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HEALTHIER INGREDIENT SUBSTITUTIONS

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unhealthy ingredientsMany recipes contain ingredients that are completely unhealthy, from chemicals added as “flavor enhancers,” or preservatives to give the item a more stable shelf-life, these items are always unnecessary.  There are plenty of fresh herbs and spices that can replace those ingredients, without adversely affecting the recipe.  Here is a list of my “Top 10” offenders and their healthier substitutions:

Chicken soup mix: A totally unnecessary chemical-filled product, since the chicken you put into your chicken soup gives it plenty of flavor if you let it cook long enough.  Add Herbamare (see table salt) to taste, turmeric to give it a nice golden yellow color, and dill, parsley, fresh onions and garlic and you’ll never miss that chicken soup mix again.

Crisco shortening: I can’t believe this product is still around – so unhealthy! A much better alternative is organic coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature. It works amazingly well in baking and the type of saturated fat it contains is actually good for you! If you don’t like a coconut flavor added to your baked goods then use the one that says “ideal for cooking”.  I like the Omega Nutrition brand.

Bottled lemon Juice: Most bottled lemon juice has sulphites in it – the same ingredient used in wine to keep it from going rancid.  Sulphites can cause allergies/sensitivities in many people.  Besides, bottled lemon juice tastes awful – if you don’t believe me, try to switch over for a few weeks and then try the bottled version again…..I assure you, you’ll pour it down the drain after that.  Always use fresh squeezed lemons instead.  It’s worth the extra minute it takes to squeeze the lemon juice as it adds a natural flavor to your food that you simply can’t duplicate.

Margarine and other fake butter: Are people still even buying this stuff? Yuck, nothing but hydrogenated oils, chemicals to keep it stable and unhealthy fats.  Always use pure 100% butter (organic is best, of course, but I also like Breakstone’s butter).  For a parve (non-dairy) alternative, the soy-free Earths Balance brand is your best option and does well in baking too.  While it is not as crispy for cookies and a little tricky to handle in pie crusts the end result is still delicious and well worth the slightly extra effort.

Onion soup mix: This product is unfortunately laden with chemicals and preservatives, as well as food coloring in some cases.  Although the newer versions did start omitting MSG – a highly allergenic/sensitive ingredient used to “enhance flavor” – it still isn’t a healthy option to use in your soups or any other recipe.  For some reason, we Jews love our onion soup mix and put it in everything, from soups to vegetable kugels (souffles).  Instead, for each package called for in a recipe,  substitute 1 tablespoon onion powder, 3/4-1 tsp sea salt, and 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper.  My sister-in-law gave me the following option as well: 8 teaspoons dried onion flakes (make sure it does not contain Sulphites), 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon celery seed, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Makes about 3 tablespoons and can be kept in an air-tight container for up to 6 months.

Spice blends: So many brands of spices make spice blends that contain a myriad of chemicals, artificial flavors and of course MSG.  Either organic brands or Pereg, an Israeli company whose spice blends only contain one thing: real spices.  And yes, you can definitely taste the difference.

Splenda: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Splenda is chlorinated chemical-laden sugar.  Use organic raw sugar, sucanat, or any other sweeteners mentioned on my blog post Oh, the Sweet Life – you’ll be glad you did!  Do you really want your baked goods to have a chemical aftertaste to save a few calories and to harm your health? It’s simply not worth it.

Table Salt: The common table salt is 99.9% sodium chloride (it’s salt that’s been chemically stripped and processed). Although, initially table salt had just sodium and chlorine as, later on, salt manufacturers started adding iodine to it to prevent people from suffering from iodine deficiency diseases. Sea salt, on the other hand, is the unrefined salt that is obtained by simply evaporating the water from the seas or oceans. While sea salt is 98% sodium chloride, the remaining 2% is made of other important minerals like iron, sulfur, magnesium and other trace elements so it’s a much better choice.  Another option, and one of my favorites, is Herbamare, a sea salt and herb blend that adds a flavorful salt substitute to your recipes and is lower in Sodium.  (Don’t use in baking, however, unless you like your desserts to have a faint hint of vegetable flavor tongue )

Vegetable bouillon cubes:  Along the same lines as onion soup mix and chicken soup mix, these vegetable bouillon cubes are generally mostly chemicals and artificial ingredients.  Even when they do contain “natural” ingredients, they are ridiculously high in sodium.  Many recipes calling for vegetable stock can be successful with water and some Herbamare added.  My preference in most cases, though, is Organic Vegetable Broth from the Imagine brand, found at most health food stores.  Not too high in sodium, it contains real vegetable ingredients and comes in a carton with no preservatives.

