Category Archives: blogs

Kristin McCaig on CTV Morning LIve

7 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat Their School Lunch

It is easy to pack school lunches with loads of healthy foods like vegetables and fruits. The challenge lies in making sure that they actually eat their food!

If you are tired of loading up their lunch bags with healthy food only to dump most of it into the garbage at the end of the day then read on. I am going to share a handful of simple tricks to help you and your kids eat and enjoy their healthy school lunches.

This blog is divided into two parts. Part one is my recent CTV appearance where I covered three key tips and Part two is in the blog below. They each contain different tips so please explore them both!

You may pick up some new lunch ideas as well!

And my favourite tip is at the end of this blog.

You can watch the segment HERE.

Kristin McCaig on CTV Morning LIve1. Put the best food at the bottom of the thermos.

If you are giving your kids a thermos full of sliced up sausages and sweet potato cubes for example, do not put the veggies on the bottom. Make sure that meat is the last bite (if they are carnivores that is).

Otherwise you know how this story ends…the veggies will remain uneaten.

2. Don’t let cheese get soggy.

Is this a universal problem? My kids, who LOVE cheese, have made me throw out so much cheese because they said it was “soggy” by lunch time.

First off, never pack cheese in a container with anything else, especially fruits or veggies. The water from the fruits and veggies will create a moist environment or seep directly into the cheese, making it mushy and just not appetizing at all.

So, what to do? Freeze it!

Cut up your cheese into slices and freeze them. Then put the frozen cheese into individual portions (in small containers) and take them out of the freezer only when you are packing the lunch.

Cheestrings and Babybells are solving this problem by being individually packaged but then you have extra garbage…and I have never seen a high quality cheese in individual portions.

PS-If ice packs are working for you on their own, that is awesome too!

3. Give them a healthy “treat.”

In our house, my hubby and I can barely finish a meal without at least one (or three) squares of dark chocolate. And my kids are not immune to our weakness so as time passes, they are adopting our habit of enjoying a little treat after a meal.

But I don’t want to fill their lunches with unhealthy options like cookies and snack bars.

So instead of throwing a bunch of kale into my kids lunch and hoping for the best, I purposely include at least one treat that really is a treat, by my standards of course. And the kids know that the rule is, I will continue to give you this treat so long as I see that you are doing your best to eat the healthy food as well.

The treats I turn to most often are

  1. A square of dark chocolate.
  2. Flax Snax (super easy to make with your kids)
  3. Plantain chips (Just a small handful. And admittedly, these are likely not much better than regular potato chips…so definitely they count as a treat).
  4. Dark chocolate chips and raisins (you can add coconut flakes and pumpkin seeds too)!
  5. Fruit To Go bars.

4. Keep their lunch bags clean. 

Don’t take this personally, I know it seems obvious but washing the kids’ lunch bags occasionally is important.

My kids are lucky if I do it twice a year but that is just not often enough.

There are few better ways to ruin an appetite than to open your lunch to the smell of spoiled yogurt or old stew that is hiding in the folded corners of the lunch bag.

So every couple of weeks, throw that smelly bag into the wash so that you have one less thing deterring the kids from eating their lunches. 

5. Get them to help with planning and packing.

If you haven’t seen the amazing thing that happens when you actually get the kids to make a meal, I will tell you right now: When they help make it, they are much more likely to eat it!

Give them a paring knife and a cutting board and ask them to cut up the yellow pepper or the apple. Lay out the recipe and ingredients for Flax Snax and have them mix it together. Or just simply ask them to go to the fridge and choose which fruits and veggies they want today.

Getting the kids involved helps them build the skills of meal planning, choosing healthy food and in the end, they are more excited to eat what they chose.

6. Rotate the options and keep it simple.

There are times when a specific snack is a huge hit. They beg you to put it in their lunch. And this lasts for weeks. Until suddenly, it comes home untouched for three days in a row.

What is happening? I thought I had the lunch menu perfect?

Nope, it’s time for a change…again.

