Count your chemicals

I have noticed a particular “keto” snack food popping up on Instagram lately. Not in an ad, but rather my local stores are promoting the fact that they have brought this keto snack to their shelves. I will preface this by saying I live in Northern Ontario where it seems everyone is on some version of a “keto” diet. I hear others talking about their latest keto recipes quite often while I’m grocery shopping. My thoughts on keto are very similar to these. As with any new food product, keto or not, I always read the labels.

My earlier posts on food labels shed light on how important actually reading labels can be. We are presented with health-washed information on a regular basis and can easily fall prey to it. The producer of this keto snack does not claim keto on their packaging but does use the keto hashtag on all their Instagram posts. During my search it appears the stores that bring the product in are either keto focused or have a large keto customer base.

So what is this keto snack food? It contains 6-7g of fat, 0-1g of carbohydrate and 11g of protein per 20g serving and the company has listed on their website (verbatim) “we use the freshest ingredients with no preservatives” which I found interesting as the snack food is pork rinds. Yes, pork rinds. Pig skin, deep fried in lard and covered with salt and spices. Keto, sure. Nutritious, no.

While its true animal hides are rich in collagen, ones that have been deep fried are no longer beneficial to consuming. The fact that they are claiming not to use any preservatives really intrigued me so I read over their ingredient labels. They offer a variety of flavours and you better bet I found not only preservatives but flavour enhancers and artificial colours too.

Some of their “fresh” ingredients include:

  • Dextrose (sugar, likely from GMO corn)
  • Toasted soya flour
  • Maltodextrin (likely from GMO corn, can negatively impact gut bacteria)
  • Hydrolyzed soy protein
  • Torula yeast (another name for MSG)
  • FD&C Yellow #6
  • FD&C Red #40
  • Modified food starch
  • Sodium diacetate (controls mold and bacteria in foods a.k.a a preservative)
  • Mono sodium glutamate
  • Disodium inosinate (similar to MSG)
  • Disodium guanylate (simialr to MSG)
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable oil
  • Caramel colour E150 (not in the same category as food dyes but can cause stomach upset)

The crazy thing to me is, people are going wild over these. One look through the Instagrams of the producer and the stores that carry it and you’ll see tons of excited comments and emojis. Clearly, those interested in this product do not care about the lack of micro-nutrients and the artificial, processed ingredients. The simplest offering is a plain flavour which contains none of the above ingredients, just pork, lard and salt.

Now, I did come across one flavour (ketchup) that had a special note beside it informing consumers that as of April 2019, they removed the Red dye #40 from their seasoning to replace it with more natural ingredients (beet powder). There is mention of them chaning their formulas as time permits. I can only hope this is coming from a place of education on their part and if not, hopefully consumers pressured them to clean up their product. As consumers become more educated, producers will be forced to shift with the demands and change their products.

Remember, if something comes in a package, you have to read the labels to find out what you might actually be consuming. Count your chemicals.


The Benefits of Rhodiola

Rhodiola is a powerful adaptogen. Adaptogens are herbs that help balance our bodies especially during times of stress. There are many many herbs that can be used to balance the body’s stress repsonse, one of them (and my favourite) is Rhodiola.

Rhodiola use dates back thousands of years. The Vikings, for example, used it for endurance and strength during their voyages. Russian olympians used it to improve their performance and the Greeks used it to increase strength for battle. The common theme among all these uses is enhancing energy and stamina, endurance, mental performance and over-all well being.

Rhodiola grows in cold climates. It can be found in Eastern North America, Northern Europe and Asia. It grows on mountains and at high altitude.

Using Rhodiola for energy

Due to Rhodiola’s ability to balance the body, it is excellent for energy support especially during times of stress. Rhodiola promotes over-all well being and helps to increase mental accuracy. You might find rhodiola in some adrenal support supplements .

Using Rhodiola for stress

Rhodiola has been found to increases levels of certain neurotransmitters that help improve mood. These include serotonin, dopmaine and norepinephrine. An improvement in mood is beneficial when we are dealing with stress. Because rhodiola also helps enhance over-all well being and mental performance, it is used during times of stress either on it’s own or in an adrenal support formula.

Using Rhodiola for performance

Rhodiola is effective for physical performance. I loved using Rhodiola when I was running long distance. I found it helped with my energy and stamina and gave me the mental focus I needed to continue. Rhodiola helps to improve how our muscles use oxygen (increases the rate) and helps to reduce cortisol levels. Exercise is a form of physical stress on our body and cortisol levels naturally rise when we exercise. Rhodiola helps keep it balanced to improve your performance and recovery.