White vinegar:  White vinegar is devoid of any nutritional value and is very acidic to body tissues.  Substitute fresh lemon juice instead (which is alkaline, therefore healthier for your body) OR raw apple cider vinegar – I like the Bragg’s brand.  Raw apple cider vinegar has a strong taste, so don’t just randomly substitute it for white vinegar; it will work great in some recipes but not others.  And yes, those “pieces” in it are perfectly normal and very beneficial to your intestinal tract!  Some people use a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar before each meal to alkalize body tissues and aid in digestion.

As you can see, there is always a healthier, better alternative — why don’t you give some of the above choices a try, I would love to have your feedback! happy

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MUM’S ORIGINAL SUPERFOODS

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I recently came across a product line called Mum’s Original that I feel deserves a whole blog post, not just a Facebook or Twitter mention!  And you know, when I devote a whole post to something, it HAS to be great.  What makes Mum’s Original so terrific is their product line of superfoods (nutrient-rich foods) that are organic, non-GMO, Kosher , delicious, reasonably priced and, of course, great for your health! 

[SPECIAL OFFER:  you guys get a special 15% discount for any online orders plus FREE SHIPPING.  Just order your products via the Mum’s website and key in the discount code “REALDEAL” upon checkout.  How awesome is that?  I know, I know, I’m the best blushing ]

As a side note, the company’s owner, Ann Barnes, is herself a mother of two children, so  she is just as concerned about her kids’ futures and providing healthy foods grown in an ethical manner as you and I are.

Listed below are some of my favorite Mum’s original products (although truth be told I love them all), with a little info explaining why they are good for you and how you can start incorporating them into your daily diet:

Hemp hearts – a rich source of complete and vegan protein, Omega 3 and 6 (including the anti-inflammatory GLA), minerals and anti-oxidants.  Mum’s also has different varieties of Hemp hearts, each offering their own unique taste and health benefits.  I use hemp hearts on yogurt, in smoothies, as a replacement for bread crumbs, and in salads.

Premium white chia seeds – one of the richest plant based sources of Omega 3, chia seeds have a better nutritional profile than flax seeds and I tend to use them a lot more often for this reason.   The high anti-oxidants help build the immune system and ward off infection and illness. They are also a rich source of insoluble fiber as well as great to use as an egg replacer in baking (1 Tablespoon ground chia seeds + 3 Tablespoons water = 1 egg).

Goji berries – Heart healthy and a natural anti-carcinogen, this sweet and chewy fruit is full of healthy fats, anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein.  But these aren’t just any goji berries, these are seriously the best tasting goji berries I have tried! I use them in cereal, on yogurt and in my own energy-boosting Trail Mix combining goji berries, coconut cacao nibs (see below), organic shredded coconut and almonds.

Raw cacao powder – Not the same as commercial cocoa powder (are you still using that stuff? Stop! It doesn’t have nearly the same health benefits.) Scoring an amazing 92,000 on the ORAC scale – a method of measuring the antioxidant capacity of different foods and supplements (to put this in perspective, Dutch cocoa powder scores about 40,000) –  Mum’s organic is the only cacao powder you should be using for baking.  Seriously.

Coconut cacao nibs – I’ve been eating raw cacao nibs for a while now, purely for it’s antioxidant value and high fiber, but these blow them away.  To be honest, plain raw cacao nibs are pretty bitter and I don’t really love the taste.  Mum’s original took care of that problem, by coating their cacao nibs in a some coconut sugar, a low-glycemic natural sweetener, and it tastes amazing!  Plus, one serving has 9 grams of fiber…..so basically you can have one delicious serving of this…….or a bowl of that disgusting Fiber One cereal with it’s high gluten, irritating whole wheat fiber and preservatives. sick

Organic unpolished heirloom quinoa – what makes this quinoa different is that it is hand washed to remove the natural sour exterior: this keeps the germ intact and increases fiber by more than 50%. So, if you are already eating quinoa, a high protein, gluten-free delicious alternative to rice, pasta or other side dish, why not try this version instead?  And if you have never tried quinoa, this brand is definitely the one to use.

