Posted in health and wellness, lorieb.wordpress.com, weight management

Eating Plant Based: A Crash Course

This article was originally published on Pyure Organic’s Blog Sweet Talk, and modified slightly to become a guest post here on my blog.

Nearly ten million Americans follow a plant-based diet for health, ethical, or preference reasons. Yet, there’s some confusion around the term plant-based – it’s not the same as vegan or vegetarian, though those terms sometimes get used interchangeably. We’ll break down what it means to eat a plant-based diet, as well as how sugar fits into a plant-based diet for weight loss. 

What is a plant-based diet?

People who follow a plant-based diet mostly or entirely eat plants. The majority of what they eat is fruit, vegetables, legumes – rather than animal products such as meat, cheese, or eggs. 

There are many variations of plant-based diets, including: 

  • Whole-foods plant-based: This diet prioritizes eating whole, unrefined, or minimally refined food that comes from plants, without any animal ingredients (meat, milk, eggs, or honey). It excludes processed foods, like boxed macaroni and cheese or meat-free vegan chicken nuggets. 
  • Mediterranean diet: Named for the traditional eating habits in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, this diet includes plenty of fruit, vegetables, cereals, beans, nuts, and seeds, using olive oil as the primary fat and low amounts of animal proteins, usually fish over meat.
  • Semi-vegetarian or flexitarian: This diet also prioritizes fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, but as the name suggests, followers are flexible and incorporate meat and animal products sometimes. 
  • Pescetarian: This diet cuts out red meat, poultry, and “wild game” but permits dairy products (such as cheese and eggs) as well as fish and shellfish. 
  • The DASH diet: DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet aims to reduce sodium in your diet and to help lower blood pressure. Followers of the DASH diet eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, some fish, poultry and legumes, plus a small amount of nuts and seeds a few times a week.
  • The MIND diet: MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. This diet is a hybrid of the two diets mentioned above and aims to reduce the risk of dementia and the decline in brain health.

The health benefits of a plant-based diet are, unsurprisingly, varied depending on what plants each person chooses to eat. For instance, one study compared the effects of a plant-based diet that incorporated whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes as compared to a plant-based diet that included potatoes (fries and potato chips), sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices, and refined grains. The first group had the lowest risk for heart disease, were more active, and weighed less than the second group. 

Plant-based vs. vegan diets

So, what’s the difference between a plant-based diet and veganism? 

Vegan diets abstain from all animal-based products. Often, veganism extends beyond dietary choices and into lifestyle habits. “Veganism is generally defined as living in a way that avoids consuming, using, or exploiting animals as much as realistically possible. While this leaves room for individual preferences and barriers, the overall intent is that minimal harm is done to animals through life choices,” reports Healthline. “In addition to excluding animal products from their diets, people who label themselves as vegan typically avoid purchasing items that were made from or tested on animals.” 

As it relates to eating habits, many vegans still eat processed foods. Vegans can certainly eat junk food – cookies, potato chips, and some candies are vegan. If you’re seeking to eat better to lose weight, veganism isn’t necessarily a silver bullet. It’s important to consider the quality of your ingredients in addition to where they come from (plants or animals). 

How does sugar fit into eating plant-based?

For those looking to eat healthier or lose weight, making the switch to plant-based is a good start – but only when you start to incorporate the right types of plant-based ingredients. “A plant-based diet sounds like it’d be inherently healthy, but that’s not always the case. Refined grains, added sugars, and vegan fast food are all plant-based—but not the healthiest. Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and some proteins make for more nutritionally sound choices,” Kelly Plowe, MS, RD told VeryWellFit.

A whole-foods, plant-based diet will eliminate processed sugar, but be aware: alternatives like maple syrup, coconut sugar, and raw cane sugar can have the same effect on blood sugar as table sugar.

Research shows that Stevia is a healthier alternative to table sugar

Stevia is a key ingredient when trying a plant-based diet to lose weight. Stevia is a plant-based, zero glycemic (meaning it won’t spike your blood sugar), zero-calorie sweetener with a taste 50-350 times sweeter than sugar – so a little goes a long way. Stevia is also free from any of the chemicals used to create artificial sweeteners. Just by substituting stevia for sugar in your daily routine, you’ll be making a big difference in your nutrition. For many, stevia makes up an important ingredient in a plant-based diet. For others, this is your first taste of exploring what it means to eat plant-based.

