All posts by Jeff Fidler

sugar free candy, sweets, healthy candy

Product Insights: Smart Sweets: Kicking Sugar, Keeping Candy

Smart Sweets:  Kicking Sugar, Keeping Tasty Candy

As a health-conscious mother of 2 school-aged boys, I emphasize a healthy lifestyle and encourage whole foods. My boys, however, want to be “like the other kids” and they request candy in their school lunches. It’s a challenge. So when I discovered Smart Sweets gummy bears, the first gummy bear made with stevia, I was happy that I had found a healthy compromise: recognizable candy with just 2g of sugar per bag, 96% of one’s daily fibre, some protein, and no artificial ingredients. It’s win-win. And they are made here in Canada. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Tara Bosch, the 23-year-old founder of Smart Sweets, and her story is very inspiring.

Erin: Like most kids, my boys want to snack on junky candy. I do my best to educate them on the harmful effects of sugar and chemicals, but at this age, their taste buds prevail. So when I discovered Smart Sweets, I bought an entire case of the Fruity flavour Gummy Bears!

Tara: I get that. Many people don’t realize how sugar impact one’s health. A conversation with my grandmother just a few years ago had a considerable influence on me. I learned that she regretted consuming so much excess sugar over the years, especially from candy. She shared with me how the effects of sugar on her health have impacted her quality of life. It was this conversation, coupled with my personal journey, that sparked my exploration into the shocking reality of sugar and how it’s affecting society in a dramatic way.

Erin: Tell me about it! I educate people when I can, and when they will listen, about the harmful effects of sugar. It really impacts our health more than most people realize.

Tara: That’s right. My firm belief is that when you kick sugar you are investing in your health in a tremendous way.

Erin: I agree. So what was the next step for you?

Tara: Standing by my belief that we should enjoy what we eat, and feel good about eating it, I bought a gummy bear mould from Amazon and started to experiment in my own kitchen, on a quest to create the first candy that kicks sugar.

Erin: That is awesome. And you did it! It happened relatively quickly too – it’s been almost a year and a half since Smart Sweets launched, and the product is currently sold in more than 1,000 retailers across Canada, and online throughout North America. That’s amazing growth!

Tara: Yes, it really is very exciting. Know that I have received invaluable help from various mentors and programs along the way, I couldn’t have done it alone!

Erin: It really is important to ask for help or guidance when we need it. No one needs to go at things alone. And there are amazing people out there who are so willing to help when they are asked.

I have those same gummy bear moulds from Amazon that come with the mini dropper and I make healthy homemade gummies for my kids. Not everyone has the patience to make their own, though, and I am glad that there is now an option that can be purchased, that has real ingredients and nothing artificial.

Tara: And Smart Sweets contain no Sugar Alcohols, GMOs, Peanuts or Tree Nuts, Dairy/Soy/Gluten, or Corn Fibre.

Erin: That is so imperative these days, due to various allergens and sensitivities. Smart Sweets really are a great, guilt-free treat that taste good and that people can feel good about eating. I find that they are surprisingly filling, probably because of the fiber and the protein content. And they have a very satisfying chewy texture.

Tara: Thank you. Smart Sweets is on a mission to kick sugar, keep candy, and create a movement based on smaller, smarter choices. Our vision is to become the global leader in innovating smart confectionary products that kick sugar.

Erin: That is very commendable. So we can look forward to more healthy candy options that we can feel good about eating. I can’t wait. Thank you so much, Tara, for creating Smart Sweets and for taking the time to speak with me today.

Tara: Thank you, enjoy!

KZ Clean Eating Low Carb Products

Product Insights: KZ Clean Eating Low Carb Products

Product Insights: KZ Clean Eating

As a Real Food Advocate, I prefer to avoid processed foods. When I do purchase packaged food products, I opt for those with clean and simple ingredients, and preferably low carb. It’s difficult to find packaged products that meet these criteria. So when I came across the line of KZ Clean Eating products, I was impressed and very pleased. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Louisa, the Managing Director of KZ Clean Eating here in Toronto, and I’d love to share it with you.

Erin: Like many of us, I grew up eating lots of bread, cereal, crackers, and especially chocolate. But most of those that I used to eat are full of additives and preservatives and, basically, chemical fillers. There is not much to them nutrient-wise. If I had the time, I’d make them myself so that I know exactly what is in them, but I don’t have that kind of time.

Louisa: Sounds familiar! That is one of the reasons that KZ Clean Eating came about: we wanted to create clean, great-tasting versions of those products for people who enjoy them but don’t want to eat the processed ones that are on the market.

Erin: Tell me more about the story.

Louisa: It all started in the kitchen when a team of health food nerds got together! We started selling the products in our own retail store and online. When we started getting demand from other retail stores we knew we had something unique that people wanted.

Erin: No surprise there was such demand! I know that I love all of the products, and especially the Grain-Free Protein Bread Mix. I really don’t know of any other low-carb breads or bread mixes on the market that have such clean ingredients. It’s so easy that all you need to do is to add water and mix. And I love that it even comes with the foil pan to bake it in.

Louisa: We wanted to make it foolproof! Have you tried spreading the KZ Nougatcreme on the bread? I do it all the time….

