FIT Talk With Tania  

Talking turkey about fat

Canada celebrates Thanksgiving this weekend, and during the past week I’ve been preparing and organizing for Sunday dinner with family and friends.

This year, we are blessed to sup with our girls and their significant others, both sets of parents and some friends for a grand total of 12 around the table on Sunday.

With such a variety of people comes a variety of eating preferences and needs. Vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten and dairy free, along with certain veggie restrictions - all need to be taken into consideration when preparing for this group.

It's a good thing I enjoy cooking.

Whether you love to do the cooking and enjoy having everyone gathered around your table, or secretly let out that sigh of relief when an invitation comes your way, without a doubt wherever you go this weekend, it will definitely be all about food.  Lots and lots of food.

How many of you are yawning right now just thinking about how you could effectively pull off wearing sweat pants to avoid the discomfort of fitted dress pants or jeans? Or how to avoid falling asleep on your host's couch when the food coma sets in?

And how, no matter what you tell yourself before dinner, you just know your plate will be way too full but you'll eat it anyway? And herein lies the problem.

Thanksgiving aside, North America is one of the few places on the planet where an abundance of food has actually become an obstacle to better health rather than a solution.

Too many items to choose from often leads to too many items being chosen at one time. This in turn has led us to our current health crisis of multiple lifestyle diseases resulting from the highest overweight and obesity rates in history. And the numbers are still not going down.

Let's face it, we've all been to Costco and come away with a few more items than we intended.

Even compared to as recently as 20-30 years ago, foods are now packaged in much larger quantities - portions served in many restaurants are often enough for two people.

Even popcorn and drinks at the movie theatres are about triple the size I remember buying as a teenager. It was when this super-sized movement collided with the clean-your-plate generation most of us grew up in, that the problems really became evident.

And since it's pretty safe to say that big box stores aren't going anywhere and most people enjoy taking home doggie bags and the free refill of popcorn, what can we do to turn things around?

Start by being thankful.

Thankful that because we have such an abundance of food, we also have an abundance of choices to go with. Like choosing to have second helpings.

If right about now you're thinking, “Hey! Wait a minute. Didn't she just say we are eating too much?”

You're right, I did. Just stay with me for a minute and I'll explain.

Typically, Thanksgiving dinner has always been the perfect storm to cause people to overeat. Turkey, gravy, stuffing, potatoes, veggies, cranberry sauce with pumpkin, apple and berry pies for dessert – who wouldn't want to try everything?

In some families stuffed people is more of a tradition than a stuffed bird. Regardless of what time turkey is served, an hour later everyone moves from the table to the couch and begins dozing off in front of the TV.

Sound familiar?

This bloated, sloth-like lethargy comes from the blood sugar spike and subsequent crash that comes as a result of eating too much at one time. The solution? Have seconds.

By splitting up the one huge meal — eating half at dinner and then the other half three hours later — not only will you avoid feeling tired and bloated, you'll also prevent weight gain and fat storage. Hello. And the best part is, by adopting this strategy, you're able to enjoy not one, but two turkey dinners. Win!

As you well know if you follow my column, I write a lot about balancing food.  And the good news is that creating balance within our meals by eating a combination of a protein, fat and carbohydrate (PFC) every three hours, literally provides us with more opportunities to enjoy our favourite foods.

Eating a PFC meal within one hour of waking and every three hours throughout the day while you are awake (PFC every 3!) allows blood sugar to stabilize.

Stabilizing blood sugar creates homeostasis (balance) within the body which in turn lowers blood glucose, balances hormones, releases fat, builds lean muscle, increases energy, improves focus, attention and sleep, reduces cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, and improves both immune and cognitive function.

Who wants a piece of that pie?

When you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this weekend, choose your portions assuming you'll be having seconds, knowing you'll be enjoying the same amazing meal again in a few hours.

You'll be less likely to suffer from the eyes-are-bigger-than-my-belly syndrome and also avoid the post-dinner turkey coma in the process.

Of course, the only drawback to this plan is while everyone else is passed out on the couch, you may be the only one with enough energy left to clean up the kitchen. A small price to pay for health.

If you're looking to make some positive changes to your health without any major upheaval or overhaul to your life, check out Burn Fat 4 Fall programs happening now www.fuelignitethrive.com


Back to the basics

What is being labelled as alternative with regards to health care today started out as our only source of treatment and medication.

Once mainstream and well respected, things like herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, massage therapy, acupuncture, tai chi, dietary supplements and probiotics have taken a back seat to prescriptions.

Plant-based medicine can be found in China back in 2700 BC and was used in North America from the 1600s until the 1930s, about the time big pharmaceutical companies came on the scene.

I remember hearing my grandma talk about how good stinging nettle tea was for health and how grandpa swore by arnica as a pain reliever for people and for the family dog. 

