What motivates a person to make radical changes that last? Benefits and Rewards?  Fear? Feelings of lack of control?  I always wanted the benefit and reward of a healthy body, but it never motivated me enough. I, of course, have always wanted to lose weight, and “healthy” seemed the right way to do it. But didn’t hold for long. I knew all along that it was “good” to eat live a less than stressed out lifestyle. But it never motivated me enough to change.  Sadly, it seems that it was the fear, lack of control and knowledge I gained in reading up on my diagnosis that finally motivated me to make the changes to my and my family’s lifestyle.

It’s been 5 weeks since my surgery – and in that time I have learned a fair bit about the “fuel” we consume – I have also had the fright of a lifetime with my diagnosis and I certainly felt that I needed to take responsibility for what I was exposing my family to with our habits and lifestyle.

But now it’s 5 weeks later.

Life is settling back to its usual routines. My schedule is beginning to fill again. Convenience is the dark temptation that looms when things get hectic.

But thankfully I am not the same person. The factors that first motivated me have changed me and my perspective. I cannot go back to the “old me” who somehow had fooled herself into thinking that our habits and lifestyle weren’t THAT bad.

However, this hasn’t prevented me from an occasional stumble.And thankfully, the progress that we have made has given me a new “normal”. So, when I caved this week after a hectic day at the office, followed by a crazy afternoon running errands with the kids and still faced with an evening social at my house –  I stopped at my “old” favorite take out place and purchased the “healthiest” thing on the menu (chicken burger on a new healthy looking bun),my taste buds immediately picked up the imitation flavor, the added salt and the oilyness of the nasty stuff they call sauce. I ate it – I was hungry – but had a headache of note the next morning.

Maybe now that the fear and feeling of the lack of control has passed, I have a more solid motivation – knowledge. I know what that stuff does to a body-and I even have proof. And as I continue to retrain the routines to allow for time to prepare and plan – and I see the results of a well fueled family – this will keep us motivated to keep it up.


Easy Paella – for the red, yellow and green of it!

If you are intimidated by seafood, this is the recipe for you! And it offers veggies of all the important colours – red, green and yellow for that great antioxidant boost.

Paella traditionally has fish, prawns, calamari and mussels, but I have adapted this recipe for my fish squeamish daughter. The result was a success for nearly everyone! My son opted for seconds placed into a tortilla and topped with plain yogurt.

I adapted this recipe from                             Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 red or orange pepper, seeded and cut into strips
2 carrots, peeled and cut into julienne strips
2 cloves of crushed garlic
1 tin tomatoes chopped
1 Tb paprika
350g long-grain rice
1kg mixed seafood (I used 3 fillets of frozen hake and 400 grams frozen cooked shrimp)
2-3 tbsp fresh coriander or parsley, chopped
200g sugar snap peas, trimmed
fresh limes or lemons, cut into wedges

  1. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan.
  2. Add onion, green and red peppers and carrots, and fry over a low heat for two minutes.
  3. Add garlic, tomatoes and paprika and fry for three minutes.
  4. Add the rice and stir well to make sure the rice is well coated.
  5. Add about 800ml water or seafood stock and bring to the boil.
  6. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. Add seafood, coriander and sugar snap peas and stir well.
  8. Cover and simmer for a further 10 -15 minutes.
  9. Add a little water if it gets too dry.
  10. The dish is ready once the rice is tender (if including mussels, they will be open when the dish is ready.)
  11. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, coriander and lemon wedges. I topped the servings with a dollop of double cream plain  yogurt (not traditional, I am sure).

Veggie Power! The Goal: Healthy Cells!

I have to tell you… all those tense moments sitting at the dinner table as a kid…with my mom telling my brother, sister and me to eat our veggies… really did sink in – at least partially. I have always felt that eating the “5 a day” fruit and veggie would benefit us nutritionally. The challenge has been the effort.  It takes time to buy, store and peel – never mind properly cook those little power packs. So, in the reality of my life, it was often forgotten. Excuses such as “no one will eat the salad.. and there are tomatoes in the spaghetti sauce” and “just tonight, we will just have potatoes with our meat” became more than rare occurences. This has now changed. My view of food is different now – and I realize that my food must fuel me – not just fill me.

The next challenge – now that we understand about the importance of water, and have addressed the whole grain issue in our diet – is to add more vegetables to our diet.

And despite my best efforts to teach my children that veggies were there friends (we had almost every video tape of Veggie Tales; we called broccoli “little trees”; we bragged about how Popeye had big muscles because of the spinach and Bugs Bunny had great eyesight because he ate carrots).. 1/2 of my 4 children are not veggie lovers… one of them is a self-proclaimed veggie hater.


