Sweet Potato Breakfast Platter w/Poached Egg

This plate of delicious Mexican flavours would be perfect for any meal, but I’ve decided to call it a breakfast platter because of the poached egg. The recipe has a few different components, but they’re all easy to prepare, and the dish is assembled simply by stacking all the ingredients. With a combination of complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats, this meal is the perfect way to start a busy day.

Sweet potato platter

sweet potato platter top view

Lately I’ve been a fan of savoury breakfast recipes, particularly eggs. When I start my day off with a combination of protein and fat, it usually keeps me full until lunch. Although I wake up early, my earliest class doesn’t start until 10:30, so I like to take some time to make a delicious, healthy, and filling breakfast. Ensuring that I have breakfast and that my meal is healthy sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Most days, I use sweet potato as the source of carbohydrates in my breakfast, whether it is in wedges with scrambled eggs on the side, with a poached egg on top, or in the form of a breakfast bowl (like this amazing Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl from Healthy Liv). In addition to their delicious taste, sweet potatoes are a good source of iron, B vitamins, and vitamin C. Avocados are another one of my favourite breakfast foods; they are a great source of healthy fatty acids, as well as potassium.

breakfast platter ingredients

The sweet potato in this recipe takes about 30 minutes to bake, so it’s best to make this recipe when you’re just doing work at your house in the morning, rather than rushing to class or work. This breakfast platter is also great for a weekend brunch. When I make this recipe, I wake up, peel and slice half a sweet potato into thin rounds, and put it in the oven. Then I go about my morning routine of washing my face, drinking lemon water, and making a cup of green tea or coffee. As the sweet potato cooks, I drink my coffee and lemon water, and get started on the first task on my to-do list.

sweet potato on baking sheet

If you haven’t prepared the black beans in advance, you should start preparing them about 15 minutes into the cook time of the sweet potato so that both components are finished at the same time. This recipe uses Mexican Seasoned Black Beans, which can be prepared a day or two beforehand (the beans do not have to be warm for this recipe – the platter tastes great warm or cold!). The black bean recipe makes 1 1/2 cups of beans and this recipe only uses 1/4-1/2 cup, so the black beans can be stored in the fridge to whip up another breakfast platter the next day (or to be used in another recipe).

cooking black beans

spoonful of black beans

Once the sweet potato is cooked, place the sweet potato rounds on a plate, slightly overlapping. Then, stack the other components on top – black beans, then salsa, then sliced avocado. Finally, poach an egg and place it on top of the breakfast platter. I usually season my platter with a little black pepper sprinkled on top, and if I have cilantro around, I’ll chop that up and add it to the top of the dish as well. If you want to pack this dish full of some extra greens, you could also put a layer of baby spinach underneath the sweet potato.

sweet potato platter side view

Print Recipe
Sweet Potato Breakfast Platter w/Poached Egg
Course Breakfast
Servings
Ingredients
Course Breakfast
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Place rounds of sweet potato onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Cook in oven for 30 minutes, until the sweet potato is soft and the tops are brown.
  3. If you have not prepared the black beans in advance, follow recipe for Mexican Seasoned Black Beans.
  4. Poach an egg (link to poaching instructions provided in Recipe Notes)
  5. To assemble the platter, place sweet potato slices on a plate with their sides overlapping slightly.
  6. Add Mexican Seasoned Black Beans on top, followed by salsa.
  7. Next, add avocado, and top with the poached egg. Season with black pepper as desired.
Recipe Notes

The recipe for Mexican Seasoned Black Beans makes approximately 1 1/2 cups of beans. As this recipe only uses 1/4-1/2 cup of beans (depending on preference), the extra beans can be covered and saved in the fridge to use in another recipe.

For instructions on how to poach an egg, see this post.

Mexican Seasoned Black Beans

These seasoned black beans are the perfect addition to any Mexican-inspired dish. They taste great in burritos, tacos, and as a side dish for a Mexican breakfast platter with scrambled eggs. Only a few ingredients are required for this quick and easy recipe, and the spice mix used for the beans is also perfect for seasoning taco meat.

seasoned black beans

Happy New Year! I hope that everyone had a wonderful time celebrating. I just spent a quiet night relaxing with my family and watching the last few episodes of one of my favourite TV shows, Bones. School started back up again today, so I drove back yesterday and immediately started cooking. Whenever I go home I always anticipate that I’ll do lots of cooking since the kitchen is bigger and I have more free time, but usually I end up keeping busy with other activities. There’s something about being back in my little kitchen at school that makes me want to cook!

I made two recipes yesterday. One was a Coconut Chickpea Curry from Jessica in the Kitchen. A friend came over last night so I made this recipe for the two of us, since I’d made it once before and it was absolutely fantastic. It’s also easy to cook and comes together quickly. I served it with some rice, so now I have a few extra servings of rice and curry that I’ll be able to take for lunches at school for the next couple days.

The second recipe is this recipe for Mexican Seasoned Black Beans!

I would estimate that 50% of the meals I make involve Mexican flavours. I’m a huge fan of taco bowls, guacamole, and adding salsa to everything. As a result, a lot of these recipes will show up on the blog. I love this recipe for black beans because it is incredibly versatile – it’s the perfect addition to almost every Mexican dish. It would even taste good with just a little rice and salsa (and actually, it tastes delicious on its own by the spoonful – these beans don’t last long in my fridge!).

