My 3 Pillars to Wellness

I wanted to take a moment today to explain my approach to wellness. For me, I view wellness as 3 main pillars, and when those pillars are in alignment, we achieve our personal 360 degrees to health.
The key here is that the building blocks of everyone’s pillars will be different, but their foundation will all be the same.


Food and nutrition is one of the most important pieces of the wellness circle. The challenge though is how many people get caught up in diet culture and quick fixes. Unfortunately this often leads to frustration and less sustainable eating patterns that ultimately revert back to habits that don’t serve you well. This is why, the first pillar in my wellness approach is Nutrition & Food

This pillar for me is about knowledge and discovery, not deprivation. Everyone is built differently, and once you find the foods that serve you, you’ll be able to achieve your health goals. Food should be whole, nutritious and delicious. It may take some time to figure out the foods that don’t work for you, but that’s where health coaches, trial and error and nutritionists can step in to help.

These 3 tricks are how I guide people to finding their nutrition pillar’s building blocks:

  • Use whole foods as the base to your meals. This way your body is getting the nutrients it needs, and you are more likely to be full and satisfied after your meals.
  • Listen to how your body feels after eating certain types of foods, and cut back where needed. If you feel lethargic and bloated every time you eat dairy for example, it may be worth cutting back on or making sure you’re only consuming the highest quality products.
  • Find the foods that bring you joy. Food is supposed to be fun, not a chore. This approach (the joy approach) will come up in the other pillars as well. Now this doesn’t mean that icecream should be dinner every day, but it also doesn’t mean you should avoid it at all costs in order to be “healthy”

Now, onto Pillar 2. An important thing to note is that the pillars come in no particular order for me. With my approach, in order to have a real 360 degree approach to wellness, all 3 pillars need to be constantly worked on and nurtured.

Pillar 2, is mind and soul wellness.

This one often comes as a surprise to people. They don’t fully understand how having your mind and soul balanced could contribute to overall health. It’s been shown, especially in recent years, how important it is to not only address your physical health, but your mental one as well. Health issues manifest in the body due to underlying stress and anxiety, and can cause a host of illnesses, aches and pains. These are harder to diagnose because most solutions involve prescribing a pill to treat the symptoms instead of digging deep to treat the cause.

For a lot of people, this is the hardest pillar. It forces you to look inwardly and evaluate all components of your life: career, relationships, family, finances, anything that can have a direct or indirect impact on your mental well-being. This pillar forces the harder conversations, working through the things that don’t serve you anymore and learning how to let go, adapt and move forward.

It is also a fun pillar if you let it be. This is the creative pillar, the one that you use to fuel your soul. This is the pillar I encourage people to read in, to meditate, do art, play a game, reconnect with a friend. This is the one where you search and discover the things that bring you true joy in life.

Now, I’m not suggesting you make a list of the things that bother you and immediately eliminate them from your life (don’t go quitting your job, please!) but I am suggesting the following to help you along your way:

  • Rate the different aspects of your life on a scale of 1-10. For anything below a 7 write down 3 actionable steps that you can do NOW to improve them. Make sure your steps are SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time based) so that you don’t make a list that isn’t feasible or doesn’t fit into your life easily.
  • Find a creative project you enjoy, and dedicate time every week to it. Schedule it in. Block out all distractions and do only this activity that brings you joy.
  • Meditate and practice gratitude. This is a big one. Within everything that doesn’t serve you, it’s important to acknowledge everything that does. Focusing on what brings you joy will automatically improve your mood, and has been shown to make people happier. The energy you put out into the world is also what you receive back from it, so being grateful for all of the wonderful things in your life has a way of bringing more wonderful things to you.

Last, but certainly not least comes Pillar 3. Pillar 3 is fitness.

I’m sure you guys saw this coming, but I’m going to explain the why behind it. Yes, everyone knows movement and exercise are important, but as one of the pillars to wellness, it’s about so much more than simply gaining muscle or losing weight.

Fitness should fuel your soul. It’s about getting up, getting moving, and finding the workouts that bring you the most joy. Fitness is a stress and anxiety reliever. It’s connection to other like minded people. It’s community, caring and togetherness, especially in this crazy world where we’re all so far apart.

When I refer to fitness as the third pillar, it’s beyond important to me to encourage people to find something they love. It may not be my workouts and that’s ok. The goal is that you find something and stick to it.

