Author: Stephanie Matthews

Are you too heavy to ride?

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Are you too heavy to ride?

Are you considered too heavy to ride your horse?

“Choose healthy foods opposed to the latest diet.”

A sensitive issue but it is an issue that is being addressed by some. Recently I read in a UK Too heavy to ride - The Practical Nutritionist
publication, Horse and Rider (November 2016), “eight riders were asked to dismount as they were deemed too heavy for their mounts.” It is a new rule and the first of its kind to be upheld at a major horse show, the Great Yorkshire Show, and with support of a vet. It was well received by many, as one show organiser said, “A 12hh pony being ridden by a big adult is just wrong.”

So, what is considered an acceptable weight of the rider against a horse? The standard is the rider weighs no more than 20% of the horses weight, so if a horse weighs 1000lbs then the rider should not weigh more than 200lbs, there are other factors to consider also but this is the general rule of thumb. This is not to discourage people from riding it is about the welfare of the horse. Horses are sensitive and somewhat fragile so matching horse to rider partly based on weight should not be seen as unacceptable. In fact, most riding establishments will ask the persons height and weight before allocating a horse.

In terms of nutritional support for the horse rider and for those concerned about their weight, one of the best things to start with is a food dairy. The food dairy should include anything that is consumed; medication, supplements, food, drink, cigarettes, tea/coffee with sugar etc. You can do a 7 day food dairy and at the end you can see what you have consumed and see what changes can be made. However, it is better to have an impartial person, like myself, analyze your food dairy and find ways to help you improve your weight goals and provide nutritional and lifestyle goals. What you may think as healthy because of all the advertising and marketing talk may in fact be full of sugar, I have seen this time and time again.

Start right and invest in your health. The advice I provide is not about giving you an unattainable diet plan or putting you on the latest fad diet. It is about looking at your food choices, making sustainable changes that are realistic and practical and works for you.

My offer to you: You can download my food dairy template for free, fill-out the form. If you would like to go a step further send me your food dairy and I will review it for $50 (CAD) and provide you with feedback. Please contact me should you wish to discuss further.

Fabulous Personal Events that Happened in 2016

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Fabulous Personal Events that Happened in 2016

2016 has been a roller-coaster ride. It has been packed full of  personal goals, achievements and more. In the main it has been eventful. I hope you enjoy  reading this post, perhaps you might relate, either way share your story, know you are not alone and strive forward into 2017.

Fabulous Personal Events that Happened in 2016Fabulous Things 2016 The Practical Nutritionist

  1. After a solid year of intense learning, studying, writing many, many case studies… I am an Holistic Nutritionist. I studied at CSNN in Vancouver and they have a great selection of knowledgeable, supportive instructors, including ND’s, scientists, researchers, past students, a professional chef and those who specialize.
  2. I can ski! On the last day of class I headed to Big White with my family and we hit the slopes. After being a reluctant and nervous skier for a number of years I can ski green slopes without an instructor in tow. I had a dreadful experience skiing many years ago and swore I would never step foot in a skis, so this is a big achievement.
  3. I set up The Practical Nutritionist. After graduating from CSNN, I set up this website and started my business. This is not my first time setting up a company and I have future plans to expand. I have been growing my business organically and aim to build my client base in 2017. I am super excited and can’t wait to meet new people.
  4. I did my first talk. I delivered a presentation at my kids school about the digestive system (providing a science element to their learning) and discussed healthy snacks. It was well received and I plan to do more talks to all age groups in the future. Kids can be scary to present to, they can be brutally honest!!!
  5. I love writing blogs. I do! I get to dump all my thoughts, training and knowledge and share it to the world. I love to share. I still have to work on some areas but that will come with time and experience. Luckily for me I have an editor (my husband is a word-smith), today though I let him have the day off, so this is the real me, my words, my grammatical errors – it’s raw and it’s beautiful.
  6. I love Instagram a little too much. I post a lot of pictures on their, it is my creative outlet. Follow me please.
  7. My passion for horses has been rekindled. Sadly and unexpectedly, this year I lost a very dear person in my life. She was the person who took me to my first riding lesson as a little girl, she encouraged me along the way and I grew in strength personally (I was an incredibly shy child). I miss her dearly but through the tough times I remember the good times. It forced me to reflect and dig deep into what I have been missing in life (I had felt a void for quite some time). I hadn’t realized up until this point but I had suppressed my passion and desire for too many years.
  8. Due to my love of horses I decided to take a course in Equine Nutrition with Equine Distance Learning. My aim was to complete it by the end of the year and yesterday I received my certificate of training.  I love to see how nutrition has changed and how an holistic approach to people also applies to animals. It is the start of something wonderful.
  9. UK travel and visitors. I miss my old country, I crave it around Christmas since this is where my family live and many of my husband’s. We traveled in autumn to visit family (a family wedding) and friends in the England (it has been 4 years) and I am so happy we did. I also had plenty of visitors here in Canada. One of my old friends came to visit for the first time since I got married (many years ago) and my parents like to come over regularly. I love seeing them all and I dearly miss them.
  10. The FREE 7 Day Healthy Habits Challenge was created and I ran it in the summer this year and will be running it again in 2017. Sign-up and you could win a consultation with me. The first round was really fun. It was a nice group of people, sharing their stories on the Facebook (closed group) page. The challenge is very easy to follow and is meant to be fun.
  11. Volunteer work! Surprisingly and unexpectedly I got a call asking if I would be interested in become a co-chair person for a community kitchen that is in its final stages of implementation. I jumped at the chance. I love project work, organizing and events, when I worked in the corporate world this was my job. Not only will this give me exposure from a business perspective it will also give me some experience on another level.
  12. Trust my instincts. Gosh! I can’t tell you how many times I have doubted myself, ran with someone else’s ideas and it going terribly wrong. I still need to listen to myself more, it is a work-in-progress because when I have, I have achieved great things.
  13. Passion! I know from building a business previously, if you are passionate about what you do you will succeed. I know my passion and I have plans to develop further.