The recipe comes together in about 15 minutes, and the ingredients are minimal – just canned black beans, garlic, a few spices, and some water.

black beans in a colander

cooking black beans

The first step is briefly frying a minced clove of garlic in cooking oil. Then, you add the black beans (drained and rinsed) and the spice mix, and stir to coat. Last, you pour in half a cup of water, and simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes. And that’s it!

spiced black beans

These beans taste great in a ton of recipes, so you can get creative. But in case you need some ideas for how to use them, the next two recipes I post will include these spiced black beans as an ingredient!

spoonful of black beans

Print Recipe
Mexican Seasoned Black Beans
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
cups black beans
Ingredients
Spice Mix
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
cups black beans
Ingredients
Spice Mix
Instructions
  1. Heat oil to medium heat in a medium-sized pot. Add garlic and fry for 1 minute, or until garlic becomes fragrant. Be careful not to overcook garlic.
  2. Add black beans and spice mix. Stir to coat the black beans in the spices and to evenly distribute the garlic.
  3. Add water to the pot, bring the water to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low.
  4. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed/boiled away.

Healthy Holiday Habits

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is over already! I finished my last exam in the evening on the 21st, so when I got back home on the 22nd I had to jump right into buying some last minute Christmas presents and making holiday treats. I didn’t have time to experiment with any of my own dessert recipes, so I made two of my favourite recipes from Running on Real FoodOatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls and Double Chocolate Raw Vegan Brownies. Both recipes were a hit! It was mostly just me and one of my aunts who enjoyed the desserts, but we got one of my uncles, whose favourite phrase is “gluten-free, taste-free,” to try the brownies and he said they were very tasty. Success!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Energy Balls

Yesterday we had a Christmas party with my dad’s side of the family, and one of my cousins is vegan. With the treats I made from Running on Real Food, I used honey as a sweetener (rather than the maple syrup called for in the recipe), meaning they’re not technically vegan. So a couple days ago I decided I’d give myself a little recipe creation challenge. I had a ton of dates left over from when I bought ingredients for Christmas, so I wanted to create a vegan Chocolate-Orange Energy Ball recipe, inspired by one of my fave Christmas treats, Terry’s Chocolate Orange. I was hoping I’d be able to share the recipe in the first few days of the New Year…but unfortunately it didn’t turn out exactly as I’d hoped. The flavour was good, but the texture could use a little work. Maybe I’ll give it another shot once I get back to school. I don’t think I’m going to try out any more dessert recipes for a few weeks. I never thought I’d say it, but my sweet tooth has been completely satisfied after the past week of celebrations.

With sweet treats everywhere and endless holiday festivities, it’s definitely been a challenge to keep up with the healthy habits I try and maintain while I’m at school. Coming into the holiday season, I had the best intentions to work out regularly, keep the treats to a minimum, and cook plenty of healthy recipes. It was a good plan, but somehow I still ended up elbow-deep in a giant bag of Jelly Bellies on Christmas Eve…

Christmas Cookies

The combination of having an abundance of less-healthy foods nearby, being home at my parents’ house, and on top of that being sick for the past few days, has thrown me off track with healthy eating and fitness – it’s been way too long since I last did something active, and I’m pretty sure there is liquid chocolate running through my veins.

But that’s okay! Taking a break is healthy, and enjoying sweet treats is part of the holiday season. However, it has been a good reminder that when I don’t eat well and stay active, I don’t feel very good. So while I’m not upset that I indulged a bit over Christmas, I’m definitely ready to finish out the rest of my holiday by getting back into some healthier routines.

Add, not subtract

Even though I’m eager to get back into ~health mode~ it’s not realistic (or enjoyable) to say something like “Starting tomorrow I’m not eating any more sugar and I’m going to stay away from all salty snacks.” Making a statement like this cultivates the kind of all or nothing mindset that makes it challenging to get back into a pattern of consistently healthy choices.

Instead of strictly “subtracting” all unhealthy foods from my diet, I’m going to get back into my healthy routine by adding beneficial habits back into my day. I’ll still have some chocolate and an afternoon snack of popcorn, but I’ll also be having some extra fruits and veggies.

New Year’s Resolutions

Usually I don’t set any definitive resolutions for the New Year. I like to set goals throughout the year on a rolling basis, so I don’t think it’s necessary to have one specific date to start working towards my goals. But this year, while I was spending some time with my cousins over Christmas, we all sat down and wrote out a list of our goals for 2018.  When I set goals, I love to make a BIG list. We’re talking 80+ items on this list. And something that extensive may seem a little overwhelming, but I like having everything compiled in one place. That way, as I’m going through my day, I can pull out the list and ask myself, “What am I doing today to work towards my goals?” If my schedule for the day doesn’t align with my goal list, then I re-evaluate my schedule. So while I don’t think you need a New Year to embark on new goals, it’s as good a time as any to start working towards things you’d like to accomplish. Many of the healthy habits that I’m trying to put back into my routine are also on my list of goals for the year. I’ll carry these habits into the New Year, and I plan to continue them throughout 2018.

Healthy Habits

Here are five of the healthy habits that I am adding back into my life as the holiday season draws to a close.

1. Stop hitting the snooze button

Ideally, I want to be getting enough sleep that I don’t feel the need to constantly hit snooze when my alarm goes off. But even when I do get 8 hours, sometimes I still wake up a little groggy and want to roll over and go back to bed. If I’m going to get 30 minutes of disrupted sleep during the time I’m hitting snooze, I really should just set my alarm 30 minutes later and get some extra uninterrupted rest.

I find that when I spend time snoozing it’s harder to get a productive start to my day when I do get out of bed. Also, with a simple Google search I found many articles describing the negative health impacts of hitting snooze in the morning. They didn’t all give the same reasons, but the consensus was that it’s a habit you should kick. Here’s one interesting article from The Independent that provides a behaviourist perspective on the subject (I found this one interesting because it related to some of the psychology concepts I studied this past semester).

alarm clock

2. Drink at least 3L of water each day

When I’m away at school, I drink a lot of water each day, but for some reason I get out of the habit when I come home. When I’m being extremely diligent with my water consumption I probably get closer to 4L a day, but 3L is usually enough to keep me feeling hydrated and refreshed. Everyone’s water needs differ, so if you’re going to try this one out, don’t take 3L as your magic number. You may have to experiment a bit to see how much water you have to drink for your body to feel its best.