Fitness can be confusing. There are tons of conflicting messages and even more workout styles to choose from than I can count. My guidance to people with fitness is this:

  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Just because you try a style of fitness and don’t enjoy it, doesn’t mean working out isn’t for you. It may take some time to find your groove, but they key is to try different things until you find a style you enjoy.
  • Once you find your style, stick with it. Results take time, and look different for everyone. Don’t give up after a week because you haven’t reached your goal.
  • Fitness should be a slow and steady. That way your results are long term and sustainable. Anything that offers a quick fix and sound stop good to be true, probably is. Your body takes time to reshape itself, you’ll see the progress, but don’t expect it overnight.
  • Set realistic fitness goals for yourself. If you start out with incredibly lofty goals, you’re more likely to get discouraged when you don’t see the results you planned for. Start small, and work up from there as you check off each goal from your list.
  • HAVE FUN. There’s no point of working out if you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing.

If any or all of this sounds interesting to you, I’m here to help you along your wellness journey. You can gain tips and tricks from my blog and Instagram, but I also offer 1:1 services to help coach you along your way. We can focus on all 3 pillars, or 1 or 2 you’re looking for guidance on. Book a 30 minute consultation with me to discover the best program for your needs.

I’ve also put together a quick template to help you with your soul ratings. Download and print the file and use it to guide you along your way.

Kick Start to Wellness Workshop

If you’ve been looking for a way to kick start your wellness journey, the Kick Start to Wellness is the perfect place to start. I’ve created a workshop that breaks down the fundamentals to beginning your health and wellness journey.

The workshop is made up of 3 main components:

  1. Workouts- throughout the month of January, there will be 4 live Zoom workouts hosted for the Kick Start to Wellness participants. These workouts will be free, and hosted every Sunday morning beginning January 10th. The classes will be between 45-50 minutes long, and will be low impact strength and resistance training. The classes will be at 10:30 am, but will be made available on demand to the members of the workshop who have opted in to the level up option.
  2. Meal planning & meal prep- The Level Up option provides participants with a 50 page guide outlining a 4 week meal plan, guidelines on how to plan and prep, how to be the most successful following the program, weekly wellness challenges as well as recipes to help you along the way. The Level Up option also provides access to a private Facebook group where members can connect with each other, and share encouragement, motivation and their goals for the workshop. It also provides access to me and the recordings of the Sunday workout recordings. The Level Up guide is a $35 add on to the free workouts.
  3. Weekly Wellness- In the Level Up guide, participants are provided 4 weekly wellness challenges. These challenges are to help exercise the part of the body we can tend to forget about, the mind and soul. The challenges were created to help you align your goals, and even get a bit creative.

You can sign up below for the free workouts, and get your copy of the Level Up Guide as well!

Click here to purchase your copy of the Kick Start to Wellness Level Up guide.

My top five tips on how to enjoy a stress- and guilt-free holiday season

I feel like I’ve been anticipating the holidays since November 1. I started to do everything really early this year, including decorate, because let’s be honest, there wasn’t a whole lot else to do! December is usually a full month of celebrations for me. We celebrate both Hanukah and Christmas in our household, so it’s the month of never-ending cheer. We usually spend most of December at family events, enjoying mounds and mounds of homemade food and family fun.

For many years, the holidays were stressful for me. I would worry about buying the best gifts so people would be super excited to open them. I would make sure I was staying active up until the big day to “justify” all the food I’d be eating, and I would say yes to everything because it was the holidays, and how could I say no, right?

Well, even though I ended up having fun, this mindset always left me stressed and exhausted by the time New Year’s rolled around. I finally made the decision to shift how I approached the holidays, or it would never be a time of real enjoyment for me.

Over the last few years, I’ve set myself a few ground rules that have really helped me navigate the holidays with less guilt and more overall enjoyment. I know that I’m not alone in feeling this way at this time of year, so today I’m sharing the holiday rules I live by. By following the mindset below, I’ve turned a stressful time into one that I look forward to the most.