To my dedicated followers, thank you so much. I hope you continue reading my blogs and share your stories  – I couldn’t do this without you!

Happy New Year! I can’t wait to see you all in 2017!

 

 

Tips to get through Christmas without piling on pounds.

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Tips to get through Christmas without piling on pounds.

Tips to prevent weight increase over the Christmas period.The Practical Nutritionist - Christmas

Christmas is always a busy time of year: present hunting, Christmas dinner preparation, work pressures, family arguments and so on. Then there are the specialty coffee drinks; peppermint mochas, eggnog’s, gingerbread lattes Irish coffee etc. To top it off,  there are additional parties with friends, colleagues, late nights and much Christmas cheer.

It can be stressful and, left unchecked, stress wreaks havoc on the body and packs on the pounds, especially around the middle. Cortisol is hormone released during times of stress. It’s job is to raise blood sugar levels to help you in fight or flight situations, however, more often than not we are not running or fighting but sitting, planning and worrying. Therefore, the sugar is not being used and it finds a place to be stored, which is around the stomach. Cortisol can suppress many areas of the body including the thyroid, so if you already have a suppressed thyroid this is only going to exaggerate the problem further.

No doubt there are going to be many high carb foods (pastries, pies, potatoes…) which will put your blood sugar on a roller-coaster ride – giving you highs and lows and that feeling of sleepiness after a huge Christmas dinner. Carbohydrates are an energy source and if you don’t use them you store them!

You may go on a alcoholic beverage binge at this time of year. Don’t.  Binging in any form is hard on the body and excessive alcohol consumption is only going to impact your health. That swollen beer belly, most likely inflammation, is nothing to boast about and that raging hangover – it is a concern. Here is a great article  that covers the effects of alcohol, some myths debunked and some tips to help recover. Tip: vitamin C and B6 are your friends on days like this.

Many alcoholic drinks contain a lots of sugar, a great way to add to your wasteline. Alcohol goes into the blood stream and it is distributed throughout the body. It places pressure on the pancreas, liver, on your bones, weakens the immune system, hormones, heart, in-fact it affects all parts of the body. All the stress and the alcohol consumption in the Christmas holiday season is only going to increase the pressure on your entire body.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a glass of wine at Christmas and I like to eat the things I would not eat any other time of the year but I do it in moderation. So here are some tips to prevent packing on the pounds and don’t worry, it is not all doom and gloom.

Tips:

  • Eat before going to a party. This is one of my to-dos and I have had excellent results. Eat all the food that is not likely to be at the party: veggies for vits and minerals with a homemade guacamole (for those healthy fats) will give you the nourishment you need and the fat from the avocado will make you feel satiated, resulting in reduced “grazing” when you are at the party.
  • Be the designated driver: If you know you have to drive, it will keep you off the booze. Therefore, you won’t pile on the pounds and have all the other associated problems with alcohol.
  • Sleep in and relax: If you have time off work, make the most of it. Get your sleep, turn off mobile devices, have breakfast in bed. Stay home all day in your pajamas and have a guilt-free day. It is time to make the most of your Christmas vacation.
  • Drink water: Stay away as much as possible from the fizzy drinks. However, if you are drinking that night, then drink water in-between the alcoholic drinks so that you stay hydrated.
  • Exercise: Find time to exercise, even if you are away from home. Go for a walk, jog, do some yoga at home. This will help to burn off the carbs and relax you.
  • Don’t think calories in and calories out, it has been shown not to work. 100 calories of sugar is going to have a different effect on the body opposed to 100 calories of quality fat. We’ve moved on from that approach: You can read more here.