Could you be iron deficient?

Are you constantly tired? Do you feel weak? Do you have brittle nails and hair? What about shortness of breath or weak concentration? If you answered yes to any of these, you might be iron deficient (or anemic, just keep reading) and not even know it. Did you know iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world? Iron is a vital mineral and here’s a few reasons why.

Carries oxygen in our blood…

Two thirds of our bodies iron is found in red blood cells and is referred to as hemoglobin. In muscle cells, it’s referred to as myoglobin. (Naka Herbs, Web. 2008). Hemoglobin is a protein that transports oxygen throughout the body, delivering it to our tissues, and in order to do this effectively, requires iron.

Required for enzymes…

Iron is a building block for many enzymes including those required for our metabolism. Iron is also important for the creation of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that send signals from one neuron to another.

Important for the growth of babies and children…

Iron is needed for proper metabolism and blood supply as children grow. Iron is needed to deliver oxygen to their growing bodies. Demands of school, sports and clubs pushes their mental and physical limits, requiring more iron.

Lost in athletes and menstruating women…

The need for oxygen is higher in athletes and those who are physically active. Because iron is needed for hemoglobin to carry oxygen, those who are physically active need more iron. Myoglobin, in our muscles, also requires iron. Iron can be lost during physical performance in sweat and hemolysis (the breakdown of red blood cells) cited here. Women loose blood monthly during menstruation and so, have higher iron needs than men. This is especially true for female athletes.

Vegetarians and vegans needs more iron…

Iron found in plant foods is referred to as non-heme iron. Animal iron is called heme iron and has a higher absorption rate than non-heme. Non-heme iron has a very low absorption rate and is further impacted by certain substances in these plant foods. Phytates, oxalates, polyphenols and phosphates all inhibit iron absorption. Phytates are found in nuts, legumes and soy. Oxalates are found in spinach, rhubarb and beets. Polyphenols are compounds found in tea, red wine and coffee. Phosphates are found in sodas, which should be avoided anyway, due to their lack of nutritional value and high sugar content.

More is needed during pregnancy…

During pregnancy, the need for iron increases to help build the blood supply needed for the placenta and growing fetus. Blood work is done early in pregnancy to check iron levels and then again after 24 weeks to re-check. The iron is checked again as typically women have enough stored iron (ferritin) to last about 6 months. For this reason, it is not only important to take an iron supplement during pregnancy but also before pregnancy to ensure adequate iron stores and hemoglobin levels. Typically, the range for hemoglobin levels during pregnancy (and women in general) is 120-160 g/L. Around 6 months (24 weeks) typically a drop is seen to below 120g/L.

During this first pregnancy, I chose to take New Chapter’s Perfect Prenatal™ both before, and during. My hemoglobin levels were measured somewhere around 13-16 weeks (can’t really remember) and they were 140g/L. Right within the normal range. They were measured again at 26 weeks and my levels were 135g/L. Hardly even dropped! I will also mention, I follow a plant-based diet so the iron I am typically consuming is non-heme.

Lack of iron leads to deficiency…

When not enough iron is consumed, we don’t have enough in our hemoglobin and begin to experience iron deficiency symptoms. The first stage of iron deficiency is called “iron depletion” followed by “iron- deficiency without anemia” and the final stage is “iron-deficiency anemia”. The below symptoms can be seen in iron-deficiency anemia but also might be seen in earlier stages of iron deficiency.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Brittle nails
  • Brittle hair
  • Extensive hair loss
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Easily bruised
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Pale skin
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Poor concentration
  • Heavy menstruation

Iron deficiency can also occur with sub-optimal intake of certain vitamins such as B12 and folate. When this occurs, the shape of hemoglobin is altered and its ability to carry oxygen is impaired. This is referred to as vitamin-deficiency anemia. Anemia can also be a results of genetic conditions.

If you suspect you might be iron deficient, speak with your primary care provider and have your blood work done. Not only should you have your hemoglobin tested (the primary go-to) but your ferritin levels (which measure the amount of iron your body has stored) should be tested as well. The reason is, as our hemoglobin levels drop, our body pulls from our back-up supply; what has been stored in our body. So in theory, you could have normal hemoglobin levels but your stores could be close to depleted meaning in a few short months (or weeks depending on your activity level), you’ll likely experience more symptoms and they will be more severe.