  1. Make. A. Budget. Gift giving can be expensive. More often than not, when you do the math, you’d be astounded at what your total comes to. I decided the holidays were going to be handled with a per-person budget. I always give myself a little wiggle room in case I find something that I know the receiver will really love, but I try not to exceed any of my budgets by more than $10. Knowing what you’re planning to spend before you make your purchases will help you save, and it will eliminate the stress of massive credit card bills come January.
  2. It’s OK to say no. During the holidays, you are going to be invited to do about a million things. Granted, this year is not going to have that many (if any) demands for holiday party attendance, but it is still OK to decline the 72 Zoom parties you’re invited to. Your time is precious. That’s not to say you have to turn down every invitation, but you don’t have to feel obligated to do everything. The holidays are a time for you to enjoy yourself, to slow down and to reset, so saying no when you need to will help with this process.
  3. Don’t use the “it’s just one day” motto when it comes to food. The holidays are all about big meals, lots of dessert and usually eating more than we typically would. I always encourage people to steer clear of the “it’s just one day” motto when eating during the holidays. Let me explain what I mean. Often we justify eating foods that aren’t the healthiest by telling ourselves, “it’s just one day.” This often leads to days filled with overindulging followed by days of restrictive eating and over-exercising to “make up” for the “one day” we had. I am not a believer in this way of thinking. Food should bring a sense of joy and comfort. When you approach the holidays with the mindset that you will eat the foods you enjoy, and not worry about the day, or the next day, then you will tend to eat only until you’re full. You’ll quit when you’re ahead instead of eating as though it was your last supper.
  4. It’s more than OK to skip a holiday workout. This is true all the time, but especially so over the holidays. Don’t treat your workouts as a 1:1 with your holiday menu. You are allowed (and encouraged) to enjoy all the food and good times, without feeling the pressure to counteract with a workout.
  5. Don’t feel guilty about really, truly relaxing. You don’t have to be active and productive 365 days a year. In fact, you shouldn’t be. Our mind and body need down time, without having to troubleshoot or think about forming complete sentences, if need be. Giving yourself time during the holidays to unplug, truly be present, and turn off that “on” switch, really allows you to recharge. It can also help prevent burnout, and allow you to be even more creative when you get back to work.

Create warm memories with this easy-to-make Minestrone soup

What I love about food is that it doesn’t just keep us full and healthy, but it also has an interesting way of evoking certain feelings and memories. For example, when I think of minestrone soup, I think of my dad getting us takeout from one of the neighbourhood pizza places. He would get (and still does get!)lentil soups, minestrone soups, and combine them into a new creation called lenti-strone! We would all hang out, choose our soup combination, or no combination at all, eat, enjoy and just spend time together. Any time I eat either kind of soup, I always smile thinking of the fun times we spent together as a family, enjoying our takeout.

As I’ve gotten older, instead of doing takeout, I started crafting these recipes from scratch. They are just two examples of recipes that for me, feel like home. It makes me smile anytime I come up with a recipe that gives me all the feels, and recipes like this have always had a special meaning for me. 

Since a classic minestrone is vegetarian, creating a version that was gluten free and dairy free was a lot more straightforward thansome of my recipe remixes. This minestrone soup I came up with is packed full of veggies, and I’ve swapped out the wheat pasta for gluten free. I’ve omitted parmesan, but you can always add some to your final version.

I have yet to combine it with my homemade lentil soup, but it’s the same old minestrone I grew up loving. I hope you love it too.

Ingredients 

  • 4 medium to large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 large celery stalks, chopped
  •  ½ large white onion or 1 medium white onion, finely diced
  • 1 540 ml can of white kidney beans
  • 1 540 ml can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1½ cups of fresh or frozen green beans, chopped in half
  •  6 cups of organic chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1½ cups of gluten-free elbow pasta (you can also use shells)
  •  1 tsp salt
  •  1 tsp dried oregano
  •  ½ tsp garlic powder
  •  ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp of olive oil

Recipe

  1.  Heat your olive oil in a large pot on medium heat.
  2.  Add your onion and carrot to the pot. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add your celery to the pot, give everything a good stir, cover and cook another 5 minutes.
  4.  Add the white kidney beans, diced tomatoes and all your seasoning to the pot. Give everything a stir, cover and cook another 5 minutes
  5. Add in your broth, cover and bring to a low simmer.
  6. Lower your heat to medium low, cooking covered for 10-15 minutes making sure it doesn’t start to boil.
  7. While your soup is cooking, cook your pasta separately according to the al dente package instructions. You want to make sure there is a bit of bite left in the pasta once it is cooked.
  8. Add in your green beans and zucchini, cover and let cook 5-7 minutes
  9. Remove your soup from the heat. If you are serving immediately, add in your pasta, serve and enjoy. If you are planning to store the soup, let it cool before adding in the pasta. This will ensure the pasta doesn’t keep cooking in the soup and get mushy

Optional- top with grated parmesan cheese

Holiday Gift Guide 3: Give the Gift of Fashionable Fitness

Getting dressed for a workout can be just as much fun as getting dressed for an evening out. Activewear has evolved so much over the years, that getting dressed for a workout is no longer just about functionality, but it can be about fashion.