On a final note, enjoy Christmas with family, eat a mince pie, enjoy the turkey dinner but try not to over indulge.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

Boost Rider Performance Part 3

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Boost Rider Performance Part 3

Last in the 3 part series – Boost Rider PerformanceThe Practical Nutritionist - Boost Rider Performance Part 3

Extremely active and intensive training at this level.

I have attended many horse shows and watched rider’s who are part-way around a cross-country course, red-faced and gasping for air – the horse being in tip-top condition and the rider letting his/her steed down. Horse riding, particularly competing, is a team effort and you need to be healthy and able to perform just as much as your horse.

Eventers/Hunters

You will be exerting lots of mental energy, energy means fuel and you get fuel by eating quality, non-processed and fresh food, I am talking carbs and protein mostly. Food like beans, legumes, quinoa, fish, chicken, even vegetables have carbs.

The eventer will be walking the course, jogging around the course and for some cycling around the course several times over and this is physically demanding. For many there will be an adrenal rush, nervous energy and some stress, particularly if you are still new at this level.

Slow releasing energy is required, no sugar spikes or caffeine-driven rides, this could impinge on your performance thereby impacting the way your horse acts. If you are hyped that energy translates to the horse, so the less stimulants you have and the more relaxed you are the better for you both.

Don’t eat heavy meals before or in between competition it is a burden on the digestive system and it could make you feel sluggish. Think light snacks; fruit, banana dipped in organic peanut butter and covered in hemp hearts, chia seeds and/or cacao nibs. Hummus and vegetable sticks, trail mixes (nuts, raisins, pumpkin seeds can be mixed at home) are just a few ideas.

What can eating too much sugar do to you?

Sugar from packaged foods, drinks and adding sugar to tea/coffee can mount up in a day.  It puts pressure on the body’s systems. It increases insulin levels, increases blood pressure, pressure in the circulatory system, creates an imbalance in cholesterol levels meaning there is too much LDL (bad cholesterol) and more.

Sugar is addictive and can be difficult to remove from your diet – particularly when the food and beverage industry’s put it in so many products.Even fruit farmers have learnt to grow crops that have higher fructose than in previous generations. That’s right, if you think that the grapes or pineapples you are eating today are sweeter than the ones you ate growing up it’s because they almost certainly are. Sugar is known to release chemicals that triggers the brain’s pleasure center. Coming off sugar can have side affects, like anxiety, cravings, shakes as seen in rat studies – I have also seen withdrawal symptoms with my clients. The best option is to gradually reduce the amount of sugar you intake daily. I will be talking more about sugar at a later time.

Caffeine as a stimulant

Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, soda pop. Caffeine  acts as a central nervous stimuli. It is known to help with alertness, energy and drowsiness. Some of the side-effects of too much caffeine include  headaches, acidity, increased blood pressure. It can also interfere with the absorption of calcium which could lead to osteoporosis, more information  can be found on this site. 

Therefore it is best to limit your sugar and caffeine intake during performance rides.

Polo

I love polo. It is a fantastic team sport. I have played a few chukkas and I know how demanding this sport can be on the body.  Nothing quite prepared me for how much my body would be required to work. If I had known what I know now I would have suffered less several days after. So here are some ideas to help with the aches and pains.

Anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce inflammation, reduce soreness and help you to recover efficiently.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

  • Cherries
  • Tarte cherry juice
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Pineapple
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Collards
  • Celery
  • Beets
  • Celery
  • Bone Broth
  • Olive oil (do not cook at high temp)
  • Coconut oil
  • Flaxseed
  • Tumeric
  • ginger
  • Salmon, mackerel, sardines
  • Walnuts…

Relax and Breathe

After a day of competition or working hard a the stables take time for yourself. It may be hard if you are focused on your business but  take a few hours for yourself and disconnect. Here are some ideas:

  • Read
  • Friends
  • Laugh
  • A glass of wine (one glass, not many!)
  • See a movie
  • Paint
  • Bake
  • Cook
  • Go for a walk
  • Visit somewhere you have never been before
  • Shopping
  • The list is endless.

Let me leave you with one last piece of advice. Laugh! Laughter can really change your mood and diminish stress levels so take a few moments to watch this video, even non-horsey people will laugh at this.

Your welcome!

Boost Rider Performance Part 2

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Boost Rider Performance Part 2

Part 2 – Boost your PerformanceThe Practical Nutritionist - Performance
If you are not already doing other forms of exercise you may find that it would be beneficial if you did. I used to go to the gym using free weights and the running machine because it helped to work muscles I was not using when riding horses. Now I practice yoga to work on my core muscles. Another excellent form of exercise is pilates, which  targets areas that will help your riding as well as building your core, Equi-pilates is tailored for the horse rider. Try something that you enjoy or at least do not mind doing, perhaps swimming, equipilates or high intensity work outs. It will help with strength and stamina, improve cores muscles, improve circulation and in turn build a strong immune system.