To make these changes doable, I recommend keeping it simple in general. Instead of offering the choice of three fruits (a few strawberries, half of a peach and half an apple), give them an apple (cut up or whole) until they are done with apples. Then move on to peaches. A few weeks later, just give berries.

This will make it much easier on you to find new options when they are sick of the old ones.

7.  Whatever they don’t at school, they eat at home.

This is my favourite tip of them all. We are feeding the kids nutritious foods for a reason. So we need to see them eat it!

If your child chooses to forego their healthy food at school, it becomes the after school snack or a side dish at dinner.

Simple but awesome.

I hope these ideas have been helpful for you. If your kids are giving you a hard time about eating their healthy school lunch, do not give up. This is your opportunity to show your child how to make wise decisions about food even (and especially) when many of their friends and classmates are not as lucky.

Obviously, showing your family how to live healthfully can be overwhelming sometimes. Knowing how much you should be eating, how much exercise is enough (or too much) and figuring out how to get everyone on board 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.

Strong is the new beautiful

I’ve Put On Weight

I knew that finding out my weight at my annual physical was going to be a tough moment. In fact, I considered requesting that we skip the weigh-in but decided against that because I do like tracking health data.

I have been on scales a number of times over the past couple of years and they all gave a similar reading but up until now I was able to convince myself that they were off by a few pounds.

Because I cannot weight as much they say…

But when the nurse and I looked at the number on the scale it was confirmed. I weigh 10 pounds more than I did just a few years ago. I have stayed roughly the same weight since I finished high school and also, after 2 pregnancies. And I weighed 10 pounds less even when I was done nursing my kids and was much less active.

If you are ready to stop reading because you are put off by the fact that I am making a big deal about 10 pounds when your weight struggle has gone far beyond that, please stay.

Any person who is obsessed with their weight is affected when they gain weight. The fears about the weight continuing to rise, the scrutiny over every bite of food we take and the fact that thinking about this weight interferes with so many beautiful moments in life every single day are shared between myself and you.

I am offering valuable insight below that applies to anyone who is being ruled by the fear of the number on the scale. Please stay and read on.

I had managed not to gain weight in any of the predictable life stages but now suddenly, as I near 40, I am heavier.

I sat on the examination table at my doctor’s office with my open-back gown, re-evaluating my diet, wondering if I should cut out all potatoes and dairy, avoid dark chocolate entirely and, oh my god, I eat a banana every day….maybe the carbs are the problem! I’ve also been staying up so late…

Suddenly I started thinking that my lifestyle is a mess.

And that, in a nutshell, is why I wanted to skip the scale altogether.

Because, here’s the thing:

Literally, 2 hours before I stepped on the scale at my doctor’s office, I was looking at my body in the mirror and I was happy.

I was happy with the muscles that I saw. I was reflecting on my recent soccer game, the goal I scored, the speed I used to get ahead of the other team’s defenders…I am strong, I am healthy and I know it...and I work for it.

I eat incredibly well 90% of the time. I am more active than I have ever been. If you had asked me prior to getting on that scale how I felt about the healthfulness of my lifestyle I would have said 8/10 if 10 was “extraordinary health and doing everything you can to be amazing.”

And within seconds of getting on the scale all that happiness was gone. Pouf!

Like so many women, my self-confidence and self-love are fragile and easily influenced by the number on the scale.

You and I grew up in a world where our health was measured by our body mass index and “ideal weight” was a number we chose arbitrarily most likely based on what we weighed in high school (this habit very likely picked up from our Slim Fast drinking, LA weight watching mothers who fed us Fruit Loops while telling us not to eat too much or we’d get fat….because that wasn’t just me, right?).

Commercials from our childhood like the one for Special K cereal with the woman in a red body suit claiming “You can’t pinch an inch on me!” lead us all to have a super slim body as the ideal and only acceptable vision for our future self.

Just the idea of any extra amount of fat on my body was enough to make me want to lose my mind.

But amazingly, my actual experience of this…of these additional 10 pounds… when I am not looking at the number on the scale, is that I am over the moon about what my body can do at the gym, how my body allows me to lift heavy things at work every day, do physical work around the house and be active with my family. Sure, pregnancy ruined my once voluminous breasts and I have cellulite that will never go away but I am generally so happy with my body and my overall health.