While what you look like when you sweat it out is absolutely not the most important thing, it can help motivate when you have a great outfit to put on. I know I love getting dressed in a fun set and some cute running shoes anytime I’m doing a class. It makes me feel good to match how I’m feeling on the inside with how I’m feeling on the outside.

I’m also, as always, a bit advocate for not needing to break the bank when getting decked out for a workout. You don’t need to spend a fortune to look great in your activewear. There are tons of affordable brands that I love, as well as ones that have great sales to take advantage of seasonally. The best part? I’ve got some great discount codes that you can use to shop some of my favourite brands too!

  1. Activewear: This is probably the most obvious of the gifting ideas. Getting someone who loves to work out a brand new activewear set is like a kid getting the newest, shiniest toy ever. Finding functional and fashionable activewear is easier than ever these days too, but when making your final selections, try to look at the fabric content and features. A sign of quality activewear is when the fabric is moisture wicking, and look for fabric types like nylon, spandex, supplex, tactel, lycra, dri-fit and meryl.

Here are some of my go to activewear brands. A lot of them are Canadian small business, which I love!

2. Running Shoes: Little known fact, but running shoes should be replaced yearly. This is especially true for someone who works out a few times per week. The soles of the shoes get worn in, so there is less support for your back (yes, it’s all connected!). Unfortunately, shoes can be expensive, so many people (myself included) put off replacing their running shoes for way too long. This is why, getting a new pair as a gift for the Holidays is so welcome!

Tip: Check out sites that have an “Outlet” section on them, or go to the actual outlet store when looking for a gift. You’ll be able to get great quality brands, but for a fraction of the price. I’m eying a pair of Adidas right now that are more than 50% off online!

3. Equipment: I know it may not sound glamorous, but there is some really cute fitness equipment out there. Just because you have a home gym, doesn’t mean it needs to be all business, it can be nice to look at too! This gift option can also be done without considering the aesthetics of the equipment. Workout gear can get pricey, so for someone who’s actively working out at home, a new addition to their setup is always appreciated.

Some suggestions if you want to spruce up someone’s home workout situation are:

  • Bala Ankle Weights: these are a bit on the pricier side, but they’re one of the best ankle weight options, that just happen to be available in a ton of cute colours. You can find them online, but they’re going fast, so I recommend ordering early.
  • New Hand Weights: Hand Weights can be pretty basic, but you can also get really nice neoprene or wrapped weights. Some of my favourites I actually found at Maxi’s (the grocery store!) they were light teal and were available form 2lbs through 15 lbs. Amazon is another option to find a good set, or you can go to a local Fitness Depot.
  • Yoga Mat: If the fitness lover in your life happens to also be a Yoga, Barre or Pilates lover, a new yoga mat can go a long way. There are tons of options out there, ranging from $40-$150 depending on the brand. My go to has actually been my Lululemon mat, but Lole also has some fairly affordable ones. Another great fitness hack is to check out a local Winners or Marshalls, they tend to have great options at a reduced price.
  • Kettlebell: I know what you’re thinking, so one would consider a kettlebell a cute gift. Well, maybe not initially, but they have some “prettier than” options available that are nicer than the average weight. This is another Maxi’s find from the other day- they had grey and light purple kettle bells ranging in weight from 7 lbs- 20 lbs available.

4. Post Workout Wear: After a workout, you need something to throw on to head home from the gym. Even though most workouts are being done from home now, that doesn’t take away from the need for a cute sweatshirt to toss on quickly when you’re finished with your sweat.

Some post workout wear options include

  • A cute cropped sweatshirt: these are easy to come by from most activewear or sportswear brands.
  • An oversized sweatshirt: Not everyone is into the crop. For me, it depends on my mood, but that over size, cozy vibe is always a good post workout go to. One of my fave options right now is Made Equal. Their sweatshirts are unisex, so they make a perfect gift for both the fit fashionista or the fit guy in your life.
  • A nice gym bag: This isn’t just a post workout item, but a pre-one too! Having a great gym bag makes going to the gym a lot easier, because you’re less likely to forget anything you need. As an added treat you can fill the gym bag with some goodies for your gym goer- like a new water bottle, some face wash, some clean beauty products, the options are endless and makes it the gift that keeps on giving.

