Kristin McCaig with CTV Host Annette Goerner

CTV: 5 Ways To Spring Clean Your Health

This week I had another visit with the always friendly CTV Morning Live crew to talk about how you can take a few simple steps to spring clean your health.

Watch the video here.

Spring is often the time that you are ready to get out move your body. It is a time that you begin to really feel like you are ready to make those changes that have been slowly creeping into your mind.

Get rid of the junk food. Get out into the sunshine. Make better food choices.

These ideas are what inspired today’s CTV segment.

We talked about:

  1. Replace a snack with a cleansing beverage like fruit infused water (find out why carbonated beverages, including water, may be a problem for you).
  2. Bring your runners with you in your car (and everywhere) so you can get out and work.
  3. Go to the Farmer’s Markets for fresh produce and grass fed meat/
  4. Get shelves and baskets to organize your pantry and cupboards and throw out food that is not serving you (you know, the processed garbage).
  5. Try the Sundried Tomato Pesto & Salmon Foil Wraps recipe. It’s great for bbq’ing or baking and you can prep it in advance.

Watch the clip here.

What are you going to do to spring clean your health? Please let me know in the comments section!

Obviously, getting healthier and maintaining your progress can be overwhelming sometimes. Knowing how much you should be eating, how much exercise is enough (or too much) and figuring out what other factors are playing a role can feel frustrating. That is why I work closely with my nutrition consulting clients to help you create a healthy lifestyle that you love and that you can sustain. Connect with me HERE.

do i need to count calories, food scale

2 Reasons Why You May Need To Count Calories

Do I need to count to calories? That is the question.

As a nutritionist, working from a holistic background, I have always believed counting calories was totally unnecessary. Eat whole foods, sleep and exercise. Avoid complicated measures. That is what I taught my clients….until now.

Note: What is a calorie? Calories give your body energy. So you can look at a calorie as a deposit of energy into your body. You can burn some of them off naturally by breathing, digesting food and even sleeping or you can burn them actively, by living an active lifestyle along with exercising. But in the end, if you consume a large excess of calories without burning them off, they may lead to fat gain in your body or difficulty losing weight

In my first few years working with clients to help them achieve a lifestyle plan that they love and can easily follow I was totally against counting calories.

I saw calorie counting as a failing work-around that let people eat non-nutritious food while watching the numbers drop on the scale only to see their weight skyrocket within months (Do you remember seeing ads for diet companies that showed a skinny person eating cake? All they had to do was count the points!).

I wanted to believe that people could learn to eat only when they are hungry and stop when they are satisfied without calorie counting.

I hated the fact that for some people, calorie counting was an obsession and it only helped them to control how little they ate (which was usually nowhere near how much they really needed to be eating) and did not improve how healthy they were.

And I fully trusted that if I could show my clients what a reasonable portion looked like, they could just eyeball their meals and never look back to counting calories.

And I wasn’t totally wrong.

In any solid nutrition program, clients will learn what healthy food really is and how to eyeball a reasonable portion of food within weeks. And after a few months of eating healthfully, hormones should reset and you suddenly remember what hunger and fullness actually feel like.

By the end of your hard work, you are fully able to eat your healthy meals every day without ever opening your calorie counting app because you know what your body needs. This is actually possible!

So, in the long term, calorie counting is generally not necessary.

However, many of us have no idea how much protein, fat or carbohydrate we are eating in a day, let alone calories. And I know that I was kidding myself about what I was actually eating (for example, I learned that I was eating far less veggies than I thought). This was only revealed to me when I started tracking my food for a couple of weeks.

So I was wrong in my belief that counting calories and tracking food was absolutely evil because, as I have learned from my amazing clients as well as through some personal experimentation, in the short term it can actually be very helpful.

Do I need to calories

Here are the two reasons why:

1. Portions

When it comes to your favourite foods I am betting that you are not entirely clear on what a reasonable portion looks like. I sure wasn’t!

For example, if you are about to slather healthy almond butter onto celery, how much are you going to use? I would probably have spooned about three tablespoons into a bowl and dipped my celery into it. But if you look at the nutrition label, the suggested serving is two tablespoons, not three.

And when you add cooking oil to a pan, how much do you use? You only need enough to cover the bottom of the pan…maybe a tablespoon…are you using more?

And how about nuts?

They are so easy to snack on. If someone put out a bowl of mixed nuts out, it would be easy to enjoy a few handfuls or more. But the label suggests a serving to be about 40g, (which is about a handful). Until I experimented with counting calories, weighing and tracking food, I would easily consume at least four handfuls of cashews a day.

And here is one last example: Cheese. My favourite cheese suggests a 30g cube (or 3cm cube) per serving…which is about a third of what I would usually have in one sitting! (I always enjoyed four slices of cheese to go with my four handfuls of cashews). I just had no idea how much energy I was getting from cheese because I had never bothered to look at the labels.

