I love making these cookies….They are perfect for a snack or for breakfast!
Easy, delicious, healthy and are free of: sugar and flour. The can easily be made gluten-free with GF oats. I usually don’t measure the ingredients when making these cookies but they always turn out!
3-4 Medjool Dates with pits removed
2 C. (approx.) Rolled Oats
2 Tsp. Cinnamon
Add desired amounts of:
-Walnuts or other nuts
-Chopped Dried Apricots or other dried fruit
-Cloves, Ginger, other other spice
Add the Bananas, Dates, 1/2 Rolled Oats, and Cinnamon into a blender. Blend until all ingredients form a thick paste. Pour this batter into a medium bowl.
Add the rest of the Oats and other optional ingredients. Fold the ingredients together. The batter should be a little sticky but should be able to be formed into 1/2” thick patties. If they are too sticky, add more rolled oats. Feel free to make large cookies or smaller, if you like.
Bake in the oven for 16-18 minutes at 350 F on parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
Eat right away or after they are cooled, store them in a container for several days.
Posted on: February 22nd, 2022 by TouchStone Health
By Julie Robertson, Registered Social Worker, CCLS, MSW, RSW
Grief. We have heard that word a lot in the last two years. We have lost a lot, in many different ways, and we are all feeling it in some form or another. But what is grief exactly? What does it feel like and why keep bringing it up? Many people associate the word grief with death, and in essence it is a feeling that comes with the death of something, but not always with the death of a living being. Grief is our “responses to loss” whereas bereavement is more specific to the reaction to a death of a person (or pet), and both deserve recognition. Any type of loss is a significant event and our reactions to those losses are important to process and find support for.
Right now, many of us have become used to what we are experiencing, we have learned to live with the ‘new normal’ that was talked about a lot in the beginning of the pandemic. That new normal though, has felt very uncertain at times. We have become used to the feeling of uncertainty, while at the same time longing for a return to something more stable. We miss the feeling of knowing what to expect each day, some miss jobs, some miss friends, activities, and some miss people that are no longer here. We mourn for those losses and even experience intense longing to have things back to how they were before.
Mourning is also a term we hear with grief and can be explained as “the outward expression of our grief’”. For some, that is out loud and in the open, talking to people, sharing feelings, even weeping openly about how we are feeling. For others, mourning is done quietly and in private, with little for others to see about how we are feeling inside. And for many, the mourning comes out in hidden ways, angry or in denial that the feelings of discontent with how things have been are due to grief. The thing about grief and mourning, is that however it is coming up for you and however you do your grieving, it is all ok. There is no right or wrong way to grieve or to express your grief. It is ok to do the messy crying in your car, the single tear in line at the store, the nonstop talking about your loss, or the journaling poems in secret. Whatever you need to do to help cope with the feelings in healthy ways is how it needs to come out, but when we ignore or deny the grief it can come out in more destructive ways.
But that brings up what are the healthy ways to cope? The first question I would recommend asking is what is it that I’m feeling? What do I need to do (or not do) to support whatever I’m feeling? Next, is it possible for me to do it? If not, what are my other options? For some, flying away on a week’s beach vacation may feel like the best thing to do, but not be possible. What is the next best thing? Maybe a short retreat closer to home, or a day off to turn up the furnace, put on some shorts and listen to beach music with a fresh fruit smoothy, and throw on some sunscreen for the full experience of the beach smell. For others it may be continuing with regular daily activity, nice and structured with everything certain and in its place to feel more comforting. Everyone has different needs when grieving and taking the time to recognize how you are feeling and what you need to do to support your needs can go a long way to manage the experience. I say manage and not fix, because the other thing about grief, is that you can’t fix it or make it go away no matter how hard you try. It has a way of sticking around until it is felt and processed. You can push it away, delay it until you have more time or feel safer to let it surface, but it doesn’t go away until it’s sure it’s moved through you. This is very often the most difficult part, to let the feelings come and have their place, be recognized, and be allowed to do what they need to do. Grief is painful. It can feel overwhelming. It can feel like waves are coming to swallow you and that they will never leave you alone.