As mentioned in my previous post (Part 1) hydration is essential for internal health. Timing when to drink is important too. Just like the horse, drinking water between meal time has the most benefits, since if you drink during or immediately after eating it can wash away many of the nutrients your body needs.  The best time to drink water is before a meal – at least 30 mins prior and 30 mins or more after eating.

Horse Trainer
If you are training and exercising several horses a day, spending most of your day in the saddle or doing ground work, you need to stay both relaxed and alert. With that in mind, do not consume anything that will overly-stimulate you because last thing you need is to be ‘excited’ on a potentially already excitable horse.

Types of stimulants to avoid: 

  • Coffee
  • Refined sugar (white and brown)
  • Smoking (nicotine)
  • Recreational drugs (e.g. cocaine)
  • Alcohol (in low doses, higher doses acts more like a depressant)
  • Fizzy drinks (soda, pop)

Full day shows 
You and your horse are training and improving your techniques and performance all the time. You train hard so that you can go to those events that interest you the most. You may travel close and near or far and wide but it is a long day and a lot of preparation has gone into your horse. Make sure you eat breakfast. Slow releasing energy is what you need. Porridge, granola, avocado on sourdough toast, egg on toast are great go-to’s for breakfast.

Pack snacks, energy bars (avoid those with too much sugar), fruit, nut butters, hummus and veggie sticks. However, if nerves are getting the better of you, particularly if it is your first show, be aware that being stressed can shut down or impede your digestive system. If you are overly anxious, eat something small like an apple with almond butter – the fat from the almond butter will help slow down the sugar absorption of the apple. An alternative would be a smoothie – something with berries, fats (greek yogurt, almond/cashew/peanut butter or a spoonful of coconut oil) and perhaps kale or spinach.  Ensure after your event you have a substantial meal because you will find you are very hungry afterwards. Quinoa and baked vegetables (yam, pepper, carrots, onion, garlic) is an easy option that can be prepped the night before and refrigerated.

Team Chasers – National
Team chasers is relatively new compared to most equine shows. It reminds me of cross-country and point-to-point, and is fast becoming one of my favourites to watch.You will need energy for this event and you need to be as fit as your horse to get around one of these courses!

Ensure you have a solid, healthy breakfast, an omelette or scrambled egg with onion, cannelloni beans and tomatoes for example. If you are on the go, make breakfast the night before, in a portable cup add granola with nuts and seeds and plain creek yogurt, or yogurt with almond butter and fruit.

Avoid the burger stands and bring your own food. A portable flask with soup or prepare a veggie wrap or maybe a quiche to share with your team. You are going to feel exhilarated and hungry after this ride and exhausted by the time you return home. Use a crock-pot (a slow cooker) and prepare your meal before the day of the event. Here are some recipes you can try. A crock pot can be left on all day and by the time you return home your dinner is ready, you will pat yourself on the back knowing that you can relax for the evening with a meal waiting for you.

Relax

Soothe aching muscles by taking a relaxing bath at the end of the day. Use some epsom salts in your bath – they are full of magnesium, which is great for relaxing, winding-down and getting rid of toxins in your body.

Part 3 will be focusing more on those who have an intense schedule, competing, eventing, polo and so on. Included will be lifestyle tips that will be beneficial no matter what level you are at and ways to relax and stay balanced.

Boost Rider Performance Part 1

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Boost Rider Performance Part 1

Boost Rider Performance Part 1

The Practical Nutritionist - Horse

My recent post on horse rider nutrition proved to be popular and I have been asked to provide more specifics in terms of horse rider nutrition for those doing different types of activities. In response, I will be writing three separate blog posts to correlate with the intensity of activity. Here’s number one!

To begin, mental clarity and physical performance for the equestrian is paramount. Horses are unpredictable creatures so it is important to be able to think on your feet. To do this, there are some important factors related to enhancing your health and your safety. In this three part series we will look at how energy is produced in the body, what you need to produce energy, what foods to eat and you can help your body to recover after a hard day with your horse.

Low Impact Activity

Part 1, will look at low-impact activity for the equestrian. Generally speaking, you will not be using a lot of oxygen over long periods of time but may, upon occasion, exert energy quickly over a short space of time, usually to avoid being bitten, kicked, trodden on, thrown off or trampled over! Therefore, your energy needs are not actually that high.

How energy is produced in the body:

The body has three main systems to produce energy depending on the physical demands. (1)
1. ATP-PC (phosphagen)(ATP is commonly referred to as the energy for life) – Low impact activity (lasts 6 seconds, short bursts)
2. Anaerobic Glycolyticn or lactic acid – medium impact activity (lasts 30 seconds to several minutes)
3. Aerobic system (uses carbohydrates and fat) – high impact activity (lasts 1-2 hours)

What you need for energy: (2)

  1. Carbohydrates (4 calories per gram)
    Carbohydrates can be stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver
  2. Fat (9 calories per gram)
    Fat is stored as adipose tissue and small amounts can be stored in the muscles
  3. Protein (4 calories per gram)
    Protein is a building material; protein is only used in extreme situations. Meaning the carbohydrates and fat have been used-up and the only reserves left are proteins, this is not a good situation to place the body.