Erin: Foolproof it is! And Yes, I do spread the Nougatcreme on the bread! I also really love using the Parmesan crackers as a pizza crust – I melt cheese on top in the broiler until it bubbles, and eat it like that.

Louisa: Oh yes, the crackers and crisp bread are great when used as a pizza crust.

Erin: What other ways can the products be used that are not necessarily so obvious?

Louisa: The cereal can be used as a baking ingredient, for example to add some crunch to chocolate brownies, or sprinkled on top of healthy desserts such as a healthy mousse. The bread mix makes great bread sticks, buns or garlic bread. The chocolate bars can be melted and used for hot chocolate. Or broken up and used as chocolate chunks in chocolate chunk cookies. Our Nougatcreme is lovely to mix in with yogurt for a delicious treat and, of course, in baking; like a Nougat Cheesecake!

Erin: That all sounds delicious! I can’t wait to try some of those ideas. And because of the ingredient profile, there’s no guilt! All of the ingredients are clean and real. I love it.

Louisa: Yes! All of our products are great for those who are watching what they eat in order to lose some weight, or for those who have diabetes, or are on a gluten free/low sugar diet or simply just enjoy good, clean food.

Erin: I’ve been putting a few squares of the chocolates in my kids’ school lunches for a snack; their favorite is the white chocolate vanilla bar, and they are thrilled to find the chocolate surprises. I’m happy that it has no sugar and again that the ingredients are so clean!  How else are the KZ Clean Eating products different from similar products on the market?

Louisa: Our products are handmade in our own production facility. We carefully choose ingredients with the highest quality possible. The ingredients are very clean and naturally low in carbohydrates. And there is no sugar added.

Erin: What is the criteria in selecting the ingredients?

Louisa: Our ingredients are always non-GMO, organic as much as possible, without any added sugars and gluten free (except for the wheat bran we use in our crisp bread, which will soon be replaced).

Erin: That is all so amazing. Thank you, Louisa, for being part of an amazing team, and for taking the time to talk to me today.

Louisa: You’re welcome. Enjoy!

 

 

About the Author: A Holistic Wellness Practitioner, Erin is a proponent for holistic and natural living. Her passion is guiding people to live healthier, happier lives: physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

low carb breakfast food

Tips for Great Low Carb Breakfasts

Tips for Great Low Carb Breakfasts

Since it’s the most important meal of the day, planning tasty and healthy low carb breakfasts is a big part of the low carb lifestyle. Sure, a simple plate full of bacon and eggs is a great choice, but having the same thing every day can get boring really fast. Plus, if you’re more a fan of a nice light bowl of cereal, finding a low carb option that has the taste and crunch you’re looking for can be tricky. For low carb dieters, breakfasts are a meal that can either be easy and simple, or very frustrating. That’s why we’ve gathered together a collection of our favourite breakfast tips to help you make better choices in the morning, and plan a fast and easy set of meals that the whole family will love.

Here, we will take a look at a handful of different kinds of breakfasts, including options for people who prefer either hot or cold breakfast items, and some recommendations for people who are short on time and need something fast and easy they can grab as they head out the door. Let’s get started with some classic breakfasts that have been updated for the low carb lifestyle!

Cereals, Toast, and Bagels

It’s tough to find any breakfast that’s as simple and easy as a bowl of cereal. They’re a favourite choice for people of all ages, and with the wide variety of tastes and styles that are available, everyone has their preference when it comes to cereals. For low carb dieters, your typical supermarket brands aren’t going to cut it when it comes to meeting your dietary needs. Fortunately, there are plenty of low carb brands making very tasty cereals to choose from. Our customers just love Hi-Lo cereals from Nutritious Living, which are available in delicious flavours like Maple Pecan or Vanilla Almond.

It’s not just cold cereals that you can find in low carb varieties, however. There are lots of delicious hot cereals, as well. For low carbers who love the warmth of a nice bowl of oatmeal, this Peaches n Cream Hot Cereal from Dixie Diner should satisfy those cravings! It’s got a nice sweetness to it, which our customers love, and is fast and easy to prepare in just a few minutes.

For people who love a nice warm piece of toast with fruit spread or a bagel with cream cheese, check out the wide range of products from Bakers Deluxe. Their low carb breads and bagels always get rave reviews, and there are lots of different flavours to choose from. Some of their most popular products include this amazing Rye bread, and their classic Everything bagels. Spread a little fruit on them, like these delicious spreads from Walden Farms, and you’ve got the perfect combo of warm crunch and cool sweetness that works so well as part of your breakfast menu.

Eggs, Bacon, and Cooked Breakfasts

Low carb dieters really can’t go wrong with a nice hot plate of eggs and a side of bacon. Eggs are ideal no matter how you choose to prepare them, and bacon is a great source of protein that we all know simply tastes amazing! However, there are many great additions you can choose make your breakfast even better. Instead of a side of fried potatoes or hashbrowns to go with your bacon and eggs, why not substitute a nice bowl of fresh fruit? Make sure you choose fruits that are lower in natural sugar content like raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries, or some melon like honeydew or cantaloupe. Try to steer clear of bananas and grapes, as they contain higher levels of sugar. Check out our guide to the best fruits and vegetables for the low carb diet for even more recommendations.