Himalayan rock salt – Untouched for millions of years, this crystal pink salt holds a huge array of minerals and elements that are needed for optimum health. Unprocessed natural salt is essential to the human body for the normal functioning of our metabolism, absorption of water and electrical communication between the cells.  It is so much better for you (not to mention tastier) than common table salt, and can be used wherever you would normally use salt.

Finely milled banana powder –  This delicious powder contains an abundance of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, good-for-you fats, and many trace minerals.  It can be added to smoothies, used as a dessert topper, and even to replace 10-20% of the sugar called for in a recipe.

At 15% off and free shipping, why not give these amazing products a try, and comment below if you love them as much as I do!

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APRIL 2013 GIVEAWAY!

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Just in time for Spring – well, let’s just all pretend it’s Spring here in Toronto, shall we? – you can win this terrific kit from Pacifica Perfume, a brand I love for their natural products,  formulated without: Animal testing, animal ingredients, FD&C color, phthalates, parabens, sulfates, propylene glycol, benzene, GMOs, mineral oil, petroleum, peanut oil, triclosan, and other ingredients you do not want on your skin.

The best part is their heavenly scents!! This brand is the ONLY perfume I wear and I highly recommend it.  Go ahead, ditch those expensive brand perfumes and fragranced body products made with toxic ingredients that give you and those around you a headache every time you wear it, and try this instead.  I guarantee you will love it!Pacifica Blood Orange Kit

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The more entries we receive, the more incentive for bigger giveaways in the future, so please share this post with your family and friends happy

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THE PERFECT MATCHA LATTE

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Matcha green tea is, in a word, amazing.  It is a powerful detoxifier, has vitamins, minerals, antioxidants – twenty times more than pomegranites or blueberries – and amino acids.  Consider this: in order to match the potency of matcha, you would need to drink about 10 cups of regular brewed green tea.  surprise

Matcha also gives you energy throughout the day, but not the kind of jittery buzz you get from coffee – as an ex-coffee junkie, you’ll have to trust me on this one.  Although matcha does have some caffeine, researchers found that it is actually the combination of matcha’s natural properties that cause this boost of energy. This also helps improve physical endurance, so it’s great as a pre-workout drink.  Matcha boosts metabolism and helps burn body fat without raising your blood pressure or heart rate.  How awesome is that?

Here’s the thing, though.  To really enjoy matcha tea, you have to make it right.  When I first bought a cannister of Organic Matcha Powder, I put some of it in my cup of hot water and proceeded to mix it with a spoon.  Big mistake! I ended up with clumps of green powder in my hot water.  Next I tried a fork, which didn’t work too well either.

What you need to make a proper cup of matcha tea is a bamboo whisk and a bowl, available at any tea shop or online:

 Bamboo wire whisk and japanese tea

Matcha Whisk & Tea Spoon Natural Bamboo

If this seems silly, I assure you, after drinking one too many gritty cups of matcha green tea, it is a necessity! Simply whisk one teaspoon of the powder in the bowl with a little hot water until it is frothy.  Then pour it in a cup, add hot water, a teapoon of raw agave syrup (an all natural sweetener found at your local health food store), and for a truly delicious experience, top with frothed almond milk, a healthier alternative to cow’s milk or soy milk.  If you do use cow’s milk, make sure it is organic and note that the lower-fat milk froths better than regular milk.

This is one of the best rated milk frothers I could find; I personally still have the Keurig frother, but sadly they no longer make it! Several of my clients have purchased this one and tell me it’s fantastic so I am confident to recommend it:

weight, Rebecca Lazar - THE PERFECT MATCHA LATTE

Chef’s Star MF-2 Premier Automatic Milk Frother, Heater and Cappuccino Maker with New Foam Density Feature

Now, if only I can figure out how to make a pretty design with my milk like this picture……sadly, I’m not that talented. sad

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I’d love to hear about your experience with matcha tea in the comments below!

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WHAT TO EAT FOR BREAKFAST

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One of the most common questions I get asked is “What should I eat for breakfast?” If I pause for even a half a second, that question gets asked again, in the slightly modified version of  “What do YOU eat for breakfast?”

