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Gone Vegetarian

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Fact: I spent eight years as a vegetarian.

Fact: Bacon and hamburgers are now two favourite foods.

If you’d like to know more about how this exactly happened, you can read about it here. Even though I love my meat now, I was still pumped for Toronto’s Vegetarian Food Fair. 

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There were a lot of veggies…

…and Simply Bars!

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…and blogger friends!!

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But first, we start at the beginning.

The fair runs all weekend and kicked off early Friday evening with an event I absolutely could not miss.

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Brendan Brazier is the author of The Thrive Diet, the man behind Vega food products and one of the world’s only Ironman triathletes who follows a plant-based diet. I’ve read a couple of his books now. Even though I could never follow his diet exactly, I really love his reasoning behind why he does what he does. He mostly talked about the key ideas in The Thrive Diet. It was neat to hear it come from Brendan himself and a welcome reminder that food is so important to how our bodies function! Here some points to remember I wrote down:

 

  • Many people look to food for energy, but it’s just as important to conserve energy as it is to consume it. Try not to eat foods that require extra energy to digest (ie highly processed foods)
  • We are a generation and nation of people who are both obese and malnourished. Many people overeat because they think they feel hungry. However, oftentimes it’s a chemical in our brain that is signalling that it wants nutrients, not just any old food.
  • 48% of stress is attributed to diet. Yes, our food is causing us stress. Cortisol is a hormone released when we are stressed, causing weight gain and the body to retain fat (adipose tissue).
  • Reducing stress (and eating well) will help you go into the delta phase when sleeping. You will go into a deeper sleep, thus needing fewer hours of sleep as opposed to more hours of lighter sleep. This deep sleep also allows your body to repair more quickly from exercise and training.
  • The increase in osteoporosis is not necessarily linked to a lack of calcium in our diets, but rather losing calcium in our bones. Today’s typical diet is high in acidic foods which take calcium from our skeleton. Dairy being one of the most acidic of foods (go figure). It’s important to get plenty of alkaline foods like green vegetables to counterbalance that.
  • In terms of athletic performance, it is really important to eat foods that reduce inflammation caused by training. Processed foods, such as protein isolates, don’t actually help muscle inflammation. Better quality and whole proteins (he used hemp as an example) are better for muscle repair.
  • Studies have shown that cheese triggers a chemical reaction in the brain when you eat it. So yes, it’s possible to be addicted to cheese ;)

Neat, eh? I’m particularly interested in this now both because I’m doing a nutrition course, but also because I have vegetarian/vegan/raw clients. I want to know how they can get the most out of their diets!

After seeing Brendan speak, I wandered around the fair for a bit. I got my posture checked by the network spinal analysis booth. I would best describe it as a hippie chiropractor without the cracking ;) My sister swears by this method as a means to realign your spine, so I was already interested!

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They took my photo and analyzed it for me. Apparently my left shoulder droops and my hips pop out too much in the front. Verrrry interesting.

I went back to the fair today and met up with Morgan, Miranda and Kristin to see Meghan Telpner’s cooking demonstration.

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Meghan is a Toronto-based nutritionist who I know from her blog Making Love in the Kitchen. Her demo was so fun! Not to mention, we got to try some of the goodies ;)

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Homemade granola (delicious).

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A healthy “cookie.”

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Homemade hummus. I think it had walnuts in it? It was pretty good. Meghan also demonstrated how to make your own nut/seed milk and it was so easy! I want to try it!

More wandering ensued. You know that saying “like a kid in a candy store?”

It should be changed to “like food bloggers at a food fair” ;)

Samples included but were not limited to…

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Hemp seed butter. I was shocked by how much I liked this!

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Kale chips and veggie crackers. Big thumbs up to the ketchup kale chips. Gotta love Canadian health food companies.

Best sample of both Friday and Saturday was Coconut Bliss ice cream.

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Made with coconut milk instead of cow’s cream. I have an aversion to heavy creams and loved the coconut flavour in these!

After much sampling, we decided it was time for a real meal. It was off to the food tent chock full of vegetarian and vegan fare.

