Product Review: Krisda Stevia Sweetened Chocolate Chips

There’s not much more satisfying than biting into a gooey chocolate chip cookie. When avoiding refined sugar is something you’re concerned with, though, the sad reality is that a simple pleasure like a chocolate chip cookie may no longer be an option.

The big label food producers jumped on this reality by offering a slew of “sugar-free” baking options, but they only replaced refined, processed sugar with refined, processed artificial sweeteners. I’ve aimed to buy chocolate in its more pure form, as dark as possible, 70% or more, for baking but I’ve never been a big fan of super dark chocolate and find it somewhat unsatisfying when I want something a bit sweet.

Enter Krisda semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Continue reading

Vb6: The start and the finish

Greetings Blogville.

Apologies for my absence. I’m certain it went completely unnoticed. LOL

In case anyone has forgotten (since it has been FOREVER) when I last wrote, I was still using the summer to play around with various styles of eating to see what works – and doesn’t work – for me. I had finished up my experimentation with Intermittent Fasting (which you can read about in the last couple of posts) and began the transition into Vb6, or “Vegan before 6”.

One of the valuable lessons I have learned over the course of the summer is that it’s really important to experiment to find out what works best for you. I also learned that there are plans that work for your schedule, plans that work for your body and plans that work for your goals. You may think that the last two are synonymous, but they’re not.

Continue reading

IF: The Finale

I will start this post with a disclaimer – every person is individual and what works and doesn’t work for one person may not be the same for the next.

I see a lot of posts on social media these days relating to the way that people diet and train, making it out as though their way is the only way that works and the only thing you can do to achieve your goals. It’s just wrong. There’s plenty of scientific evidence to support a variety of different ways you can eat whether your goal is to lose weight, gain weight or stay the same (and the same goes for fitness.) Ultimately, you have to go by trial and error to find out what works best for you and when you find it don’t be afraid to stick with it even if someone else says their way is better.

That’s part of the reason I have dedicated this summer to experimenting with different meal plans, different styles of eating because I don’t feel as though I’ve found the diet that best suits me. Yes, some of them have been effective but I wasn’t happy on them so it wasn’t something I wanted to stick with for the rest of my life. Regardless of what my goals are for this year or the next, I want to be fit and healthy for years to come and that means finding something that I can stick with both now and 25 years from now.

Continue reading

IF: Weeks 1 & 2

I am two weeks in to my experience with intermittent fasting and want to give an overview of how things have gone since I transitioned into my new meal plan. I’ll start off with a bit of back story and some details about IF and what it is – so expect this to be kind of a long one.

Continue reading

The one about experimenting…

If I were an animal, I would be a guinea pig.

Not simply because they’re cute little balls of fluff with the tiniest ears ever, but because I love to experiment and be experimented on (I can’t confirm that real guinea pigs feel that positive about it). It doesn’t matter what it is really, I’ve always been keen to stick up my hand and say “I’ll try it!” when given the opportunity.

A couple of years back my hair stylist expressed that she had never put hair extensions in before – so I got extensions. Trainer Cathy was always learning new things at CanFitPro conferences, exercises that even she had just tried for the first time – so I was the first to have them in my plan. I got a juicer for Christmas and my kitchen immediately became a scientific lab, attempting to find the ideal combination of fruits and vegetables to make the best juices without ever using a recipe – needless to say, a lot of vegetables died valiantly during the process.

That’s just the type of person that I am. It worked quite well for me in my career as a journalist because I was always eager to try something new for the sake of a story. In the case of this blog it has lead to product reviews and some soon-to-be-published reviews of aesthetic services. Now, through the process of getting stage ready for the WBFF 2014 season, it has taken me down a path of experimenting with the way I eat.

After discussing it with all-knowing, wise and beautiful Coach Krissy, this summer will be an opportunity for me to try new things and play around with styles of eating. I’ve always strongly felt that you can’t truly give your opinion about something without facts to back it up and the best way to make a fact-based statement is by having your own evidence. Now, to clarify, this doesn’t mean I’m going to be trying a bunch of fad diets – quite the opposite. This experiment involves eating styles: ways of eating that people consistently use on a daily basis. If it has a snappy moniker that ends with the word diet and it was introduced to the world through a NYT bestselling hardcover – you likely won’t find me trying it out.

First on the docket deals more with nutrient timing and frequency … intermittent fasting. I’m about a week into the new plan and ready to start writing about my initial experiences. Keep an eye out for the first of what will (hopefully) be many blogs about my experiment-filled summer! 🙂

The one about carbs and the countdown…

There are a few choice phrases that I have thrown around a couple of times a week for the past month or so:

“Ugh, I feel awful.”

“I have zero energy.”

“I need a nap.”

“I want to eat all of the things.”

One thing all those phrases have in common? High-carb day.

Wait, what?! HIGH carb day?!

Typically, those would be the sentiments of fitness competitors in the midst of cutting back on their carbohydrates, longingly watching as their precious oats, sweet potatoes, quinoa and brown rice are diminished by yet another 1/4 cup.

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past couple of months is that I am a person that functions better on very few carbs. This wasn’t a complete surprise to me, to be honest.

Years ago (high school-era) I had a lot of issues with allergies. I was checked over by an allergist who found that I have a slew of environmental allergies but although digestion issues continued to plague me, I was not having an allergic reaction to any foods so we couldn’t quite pinpoint what the issue was.