Holiday Gift Guide 2: Give the Gift of Fitness

Yes, gyms and fitness studios are closed in most places, but that doesn’t mean that fitness has to stop. Thankfully, many places have converted their offerings online so that you can workout from the comfort of your own home. Weather permitting as well, personal trainers are taking their classes outside so that you can still get that in person workout, without breaking any rules.

If you have a fitness lover in your life who’s missing getting in their regular sweat, take the opportunity this holiday season to get them the gift of fitness! Get them a subscription to an online platform, a class pass to a studio’s virtual offering, or even sessions with a personal trainer (most are offering sessions on Zoom)

I’ve put together a list of my favourites for you to check out this holiday season. There’s a little something for everyone below, with workouts of all shapes and sizes!

  1. Me! I offer personal training and group fitness classes by Zoom. Check out my rates here or email me for more information!
  2. Fit Fomo: Fit Fomo is a great platform if you’re looking for variety. They have a little bit of everything from a group of the best Montreal trainers. You can also get individual classes if you don’t want to subscribe for the year. Check them out at www.fitfomo.com
  3. ASculptBody: A Sculpt Body is the perfect platform for someone looking for a low impact burn. Alessia has workouts of all difficulty levels, but the common thread is regardless of intensity, they are all gentle on the body. You can check out her site at www.asculptbody.com
  4. Body by Jojo: Body by Jojo is a mix of Barre workouts and a little more high intensity. She’ll have you sweating real fast as a part of the Body by Jojo community. Not only are the workouts great, but she creates a community for the members to connect through and motivate one another. Check out her site at www.bobybyjojo.com
  5. Fit by Troy: If you’re looking for a little more high impact, mixed with some HITT, mixed with resistance, Fit by Troy is for you. Troy creates incredibly fun and challenging workouts that can be done by all levels, but are especially loved by the most intense fitness lovers out there. Check out his site at www.fitbytroy.com
  6. Dime Pilates: Dime pilates is not your average pilates site. The platform was created by Madison Cassidy with the goal of creating an inclusive and empowering fitness platform, with the goal of improving people’s relationship with fitness, not to focus on the scale. Check out her site at www.dimepilates.com
  7. Sara Bucks Movement: Sara created her platform in the middle of the pandemic as a way to give her clients more access to remote workouts. She has created classes, challenges and a community around her site. Mostly focused on Barre and yoga styled workouts, Sara Bucks Movement is another awesome low impact site to try out! https://www.sarabucksmovement.com/
  8. StaceyLelFitness: Stacey Lel Fitness is pilates on crack (excuse the term, but it’s the best way to describe it). Her workouts are some of the most challenging you’ll do, but are also good for all levels. You choose your resistance, you choose your weights, so ultimately you decide how far to take it. Regardless of the level you choose, you will get in a killer sweat, and see the results you’ve been looking for. Check her out at https://www.stacylelfitness.com/

Some of my other favourite studios that have gone virtual are

Holiday Gift Guide 1: Give the Gift of Experience

This Holiday season will definitely look a little different than what we’re used to, but that absolutely doesn’t mean that the Holidays are cancelled! There are many creative ways to keep connected to friends and family during these unprecedented times, including virtual activities.

This holiday season, give the gift of experience, while supporting small businesses. You can offer friends and family, gift cards, vouchers and even buy them a virtual experience to enjoy together.

I’ve compiled a list of some Canadian businesses that are offering virtual ateliers, takeout, delivery, gift cards, the works! Now is a great time to get creative to stay connected!

Ateliers/Workshops/Tutorials

  1. Makeup/Beauty Workshops: Elizabeth D’Amico Beauty offers both virtual tutorials as well as ateliers. Treat the makeup lover in your life to a class with her, and top it up with some makeup or a gift card to go along with it

Check out her website at http://www.elizabethdamico.net or her Instagram @elizabethdamicobeauty for details

2. Grazing Boxes and more! A La Table offers virtual grazing box workshops as well as seasonal specific ones as well. These are available to Montreal area residents, because kits are shipped out to you before the workshop.

Check out her offerings at http://www.alatable.ca

3. Virtual Paint Classes! Place your order, and you get everything you need for a virtual paint night! They have great Holiday themed paintings, or just go for that bowl of fruit you’ve always wanted to replicate. Check out Virtual Paint Night to see their different offerings

Restaurants & Virtual Cooking

The list goes on for restaurants offering takeout, delivery and gift cards this Holiday season. Here are a few of my Montreal faves to support this Holiday (and always!)

