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About Allison Todd

Allison is the newbie on the team and joins femMED as the Communications Coordinator. After completing a Bachelors of Arts degree from Dalhousie University she moved back to Toronto to complete a post graduate degree certification in corporate communications from Seneca College. From there she cut her PR teeth working with a Toronto PR agency before moving to femMED. Allison’s passionate about health and fitness. She loves to cook healthy meals and her bookcase at home is dangerously at risk of over flowing with cookbooks. She loves a good workout, is training for Tough Mudder, and hits the pavement for a run as often as possible.

Keeping it Smooth

We all lead busy lives and including enough fruits and veggies into our diet can be a struggle.  Canada’s Food Guide recommends that women between the ages of 19-50 should be eating seven to eight servings a day. To give you an idea of what that looks like on your dinner plate, you would have to eat 21 spears of asparagus or up to 140 grapes. That’s a lot of food to fit into your daily routine!

So instead of eating them, we revved up the juicer/blender and made these three delicious juices. They can accompany any meal or function as a tasty snack on the go. They all contain three to four servings of fruits or veggies (that’s almost half the daily recommendation) and are loaded with the vitamins you need to stay healthy. We suggest you try a few different recipes and keep a pitcher of your favourites on hand.

Here are the three we liked the best.

Spinach-Cucumber-Celery Juice (4 servings of vegetables)

  • 2 cups packed spinach
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 celery stalk

Spinach is loaded with vitamin K, which helps fights atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), lowers blood pressure and works to decrease your risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. It’s also a great source of vitamin A, which works to protect the mucous membranes found in the respiratory, urinary and intestinal tracts.

Celery  is a healthy source of vitamin A, dietary fibre and  is also mildly anti-inflammatory.

Cucumbers are 95% water which makes them a great source for hydration. They’re also an excellent source of silica, which helps promotes joint health by strengthening the connective tissues. Cucumbers are rich in vitamin A, K and potassium.
Citrus Style Immune Booster (4-5 servings of fruits)

  • 1 14 oz grapefruit, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 medium oranges, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 kiwis, peeled and cut into chunks

Grapefruits contains lycopene, which may have an effect in the prevention of certain cancers, although further research is needed. They are also a good source of dietary fibre and vitamin A and C.

Oranges, as we all know, are an excellent source of vitamin C, but they are also a good source of thiamin and potassium, and a very good source of dietary fiber.

Kiwis are also loaded with vitamin C, which is essential to the formation and repair of tissue, particularly cartilage, blood vessels, tendons and skin. One cup of sliced kiwifruit provides 5g of fiber. Eating fiber will help fill you up, keep your digestive system running and work to lower cholesterol.

Super Berry Anti-Oxidant Fighter (3-4 serving of fruit)

  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup strawberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 cups peeled and chopped mango
  • ¼ cup water

Blend together and add additional water to thin.

Fruits like blueberries contain antioxidants, which may help prevent cell damage by neutralizing free radicals.

Strawberries are not only delicious, but an excellent source of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps to produce collagen that strengthens the capillaries that feed the skin which  results in  improved skin elasticity and resilience.

Mangos are a great source of fibre, vitamin A,C and B6. Vitamin A plays a vital role in eye health and   the maintenance of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs. Vitamin B6 is needed by the body for more than 100 enzyme reactions involved in metabolism.

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To Tempeh or Tofu? Which one to choose?

Lately, we’ve been hitting a bit of a creativity slump in the kitchen. So we decided now was the perfect time to try something new, tempeh and tofu.

We’ve been wondering what our options might for including soy-based alternatives into our regular meals. We did some research and found a tasty recipe from our favourite foodie website, Chatelaine.com. We also found some delicious salad recipes to pair with our mains from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food: Good Food Fast and Cook Yourself Sexy by Candice Kumai.

First up was tofu.

Tofu is made with coagulated soybeans and water pressed together. It comes in a few different varieties based on firmness (soft, firm and extra firm). One of the reasons why tofu is so popular, is that takes on the flavours of the foods in which it is cooked, while its own flavour remains subtle. It also has a few health benefits. Eating it regularly has been show to help lower cholesterol and hypertension levels, and your risk for cardiovascular disease. It’s also a great source of calcium and vitamin E.

We decided to give this breaded tofu finger recipe a try. It’s a twist on breaded chicken fingers. The spice blend was flavourful but not too spicy which is good if heat isn’t your thing. We paired it with an orange and avocado citrus salad, and fresh cherry tomatoes. A 420g container of tofu cost us approx. $2.00, however, prices and brands may vary depending on the store. The prep was about an hour; so unless you have the time, keep this recipe for the weekend. The leftovers kept well overnight and were perfect for lunch.

Next it was Tempeh.

Tempeh is a made from cooked fermented soybeans shaped into a patty and is a great source of fiber. Approximately 4 ounces of tempeh equals 1/2 cup of fiber. To make it tasty, spices and marinades can be added during the cooking process. If you’re in a time crunch, you can also purchase your tempeh pre-flavoured. A pack of sesame garlic tempeh cost us approx. $5.00 (again, prices may vary). It makes a great addition to any meal, as a healthy pre-cooked protein alternative.

We lightly grilled the tempeh in strips on medium heat with a drop of olive oil, and paired it with a broccoli, chickpea and tomato salad. This meal was delicious, flavourful and easy to make. Prep was no more then 30 minutes total and both the tempeh and the salad were a big hit at lunch the next day.