If you’re in the mood for something a bit fancier for breakfast, why not cook up some Eggs Benedict as a special treat? It’s easy to make a low carb version by changing out a few things to help bring the carb count down. Check out our article on The Low Carb Brunch for more info on how to make a great low carb Eggs Benny.

Pancakes and waffles might not seem like a great fit for low carb diets, but Big Train has come to the rescue by creating a fantastic low carb pancake and waffle mix. Why not plan a family pancake or waffle making party this weekend and have some fun preparing a tasty and delicious breakfast together?

On-the-Go Breakfast Options

If time is of the essence and you don’t even have time for a quick bowl of cereal, there are still things you can do to get some nourishment above and beyond just a cup of coffee. Yogurts are a great option to take on the go with you, but low carb dieters need to be careful which ones they choose. Some yogurts are high in sugar, and should be avoided. Over at VeryWell.com, there’s a handy article by Laura Dolson that you can use as your guide to Choosing the Right Yogurt for a Low Carb Diet. Add some low carb granola like this Cinnamon-flavoured Nut and Flax Granola from Sensato if you love a little crunch to go with the cool, creamy taste of your yogurt.

For an even easier and faster option, consider breakfast bars that are high in protein to help sustain your energy. Quest has a wide range of flavours in their protein bars, including delicious Banana Nut Muffin. With 20g of protein in each bar, they are great for an emergency breakfast or for a midday snack to help get you through the workday.

Conclusion

As you can see, there’s no need to settle in to the same old routine for your breakfasts day after day and week after week. There are lots of ways to add some variety to your breakfasts and keep things low in carbs. A little planning, preparation, and forethought goes a long way in to making sure you’ve got plenty of choices in the mornings that suit your tastes and give you a great start to the day. We hope that you’ve found this information helpful. Have a great low carb day!

low carb bread and bagels by bakers deluxe

Introduction to Dream Breads and Bagels

Introduction to Dream Breads and Bagels

Breads and bagels are the kind of products that many of us just simply NEED to have as part of our meal plans. Their versatility in a lot of recipes mean they can be used for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and even for snacks. However, when you’re on the low carb diet, it can be a challenge to find a good quality loaf of bread or bagels that are low in carbs but still taste really yummy. Fortunately, Bakers Deluxe has come to the rescue of low carb dieters with a fantastic line of breads and bagels that deliver all the great taste you want, while keeping the carb counts under control.

Dream Bread and Dream Bagels from Bakers Deluxe are consistently rated as some of our customers favourite products, and we definitely concur! The taste, texture, and flavour of Bakers Deluxe products are second to none, and we’re sure you’ll agree.

How are Bakers Deluxe products different?

For starters, Bakers Deluxe uses a combination of different low carb flours as the base. Their mix includes almond meal, golden flaxseed meal, oat fibre, wheat fibre, and wheat protein isolate, among several other ingredients depending on the type and flavour of the bread or bagel. Because Dream Bread and Dream Bagels are made to be very high in fibre, they are quite filling and don’t leave you feeling hungry.

Dream Bread from Bakers Deluxe

If sliced bread is something you’ve been missing on your low carb diet, you’ve got to try Dream Breads. You can find varieties such as rye with caraway seeds, superflax, pumpernickel, and even cinnamon raisin. Whether you’re planning on making the ultimate Dagwood sandwich, or just want a tasty slice of toast in the morning, you’ll love the great taste and the nice soft, moist texture of Dream Bread. Shop the full line of Dream Bread from Bakers Deluxe here.

Speaking of Dagwood Sandwiches, here’s a great recipe for one from Nick at SeriousEats.com that you can use to create your own. Just swap in some slices of rye Dream Bread instead of regular bread and customize it to your hearts’ desire by adding or subtracting any layer you want to suit your own taste. Enjoy!

Dream Bagels from Bakers Deluxe

Once you find a great bagel, you stick with it, and Dream Bagels from Bakers Deluxe definitely fit that description. Our customers rave about the classic taste and texture that these bagels deliver, and they are always impressed at how fresh they are. Many customers find them to be the best bagels they’ve ever had! Available in popular varieties like everything, sesame seed, cinnamon, and classic plain, these bagels are great with cream cheese or as the basis for a fantastic deli sandwich. Shop the entire range of Dream Bagels from Bakers Deluxe here.

Dream Buns and Rolls from Bakers Deluxe

It’s not just bread and bagels that you can find from Bakers Deluxe. They’ve also got a great selection of buns and dinner rolls to choose from. You’ll never need to skip the bun at a backyard barbecue ever again with these low carb hot dog buns and low carb hamburger buns. And their low carb dinner rolls are soft and delicious, and perfect for any big family meal that you may have planned.

Conclusion

Bread and bagel lovers need not fear about the loss of some of their favourite foods because they’re on a low carb diet. Bakers Deluxe products are the solution that you’ve been waiting for! Give some a try today and we’re confident that you’ll feel the same way that the rest of our customers do about these amazing breads, bagels, buns, and rolls. Click here to browse the entire line of Bakers Deluxe products. Happy eating!

carb-counting

The Easy Guide to Counting Carbs

Success on a low carb diet takes dedication, and a solid understanding of how low carb diets actually works to help you lose weight and stay healthy. One of the most critical parts of adapting to the low carb lifestyle is learning the proper way to count the carbs of the foods you eat. There are a few tricks to learn when starting to count your carbs, but with a little advice and some tips, it’s very easy to learn the proper carb counting methods.