Fancier Dining

  1. Damas Restaurant
  2. Lucille’s Oyster Dive
  3. Vin Papillon
  4. Tuck Shop
  5. Joe Beef

Casual Eats

  1. Falafel Yoni
  2. Barley
  3. Arthurs Mtl
  4. Mandy’s
  5. Atami Montreal
  6. Hello 123
  7. Kiwa
  8. Pigeon Espresso Bar

Virtual Cooking Classes

  1. The Chef Upstairs
  2. Aterliers Et Saveur
  3. My Mep (Montreal Only)

Baking Kits

  1. Cookies, cupcakes and more! If you’re in the Toronto area, check out Jodi’s Joys for all your baking kit needs. She will supply you with homemade treats, icing and topping so that all you have to do is decorate and enjoy!

Check out her Instagram @jodisjoys for more information or ordering and delivery

Immune Boosting Chicken Soup

This Healing chicken soup is an adaptation of my family’s traditional chicken soup recipe. When I first started making it, I followed the family recipe to a T, but realized over time I could tweak it to be even more healthy than the one that had been healing our colds for years. Just a few small modifications made this traditional chicken soup, the ultimate healer. My secret immune boosting ingredient- turmeric powder. Not only is it great for you, but it gives your broth this beautiful rich colour. I keep turmeric on hand all the time so that I can toss it into any recipe for an extra immune boost.

Ingredients

  • 6 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 5 stalks of celery chopped
  • 1 turnip peeled and cubed
  • 5-6 parsnips peeled and chopped
  • 1 white onion diced
  • 4-5 whole cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 1 whole kosher chicken
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of pepper
  • 4-8 cups of Water

Optional- I use little gluten free soup noodles for that real childhood feel. You can also add rice if you want to do a play on chicken rice soup.

Recipe

  1. Remove the skin from the chicken and the put the whole chicken into a large pot and fill your pot with water. You want to make sure the chicken is completed submerged with at least 1-2 inches of water above the chicken
  2. Turn your burner up to medium high and bring the water to a boil. Lower your heat and simmer the chicken for 20-25 minutes.
  3. After 20 minutes, begin to “skim” to residue off the top of the soup.
  4. Once you have no more residue coming to the top of the pot, add in all of the vegetables and spices.
  5. Simmer the soup for another 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
  6. Remove the chicken from the pot and “shred” off the meat
  7. Remove the vegetables from the broth and place in a large Tupperware or serving bowl
  8. Pour the broth through a fine strainer into a separate Tupperware or into a large serving bowl to remove the excess spices and garlic cloves
  9. To serve- add a mix of the veggies and shredded chicken to a bowl, top with broth, serve and enjoy!

**Add more salt and pepper to taste to the servings or directly to the soup. I always add less salt and let people add their own

Healthy Dinner Ideas Under $20

One of the most common misconceptions (in my opinion) is that to eat healthy, you need to spend a fortune. Not true. If you shop wisely, focus on seasonal ingredients and pantry staples, you can easily make a variety of meals for less than you would expect. I’ve highlighted some of my go to under $20 recipes below. Some are recipes I’ve been making for years, others I’ve developed over time when I’ve been in a pinch. The key is getting a little creative, or looking for help if you’re not sure where to start. Fortunately, I’ve got you covered!

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes: 1/2 a stuffed sweet potato is enough to fill you up for a full meal. If you’re super hungry, then go for the whole thing! All you need for 1-2 servings is: 1 large sweet potato, diced tomatoes, 8 white mushrooms, 2 cups diced spinach (vegan version) or 1 large sweet potato, diced tomatoes, a small pack of lean ground beef and corn. Salt, pepper and garlic powder (1/2 tsp each) are the seasonings for this recipe.

