Why Eating Out Now is Just So Overrated…

There is no real true evidence to support what I am about to blog about but this excerpt is merely to express my continuous utter disappointment with restaurant food.

Just two years ago, I was never home for dinner and dreaded eating home cooked meals.  However, after witnessing the severe declination of quality with restaurant food and customer service, I don’t think anything is better than self-made meals with great company.   After discovering my joy of cooking, I realized that eating out isn’t as enjoyable as it was before but nonetheless; there are times that a restaurant setting would be most appropriate.  In the past few weeks, I’ve eaten out quite a bit with the holidays and all and family visiting from Canada and I would honestly say 9/10 times, we walked out of the restaurant dissatisfied and shocked at how terrible the service was.

So here is a summary of my reflection on why I think eating out has become superbly overrated…

1)    It’s Expensive!

o-PAYING-THE-BILL-570

I’ve been to the finest restaurants here in Hong Kong and you would think that for the price you are paying, you should be served the finest quality foods that taste delicious.  On the contrary, not only is it expensive, the food is subpar, the portions are tiny, and some restaurants will not be flexible in changing some of their dishes to meet your dietary needs.  I don’t know… maybe it could be that the rent is getting too expensive here in Hong Kong that restaurants now must compensate the taste of their food and portions to keep the business alive.

2)    Quality of Ingredients/Produce

HE_Fresh-Vegetables_s4x3_lead

You could easily be paying $100 for a full course dinner for two but can you imagine how much you can buy at a grocery store with $100?  Not only that, you get to choose the ingredients and produce yourself and given the recent scares of GMO products, you can use this money to purchase more organic and sustainable foods.  Do you really think the restaurants these days are using organic vegetables or wild fish unless stated otherwise?  And if so, the price will definitely reflect the “premium” quality of your chosen dish and again, you still aren’t sure if it’s really organic or grass-fed.

3)    The Mysterious Kitchen

628x471

Who knows what’s going on behind the scenes?  Have you seen Kitchen Nightmares??  Some restaurants have been exposed to store their food improperly that there is a huge risk for contamination issues.  The cleanliness of the chefs and the kitchen equipment is also unknown and the thought of having tainted food is very scary…

4)    Terrible Customer Service

Exchange Maxwells Restaurant

Sometimes the food may taste great but once you have a terrible waiter serving you, your restaurant experience could be completely ruined.  I have been noticing more and more that the service quality has been really subpar and for really high-end restaurants, it just doesn’t make sense!

5)    Comfort of Your Own Home

Cooking_At_Home

If you are the chef, you are in control of your own food and what you put in the dishes.  Especially if you are trying to shed some pounds, it is important that you know how your dishes are being prepared.  Chefs love to add a lot of high-caloric condiments to spice up the dish and often times, this won’t be very beneficial to your waistline.  Therefore, when you eat at home, you know what is in your food, you aren’t rushed out of your seats if someone else is waiting, and when you eat with your loved ones, the experience is much more relaxed and enjoyable!

Holiday Guide for Food Combinations and What to Avoid

A study was published that an average person is expected to gain 8 pounds during the holidays so now I have coined a new term!  Forget the Freshmen 15 – I am now going to call the holiday weight gain the Inevitable Eight!

Fear not – some of this weight gain can be due to water retention and bloating and this can be from combining the wrong foods together.  So here is a list of typical foods that you would normally eat during Christmas that may cause you to feel bloated, sluggish, and tired.

1)    Turkey and Roasted Potatoes

  • Protein and Starch – Avoid!

turkey

Furthermore, turkey is typically full of stuffing that can be made of different starchy carbs that can also cause indigestion. Therefore, try to avoid mixing protein and starchy sides like mashed/roasted potatoes together as the digestive environment of your stomach cannot fully break down protein and starch when eaten at the same time.  Proteins digest best when acid levels are higher while starches digest best when alkaline levels are higher so when they are both in your stomach, your organ can never get alkaline or acidic enough to break down everything effectively.  This can lead to weight gain, bloating, gas, and fatigue!