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A lot of the food was Mexican, Indian or Chinese, which while meat-free, isn’t necessarily light on the tummy. I instead opted for a Garden Salad Roll. 

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Eaten on the lawn in front of the music stage.

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With a side of overpriced melon.

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Do not be fooled, we were not in a grassy field like the above photos suggest. But on a sprawl of fake green turf in the middle of a city.

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It was somewhere around here where I said goodbye to my bloggie friends and got to work!

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Above photo stolen from Kristin As most of you know, I’m an ambassador for The Simply Bar. I lovelovelove these bars, so I help them out at events and get reimbursed with free bars. Winwin!

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The next three hours consisted of me chopping up millions of little samples to hand out to the eager fair-goers.

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We also sampled the new Simply Protein Oatmeal. I got a bag today and I am pumped to try it!!

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As well as a peanut butter coconut pea protein bar for those who can’t eat soy. It’s good. A lot heartier than the regular soy bar, which is very light and crispy.

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Overall, I had a blast hanging out at the fair and then working at one of the booths. It’s so wonderful to be surrounded by people who are as into food, and healthy food, as I am! Even if they’re…uh…a little more enthusiastic.

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Morgan, Me, Mr. Pea, Miranda and Kristin.

Just don’t tell him I came home from the veggie fair and ate a chicken sandwich ;)

Health Food, Fun Food and Food of a Questionable Nature

The great thing about being a personal trainer is that people don’t like to train on weekends or holidays.

As a result, I typically get Saturdays off work.

Why then, would my alarm go off at 5:30 this morning?

And why was on I on the streetcar eating a yogurty mess for breakfast at 6am?

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For a race of course!!

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No no no, I was not running. All my race goals for the season went out the window when I decided to be a vagabond then move halfway across the country this summer.

Instead, I was up early to hand out healthy protein bars to the hungry runners at the Toronto Women’s 5k & 10k :)

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That would be me and Cathy, creator of The Simply Bar, handing out the goods.

Cathy and I e-mailed a little bit before I moved to Toronto about how much I love the bars. I told her I wanted to get involved somehow when I got to the city and she introduced me to their ambassador program. Today was my first official event with them!

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For those of you that don’t know, The Simply Bar is a high-protein, low-calorie bar similar to a flavoured rice krispie square. No, I am not getting paid to be an ambassador. But I do get a lot of free deliciousness for my time ;) I genuinely love the bars and just hope I can get more people loving them too. It’s all about spreading the foodie love, ain’t it?

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I had a lot of fun hanging out and chatting with Cathy, fellow ambassador Lauren, and all the people at the race! Running events are so much more relaxed when you’re not one of the participants.

After handing out healthy treats to people all morning, my day took a very sharp turn in the other direction.

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First, I fuelled with carnival-inspired eats – veggie dogs on an english muffin (the only bread in the house), carrots, smoked cheese and pickles. Admittedly, there was a little too much ketchup on there, but it did get me ready for the Canadian National Exhibition! Basically like the exhibitions we have in New Brunswick, but a million times larger :P

Usually I’m not into big crowd-fests such as these, but there were two things I really wanted to experience at the CNE.

1) Canada’s favourite TV chef making chocolate chip cookies

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My roommie and I got stuck in some kind of streetcar hell on our way to The Ex, so we arrived 20 minutes late for the demonstration. Thankfully he was still into it when we got there.

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Chef Michael Smith hosts a Food Network show in Canada called Chef At Home based out of his house on Prince Edward Island (yay Maritimes!). He’s one of those chefs whose recipes line up exactly with “my kind of foods.” He uses all simple ingredients, putting them together easily. Not to mention, I am totally jealous of his pantry.

We missed part of the cookie demonstration, but he did stress that it’s okay to be laid back when making cookies. Nothing needs to be that precise. Also, he said baking the cookies on top of two stacked cookie sheets will help keep them from burning on the bottom!

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The place was packed!! Callie and Sarah’s heads are in there somewhere. I briefly got to say hi… but you should check out their recaps since they saw the whole thing!

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No. Thank you Mr. Smith. I’m available for breakfast at your P.E.I. home any time.