3. Stop eating after dinner

Whenever I eat after dinner, it’s not because I’m hungry, it’s usually just because I feel like snacking on something as I complete the last few tasks on my to-do list for the day. When I eat too close to bed time I don’t sleep as well, and I’m also more drawn to sugary foods at this time of the day. So it’s definitely a better choice to eat a filling dinner and then avoid food after that.

4. Drink lemon water

Lately I’ve been trying to get in the habit of drinking a glass of warm lemon water in the morning, before I have my breakfast. Adding lemon to your water in the morning provides an extra boost of vitamin C, is beneficial for digestion, and some studies have shown that it boosts metabolism. Drinking a big glass of water in the morning as soon as I get up will also help me meet my goal of having 3L of water each day.

lemon water

5. Do ten minutes of body weight exercises each morning when I wake up

This is a new habit I want to try out to see whether it helps me shake off some of my sleepiness in the morning and start the day on a positive note. Each day when I get out of bed, before I make breakfast or start the coffee machine, I’m going to set a timer for ten minutes on my phone, and do a few basic exercises until the timer goes off. This will consist of body weight moves like push ups, crunches, planks, squats, and lunges. I haven’t decided whether each morning of the week will have a different focus (like arms and abs one day and legs another), but I’ll play around with it a bit until I find a routine I like. Out of the five habits I’ve decided to add in to my day, this is the only one that I haven’t tried out in the past, so I’m interested to see how it will work out (pun intended).

bicycle crunch

If you think any of these habits would help you improve your health in the New Year, give them a try! And let me know in the comments how it goes.

 

Paleo Nacho Casserole

This nacho casserole is packed with delicious Mexican flavours and a ton of vegetables. It’s perfect if you’re looking for a healthier way to satisfy your craving for nachos, and you can load it up with plenty of toppings, including salsa, avocado, and green onion. I considered calling this recipe “Not-yo’ Typical Casserole” but decided that was a bit much…

I made this casserole on one of the last days of the Whole30. Although I don’t plan on sticking to a completely Paleo diet now that the Whole30 is over, I was inspired by a recipe for Paleo Spaghetti Squash Casserole, created by Alysia at Slim Sanity, and wanted to create a similar version with a Mexican twist! This recipe is a great meal prep option if you make it at the start of the week. I had three exams this past week, so I made the casserole on the weekend and ate it over the course of several busy days of studying. It’s easy to get into a pattern of unhealthy eating when you’re stressed during exams. Having a pre-made dinner in my fridge is helpful because it makes it less likely that I’ll go grab some take-out when I want to get back to studying quickly.

Spaghetti squash provides the bulk of the casserole. This squash is great because you can eat a large serving without adding a ton of extra calories. It also has a nice neutral flavour so you can enjoy it with different sauces or spice mixtures. For this recipe, the squash is mixed with taco-seasoned ground chicken, red pepper, onion, spinach, cherry tomatoes, olives, and a little salsa. I’d recommend choosing a squash that is on the smaller side – around 1-1.2 kg – so each bite has a balance of different flavours rather than being overpowered by squash.

If you want to keep this recipe paleo, you’ll have to find a sugar-free salsa. The salsa I’ve been using lately is this one by Herdez – I was surprised when I found it at the grocery store because it’s not full of additives like a lot of other salsas and it still tastes amazing! The only ingredients are tomatoes, onions, serrano peppers, salt, and cilantro.

When you’re making this recipe, there are a few different components to prepare before everything gets mixed together and spread into a casserole dish. The spaghetti squash has to bake, the veggies need to be sauteed, and the ground chicken needs to be cooked. I recommend using three pieces of cookware to prepare everything: a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish, one large pot, and a large frying pan.

Begin by preparing the spaghetti squash and putting it in the oven at 375°. Although a spaghetti squash can be baked whole, it saves cooking time if you cut it in half first. But I’m not going to lie, this can be a bit of a struggle. Usually I get my knife stuck in the squash and then I’m left trying to yank it out sword-in-the-stone style. Not ideal. I told my housemate the other day that if I ever get a cooking-related injury it’s probably going to be when I’m trying to cut a squash in half. So, that being said, be careful! Use a sharp knife and go slowly. I’ve had a bit more success starting at one of the ends and cutting it open from there. Also, if anyone has any hacks for easily splitting a squash in two, please share!

Once you’ve got the squash open, scoop out the seeds, drizzle it with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake the squash in the oven in the casserole dish with the fleshy side down (in the picture below I’ve just flipped it over after removing it from the oven.

While the squash is baking, you can prepare and cook the other ingredients – stir fry the veggies and spices in the large pot, and stir fry the chicken in the frying pan until brown.

After 40-45 minutes, the spaghetti squash will be cooked and you can remove it from the oven. At this point, add the chicken and squash to the big pot with the vegetables, plus an egg and some salsa, and mix everything to combine. I actually don’t have a giant pot in my student house because there aren’t too many occasions where my housemates or I need to make a large recipe. So instead of mixing all the ingredients together in a pot, I used a large bowl to combine everything before baking. Then, pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish (the one that was already used to cook the squash), and bake at 400° for 15 minutes.

When the casserole came out of the oven I topped it with green onion and added some avocado and salsa to each serving.