Based on the recommendation of the allergist, my parents then took me to a Naturopath to test for sensitivities that a traditional scratch test wouldn’t pick up. The process was somewhat tedious – beginning with an elimination diet that left me restricted to mostly rice and oranges for weeks.

Both my parents have severe food allergies (citrus fruits on one side, shellfish on the other) but the more common foods were quickly ruled out. Through the process of eating different things and monitoring my reaction to them the Naturopath determined that one of the major foods that I am sensitive to is yeast.

For years I experienced extreme lethargy, low energy and difficulty concentrating through the day. As it turned out, the culprit was bread (I wasn’t much of a beer drinker as a teen :P). Cutting foods with yeast out of my diet was life-changing. My head was suddenly less cloudy, my grades improved and I finished my last year of high school with honours for the first time since I started. All because I stopped having toast, sandwiches, pizza, etc.

Other foods that I am sensitive to include apples, olives (I have a reputation in my family for always throwing up after holiday dinners – olives, we later discovered, were behind it), lactose and most forms of alcohol. Removing these elements from my diet was somewhat easy and once they were gone I was amazed by how much better I felt. In some ways, I hadn’t even realized I didn’t feel well until I felt better.

That is the same experience I’m having with carbs right now. My previous meal plans have always included the brown rice, quinoas and sweet potatoes of the world and I always assumed that the way I felt after I ate them was just the way I was supposed to feel -I was just digesting, it was from my intense amount of training or even all in my head. I wasn’t losing weight or body fat, I felt bloated and too-full all the time and above all, I felt HUNGRY. Ravenously hungry. All the time. That lead to the half dozen times (which I’ve mentioned on here) that I found myself “off the wagon” and shoving my face full of whatever I could find.

Since the end of January my meal plan has changed and my only carbs are a 1/4 cup of oats right after my morning workout. I never realized how terrible I felt before until now because I feel great. I won’t deny craving junk food, or even having had slip ups out of boredom and over-accessibility, but my physical cravings are non-existent. I don’t spend all day thinking about eating, I’m satiated until my next meal.

Leg days are supposed to be my “high-carb” days where I incorporate those foods back into my diet and if I were to make a confession… I’ve only actually had one in four weeks. I feel like crap every time so I’d just rather not. I guess that makes me one of the few people that will happily clean their plate of vegetables and meat then ask if someone wants their potatoes.

Ultimately it comes down to how I feel – if I don’t feel good then I’m not going to do it. It’s a pretty simple way of looking at most “diets” that are marketed these days. If they make you feel bad then stop doing it. Just don’t take that advice when you’re in the gym, otherwise no one would ever do another burpie ever again… 😛

PS: Tomorrow marks 13 weeks until I hit the WBFF stage and I still have a lot of improvements left to make. Here’s hoping that being the anti-carb ends up being the best thing my stomach ever decided for me.

Product review: QuestBar

I the pleasure of once again volunteering at the OptiMYz Live Health Expo this year. (Check out last year’s fun here) Much like last year I found myself scoping the vendors out for products that I could review.

I had heard of Quest bars only because they’re the only type of pre-packaged protein bar that is allowed in my meal plan. Not really being the type to spend money (that I don’t really have) on a $3-$5 snack, I generally have opted for things like almonds and cottage cheese as reasonable protein snacks and avoided buying the Quest bars.

That being said, I happened upon a vendor from Nutrition Excellence at OptiMYz Live. The incredibly friendly sales rep, Joel, had brought along some of the brands that they represent and distribute around the country, including those from Quest Nutrition. The temptation to nab a couple of Quest bars was too strong and I ended up buying an entire box of 12 (various flavours) for $25.

I didn’t really know what to expect as I have eaten a lot of really crappy tasting protein bars in the past that did little for me nutrition-wise. These are fairly well known for being one of the few/only bars on the market that are low-carb, sugar-free, high-fibre, high-protein and gluten free. I also knew that Coach Krissy would never have allowed me to eat them (or would eat them herself) if they were the same filler-laden crap on grocery store shelves. That doesn’t say much for the taste though. If anything, the fact that they are “better” for you only seemed to make me think they’d taste like old socks.

Quite the contrary.

If there’s anything I regret is that I didn’t introduce these beauties into my diet sooner. They have become an amazing way to battle the mid-afternoon munchies and all day I look forward to having my 3 p.m. QuestBar!

It's a picture of a wrapper because the contents inside never stay in there long enough for a photo...

It’s a picture of a wrapper because the contents inside never stay in there long enough for a photo…

In case you can’t read that, the nutrition information is as follows:

Calories: 160
Fat: 5g
Carbs: 25g
Fibre: 17g
Sugars: 1g
Protein: 20g

So far I’ve tried the Chocolate Peanut Butter and Chocolate Brownie flavours, with Strawberry Cheesecake on deck for tomorrow. The only problem I would say is that I’m going to burn through them so quickly that it’s not terribly affordable for anyone on a budget to eat these consistently. Sad face.

I am willing to change my budget around to try and fit them in though because I might be obsessed. So many protein bars are either sickly sweet, leave an unpleasant aftertaste or just taste… old. QuestBars have a really rich taste that actually tastes like what it says on the package. It’s a soft bar that is practically melt in your mouth and it’s a really decent size so you can make it last for a while.

By far, one of the best purchases I’ve made in a while.

Here’s another couple of crappy photos from OptiMYz Live that I snapped with my terrible camera phone. You should probably just go buy some QuestBars instead though…

This was the cutest thing ever! This little kid was giving it as hard as he could, too!

This was the cutest thing ever! This little kid was giving it as hard as he could, too!