Routines: Are They Necessary?

You may have heard that creating a routine, otherwise known as a system, is a very important step in creating a sustainable, healthy lifestyle.

But are routines necessary? I would say absolutely yes.

Today we are going to take a look at why that is and I’ll to give you five steps to make great systems in your life.

Without systems, we eventually fall back into what is easiest (no exercise, no energy and eating crap).

I want you to take a minute and think of a time in your life that using a system has served you.

Think of your voice mail message: “Please leave your name and number after the tone and I will get back to you.”

When you hear that recording, you know exactly what to do next.

That is a system that works.

Now let’s take a recipe.

It consists of a list of ingredients and amounts. If you follow the instructions step by step, you will end up with relatively the same result every time.

This is another good system.

When you are taking a plane, the airport has a set of directions you must take before you can board the plane. You must check in by a certain time, then you check your bags and then you go through security.

That is the system that the airports have put in place to keep order and safety and you have to follow the system to board your plane.

Imagine if these systems were not in place and you could just show up to the airport whenever you want and decide what you would rather do first? There would be chaos.

What is a system?

Systems are step-by-step instructions that detail what needs to be done first, second and third in order to achieve a desired outcome.

I have seen businesses become exponentially more successful once they have implemented simple-to-follow systems.

I have also seen people get exponentially healthier once they have implemented certain simple-to-follow systems for creating a sustainable, healthy lifestyle like meal planning, meal prep and planning ahead for social outings.

The more clear the system, the better the outcome.

If you want to get more fit (the desired outcome), you go the gym three to five times a week on set days (the system).

If you want to eat healthier, you meal plan and grocery shop every week and you cook every day (although there are ways to get around cooking everyday). The planning, the shopping and the recipes are systems that are supporting the desired outcome of healthier eating.

If you want to get more sleep, then you turn off electronics in the evening and do something relaxing. You choose a set bedtime and waketime and you stick to it most of the time. This is a bedtime system (also known as a routine).

This is how you systematize your health:

By doing so, you take the guesswork out of what your routine should be and your outcome becomes predictable. Regular, proper exercise results in better fitness. Meal-planning results in healthier eating.

This is such a simple concept and once you understand it you can see that it applies to every area of your life.

Why are systems so important?

I first realized the importance of using systems when I started my business. Over time the systems mindset started to take over my personal life as well.

I noticed that when I put every task into my calendar (yes, another system) I was able to get everything accomplished. I started scheduling in family time, work time and personal time.

I created a system for cleaning the house that meant that I didn’t have to think about what I would do first. Now I can just put on my favourite podcast and go on automatic mode because I know exactly in what order I will clean everything.

Without systems chaos ensues. You try doing things differently every time and that leads to a different outcome every time. The outcome is not predictable, it takes more thought and energy and it may not be what you hoped for.

Here is a simple example of how a lack of a system affected my life:

I like to go to the six a.m. gym class. But I had no system in place for getting ready and out the door in time for class. And this was a challenge for me. I would often back out of the class because I woke up late and did not have a gym outfit ready to go. It was 5:40 a.m., I was disorganized and I did not feel like searching around the house like a mad woman so instead I would go back to bed.

Guess what happened next?

A new system was born. I put together two gym outfits and I found a shelf for them live. They go from my body, to the wash to their shelf and now I never have to search for my gym clothes. I also thought about how much time I really needed to get ready. I started getting up fifteen minutes earlier. That means I go to the gym. System created. Time and energy saved. Desired outcome achieved… yes it works.

How to create your own systems:

If there is something that you are going to do repeatedly, big or small, it is worth the time and effort to sit down and say:

  1. What is the desired outcome?
  2. What are all the possible ways to achieve it?
  3. Then choose the one that works best for you and write down all the steps required to do so.
  4. Follow the steps every time.
  5. Refine the system over time.

Will systems make my life boring?

I know that the idea of using systems to run your life can be very overwhelming for certain personality types. It sounds so stifling, like there is no freedom or spontaneity.

That is actually the opposite of the truth. And coming from me that says a lot because I am one of those people who fought systems tooth and nail until a few years ago.

Good systems give you more time and take less energy.

Need some help creating systems that will support your sustainable, healthy lifestyle? I can help you with that.

The 90 minute Strategy Session is exactly what you need to identify the key systems you are missing and I will show you exactly how to fit those systems into your life.