This handy reference guide to carb counting includes a handful of tips that you’ll find helpful, some explanations of some terminology you’ll need to know, and a breakdown of the differences between the main types of carbs you’ll be counting. So, if you’re ready, let’s get started!

Why is Counting Carbs Important?

If you’ve ever heard the old saying ‘calories in, calories out’, then you already know the basic premise behind why the low carb diet works. However, there’s a bit more to it than that. Everyone’s body processes certain foods a little differently than others, and because of this, some people benefit more from certain types of foods than others. This is where the low carb diet makes such a difference. One of the most common causes of weight gain is an excess of carbohydrates in our diets. Some people are affected more than others, but we can all benefit from paying attention to the amount of carbs we take in.

By choosing to go low carb, it’s very important to know how many carbs are in the foods we eat so that when we start to make changes to our diets, we understand how each food choice adds up to impact our total intake of carbs. In addition, counting carbs gives a measurement you can use to understand how much a particular food item will impact your blood glucose level, which is critical information for anyone who is diabetic.

What Kinds of Carbs do we Count?

Carbs come in the form of simple sugars and starches. Sugars have names like sucrose (ex: table sugar), fructose (ex: fruit sugars) and lactose (milk sugars). Starches are the carbs found in foods like bread, rice, and vegetables like potatoes. Starches are broken down in to simple sugars as part of your digestion before they enter the bloodstream.

We also need to count what are known as sugar alcohols. These are commonly found in low-calorie or reduced-calorie foods and act as alternative sweeteners. You probably know them by their common names such as sorbitol, malitol, and several other ingredients that end in –ol.

Read: What Are Good Carbs? – Atkins.ca

How to Count Carbs

While there are some differing opinions on how to precisely define what is a carb and what isn’t, there is general consensus on the fact that not all carbs affect the body in the same way. Simple sugars and refined starches are absorbed in the body more rapidly, whereas other types of carbohydrates such as certain types of fiber are absorbed more slowly, and some isn’t even digested at all. This is where we start to get in to the difference between ‘total carbs’ and ‘net carbs’. Let’s define these terms:

Total Carbs – This is the total amount of carbohydrates in the portion of food that you are eating. This includes all types of carbs, regardless of whether they are digestible or not.

Net Carbs – This is the amount of carbs that will be digested or absorbed by your body, typically defined as Total Carbs minus Indigestible Carbs, generally shown as fiber grams, and the amount of Sugar Alcohols.

So the formula works out like this:

  • Total Carbs – Indigestible Carbs – Sugar Alcohols = Net Carbs

Here’s an example:

  • 15g Total Carbs – 7g fiber – 2g sorbitol = 5g Net Carbs

Now that you know what the difference is between Total Carbs and Net Carbs, you can start putting this information in to practice. To do this, you really need to start paying attention nutrition labels and serving sizes.

Nutrition Labels

All nutrition labels in Canada are required to specify the serving size they use to calculate their nutritional content, including the amount of carbs, sugars, and fiber.

Read: Government of Canada – Nutrition Labelling

Be wary of labels that contain terms such as ‘impact carbohydrates’, as these can be deceptive. Not all manufacturers agree on what ‘impact carbohydrates’ are, but they are intended to convey what the manufacturer believes is the amount of carbs expected to impact a normal diet. This is why impact carbs should not be relied on as a definitive measure. Since every body and every diet will be a little different, 10 grams of impact carbohydrates for one person may have the same affect as 20 grams for another person. In these cases, it’s best to do the math yourself and be sure.

By understanding how many carbs are in the portion sizes you are eating, you can quickly learn just how many carbs you are taking in at each meal. This is crucial information you will need to track your carb intake and make sure that you’re sticking to your low carb diet plan.

Carb Counting Summary

Counting carbohydrates is something that all low carb dieters should take seriously, as it’s the only real way to understand how your diet is progressing and what changes you may need to make along the way.

In addition, counting carbs is one of those things that gets easier with practice, so the more you do it the better you’ll get at it. Especially when you start to learn how to estimate serving sizes at a glance. You’ll be surprised how it eventually becomes second nature, and it won’t seem so daunting after you learn the ropes.

We’re here to help if you have any questions about how to count carbs, so feel free to pop in to any of our store locations, or contact us online and we’d be happy to get back to you. We hope you found this guide helpful, and we wish you good luck with your carb counting!

nicks-sticks

Product Insights: Nicks Sticks

Product Insights: Nicks Sticks

When I purchase packaged food products, I always read the ingredients. I look for simple, clean ingredients and, as much as possible, I prefer to avoid sugar, gluten, grains, nuts (because of the many nut allergies, most schools do not allow for any nuts), additives and preservatives. I also prefer low carb options. That’s why I find Nick’s 100% grass fed beef Sticks to be exceptional.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Nick, the owner and founder of Nick’s Sticks, and wanted to share the story behind the brand.

Erin: Like many people, I am busy with work and family life and I don’t have a lot of time to make everything from scratch (as much as I’d like to!). When I saw how simple the ingredients were in your products – I was very pleased.