Pyure Organic Stevia is one of the only organic stevia brands out there. Learn more about Pyure’s organic stevia products – and get some tasty plant-based recipes – on our blog, Sweet Talk. Pyure products are plant-based, made from organic stevia plants. This highly sustainable plant lets us create a high-quality, tasty sugar alternative – and helps you avoid the chemicals, additives, and artificial processes found in many artificial sweeteners, not to mention plain-old sugar. 

That’s lots of good information about an organic, plant-based alternative to table sugar. I admit, I have never tried Stevia, and did not know much about it until recently. I do believe that sugars in our food are the culprit when battling weight gain. I have never enjoyed the chemical taste of artificial sweeteners, but recognize that reducing sugar consumption is a healthy and effective way to control weight.

As Stevia is plant based and organic, I may just try it when baking (my main sugar consumption, especially now that my grandchildren like to bake with me) to see how the taste compares to sugar. Stay tuned!

Posted in current events, education, family, lorieb.wordpress.com

Covid and Kids, What are the Long-Term Effects?

I worry about the short and long term effects of this covid pandemic on our children. Social distancing does not come naturally to them. It is difficult enough for us adults, but we (most of us) can see and understand the reason behind the rules. We also do our best to explain these rules to our kids and grandkids.

When we were not allowed to hug or touch each other I would tell my grandchildren that “grandma is sick and doesn’t want to make you sick.” This little white lie worked, but I could see the confusion on their sweet little faces.

The primary (pun intended) lesson learned in sending our kids to school at four years old is supposed to be the development and practice of social skills. You know, stuff like sharing, trading, empathy, taking turns and more. How can they do this if social distancing is their new norm?

What lessons are they going to learn instead? Don’t touch, don’t get too close, don’t care, and god forbid, don’t share. Will they learn anything beneficial? At what point are we doing them more harm than good?

Parents are facing a dilemma. Most families need two incomes to stay afloat financially, and cannot afford to have one parent stay home to look after young children. Single parents have even less choice. Daycares offer the same risk and discourage social skills as schools are doing.

So, what is the answer? Perhaps a Covid related, government issued benefit for a parent to stay home to care for, nurture and educate their young children. If we can pay any previously employed adults to stay home even though they could/should have returned to work, why can’t we pay parents to stay home? Of course, like a maternity/paternity leave, it would have to guarantee a job upon their return to work.

Posted in health and wellness, lorieb.wordpress.com

Making Good Choices in the Time of COVID-19

This informative article was originally posted on the Pyure Organic blog Sweet Talk and ties in nicely with a recent post of mine. It has been adapted for a guest post here:

At the peak of the pandemic, there were new guidelines seemingly every day to help us stay safe and lower our risk of catching and transmitting COVID-19. Today, the advice is clear. Wash your hands regularly, wear a mask and keep your distance from others. 

There are other ways you can make healthy choices beyond virus prevention: changes to your diet, exercise and mindset. These lifestyle changes may not completely prevent your risk of catching coronavirus, but they can boost your immune system, help keep your spirits high and make your body stronger for whatever life throws at you. Here are some simple changes you can make to stay fit and healthy in the midst of a pandemic. 

Focus on good nutrition

There are many reputable research studies that have found a link between a well-balanced diet and a strong immune system. As we head into winter, flu season is right around the corner; pandemic aside, it’s useful to start building healthy nutrients into your diet so your body is ready to ward off everything from the common cold to COVID-19. Here are some simple changes you can make to your diet. 

Switch to sugar alternatives

We know sugar can have negative consequences for our long-term health and is a contributing factor for diabetes and obesity. But some studies have shown that sugar can also decrease the effectiveness of white blood cells – a critical part of our immune system that fights infection. Eating lots of sugar can actually decrease your body’s ability to ward off the bad stuff. 