I am here to tell you that they will, the waves will get smaller, further apart, and eventually reduce back to a calmer surface. But also, to point out that grief often has a way of hiding itself away until we feel safe enough to feel it. As we move towards opening up again and regain more and more of “the normal” we were missing, those feelings may just pop up out of nowhere and surprise you. This is also normal and ok but can be shocking if you’re not expecting it. Finding support to get through those big waves, learning about the grief process and having someone to talk with to help find ways to cope, or even to just sit with you while the waves crash around can be very helpful to getting through the process. Whether your grief is related to a death or any other feelings of loss, or you are looking for help in supporting a child, family member or friend through grief, you are welcome to connect for a free consult about how I can help support you through your experience. https://touchstonehealth.ca/clinicians/julie-robertson-rsw/
Is anyone tired yet? Feel like crying, yelling, or stomping your feet with the latest provincial restrictions? As we continue into this 4th wave of the pandemic and kids return for another round of online schooling, many are feeling pushed past the point of being able to hold it all together. So go ahead, cry, stomp or yell (maybe into your pillow) and let everything you feel have its place. The more people I talk to these days, the more I realize that so many are experiencing burnout from the challenges of the last two years. Yes, we’re coming up to two years living through the ups and downs of the pandemic, and that is a long time to be under this much stress.
What is Burnout?
Feeling burnt out is a concept we threw around maybe a bit lightly in previous times to describe big stressors such as crunch time during exams, busy streaks at work, or shuttling kids to activities on top of working and caring for family members. Those things all have potential for burnout but add a pandemic on top of that and it seems almost inevitable that most people would be fizzling and fading out this far into it. One difference is that before, we often caught a break. Exams finished, workloads ebbed and flowed, and kids activity sessions ended with each season. Now, there has not been the same balance, no end to the stress of the pandemic, and so much unknown with all of it that we are left is stress mode for way too long with no way to rest and recover. Even if we are eating healthy balanced foods, drinking water, going for walks and getting fresh air, for many people it doesn’t seem to be feeling any better. This is beyond the tired of before and recognizing it for what it is can help switch from swimming in circles to energy conservation mode, allowing the chance to heal when we have space. Burnout can be described as the imbalance between too much stress and the lack of resources to cope with it, or “feelings of depleted energy or exhaustion because of continual stress”.
Some symptoms of burnout could be:
Feeling exhausted, despite efforts to relax and replenish
Irritability or hostility
Change in sleep habits
Feeling distanced from others, friends, family, kids
Lack of fulfillment in work, parenting etc
My Coping Tools Aren’t Working!!
So, hands up if you’re feeling depleted from continual stress? How many are feeling the lack of resources to cope with that stress? Are the tools you usually pull out to help cope just not working under the current circumstances? I don’t think you’re alone with that one! The things that normally help us cope like taking time off with friends, some alone time with a cup of tea, going to the gym, connecting socially with co-workers to vent, or even accessing affordable healthy foods have all been interrupted. Health care workers, teachers, other front-line staff especially are struggling with the heaviness of working in helping professions and holding other people’s emotions. Those working in services jobs also have the stress of face-to-face contact, and grumpy grumps complaining about not getting enough ketchup packets with their order is adding layers to an already stressful industry to work in.
Is Parental Burnout a Thing?
And then there are the parents of school age kids and youth, who are now facing another few weeks (at least) of doing it all and having no space to take a breath and regroup. Parental burnout is noticeable on the whispers, sometimes loud whispers, of many parents who feel like they are hating being parents right now. On top of feeling the burnout symptoms, many parents then add on shame and guilt for not enjoying their kids as much as they ‘should’, or for not being able to provide as much support as their kids need right now.
So, after recognizing we’re feeling burnt out, what do we do if our usual coping strategies aren’t working anymore, or we can’t implement them because of the circumstances we’re in?
1. First, breathe. That’s all, if nothing else just breathe. Pretend to smell freshly baked cookies with a deep breath, then blow out to cool them off.
2. Let yourself feel. Everything that is coming up, even the hate, anger or frustration has a place and can be honoured. Just because you have those feelings doesn’t mean they are permanent, but they are valid and can be allowed to be recognized and named for what they are. And scream into a pillow if you need to, just maybe warn people nearby first.