Nick: Thank you! Yes, most of the beef sticks that I have seen on the market are either loaded with preservatives and sugar or the flavour is unappealing.

Erin: What a difference100% grass-fed beef makes! I truly appreciate that Nick’s grass-fed beef sticks are also dye-free, nitrate-free, hormone-free, sugar-free, and antibiotic-free. Even the seasonings in the spice blend are organic.

Nick: We were the first in the industry to not use red-dye casings.  And it had to be organic seasoning to compliment the grass-fed beef, a lot of competitors don’t go the extra mile in this category.

Erin: I am super pleased to offer these to my kids for snacks. What inspired you to create Nick’s Sticks?

Nick:  I was already selling frozen grass-fed beef and other pasture-raised meats directly to families when I had the idea.  I was constantly on the move and rarely had time for lunch.  Whether it was on the farm or doing a meat delivery, I had limited choices for jerky and other protein snacks.  Frustration was the driver of invention, and I knew I could do better.

Erin: That’s usually how these things happen! So how long did it take from the time you had the idea to getting the product on the market?

Nick: It took nearly 2 years to perfect the recipe and process, but with a skilled sausage maker we finally made a batch that would stand apart from the current marketplace options.  Once we had the beef perfected it wasn’t long before the turkey fell into place as well. We use true pasture-raised turkeys from Southern Minnesota.  Most turkey jerky and sticks use large confinement birds even though they utilize the USDA loose standards for free-range.  That’s why we win on flavor every time. Healthy birds fed on grass is a better eating bird, hands down!

Erin: Amazing. Could you talk more about the reasons for using Grass-fed beef in the beef sticks?

Nick: Cows are meant to graze in fields and eat grass; a cow’s stomach is a perfect environment for digesting grass. But starting in the 1950s, large feed lots and grain-fed techniques became widely popular as a means to increase quantity: quantity was traded for quality. Corn is not only cheap, but helps the cows gain more weight faster than grass ever could. But cows are not designed to eat corn!

Being high in starch and low in roughage, calcium, and magnesium, corn turns the cow’s stomach acidic, causing the cow intestinal distress, and also making the internal conditions perfect for pathogens, like e. coli, to flourish.

The sick cows are given antibiotics. And because the factory farmed cows are in cramped quarters with unsanitary conditions, all of the cows are given antibiotics whether they need it or not. Also, to help the animal grow faster, factory farmers give them hormones and steroids.

You are what you eat. We are part of a larger picture, a bioaccumulation of all the choices that have been made as we move up the food chain.

What these animals eat and how they are raised affect what they do in our body. The hormones/antibiotics/steroids given to the cows can cause hormone imbalances in humans. As well, they negatively impact our gut microflora, and also create antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria in us that can make us sick with infections that are difficult to treat. Finally, what the animals actually ate has a major effect on the actual nutrient composition of the meat that we ultimately eat. Quality makes a difference!

The quality of diet and life from grass fed/free range beef is reflected in the quality in their meat: it is leaner, tastier, and offers so much more nutritionally: it can have up to 5x more omega 3’s and 3x more CLA than grain fed beef (not to mention, significantly more antioxidants, vitamins, minerals).

Erin: Quality sure does make a difference! Another reason why I love Nick’s Sticks is their philosophy: the food that you eat should be straightforward and uncomplicated and should nourish your body and soul. That is my philosophy as well and it’s very true to my heart because I know that one of the biggest factors that contributes to good health is what we eat. If it’s unprocessed, quality, real food, then by default it will nourish your body and soul.

It’s also important to me to know that my children are eating nourishing and nutrient dense foods, so that their growing bodies are getting the nutrients that they need.

Nick: As we like to say, Nick’s grass-fed beef sticks are “full of sunshine and free-range living”.

Erin: As I like to say, eat healthy be healthy, eat healthy be happy. Thank you, Nick, for creating these awesome products – and for taking the time with me today.

Nick: Thank you! Enjoy!

About the Author: A Holistic Wellness Practitioner, Erin is a proponent for holistic and natural living. Her passion is guiding people to live healthier, happier lives: physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

sinai-gourmet-hot-sauce

Product Insights: Sinai Gourmet‘s Hot Sauce

Product Insights: Sinai Gourmet‘s Hot Sauce

When I cook, I generally like to keep things simple; I use minimal ingredients and simple ingredients; I like to keep it easy. As such, I tend to use very few packaged products. When I do purchase packaged products, I always review ingredients; I prefer to avoid sugar, gluten, grains, additives and preservatives. I like simple and natural.

So, when I had the opportunity to try a line of hot sauces whose philosophy is creating simple-natural products, with the goal of making your meals taste better, I was in. Truthfully, I’ve never had an affinity for hot sauce, but I started to read up on the health benefits of spicy foods, and Sinai Gourmet had me curious with their simple and premium ingredients.  And they did not disappoint.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with the owner and founder of Sinai Gourmet, Laurence Isaac and wanted to share the story behind his brand.

Erin: Laurence, given my lack of experience with hot sauces, combined with my propensity for clean, simple and natural ingredients, I found your hot sauces to be refreshingly appealing.