Pin for later:

Paleo Nacho Casserole

Print Recipe
Paleo Nacho Casserole
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Toppings:
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Toppings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Cut open the spaghetti squash lengthwise, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the squash face-down in a 9x13 inch casserole dish.
  2. Bake the squash in the oven for 40-45 minutes, until a fork goes through it easily. While the squash is baking, prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Heat a small amount of cooking oil in a frying pan. Add the ground chicken, and stir fry on medium heat until brown - about 15 minutes. When the meat is cooked, add taco seasoning and stir to coat.
  4. Heat cooking oil in a large pot. Add garlic and onion, and stir fry over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add red pepper and all spices and continue stir frying for a few more minutes, until the pepper begins to soften.
  6. Add black olives, cherry tomatoes, and spinach. Stir until the spinach begins to wilt. Remove from heat.
  7. When spaghetti squash is cooked, remove from the oven, and turn the oven temperature up to 400° F. Using a fork, scrape the flesh of the squash into a bowl.
  8. Put the spaghetti squash, chicken, salsa, and egg into the large pot with the cooked vegetables. Mix well until all ingredients are combined.
  9. Pour the mixture into the 9x11 inch casserole dish used to cook the squash. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. When the casserole comes out of the oven, top with green onion, and serve with avocado and salsa.

Garlic-Tahini Rainbow Trout (Whole30)

It doesn’t get much better than a rich, creamy garlic sauce – and this one is dairy-free! The recipe is also gluten-free, Paleo, and Whole30 compliant. The sauce comes together with a few simple, wholesome ingredients, and is spread on a fillet of rainbow trout before baking. I love to pair this dish with roasted veggies, but it would also taste great with some pasta or zucchini noodles on the side!

Well my friends, exam season is here and that means I’m craving warm, hearty comfort food. I had my first two exams today, and I still have two more before I head home for the holidays. The good news is, I’m finished the Whole30 tomorrow, so I can stuff my face with pasta to numb the pain of studying! Just kidding. Today is the last day of the elimination portion of the Whole30, so I’m starting the reintroduction phase tomorrow. I’m planning to reintroduce gluten-free grains first, so tomorrow I’ll have oatmeal for breakfast, some quinoa on my salad at lunch, and gluten-free pasta with turkey meatballs for dinner. Then I’ll be back to the full elimination diet for a few days to see if the newly-introduced foods have any effect on my body.

This rainbow trout recipe has been one of my favourite dinners over the past 30 days. It’s so easy to whip up and so delicious! Also, I’m a huge garlic lover so the creamy sauce is PERFECT. All you need to make the sauce is tahini, a clove of garlic, lemon, onion powder, and salt – then you simply mix it all together, spread on your fish, bake, and enjoy! This recipe makes enough sauce for two fillets of trout, so if I’m just cooking for myself, I’ll cover the leftover sauce and save it to make more fish the next day.

Tahini

If you haven’t used tahini before in your cooking, it’s a creamy condiment made of ground sesame seeds that has a nutty taste. I use it as a base for a lot of my salad dressings and lately I’ve been using it in stir fries too. It’s a great ingredient to have on hand, as it’s incredibly versatile, and a good source of protein, healthy fats, and B vitamins. Lately I’ve been experimenting with energy ball recipes using my food processor, and tahini has appeared in a few of them. I’m still trying to get the ingredient ratios just right, but if you buy some tahini now, hopefully I’ll have another recipe posted soon that uses it!

Side Dishes

In the pictures for this post, I paired the recipe with some roasted carrots and boiled broccoli. If you haven’t tried roasting your carrots before, I highly recommend it. I never used to be a big fan of carrots until I started tossing them in a little olive oil and garlic salt and roasting them. I find them much more flavourful when they’re cooked this way, rather than boiled. When I’m not following the Whole30, I’ll likely have this recipe with gluten-free pasta and tomato sauce, or some rice. If you’re looking to get more greens in your diet, try serving the rainbow trout on a bed of spinach, or adding the fish to the top of a salad!

 

Print Recipe
Garlic-Tahini Rainbow Trout (Whole30)
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat a conventional oven (or toaster oven) to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, tahini, garlic, onion powder, and sea salt. Mix thoroughly until a smooth sauce forms.
  3. Place the fillets of rainbow trout onto the baking sheet. Spoon a generous portion of the sauce onto each fillet.
  4. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce is golden brown and the fish is flaky.

Race Recap: Tannenbaum 10K

On Sunday I ran my first 10K race – the Tannenbaum 10K! The race was in Toronto and it was a lovely route along the shore of Lake Ontario. Unfortunately it was a very foggy day so there wasn’t a great view of the lake, but it was still a great path to run on.

Here’s what race day looked like for me:

7:00am – Woke up

8:15am – black coffee and baked sweet potato with a poached egg on top for breakfast. This has been one of my favourite breakfasts lately – simple, but delicious! I just pierce the skin of a sweet potato with a fork, and bake in the toaster oven at 400° for about 45 minutes (or until a fork goes easily into the potato). Then I slice the potato open, add a little coconut oil, garlic salt, and pepper, and top with a poached egg. Usually I’ll have two poached eggs for breakfast, but I didn’t want to feel weighed down during my run, so I just stuck to one today.

8:45am-9:00am – I got dressed in my running gear and packed up. I wanted to bring as little as possible to the race, so I just stuck my bus pass, my phone, and some gloves in the pockets of my running jacket. I meant to put a LARA bar in my pocket for after the race, but I ended up forgetting it at home.

What I wear for cold weather running

I love running in the cold weather because it lets me get dressed up in all my favourite running clothes! When running in cold weather, layers are your best bet. I like to wear a long sleeve with a cotton t-shirt on top, and occasionally a quarter zip on top of that, followed by my running jacket. Other most important thing: gloves – always wear them, even if you step outside in the winter to test the temperature and think you might be able to get by without them. If you don’t actually need the gloves you can throw them in your pockets, but if you leave them at home there will likely be some REGRETS.