To correct an iron-deficiency anemia, you can supplement with iron. When choosing an iron supplement, be sure to select one that is non-constipating as this is an unfortunate side-effect of many irons on the market. Some of my favourites that I have used personally include Floradix/Floravit, Blood Builder and Vital F. It’s also best to use this under your primary care providers supervision as you can in fact, consume too much iron. They might suggest a protocol that includes cycling off the iron every few months, have you take as the bottle directs, or change your dose entirely. This is why it’s best to know your numbers before you begin supplementing.

As with any other health concerns you might have, always do your research and speak to your most trusted health care provider to determine what is best for your individual needs.


Why Are We Consuming Food Dyes?

Everyday we have to make food decisions for ourselves and for our families. Products marketed to children (typically convenience foods) are always highly processed and full of sugar and artificial ingredients. This morning, I was scheduled for my routine Glucose Tolerance Test to screen for gestational diabetes as I’m almost 27 weeks pregnant as I write this. I had educated myself ahead of time and knew the “orange drink” would contain artificial colours a.k.a food dyes. I didn’t want to consume it as I avoid food dyes and typically experience a reaction to them. I knew a lemon-lime version existed which is almost colourless and so, should be free of the dyes. It turned out the lab only had orange.

As I was handed the beverage, I read the ingredients. Sure enough, it contained Red #40 and Yellow #6 to make it appear orange. I quickly became frustrated that a product given to expectant moms would contain food dyes. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) published a report in 2010 entitled Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks. This report concludes that 9 artificial food dyes used in the US (and can be found in Canadian products) are carcinogenic, cause hyperactivity in children, cause hypersensitivity reactions and/or are inadequately tested for safety.

Where do these dyes comes from and why are they in our foods?

Artificial food dyes come from petroleum which is derived from crude oil. This is the product we refine to make gasoline. These dyes are used to give colour to foods and food products that would otherwise have no colour or a dull appearance. Making juices red, yellow, orange and so on. Making candies bright and colourful. Even colouring the skin of oranges (yes, the fruit!) so they are more appealing. The worst part is, this can be done using natural products. We don’t have to use the toxic ones. For example, in the UK Fanta is coloured orange with pumpkin and carrot extract while in the US, it’s coloured with Red #40 and Yellow #6; two of the most common food dyes. In Britain, a McDonald’s strawberry sundae is coloured with Strawberries. In the US, they use Red #40. As of 2010, in Europe. most foods that contain artificial dyes need to carry a warning label that states the dyes could cause hyperactivity in children (cited here) You would think twice when picking up that pack of licorice if it came with a warning label, right? So why are we not thinking critically when making these choices now?

The most common dyes seen on food packages are Red #40, Yellow #5 and Yellow #6. You might also see them as FD&C Red No.40, FD&C Yellow No.6, FD&C Yellow No.5. Yellow #5 can also be named tartrazine (helps make Doritos bright orange and Mountain Dew bright green). These three dyes contain benzidene, a human and animal carcinogen permitted in low, presumably safe, levels in dyes (CSPI, A Rainbow of Risks)

Red #40 is probably the most common, colouring everything from cereals, candies, juices, vitamins, yogurts, condiments, prenatal screening drinks and more. Because it’s in so much, our children are consistently consuming low doses of this chemical which in small amounts might seem okay but when it’s cumulative, we should be concerned. Personally, I am concerned when any amount is involved.

Always read the ingredient labels and look for these artificial colours when making food choices for you and your family. It’s important to be educated. You can always cook for yourself. This is a major way to keep food dyes out of your diet and a great way to get children involved in the kitchen. Also remember, you vote with your dollar. Every dollar spent on food items with dyes means more will be produced and put back onto the shelves.

Below are several brands that do not use food dyes (or artificial flavours) but are making some alternatives to the food dye laden products.


Don’t Be Fooled by Food Labels (Part 2)

I’ve discussed the labels vegan and non-dairy already but now I want to shed some light on the labels “cholesterol free” and “gluten free”. Let’s start with “cholesterol free”

When a food is labelled cholesterol free…

Cholesterol is confusing to a lot of people. The reality is, to the average person there is little understanding about the role cholesterol has in our bodies.

We need cholesterol for the health of every cell membrane, for your brain cells, your sex hormones and more.

Dr. Mark Hyman

Cholesterol plays an essential role in our bodies as it makes up our cell membranes. In other words, we have to have cholesterol. The cool thing is, our liver makes cholesterol. We also consume cholesterol in our food. For a very comprehensive look at cholesterol read this article by Dr. Josh Axe as for now, we’re just discussing the purpose of the label.