Laurence: Thank you, Erin. Sinai Gourmet‘s hot sauces are certainly unique in that way. And with a range of heat levels from mild to wild and an original and maple flavour, there is a hot sauce for anyone: From those starting with spice to experts.

Erin: I can tell you that I am a novice, and the Poblano is perfect for me. I’m sure that you are asked this question often, but why vinegar free?

Laurence: Yes, that is the most common question I get asked. The storey goes, while eating in a steakhouse one day, I requested hot sauce to go with my delicious rib eye. The restaurant, like many others, brought Tabasco sauce which I used, inadvertently ruining my steak. The strong vinegar taste overtook all natural delicious flavours of the steak and did nothing to enhance it. It was at that moment it clicked that the solution would be a fresh tasting and vinegar-free hot sauce – so I created one! We are happy to be able to say that we are the only truly vinegar-free, unfermented and fresh tasting hot sauce on the market.

Erin: That’s awesome! That’s they way to make it happen. What are some of your favourite ways to use your hot sauces?

Laurence: Since the sauces taste fresh and are very flavourful they can easily be combined with any current condiment selection to greatly improve them. This simple #lifehack makes your mayos, ketchups, salad dressing, olive oil, and so on go from good to WOW!

Erin: They sure do!  Just last night I added a squeeze of the Original Poblano to my tuna and mayo, and Wow!  I’m wondering what is the criteria in selecting the ingredients for the sauces?

Laurence: Freshness, taste, quality, and – when possible – local. Our maple syrup for example is from a local Quebec producer whose family has made maple syrup for over 200 years!

Erin: I love it! Laurence, thank you so much for creating these awesome hot sauces – and for taking the time with me today.

Laurence: Thank you! Enjoy!

About the Author: A Holistic Wellness Practitioner, Erin is a proponent for holistic and natural living. Her passion is guiding people to live healthier, happier lives: physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

good-dees2

Product Insights: Good Dees Bake Mixes

Product Insights: Good Dees Bake Mixes

When I purchase packaged products, I always review ingredients. I prefer to avoid sugar, gluten, grains, nuts (because of the many nut allergies, most schools do not allow for any nuts), additives and preservatives. I also prefer low carb options. There are very few packaged products on the market that meet all these criteria – that’s what makes Good Dee’s line of bake mixes exceptional.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with the owner and founder of Good Dee’s, Deana Karim. She’s a one-woman company and really loves what she does.

Me: Like many people, I have to juggle work and family life so I don’t have a lot of time to do the baking that I would prefer to do for school snacks. When I saw the ingredients in your products – I was blown away.

Deana: Thank you for the compliment! Yes, most people don’t realize what’s in mass market baking mix products. For example, a quick look at leading brands – the ingredients often include, wheat flour, sugar, corn syrup, palm oil, and a selection of hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Each serving (of 2 cookies) can contain 10-15g of sugar, not to mention all the other sources of carbs! I simply didn’t want this for me or my kids so I made my own.

Me: Very true, I know what you mean. So, how did this all start for you?

Deana: After the birth of my first son (he is now 5!), I was feeling low on energy. The extra weight from pregnancy hadn’t come off, and I suddenly found myself concerned about diabetes, which runs in my family. When I started to research, I stumbled upon the low carb and sugar free lifestyle.

Once I started to eliminate sugar and carbs, I started feeling much better; I lost weight and my energy came back! Having always loved to cook and bake, I started to research alternative sweeteners that would not raise blood glucose levels or cause gastrointestinal distress like some can, and learned about erythritol, stevia, and prebiotic dietary fiber.

Around the end of 2014, I took my chocolate chip cookies to a small tradeshow and received GREAT feedback. A few months later, I decided that instead of ready-made cookies, I would create and sell a cookie mix. And soon after that, Good Dee’s was born: I released my very first mix, the original chocolate chip cookie mix, at the end of October 2015. I felt so happy that those who can and cannot eat sugar enjoyed them – including my diabetic mom. It fit the needs of the diabetic, ketogenic, low carb, and sugar free communities and I have been so pleased with the feedback.

Me: What a great story! It’s always so interesting to hear about how people got started. I’ve tried many of your products and they all taste amazing. How do you approach development of your products?

Deana: Well, I always want to use the best ingredients, like sunflower seeds, erythritol, sugar free chocolate chips and stevia. I also want to be able to put it in my son’s lunchbox! All nursery schools here are nut free. As well, I want to make sure that the mixes do not contain dairy because a lot of people are dairy-free and I definitely wanted to be sensitive to that. But having the right ingredients isn’t enough. For example, I had to experiment in my kitchen for over a year until I had my very first Good Dee’s mix -  which was the original chocolate chip cookie mix. Turns out its quite challenging to create products that taste good and works for diabetic, ketogenic, low carb, and sugar free communities.

Me: Yes, the ingredients quality is what draws me to your product line. With 2 boys of my own, I try to pay attention to what is in the food that we are eating. When I picked up a package of Good Dees Gluten Free Cookie Mix, I was pleasantly surprised! The ingredients are all clean, with no additives, preservatives, sugar, or gluten.

Deana: Actually, there’s a good reason why I made my original mixes using sunflower seed flour. Besides the fact that I love how sunflower seed flour tastes, it makes it nut free and gluten-free, making it a healthier alternative and “school safe”. And I use erythritol instead of sugar because of it’s profile as a sweetener and lack of stomach pain which, mixed stevia for sweetness, was natural to keep it low-carb.