I have had a new visual picture form from the reading that I have done about what makes us susceptible to cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Our innocent but oh-so-important cells are being inundated with all kinds of toxins in our daily lives. In addition to this, we are not giving them the basics to keep them strong. 

It’s almost as bad as expecting a horse to keep ploughing but refusing to give him the food and water to carry on. Through the generations, our cells have become genetically weaker thanks to our environment – and add to this a poor diet of fast good and no exercise – and what hope to we have to live to a healthy old age?

So, fuel them up we must! And fruits and vegetables are at the top of the list thanks to their concentrations of the most important vitamins and minerals.

In addition to all the benefits of vitamins and minerals (which could fill a book, never mind a blog post), antioxidants are very important in helping to keeping our cells healthy and happy. “Antioxidants are substances that may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals.” 1  Free radicals, or oxidants, damage cells causing cancer, artery damage, aging and inflammation and originate from pollution, radiation, fried and burnt foods, sunlight and combustion.  The super hero foods with antioxidant nutrients are continuing to be found to be key in preventing and possibly fighting diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes, Hypertension, Infertility, Macular degeneration, Measels, Mental illness, Periodontal disease, Respiratory tract infections and Rheumatoid arthritis.

In addition to antioxidant nutrients, God has given us veggies and fruits that are super-packed with Vitamin A, C and E, Minerals Selenium, Zinc, Copper, Iron and Manganese which help to fight those nasty free radicals.

Here’s my plan:

  1. While I was recovering from my surgery, and preparing for chemo, I dived right into juicing. A delicious way to digest fruit and veg in its best form – raw. It was a perfect answer for the nausea I was suffering from – and I could just imagine all those vitamins and minerals strengthening my weak cells. Breakfasts will soon feature a small glass of a new concoction for each of my family members. It may have to be bar room style shots of goodness complete with a “ready… one, two, three.. chug!” but it’s going to happen.
  2. The freshest veggies from my own small container garden – you can follow my progress my becoming my friend on Facebook and joining my “Container Gardening for a Healthier Life”
  3. Surreptitiously adding vegetables to any recipe I can – including quick breads and muffins, sauces, casseroles and even desserts if I can get away with it
  4. Keeping stock of nibble sized fruits and veggies for easy snacking.

This is probably going to be the biggest challenge I will have, next to family exercise. But with a little ingenuity, a positive attitude and some good solid facts behind me, there might just be a good chance of success!





Top 10 Antioxident packed foods:

  1. Blackberries (5.75 millimoles per 100g serving)
  2. Walnuts (3.72 millimoles per 100g serving)
  3. Strawberries (3,58 millimoles per 100g serving)
  4. Artichokes (3,56 millimoles per 100g serving)
  5. Cranberries (3,13 millimoles per 100g serving)
  6. Raspberries (2,87 millimoles per 100g serving)
  7. Blueberries (2,68 millimoles per 100g serving)
  8. Cloves (2,64 millimoles per 100g serving)
  9. Grape juice (2,56 millimoles per 100g serving)
  10. Cranberry juice (2,47 millimoles per 100g serving)


Tabbouleh – a whole grain delite!

The first time I tried tabboluleh, my hubby had taken me to a Lebanese restaurant somewhere in Seattle. The memories of the food that night are still wrapped in warm colours and a fragrant mist.

I have dug for a favorite recipe of mine, and have decided that this is going to be a great addition to our “regular” menu. Made as a side, it goes wonderfully with chicken. Stuffed into a pita, it makes a delicious lunch time treat. As a main course on its own- a filling meat-free dinner (or serve with spiced chicken or lamb on a skewer!).  Mmmmm. I’m hungry already!

In addition to the delicious flavours, this dish comes to the table with all kinds of healthy benefits.

  • Fresh Parsley – has anticancer components; is rich with antioxidants; has anti-inflammatory agents; and can help keep your heart healthy and your immune system boosted!
  • Fresh Mint – in addition to freshening your breath, mint will also help to settle an uneasy stomach, is a natural diuretic and can even help ease the symptoms of IBS.
  •  Bulgar –  is high in protein and minerals offering nutrition that fills you up without adding in extra calories. ( Bulgar has fewer calories, less fat and more than twice the fibre of brown rice!)  
  •  And then there are all the wonderful vitamins and minerals found in the cucumber, tomato and onions.