To put it simply, if it didn’t have a liver, it doesn’t have cholesterol. What does this mean? Well, you’ll typically see “cholesterol free” on vegetable oil packaging. This is to encourage the consumer to purchase the product as typically, cholesterol containing foods are seen negatively. What if I told you all plant oils are naturally cholesterol-free? And the label is just there for marketing. In addition, these oils that are labelled cholesterol free could actually (in theory) increase your risk of atherosclerosis by increasing plaque build up in your arteries (plaque is hardened cholesterol and fats that stick to the walls of arteries) because they are often high-omega 6 inflammatory oils.

The next time you see “cholesterol-free” on a label, think critically about it. Did the food come from, or is it made with animal products? If so, it should naturally contain cholesterol. If it contains animal products yet is claiming to be cholesterol-free, I’d put it back on the shelf as a) the company is using false advertising or b) they have some how processed it even further to remove the cholesterol* (I can’t say I am certain this can even be done) Is the food totally plant based such as applesauce or orange juice? Well then of course it’s cholesterol free and you know the label is just there to try and encourage your purchase.

When a food is labelled gluten free…

This one is a little trickier. Those with Celiac Disease or an intolerance to gluten must consume gluten free foods so of course they will be reading labels. For those who cannot consume gluten, or choose not to, the label reading might stop after the words “gluten-free”. The problem with this is, the ingredients have to be looked at. Typically, gluten-free foods are made with starches rather than fibre containing flours. Potato starch, tapicoa starch, rice starch, corn starch, the list goes on. These starches are refined versions of their original food and have had the fibre removed. When the fibre is removed, the impact on blood sugar levels is much higher meaning gluten-free foods made mostly from starches could raise blood sugar levels rapidly. Now, you might be thinking “but I’m not diabetic so why worry” well, when our blood sugar levels rapidly rise they rapidly fall, leaving us hungrier. When this happens we eat more of (typically) the same food as before meaning more gluten-free starches. The process happens again.

You can absolutely enjoy gluten-free foods, even those made with starches. For those almost entirely starch based, enjoy with moderation. When shopping, read ingredient labels and look for gluten-free ingredients such as:

  • Buckwheat (not related to wheat)
  • Quinoa
  • Amaranth
  • Millet
  • Teff
  • Oatmeal (certified gluten free)
  • Flax meal
  • Chickpea flour
  • Lentil Flour
  • Black Bean Flour
  • Almond flour

These ingredients will have much more fibre. You can also read the nutrition facts panel to see how much fibre is contained in each serving. Look for 3-5g minimum. The fibre (and not to mention protein from these food ingredients) will keep your blood sugar balanced which will keep you fuller for longer and prevent you from reaching for a second and third helping of gluten-free sugar cookies.

To summarize, just because a food says it’s gluten-free or cholesterol-free does not mean it’s the most nutrient dense choice available. Always read the ingredients and if you have to second-guess your choice, put it back and choose more whole foods in it’s place. If you’re good in the kitchen, you could even make your own by purchasing fibre-rich flours at your local bulk food or health food store.

I want to leave you with this article by Meghan Telpner about “healthwashing” and labeling foods in a certain way to make them appear healthy. It is very comprehensive and provides a step-by-step approach to determine if the food has been healthwashed.


Don’t Be Fooled by Food Labels (Part 1)

It’s very easy to become overwhelmed walking the grocery aisles. You’re trying to shop healthy choices for you and your family and labels jump out at you from everywhere, each vying for your attention and most importantly your dollar. Words like “natural, vegan, dairy free and cholesterol free” may make you assume that food is nutrient dense and healthy. The majority of the time, it’s a marketing ploy to get you to buy the product. So how do you become a savvy consumer? And make sure you don’t fall victim to the labels? Step one is to avoid the labels when possible. Choosing foods without packaging labels means whole foods like more vegetables and fruits. The second is education. Educating yourself on what these labels actually mean and if they hold any truths. I’d like to discuss the marketing label “VEGAN” to start.

When food is labelled Vegan…

Just because something is vegan, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy. I recently read an article which compiled vegan comfort food recipes. Upon reading it, I saw recipes that used ingredients that were completely devoid of nutrients. The first example I am going to use below is not labelled vegan by the company but the treat is known to be vegan.