Sarah also tipped my roommie and I off to a Vitamix demonstration at the back of the giant building we were in.

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Megan and I then proceeded to get sucked into four demonstrations including two fruit smoothies, a hot broccoli and cheese soup, and ice cream. We were lucky we made it out while we did, or else we would have been there watching those things pulverize ice all night. Amazing.

Instead, we stumbled outdoors, for we had a second mission in mind.

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First, we needed a refreshment.

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M-m-megan! She’s my roommie. And loves foodie adventures as much as I do :)

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The sign didn’t lie. This stuff really is freshly squeezed, shaken, and loaded with half a cup of sugar. Approximately.

Next, we needed something of substance for our final mission.

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I have never heard of mini donuts as a popular fair food before. But then again, I haven’t been to many fairs.

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Action shot of the teeny rings of dough being plopped into a vat of hot oil by a giant machine. And a reflection of my pasty legs.

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I am such a sucker for powdered sugar. Especially when fried dough is involved. I had two and they were crispy and delightful!

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Then we were off in search of the item we really came all this way for.

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At last, we found the building that housed it.

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I always thought this kind of stuff was a myth up until now.

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Apparently, we were not the only ones on such a quest.

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We waited in line for almost an hour, during which I watched them take cubes of butter, cover it in a doughy batter, then bathe it in bubbly hot oil.

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That, my friends, is deep fried butter. I had heart palpitations just looking at it.

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Finally, it was our turn at the window…

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Megan and I ordered what we waited almost an hour for…

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What?? You think I care about doughy butter or a twinkie on a stick?? No way!! I want me some of the bacon covered in chocolate!!! (not to be mistaken with chocolate covered bacon, which does not sound nearly as extreme).

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People around us were going nuts over this food. They were either extremely excited or moderately horrified. There is a lot to be said for novelty.

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Thoughts?? My bacon peanut butter is better. The bacon was too thick while the chocolate too thin and runny. Definitely more of a bacon flavour here.  Megan and I are opening our own stand at the CNE next year. One that sells thin crispy bacon covered in a hard chocolate shell, and deep-fried marshmallows in a crispy cornflake-like shell. Our tent will be plaid instead of pink. Or in the colour of jeggings ;)

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Just when I thought things at The Ex couldn’t get any crazier, we watched a man in a bear suit go down a zipline. It was in this moment that I finally understood why all the Toronto locals told me I had to come experience this event. I feel like there are some things about this city I really get now :)

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Including this majestic looking arch which I never knew existed until today!!! I swear I discover new places here every single day.

The rest of my day was very simple. Cuddled up watching MTV reality shows. Ate a dinner consisting of tuna salad and a sweet potato covered in Trader Joe’s Corn Salsa.

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Dessert was simple as well – a Simply Bar ;)
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The newest flavour – Caramel. In a 100-calorie (10g protein!) snack-sized bar.

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Cinnamon may have a new contender as my favourite flavour. Wow. This one is a winner! At first it tastes very peanut buttery, but then I got tastes of burnt caramel, then buttery caramel. Mmmmm…

I think I’ll take that over bacon covered in chocolate any day ;)

 

Looking forward to what Sunday has in store! Have a great one! xoxo

Opa!

Aahhhh. I’m just putting my feet up and popped in a Curb Your Enthusiasm DVD. Ready to spend the rest of my Saturday evening relaxing and taking it easy after a busy day!

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I slept in until 9am after a late night of being head butted by a cat. Yes, a cat. This will be explained once I get photographic evidence the elusive feline exists. Until then, we have french toast to discuss.

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I really wished I had cinnamon raisin bread for french toast this morning, so I stuck raisins in the bread and doused it in cinnamon ;)

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Some people are addicted to diet cola and cigarettes, I am addicted to E.D. Smith sugar-free table syrup. C’est la vie.

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By the bye, I didn’t eat three whole pieces of french toast today. I always save the butt-ends of bread loaves for french toast so it feels like I’m eating more :)

Breakfast dessert was very sweet and very green.