That doesn’t mean you should stop production on all that quarantine comfort baking! There are plenty of better-for-you sugar alternatives that can make your tasty treats even better. Stevia is one sugar alternative that we love – and Pyure Organic Stevia is one of the only organic stevia brands out there. Stevia is a sweetener that rates a zero on the glycemic index (meaning it won’t spike your blood sugar), zero-calorie and free from any of the chemicals used to create artificial sweeteners. Check out some of our favorite recipes that use Pyure Organic Stevia for some healthier at-home baking inspiration.

Add in a few supplements

In addition to cutting out the bad stuff, you can also add in some minerals and probiotics to make your immune system even stronger – and able to fight off threats. We get most of these minerals through eating a balanced diet, but many of us are deficient in the so-called “Big Four” that help our immune system: 

  • Zinc: This mineral is critical for the development and function of immune cells, yet 79% of us are deficient in zinc. Studies have shown that “80–92 mg per day of zinc may reduce the length of the common cold by up to 33%.” 
  • Magnesium: This so-called “master mineral” is involved in processes like producing energy and building important proteins like your DNA. Your body needs magnesium to function properly, and most people should aim to take 200–400 mg per day. 
  • Selenium: This mineral acts as an antioxidant to reduce inflammation in the body and improve immunity. You can get selenium through foods like fish, eggs and mushrooms.
  • Iodine: This mineral boosts your thyroid gland, which produces hormones that directly impact your immune system. Too much iodine can be a bad thing, so be sure to consult with a doctor before adding in an iodine supplement.

The more proactive you can be about building a healthy immune system, the better! Luckily, many of these minerals can be found by adding some new ingredients to your grocery list.

Eat your leafy greens

Feeding your body with the good stuff is an easy way to keep out the bad stuff. We’ve all heard that citrus is full of Vitamin C and can help ward off the common cold – these foods can also make a big difference in your health: 

  • Red bell peppers: These veggies contain almost 3 times as much Vitamin C as a Florida orange. 
  • Broccoli: It’s packed with Vitamins A, C, and E, fiber, and many other antioxidants.
  • Spinach: rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, and beta carotene
  • Plain yogurt: Look for the unsweetened kind, which is packed with Vitamin D to help regulate the immune system (and add a little Pyure on top to make it taste great!). 
  • Kiwi: These little green guys are high in folate, potassium, Vitamin K and Vitamin C.

These are just a few foods that are great additions to your diet – there are many more out there that can give your immune system a little extra power. 

Stay active, even at home

With many gyms closed and workout classes canceled, it can be difficult to find ways to stay active – but every little bit counts. “Inactivity is an important risk factor similar to high blood pressure, smoking or high cholesterol,” reports the American Society for Nutrition

Regular physical activity supports your immune system and your mental health (more on that in a minute). It’s also a big part of protecting your health from long-term, chronic issues like heart disease and high blood pressure. 

If you’re not sure where to start with an at-home workout, think about what it is you would like to improve. Do you want stronger arms? Better flexibility? More aerobic capacity? From there, you can find a workout plan that works for you. Aim for 15 to 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise and build from there. Check out YouTube and Instagram for free at-home yoga classes, circuit workouts and bodyweight strength-training to keep your routine varied and interesting.

Don’t ignore your mental health

Mental stress can put your body in physical distress, as anxiety takes a big toll on the body. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and taking care of your mental health. “Immune system activation alters sleep, and sleep in turn affects the innate and adaptive arm of our body’s defense system,” says the National Institute of Health. Many of us are juggling working from home, caring for family and many other parts of life, but getting a good night’s sleep – that’s seven to eight hours for adults – should be a priority. 

There’s also evidence to support the idea that meditation can improve your immune system. Meditation can not only improve your sleep, but it can also help you manage stress and anxiety. Take 10 minutes out of your day to do some deep breathing, relax and calm down your nervous system. Your body will thank you!

Posted in lorieb.wordpress.com, nature

Early Morning Adventures

One thing I do not miss since I retired from my career as a medical laboratory technologist is the early morning wake-ups. Unless of course an early morning is the prelude to a vacation, something we are all just dreaming about these days. Although I have discovered since retiring that I am not a morning person, especially when it is cold and still dark outside, I have been up (literally) for some morning adventures lately.

