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Theresa Albert
September 28, 2015
Theresa Albert
If I Were Sugar...
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If I were sugar, I would be taking cover and either looking for a new job or finding a safe way to retire. Maybe partnering with newer, better versions of sweetness would be worth investigation because, everywhere I would look, the future will look grim. I would be reading the tea leaves and know that my days were numbered as North Americans continue to reduce their consumption of soda pop and governments crack down on how I am labelled. There is nowhere to go but down and out.

Even the healthy food icon store Whole Foods got splashed by allegedly renaming sugar as ‘evaporated cane juice’—a disguise and way to mislabel the amounts of sugar in their yogurt. Soft drink manufacturers are finding ‘sugar free’ ways to reformulate and other types of beverages to peddle. Everyone is removing sugar from their coffee, tea and cereal topping choices and opting for honey, maple syrup or raw sugar (ahem, evaporated cane juice).

And with good reason. While no one thing can be blamed for the obesity crisis, sugar sure does own a lot of the blame. The required amount of sugar that a body needs each day is exactly zero. Of course, you do need the nutrients that come with it in its natural state like in blueberries or apples. And, most grains, starchy vegetables (like potatoes, corn, carrots…) convert the carbohydrates directly to glucose which fuels your muscles and brain. However, that’s different since it comes encased in trace amounts of fat, plus fibre and vitamins that need a bit of work to be processed by the body. Having to do that work makes your body more effective at using the sugar (this is measured as the glycemic index).

If I were sugar, this may be where I would hide next. I would encase myself in added fibre and ‘good fats’ to be able to claim that I am low on the glycemic index. In the meantime, a few up and comers will likely take the spotlight:

Containing only part of the sugar molecule and part of the alcohol with none of the fructose gives this sweetener some edge over plain old sugar.  It has the same sweet taste but only half of the calories and can boast that it is low on the glycemic scale so it doesn’t spike insulin levels.  It measures just like sugar so it is great for baking and some science shows that it actually changes the nature of the chemistry in the mouth to reduce cavities.  Be aware, though, that xylitol is toxic to dogs.

This refined herb has been around for a while but is just poking its nose into the food and beverages that we are so loathe to give up completely.  Having no calories at all, it does a good job of reducing the calories but, if some of the science is right, there may be a downside. Just like aspartame and the like, the sensation of sweetness on the tongue without any calories forthcoming, your body may not be fooled and go looking for the calories anyway.

Recently (2002) approved for use by the FDA, it hasn’t found its use in foods just yet.  Made by the aspartame people to be more effective as a sweetener at lower doses, there may be decent reason why this one isn’t getting wide support.

Here is the catch. Every single sweetener has its downside and the goal always was, and still needs to be, reduction of all the foods that contain added sugars. Think about it, caramel macchiato and chocolate chip cookies are still extras regardless of how they are sweetened.

Theresa is a Food Communications Specialist and Nutritionist. Her French Canadian influences are a part of her 'no bologna' style as everything is on the table...not just the dinner. She has the unique ability to distill complex health concepts into simple, savvy steps to improve any lifestyle choice. Theresa is a sought after media commentator and lifestyle pundit on many topics with a particular fascination with human relationships with food and culture. She has two books published in Canada and the US: Cook Once a Week, Eat Well Every Day and Ace Your Health, 52 Ways to Stack Your Deck. She can be found on Twitter as @theresaalbert and at
Comments | Tagged under sweet, sugar, nutrition
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Jenn Pike
August 24, 2015
Jenn Pike
7 Simple Steps to Healthy Back-to-School Lunches
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Your children average 6.5–8.5 hours away from you each day, which makes it very hard to ensure that they are getting a properly balanced diet and are making the healthiest food choices. As parents we set out with the best intentions of making nutritious lunches but often find ourselves bored with the daily task of finding or creating fresh ideas that are both safe for school (nut-free), and that your children will actually eat.

Children who eat healthier, balanced snacks and lunches and who stay hydrated throughout the day experience less fatigue, have lower obesity rates, and have better focus, engagement, and fewer meltdowns.

Here are seven simple steps to a healthier lunch and more nutritious day for your little ones:

1) Breakfast starts with a capital B for BEGIN here.
It may sound cliché, but breakfast is the most important meal of the day—the main reason being that it helps to better regulate your blood sugar and sets the tone for sugar cravings and energy throughout the day.

Some quick and delicious breakfast ideas for a healthy start to the day:

  • Chia Oat Jar Parfaits (see recipe below)
  • Smoothies (See recipe below)
  • Oatmeal Protein Pancake (See recipe below)
  • Oatmeal with fresh berries and hemp seeds
  • Sprouted English muffin with nut or seed butter and cinnamon
  • Fruit salad topped with coconut yogurt
  • Eggs and sprouted toast

2) Fully embrace your school’s no-waste lunch policy and invest in a great quality lunch container.
Did you know that it is estimated that the average school-aged child using disposable lunch containers and bags generates 67 pounds of waster per year? That adds up to 18,760 pounds of waste for the average-size elementary school! I have two lunch boxes that are my absolute favorite for my kids (and they love them too).