Here’s what I wore for my race:

  • Nike running headband – absolutely love this one. I’m not sure if they sell this particular style anymore because I couldn’t find it on the Nike website or on Amazon, but it’s a reversible headband that says “Run” on one side and has the Nike logo on the other.
  • Long sleeve (not pictured) – I layered this under all my other clothes.
  • Cotton t-shirt (not pictured) – this was another layer on top.
  • Quarter zip – the purple shirt in the picture above. It’s from Old Navy’s active wear line, and I got it last year during their 50% off active wear sale.
  • Running Room Jacket – ie. my favourite piece of clothing EVER. I love this jacket. It’s just the right length, it’s roomy, so you can put lots of layers underneath, and the pockets are huge. It also has zippers in the side of the jacket for ventilation, so I’ll open those up if I’m running on a warm rainy day.
  • Leggings – I love this pair of Old Navy leggings because they’re warm, and they stay on properly! I find that so many other leggings tend to slip down, but these always stay in place. I think it’s because the material has a softer feel to it, rather than the smooth, slippery texture that a lot of leggings have.
  • Stretchy black pants – I layered these over my leggings for extra warmth. I think they’re from the Forever 21 active wear line.
  • Under Armour Socks
  • Gloves – nothing fancy, just got these at Dollarama.

The day of the race wasn’t that cold, and I was a little overdressed, but I’d rather be a little too warm than too cold. And I was glad I had the layers after the race was over and I wasn’t generating as much heat.

9:00am – drove to the race.

9:20am – 9:40am – checked in and picked up my race kit. Inside was a long sleeve shirt, a Clif Bar, a single serving packet of hemp protein powder from the brand Manitoba Harvest and a variety of coupons (free tea from David’s Tea, free class at a nearby yoga studio, etc.)

9:40am – went for a slow jog to warm up, did some leg swings, high knees, and calf stretches.

10:00am – the race started! I took the first 5K at a slow pace because I didn’t want to burn out. I tried to keep an eye on the “pace elves” ahead of me that were holding signs with their time on them, and worked towards catching up to them. My legs started to get a little tired around the 5K mark, but once I pushed through that I got going at a faster pace. I worked on looking at people ahead of me and slowly catching up. I wasn’t really treating it too much like a race because I was just in it for the challenge of running a 10K, but I still wanted to push myself.

Just before 11:00am – finished the race! My time was a little over 58 minutes. I ran the first 5K in a little over 30 mins, and the second 5K in just over 27 mins. When I crossed the finish line I got a medal for finishing, and I headed to the re-fueling station, where I had a banana and some water.

While I was standing in line waiting to check my time, one of the race volunteers came up to me and said I’d been selected to win a prize! I got to choose from a table of prizes, and got a little bag with the name of the race on it. Here’s a picture of the long sleeve shirt I got, my medal, my race bib, and the bag I won:

I spent the rest of the day relaxing and EATING LOTS OF FOOD (which I unfortunately forgot to take pictures of). Before I took the bus home I stopped at a nearby grocery store and found these Pressed by KIND Fruit Bars. I’d never had one before, but it was delicious! The only ingredients are pineapple, banana, apple, kale and spinach, so they’re Whole30 compliant.

Training

Honestly, I didn’t do any specific 10K training for this race. I signed up on a bit of a whim because running a 10K has been one of my goals for a while. I usually run 2-3 times a week for about 30-45 minutes, so I didn’t actually run the race distance during training. But in addition to my runs, I also go out and play basketball for an hour or two once a week, which is a TON of running, and I use HIIT training when I go to the gym, which definitely helped me develop my endurance. When I started the race, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to make it through the whole thing without taking a walking break. But I had an awesome playlist that I made the night before, and once I started, I just wanted to keep pushing myself.

Now that I’ve run one 10K, I really want to do more! In 2018 I definitely want to run another one and try to improve my time. Every aspect of the Tannenbaum 10K was an amazing experience – it was really well organized, the volunteers and the other runners were so kind, and the route was fairly flat, with a nice view. So if you’re in the Toronto area I definitely recommend trying it out next year!

If you’re a runner, what’s your fave pre-run meal? What about a post-run snack?

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What I Eat During the Whole30

21 days ago I started my first Whole30. For those of you who have not heard of this program, the Whole30 is a dietary “reset” that is 30 days long. After the 30 days are over, you slowly reintroduce the foods you cut out during the program in order to determine how specific food groups affect your body. You can read more about the specifics on the Whole30 website, but essentially this diet plan involves removing refined sugar and sweeteners, dairy, all grains, all legumes, soy, and alcohol from your diet.

I had several reasons I wanted to give the Whole30 a try. First, I was hoping it would be able to help me control my eczema, which has flared up lately. I was also hoping I’d be able to reduce my sugar cravings, increase my energy levels, and finish the program with a clearer complexion.

So, what’s happened so far?

Well, first, I feel great! I went through a couple low energy days last week, but for the past few days I’ve been feeling very energetic, and I move through the day with the feeling that my body is functioning optimally. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any improvement in my eczema, but I’ll see how it goes in the next nine days. If nothing changes, I may have to try another dietary experiment next month. Despite my lack of success with improving my eczema, I have noticed a little improvement in my facial complexion. My skin seems slightly clearer and definitely less inflamed; however, this could be because I recently started using gentler and more natural skin care products, so I’m not sure how much of a contribution my diet is making. In addition, I’ve definitely been having fewer sugar cravings. Early on in my Whole30 the cravings were fairly intense, and I realized how dependent my body was on sugar prior to cutting it out. Fortunately, I’ve stopped thinking about cookies ALL THE TIME. Besides cutting sugar, I didn’t find the other dietary changes very challenging – I already do not eat dairy and gluten, so going a step further and cutting all grains as well as legumes wasn’t very difficult for me. One thing I did find early on is that it was difficult to stay full for a long time. It seemed like I’d eat a meal, and then an hour later my stomach would be rumbling again. But as the program progressed I became more aware of the amount of food I had to eat to get from one meal to the next.