So take five minutes right now and identify at least one system that you need to implement in order to improve your health. Follow the five steps above to create that system. Then use it. I would love to hear what systems you are going to implement. Let me know in the comment section below.

For simple By Design recipes why not pick up your copy of the Eat By Design Cookbook. I’ve created it in the form of a 28-day meal plan (plus grocery lists!) so you don’t need to think about what’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner for the next month. Or you can grab the first 7 days FREE by clicking here.


Panang Curry with Shrimp, Chicken or Beef

Beef Panang is my significant other’s favourite dish when we go to our favourite local Thai restaurant.

I took on the challenge a few years ago to make it but I found it too spicy and the meat was tough so I wrote it off…clearly, I was doing something wrong which at the time, I had no interest to investigate any further.

But recently I had a client request Beef Panang so this time I decided to do my homework and get it right.

I watched some videos on Panang which were so helpful especially this one in particular.

In a nutshell, I learned that adding fresh lemon grass, thai basil and lime kaffir leaves would bring this dish to a whole new level. I also learned that using prepared curry paste is totally ok (instead of making it yourself) because the prepared paste is made with special grinders so that everything is the perfect texture (or perfectly combined)…all I know is they said it was ok!

I also learned that both chicken or shrimp were great alternatives to beef, however if you are going to use beef, flank steak is a great cut for it. (Take note, that many chefs agree that beef is the ultimate protein choice for panang because of it’s rich flavour).

Personally, I think there is some truth to that but I have thoroughly enjoyed it with shrimp as well.

The trick to keeping it less spicy or if you prefer, to make it super spicy, is to adjust the amount of curry paste. The more you use, the hotter it gets.

The lime kaffir leaves and thai basil should be available at your local Asian market (assuming you have one in your town) and the bamboo shoots and lemon grass may be at your local grocer. You can make this curry without all of those ingredients if necessary, but really, they take the panang to another level.

Panang Curry


  • 1.5-2 pounds meat of choice (beef flank, chicken breast or thigh, or shrimp)
  • 8 lime kaffir leaves, chiffonade (cut into thin strips)
  • 2 stalks lemon grass, soft centers only, minced
  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • Thai basil leaves and stems, torn (a handful)
  • 1 227ml can bamboo shoots
  • 2 cans full fat coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste (1 tablespoon will make it not spicey, more than two will make it super spicey, depending on your brand of paste).


  1. Place coconut milk in soup pot over medium heat.
  2. Mix Curry Paste into coconut milk and reduce until you the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon with out running (this may take about 10 -15 minutes).
  3. You can add the lime kaffir leaves and lemon grass while the coconut milk is reducing.
  4. Once the coconut milk is thick enough add the onion, peppers, thai basil, bamboo shoots and stir.
  5. Meanwhile if you are using steak, sear it in a separate pan and slice thinly.
  6. Add the meat to the pot once the coconut milk mixture has reached your desired consistency. If using chicken or shrimp, add them to the panang sauce and cook until the chicken or shrimp is thoroughly cooked.
  7. Serve on its own or over cauliflower rice or white rice.

Serves 4-6

I look forward to hearing how it goes for you!

For more simple By Design recipes why not pick up your copy of the Eat By Design Cookbook. I’ve created it in the form of a 28-day meal plan (plus grocery lists!) so you don’t need to think about what’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner for the next month. Or you can grab the first 7 days FREE by clicking here.

5 Must Have Kitchen Accessories

There are certain items that will make your cooking experience that much easier and that much more enjoyable. Today I am going to share with you 5 must have kitchen accessories that have made a huge difference in my life (and you know that I cook ALOT).

Now, before we get started I am going to say that one of the most important items that is not on this list is a good, sharp kitchen knife. This saves time and obviously makes chopping easy and you will know exactly what I am talking about when you feel the difference. I use this knife.


  1. A Good Blender

When I say good blender I mean a really good blender and these are often an investment.

When you are making homemade soup you want it to puree perfectly.

When you are learning how to make bread replacements with plantains, you want blades that are going to break those things down into a smooth paste.

When you only need a small amount of cashew butter for a recipe, you want a blender that will pulverize your nuts to a perfect paste.

And when you regularly hide spinach or other green vegetables in your smoothies, you want a blender that will break them down, so that you don’t have little tiny pieces that tickle your throat on the way down (all you pulp-haters know what I mean)!

I have used the Vitamix, Blendtec and the Ninja blenders and all worked very well. I have a preference for the Vitamix but that is likely because I have had one for almost 10 years so I know what it can do.