It may come as a surprise to some, but prescriptions and the plethora of synthetically derived medications is relatively new in terms of our history. Even with that short history, doctors today are reluctant to recommend anything but a prescription drug. And very few will even suggest any change in diet or lifestyle to go along with the prescription, keeping that person dependent on that prescription.

Last year, there were 502 million prescriptions filled in Canada alone. That, if you do the math, works out to around 14 prescriptions per person.

The real breakdown shows two out three Canadians over age 65 take at least five different prescriptions and one out of every four are taking at least 10.

The thing is, if you take a look at the drugs most frequently prescribed and the conditions they are meant for, all can be reversed or improved with diet and lifestyle. 

What did our ancestors use to reduce pain, lower inflammation, heal wounds, balance blood sugars and keep immune system functioning optimally?

If you do a lot of home cooking, you may be surprised to find that you have some of the items in your kitchen already. I'm referring to herbs and spices. The right combination can elevate any dish, but did you know that they can also elevate your health?

Herbs come from leafy parts of the plant and spices come from the root, stem/stalk, bulb, bark or seeds of the plant. And not only did our ancestors and ancient civilizations use them to season and preserve food, they also used them for healing.

I've chosen eight of my favourites to highlight and show just how powerful plants can be for your health.


Bright yellow and found in curry dishes, its active constituent, curcumen, increases the body's antioxidant capacity. This in turn lowers inflammation, helps with rheumatic pain, assists with leaky gut, improves digestion, addresses inflammatory side effects that come with auto-immune issues, and slows down inflammation-related aging and disease.

Turmeric also contains anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties and can protect again cancer and the development of tumours.


Both fresh and ground are beneficial. Along with settling stomachs, ginger is anti-inflammatory, protects again stomach ulcers, and helps relieve flu symptoms. It also contains vitamins B6, C as well as potassium, copper, manganese, niacin, phosphorus and iron.


One of my all-time favourites that I use daily and add to things whenever possible. With having such a high antioxidant capacity, cinnamon helps slow the aging process, reduces oxidative stress, and rids the body of toxins.

As cinnamon inhibits proteins connected to Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s, it's thought to be beneficial here as well. Cinnamon also helps balance blood sugar and regulate insulin levels, fight off infections, improves motor function and helps prevent cancer.


Whether you add it to your savoury recipes or inhale the scent, you'll reap the benefits. Sage is known to boost cognition, increase memory, recall and retention and may be a preventative food for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

It's also high in vitamin K, normalizes cholesterol levels, improves blood sugar, helps with menopause  symptoms, is anti-inflammatory and making an infusion and gargling provides relief for a sore throat.


It's so much more than just a garnish. High in vitamin K, calcium and antioxidants, along with some vitamin C, A, folate and iron, parsley reduces free radical damage and oxidative stress and is considered chemo protective.

It also helps rid the body of bloat, stimulates the kidneys, is both anti-bacterial and anti-fungal and the oil is good for skin in helping to clear up blemishes.


The spice from peppers and used in Mexican and Asian dishes, contains seven times more vitamin C than oranges. Great for getting rid of congestion, runny noses and boosting the immune system, it can also help reduce arthritis pain. The spicer the pepper, the more effective it will be. 


This spice, delicious in both Mexican and Middle Eastern fare, contains vitamin E for healthy, glowing skin and has internal benefits as well.

Cumin aids in production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes, is an immune booster, anti-congestive, antiviral, anti-bacterial, great for warding off infections or clearing airways under respiratory distress and is also a natural treatment for hemorrhoids.


Used a lot in poultry dishes, it contains vitamins A, B6, C as well as folate, thiamin and is high in fibre.

Rosemary has anti-inflammatory properties and is great for focus and mental clarity as well as promoting gut health, supporting digestion, and brewing a rosemary tea is a natural remedy for upset stomach and nausea.

Inhaling rosemary's scent can give you an energy boost and rosemary oil can be used topically on skin or hair for relief of dryness, dandruff and healing of cuts and bruises.

This is just a taste of what's available naturally to help create and maintain good health. I encourage you to get creative with your cooking, be consistent with creating healthy flavours and start reaping the benefits of good health. 

What's in your water?

Would you be upset if you found out that bottle of spring water you just paid $3 for was from the tap?

I certainly would.

Sometimes people buy bottled water for functions or sporting events where the focus isn't so much on quality, but rather having access to enough fluids throughout the day or event.

Then, there are those who purchase it simply because they believe bottled is best. But is it really? And which one do you choose?

Recently, Extreme Natural Health News published an article in which the Pepsi Corporation admitted that their Aquafina bottled water is not spring or purified water as the label indicates, but just ordinary tap water.

The company is being forced to change their labelling to reflect what is actually in the bottle. And well it should.