What I eat in a day

If you’re starting the Whole30, especially if you’re coming to it from a Standard American Diet, it can be difficult to figure out what to eat. Before I started, I wrote out a rough plan for what I was going to eat over the four weeks of the program. This changed a little as I went, but my initial plan helped guide my weekly grocery list.  Below is a sample of what I ate in a day earlier this week, along with my suggestions for food choices that will help you make it through the Whole30.

Breakfast

Egg and veggie scramble – 2 eggs, leftover roasted broccoli, onion, orange pepper, avocado.

Roasted potatoes – I tried out a new method of preparing these potatoes. I parboiled them first, then put them in the toaster oven to roast. Using this method, I was able to make crispy potatoes without using oil to roast them. Now, there’s nothing wrong with oil – when you choose a healthy variety like olive, avocado or coconut it’s a great source of healthy fats. But I was also having avocado with this meal, so I wanted to cut the oil to ensure I wasn’t having a giant portion of my daily fat intake at breakfast. Then, I added a little bit of salt and pepper before I ate them.

My favourite Whole30 breakfast options are apple and nut butter, baked sweet potato with poached eggs on top, and any kind of egg and veggie combination. Occasionally I’ll have some chicken or salmon and roasted veggies for breakfast. In the beginning, it was always difficult to decide what to eat for breakfast. My go-to breakfast was eggs, but occasionally I’d want to have hard-boiled eggs on the go for lunch, and then I’d have to think of another breakfast idea so I wasn’t eating a huge number of eggs every day. One of the mindset shifts that helped me with this dilemma is that I stopped thinking I had to have typical “breakfast foods” for my first meal of the day. When you just think of breakfast like any other meal, it opens up your options for what to eat.

Lunch

Salad – chicken, boiled sweet potato, celery, cucumber, kale

I took this salad with me on the go for lunch on campus and enjoyed it with a dressing I made that combined tahini and apple cider vinegar. Salads are definitely a convenient option during the Whole30 – you can fit in a lot of greens, and top it with protein to stay full. Often I’ll add avocado to my salad for some extra healthy fats. As for other lunch options, I’ve been a big fan of smoothies lately. I’ll add some hemp seeds to my smoothie for protein and fat, and chia seeds for fibre. I have an awesome recipe for an ultra-creamy chocolate smoothie that I’ll share on the blog next week! Roasted veggies and some kind of protein option is another lunch favourite – usually it will be fish or chicken, with any combination of potatoes, carrots, broccoli or zucchini.

Snack

Fruit salad – half an apple, half a banana, grapes, part of an ataulfo mango, clementine 

Usually for my afternoon snack I’ll have a piece of fruit, some chopped veggies, or a handful of nuts and dried fruit. If I’m fairly hungry, I’ll whip up something more substantial like fruit salad or some celery with almond butter and raisins (“ants on a log”).

Dinner

Baked salmon with garlic-tahini sauce (recipe up on the blog soon!), boiled broccoli, roasted carrots and potato.

Fish and veggies is a fairly typical dinner for me during the Whole30. When I roast my veggies, I toss them in olive oil, pepper and garlic salt, and bake on a baking sheet at 400º. If I’m just using root veggies, I’ll mix them all together and roast them on one pan, since they all take about the same amount of time to cook. Other dinners I’ve made in the past few weeks include chicken taco bowls (which I plan to make again next week), and this Turkey and Sweet Potato Pasta Sauce, which I enjoy on zucchini noodles.

What’s next?

Over the next nine days, I still have some things I want to work on as I finish up the Whole30. Mainly, I want to focus on moderation. Since I haven’t been eating refined sugar, I’ve been having A LOT more fruit. Of course fruit is amazing and very nutritious, but I need to make sure I’m not overdoing it and simply substituting one craving with another. Also, I want to be more cognisant of my intake of nuts and dried fruit. Because these foods provide the perfect combination of sweetness and crunch, I’m often tempted to overeat when I have them in the house. In addition, I want to make sure I’m sleeping a sufficient amount, and minimizing stress (which is a little difficult because exams are starting!). I know that lack of sleep and stress contribute to my eczema and cause my face to break out, so I don’t want that to interfere with seeing results from the Whole30.

Once the 30 days are over and I complete the re-introduction period I’m going to write another post on my results, so stay tuned for that!

Disclaimer: This post is not a recommendation that anyone should begin the Whole30, this is simply a dietary experiment I am doing to see how it affects my health. Make sure to complete your own research before beginning any new eating program, and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

How to Become a Morning Person

Waking up early can be the key to greater productivity. If you work efficiently in the morning and get the most pressing tasks done before noon, it takes the pressure off you for the rest of the day. This leaves you free to spend the afternoon getting ahead on less urgent work, or taking time to pursue your hobbies. But, despite the benefits of an early start, pulling yourself out of your warm comfy, especially before the sun rises, can be challenging.

Before this year, I hovered between being a night-owl and an early-bird; I’d go to bed around 12 and wake up around 8. But I found with this routine I was too tired to do much work in the hour before I went to bed, and I woke up too late to enjoy the quiet hours before the rest of my house was awake. Part of working most efficiently is determining the time when you do your best work. For me, implementing an earlier bedtime and morning alarm allows me to capitalize on the times when my brain feels the freshest.