Now, the suggested serving is just a suggestion. Some days you may eat a little more or less of what the label suggests. And you could argue that when you are eating healthy food, to some degree, there is no harm in eating until you are full (have you ever been told you are eating too much broccoli)?

But as you will see in the next section, if you have weight loss goals, you may struggle with losing weight if you are eating too much calorie dense food.

So here are two action steps for you when it comes to portions:

  1. Read the labels of your favourite foods (yes, even chocolate bars) to get a clear idea of what a suggested serving is.
  2. Get a digital scale so that you can accurately measure out your portions (this will also come in handy when you track your food).

do I need to count calories, reading labels is important2. Caloric Density

Caloric density is the amount of calories per serving of a food. And caloric density is one of the hitches in the theory that you can eat as much as you want as long it is healthy.

To continue with the example above, let’s take a look at the caloric density of cashews and cheese.

First off, as long as you tolerate dairy well (for starters, you do not get bloated, gassy or acne after consuming it) , organic, raw cheese is a very healthy addition to your diet as are cashews. Both are good sources of minerals that your body requires to be healthy.

So regardless of the caloric density, these are both great foods to include in your diet. But you have to be aware of how much of these nutritious foods you are eating because if the energy that they give your body (the calories) is a whole lot more than you are burning each day, and you repeat the cycle of eating a whole lot more than you burn, day after day, you will likely see the scale go up, not down, even though you are eating healthy food.

It certainly was a wake-up call when I learned how calorically dense my snacks were.

So let’s do the calorie math on my favourite snack…

I was having 495 calories with my four small handfuls of cashews and the four slices of cheese I was eating were weighing in at another 240 calories.

That means that if I need roughly 2000 calories a day and I enjoy my cashews and cheese every night, that is 735 calories consumed in three minutes. That is very little food and a whole lot of energy intake.

I want you to really think about this. The food you see in the picture above was just a little less than half my daily calorie and energy needs! Clearly I still planned to eat three more meals every day and maybe a glass of wine. And to be honest, the first day that I tracked my food, I had consumed 4000 calories because I clearly had no idea the caloric density of some of the foods I was snacking on (That was an excessive day by the way. Most days I fall between 1800-2400 calories).

I quickly learned that if I reduce the portions of some of the very calorically dense foods, I can include more of other very nutritious foods (salads for example) that are less calorically dense and move closer to my health goals.

And take note, I said reduce, not eliminate…I can still enjoy my very nutritious cheese and cashews, just in a smaller quantity.

This is where the slow weight gain comes from for many people. We tend to over-consume bit by bit, day by day, and sometimes even very healthy foods are the culprits and every year we see the scale go up just a little more.

Important to remember…

Nutrient density is the amount of nutrients in a given food. And nutrient density is a very important consideration. You should never avoid a food that is nutritionally dense just because it is calorically dense. But you should eat it in reasonable portions.

Consuming healthy fat is a requirement for a healthy body and studies show that doing so may result in lowered risk of heart disease, diabetes and more.

So make sure to include healthy, high calorie foods in your diet on a daily basis. Just do so with a moderate approach. When you are choosing your next meal or snack look at the label (bonus points if it is a whole food that doesn’t need a label) and ask yourself “Is this worth it?” If the food is full of nutrients, it’s worth it. Just eat a reasonable portion.

Lastly, foods high in sugar are also high in calories. I focused on high fat foods today because there are many nutrient dense, high fat foods. With the exception of enjoying some fruit, if a food is high in sugar, you may just want to avoid it.

Here is a short list of popular healthy, high calorie foods. There are many more, so make sure to check labels:

  • dried fruit (raisins, dates, figs, dried cranberries)
  • almond butter
  • dark chocolate
  • avocado, guacamole
  • nuts and seeds, trail mix
  • olive oil (and other cooking oils)
  • coconut products
  • cheese
  • mayonnaise

What should I do now?

Hopefully I have convinced you of the huge value of tracking your food and calories for a period of time. Here is how I recommend you do it:

  1. Determine your daily calorie needs HERE. Keep in mind, this is not an exact answer, just a guide.
  2. Download a tracking app. I like Myfitnesspal and LoseIt.
  3. Purchase a digital food scale.
  4. Weigh your food with your scale and track what you eat for 3 days or more.
  5. Adjust your portions and food choices based on your results (prioritize the nutrient dense foods).
  6. Then stop tracking and enjoy eating like a normal person again while implementing what you have learned. Every now and then (maybe every six months or once a year) track for a few days and see if you should make any adjustments.

If you are struggling with weight loss or gain, this is only one part of the equation, but for some people, tracking food and counting calories for a short period of time makes all the difference.