Black and white cookie sandwiches have prominent shelf space down the cookie aisle. Disclaimer: these cookies are not labelled vegan by the company but in the vegan community, it’s well known they are. According to the ingredient label, these cookies are vegan. There is no actual milk ingredients or eggs used in the product. Instead, the cookies first ingredient is sugar followed by bleached white flour that likely contains trace amounts of glyphosate (aka round up). It’s been stripped of any nutritional value it might have had so it’s then been “enriched” with synthetically derived vitamins. The next ingredient is canola oil. An oil that can encourage inflammation in the body. In addition to this and the sugar already in here, high-fructose-corn-syrup is added for an additional sugar boost. Soy lecithin is used to emulsify the sugars into the “cream filling”. You bet this soy isn’t organic nor is it fermented. Soy is also a very common allergen. On top of all of this, artificial flavour is used. When artificial flavours are used, you have no idea what the “flavour” is actually made from.

Let’s talk candy next. You can find many candies out there with the word “vegan” right on the package. This would mean the candy does not contain any gelatin but rather pectin is used to firm up the candy and give it the gummy texture. Pectin is a soluble fibre found in fruits that when heated with sugar, forms a “jelly” consistency. This is a great find if you are avoiding animal products for personal or religious reasons but you need to have a critical eye when looking at the remainder of the ingredients. These candies are typically still made with high-fructose-corn-syrup, artificial flavours and artificial colours. Artificial colours have been linked to allergic reactions and hyperactivity and are derived from petrochemicals (the same place we get gasoline!) This brand is making a great alternative to traditional candies. While they do have vegan options, they are not made with sugar, artificial colours or flavours. It’s all about making educated choices.

I am sharing information to encourage you to have a critical eye. Yes, many vegan foods are healthy (lentils, nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies, legumes etc) but when vegan is used to encourage your purchase on a packaged item, it’s typically not. Read your ingredient labels or better yet, purchase whole foods.

When food is labelled non-dairy…

There are many big name ice cream companies producing non-dairy frozen desserts now due to consumer demand. These companies choose to prominently display the words “non-dairy” in the hopes the consumer feels this is a better choice. I know for those with a lactose intolerance, you would be looking for this label also. This information is still helpful for you as it will debunk the fact that “non-dairy” doesn’t always mean better for you.

If you have a look at these ingredients, you might be surprised to find that (some brands) are not actually made from milk alternatives like almond or coconut but rather, just sugar! Having a look at the non-dairy ingredients of a very popular German brand, you see water and sugar as the first two ingredients. This is followed by corn syrup, more sugar, rice syrup (more sugar) some sunflower oil, chocolate, a few other ingredients and soy lecithin. One bar has 24g of sugar which is 6 tsp. If you recall my post about Canadians sugar consumption, you’ll know we’re averaging 26 tsp per day and the recommended amount is 8-10 tsp (and ideally 6 tsp). All your added sugar in one day is found in one serving of this non-dairy frozen dessert.

While this dessert does not contain dairy and would be suitable for someone who is vegan or lactose intolerant, it’s easy to see it’s not a healthy choice. You don’t have to avoid ice-creams and non-dairy desserts, you just have to make educated choices. This brand is outstanding in terms of flavour and texture and they use real ingredients that are organic and fair trade. No sugar syrups or colours or artificial flavours are found here.

Keep an eye out for part 2 of this post where I’ll discuss the labels “cholesterol free” and “gluten free”


Supporting your skin during pregnancy

So it’s been a month since I’ve shared anything here and I figured it was about time I posted something. I have shared this news with family and on personal social media and now here…I’m expecting my first child! I am currently 5 1/2 months pregnant. This is not a lifetsyle blog or a mommy blog so I am going to stick with the wellness side of it and share with you how I have been supporting my skin during pregnancy.

There is a ton of demand on a woman’s body when she is pregnant. One of the biggest changes is the growing bump. Your skin needs to grow and stretch with the baby and us women would love that to happen with the most minimal impact possible. Stretch marks and Linea Nigra are very common in pregnancy so much so that 1 in 2 women will get stretch marks.

A lot can be done however, to support your body and your skin during this time to reduce the quantity of stretch marks as well as their intensity (less red and itchy). Below are the products I have been using and I have no stretch marks across my bump so far, and I’m just over half-way through my pregnancy.

Collagen is an essential addition to a pregnant woman’s routine. Specifically, powdered collagen from a marine or bovine source. Collagen will help support the natural elasticity of the skin through the production of elastin, helping it to stretch. This also important for your growing blood vessels. Collagen is a very important source of the amino acid glycine. Glycine is also found in gelatin and slow cooked meats (pulled pork, bone broth, chicken soup) due to the breakdown of the animals connective tissue. According to Registered Dietitian and prenatal nutrition educator, Lily Nichols , “the demand for glycine during pregnancy may already exceed the capacity for it’s synthesis, making it conditionally indispensable”.