2)    Fruit-Based Sauces ex. Cranberry with Protein (Turkey/Chicken)

  • Fruits are best eaten alone!

chicken

According to food combination guides, fruits should always be eaten alone on an empty stomach.  This is because the simple sugars found in fruits are so easy to digest that they will not stay in your stomach long.  However, when you eat this food group along with other proteins, fats, and starches, the stomach now needs more digestive power to break down everything.  The fruit will then stay in your body for so long that the sugar will begin to ferment causing you to bloat.

3)    Antipasto Platters

  • Fruits, Meats, Carbs, and Dairy à Recipe for Disaster!

antipasto-platter

A typical appetizer before the main meal for many but this is just plate of disaster for your digestion.  Again, fruits should be eaten alone.  Meats is best eaten with leafy vegetables and for many diets, anything with dairy is not suggested and the cheese on this platter is one of the most difficult foods to digest.  That is why many people are lactose intolerant and find themselves always bloated and feeling sick and they may not even be aware of their intolerance to dairy.  The casein found in dairy has also been found to increase the risk of cancer and the saturated fats found in this food group can lead to a greater risk of heart disease.

4)    Pies, Cakes, and Pastries

  • Dairy, Fruits, Saturated/Trans Fats, and Carbs – Need I say more?

pecan pie with whipped cream

I know that pumpkin pie topped with loads of whipped cream or blueberry cheesecake looks delicious but these desserts can wreak havoc for your digestion and your waistline will definitely not thank you! I’m not saying avoid dessert in general but try to stick with the fruit platter after waiting a few hours post meal.  Again, bring or make your own dessert if you want to have a healthier alternative such as gelatin-based dishes!

5)    Seafood + Meat

  • Concentrate on One Protein!

1776_2939

Your dish should have one concentrated protein so avoid mixing seafood, tofu, and meats all together as this will make your stomach work extra hard to break down everything.  Your stomach will be so busy trying to break down all these different meats that this can cause fatigue, crankiness, and bloating.

Counting the days till Christmas!! Good luck my lovely foodies!

How to Avoid the Freshman Fifteen – Holiday Edition

MjAxMy04YTE1ZWRmMDQxZjk3ZGUz

During the months of November, December, and January – it can be the best of times; it can also be the fattest of times.  Within this time period, it seems like the gluttony never ends with endless holidays and feasts all around!  For many of the Asians out there, you know – our holiday weight gain period doesn’t end until after Chinese New Year so of course it seems inevitable that our new years resolution will probably to work off what we gained in the last few months.

Holidays should not be stressful (even though often time, it can very well be!)  It should be a loving joyous occasion where everybody gathers and celebrates the holidays while having delicious food.  However, more often than not, people tend to over-indulge and that is when the scale seems to creep up a few pounds post-holiday season.

So how can we avoid what seems to be the inevitable holiday weight gain?

1)    Portion Control

Portion Control

Similar to what happens at a buffet, you should imagine what you would typically eat on a regular plate size at dinner and simply consume that amount.  When you go to a buffet, what typically happens is that people overeat given the option that they can continuously replenish their plate.   During the holidays, it Is always better to have too much food than too late and that is why whoever is hosting will tend to cook or cater much more than needed.  So just remember what you normally consume and know when to stop when you feel comfortably full.

2)    Take Your Time and Enjoy

Table_Ideas_for_Dinner_Parties

Never arrive to a party famished.  Some people mistakenly believe that they will save up on their calories during the day in anticipation of having a large meal at night.  This not only messes with your metabolism but you will arrive to the occasion so hungry that you may eat much more than you need in a very short period of time.  Try to arrive slightly peckish so you can enjoy the food but not ravenous.  If you do arrive hungry, start with a glass of water and wait before you start picking at the food!