As mentioned previously, I have been helping my seven year old granddaughter with her online school lessons. On the mornings her mother goes to work (outside the home) said granddaughter is dropped off around 6:20am. I roll out of bed around 6:05, although hubby is up at 5:50, so my last 15 minutes are quite unsatisfactory. Since the e-learning does not start until 9am, we have some time for some non-school related activities beforehand. After my morning coffee that is.

This morning, even before the sun was fully awake, we baked muffins and played the piano. Home Economics and Music classes: check. We are hoping to impress the family with a “concert” at Christmastime, but still need lots of practice.

When the sun was high enough in the morning sky to warm things up a bit, we ventured out for a skip (think “we’re off to see the wizard” skip/dance) around the block. Gym class: check!

On these walks I am always impressed with and inspired by the beauty Mother Nature has to offer. Sometimes I have to wait until my heart rate slows enough to snap some pictures. This morning it was dew drops and fog remnants that caught my fancy:

Tomorrow I will get back to my Gardens4u business as fall cleanups and lawn care are beckoning. As I reminded you last month, this time of year is the most effective time to improve the quality of your lawns. The heavy dew and fog like this morning’s are perfect for reseeding or fertilizing!

Posted in gardening, gardens4u.ca, lorieb.wordpress.com

Garden Renovation at Ruddy Shenkman Hospice

Recently Gardens4u expanded the front garden at the Ruddy Shenkman Hospice (RSH) in Kanata. I have been volunteering my (gardening) services at RSH for several years now, shortly after it moved to my neighbourhood.

Only the Good Die Young

This project has been a vision in my brain for a while; I just had to wait until all parties were onboard and permission was granted. As a non-profit organization there are always lots of hoops to jump through.

A few existing shrubs were left in place, in particular the burning bush which is gorgeous this time of year. Two large spreading junipers were trimmed and shaped, but will remain in the garden, mainly because they would be much too difficult (for me) to remove. They also provide winter interest as they are evergreen in our climate.

The first step was to mark out the shape of the new garden using a garden hose and black spray paint. My granddaughter was on hand as the inspector for that job…

Next, to save time as well as my back, I enlisted the help of Tim Driscoll of TD Small Loads who scraped the sod and carted it away.

When that chore was complete, we spread the composted manure donated and delivered by Ritchies Feed & Seed on Carp Road in Stittsville.

After the soil amendment came the plants, many of which were donated by other members of the RSH garden team as well as some of my neighbours. The large shrubs were also selected from and donated by Ritchies. I placed the shrubs and perennials strategically in the garden, still in their pots, according to their bloom time and colour, foliage shape as well as their mature size. A few tweaks here and there are always the norm before holes are dug and actual planting takes place.

The final step is to fill any blank spots in with contributions from my own gardens. Then a layer of cedar mulch (also donated and delivered from Ritchies) finishes the garden off…

I can’t wait until this garden matures, it should look beautiful!!

Posted in beauty, health and wellness, lorieb.wordpress.com

Renew Body Wash, My New Favourite Melaleuca Product

I have been promoting Melaleuca products for years now for many reasons, but mostly because I can use their extensive line of non-toxic products without sneezing, sniffling, or creating a throbbing headache. What better reason?

I must admit I have not tried much of their makeup line, but only because I do not wear a lot of makeup. In fact, in these Covid, social distancing, stay at home times, I don’t wear any at all.

Their cleaning products though I use all over my home, cottage and even in my gardens. I also share them with my sons and their families. The hand sanitizer, enhanced with aloe to protect skin from the affects of the germ-killing alcohol, has been particularly popular lately.

My new favourite product is Renew Body Wash. With the same moisturizers as the Renew Body Lotion, a Melaleuca best seller, the new Body Wash feels so good on my perennially parched skin. I have never tolerated bar soaps or fragrant body washes well, they make me itchy. The Renew Body Wash however, lathers nicely and leaves my skin silky smooth, perfect after a messy day in my gardening business.