Glycine is needed for the synthesis of fetal DNA and collagen, among other functions. It’s particularly important…later in pregnancy when your baby is gaining weight rapidly. Your baby’s developing bones, connective tissues, organs, and skin need glycine

Lily Nichols, RDN, Real Food for Pregnancy Chp 3, pg 37

Omega 3’s are important for moisture retention in your skin which also helps with the stretching. In addition they are an excellent anti-inflammatory supplement that also have research to support aiding the developing brain and eyes of the fetus. I am using this brand.

Rosehip Oil is a wonderful oil that you apply topically to your skin. The unique feature of Rosehip oil is the ability to regenerate skin cells and collagen and restore skins elasticity. Some consider it to be the botox of skin oils. It is rich in Vitamins A and C as well as omega 3’s and 6’s. I have been using St. Francis Herb Farm Rosehip Oil for a few months now and I do believe it’s another reason my skin is stretching well.

Marula Oil is another wonderful oil that actually works to prevent and heal stretch marks. Sourced from the fruit of the Marula tree in Namibia, Marula oil is considered to be a “miracle” oil. It softens and soothes the skin and improves the skin’s ability to retain moisture, all of which support your growing belly. Again, I am using the St. Francis Herb Farm brand of Marula Oil.

A few other notes I have to share is to DRINK YOUR WATER. Water is essential for the growing baby, your growing blood supply, the amniotic fluid and maintaining the moisture in your skin. It is also important that while we gain weight during pregnancy, it should be slow and steady. A slow and steady weight gain will also prevent/reduce the impact of stretch marks as your skin is growing very slowly. Rapid weight gain can lead to an increased number of stretch marks and they can be itchy or red in colour. Your primary prenatal care practitioner (whether Dr. or Midwife) will let you know if your gain is too rapid.

Lily Nichols RDN, CDE is the bestselling author of Real Food for Pregnancy as well as Real Food for Gestational Diabetes. I highly suggest you check her out with the link above if you are expecting or planning to.

7 Ingredient Carrot Cake Bites

I love carrot cake. In my family, it’s usually an Easter treat. I’ve made many different versions over the years from traditional, to gluten free, to paleo. I don’t think I’ve ever had a carrot cake I didn’t like. So when I was thinking up a new recipe, I was inspired by the warm spices of carrot cake.

I had medjool dates, shredded coconut, carrots and spices on hand so the recipe came together quite quickly.

I like using medjool dates when making bites or ball recipes as they are naturally very sweet. This means you don’t have to add any sweeteners like honey or maple syrup to what you’re making. Dates are also rich in potassium and magnesium as well as copper, iron, manganese and Vitamin B6. Dates are high in fibre too which is going to support your digestive system and contribute to regularity.

The Recipe:

  • 1 carrot, finely shredded (I just use the shredding attachment on my food processor)
  • 8 medjool dates, pits removed
  • 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut (choose unsulphured)
  • 2 tbsp collagen powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

Throw all ingredients into a food processor and pulse just until the mixture starts to stick together, almost forming a “dough”.

Scoop by the 1/2 tbsp and roll into balls. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and into the fridge to firm up a bit. Before refrigerating, you could give them a roll in more coconut.

Makes approximately 16 Carrot Cake Bites.

*I was keeping the ingredient list short but feel free to add vanilla extract or a pinch of pink salt to enhance the flavour. A couple teaspoons of coconut flour added would make for a more cake-like texture.

©2019 Vibrancy Health Solutions

Interview with Registered Nutritionist Holly Bradich

Meet Holly Bradich, Registered Nutritionist practicing in the Kitchener-Waterloo region of Ontario, Canada. She owns Mindful Vitality. I reached out to Holly to see if she would be interested in answering a few interview questions for me. I did this because there are many misconceptions in the natural health industry and everyone’s health journey is inspired by something different. Whenever you decide to work with a practitioner it’s important to know 1) they know what they are talking about because they have the background and the credentials to support them 2) they use an evidence-based approach (aka science and literature) to support you. With not 1 but 2 undergraduate degrees as well as the designation of Registered Orthomolecular Health Practitioner (ROHP) and Registered Nutritional Consulting Practitioner (RNCP), Holly uses this approach in her practice.

Tell me a few things about yourself?