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Preamble: Last night, I went out for frozen yogurt with Callie. Usually I would show up toting my baby camera, but it was an impromptu date and I went straight from work. We went to this painstakingly cute restaurant-cafe called Moroco in Yorkville. They carry these macarons (not to be confused with coconut macaroons) that seem to be following me lately. Does that ever happen to you? When you’ve never heard of something, then suddenly you see it everywhere?

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Clearly I had to seize the moment and drop the $2.50 on the pistachio flavour. It got a little crushed in my bookbag, but I was SO happy when I woke up this morning and remembered I had it. The lady at the chocolate shop described it as two meringue cookies made with almond flour with a butter cream center. Yum :)

Callie got one too, you can read about our froyo meet-up here!

The macaron also made for a pretty good pre-workout snack. Hit up my nearby gym for a lifting workout made up of small circuits. I’ve been doing something similar with a few clients lately and felt like doing it myself! Started with a 10 minute warm-up on the elliptical.

Straight sets

Circuit #1 (3x)

Circuit #2 (3x)

Circuit #3 (3x)

Did 12 reps of everything, or until I was shaking and couldn’t pump out any more. Whole workout with the warm-up and stretching at the end took me 60 minutes on the dot!

Rushed home for a quick protein snack, but nothing more as I had to rush off for something else!

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I live not too far from Danforth Avenue, which is also home to Toronto’s Greek Town. I haven’t been exploring in this part of the city yet, but when I saw the advertising for the annual Taste of the Danforth festival, I knew I had to go!!

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Fun Fact: Part of My Big Fat Greek Wedding was filmed in this part of the city. Thanks for the tidbit Therese ;)

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The festival is huuuuge. They had Danforth closed for several city blocks. The place was jam packed with people, food stalls, concert stages, amusement park rides and amazing smells with every new block.

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Not all of it is Greek food, and several non-Greek restaurants in the area set up stands as well. I was told there would be free food, but sadly I had to pay for any of the good stuff ;)

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I met up with Sarah and her husband and we walked up and down the whole thing looking for food. Usually I get really panicky in big crowds like this, but today I was feeling pretty good about it. We kept moving and only stood to scarf down the delicious food we got.

Wanna see what that food was?? (I know you do!)

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First sign I saw that caught my eye was this. I loooooove rosemary and love the idea of a chicken rosemary pie.

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This was so good. Sarah and her husband compared the filling to chicken stew and I would have to agree! With a lovely rosemary flavour and hunks of mushrooms. The outside was a wonderfully crispy phyllo.

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Next up, we spotted the stall of a restaurant called Astoria that was recommended to me. I was hankering for a shish kebab, saw the long line, and thought this place could be a winner!

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Doesn’t it look like I’m giving a thumbs up?? 
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IloveGreekfoodyesIdo.

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Sarah
loves Greek food too!!

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Fun Fact #2: Sarah is also going to the Healthy Living Summit next weekend!! I haven’t given it much thought since I bought the ticket what feels like years ago. Now suddenly I’ve only got Chicago on my mind!

Washed my meat down with some overpriced lemonade.

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The schmancy stuff – freshly squeezed with organic lemons and stevia. Three times as expensive as the other stalls, but I like to think more refreshing :)

At this point I was winding down and looking for something sweet to finish the day off. Until I spotted this sign in the crowd:

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Another food that has been following me everywhere!! I’ve never tried oysters before and now live close to a restaurant that specializes in them. They’re pretty darn expensive there, but today I was feeling the love for street-shucked oysters.

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Rawbabyraw with a little ‘basco!

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Gaaaah, these were salty! Albeit, they’re from saltwater, but not even the water back home is that salty. I did however dig the raw texture, but perhaps I will stick to my true love – mussels.

Fun Fact #3: I live in the riding of the NDP (New Democratic Party) leader, Jack Layton.

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Apparently, he loves the Greek food too.

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Sadly, no plates were broken, just thousands of ears of corn. Opa!

 

Question of the Day: What’s your favourite Greek dish? Pita bread, traditional tzatziki, dolmades and moussaka are some of my favourites. But for the sake of my expanding waistline, I decided to save those for my next trip to Greek Town ;)

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