  • Poke a few holes with a fork in your sweet potato and bake in the oven for an hour at 400.
  • While the potato is cooking, start with your filling. For the meat version, brown your ground beef in a medium sauce pan, on medium heat until there is no pink left
  • Drain out any excess fat, and add your diced tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Cook for 30 minutes on medium-low heat. Add in the corn in the last 5 minutes of cooking time.
  • For the veggie version, in a medium frying pan on medium heat, heat 1/2 tsp of olive oil. Add in your sliced mushrooms and cook until the juices release. Add in the diced tomatoes, salt, pepper and garlic powder and cook for 30 minutes on medium-low heat. Add in the spinach in the last 5 minutes of cooking time.
  • When the potatoes are ready, remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Cut in half and using a fork, lightly mash down the potato.
  • Top with your sauce, and pop back in the oven for 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Eggplant Parmesan: This recipe is surprisingly easy to make, feels super indulgent, but really isn’t expensive. All you need is 1 large eggplant, tomato sauce of choice, mozzarella cheese, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried basil & olive oil.

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  • Slice your eggplant either lengthwise into thin “sheets” or into thin circles. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place your eggplant in a flat later on your tray.
  • Brush each round on both sides with olive oil, then season with your spices. Bake in the over for 20 minutes, flipping your eggplant half way.
  • Get an 8″ by 4″ baking dish, I tend to use a bread loaf dish. Start by putting a layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan, then a layer of eggplant, then more sauce, some cheese, and more eggplant. Continue to layer until all your eggplant is gone. Your top layer of eggplant will then be covered with sauce and cheese.
  • Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, or until the top layer of cheese is nice and bubbly.

Stir Fry: There are so many great options when it comes to stir fry! You can use just veggies, add meat, serve with a variety of bases, or eat on it’s own. I have so many recipes to choose from, but have been loving my Ground Chicken and Veggie Stir Fry. It’s become my go to and yes, it’s under $20 to make!

Here are a few more simple recipes that won’t break the bank! A roasted protein plus a vegetable are healthy, filling and can easily be made for $20 or less.

  • Chili (veggie or meat)- I love this as an option because it makes a great meal, but it’s also a great prepare in advance option. Chili freezes really well, so making a big batch to have for later is another way to stay prepared and always have a healthy meal on hand.
  • Chicken Soup– This is one of my favourite cold weather choices. Chicken soup is surprisingly versatile too. You can add in extra veggies, some rice, or gluten free pasta, to switch it up and make it more of less filling depending on your mood.
  • Tacos or fajitas- this is a fun option, and can be done healthily. The key with this meal is to steer clear of the traditional packaged taco kit seasonings. There are more natural versions available, so always read the label and look for spices you recognize, like cumin, paprika, chili powder, salt, pepper and garlic.
  • Roasted Salmon with Brussel sprouts
  • Whole Roasted Chicken with root vegetables
  • Pasta a l’olio (garlic and olive oil pasta)
  • Stuffed peppers
  • Pesto or tomato sauce and gluten free rotini pasta

Healthy-ish Rice Crispy Treats

There’s really nothing I love more than a theme. I love to take the “norm” and dress it up for any holiday or occasion. You can imagine then, how much I would love a holiday like Halloween. Costumes, decorations, scary movies (the cheesy ones, not the really scary ones) and of course, cooking!

On the most sugar charged holiday of the year, I’m always looking for ways to reinvent recipes. I love to take childhood favorites, and give them a healthier twist. This year, I decided to make a healthier than version of rice crispy treats! The trouble maker in this recipe is the marshmallow, so I just needed a way to get those rice crispies to stick together, but in a different way.

The solution? Peanut butter! Nature’s glue some might say. (I don’t know who those people are, but just saying, it makes sense). By using peanut butter, I was able to still get the rice crispy treat feel, but without all of the added refined sugars and chemicals found in store bought marshmallows.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup all natural creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extra
  • 1/2 tsp coconut oil
  • 3 cups of rice crispy or puffed rice cereal
  • Optional- 1/3 cup chocolate chips for the topping + 1/2 tsp coconut oil

Recipe

  1. Line and 8 by 8 in baking dish with parchment paper and put aside.
  2. Pour the peanut butter into a medium pot, over medium heat.
  3. Add the maple syrup, vanilla extract and coconut oil to the peanut butter, and stir until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Turn off the heat, add your rice crispies and stir until everything is coated.
  5. Pour the rice crispy mixture into your baking dish. Spread the rice crispies out until they have a flat top.
  6. In the microwave, in a microwave safe bowl, melt your chocolate chips with the coconut oil. Use high heat for 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each 15 second interval.
  7. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the rice crispies.
  8. Put the baking dish in the fridge for 30 minutes minimum. Once the rice crispies have set, and the chocolate has hardened, cut the treats into squares, and enjoy!

Note: Keep the rice crispy treats refrigerated until you are ready to eat them. They will last about a week in the fridge.