I’m a chocoholic (yes, nutritionist indulge too!) I’m obsessed with dogs, even though I don’t own one now, but plan to get a doodle in the next few years! I’m a science nerd: I love reading the latest science journals especially on the microbiome (gut health) I love to cook…and tend to dance and sing while doing it – something my boyfriend finds highly entertaining!

What is your area of expertise?

I focus in digestive health as I’m passionate about the gut brain connection – we can optimize our mental health by healing our gut! The gut is the root of all inflammation – as someone with chronic pain that is well managed, a huge part of that is my diet – I love educating patients with pain so they can feel motivated to make the changes necessary to reduce their suffering and get back to living their life! I’m also very experienced in helping clients transition to special diets such as gluten-free. I’ve noticed a lot of women in my life and on my social media struggling with menopause and perimenopause – they’re frustrated by the lack of information and support and they want an alternative way other than medications so I’ve recently started to really focus on this as there seems to be a massive demand. I want women to know that they have control over their hormones and that their hormones affect their mental health! I want them to feel their have the power to take their life back – to stop suffering and start living again!

We can optimize our mental health by healing our gut

Holly Bradich, BSc, BA, ROHP, RNCP

How did you get into nutrition and the natural health industry?

I’ve had gut issues since I was a baby and doctors couldn’t help me. As I got older I started doing more research of my own and starting spending time with family, friends and coworkers who were in the wellness industry and I learned a ton from them. About 10 years ago I started seeing a naturopath and found a huge improvement in my overall health including mental health, energy, gut health and pain – it inspired me to learn more and eventually go back to school for nutrition.

Did you always want to be a Registered Nutritionist?

Not at all! Ask my family…my mom will roll her eyes because every time I talked to her I wanted to be something different! First it was a therapist (hence my undergrad in psychology), then it was a graphic designer, a hairstylist, a dietitian (hence my undergrad in nutrition). At the end of my degree in nutrition I had a meltdown because I didn’t have the grades to get a dietetic internship and I was 35 and in a TON of OSAP debt so I wasn’t about to do a masters degree…I decided to just start working and see what came my way. I ended up working at a health food store for 3 years, I also worked in long term care as a dietary aide and an obesity and diabetes management clinic.

I’ve had so many jobs, but two things always stood out to me:

  1. I wanted to help people heal naturally
  2. I didn’t want to work in the western medical model

I had started following a lot of nutritionists on social media and I started thinking to myself, hey, I can do that! So I did!

What are 1 or 2 supplements you think can benefit most people?

A lot of practitioners in the wellness industry would say probiotics – I used to say that as well, but really, every body is different, and some people (like myself) who are prone to allergies and have an overgrowth of bad bacteria in their gut should avoid probiotics and fermented foods until they balance out their gut and immune system. This is why it’s so important to work with a practitioner. There are also a lot of herbs that I could say are beneficial, however, if you take any medications there will most likely be an interaction…again, another reason to see a practitioner – it’s not worth wasting your time, money and energy on supplements that may or may not work for you and could cause serious side effects. I would say the two supplements that are safe for most people and would be beneficial would be omega 3 (whether it’s fish oil or vegan) and vitamin D. Vitamin D affects so many processes in our body from our mood to our immune system and bone health, and in Canada we don’t get enough sun exposure year round so many of us are deficient. Yes, milk and other foods are often fortified with vitamin D but if you’re dairy-free you probably aren’t getting enough.

You love to cook. What are some of your favourite things to make?

I love baking – mostly because it’s a necessity as someone who’s GF, nut free, dairy free and yeast free! Plus the GF baked goods out there are usually full of crap! Every week I usually bake two items; an every day item such as blueberry muffins (which I usually have with free run eggs for breakfast) or yeast free bread and then a treat such as chocolate chip cookies or squares…because everything in moderation! When it comes to cooking I love to make curries and roasted veggies!

What is one misconception you think people have about Nutritionists and the Natural Health Industry?

That we are woo woo and don’t base our practice and protocols on science. Unfortunately there are a lot of natural practitioners that aren’t science based, so it gives the rest of us a bad reputation…however, as a nutritionist with a BSc. in nutrition and a BA in psychology, I’m very much science based, and I work alongside a naturopath who is also very science based. We try to communicate that in our marketing so people know that we are different, we are trustworthy and your protocols will be safe and effective.

… as a nutritionist with a BSc. in nutrition and a BA in psychology, I’m very much science based

Holly Bradich, BSc, BA, ROHP, RNCP

What is something people assume about you once they hear you are a Registered Nutritionist?