Also, do pace yourself.  Take your time, enjoy, socialize and don’t just go in and start shoving your face with everything in sight.  Try to focus on other things that are more important such as your family and friends’ company.  Put your fork down after a few bites and by eating slower, your brain will register when you are full more accurately.

3)    Limit Your Alcohol

Friends At Party

As much as the holidays are about food, it is also the time to drink.  Try to avoid drinking too much because not only does alcohol contain quite a few calories, it can also make you lose control over what and how much you eat.  Instead, try going for some sparkling water or club soda so at least you have something in your hand and not feel out of place.

4)    Satisfying Your Sweet Tooth

dessert-buffet

This is the part I personally hate the most.  When it comes to the dessert part of the dinner, try to get your fix with as small of a portion as you can.  For me, I’ll choose the one that can get my cravings out of the way with the least amount needed such as chocolate.  Try to avoid the very creamy and buttery desserts or pastries and cakes and opt for some fresh berries and fruits instead.   Even better, if you want to be a good guest and bring your own food as a treat for everyone, you can offer a low-calorie dessert that you know you will enjoy.

5)    Get Active

running addicted

Even though it is the time to enjoy and have fun, it is important to stay active and exercise during this time.  It can start even right after dinner by burning extra calories helping the host clean up and put everything away.  Initiate some games after or play some music and start dancing before everyone gets food coma and sleeps on the couch!  As for your exercise regiment, just continue at it and get off your butt – a few extra minutes at the gym also won’t hurt if you have over-indulged a bit!

Happy holidays everyone!

The Dangers of Eating Japanese Imported Foods

So I’ve officially banned Japanese restaurants at the moment and have discontinued consuming any more produce from Japan after continuous studies indicating the dangers of the toxic radiation found in their foods. 

carotenemia

My dad arrived a few days ago from Toronto and he quickly noticed how orange my skin was.  I confided to him my insane daily obsession with Japanese pumpkin and it never occurred to me that because it is grown in the soils of Japan, I could be exposing myself to the radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster several years ago.  Not only was I consuming this pumpkin on a daily basis, I was also buying a lot of fish imported from Japan as well.

li-japancook-rtr2k8dz

So what do we need to know as consumers about our Japanese food supply?

  • Just several months ago, the Japanese government reported that the Fukushima plant was leaking approximately 300 tons, or 71,895 gallons, of contaminated water each day
  • Reports have also shown these polluted waters have affected the ocean life in the West Coast of America – Californian fish have been detected with radiation and British Columbia
  • The US Government continues to test the seafood for contamination and samples of food imported from Japan and although radiation has been detected, it is inconclusive whether it has reached a dangerous level
  • However there are increasing concerns of cancer for future generations and reports suggest that at least 80,000 people are likely to develop radiation-related cancers in Japan and other countries such as Canada
  • Some fish samples have shown to contain very high levels of radiation such as Sea Bass

sushi-sashimi-platter-use

So… what should we do?

  • As for my kitchen, I have pretty much eliminated all Japanese food thus far
  • Try to avoid any produce and seafood from Japan
  • Limit your consumption of Japanese cuisine (although I must admit, it is one of my favourite foods)
  • Eat more sustainably caught, low mercury fish and seafood such as mussels, scallops, salmon, trout, calamari, and shrimp
  • I’ve also recently bought Chlorella supplements because I do eat seafood everyday and this supplement as well as Spirulina are supposed to reduce radioactive materials in people
  • However – be careful that this blue-green algae superfood is not sourced from Japan or nearby waters as there are many popular brands from this country!

What to Eat First: Protein, Vegetables, or Carb?

The last few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with how my body reacts to eating either protein or vegetables first.  I wanted to see if it would affect my digestion and whether eating either food groups first would decrease my bloating.

Let’s play out a few different scenarios…

Imagine you were me…

You sit down at the dinner table and you are given this plate of food.

balanced-plate

You grab your fork and now what do you do? What would you dive into first?