Now, if you’re a committed night-owl, the tips I have below probably won’t magically change the morning into your most productive time of day. And that’s okay – what’s important is finding the routine that works best for you. But if you find you’re having trouble working efficiently with your current schedule, try out some of the habits that I find helpful.

Jump out of bed, take 10 deep breaths

As soon as your alarm goes off, don’t give yourself a chance to debate hitting the snooze button and rolling over. Hop out of bed, turn on a light, and immediately take ten deep breaths. The oxygen will wake up your brain, and with the light on you’ll be less inclined to go back to sleep. I’ve found that the worst part of getting out of bed in the morning is the first 30 seconds after the alarm goes off when I feel SO TIRED. I’ve found that taking deep breaths is the best way to shrug off that initial feeling of exhaustion, and once that first 30 seconds has passed, I’m usually full of energy to start the day.

Get a housemate or friend on board

If I want to wake up earlier, making an agreement with one of my housemates that we’re both going to get up at a certain time helps hold me accountable. My bedroom is right beside the kitchen, so hearing my friend outside my door making her breakfast and starting a pot of coffee is good motivation to get out of bed. It’s always nice to know that you’re not the only one who is up early and getting a head start on school work. Even if you don’t live with housemates, you can still make a plan with a friend to get up early, and text your friend in the morning to let her know you’re following through on your commitment.

Plan an awesome breakfast

Another great way to get yourself out of bed at an early hour is to have a delicious breakfast prepped and waiting for you in the fridge, or to have a plan to make something yummy once you wake up. Then, you can enjoy your breakfast and a cup of hot coffee while you get started on your work. For breakfast options, I often look to some of my favourite bloggers for inspiration. Here are a few breakfast recipes that make me excited to get an early start:

Carrot Cake Overnight Protein Oats from Running on Real Food

Brownie Batter Overnight Protein Oats from Running on Real Food

Pumpkin Pecan Baked Oatmeal from Healthy Liv

One-Skillet Sweet Potatoes and Eggs from Healthy Liv

My other go-to breakfast option: any kind of omelette, or an egg and veggie scramble with fruit on the side.

Get to bed earlier

This is the tip that is so obvious yet so frequently overlooked. It’s going to be hard to pull yourself out of bed in the morning if you haven’t had enough sleep. If you find it difficult to get to bed on time, try setting an alarm on your phone 30 minutes before you plan to go to bed to give yourself some time to do your nighttime routine. If you’re worried about not completing enough work when you have an earlier bedtime, remember: you’re waking up earlier to be more productive, and it will be easier to work efficiently when you’re well-rested.

Give yourself a break

As university students, we often don’t appreciate the importance of sleep in the maintenance of overall health. There are times when I find myself thinking that it’s okay if I’m sleeping less to get school work done, as long as I’m still eating healthy and exercising. This is not sustainable in the long run, and will lead to burn-out. Additionally, it’s hard to have a joyful day if you’re too tired to do any of the activities that make you happy!  So if you stay up late getting an assignment done, don’t force yourself to wake up early. Give yourself permission to rest. When you’ve spent enough time sleeping, the hours during the day that you are awake will be more productive, and you won’t be as influenced by distractions.

Are you more of a night-owl or an early-bird? Do you have any tips for making it easier to get out of bed in the morning?

Turkey and Sweet Potato Pasta Sauce

This hearty pasta sauce is packed full of veggies, and will keep you full well past dinner time, with turkey for protein and sweet potato for some extra carbs and nutrients. It’s a perfect addition to spiralized zucchini, and it’s gluten-free, dairy-free and paleo. 

 This sauce is one of my favourite recipes I’ve created so far. Not only is it an amazing way to add more veggies into my diet, but I can make it at the start of the week and usually get 4 or more meals from it. It’s fairly easy to throw together – just chop all the veggies first, then everything except the spices and tomatoes go in a pot to stir fry until the turkey has browned, and then you add the tomatoes and spices and simmer until the sweet potato is soft.

My favourite ways to enjoy this sauce:

  1. On top of spiralized zucchini (zucchini noodles or “zoodles” as I like to refer to them). I used to be a bit of a pasta addict. It was my go-to meal during second year, and although it was delicious, eating it in large quantities was not doing great things to my body. After I decided to stop eating gluten because it was contributing to a lot of inflammation, I replaced my usual spaghetti with zoodles and was surprised to find that I was equally satisfied! Maybe I’m just a sucker for something you have to twirl up before you eat. Zoodles are great because you can add a lot of bulk to your meal without a ton of extra calories. This sauce is perfect for zoodles because the sweet potato provides a source of carbs, which you don’t get as much of when using zoodles instead of pasta. I use the OXO Good Grip Hand Held Spiralizer to make my zoodles, which I’ve found works well for zucchini – I haven’t tried it using other veggies.

  2. On top of gluten-free pasta. This is a more traditional use for pasta sauce, and it is definitely delicious! Catelli makes excellent gluten-free noodles. Pictured below is my sauce on top of Catelli’s gluten-free fusilli.

One thing that’s great about this sauce is that it tastes delicious cold (at least I think so) so I can take it to campus for lunch, and don’t have to worry about finding a microwave to heat it up.

Monday Eats

Zoodles and this pasta sauce were the way I ended my day today, but my other two meals were also very delicious.

Breakfast

Scrambled eggs with yellow pepper, onion, and homemade salsa; roasted potatoes; tomato slices.

I made some salsa at the start of the week in my food processor from a recipe I found online, and although it was edible, it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for.  So next week I’m going to experiment more to try and develop my own salsa recipe! I like making my own salsa because salsas from stores often contain a lot of salt. My skin is really sensitive to the amount of salt I put in my body, so I like to reduce sodium whenever possible.

Lunch

Salad with roasted chicken, chopped Granny Smith apple, cucumber, celery, and lettuce. Topped with apple cider vinegar for dressing.