If you think you would like to try any Melaleuca products, contact me!

Renew Body Wash, My New Favourite Melaleuca Product
over 400 Melaleuca products
Posted in current events, education, family, lorieb.wordpress.com

Teacher AKA Grandma, that’s me!

With Covid restrictions and precautions gripping our world for several months now, with no end in sight, online learning or e-school has become popular. It was a tough call, but my son and his partner (both essential service providers) decided to keep their eldest child home from school to reduce her (and the rest of our bubble’s) chances of contacting the dreaded virus.

Me a Teacher?

In high school, (waaaaay back when) one of my career goals was to be a teacher. That goal was stymied by lack of money in the family to support a university education. As I was fifth of sixth children applying for government assistance, the pickings were slim. I worked several jobs each summer and through the school years to scrape barely enough money together to attend college. Community college and medical laboratory technology was my reality.

That might explain why this always-wanted-to-be-a-teacher Grandma is embracing my new role as online supervisor to my seven year old granddaughter on the days her mom works or has an appointment. The teacher is online with the kids too, so I am just backup in case assistance or guidance is required, close enough for me.

Offline Lessons

In addition to the online learning I am helping my granddaughter with, I am creating lessons of my own to teach her during her breaks from the online stuff. Fun (to me) things like botany, geography and piano. She has shown an interest in my gardening business, so for her recent birthday, I gifted her with a mini greenhouse kit and some tulip bulbs.

The greenhouse kit came with all necessary components as well as instructions on how to grow plants from seeds. The seeds however were not included, so we collected some from my gardens…

When the seeds were all planted and peat pots were labelled, we decided to keep the greenhouse on top of our fridge as warmth and distance from little brothers is recommended for the success of this lesson.

Seeds planted and labelled

Much to my delight, she has also shown an interest in learning how to play the piano. My eldest son (not her father) attended piano lessons at Music For Young Children years ago when he was just a toddler. I was the adult attending with him, so learned basic piano too. Fast forward almost thirty years to where I am sharing what I learned with all of my grandchildren, but as the oldest this particular granddaughter is able to grasp the concepts and has already mastered Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Music is indeed the universal language!

Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Learning

Back to e-school and the online lessons we are both learning. I must admit I am impressed with the online program (OCDSB) my granddaughter has access to. Her teachers are cheerful and as organized as they can be, considering they are teaching six and seven year olds. At the beginning we encountered a few issues, like login failures, link errors and inability to get our French accents to work. That’s where my learning came in; having never used a Chromebook, I was not familiar with the language options on it. I may be an old dog, but I can learn new tricks.

Three weeks in things are going much smoother, in fact more and more children are joining the classes every day as the number of Covid cases continues to rise. Of course there are disadvantages to online learning, the main one being lack of physical contact with their friends. Although during the breaks they can be amusingly chatty, some kids more than others.

The main advantage is the computer familiarity for the kids. They have learned to log in, navigate between tabs, create their own favourites list, copy and paste links, alter the size of fonts, as well as the keyboard layout and the function of different keys, etc.

Their “jamboards” are cool, an interactive screen created by Google, where they can play around with ideas, much like a white board in a meeting, except it’s online.

They do get breaks often so their eyes and brains don’t get too fatigued, including 5 minute dancing sessions. A favourite dance tune is The Gummy Bear Song, although I bet their teacher is sorry she introduced them to that one…

The Gummy Bear Song

Next Lessons

Tulips will be next for my offline lessons, planted outside with banana peels to deter the squirrels from digging up the bulbs. We have both been saving banana peels in our freezer in anticipation of planting. I usually wait until just before the ground freezes to plant to reduce the temptation for the squirrels. As my dad used to say “squirrels have to eat too”, just not my bulbs!

I also want to teach my granddaughter basic geography with the help of an atlas and a large wall map my son used to be fascinated with, if I can find it. We used to have a globe around here, but think it is long gone. This idea came to me yesterday when she thought Florida was in Canada.

Any other ideas for offline, supplemental learning would be greatly appreciated!