Scenario One: Protein First

chicken1

High protein foods take longer to digest and really put the acid in your stomach at war to break them down.  For this reason, protein should be eaten first because you want your stomache to get working on breaking down these foods before anything else gets a chance to absorb the acid.

Moreover, by starting a meal with protein, it will help reduce the blood sugar spike that typically will occur after eating most refined carbohydrates.  Therefore, when you keep your blood sugar levels stable, your body will be less likely to store extra calories as fat at your next meal.  Eating protein first may also promote weight loss as the signal travelling to your brain that you are full is faster than consuming other foods first.  By starting your day with protein, research has also shown that it is better for appetite control throughout the day.

Scenario Two: Vegetables First

eatingvegetables

For me, I prefer to eat vegetables first because I definitely enjoy my greens.   Studies have also shown that similarly to protein, vegetables can help with keeping your weight down as your insulin spike is inhibited and you feel fuller faster.  Vegetables are full of fibre and when you consume your greens first, everything you eat after (protein and carbs) gets covered with this fibre, which slows down your insulin spikes and the speed that sugar is transported into the blood.

Greens also make you full quicker because of the fibre in them is absorbing all the liquid in your stomach.  Proteins are harder to digest so when they are eaten first, everything else after may not get enough time to get digested properly and therefore, it forces other foods to remain in the stomach, slowing down the overall digestion process.  Raw vegetables actually contain a certain digestive enzyme that helps break down proteins so you may consider eating more raw greens than cooked.

Now the question about carbohydrates…

carbs

Personally, I try to limit my carbohydrates (unless it’s my guilty pleasure – cereal).  However, there are many good complex carbs your body needs for energy.  However, when your body receives carbs first, a message is sent to your brain that you are lacking fat and protein.  Therefore, your body may react by storing fat for use later but if protein is digested first, your body feels comfortable that it has enough reserve for basic functioning.

Carbs is quite a complex food group (no pun intended haha) and you should only really eat this food group with vegetables.  It is not a group of foods that goes well with protein because of the way it digests in your stomach.  Therefore, I’ve listed some basic food combining rules by the Life Empowerment Institute below for your reference.

  1. Do not eat proteins and starches together. Your body requires an acid base to digest proteins and an alkaline base to digest starches. Proteins and starches combine well with green, leafy vegetables and non-starchy vegetables, but they do not combine well with each other.
  2. Generally fruits should be eaten alone or with other fruits. If fruits seem too sweet, then eat a handful of nuts (80% fruit, 20% nuts). Fruits digest so quickly that by the time they reach your stomach, they are already partially digested. If they arc combined with other foods, they will rot and ferment.
  3. Melons digest faster than any other food. Therefore, you should never eat melons with any other food including other fruits.
  4. Do not mix acid and/or sub-acid fruits with sweet fruits at the same meal. Acid fruits, such as grapefruits, pineapple, and strawberries, can be mixed with sub-acid fruits, such as apples, grapes, and peaches, but neither of these categories can be mixed with sweet fruits, such as bananas, dates, or raisins.
  5. Eat only four to six different fruits or vegetables at one meal.
  6. Fats and oils combine with everything (except fruits) but should be used in limited amounts because while they won’t inhibit digestion, they will slow it down.

Wait the following lengths of time between meals that don’t combine.

  • Two hours after eating fruit.
  • Three hours after eating starches.
  • Four hours after eating proteins.

food_combining_chart

It all comes down to bio-individuality.  For me, I enjoy eating my vegetables first as I’ve experienced less bloating and my digestion is much better.  If eating protein makes you feel better, then do what works for you! However, I do find some truth in different food combinations and it is something worth exploring.  Try keeping a mental diary of how you feel after mixing certain foods and tailor to what you think works best for your own body.

Reasons for Chronic Fatigue and What to Do About It

fatigue

Regardless of how many hours of sleep I get at night, I still wake up feeling exhausted as if I haven’t slept all night.  Does this happen to you?  I want my caffeine but decided to cold turkey my addiction because of what it does to my body and have been taking Vitamin B instead.