Hamilton Beach food processor

  1. A Food Processor

The difference between a blender and a food processor is that a high powered blender is great for pureeing things like soups, smoothies and nut butters. The food processor is great for rough chopping and blending but not quite pureeing so it is a great option when you are making salsa, dips, shredding cheese, chopping or grating vegetables.

I am currently using this food processor. I am happy with it’s capabilities and have made lots of great pesto, grated lots of cheese and made homemade marinaras in it. There is some issue with food getting stuck in a poorly designed spot on the lid, but so far I have been able to deal with it.

5 must have kitchen accessories

  1. An Immersion Blender

I love my immersion blender. I have an older Braun immersion blender that I purchased from a second hand store for $4.99.

I use it to make guacamole, puree soup (although I prefer my Vitamix for this) and to puree my mashed potatoes.

But one of my favourite uses is to make mayo or homemade garlic sauce.

If you have ever tried to make mayo in a food processor doing the “one drop at a time” method, it is time to make a change because the immersion blender allows you to put all your ingredients in a container and just blend…and voila, out comes mayo (usually…), within seconds.

You also save a lot of time on the clean up when you use the immersion blender.

I love my Braun but I also know that the Cuisinart immersion blender is at a good price point and has great reviews.

instant pot

  1. The Instant Pot

The Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker.

Gone are the days when you have to fear that your pressure cooker is going to explode and literally blow through your ceiling (yes, that use to be a thing).

The Instant Pot is a Canadian designed pressure cooker that has multiple features aside from just pressure cooking. You can also sautee, slow cook, make rice, yogurt and more.

It has ten “fool proof” safety protections so that you do not need to fear anything going wrong (you know, like those explosions I mentioned).

And…it speeds up cooking by two to six times using up to 70% less energy.

For example, if you would usually make a stew in the slow cooker for 8 hours, you can make that same stew in the Instant Pot in about an hour and I am telling you, it will be better, more tender and more flavourful than your original version.

Note that there are are different sizes and versions…my favourite is this one.

This is one of the best purchases I have made in the past few years. And their customer service is excellent.


  1. Parchment paper

Is parchment paper an accessory? I say yes!
One of your biggest pains is cleaning up the dishes after all the cooking happens. And the worst part is cleaning baked on sauces or burnt food.

Parchment paper has basically annihilated any need to scrub baking dishes or cookie sheets because it is a paper that won’t burn under regular heat in the oven.

So you just line your baking sheets or dishes with it and after you cook, it lifts right off the dish and into the garbage, leaving you with an almost clean dish!

I buy mine at Costco.

Two notes on parchment paper:

  • Make sure to use a piece of paper big enough to go over the edges of your dish when you are cooking something with a sauce or oil so that the sauce doesn’t leak over the edge of the paper.
  • I am going to be upfront and admit that I do have some questions about the health issues with parchment paper. I am just curious to know what chemicals are in the parchment paper and if they are a concern to our health in any way so for this reason, I occasionally choose to not line a dish and accept that I will have to wash it.

A bonus favourite…

squatty potty

  1. A Squatty Potty

Ok, I know this one seems not fit into the theme of cool kitchen accessories I have mentioned but this is for after you’ve enjoyed your healthy meals.

Many people suffer from constipation and while this is often caused by dehydration, poor diet and lack of movement, it can also be worsened by the position in which you poop (humans are meant to squat while we poop).

The Squatty Potty is basically a footstool that wraps around the base of your toilet. You put your feet on it when you are having a bowel movement so that your colon is in an optimal position for elimination and that means that the poop comes out more easily.

Whether you are constipated or not, this is a great accessory for the whole family that will contribute to better health for everyone. And I kid you not when I tell you, you will never want to poop without your footstool again after you try it!

Do you have a favourite kitchen accessory that I didn’t mention? Let me know which ones you love by commenting below.

For simple By Design recipes why not pick up your copy of the Eat By Design Cookbook. I’ve created it in the form of a 28-day meal plan (plus grocery lists!) so you don’t need to think about what’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner for the next month. Or you can grab the first 7 days FREE by clicking here.

*This post contains affiliate links, which means that I will receive a small percentage of any purchases made when you buy through these links. I endorse products that I love…




Super Fast And Healthy Dinners

7 Super Fast and Healthy Dinners

I was recently asked to host a cooking class and demonstrate some super fast and healthy dinners.

