Sugars, sugars

In May 2015 WHO (World Health Organization) published “Sugars intake for adults and children”

Guideline (you can download a free version here:

As of public knowledge there hasn’t been a proactive attitude from governments and public agencies in general. However doctors, pharmacists and nutritionists are making a strong  point of the maximum added to foods sugar intake per day.

WHO recommends, for adults and children, a daily intake of free sugars of a 10% of their total energy intake. That is approximately 12 tablespoons of sugar per day. Free sugars refers to sugars like glucose, fructose and sucrose (table sugar) that is added to processed foods and to concentrated juices.

No studies show that naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables have a negative effect on our health.

There is strong evidence (refer as an example to that the maximum recommended amount, if not exceeded, decreases the risk of obesity and tooth decay. If further decreased (say to 5%) there have been demonstrated to be further benefits, everything tightly correlated with prevention of the so called Non Communicable Diseases or chronic conditions (such as diabetes, heart disease)

Dr Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development stated: “Making policy changes to support this will be key if countries are to live up to their commitments to reduce the burden of noncommunicable diseases.” but what are we, moms, dads, individuals, doing in the meantime? How can we help us and our loved ones now?

The easiest way to get started is understand the recommendation and the reason for it. Once we have that internalized start going thru your fridge, freezer and pantry and noting how  many processed foods we consume and how many “no processed” or naturally occurring ones we have. Everything counts, natural fruits or canned fruit? Fresh salmon or canned tuna? Pre packed lasagna or crock pot lasagna? Boxed mac and cheese or pasta with cheese?

Write down your menu for last week and for the upcoming week start with one meal at a time. Choose one meal and try to switch to fresh foods. Take some extra time to make more home made meals during the week. Only with that decision or initiative I can assure you your daily sugar intake will decrease. Look at the labels on the boxes that you are switching with fresh foods and write down the sugar content, add it up,,,,what number comes up?

Share your strategy for decreasing your free sugars daily intake today!

High energy mini cookies

Trying to “eat clean” can be a challenge when we put into the equation busy schedules, work demands, family expectations, just to name a few.

These are reasons why it is good idea to have “clean” foods handy in the pantry and in the fridge. Eating “clean” doesn’t have to be boring or turn into a routine otherwise we can easily tend to “cheat”. For some it is fine, but for some others it can mean a “non stop” road hard to turn back

This mini cookies or balls are my “go to” snack to grab in a rush morning before a run or exercise, or for afterwards too.

You can keep them up to a week in a glass container.

They are delicious! and without any added sugar.

Mix in one bowl:
2 organic eggs
2 tbsps coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
..and in another bowl:
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour (or Regular, or Almond flour)
3 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 tsp salt

Add wet ingredients into the dry ingredients’ bowl and mix. If you find the mix is too “wet”  add more flour

Make into 1 inch diameter balls and bake for 12 mins at 350F

To make them “kids friendly” you can add:  1/2 cup cranberries or 1/2 cup chocolate chips or 1/4 cup chocolate chips and 1/4 cup brown sugar




Canada has recently updated its legislation about Nutrition Facts Tables (NFTs) but has it make it more clear for consumers? That is a whole argument by itself right there. What I am aiming is to provide some light as of what the ingredients really mean for you and how to read, and most importantly, interpret that information.

Let’s begin saying that there are certain foods that are specifically prohibited from displaying a Nutrition Facts Table. Not because they don’t need one, on the contrary, because they need a more specific and detailed list of ingredients and quantities. Those are infant formulas, liquid diets, meal replacements. There are other foods that are completely or usually exempted from NFTs. Small packs of crackers for example are not required to have a NFT.

Let’s focus on the foods that do need a NFT and within it, the first thing we read:

Portion size: the definition is still very vague: it is supposed to represent the amount that an individual would eat at once. But, aren’t we all different? Yes! So labels are supposed to include quantity in number of items (i.e. 2 cookies) or grams. The latter it is harder to interpret or visualize, and here is where our work really starts. Always start reading the portion size, trying to visualize how much it really is. If the amount is provided in grams, look at the whole container and how much grams that is, then estimate the portion size.

Another, sometimes confusing, piece of information on the labels is the Reasonable Daily Intake or RDI. That amount refers to the daily intake level of a nutrient that is considered be sufficient to meet the requirements of 97–98% of healthy individuals. So the percentage for a certain ingredient represents how much of the daily requirement of that particular ingredient is covered by that portion size. We can say it represents the nutritional contribution of specific foods to the diet.

Energy: energy is measured using “Calories”. Some nutrition schools use this value to determine how much of this particular food you can take per day. It would be equal to the amount of energy you spend or use during your day if you want to maintain weight or less, if you are aiming to lose weight.

Fat: In this group it is necessary to focus on Trans fats content: Trans fats are fats that have been hydrogenated (added hydrogen by chemical reactions) or modified while processing foods. It is understandable now why processed foods have higher content of trans fats. There are, however, some foods that naturally contain trans fats. Small amounts of trans fat (generally 2-5% of the fat content) are naturally present in foods such as dairy products, beef and lamb. Why it is important to pay attention to this type of “unhealthy” fat is that science shows that consuming them raises the blood levels of the so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol (serum LDL-cholesterol). LDL-cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. In addition to raising ‘bad’ cholesterol, trans fat also reduces the blood levels of the so-called ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol). HDL-cholesterol protects against heart disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that the total amount of trans fats consumed per day should be less than 1% of your daily energy intake.