3. Go back to basics of survival. Eat, sleep, create ways to feel safe and prioritize the most important things to get through each day. Oh, and water, don’t forget to drink water!
4. Move. If your body is already stressed to the point of being in fight or flight mode, don’t push it further into stress by pressuring yourself to fit in workouts you would normally do when feeling good. Be gentle, move your body, get some fresh air, or just stretch when you have a few minutes throughout the day.
5. Reframe your thoughts in helpful ways. After letting all the feels do their feeling, look at picking out a few mental statements that have room for a shift in perspective and try them on. Things like “I can’t stand a messy house, I am failing at keeping it together if I can’t keep things organized” could shift to “I can’t stand a messy house, but it won’t be like this forever (even if it feels like it right now). I can leave the toys where they are and focus on doing one load of laundry for today”.
6. If help is offered, take it, or not. If having your mother-in-law in your house for the day to ‘help’ doesn’t feel very helpful, then saying a polite no thank you might be the less stressful choice, and that’s ok.
7. Talk to someone. A friend, a counsellor, a neighbour, a sympathetic pet. Journaling or making voice notes to vent can also be helpful. If you’re really feeling down, call a helpline or head to your Emergency Department.
And that is all I’m going to say because a bigger list is not always better. In times of crisis, illness, burnout, we can let go of all of the extras we have padded onto our lives, the frills, bows and expectations that aren’t essential to what we need, and just focus on taking care of the things that get us through. The frills and bows and be added back on later, if we still want them that is!
Posted on: December 8th, 2021 by TouchStone Health
Starting in January 2022, Julie will be offering counselling and support to help clients cope with issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, grief, birth and fertility issues including NICU parenting, and parent coaching for those who are struggling with parenting higher needs children. Julie works from a trauma informed perspective and draws from a mix of counselling theories to create a unique treatment path based on individual experiences and goals. She is currently accepting adult clients for virtual sessions and is able to support parents and caregivers with issues related to children and youth.
To book an appointment or for a free 15 minute consultation go to: online booking
Posted on: November 11th, 2021 by TouchStone Health
by Jill Jackson, Certified Nutritional Practitioner, NNCP
Did you know that only 5% of US citizens reach their recommended daily fiber intake? That leaves 95% of the population in a fiber deficiency! I am sure Canadians would be the runner up in this shocking statistic. Our bodies are meant to consume fiber, anywhere between 25-50 grams daily depending on our gender, age, and level of health. Let’s consider what fiber is and why we may not be consuming enough.
Fiber has never really had a definition that has been accepted universally. Some health practitioners use the words dietary fiber, crude fiber, or even roughage interchangeably. Here is what we do know about fiber. Fiber is a combination of plant polysaccharides that are resistant to digestion combined with lignins (a class of organic polymers that help make up plant walls/structure). Simply put, fiber is exclusively a plant nutrient meaning it cannot be found in animal products.
I believe fiber consumption has decreased for two main reasons. One, low fiber diets are highly popular without many realizing it! Low-carbohydrate diets have gained popularity dating back to the 1960’s, their rules often removing potentially healthy and high fiber grains. After the low-carb craze, emerged the keto diet, even worse when it comes to fiber intake! No matter what diet is being consumed, if there is low intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, there will be low intake of fiber. However, we know a low carb diet cannot be the issue alone because for many Americans and Canadians 40-60% of their diet is carbohydrate, just not the right kind, leading us into my second fiber related concern. Westernized society relies heavily on packaged and fast foods. The processing and milling of these foods can remove most, if not all of it’s fiber content. In some African countries where there is the least amount of food processing globally and only small amounts of animal products consumed, daily fiber intake can reach 75-100 grams! A contrast to the mere 10-15 grams Americans consume daily. But why should we care about our fiber intake?
Low fiber diets are are associated with chronic constipation, gastrointestinal disorders, colon cancers, diverticulitis, high cholesterol levels and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Fiber is best known to bulk our stool and increase (or slow down) our transit time leading to healthy bowel movements, but it does so much more than that! As our understanding of fiber increases, we have learned that fiber also appears to nourish our gut microbiome (the ecosystem found within our intestines). After a chain of reactions within the gut, fiber acts as a food source for our “good” gut bacteria contributing to an overall healthier gut microbiome. Fiber also helps with weight management and blood sugar management, the two going hand in hand. Fiber has seen to help draw out toxins and parasites within the body as well. It is a myth that all fiber does is help us use the washroom, it has many roles!