I actually did recently release 3 almond flour mixes and they are made in a separate facility in order to avoid any possible cross-contamination.

Me:  That is so great, I am looking forward to trying them! (I just won’t send them to school!) I also love that the mixes are all “foolproof”; just add eggs and butter (or coconut oil to make it dairy-free). Sometimes I add extra cinnamon too! My kids love to help me make the chocolate chip cookie mix, which is their favourite.

Deana: It’s my favourite mix too: chocolate chip cookies have always been one of my go-to party or potluck foods because they are easy to make, transport well, are individually portioned and everyone loves chocolate chip cookies! And because these ones are made with healthy ingredients, you can feel good about sharing them with your family and friends too.

Me: Thank you, Deana, for creating these awesome products – and taking the time with me today.

Deana: Thank you! Enjoy!

About the Author: A Holistic Wellness Practitioner, Erin is a proponent for holistic and natural living. Her passion is guiding people to live healthier, happier lives: physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

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Product Insights: Protes Protein Chips

Product Insights: Protes Protein Chips

I love the “stories behind the brand”; they are always so fun and interesting to me. There is always a common theme, which is that there was a need in the market, and someone decided to fill that need.

I recently had a chance to talk with Krik and Ryan, the founders of Protes Protein Chips, and I’d love to share their story with you.

Erin: So Krik and Ryan, you guys were basically sitting on the couch after a workout, wondering why there were no protein-based snacks other than bars and shakes.

K&R: That’s right. We both work out regularly, and don’t have the time to prepare a full meal. We each like to eat something quick, and high in protein after a workout. We were bored of the many bar and shake options, and realized there were no snacks. So we decided to create a protein chip.

Erin: And so, despite being busy with your day jobs, you decided to devote what little spare time you had to this project.

K&R: Yes. We were living in New York (and still do) and were both working long hours in the finance industry. Once we decided to try it, we spent over 6 months testing out recipes late at night, after we got home from work.

Erin: So I guess you didn’t sleep very much.

K&R: (laughing) That’s right, we still don’t…

Erin: What are some of main attributes of the Protes?

K&R: Protes protein chips are a great way to add extra protein to your daily snacking. Each 1.0 oz bag contains 15 grams of protein. As well, they are gluten-free, Non-GMO Project certified, vegan, and soy-free. Add in the fact that they are low in carbs, calories, and fat, and snackers of all diets can enjoy them!

In addition, while there are plenty of protein bars and shakes out there, there aren’t many salty snack options outside of jerky. Our protein chips allow you to munch on chips and still feel good about yourself. With five flavors ranging from sweet (Toasted Coconut) to spicy (Spicy Chili Lime), there are plenty of flavors to try to find your favorite.

Erin: Besides snacking, are there any non-obvious ways to use Protes?

K&R: They can be used for breading chicken, making nachos, or as toppings for salad or pizza.

Erin: Interesting. How else are Protes unique?

K&R: Protes are made of pea protein isolate and are baked. Most other competitors use whey protein and are fried. We also offer two bag sizes, 1 oz and 4 oz, for individual use or sharing.

Erin: What was the criteria in selecting the ingredients for Protes?

K&R: All of Protes protein chips ingredients are gluten-free, Non-GMO Project certified, and vegan.

Erin: Is there anything else that you would like your customers to know?

K&R: Protes is all about functional snacking. We believe that snacking should be truly beneficial and not just “less bad” than other options, while still tasting good. We hope you’ll give our high protein chips a try and continue to follow us as we take snacking to the next level!

Erin: Great, well thank you very much, Krik and Ryan, for taking the time to speak to me today and for sharing your story.

K&R: It is our pleasure!

About the Author: A Holistic Wellness Practitioner, Erin is a proponent for holistic and natural living. Her passion is guiding people to live healthier, happier lives: physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

quick-low-carb-meals

Quick Low Carb Meals

Quick Low Carb Meals Ready in 20 Minutes or Less

We all have days where time just seems to disappear. Whether our afternoon meeting runs late, traffic on the 401 is backed up for miles, or the kids have soccer practice and dance class on the same night, shortage of time can make it a real challenge to plan healthy & fresh meals.

Fortunately for low carb dieters, there are lots of ways to plan a variety of meals that are simple, fast, delicious and satisfying. Foods that fit a low carb diet plan are some of the most universally useful ingredients that you’ll have in your kitchen, and there are so many ways to combine them that you’ll never feel like you’re eating the same thing all the time.

In this article, we’ll provide you with some tips and tricks that you can use to plan easy and fast low carb meals from simple ingredients, as well as some helpful advice on how to supplement your meal plans with healthy prepared foods for those days where you simply don’t have the time or energy for cooking.

We’ll do our best to show you that planning easy and quick low carb meals doesn’t have to be difficult, so let’s get to it!

Tips for Planning and Preparation

One of the best tips we can give to simplify and speed up your meal planning and prep process is to pre-cook or prepare larger quantities of your base ingredients. Things like meats and proteins can be cooked ahead of time, and then frozen or refrigerated in smaller meal-size portions so that they are always ready to go at a moments’ notice, and just need to be heated up alongside your other ingredients.