Types of carbs, fats and protein can be found in numerous foods. Please refer to a previous blog post which provides a variety of food examples:  more information here.

Sleep
Before I get further into the nutrition, let me remind you to get enough sleep. If you own and care for your own horse and have a full time job then I know from experience you’ll be doing a lot of early mornings. It is important to get enough sleep so that you can perform the next day. As mentioned earlier, working with horses can be a dangerous pursuit. Many accidents occur in the workplace due to fatigue. Remember, fatigue not only affects you but your colleagues too. Here are some extreme cases of what can happen during work time if sleep deprived.

One hour Riding Lesson
If you only ride once or twice a week or have a one-hour riding lesson you are going to need to be mentally alert. Not only will you be listening to instructions from your coach you will also need to be attentive to the movement of the horse. Avoid foods that can cause brain fog; sugary foods, stimulants like pop and processed packaged foods that can contain trans-fats and large amounts of sugar or salt. Consume good fats like avocado, coconut oil, cold pressed olive oil (do not cook), nuts and seeds, experts believe these sorts of fats are good for brain health.

Start your day drinking filtered water, wait for at least 15 mins and then eat breakfast. If possible, squeeze a fresh lemon and add it to that first glass of water to alkalize your digestive system and also wake it up. When I say eat breakfast, I am not talking tea and toast or coffee and bagel! Think granola, oatmeal, toasted quinoa bread topped with avocado (SEE RECIPES). Don’t rush your breakfast, chew your food properly as it helps with digestion.

Avoid riding on a full stomach, it prevents proper digestion and could make you feel sick. Ensure you have enough to drink before your lesson and take water with you for after the lesson. Start eating healthy, unprocessed food each day. Eat lots of vegetables, add lentils and beans to your dishes, spices and herbs for flavour. Eat raw, unflavoured nuts, it is very easy to add your own spices and herbs at home, make homemade trail mixes, eat apples, carrots and hummus for snacks. Set yourself a challenge, go vegetarian (if not already one) once or twice a week, it will add variety to your meals.

You’ll note that I’m not getting overly specific here with food recommendations. I’ll get into more recipes and food lists another time but for now just be assured that if you are eating plenty of fresh, unprocessed food then that’s a great start. The body loves variety so try and mix things up!

Weekend Warrior
What do I mean by weekend warrior? You spend the entire weekend at the stables. Now, if you are going to be physically active all day then you will want to ensure you don’t skip meals and you have plenty of healthy snacks to hand. Plan your day and plan your meals! Have a good breakfast, take snacks with you to the stables, apples, nuts, seeds, trail mixes, bananas, drink lots of water throughout the day. Try to avoid high-sugar and fizzy drinks and juices, these just spike blood sugar, can make you jittery and be overstimulating which is the last thing you need to be when you are around a horse that weighs about 1000kg. Pack a lunch, soups (homemade preferable otherwise read the label), quinoa salad with grated vegetables and nuts if tolerated. Don’t forget to eat dinner at the end of the day, for example salmon, wild rice with dark leafy greens, (steamed kale or chard) will make sure you are topping up on good quality protein, carbs, fats, vitamins and minerals.

Stable Manager
Early starts, missing breakfast, sugar cravings are not a good way to start your working day. Here is the thing: your job is hard and physically demanding. For you this is all about maintaining balanced energy levels. Avoid high sugary drinks and food and any other stimulants – you need quality carbs, good fats and protein. Pack healthy meals and snacks. The time of year can impact what you crave, there are cooling foods like salads during warmer months and warming foods to help during winter months, more on this later. Vegetable soups with beans/lentils that can be heated at work are a great way to help warm up during the chilly season. Energy bars make good snacks and can be made at home and fruit snacks, apples, pears, bananas, grapes (local and seasonal is preferable when it permits). I like eating a banana dipped in organic almond butter and sprinkle chia seeds, hemp hearts or cacao nibs on top. Be creative.

I  have covered some of the basics and hopefully given you some ideas to help you nourish your body to help improve performance. Being physically active is just one part of an holistic approach to health. Healthy living includes eating fresh, clean food, hydrating your body and ensuring you get some time to relax.

Please note: The information provided are guidelines, it does not however take into account any specifics about your health concerns or diagnosis. Please remember no one nutritional program fits all therefore the information is assuming you are in good health and are not on medications.