Here are some top causes and tips on how to fix them:

1)     Your Diet

food

You are what you eat.  This is completely true and in this case, you will feel the effects of what you eat/don’t eat.  It could be that you are eating far below your recommended intake and therefore, there isn’t enough fuel for your body’s engine to run.  On the other hand, you may be eating but choosing the wrong foods such as sugar and simple carbs to get that quick energy fix.

Remedy:

Instead, go for nutrient-rich whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and lean protein that will not only supply you with all the daily essential vitamins and minerals, but it will keep you full longer.  Therefore, you will avoid gorging on unhealthy snacks throughout the day to try to keep your energy levels up!

2)     Sleep

sleepingBeauty-femmewise

Of course this factor has to be mentioned!  I mean we are talking about fatigue right?  Well, let’s delve deeper into the quality of sleep rather than the number of hours.   Everyone is different and some can thrive only on 4-6 hours of sleep while others need 8-9 hours every night.  For me however, I think it’s more important that I feel refreshed and awake regardless of the number of hours although I would try to aim for at least 6-7!

Remedy:

If you find it difficult to fall asleep, it could be related to your diet so try to avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.  Your diet may also be lacking essential vitamins and minerals to help promote sleep such as Magnesium, Potassium, or Vitamin D.  You can get more information here on a recent post I did.

I have also tried not watching anything too dramatic on television or doing any stimulating activities that can get my brain going.  I’ve also decluttered my bedroom and kept it simple, clean with a cooling temperature and found this really helps.  You should really make your bedroom a place for sleeping…. And maybe other things 😉 but that’s beyond the scope of this article!

3)     Exercise

images

The amount of exercise you do and the time of the day you do it can affect your sleep.  Try not to do any vigorous exercising within 3 hours before your bed time as you get your blood pumping and it would be difficult to fall asleep.  You need time after a workout to wind down!

How about the number of hours you exercise?  If you do TOO much, you are more likely to feel tired everyday because you are never giving your body a chance to recuperate.  Too little exercise is also not ideal.  So what should we do?

Remedy:

Contrary to popular beliefs, studies have actually shown that those who lead sedentary lifestyles feel more fatigue than those who have a healthy exercise routine.  Exercising can actually boost your energy levels so for now, try 30-40 min at least 4 days a week to get you going.  Try sticking this out for at least a month and trust me, you will start noticing a difference.

Some other factors to consider:

4)     Depression

Emptiness-depression-33252846-479-494

There may be something going on deeper than you realize and if you think you may be feeling this emotional disorder, you should speak to a professional as soon as you can.  People who suffer from depression tend to feel fatigued as the quality of their sleep could be suffering.

5)     Thyroid Problems

causes-of-hypothyroidism

The thyroid is a small gland at the base of your neck that controls your metabolism.  If you have hypothyroidism, it can slow down your body’s ability to convert food into energy so an underactive thyroid can make you feel tired and run down.  You should see a doctor to test your thyroid and make sure that this isn’t the cause of your fatigue.

6)     Anaemia

13hymsg01-Anaemia__1212284e

Being anaemic myself for a few years, I completely understand how the lack of iron is one of the leading causes of fatigue in women.  Our menstrual cycles every month causes us to lose too much blood putting us at risk for iron deficiency.  Red blood cells carry oxygen to our tissues and therefore, when we lose too much blood, our body isn’t get the fuel it needs to run.  I have taken iron supplements but I don’t recommend it as it can cause skin and digestion issues.  I would try to incorporate more iron-rich foods such as lean meat, shellfish, beans, and dark green leafy vegetables!

Let’s say goodbye to chronic fatigue once and for all!

Good luck guys ❤

Healthier Alternatives to Satisfy those Common Cravings

Feeling deprived and continuously putting more and more foods on the “do not eat” list can be super depressing.  We often ask ourselves, why can’t we just eat what we want without feeling guilty?

eatthis

Well, your problems are solved!  Here is my version of “Eat This, Not That”, which outlines some foods I have substituted with alternatives that can satisfy those cravings without feeling that guilt!

