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Biting off more than you can chew?

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I have a confession to make. When I sat down to write the healthy habits I presented in my recent Optimize Your Digestion workshop I realized that I too had been slacking on a few of them – particularly the habit that topped the list: CHEWING!

While it seems obvious that we need to chew our food, the fact of the matter is many of us aren’t doing as much chewing as we should be. When life gets busy finding even just a few minutes to eat can feel like a triumph and the thought of taking a full hour break to relax, enjoy and savour our food seems like a luxury. But how you eat is just as important as what you are eating, especially when it comes to chewing.

Digestion begins in our mouths. When we take a bite of food we use our teeth to mechanically break it down into smaller parts. The saliva produced by our salivary glands acts as a solvent and enzymes are released to start breaking down carbohydrates. Swallowing large chunks of food means more work for our stomach, which will need to do more churning, and use more stomach acid and enzymes to digest before moving the food along to our small intestines. Not chewing our food completely could mean low stomach acid, depleted enzymes, developing allergies and nutrient malabsorption… just to name a few side effects.

The good news is we all learned how to chew when we were little, so it’s an easy habit to improve upon! The trick is bringing a little mindfulness to how much we are chewing each bite. Here are a few tips that you can employ the next time you eat that will help you chew and instantly improve your digestion!

Sit down to eat: Even if it’s just 10 minutes, taking dedicated time to eat meals and snacks free of distractions will allow you to pay attention to how you are eating. And no, sitting in the car doesn’t count!

Don’t bite off more than you can chew: Avoid shovelling food into your mouth; you don’t want to bite off so much your cheeks are puffed up like a chipmunk. If you feel like you have to push your food down with liquids, it’s a sure sign you’re taking in too much at one time and you need to chew that food more!

Put your fork down: Once the food is in your mouth, put that fork or spoon down!

Chew 40-50 times. That’s per bite, not meal! By the time you’re ready to swallow your food should be almost liquid.

If you didn’t get a chance to join me and Debra Black at our workshop, we’ll be running it again in Toronto this June! Sign up for my mailing list to make sure you don’t miss out on early bird registration.

raspberry coconut cheesecake (raw + vegan!)

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On October 19 I celebrated my birthday. This year it passed by quietly but had all of my favourite things – a grilled and buttered scone from Wychwood Barns, dinner out with my man, a low-key family lunch and of course a cupcake. It was a perfect birthday, really. Particularly so as I was feeling quite introspective this year.

raspberry coconut cheesecake (raw + vegan)
I couldn’t help but think back to my birthday last year. It was my 30th and Jeff took me to New York to celebrate. That weekend had all of my favourite New York things – a Russ and Daughter’s bagel, a bike ride, dinner out with my man and of course a cupcake. But despite an amazing weekend I couldn’t help but feel like I was coming apart at the seams.

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This time last year my life looked very similar, but everything was different. I had too much on my plate, I was running myself ragged, I was focused on all of the wrong things. I exercised twice a week but that hour out of the week was the only time I spent on “me,” and even then I was obsessively checking my email between reps. I ate too much of all the wrong things. I was hardly sleeping. I was a lousy wife and an even worse friend. In short, I had pressed the ignore button on myself.

Shortly after we got back from New York I realized I was running on fumes and I knew that if I didn’t make some changes — and fast — my physical, emotional and mental health were all in danger. Over the next couple of months I worked hard to make changes and now, a year later, I feel like a completely different person. A better one.

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More on those changes another time, let’s get back to that celebration? And this cake! Here’s a picture my mum took at my family birthday party. Two very excited girls, but one was not so excited once she realized it was a raw, vegan cashew cheesecake.

Raspberry Coconut Cheesecake
Adapted from Health Yeah!
Serves 8-10

As soon as I saw the Blackberry Coconut Zebra Cheesecake posted on Health Yeah! I knew it was going to be my birthday cake. Now, if you look at Hannah’s cake and then mine you will note that mine does not resemble a zebra in any way shape or form. Total Pinterest Fail. I was not paying attention when I set aside the coconut filling before happily whizzing my raspberries into what remained… Only to find out that instead of saving half of the coconut mixture I had poured out, oh, maybe a quarter. In the beginning I tried hard to layer the coconut and raspberry mixtures as instructed but gave up half way through and just mixed everything together. The result was still delicious, but certainly not zebra!

Equipment
Spring-form pan

Ingredients

Base
1 1/2 cups almonds (preferably raw)
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup medjool dates, pitted and soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
3 tbsp cacao powder
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tbsp coconut oil

Raspberry Coconut Filling
3 cups cashews, soaked overnight
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup coconut coil, melted
1/2 cup coconut cream
1 tbsp cacao butter
1/2 raw honey
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extra
2 cups raspberries

For serving
A couple extra raspberries
Some coconut
Handful of chocolate chips
Whatever you want to make your cake pretty

Method:

1. Prepare the base: place almonds and sea salt in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Add in remaining ingredients and pulse until well mixed (it should stick together when you squeeze it between your fingers). Press mixture into the base of your spring form pan – use a pastry roller or the bottom of a glass to get it even. Place in the refrigerator.

2. Using a powerful blender (I used my Vitamix, of course), blend all filling ingredients except for raspberries until smooth. Scrape down the sides as needed to make sure everything is blended up. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Add raspberries to blender and whiz until smooth. Fold raspberries into coconut filing.

4. Remove base from fridge and pour in filling. Return to fridge or freezer and let set overnight. Just before you’re ready to serve, decorate with a few raspberries, some coconut and chocolate chips.

Enjoy!