Breakfast seems to provide the biggest challenge for people in terms of food choices, so here is my top 10 list of breakfast options, in no particular order, whether you have the time to sit and eat a nice meal or you get dressed in 3.5 seconds and wolf down your food in 2 (p.s. You have GOT to stop doing that!  worried  ).  And yes, I rotate every one of these options for my own breakfast:

Low-sugar, chemical-free, dye-free and soy-free cereal, with organic milk (organic milk does not contain hormones or antibiotics) or milk alternative such as rice dream, almond breeze or flax milk.  Avoid soy since it messes with thyroid hormones and most soy is genetically modified.  You can find lots of choices at your local health food store but please check labels for added sugar or lack of fiber.  Here are 2 of my favorites:

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Plain organic yogurt; add a teaspoon each of organic sprouted chia seeds and maqui berry powder for fiber, omega-3 fats and antioxidants. (I use both from the brand Organic Traditions).  If you don’t like the taste of plain yogurt, you can add a little organic maple or agave syrup or coconut sugar…..but don’t over-do it! For a taste the kids will love, add glutenfreeda brand granola.

weight, Rebecca Lazar - WHAT TO EAT FOR BREAKFAST

weight, Rebecca Lazar - WHAT TO EAT FOR BREAKFAST

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hormone & antibiotic-free egg omelet with any or all of the following: onions, organic spinach, organic tomatos, mushrooms, and organic red peppers.  Enjoy with whole grain or rye toast and organic cream cheese.

 

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Nutribullet shake: my favorite morning shake consists of a handful of spinach or leaf lettuce, frozen organic strawberries and blueberries, a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds, and a teaspoon of chia or flax seeds.  Don’t worry, you won’t taste the greens at all!  That being said, don’t attempt to make this in a regular blender or you will end up with a disgusting concoction sick .  The Nutribullet or the Ninja blender is really the only way to do this type of smoothie successfully.

Organic plain oatmeal (not those quaker packets full of sugar) with a teaspoon of pure organic maple sugar and a little almond milk.  Add organic raisins and almonds for a  filling pre-workout meal.

weight, Rebecca Lazar - WHAT TO EAT FOR BREAKFAST

weight, Rebecca Lazar - WHAT TO EAT FOR BREAKFAST

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kasha – otherwise known as buckwheat groats – is a gluten-free grain that my Dad introduced me to one morning and I’ve been hooked ever since.  For best results,  stir-fry dry in the pan first, then add boiling water.  Let simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add a handful of nuts if you like, any of the milk options and a little agave syrup.

weight, Rebecca Lazar - WHAT TO EAT FOR BREAKFASTHomemade high-fiber muffin, such as my EGGLESS OATBRAN MUFFINS.  With bananas, blueberries and oatbran, these are not your high-fat, margarine-filled muffins from the nearest coffee shop!  Speaking of coffee, skip it and have an organic matcha green tea latte instead.  Matcha green tea does have caffeine, so you can’t use the excuse that you NEED the coffee, plus it is very high in antioxidants, tastes great and is alkaline to the body.  (Acidity breeds disease so it’s always best to eat more alkaline foods).

Healthy pancakes such as my GLUTEN-FREE PANCAKES topped with fresh organic berries.

Spelt bread french toast.  Take fresh SPELT BREAD slices, dip into a combination of beaten egg, organic cheese, and fresh minced garlic.  Fry in coconut oil (be sure to buy one with the label “ideal for cooking” if you don’t like the flavor of coconut), or grapeseed oils, as these are oils that are good for you and do not go rancid at high heat like other oils.  Add fresh cut up vegetables to round out this meal.

Vegan protein shake, such as manitoba harvest chocolate hemp seed powder or vega one protein powder.  Blend with almond milk, ice and, for a delicious mocha flavor, a teaspoon of organic instant naturally decaffeinated coffee.weight, Rebecca Lazar - WHAT TO EAT FOR BREAKFAST

weight, Rebecca Lazar - WHAT TO EAT FOR BREAKFAST

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There you have it….as you can see, there are a lot more choices than many people think there are.  Notice what’s left out of this list: commercial waffles, pancakes, bagels and cream cheese (no nutritional value), the glass of orange juice the media tells you is so good for you (drastically raises insulin levels), fried anything, croissants and donuts, sugar cereals, and artificial sweeteners.

Start the day off right, with a nice healthy breakfast and your body will thank you! Bon appetit!

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