Laptop Lunch Boxes and Planet Box My children ages 7 and 9 have each had of both these containers since their first birthday and they are still in fantastic shape!
What makes these containers so incredible is that everything is portioned out in compartments just like a bento box and you know kids – if it looks like something fun and is organized in a cool way they are way more cooperative to be on board for actually eating the food within the compartments.

3) Focus on adding in more fresh fruits and vegetables to their lunch and sprouted grains (or those that are naturally gluten free such as rice, quinoa, buckwheat and millet). Choose breads and wraps that are sprouted and or have true food ingredients that you can understand. Add in more plant-based foods like beans and lentils and small portions lean protein like organic eggs, lean chicken, turkey, and grass-fed beef. Opt for healthy fat sources such as seed butters, and avocados, and when dressing for pasta and quinoa salads choose healthy oils like olive oil or pumpkin seed oil. Work hard at limiting their intake of processed foods, deli meats, canned fish more than 1x weekly, white pasta or processed breads, sodium, sugar, anything with artificial colors, flavoring or additives and especially tartrazine.

4) Balanced morning and/or afternoon snacks.
Some of my favourite balanced snack ideas:

  • Fresh fruit with sunbutter for dipping
  • Fresh fruit with cinnamon
  • Veggies and hummus
  • ½ sandwich or wrap from their lunch
  • Smoothie in a no-spill container
  • Applesauce with hempseeds
  • Edamame with sea salt
  • Salsa with organic nachos or guacamole
  • Homemade granola with coconut yogurt
  • Homemade muffins or bars
  • Low-sugar store-bought granola bars
  • Goat cheese and sprouted crackers
  • For fun, occasionally offer one ‘air-snack’, like veggie stick chips or 100% organic non-gmo popcorn.

5) Pack lunches they will eat…and that will satisfy them.
Here are my top five go-to lunches that I know my kids will gobble up:

  • Quinoa Salad (with or without beans)
  • Chickpea Smash Wrap * see recipe
  • Vegetable Pasta Salad
  • Grilled Chicken Greek Salad
  • Goat Cheese, cucumber, tomato, hummus wrap

6) Make two meals at once. Probably hands down the easiest way to take an extra job off of your hands and get lunches made quickly and easily is to make enough at dinner that you can automatically have enough for leftovers. I place the kids’ lunch boxes behind their dinner plates and as I serve up their meal, I also serve up their lunch!

7) Keep them hydrated. Make sure your children are hydrated throughout their school day by sending them with a stainless steel or covered glass water bottles of at least 750 ml.  I can’t stress enough how very important this is.

Chia Oat Jar
You’ll Need:

  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond, rice, cashew or coconut milk
  • 1/4 medium banana, sliced (freeze the rest for smoothies!)
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp chopped nuts for topping

Prep and Cook:

  • Place all the ingredients in a jar, shake, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • In the morning, add your favorite crunchy toppings such as nuts, granola, etc. and enjoy

Chocolate Monkey Smoothie
You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 Tbsp almond butter
  • 3 Tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1 tsp cacao or cocoa

Prep and Cook:

  • Blend and enjoy

Oatmeal Protein Pancake

  • ½ cup oats
  • 3 egg whites + 1 whole egg
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ cup berries

Prep and Cook:

  1. Blend or mix oats, eggs and cinnamon and cook as pancake.
  2. Top with berries and 1 Tbsp maple syrup

Chickpea Smash Green Wrap
You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup organic chickpeas (Eden organic is the only company that states they use no BPA in the lining of their cans), rinsed and drained
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro
  • 1/2 – 1 small garlic clove
  • 3 Tbsp goat cheese or feta
  • 1-3 collard leafs
  • sliced cucumbers, orange peppers and tomato slices
  • 1/2 avocado, smashed
  • whole-grain wrap

Prep and Cook:

  1. Add all ingredients together in a food processor and blend until combined. Adjust seasoning, adding some paprika, salt and pepper if desired.
  2. Layer a couple of collard leafs and spread the mixture down the center, layering a few cucumbers, orange peppers and tomato slices on top. Roll up the leafs into a wrap.
  3. Lay down a whole-grain wrap and smear the smashed avocado on top. Put the collard wrap in the center over top the avocado and roll the two together.


Jenn Pike is a mom of two, nutritionist, master personal trainer and author. For more quick and healthy tips and to learn more about Jenn, her best-selling book The Simplicity Project and more, visit 'The Simplicity Project' and follow her on Instagram @jennpike and Facebook under The Simplicity Project.
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