A Childhood Fave…

Eat this!

  • PB2

What-Is-PB2

A delicious staple in my pantry – this product is basically peanuts compressed to remove 85% of the fat and made into powder form.  I put it in my oatmeal and cereal and for just under 50 calories per 2 TBSP, I can spread it guilt-free on some gluten-free crackers by simply mixing some with some almond milk, and it is good to go!

Not that!

  • Peanut Butter

pb-skippy

If you look at the ingredients of the most popular peanut butter brands, you will see many of them with added sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oils, salt, and other unhealthy additives.  Remember to check the nutrition labels and try to stick to all natural organic ones if you have to buy PB!

Craving Something Salty?

Eat this!

  • Homemade Sweet Potato Fries

sweetpotatp

Not only do I like cutting out slices of sweet potatoes and roasting them in the oven to make them crispy, I do it to pumpkin, taro, and kale.  Sprinkle a bit of pink Himalayan salt, add a bit of olive oil, mix and put it in the oven for about 30 min (depending on the vegetable) and you will get your chip fix in no time!

Not that!

  • French Fries

fries

Potatoes are considered High GI foods and simple carbs, which can spike your insulin levels and wreak havoc to your body.  Forget the McD’s and invest in a small toaster oven – you won’t regret it!

Craving Something Sweet?

Eat this!

  • Cacao Powder

cacao

PB2 also satisfies my sweet desires but I find that cacao powder really helps with my chocolate cravings.  Mix some 100% cacao into some almond milk, add a few drops of stevia, put 1-2 tbsp of chia seeds and let it gelatinize.  It’s quick, easy, keep you full, and tastes just like chocolate putting! You won’t need to open another Kit Kat bar again!

Not that!

  • Milk Chocolate

milkchoco

First Ingredient on the nutrition label:  Sugar.  Need I say more?

Craving Meat?

Eat this!

  • Fish and Eggs

fish-bone-eggs-crafts-with-food

Not only does it give you protein, but fish is full of Omega 3 fats which helps to lower blood pressure, improve your skin and joints, aids in healthy brain functions, and rich in Vitamin B and D.  Just remember to stick with lower mercury fish like Salmon, Sardines, Scallops, and Trout and avoid the endangered high mercury species like Sea Bass and Tuna.  Oh, and if your budget allows, Wild > Farmed for sure!

Eggs contain numerous vitamins: A, B, potassium, and also folic acid vital for the health of your nerves and brain. Plus, you can have them boiled, scrambled, steamed, omelette-d haha – it is such a versatile food!

 Limit That!

  • Red Meat

red

Higher in saturated fat and have shown links to increasing cancer risk because of the compounds called heterocyclic amines found in red meat.  Although it does provide some nutrients such as Vitamin B, which is difficult to get from other sources, I would limit eating red meat to once a week.  Try choosing grass-fed meats and trim off the excess fat when consuming!

Craving Carbs?

Eat this!

  • Miracle Noodles/Rice

miracle

If you are like me and you enjoy rice and pasta, then try the Miracle product line.  Zero net carbs, zero calories, and gluten free!  It is made from natural dietary fiber called glucomannan and it tastes just as great as regular pasta/rice! 

Limit That!

  • Processed White Rice/Pasta

pasta-carbonara-rs-1132606-l

Similar to white bread and processed junk foods, rice and pasta are considered to be high GI and can spike up your insulin levels as well.  That sleepy feeling you get after a big bowl of pasta or rice is because your sugar level went from being very high and then crashing as high GI foods is terrible at keeping your glucose levels stable.

Hope you found these alternatives to help you the same way it did for me!

I’d love to hear how you guys have made changes to your diet to satisfy those common cravings!  And if you want some advice on other foods to substitute with, feel free to email me!

xoxo