1.Anita Bean (2013). The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition 7th Addition. London, Bloomsbury (p. 17)

2.Anita Bean (2013). The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition 7th Addition. London, Bloomsbury (p. 14)

Horse Rider Nutrition

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Horse Rider Nutrition

The Practical Nutritionist - Horse Rider

Nutrition for the horse rider? Okay, a bit niche I know but it’s something of a passion for me. I will start with where it all began. At the age of 9 I was begging my parents for a horse, I had no idea what that entailed, my family were not horse people. They didn’t buy me my own but they did, after much pestering, take me to riding lesson after riding lesson. By the time I was 10 I had fallen from ponies and horses too many times to remember but it made me strong and I learned a life lesson: when you fall you get back on.

I was addicted. I wanted to learn everything I could. I worked at riding schools, race yards, loaned, borrowed and eventually bought my own horse. I competed and I trained hard. All the time I was learning about horse management I never once thought about my own health needs. Tending to horses, out for long rides, early morning physical activity… it struck me and still does, there is a lack of quality nutritional advice for horse riders. A lot of stamina is needed when owning or working with horses but, while a horse’s feeding regime is precise and calculated, the rider’s and carer’s nutrition is overlooked.

That’s not to say that horse magazine don’t publish articles on what to eat. It’s just that most of them are wrong. Even today, I read articles saying horse riders should eat bagels, nutella, low-fat yogurt, cheese strings, low- fat protein bars, yep, these items were on the lists in various horse publications. A qualified nutritional practitioner will tell you to stay away from these items. Sure you do get some writers urging riders to pay attention to their macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates), eat fresh vegetables, stay away from soft drinks, pastries etc. However, much of their understanding is outdated. For example, when they talk low-fat they fail to understand that low-fat typically means more sugar because processed foods use it as a  replacement for fat to improve the taste.

I have covered the basics of nutrition in previous posts but depending of the level of riding, the amount of other exercise you are doing (running, cycling, swimming, gym etc) your precise requirements will differ. For example, a person who hacks out on weekends is going to have very different nutritional needs to that of an international 3-day eventer. The horses nutrition would be different so of course the same applies for the rider!

Healthy start and snacks. People who ride or work in the equestrian field  are often snacking, it is physically demanding and snacks are a good thing. However, there are often very early starts involved and you may be tempted to miss breakfast so you can tend to your horse before work begins. Don’t. More than most people, if you are a horse rider and/or owner you need a good healthy breakfast. It boosts metabolism, provides energy and it is a great way to start the day; for some healthy breakfast ideas visit my recipes page.

Ensure your snack choices are healthy. By healthy I mean balanced. Forget low-fat – go for low-sugar. Try to avoid the pies, pastries, cakes, cookies and replace with a good quality protein bars (Lara bars are a good or, even better, make your own. Alternatively, Deliciously Ella energy balls), make your own granola bars, make a trail mix. Eat apples, carrots sticks (don’t give them to your horse!)

Lunch and dinner are just as important. Don’t miss meals. Plan ahead if you have a busy schedule.

Water discipline. Stay hydrated, everyone from an  office admin to the elite athlete needs to drink water. Don’t wait until you are parched because by that time you are already dehydrated. Of course, you also don’t want to drink so much that it’s coming out of your ears! How much water to drink is dependent on a number of factors, such a:

  • Environment (weather, hot, humid etc)
  • How much you are sweating
  • Exercise
  • If you thirsty
  • Pregnant/Breastfeeding
  • Health
  • Age

The average amount suggested by many sources is 1.5-2 liters but really it is a ball park figure. Pay attention to what your body is telling you and act accordingly.

Benefits of drinking water are numerous:

  • Brain health (mood, headaches, hydration)
  • Digestive health
  • Supports Elimination (stools)
  • Flushes out toxins (detoxification)
  • Skin health
  • Immune support…

That quick energy boost. Energy drinks, do you really need them? I’m not a big fan of drinks loaded with sugar and caffeine. If you are out for a long hack then, if you have some healthy snacks and water it should be enough. If you engaged in prolonged physical activity without much opportunity to stop for a break and are going to carry around an energy drink or two then make sure you read the label! Otherwise, just be aware that your body really doesn’t need a big hit of stimulants on a regular basis.

If there’s one thing you take away from reading this post, let it be this: a horse rider needs food that is not going to spike blood sugars too fast and then send you crashing down shortly afterwards. Our bodies love to have energy that is released slowly and steadily thereby maintaining energy levels and mental clarity. Quality fats, carbs, protein, fiber and water are your friends.

This post is dedicated to a dear person, Sheila Lines. She took me to my first riding lesson at the age of 9 and I have never looked back. Thank you for being a supportive, caring, loving person through my formative years. I will miss you greatly. 

 

Apple Season

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Apple Season

Apple season is upon us! Did you know that there are over 7000 varieties of apples worldwide? Not that we see many of those on the shelves.