I think they assume that I’m judging them for what they eat, and they also assume I eat super clean all the time…neither could be further from the truth! I respect everyone’s choices when it comes to eating because every body is different and there are cultural, religious, financial and social reasons for the way we choose to eat.

I eat meat, which I get slack for on social media, but as someone who can’t digest vegan sources of protein, it’s my only option, and protein is so important!

I’m also all about everything in moderation. One thing I learned in psych classes is that, much like a child, if you tell an adult not to do something (such as eat sugar) they will crave it more! Sure, maybe you could last a week or so without your favourite treat, but odds are you’ll end up caving and bingeing so it’s really not worth it, both for your physical and mental health. I came to this conclusion because I’ve been there myself. I tried every fad diet and detox out there when I was younger and I made myself really sick – I lost way too much weight and I was not myself – I got horrible carb cravings and end up bingeing, and because of that I now have chronic acid reflux – I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

What was the biggest challenge you faced on the path to becoming a Registered Nutritionist?

Figuring out how to run my own business and how to make it profitable (which I’m still working on!) Most school programs don’t teach you these skills so you end up having to teach yourself, which is a stressful trial and error situation…as someone with no business background you really have no idea where to start!

I’m so lucky and grateful to have an amazing mentor and colleague Dr. Kristin Spark, ND as well as a few other amazing women I found through social media that have helped tremendously with marketing. I’m going to be starting an online marketing program this fall so I’m pretty excited for that.  Marketing as a healthcare professional and for wellness clinics can be quite different from marketing other mainstream products or services so I’m excited to learn more and to eventually help other practitioners who need guidance in growing their business!

If you’d like to learn more about Holly or work with her visit her website at

Sugar, Sugar

I bet you’d be surprised to learn the average Canadian consumes 26 teaspoons of sugar per day according to Statistics Canada. This equates to 88 pounds per year or 20 bags! That’s an insane amount of sugar. How is this possible? Where is all this sugar coming from? Well, it’s coming from hidden sources. Big companies LOVE adding sugar to their products because they know we’ll want more and more of it. Sugar is addictive in the same manner opioids are. Sugar addiction is a biological disorder that stimulates the reward (addictive) center of our brain. It makes us feel good so we crave more.

Sugar is the root cause of the obesity epidemic. When we consume too much sugar, it taxes our liver. The liver has to convert the excess sugar into fat and store it. Where is it stored? Our hips, thighs, waist, all over! In addition to the excess weight, there is a rise, especially among children, in the prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This is heartbreaking. This is a completely PREVENTABLE disease not to mention parents are the ones responsible for most of what a child consumes. This disease is becoming so prevalent that by 2020, it will be the number one reason for liver transplants in the US surpassing Hepatitis C.

Back to where this sugar is coming from. You might think you’re making healthy choices when buying foods but if you’re buying packaged or processed foods then chances are there’s added sugar in there! It doesn’t have to be a bag of candy or a chocolate bar. Those are the obvious offenders. I am referring to the foods you wouldn’t even think sugar is added to. For example, bottled salad dressings. It’s very easy to make salad dressings at home but we buy them in bottles for convenience. And what’s in the bottle? Sugar! As well as refined, high inflammatory oils like canola, soy and/or peanut. Sugar is also added to condiments, energy drinks, prepackaged oatmeal, granola bars, protein bars, crackers, cereals…the list goes on! Chances are, if it came out of package, sugar has been added to it.

So how do you make more informed choices? You have to read the ingredient labels. Don’t think it will be easy right away as companies are allowed to write sugar in many different ways. The best way to find the sugar is to look for words ending in “ose”. If it ends in “o-s-e” like dextrose, maltose, sucrose, fructose, lactose, then it’s a sugar. In addition, the grams of sugar will be listed on the nutrition facts panel. It’s important to keep in mind this will be for the serving size. If the cereal serving contains 10g of sugar per 3/4 cup and you’re eating 1.5 cups of cereal then you have to double the sugar. That’s 20g! The best way to reduce sugar consumption is to limit or better yet avoid packaged/boxed/bottled/processed foods. This means eating real, whole foods. Foods that are grown in the ground and purchased in their original form. This would include (but not limited to):

  • Dark leafy greens
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Avocado
  • Coconut
  • Organic meat

Protein and good fat are essential for keeping your blood sugar balanced especially if you are working to shift your diet away from hidden and refined sugars. Combining the two in a meal or snack with some complex carbohydrates will help keep you satiated.

I hope this inspires you to read the ingredients in the foods you’re buying and encourages you to make shift towards healthier eating.