Before I left campus after my last class, I went to the gym and did a full-body circuit workout. I’ve been experimenting with Tabata-style workouts lately; today’s workout consisted of three circuits made up of 4 exercises in each circuit. Each circuit had a specific focus (lower body, upper body, abs), and combined a variety of bodyweight, cardio, and free weight moves. I’ll be posting some of my favourite circuit workouts soon!

I definitely had a large helping of sauce on top of my zoodles to refuel after my challenging workout!

Print Recipe
Turkey and Sweet Potato Pasta Sauce
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large pot. Add onion and garlic, and cook for 1-2 minutes on medium heat.
  2. Add celery, carrot, sweet potato, and ground turkey. Stir with a spatula to combine the vegetables and break up the turkey. Continue stir-frying until the turkey has browned (about 15 minutes).
  3. Add crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, and basil. Stir to combine.
  4. Bring the sauce to a simmer and turn the heat down to low. Continue to simmer the sauce until the sweet potato has softened (approximately 30-45 minutes).

Six Ways to Stay Active in University

In my first year of university, I tried to commit to going to the gym a few times a week, but because of the challenges of adjusting to life away from home and the school workload, I didn’t stay as active as I should have. A couple things changed during second year; even though I was even busier with school work, I started using some strategies to ensure I fit several workouts into my schedule each week. Additionally, I made an effort to move my body in some way every day.

Moving Every Day

For most people, it’s not going to be feasible to make it to the gym every single day. However, I find that consistency is key in promoting physical activity habits. In first year, it was common for me to go to the gym for two weeks straight and love it, but then I’d get thrown off by a couple midterms, miss a few days of working out, and have trouble motivating myself to get back in the habit. Now, rather than getting into a “streak” of going to the gym every day, my goal each day is to simply do something that is physically active. I don’t always choose something extremely strenuous, but it does have to be something intentional. For example, I’ll count going for a walk as something active, but I don’t consider the goal completed if I just walk to and from class. The reason I love having a “move every day” objective is that I can still feel I’ve accomplished my goal even if I have a day where my body is tired, or I’m not in the mood to do a traditional gym workout. On days when I don’t go to the gym, I’ll often go running or walking outside, do some yoga in my living room, go for a hike, or do a quick ab circuit at home.

The following are the tips I’ve found most effective for making fitness a priority and staying active every day.

Block out time in your schedule to work out.

Treat working out, whether it is at the gym or elsewhere, as an appointment. At the beginning of the semester, I print off my timetable week by week, and then use a highlighter to plan out times for meetings, study sessions, and other commitments (I know a lot of people like online calendars, but I find a hard copy more satisfying). On Sunday, when I look ahead at my plans for the week, I put a whole week’s worth of workout sessions into my schedule in advance. If you don’t maintain your health, are the other things that you do each day really that important long term? I keep always keep that in mind when I’m considering my priorities for the week.

Sign up for an intramural team

Most campuses have an intramural program that offers a wide variety of sports. If you played a sport in high school, or if you’re looking to try something new, I highly recommend signing up. Intramurals are a great way to socialize and de-stress, in addition to getting you moving. I’ve played basketball for my whole life, so when I wasn’t playing basketball at the very start of university, I felt like something was missing. Luckily, I started playing on a team with some people in my program in second semester of first year, and I’ve been on the same team every semester since. I’ve become really good friends with many of the people on my team, and in addition to playing our intramural games, we play pick-up basketball one night a week (which puts some extra physical activity into my schedule!).

Go to the gym right after your last class

If you have a membership at the gym on your campus, hit the gym as soon as your last class of the day is over. This saves time trekking to and from the gym earlier or later in the day (particularly if you live off campus). If I pack my clothes and running shoes with me when I leave for the day, I’m less likely to skip my workout, especially since I’m already so close to the gym.

Sign up for a race

If you’re into running, look online for a race that’s taking place in the city you go to school in. Having a race to look forward to can be great motivation to train hard. Participating in a race also allows you to become engaged with the city you go to school in. Want even more motivation? Sign up and train for the race with a friend! Running with a buddy is a great way to build a strong friendship.

Try a new fitness class at your gym

Many gyms offer fitness classes included in their membership price. In addition to simply blocking workout time into your schedule, trying out a class is a more definitive way to make an “appointment” at the gym. Some of the classes I’ve tried at my gym include spin classes, yoga, boot camp, and a number of circuit classes. In addition to being a fun experience, these classes also have given me ideas for activities I can incorporate into future workouts!

Try fitness classes in the community

Many fitness studios offer promotions for students, or have a free first class opportunity – capitalize on this! In the summer, I took a free kickboxing class at a gym with some girls from my work and ended up getting a membership because I loved it so much. In September, a local hot yoga studio had a free week of classes available for university students, so I signed up for that and attended 5 classes during the week. The best thing to do is find an activity you’re interested in and research studios in your city. Then you can call them or check their website to see whether they offer any special promotions. Next on my list: I’d love to take a barre class, so I plan to do some research to see if I can find a studio that offers the first class for free.

A short workout is better than no workout

Less strenuous activities like going for a walk are a great way to stay active if you don’t feel like going to the gym for a hard workout. But if you’re short on time, there’s also the opportunity to fit in a short but intense workout to get the benefits of working out, without taking too much time out of your study schedule. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to have a challenging workout in a short amount of time, and it’s a form of training I use frequently. There has been a lot of research in the past few years about the multitude of benefits HIIT provides – check out these articles for more info: source, source. I’ll be posting some of the HIIT workouts I do on the blog in the future, so keep an eye out!

Do you have any tips for fitting fitness into your life? What’s the best fitness class you’ve ever tried?