We loved both these recipes and it was motivating to expand our culinary capabilities with health conscience meals. We recommend trying either of these recipes if you’re looking for some inspiration in the kitchen.

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“Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee”

We were inspired by the importance of Heart and Stroke Month, so we decided to find another heart pumping activity to help get us going and re-inspired. After all, we’re only three months away from one of the most heart thumping events this year, The Tough Mudder.

Since the weather has been somewhat of a fitness foe, we decided to look for another indoor activity that could really get us going. Wow, did we ever succeed – welcome to Ladies Only Muay Thai Kickboxing Boot Camp.

We attended a four week session held every Saturday at an authentic local kick boxing gym. For an hour each week we kicked, punched, crunched and push-upped our way through a mean yet incredibility satisfying work out.  Our fearless instructor was always on hand to ensure we were always in the correct position and maximizing the benefits of each heart pumping circuit.  At the end of every hour, we could always feel the impact of the workout in our arms, legs, core and back.  Our heart rates were up the entire time, and during each workout we burned approximately 600-800 calories! This was extremely motivating and kept us coming back even though we were always sore the next day (but in a good way).

What’s nice about this class is that you can take some of what you learn home with you.

Skipping is a big part of the warm-up; it’s not all about the bag work and you’re sweet left hook.  A 15 minute skipping interval will increase your heart rate and help you burn up to 200 calories. Try incorporating skipping in between your weight circuit or into your daily fitness routine.

 

Another great take home tip was a yoga movement called “the plank”. We’re sure many of you are familiar with this movement. You lie face down on the ground and then raise yourself up onto your feet and elbows. Keep your core tight, hips down and back flat. Stay as tight as possible. You’ll start to feel the effects in your arms, back, core and legs. Add a plank onto the end of your workouts. With each workout, increase the time you can hold the plank position as well as the number of repetitions. The “plank” is a great full body exercise to finish off your exercise routine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An added bonus with boot camp sessions is the short commitment of only four classes. At the completion of the four classes, you have the option to walk away or purchase another monthly package. A great format for those who don’t know what exercise they like or get bored easily.

 

 

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“Debulking The Bulk”

In celebration of working hard throughout December and most of January (there was a little falling off the wagon over the holidays, but we all need treats now and then), I decided to hit up my favourite shops to see what’s coming for spring. Yes, I know thinking about spring now seem a little premature but February will fly by and then it’s March, which equals SPRING to me!

Adding even more to my springtime optimism is the realization that I have lost weight!

How? By eating right and exercising regularly, even though there were days I didn’t want to leave the couch. I know this is logical, but it’s just so very, very, very nice to start seeing the results of all the hard work I have put into getting back into shape. Since I often don’t pay attention to the scale, I generally go by how I feel, the changes in my appearance, and how my clothes fit.

There is absolutely nothing more satisfying then trying on a pair of jeans and needing to ask the sales clerk to get you a smaller size.  So feeling totally inspired when I got home, I decided to get rid of all the clothes that didn’t fit me anymore, that were too BIG or I hadn’t worn in over a year.

Being the clotheshorse that I am, I had to contend with the two storage containers under my bed, a dresser and two closets filled to the brim with clothes.  By the end of the night and after a mini fashion show of grievous fashion trend no-no’s (that all seemed so right at the time), I was left with three very large shopping bags filled with jeans, sweaters, shirts, scarves, shoes and a jacket. What’s better still is that in the process of getting rid of the clothes that didn’t fit, I was able to de-clutter and reorganize everything else.

Eventually, I walked all three bags to my Salvation Army drop box feeling great. Not to mention that I now have room for some new spring clothes!

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Now Qualified to Run Away with the Circus

Struggling to stay committed to your fitness program? If you’re anything like the femMED team, you’re likely starting to get a little bored with your usual routine and find it more difficult by the day to get motivated to work off those extra pounds. That’s why we decided it was time to add a bit more fun to our workout by joining the circus…well, sort of!

Last Friday some of the femMED staffers attended the Toronto School of Circus Arts Drop-In Trapeze class. The gloomy winter weather is a big fitness turn-off, so we knew we needed to do something that would help pump-up our motivation and keep us engaged in getting healthy.

After some initial research, we discovered that the benefits of a trapeze workout are enormous. Generally, most workout routines (such as Zumba, cycling or running) focus primarily on your lower body. Trapeze focuses on the exact opposite, it’s all about developing your arms, back and core. It’s excellent for increasing strength, improving flexibility, posture and toning muscles. Over the course of our first trapeze lesson, which flew by (pun intended), we burned approximately 300-400 calories in just one hour. And, if calories burned aren’t indication enough of a quality workout, the next day we could really feel the impact on our biceps, triceps, upper back and core.

Another perk afforded by this workout is that there are elements you can take home with you. For example, find an outdoor pull bar that you can hang from (most playgrounds have them) and practice your knee hang (it’s exactly as it sounds). Lift you knees up, swing them through your arms and under the bar and then rest them over the bar. When complete, the bar should be nestled under your knees. If you feel confident enough you can let go and hang there or, add a couple of upside down crunches.

Trapeze class was not only a great physical workout; it was also a mental workout. You really had to push yourself to overcome the initial fear of climbing and swinging from a two story platform. Once conquered, we just couldn’t wait to get back up, go again and learn new tricks.

By making exercise a social and fun experience that you can do with friends, we found sticking to our healthy living goals to be a less daunting process.  We’re refreshed and ready to try new things, meet new people and have less fear holding us back.

 

 

 

 

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