So I put together seven of my favourites.

And then I realized, that these recipes were so good and so convenient I needed to share them with you.

I have put all of the recipes together in one free download which you can get HERE.

And if you are wondering how fast these recipes really are? I demonstrated six of them in about 90 minutes, with about an hour of prep work before hand which averages to less than 25 minutes a meal….and many of them will take you much less time than that to throw together.

1. Cabbage and Sausage

The cabbage and sausage is just simply chopped cabbage with sausages. You can bake it or slow cook it. And it is of course, delicious.

2. Sausage and Butternut Squash Stew

The Sausage and Butternut Squash Stew is great for the oven, slow cooker or Instant Pot. If you purchase pre-chopped butternut squash you will save your self a whole whack of time.

3. Crustless Crab Quiche

This recipe is just super fast and so buttery good (even though there is no butter:-). The crab meat can be purchased in the seafood department of the grocery store.

4. Sundried Tomato and Basil Turkey Burgers with Avocado Cream

These burgers are great to make ahead and freeze raw. You can then just throw them frozen on the grill or in a pan for about seven minutes per side and drizzle the avocado cream on top.

5. Sausage Egg Roll in a Bowl

Possibly the easiest dinner ever made (with the exception of cabbage & sausage). Just watch the video. You’ll see.

6. Chicken Salad with Apple & Celery

This is a recipe that happened by accident. Got leftover chicken? And who doesn’t have apples, mayo and celery in the fridge? I made this for the kids lunches one day it was a hit that we have repeated several times.

If you want to step it up a notch, add some pecans, grapes, bacon…what else would you add?

7. Tandoori Chicken with Curry Cauliflower Rice and Tzatziki

The Tandoori Chicken is super easy because you can buy the Tandoori spice mix already prepared. Just marinade it overnight for a tonne of flavour. If you want cut out one more step, you can buy prepared tzatziki which usually contains the same ingredients you would be using anyway.

What are your favourite super fast and healthy dinner recipes? Please comment below.

And don’t forget to download your free Quick Dinners Recipe Package HERE.

"Healthier" Baked Goods

8 of The Best “Healthier” Baked Goods Recipes

I want you to eat healthy food the vast majority of the time. But I also want you to have “healthier” baked goods recipes available to you when you need them.

The recipes below are gluten-free and grain-free. They generally use By Design and paleo friendly ingredients (with the exception of chickpea flour in the cupcakes)

If you are hosting a birthday party, I would rather that you serve up an almond flour cake with homemade chocolate icing then a white flour cake because you will likely feel better without the gluten…

And if you are craving something sweet at night (like craving it so bad you are considering going out to Dairy Queen for a blizzard)…I would rather you choose something totally decadent and satisfying like homemade chocolate fondue so that you can wake up feeling great tomorrow.

Mind you, if organic full fat whipping cream served on top of your favourite fresh berries is the ultimate treat for you, please stick to that because that will give you loads of great nutrients whereas, these baked goods still come along with some negative effects.

So before I give you the recipes, my sweet friend, we are going to have a short chat about how you can best use these recipes…because I want to reiterate that not all of these recipes are “healthy” indulgences…they are just healthier than some other options.

The majority of these recipes are baked goods. These are not By Design baked goods…they are just “better option” baked goods.

They have added sugar and they will still tickle that reward centre in your brain meaning that after you eat them, you may wake up craving more baked goods or other indulgences the next day.

I have worked with clients who knew that indulging in these types of recipes was a bad idea for themselves. They would say “I am an all or nothing type of person. If I have some, I will just continue to want more.” If that sounds like you, just scroll down to the Bonus Recipe at the end.

Got that?

If so, then it’s time to share the recipes that have gotten me through many a birthday party, girl’s night, book club, dinner with friends or just a downright craving…

With these recipes, I have been able to stay much more on track with my healthy lifestyle, with my properly functioning digestion and feeling better than I would have, had I had to resort to packaged baked goods or foods with gluten.





1. Cupcakes

(gluten free, grain free, dairy free, egg free, nut free)
This recipe uses chickpea flour…which is not a top choice because it is made from raw chickpeas which are hard on the digestive system. It is however free of the majority of the most common allergens so it has been a life saver for birthday parties with kids.

You can also use the recipe to make a cake…it will just take a little longer to bake.

2. Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I use the same recipe for my muffins that I use for my birthday cakes. So you can scroll down to the Birthday cake for these buttery, banana-y, chocolatey sensations.