For many of us the scale has an imaginary red line. Below that line is “Perfection” and above it is “Fat.”  But it’s not real and it is so wrong.

For me, the best plan is to avoid the scale completely.

Instead I generally track my body composition and health based on a specific set of criteria:

  1. Am I taking care of my body (exercise, chiropractic, mobility, massage)?
  2. Am I eating well?
  3. Am I getting adequate sleep that is restful?
  4. Am I coping with stress?
  5. Do I spend time with people I love and who love me?

When I left the doctor’s office and had some time to breathe and think, I came back to these criteria. Here were my answers to the questions above:

  1. I am now more active on a regular basis than I have ever been. I am lifting weights and playing soccer and my muscle mass has increased which will increase my weight. But I do need to be more consistent with chiropractic, massage and mobility.
  2. I eat extremely well (not perfectly).
  3. I could do with a bit more sleep (and this FYI, for someone who does need to lose weight, can be a big factor because it messes with hormones and can lead to consuming more food).
  4. I deal well with stress. (I communicate. I seek personal growth. I let go of what is beyond my control). With that being said, my stress levels are higher when I have not had enough sleep.
  5. I spend time with good people.

These considerations give me a much clearer picture of how I should be feeling about my body. The scale doesn’t tell me any of this.

And I use this information to decide what tweaks I need to make in order to be confident that my body is at it’s ideal composition and health (which for me means taking the right action steps to get more sleep).

Another good moment in this whole episode was when I opened up to a good friend who is very thin but super active and strong. I would have put her at about 25 pounds less than I am.

I told her about my weight and essentially said I was feeling shitty about it. So she told me what she weighed….and I was totally shocked! She only weighs a bit less than me. I would never, ever have guessed that.

And on top of that, I have women in my life that are strong, fit, confident and weigh more than I do…and I idolize them. It never crosses my mind how much they weigh. They are freaking beautiful and how they show up in the world is inspiring; as a patient mother, an strong athlete, an entrepreneur etc.

Weight is by no means irrelevant, but it’s certainly only a part of the equation.

We tend to be misguided about what healthy looks like on a body and on the scale. And our perceived state of beautiful is often different than what is our healthiest weight or body composition and structure. Some people are naturally curvier than others. Others have smaller bone structure.

These are things we cannot change. And that needs to be ok. 

And if you are carrying extra weight that you know you need to lose in order to be healthier then the next step is to change your action steps instead of losing time, feeling bad about your body.

I will be honest with you though, one of my biggest fears is still that one day I am going to see a picture of myself and gasp “Is that really me?”

I admit that I worry that 2 years from now will bring me 10 more pounds.

And although research does not conclude that as women age, we are certain to gain weight, it can still happen and for some people it is actually healthy weight, even if we hate it.

Studies have suggested that people with a BMI that is considered slightly overweight, seem to have longer lifespans and the “overweight” may be protective against mortality. There are a lot of factors to consider in this study but it opens the consideration of how realistic is our “ideal weight” in the first place.

When you find yourself questioning whether or not your weight is ideal, instead of getting on a scale, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I taking care of my body (exercise, chiropractic, mobility, massage)?
  2. Am I eating well (enough or too much)?
  3. Am I getting adequate sleep that is restful?
  4. Am I coping with stress?
  5. Do I spend time with people I love and who love me?

If you are taking the right actions to support your health and you find that your energy, immune system and moods are good and you have recent blood work to back this all up, I really hope that you can logically conclude that your body is beautiful and exactly as it should be.

If your actions seem to be aligned with this criteria but you are not seeing the expected results, get support from an appropriate health professional. You may be experiencing hormonal dysfunction or have gaps in your action steps that you are just not seeing.

And if you need support with these action steps, consider working with a nutritionist to make sure you are doing everything you can to create the healthiest version of you, without worrying about the number on the scale.

Can you relate? Please let me know your experiences in the comments below.

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.

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.



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.