The final question you may be left with, how do I increase my fiber? The easiest way to answer this is through a quote from one of my favorite nutritional textbooks it says “Whenever we increase out intake of plants in comparison to animal foods, we are increasing our fiber intake” – Staying Healthy With Nutrition by Elson M. Haas, MD. It really is simple, we must increase consumption of plants whether it be legumes such as split peas or chickpeas, whole grains like oats and quinoa or fruits and vegetables like pears, avocados, berries, broccoli, or collard greens. (Not to forget nuts and seeds like flax, chia, and pistachios!) When considering your carbohydrate consumption go for the whole grains as opposed to white, processed breads and foods. With a little forethought fiber consumption can be easy!
I hope this blog post has helped you to gain a deeper understanding of how easily fiber consumption can be missed as well as how easy of a problem it is to fix! I challenge you to make an effort to boost your fiber intake this week and I am sure you will reap the benefits of increased energy levels, digestive wellness, and overall stronger vitality.
Posted on: October 21st, 2021 by TouchStone Health
by Jill Jackson, CNP, NNCP
Eating a wide variety of colours is the best way to ensure that you are receiving the most vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants possible from your food, ensuring optimal health. I suggest having 2-3 different coloured fruits and vegetables with each meal. Different colours hold different important nutrients. The following are the colours of the different rainbow in association with their health benefits.
RED FOODS Red foods contain the antioxidant lycopene, a strong protectant against cancers. It also helps to prevent diabetes, heart disease and lung disease. Some examples of red foods are pomegranates, cherries, red bell peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, red apples, and red chili peppers.
ORANGE FOODS Orange foods containplenty of vitamin C and beta-carotene. In the body, beta-carotene converts to vitamin A. This is especially important for our eye health, and immune function. Examples of orange foods are carrots, tangerines and oranges, mangoes, pumpkin, and squash.
YELLOW FOODS Yellow foods are also very high in vitamin C. Vitamin C assists our immune function as mentioned above but it also plays an important role in detoxification, improving circulation, speeding up wound healing and protecting against cancers. Brighten up your bowl with yellow foods such as pineapple, yellow bell peppers, lemons, and spaghetti squash.
GREEN FOODS Green foods are rich in thenatural chemicals sulforaphane, isocyanate and indoles which inhibit the action of carcinogens. Green foods are also often high in fiber and folate which will improve digestion. Vitamin K which is essential for bone and blood health is also highly present in green foods. The options for green foods are almost endless, but here are a few suggestions: kale, avocado, cucumbers, edamame, broccoli, grapes, kiwi, spinach, and zucchini.
PURPLE AND BLUE FOODS Blue and purple foods contain antioxidants called anthocyanins important for delaying age related disease and helping to improve memory. Anthocyanins also prevent damage to cells, preventing cancers. Blue and purple foods include blueberries, blackberries, purple cabbage, prunes, eggplant, purple potatoes, grapes, and plums.
BROWN FOODS Brown foods play a big role in preventing heart disease. They contain vitamin B, folate and are often high in fiber. Brown foods do not mean large pieces of meat. When discussing brown foods, we are referring to plant-based foods such as legumes, chickpeas, and lentils.
Consuming the rainbow is an easy step towards vitality and disease and cancer prevention! Take your health into your hands when deciding what foods will go on your plate!
Hello friends! I bring to you the perfect curried fall recipe. This recipe is easy to make and is vegan, gluten-free, and sugar free. It also works great for meal prepping and will freeze nicely! I hope you give it a try.
Serves: 6-8 Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 20-25 mins Total time: 40 mins
1 large zucchini
1 large red bell pepper
2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 3/4 cup of dried red lentils
1 cup of full fat coconut milk
850 ml of vegetable broth
1 tbsp of fresh minced or grated ginger
1 1/2 tbsp of curry powder
1/2 tbsp turmeric
1/2 tbsp paprika
1 small onion
1 large carrot
Begin by chopping all vegetables (bell pepper, carrot, zucchini and onion) into very small cubes.