Before I get into the nutritional benefits of apples, I want to draw attention to a new apple that has been ‘invented’. The Arctic Apple, grown in Canada, has been genetically modified so that it doesn’t brown. This apple has been approved by the US and in Canada, you can read more here.   There haven’t been enough studies on the long-term effects of GMO (genetically modified organisms) foods on the human body but from some of the research I’ve read, as a nutritionist I suggest staying way from GMO products, including the Arctic Apple. If “browning” is a big issue for you, there are apples out there that do not brown easily and have not been modified genetically. A few of the varieties easily available here in BC are: Ambrosia and Gala.

Nutritional Benefits

Seasonal, organic apples are best for taste and nutrition. Apples are rich in polyphenol antioxidants, “Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds found largely in fruits”. It has been suggested that eating large amounts of food rich in polyphenols can help reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. (Kanti Bhooshan Pandey et al, (2009). Apples are a great source of vitamins A and C, supporting visions, immune function, carotenoids like B-carotene which can be converted to vitamin A by the liver as required. It has been suggested that apples are good for your gut microbiota eating the whole apple, skin and all is a great source of fiber, the pectin in apples is the main soluble fiber and helps to slow down the absorption of the fruit sugar. It may even help those who suffer with gout due to the low purine content (purines break down into uric acid) and the high amounts of vitamin C , vitamin C may help with lowering uric acid levels.

To avoid sugar spikes, try to avoid juicing because juicers remove the very fiber that reduce the spikes. Adding apples in a smoothie is fine as long you the skin is left on.

Stewing apples with the skin is a tasty alternative. Being of British origin, I grew up eating stewed apples with a variety of pork dishes, pies and crumbles. If you haven’t tried it, give it a go!

Drinking raw organic apple cider vinegar (1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water) can help support digestion and may help lower uric acid. Be careful with this, it may interfere with diuretic drugs and potassium levels. I find that Braggs is a great brand of cider vinegar – it’s good quality and tastes great.

Apples are perfect additions to salads, fruits pies/crumbles, sauce, as a snack and so much more.

Be sure to get organic whenever possible. Because of their popularity, apples tend to be heavily sprayed with pesticides and the more you can reduce your intake of these sprays, the better.

Happy apple eating!

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REFERENCES

Arjun Walia (2014) “Ten scientific studies prove that genetically modified food can be harmful to human health”. Website: http://www.globalresearch.ca/ten-scientific-studies-proving-gmos-can-be-harmful-to-human-health/5377054

Kanti Bhooshan Pandey and Syed Ibrahim Rizvi (2009) “Plant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease. Website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835915/

Athanasios KoutsosKieran M. Tuohy, and Julie A. Lovegrove (2015) “Apples and cardiovascular health – is the gut microniota a core consideration?” Website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4488768/

 

Healthy Fats, Unhealthy Fats

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Healthy Fats, Unhealthy Fats

The practical nutritionist

Healthy Fat is crucial for a healthy body. Among other things, fat is a source of  energy, it supports the building of cell membranes and is part of the myelin sheath  – a fatty substance protecting nerves. These nerves sends signals from the brain to different parts of the body, if the myelin sheath is compromised it impacts the transmission of messages. Healthy fat helps to reduce inflammation, is  good brain food, supports hormones and helps with the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Of course, if fat is so good for you, why was it demonized for decades and why do many food companies still promote low fat as healthy. Well, not all fats are equal and while healthy fats help to create a healthy body, unhealthy “bad” fats do the opposite.

Let’s take a look at healthy fats and what you should be eating to get enough of them.

  • Monounstaurated fats and polyunstaurated fats are two types that should be included into the diet daily. These types of fats can be found in food like nuts, seeds, avocado, olives and olive oil (eat raw or cooked on a low heat).
  • Omega 3 fatty acids is a type of polyunstaurated fat and can be found fish like salmon, sardines, trout. Flaxseed oil, nuts and seeds are good options too. Supplements are also available, for example, cod liver oil it should be stored in  a dark glass jar and stored in a refrigerator.

Fat in moderation.

  • Saturated fats are good in moderation. Coconut oil, butter (grass fed), organic whole milk , preferably from grass fed cows, animal fats and brazil nuts. Saturated fats can also be found in baked goods and many dairy products like cheese so be cautious, these types of items should not be eaten daily.

Let’s talk bad fats.  They should be avoided as they can cause inflammation and increase the risk of heart disease.

  • Hydrogenated fats (can be referred to as partially hydrogenated) are unnatural fats due to the way they are processed. The human body is unable to correctly identify these “manufactured” fats and thus cannot properly use them and often can’t dispose of them properly. Where do you find these fats? In a great many processed foods.  If you’re not already a label reader when food shopping then you need to start. These fats need to be kept out of your diet as much as possible and when looking at labels, here are some of the items to try and avoid or at least minimize: baked goods, fried foods, vegetable shortening and margarine.
  • Trans-fats tend to be found in many packaged foods and commercially baked goods. Even heating oils at home can transform healthy oil into a bad one. Again, read labels.

