right in the pot until desired consistency. If using a blender or food processor, let the soup cool a bit and blend in batches, being very careful of the hot liquid.
4. Return to heat if necessary and season with salt and pepper. 

Serve and enjoy!

*Nutritional tip - Mushrooms are known for their immune-boosting properties.  They help reduce inflammation and help prevent DNA damage.  PLUS the are filled with iron, Vitamin B and D and selenium.  Shiitake mushrooms contain estrogen inhibitors (blockers) that may also help lower the risk of breast cancer. 

*Photo courtesy of: tumblr

Easy Peasy Raw Vegan Pasta

If you're anything like me, you want to eat healthy and strive to make dishes that not only taste great, but support your health.  Most of the recipes I make are easy to make, low-glycemic, have high nutritional value and contain many cleansing properties. 

Coming from a traditional Italian family, I initially struggled with making the transition to living a gluten-free lifestyle because I didn't know what foods to eat and what foods would be satiating. As a holistic nutritionist, I've learned and experimented in the kitchen with various vegan and vegetarian recipes.  I've served this Easy Peasy Vegan Pasta to my Italian friends and family, who by the way, are carbo-vores (addicted to high-glycemic carbohydrates like heavy white pastas and pizzas) and they loved it!  I've helped them replace highly inflammatory foods, such as traditional pasta with cheese and a side of bread, with raw vegan pastas. 

Based on my personal health issues and battling with IBS, I aimed to remove grains and carbohydrates that contain gluten in my diet, as I am intolerant to gluten. I also find that these carbohydrates either slow down or inhibit the body's natural detoxifying process. 

I've also found what works best for my family, friends and clients is to experiment with different foods. I encourage you to do the same.  In an effort to keep healthy eating and thought patterns as part of your lifestyle, don't just eliminate a food you like, try to replace it with a healthier option.  Think about what you are going to eat and then ask yourself whether the food choice will cleanse your body or clog/inflame your body.

Incorporating raw vegan and vegetarian meals every day, or even a few times a week, can keep you in healthy frame of mind. Making better choices in the kitchen and reaching for healthy alternatives will help nourish, alkalize and heal your body. 

Remember, eating vegan recipes doesn't have to be boring! 

Easy Peasy Raw Vegan Pasta

*Serves 3-4

*Vegetarian

*Gluten-free

*Dairy-free

*Soy-free

*Prep-time = 10 minutes

Ingredients

6 ounces coconut water

2 cups raw cashews

1 large garlic clove

1/8 of a large avocado

1 teaspoon red chili paste (optional)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional) 

2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil 

1/4 teaspoon sea salt or Himalayan pink salt 

3-4 medium zucchinis

*Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of nutritional yeast (optional)


Directions:

1. Wash zucchinis and chop off the ends. Spiralize using the C-blade (the one that makes spaghetti-sized noodles).

2. In a high-speed blender, combine all other ingredients and blend on high until the sauce becomes very smooth. It should be quite thick.

3. Toss zucchini noodles with olive oil, red chili pepper paste, cayenne pepper and salt in a large bowl until thoroughly coated.

4. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast (optional) in replace of Parmesan cheese.

5. Serve and enjoy.

*Nutritional tip: Zucchini is rich in antioxidants and folic acid.  It's also high in a trace mineral called manganese, which helps the body metabolize carbohydrates and protein.  Manganese also catalyzes the synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol.  

*Why go Raw? Raw foods are full of enzymes, vitamins and minerals.  

Note - This recipe was modified based on the recipe found on Fitchen

Photo courtesy of Tumblr