For example, grilled chicken is one of those go-to meats that works in almost anything. You can use it on salads, with pasta, or wrap it up in a low carb tortilla with some fresh veggies and some light dressing. Simply grill up a pack of chicken breasts all at the same time, slice them up and pack them away in meal-size containers. Then, you’ve always got grilled chicken at the ready to heat up for your meal. This will save you a ton of time, and make sure you’re always getting a healthy amount of protein. According to Foodsafety.gov, cooked poultry is safe refrigerated for 3-4 days.

Beef can also be used this same way, and is a good alternative protein when chicken might be getting a little too frequent on your menu. Simply grill up a steak the way you like it, slice it thin, and store it away for a future dinner. Then just add it during the last few minutes of cooking time to a stir fry for a quick and easy Asian beef dish like Beef with Broccoli, and get it on the table in almost no time. According to Foodsafety.gov, cooked beef (steak, etc…) is safe refrigerated for 3-5 days.

Another tip is to choose veggies that can easily be eaten with just a quick rinse under water, especially those that are already bite-size like baby carrots, green beans, or sugar snap peas. Crisp, cool veggies are a refreshing change as a side dish instead of the typical cooked varieties, especially on hot summer days – plus this ensures vegetables are ready in seconds, saving you even more cooking time.

Fast and Easy Low Carb Side Dishes

If you’ve got your main foods selected for a meal, but are struggling with what to serve alongside them that won’t eat up too much time, there are lots of prepared foods and sides that you can choose from to accompany your meals. Here are a couple of popular examples:

HomestyleSimple Chicken Chili with Beans – This hearty chicken chili is a great side dish option, and is ready in minutes. Our customers love it!

Miracle Noodle Thai Tom Yum Soup – This soup is the perfect accompaniment to any stir fry. It’s low calorie, low carb, and big on flavour!

These are just two examples of fast and easy low carb ways to boost any meal in just minutes, or take them to go as a simple lunch break option when you’re on the run to the office for another busy day.

Quick Low Carb Recipe Ideas

Now that we’ve laid the ground work for planning and preparation, here are a couple of example recipes you can use that are simple to prepare and use these tips.

Give them a try, they might just make their way in to your regular meal plans!

Simple Ginger Beef Vegetable Stir Fry

This simple recipe features a tasty ginger stir fry sauce and a colourful array of vegetables that looks as beautiful on your plate as it tastes in your mouth.

  • Ingredients:

o   Thinly sliced beef strips (you can buy these pre-cut at the supermarket, or simply prep & refrigerate/freeze your beef as described above)

o    Selection of fresh vegetables

  • Sugar snap or Snow peas
  • Baby carrots
  • Bean sprouts
  • Bok choy
  • Mushrooms

o   Low-sodium Ginger Stir Fry sauce from Mr. Spice

o   Light vegetable oil

  • Preparation – estimated 5-10 minutes

o   Place a small amount of oil in a large skillet or wok and set to medium-high heat

o   Rinse all your veggies under cold water and chop the larger pieces. You don’t need them to be tiny, bigger chunks are actually better

  • Cooking instructions – 10 minutes

o   Place harder veggies in the pan first (and sliced beef), and toss regularly for 5 minutes

o   Place softer veggies in the pan (and sliced beef, if cooked and thawed) and continue to toss regularly for another 5 minutes or until desired tenderness is reached

Spicy Chicken Fajitas in Lettuce Wraps

This fresh twist on classic fajitas uses crisp lettuce leaves as a replacement for traditional tortilla shells, and lets you dial in the heat with your favourite salsa.

  • Ingredients:

o   Sliced grilled chicken (prepare as described above, or substitute pre-packaged grilled chicken slices)

o   Selection of fresh vegetables

  • Red & Yellow Bell Peppers
  • Red or Yellow Onion
  • Mushrooms
  • Fresh cilantro

o   Simply Organic Fajita Seasoning Mix

o   Iceberg lettuce

o   Shredded cheddar cheese

o   Sour cream

o   Your favourite Desert Pepper salsa

o   Light vegetable oil

  • Preparation – 10 minutes

o   Add a splash of light vegetable oil to a large skillet and set to medium-high heat

o   Slice peppers, onions and mushrooms – use a kitchen mandolin to save even more time

o   Prepare fajita seasoning mix according to package instructions

o   Tear off large leaves from the head of iceberg lettuce and rinse under cold water

  • Cooking instructions – 10 minutes

o   Place peppers and onions (and sliced chicken, if frozen or raw) in to skillet and cook for 5 minutes, mixing regularly

o   Place mushrooms, cilantro and fajita seasoning mix (and sliced chicken, if cooked and thawed) in to skillet and fry for another 5 minutes, tossing regularly

o   Serve along with lettuce leaves, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and your favourite Desert Pepper salsa to spice things up

o   Build your own fajita and enjoy!

As you can see, quick and easy low carb meals don’t need to be boring! These simple examples are just the tip of the iceberg, too. There are countless combinations of easy to prep foods that you can work in to your meal plans. Get creative, try new things, and we’re sure that you’ll discover just how easy it is to expand your menu with a wide range of 20-minute low carb meals.