A warning about low fat options.

Adding fat to food tends to make it taste good. When the food industry decided to start ditching fat it started adding sugar to improve the taste. Since Low fat labelled foods tend to be replaced with sugar, you can end up with too much refined sugar in your diet. Excess sugar is hard on the liver, is stored as fat by the body, increases the risk of diabetes and a host of other illnesses. Therefore avoid things marketed as low fat food.

A final note.

The body needs fat – good, healthy fat. It performs many functions in the body and can help you feel full during meals and reduce over-consumption. So what is not to like about fat?

What are macronutrients, micronutrients and why do we need them?

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What are macronutrients, micronutrients and why do we need them?

Macronutrients The Practical Nutritionist

Macronutrients

Macronutrients are needed in large quantities by living organisms, including humans. We need three types of macronutrients: fats, protein and carbohydrates.

Fat, protein and carbohydrates have different functions in the body, here I have given a brief outline of how they support the body and what foods should be eaten for optimal health.

Fats:

Fat is in every cell of our body. It is vital for the brain, skin and cells. It cushions our organs and does much more. I am talking healthy fats that the body recognizes and uses. For many years, fat of every description has been labelled the enemy but the reality is that the right fats are crucial for good health. Note my comment about the right fats because you should avoid the bad fats (transfats found in many processed foods like fried food). You should also avoid low fat labelled foods that may substitute fat for sugar (excess sugar in your body ends up being transformed by the body and stored as fat). Flavoured yogurt is a good example, with many brands and products being marketed as low fat while packing a lot of sugar.

Healthly Fat Foods

  • Avocado
  • Eggs
  • Olives
  • Seeds (pumpkin, chia, hemp, etc.)
  • Fish
  • Olive Oil
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.)

Protein:

Protein is essentially for hair and nails and tissue repair (grazes or cuts). A popular misconception pushed by the beef and poultry industries is that protein is just found in meat. Protein has many sources and it is good to vary your diets because eating meat heavy dishes can be hard on the digestion. Therefore opting for non-meat protein from time to time gives your digestive system a break and allows you to access other sources of nutrition.

Healthy Protein food

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Tuna
  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Quinoa
  • Chia seeds
  • Beans
  • Raw nuts
  • Avocados
  • Beets
  • Kale
  • Spinach

Carbs

Carbohydrates give us energy but for many of us, fast-carbs outweigh every other type. When I say fast carbs I’m talking about pastries, bread, pasta, fries, chips/crisps, beer, breakfast cereals and more. If you lead a very physically active life you can get away with a certain amount of fast carbs. However, if your lifestyle is less energetic, moderation is the key. I’ve noted a selection of healthy foods with carbs below:

  • Colourful vegetables
  • Fruits (apples, bananas)
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yams
  • Pumpkin
  • Whole grains
  • Chickpeas
  • Cauliflower
  • Leafy greens
  • Millet
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Kidney beans
  • Gluten free rolled oats

Micronutrients

Micronutrients are needed in much smaller quantities. Micronutrients work together with macronutrients to keep the body functioning efficiently. Micronutrients help maintain and support energy levels, cell function, metabolism and overall well-being. Types of micronutrients can be found in both vitamins and minerals.

A good example is zinc, which is commonly deficient in the modern diet. Zinc is an important mineral that helps to make proteins and DNA and supports the immune system. Food rich in zinc, includes: oysters, crab, cashews, chickpeas.

Another mineral is magnesium – another victim in the modern diet. Magnesium helps to regulate blood pressure, balance blood glucose, helps to reduce muscle cramps, enzyme reactions, nerve conduction and more. Foods rich in magnesium are pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, beans, bananas, figs, spinach etc.

You can find a full list of minerals and food sources here.

Vitamins also play a key role in the body’s functioning. Some of these are made by our body and others we need to consume. For example, vitamins B and C are water soluble and can easily be lost throughout the day therefore must be replaced daily. In times of stress, we can burn through vitamins at an accelerated rate and need to consume them more often (vitamin C is an excellent example of this).

Types of food that contain B vitamins are nuts, seeds, meat, eggs, fish and more. Most people are familiar with vitamin C and is available in food like peppers, broccoli, strawberries, oranges, kale etc. Last but not least are the fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K which tend to accumulate in the body therefore they are not always needed on a daily basis. Fat soluble foods can be found in fish, daily, olive oil, hazelnuts, carrots, avocados, kale, diary products and more.

You can find a full list of vitamins and food sources here.

Healthy food choices can support the body and may help reduce the chances of disease and illness.

Stephanie Matthews

The Practical Nutritionist