Tabbouleh – adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

Yield for this recipe: 5 side dish sized servings

1 c bulgur soaked for 1 hour in 1  2/3 cup boiling hot water

3/4 c chopped cucumber

1/2 c snipped fresh parsley 

1/4 c thinly sliced green onions – OR sliced red onion

4 T snipped fresh mint

3 T olive oil

3 T lemon juice

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 c. chopped tomato

4 lettuce leaves to serve on

Placed soaked bulgur in a colander and rinse with cold water.  Place into a large bowl with cucumber, parsley, onion and mint.

For dressing, whisk water, oil, lemon juice and salt together. 

Drizzle dressing over bulgur mixture and toss to coat.

Chill for at least 2 hours for flavours to meld.  The longer it sits, the better it tastes!

Before serving, stir in tomato and serve on a lettuce leaf, or in a lettuce leaf lined bowl garnished with a lemon slice or two.

 (photo courtesy of

Flapjacks and My New Secret Weapon

This morning I made ‘Flapjacks with a Twist’, which were basically the standard American pancake, with 1/2 the flour substituted for oats that had be whirled in my food processor to make a course flour. I topped them with sauteed apples (sauteed with a splash of water and some cinnamon)

I have a new secret weapon in my arsenal for change, that I did not buy for my 10 year old or even my 12 year old – instead I bought it for my nearly 20 year old son, who has such an adversion to anything healthy that I fear for his children.

Sustained Energy for Kids – a great collection of recipes and sneaky ways to make tasty and (gasp) healthy food that even a 20 year old will eat!

Here’s a recipe very similar to my Flapjack recipe that is sure to be a hit!

Yield: Makes 24 flapjacks – 6 cm in diameter

1 egg, slightly beaten

2 t. sugar (substitute honey as an option)

1 c. low fat milk

1 t. oil (canola, macadamia or peanut)

1 c. cake flour

1 tsp bicarb soda (baking soda)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 c. oat bran

1 apple peeled and cored

2 sm. green bananas, cut into 24 slices

lemon juice, squeezed over cut fruit

Place egg, sugar (honey) and salt in mixing bowl and beat lightly with spoon

Add half of the milk and oil and mix

Sift flour, baking soda and baking powder together. Stir in gradually to the egg and milk mixture until smooth and lump free

Leave batter to stand 10 minutes to moisten ingredients while you prepare fruit and heat the pan

Grease a non-stick pan with small amount of oil and drop batter into pan. Drop banana and apple into wet side of pancake before flipping

Cook until bubbly on top and slightly browned underneath. Turn and cook until brown.

Repeat until all batter is cooked.

Nutritional note: the fruit helps to lower the GI of the pancake, so do not omit it.  Allergens: wheat, eggs and milk

Nutrients: GI lower (59) Carbs (8g) Protein (1g) Fat (1g) Fibre (1g) KJ (194) GL 5



Not so subtle fibre

In our quest to eat more nutritious foods, I have subtly (or so I thought) been adding bran and whole grains to our diet. At the moment, I am not quite up to making bread, so I have switched out our previous choices (“Best of Both” by Albany which advertises that it has the benefits of whole wheat, while looking almost like white; Brown bread – which seems to be a coloured white bread in texture; and whole wheat, which actually had very little in the way of texture, save a few seeds…) to “health bread” – packed full of seeds, whole grains and additional fiber.

If you have read my previous posts, you know that I have a son who has very strong opinions, especially about his food.  He has decided that he doesn’t at all care for the health bread, and will rather by his own white bread.  

 Round One of the Conversion Bout goes to “Old Habits That Die Hard”

This week, I substituted our usual morning muffin with a bran muffin with fresh chopped apple baked inside.  My kids all partook without hesitation

Round Two goes to “Mom’s Clever Ingenuity”

However, my two youngest came home from school that day with complaints. My youngest exclaimed “Mom, if that was somekind of a crazy experiment – it worked. I have been having problems with gas all day!  I had to keep squeeking my chair on the floor to cover the sound!”  oh dear…

Finally, this morning I decided to make the family favorite: flapjacks.  Only I called them Flapjacks with a Twist.  I substituted 1/2 the flour with ground oats and sauteed apples and honey instead of providing the usual syrup.  Hubby loved them, Daughters ate them happily (only after my sugar addict complained that I wouldn’t provide the powered sugar she prefers on her flapjacks). Son of Strong Opinion, however, declared them as terrible… ate an egg and walked out of the kitchen still hungry.

This may be a long long road for some in my family…. 🙂

Here is what I have learned about the importance of whole grains and fibre in the diet….