There are also type of fats that are “good” fats. Fat in the diet allows the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamins A, D, and E. While saturated and trans fat tend to increase the risk of heart disease, monounsaturated fat and omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats generally lower the risk of heart disease. Oils high in monounsaturates are olive oil and canola oil. Omega-6 polyunsaturates are highest in vegetable oils such as corn, sunflower and soybean oils; and omega-3 polyunsaturates are highest in vegetable oils such as canola and soybean oils, as well as in fish oils.

Sodium: sodium does not have a RDI and the 2016 Hypertension Canada Guidelines suggest that the maximum amount of daily intake of sodium should be equal or less than 2000 mg (5 g of salt) or 1 teaspoon. This amount is really low so be very vigilant when looking at this numbers on the labels. This amount is not only for people taking medication for high blood pressure but for all healthy individuals that want to keep their values normal.

Potassium:  same as Sodium it doesn’t have a RDI. It is an important value for individuals on certain medications like water pills.

Carbohydrates: this value represents a lot of ingredients: sugars , starch, dietary fibre (fibre that is not digested or processed by our small intestine), sugar alcohols (e.g.maltitol syrup, sorbitol, xylitol, used for flavour), and others. Sugars are now to be described in a different section, that is to show their amount individually. Another key point here to pay attention to. World Health Organization recommends no more than 6 g of sugar per day. It would be very stressful to reach that number, however, do your best to keep it as low as possible during your day. Sugar has been linked to high risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

Protein: they are organic compounds that consist of large molecules composed of one or more long chains of amino acids and are an essential part of all living organisms, especially as structural components of body tissues such as muscle, hair, collagen, etc., and as enzymes and antibodies.

Vitamins and Minerals: Declarations of vitamins and mineral nutrients in the Nutrition Facts Table are based on the combined total of both the naturally occurring nutrient content and any added nutrient content of a food. Vitamins and mineral nutrients are declared as percentages of the daily value per serving of stated size.

All these values and information can be overwhelming but it can be easily taken into account in your daily life. You could start by reading the labels and noting down how much of a certain ingredient you intake is in two days. Then you can move on and add a few more foods etc. This exercise helps just to realize how much (or less) of certain ingredients you consume. The information can be very valuable to think why your “diet to lose weight” is not working or why your iron levels are low, among other things. If you are still wondering how to analyze your or your loved one intakes feel free to send me a note and we can work together towards your goal.

Excuses and Procrastination

Regular exercise has many proven benefits. Not only physical but also psychological benefits. Thirty minutes of exercise on most days of the week has a tremendous impact on lowering risk of common chronic conditions such a heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and it helps maintain a healthy weight or lose the extra one. At the same time exercise, when done early in the day, is proven to improve sleep. On the emotional side it is well know how exercise improves mood by increasing natural brain chemicals that increase positive feeling and combat depression. Exercise also improves muscle tone and balance, helping in the older years to avoid falls and fractures.

This information is available to everyone. This information is broadly known. Doctors tell their patients, health agencies have publicity on TV and magazines, there are signs in medical buildings and still we encounter tons of people finding excuses and procrastinating exercise.

There are plenty of excuses, the most common excuse is time, lack of it, of course. Also work, family responsibilities, guilt, busy schedule, being tired…and the list goes on and on.

They are all true facts, however, they could be assigned a different priority in their lives. Exercise, as many other daily activities, can be included as part of one’s routine. It is a matter of knowing your priorities and acting according to them. I challenge you to think why exercise is or should be important for you? Is it your own well being? You setting up an example for your kids while benefiting from it? You need a lift up in your mood? You want to feel stronger and more comfortable in your own body? Keep off extra pounds as you get close to menopause? Reasons are endless.

But if you still find yourself putting those excuses ahead of you I ask you to stop and think about your priorities, and the important reason you found for you to make time to exercise.  Re organize your priorities and give exercise the time and place it deserves. Not only because studies and research say it is good for you but also because it makes you feel just great. Energy levels increase, sleep gets better, mind gets clearer, your body gets stronger and healthier. You will find proof of it on the first day you do it.

When you think you don’t have not enough time consider including exercise in your daily routine, the same as you add to your to do list “grocery shopping” add “me time” exercise time”making exercise part of your routine. It doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. Any simple change adds on and counts!. Change taking the bus for a brisk walk or choose getting up a little earlier and using the treadmill at the local gym. Or maybe the gym closer to work. If you work at or from home allow yourself to have extra 15 minutes just for you. Wake up before everyone else and get into your comfy gym clothes and hit the streets for an invigorating morning jog. Or walk to the local cafe for a low fat latte. If you feel guilty for leaving your young kids, or not so young, to have some “me time” remind yourself you are setting a great and healthy example for them, not only because you are looking after yourself but also because you are making exercise and your health a priority. In the end it is going to be on their benefit too.

After exercising see how you feel, how much better mom or dad you are for them for the rest of the day. I can assure you that you will be better off to start the day. Full of energy and with a blowing happy look.

Moderate, mild or vigorous exercise can easily be part of your “to do” list. For you, your own health, emotional well being and also to be there longer and in great shape for the ones you love. You just need to do it. One day at a time.

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