In a large pot or deep pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil (or oil of your choice) over medium heat and add in onion, garlic and ginger. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until onion begins to go translucent.
Add in the rest of the vegetables and remaining oil and cook for another 3-5 minutes till vegetables begin to lightly soften.
After rinsing your lentils, add them to your pot along with your vegetable broth. Add in all spices (you can adjust the amounts to your preferred taste) and add coconut milk. Mix everything together well. Bring to a simmer and allow mixture to cook for another 10-12 minutes, stir frequently to prevent the bottom burning. (Lentils should become nice and soft.)
Enjoy warm on its own or served with rice and naan bread!
As a passionate nutritionist eager to take on a challenge, I decided to poke my nose into the ever-rising interest of local cooking.
At first like many, I assumed the term “locally cooked” was best left as selling-point for expensive restaurants used to charge staggering amounts for a tiny plate of food. However, after some research I realized it can be done easily from the comfort of your own kitchen and at a reasonable price.
Currently “Local Food” is defined as food sold that is grown or made within your residing province or food sold across provincial borders within 50km of the originating province or territory.
Why Cook Local?
As a research project, I compared two recipes. One a non-local favorite recipe I frequently made and the other a locally sourced recipe. I found the manufacturers address or the farm address for all the called for ingredients in both recipes. I calculated the mileage that the food had to travel to get to my plate in my hometown of Waterloo Ontario. Upon comparison I was shocked! The ingredients of the non-local recipe had to travel from all over the world some 5,008 miles, whereas the local recipe had logged only 31.68 miles of travel. What does this mean?
For starters, cooking local ensures the freshest and most nutrient dense food. Fruits and vegetables that must travel large distances to reach your grocery store are often picked prematurely to guarantee they do not go bad throughout the duration of travel. Sadly, this causes nutrient value loss. The foods do not contain as high amounts of vitamin and minerals as they would if the produce were allowed to naturally ripen. Local fruits and vegetables can be picked at the peak of their freshness and ripeness, ready to be farm to fork within hours. You really are paying for top quality food when you buy local!
Local cooking also supports local businesses and farms. In 1931, 31.7% of the Canadian population lived Farms that were their livelihoods. As of 2006 only 2.2% of the Canadian population lived on a farm. This means the ratio of farmers went from 1 in every 3 rd person to 1 in every 46. Farms that mass produce often can run locals out of a job but eating local does the opposite, supports them and their families while also promoting biodiversity and sustainability.
Overall, it is considerably better for your health and the health of the environment.
Where to Look to Shop Local?
If you are located in Canada near the country, a quick drive to farm territory might be a great place to start. Where I am from, local produce stands can be found at the entrance of most farm driveways. A majority of the stands work via the honour system and the children of the farmers often love to be a part of creating the sales signs and seeing you purchase. This can be an inexpensive way to support local.
Another option would be choosing a grocery store that opts to carry some local products or finding a farmers’ market. Grocery stores will often distinguish what products are locally made, sometimes down to the exact farm, and farmers markets will be sure to do this as well.
I am confident you will thank yourself when cooking with local Canadian foods. Not only will your tastebuds be exploding with Canadian flavours, but the farmers will be tipping their hats to you in genuine appreciation.
If you are a Canadian citizen, chances are high that you have been taught to follow or at the very least, seen Canada’s Food Guide at some point in your life. I vividly remember being taught to follow it in school, even starting as early as grade 7 and 8. From a young age, I questioned the lack of individuality the food guide had to offer. How could a food guide really work for all Canadians who varied in age, genetic predispositions, weight, gender and so many other differentiating factors?
First, let’s have a quick history lesson. Where did this food guide originate? It was first released to the public in 1942 with the title “Canada’s Official Food Rules”. It was originally intended to assist with wartime nutrition and food rationing during a time when poverty overtook many areas of the country. There was 6 initial food groups: milk, fruit, vegetables, cereals & bread, meat & fish and eggs. Despite being made by the Nutrition Division of the Federal Government and the Canadian Council on Nutrition, it was evident that war time efficiency was of top priority, rightfully so. However, suggestions such as 4-6 slices of bread and only 1-2 servings of vegetables a day are hard to see as a nutritionist!