  • Refined wheat flour has 24 nutrients that are removed in the refining process, yet only 4 are replaced (iron, B1, B2 and B3)
  • It helps to keep the digestive tract and liver healthy which offers: healthy skin; lowered risk of bowel disease such as appendicities, diverticulitis, colitus and bowel cancer; lowered risk of diabetes.
  • It keeps energy levels up by slowing down absorption of sugar into the blood.
  • Soluable fibre absorbs water and will help control your appetite – that is one reason that 1/2 cup of oats can sustain while 1 1/2 cups of boxed cereal leaves you hungry (sugar also plays a role).
  • Wheat bran can actually reduce the absorption of essential minierals including zinc because of the presence of phytate – an anti-nutrient.
  • Ideal fibre intake should be not less than 35 grams per day, which is attainable from a healthy diet without additing extra fibre.
  • Ideal fibre sources include: oats, beans, seeds, fruit and riaw or lightly cooked vegetables.
  • Overcooking food destroys fibre content.

So, good news for my dear children: our new healthy diet will cover most of the fibre you need. Bran muffins will not be a regular offering. And you won’t need to squeek your chairs in class.


Water – Not just for swimming in

Water – one of the basic necessities of life. Something that is perhaps easy to take for granted.

This is the first big change we are making in our home.

There are two basic issues that I am contending with:

a) are we consuming enough water daily?

b) is the water we are consuming good for our bodies?

The facts I always knew included:

  • our bodies are 66% water
  • we should drink 8 glasses of water
  • water cleanses the body

What I didn’t know:

  • Drinking more water than you need can actually tax your kidneys
  • The roles of water include flushing the kidneys, dissolving minerals and acting as a delivery system, lubricant and temperature regulator
  • Mild dehydration can lead to constipation, headaches, lethargy and mental confusion (Ah! at last I have a proper reason for my foggy brain!)
  • Dehydration increases risk of urinary tract infection and kidney stones
  • Thirst kicks in when you have lost about 1 and 2 percent of body water, but is often mistaken for hunger
  • Conditions such as gastric ulcers, joint pain,asthma and allergies can be linked to chronic low-level dehydration

We definitely need to consume more water in our household!

As a result I am trying the following tactics:

We have installed a water cooler – tastier water, and more fun to pour for the younger ones 🙂

A variety of yummy things for water enhancement are available in our fridge including fresh mint, sliced lemons and even strawberries when they are in season.

A lovely BPA free plastic water bottle accompanies my girls to school

In my case, not only was I not drinking enough water, but much of the water I was drinking was tap water.  I am not one to buy the water purifying company’s hype about desolved solids (are desolved solids still called solids??), however I did read that tap water not only can lack some of the minerals we require, but it can also contain estrogen, or xenoestrogen which can cause an imbalance of hormones in the body, increasing the risk of hormone related cancers. There is some disagreement as to the source of this estrogen is, but either way it’s not good.

Sadly my research into estrogen in the water has also revealed that plastic bottles – especially those marked as a plastic type 7 in the recycle triangle – can also leech xenohormones into the contents. This was of course after I installed my nifty new water cooler.  Embracing my decision to make small changes over time, this knowledge will have to work its way into my plan at a later stage.  Perhaps we will eventually have to install a reverse osmosis filter on our water taps… one day.

Step by Step

Change may come to you in trinkets and I hope it adorns your life gracefully.  ~Dodinsky

Sometimes the most lasting change is the one that comes in bits and pieces.  This is my plan and hope for what lies ahead. My family is an ordinary family. We work hard. We eat sometimes what is most convenient. We love each other deeply.  We long for time to spend together, but never seem to find enough of it to completely satisfy. Sometimes our intentions are outweighed by our lack of motivation. We have recently discovered that life is a gift, a precious gift. And time will stop for no one.

I am a mom of 4 amazing kids – the eldest has married a wonderful husband and lives not to far away. My second is an independently minded young man of nearly 20. He feels strongly about what he feels strongly about and doesn’t care much about the rest. My two youngest – age 12 and 10 are busy growing into their own special personalities and still have time to embrace new ideas without too much friction. At least I hope so!

Amongst our group is one who hates vegetables as if they were meant only for torture and death; a man who loves meat (When we met he said,”Please know this now – I’m not one for rabbit food. I like my meat and potatoes.”); one who loves all things sweet – and given the chance will partake without thought to as much as possible; and one who, though given the gift of an athletic body, doesn’t give much thought to what she eats. Then there is myself.  A 44-year-old woman, who has always desired a healthy lifestyle – has had short moments living in one, and has recently been faced with and healed of a life altering disease. 

The challenge is ahead: educate this bunch properly -above and beyond the “you should’s” to the “understand why  you should” and coax them gracefully into a new healthier lifestyle.  I’m committed, and they are at least semi-willing.  

 So here we go!