Posted in current events, health and wellness, lorieb.wordpress.com

Keeping Your Immune System Healthy

With a second wave of the Covid-19 virus leasing its germs upon us in this pandemic, it is more important than ever to keep our immune systems as healthy as possible as we head into colder weather.

My gardening business keeps me (very) physically active during the summer months, and I soak up lots of vitamin D, both important requirements for keeping our immune systems functioning at their best.

However, during the (too) long winter months here in Canada I spend my days freelance writing which does absolutely nothing for my physical activity or vitamin D levels. Instead of working in the sunshine and fresh air, digging, lugging plants and soil, I am indoors, sitting in a comfortable chair with my laptop.

Netflix movies are also more tempting on cold winter evenings, accompanied by a glass of wine and snacks of course.

When I was sick last February, we were just coming off a miserably cold and icy winter, meaning my immune system was probably at a low from lack of physical activity and vitamin D. My consumption of junk food was enjoying a winter high too.

I know it is hard to be motivated in our winter months to get outside, but I plan to keep reminding myself to do so this coming winter. Perhaps scheduling a morning walk with like minded neighbours is called for.

I won’t pretend I will completely avoid the high carb comfort foods, but I can limit them. Continuing my healthy practice of a hydrating and nutrient-packed green smoothie every morning into my gardening off-season should help too.

Posted in education, family, grandparents, lorieb.wordpress.com

Photography Lessons, It’s Never Too Early to Learn

As most of you know, I thoroughly enjoy the time I get to spend with my grandchildren, especially the one on one time. Each grandchild has their own unique personality and interests which are becoming quite evident in the oldest three. The two youngest are still babies; their turn will come.

Recently my two and a half year old granddaughter has shown an interest in photography. Since she has been the subject of the oh so many pictures her parents and grandparents have taken on our cell phones since her birth, it is no small wonder she wants to try it herself. She is very independent, and getting more so every day.

I thought I would let her “show me how” to take a picture on my cell phone, and I was amazed at how proficient she is at it. Sometimes. Eventually. When she remembers to keep her fingers off the lens. It is amusing and fascinating (and so cute) to hear her talk herself through the steps.

  • Find the red “camera” button
  • Hold up the phone
  • Look for Grandma (I was her subject)
  • Move my (her) fingers
  • Push the white button

These were her first few attempts at getting the fingers out of the way…

Practice makes perfect; she did get better as she kept trying…

She is definitely a quick learner…as well as very determined and perseverant, all wonderful personality traits.

Posted in gardening, gardens4u.ca, lorieb.wordpress.com

October blooms in Gardens4me

Who can believe that October is here already? Not me. Not Gardens4me either as they are still producing lots of blooms.

New this month is the silver lace vine I have adorning my garden shelves/work bench. What a mess this shelving unit is, another job for my fall to do list.

Another fall blooming perennial is the aster, a little soggy in this picture, cheerful none the less…

October blooms
aster

Also putting in a (late) appearance is my beautiful white and red hibiscus…

Roses are still blooming beautifully…

…as is tickseed. Did you know if you cut tickseed back immediately after it first blooms in the summer it will rebloom? This picture is my proof..

October blooms
tickseed

Also reblooming for the third (!!!) time this season is my weigela. It requires no maintenance to make it rebloom, just warm weather…

Annuals in containers are still eye catching, including a gorgeous pal blush pink hibiscus, even though we have had a few frosty nights.

One annual I was disappointed in this summer was the cardinal flower vine on my bamboo teepees. Although the foliage is unique, the blooms (other than a sporadic one mentioned earlier) have only just shown up in earnest….

The frosty nights have caused the leaves to start their colour transformation. From green to red with various shades in between. The vine on my back deck (or green room) is no exception…

We can’t complain about the advancing calendar too much though as our summer here in Eastern Ontario has been awesome. A tad too hot and dry for our lawns, but awesome for we humans. With one daughter-in-law on maternity leave, I was able to spend more time than usual at the lake with her and two of my grandchildren. With pandemic restrictions in place we were not allowed to do much else, so cottage life was the perfect answer.

The rain this week has been great for the fall lawn repair my yard so badly needs. The temperature has been warm too, so my Gardens4me blooms should last a while longer.