There were a few small changes and revisions made along the way. The guide continued to use emphasize food preservation/rationing and the term “Food Rules” was continued until 1949 when it changed to “A Pattern for Meals”. Providing an example of a “idealistic” breakfast, lunch and dinner, with bread and processed margarine still being a main staple.
Revisions continued to become more specific. Finally, in 1977 terms such as “Meat and Alternatives” were introduced, at last giving an alternative option to those who wished to get protein elsewhere. In 1992, there was a large change in how the guide was presented. There were more suggestions, and it was appealing to the eye, getting Canadians excited about nutrition. It even recognized nutrition changes based on age and activity level and increased the suggested serving of fruits and vegetables jumped to 5-10. Unfortunately, the “grains” category still remained the biggest food group with the suggestion of a whopping 10-12 servings daily!
Finally, in 2007 there was a huge revision that took into account gender and age! Fruit and veggies remained a prominent category, oils were considered, dairy alternatives were considered and suggestions for including exercise were given as part of a healthy lifestyle. It was translated into many languages as Canada continued to grow to be a multicultural country. In my opinion, this was a great step! This is the guide I remember growing up with.
Now the current 2019 food guide is part of the Government of Canada website. The main page shows a picture of a portioned plate with a variety of foods within each portion. From a far, the plate looks fairly well rounded. Half the plate is filled with different fruits and vegetables, a quarter of the plate filled with meat and alternatives and a quarter filled with various grains. The main written suggestions on this picture simply state the following;
Have plenty of fruits and vegetables
Eat protein foods
Make water your drink of choice
Choose whole grains
The next sliding page goes on to state a few more helpful suggestions with linked articles as to how to carry through with them.
So the big question you have all been waiting for…
IS THIS HEALTHY?
My answer…it depends.
Here’s what is positive about it: It looks pretty, a bonus for drawing the reader’s attention towards nutrition. It is definitely is more diverse than it used to be. It also provides a wonderful amount of links for further reading! It caters to First Nations and Indigenous people. Also, I never thought the Canadian Food Guide would be suggesting mindful eating practices, but it does and that’s awesome! It’s translated into more languages than ever before, as Canadas diversity continues to grow. And last but not least, most importantly, it is emphasizing fruits and vegetables as half your plate, making it the predominant food choice.
Unfortunately, I still feel there are a long list of cons. I will just name a few as to not keep you reading all day.
It has reverted back to taking away gender, age and food groups making it less specific. I understand the attempt to make nutrition less confusing, but diet is not a one-size-fits-all situation and people should be given that disclaimer front and center.
Food groups have now disappeared on the main page. It is replaced with the saying “eat a variety of foods each day.” I know what this saying is referring to (as a trained nutritionist) however, the average person may be eating a variety of different processed foods or a variety of foods all within one food group and still consider that “a variety”. Though the picture is great, the comments on the main page have become extremely vague. Unless people are clicking on the links a page over, I feel it leaves much for incorrect interpretation.
It still is heavily influenced by conventional dairy and meat products which do not always need to be essential in a healthy diet and in many instances can cause health issues. In the 6 recipes given as suggestions I still found ingredients such as conventional low fat yogurt, margarine, and light mayo. There is now so much science and research showing how these foods can be damaging to the human body! It has me scratching my head as to why they are still included.
Common allergens such as gluten, dairy and eggs are not overly taken into account. It leaves limited options for those suffering from all to common allergies and intolerances.
There is a more in-depth guideline under the websites subheading “For Professionals”. It has further explanation and evidence. I feel this information should be front and center for all to read. It would limit confusion and give people the information they need to feel impowered to eat better. Nutrition is so important, it is literally what keeps us living on a day to day basis!! Information such as this should not be marketed to professionals only.
In conclusion, I hope you take the Canadian Food Guide with a grain of salt. Clearly, suggestions from the Canadian Food Guide have not always worked as a majority of Canadians still walk around overweight, underweight, sick, or nearly dead! If you have never considered nutrition before, it may be a good place to begin, but please also consider what has been stated above. Always remember that no two people are the same, therefore, no two diets should be either.
I could ramble about this interesting topic for days, so if you have questions or any opinions to add please feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email! I would love to hear from you.