Obviously, losing weight and maintaining that progress can be overwhelming sometimes. Knowing how much you should be eating, how much exercise is enough (or too much) and figuring out what other factors are playing a role can feel frustrating. That is why I work closely with my nutrition consulting clients, to help you create a healthy lifestyle that you love and that you can sustain. Connect with me HERE.



French Onion Burgers

Recipe: French Onion Burgers

Burgers are such an easy weeknight meal which is why they are a weekly staple on many people’s meal plans (or last minute meal decisions). But plain beef burgers can get a little boring. By adding just a few simple ingredients you can make French Onion Burgers…and take dinner up a few notches.

These are excessively simple to make but to make your dinner time even more stress free you can prep them in advance by throwing them together, shaping them and freezing them. Then you can come home after a long day and just throw them right on the grill…yes, from frozen. (You may already know I am a huge fan of Meal Prepping).

Pair them with some roasted broccoli and a salad (the quickest ones come from a bag of course:-) and you have an amazing dinner in under 20 minutes. And…you can essentially clean your kitchen while the meal cooks! It is so low maintenance.

When this recipe originated in my mind  (I thought “yum, wouldn’t sauteed onions in the burgers be delicious?”), I found out that several versions of it already existed. And the idea of using sauteed onions became less exciting because, in order to get them really sauteed, it would have taken a pretty long time.

The recipes I found on google contained Onion Soup Mix which contains unnecessary additives including MSG. I figured that dehydrated onions would do the trick as long as there was enough salt to bring in some of that salty goodness from the soup mix… it worked.

I am also a fan of fresh herbs whenever possible (because they are full of nutrients and also add so much flavour) so fresh parsley was a great addition.

If you are on a gluten free diet, you can purchase French’s Worcestershire Sauce (which is gluten free) and of course, use your favourite gluten free bbq sauce.

French Onion Burgers

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/4 cup dried onion flakes
  • 1/2 fresh onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire
  • 1 teaspoon tamari
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons bbq sauce (optional)

Cooking Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Divide into 8 equal portions.
  3. Shape into burgers.
  4. Grill 7-8 minutes per side or freeze. Enjoy on a bed of lettuce, on their own or with your favourite toppings.

Serves 4-6

If you are meal prepping these French Onion Burgers, you can freeze them individually on a cookie sheet and then transfer them to a container once frozen. Then, just cook them from frozen for about 10 minutes per side (grill or pan) until the internal temperature reaches 160ºF.

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.

CTV Nov 2017

CTV: Foods That Warm You Up

This week’s visit to CTV was all about what foods warm you up.

I learned a lot while preparing for this segment. And I also got to work with a new host (Henry Burris…who is new to me since Lianne left the show).

See, I initially planned on talking about soups, stews and maybe a hot (spiked) drink of some kind…but had I done that, I would have been wrong!

Watch the short segment HERE to find out which foods actually do keep you warm.

And if you are looking for a recipe that you can add lots of hot peppers to…check out last week’s Dairy Free Butter Chicken recipe.

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.

Dairy free Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken (Dairy-free)

This dairy free Butter Chicken is just as good, if not better than any butter chicken recipe you may have tried. It is delicious.

I actually think that garam masala, which is a combination of spices, is the key to it’s depth of flavour.

And don’t worry if you are not a fan of coconut milk…you won’t taste it at all.

I originally came across the recipe from My Heart Beets.  She has lots of great recipes on her site. But I quickly realized that there were a few steps that you could cut out in order to make this recipe come together quickly and still result in tender chicken that is full of flavour and a creamy….creamy…sauce.

I like to pair it with Roasted Broccoli, Cauliflower Rice or white rice. And feel free to throw in a few more veggies (if you do, let me know in the comments section what you added)

Dairy Free Butter Chicken

  • 2 pounds chicken thighs or breasts (boneless and skinless), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Tandoori spice mix
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-inch knob ginger, minced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped in large pieces
  • 1 jar organic tomato basil sauce
  • 1 can organic coconut milk, full fat
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Cilantro, garnish
  • 1 head cauliflower (optional for cauliflower rice)
  • 1 bag frozen broccoli roasted, (optional, to serve with butter chicken)


  1. Place chicken in a bowl and toss with olive oil, lemon juice and Tandoori seasoning.
  2. Bake at 400ºF for 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked to 155ºF for breasts and 165ºF for thighs.
  3. Add oil to a pan on medium heat. Once it melts, add onions and cook until completely dark golden-brown but be careful not to burn them (this will take at least 15-20 minutes).
  4. Add ginger and garlic and saute for a few more minutes.
  5. Add spices and let them bloom for a minute.
  6. Add green pepper and tomato sauce. Let everything simmer for 12-15 minutes.
  7. Add 1 can of coconut milk, mix well. Let it simmer for another few minutes.
  8. Garnish with cilantro and serve over roasted broccoli or rice.

Serves 4-6

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.