Just skip the icing step in the recipe and fold about 1 cup of chocolate chips into the batter before baking.





3. Bread

When you give up bread because you realize that it is making your digestive system suffer and you realize that it is a catalyst in your weight loss or fitness challenges, not much is as exciting as coming across a recipe for bread, that is predominantly made with on track ingredients and you get to use a bread maker to make it.

I am serious, finding this recipe after four years of never buying bread was like finding a key to a treasure box.

Now, I don’t make it often but it is really comforting to know that I have a recipe I can turn to when I really want toast with breakfast or a grilled cheese.

Now, just as a reference point, I have only used this recipe three times since I found it about  a year ago….but it is nice to have in my repertoire.





4. Pumpkin Muffins

These Pumpkin Muffins were one of my first adventures into “paleo baking.’ And I have reused this recipe countless times over the years. You can add chocolate or nuts…or both!

Coconut flour can be a bit of a struggle to swallow…which I agree, does not make it sound appetizing…but these muffins are very good regardless. Just make sure to serve them with tea or water!

5. Pecan Shortbread Chocolate Chip Cookies

These Pecan Shortbread cookies are so good that I get requests to bring them to potlucks…I have even had guests requests that I serve them when they are coming to my house!

This recipe is relatively simple but don’t skimp on the butter. If you don’t use enough, your cookies will crumble when you cut them.

Also, just make sure to let them cool or else they may fall apart…but at the same time…not much is better than a warm cookie, even if it falls apart.

6. Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yes, these are just as delicious as any grain based homemade chocolate chip cookies.

You can use refined coconut oil or butter for these cookies, in place of the palm oil. And maple syrup works fine in place of the coconut sugar.





7. Apple Crumble

This apple crumble is an excellent substitution for the traditional recipe.

While it is true that oats are generally gluten free, they may also be tough on your digestive system so the almond/coconut substitution is great. And the combination works great for texture.

The butter and cinnamon are what really take this recipe to it’s limits. It is melt in your mouth goodness without being too sweet.






8. Birthday Cake with Chocolate Icing (using almond flour)

  • 3 cups almond flour
  • ¾ cup shredded unsweetened coconut, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup(if desired)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large ripe bananas, mashed


  •  1 ½ cups full fat coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 300g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a 9-inch cake pan or 2 round cake pans with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, coconut, salt, and baking soda.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, maple syrup, eggs and vanilla extract.
  5. Stir the wet ingredients into the almond flour mixture until thoroughly combined.
  6. Fold in the bananas and chocolate chips, and spread into the prepared cake pan.
  7. Bake for 30 mins or until done. You know it is ready when the cake is golden and and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Also, the top of the cake should not look wet anymore. Remove it from the oven and place on a wire rack.
  8. Let cool completely.
  9. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan bring the coconut milk and coconut oil just to a boil and remove from heat.
  10. Add the dark chocolate and stir while the chocolate melts
  11. Place the chocolate icing in the fridge to cool and thicken for about a hour or more, stirring occasionally.
  12. Once the cake is cool and the icing is thick enough to spread, place one cake on a plate and ice the top. Place the second cake on top and spread the icing all over the cake. Sprinkle coconut on top of cake.
  13. Place in fridge if necessary to allow icing to harden.

*For muffins or mini-loaves-add chocolate chips and bake 20 mins.

*To ice 12 muffins use ½ cup coconut milk, ½ tablespoon coconut oil, ¾ cup chocolate chips for icing.

BONUS recipe! 




Chocolate Fondue

And this recipe…this one comes to you from my heart.

This is my weekend at the cottage recipe. The one I share with my kids after a great day by the lake…

I enjoy this chocolate fondue at least twice a week over the summer when organic berries are in season and easier to find.

It is important to choose organic strawberries because they are at the top of EWG’s Dirty Dozen list (these are the produce items that contain the most pesticide residues).

So that is it! Those are my favourite “healthier” baked goods recipes. I hope that they fill some gaps in your healthy lifestyle so that you can still celebrate with food on special occasions, or tame a craving, while doing less harm to your body than you would with conventional baked goods.

For more simple By Design recipes why not pick up your copy of the Eat By Design Cookbook. I’ve created it in the form of a 28-day meal plan (plus grocery lists!) so you don’t need to think about what’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner for the next month. Or you can grab the first 7 days FREE by clicking here.