Regardless whether you're choosing bottled for health or convenience, knowing what you're consuming is important. Read the full article here

Many people choose bottled over tap believing it to be a healthier choice.

Bottled is often marketed as fresh, pure, and originating from some mountain spring giving us the illusion that drinking that bottle of water is somehow better for us than filling a glass from the tap in our kitchen.

It seems logical that a water-bottling company would have more stringent rules and filtering processes around their H2O, ensuring removal of things like pharmaceuticals, fluoride and bacteria. Especially since you're paying for it and tap water at home is virtually free.

As we read above however, clearly, this is not the case.

As it turns out, most public water sources  — tap water — have more regulations and safer testing processes than the bottling companies.

That being said, chlorine and other chemicals are used in the purification process of tap water, and fluoride, a controversial mineral, is often added.

Every city may be different as well, so having your tap water tested and knowing for sure what's in that bottled water, is really the only way to compare. Trying to make a choice between the two otherwise, the waters can become a little muddied.

In our quest for water that is safe, chemical and disease free, reverse osmosis is another form of purification touted as healthy.

People buy it from special filling stations or pay to have a unit installed in their home.Yes, it removes all the undesirables, but it also removes the good stuff too – trace minerals – and lowers the pH making it acidic. Some people who use RO water buy trace minerals to add back in, and then have the pH tested to try to bring it up to be more alkaline.

Many diseases thrive in an acidic environment so if you're using RO water and you haven't had it checked, you might want to do that.


pH is measured on a scale of zero to 14, with seven being neutral. Our blood is naturally slightly alkaline, or at least it should be, at around 7.4. Our stomach on the other hand is 3.5 or lower as the acidity is needed to break down food.

Some other H2O options you may have heard of include de-ionized water and distilled water - both pure sources with distilled being a conductor of electricity and de-ionized not.

Both are commonly used for refilling batteries, cooling engines and cleaning as it is free of compounds.

Alkaline water is gaining popularity in an effort to keep our bodies at the desired pH, creating an environment of health. There are many different brands and systems and those who use it will have their favourite and most report noticeable health benefits when drinking it.

But as I learned over the weekend at a health conference, some companies are now upping the ante, adding things like more trace minerals most of the population is deficient in, oxygen as we are typically shallow breathers, fulvic acid to help restore minerals and detox the body of heavy metals, and beetroot powder for it's fibre, nutrients, folate, and Vitamin C.

Beetroot has also been known to lower blood pressure and increase athletic performance. You can't “beet” that.

Water is essential for life. Our bodies are more than 70% water and whatever nutrients we use up, must be put back. Every function that happens in our brain and each one of our bodily systems requires water to operate as it should.

While many say your water type doesn't really matter because you're getting everything you need from food, my question is always, “But are you?”

Studies have shown that most people when not supplementing, are deficient in some way. I am a big proponent of supplements and share those benefits with my clients.

Bottom line, the human body can survive about three weeks without food, but only three to four days without water. Hydration is great, but if your body is missing some of those vitamins and trace minerals, you may already be acidic.

Know what's in your water, replace what's missing and make sure to drink about three litres each day to keep your brain and body functioning optimally and create an environment of health.

Drink up!

Lunches for learning

It’s that time again, back to school.

Kids are enjoying their last few days of summer vacation while parents are picking up last minute school supplies and doing the grocery shopping for the first week of back to school lunches.

Alas, granola bars, juice boxes, yogurt tubes and lunchables will once again become a weekday staple for many children.

I believe we owe it to our kids to do better.

As a parent, I know how difficult it can be to pack a lunch that is both nutritionally balanced and appealing to the child. And, having worked in schools for more than a decade, I've seen what gets sent in those lunch boxes.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting we never give our children a treat in their lunch box, but I am a firm believer that every-day food choices should be based first on what is best for the child rather than what is the most fun or easiest to pack.

If asked, I’m sure most parents would agree that good, balanced nutrition helps a child do better in school.

Kids who come to school fuelled by a nutritious breakfast of balanced PFCs (protein, fats, carbs) and bring nutritionally balanced foods with them to eat throughout the day, get sick less often, have more energy, fewer behaviour problems, are better able to focus and attend to the teacher, and generally be more productive.

Kids just learn better. What many parents don’t realize is how being nutritionally unbalanced can negatively impact a child’s ability to learn.

Let’s go back to the principle of blood-sugar stabilization and start with breakfast.

Breakfast is often the most difficult meal to organize, but it’s also the most needed. Overnight our bodies go through a “starvation” period and we wake in a state of low blood sugar and near dehydration.

Eating and drinking water within one hour of waking is crucial to hydrate cells, bring blood sugar levels up and provide the body and brain with the nutrients and glucose it needs to function.

Without food, the body essentially feeds off itself and will burn muscle to get the fuel it needs to get us up and going. It’s no wonder that kids (and adults!) who miss breakfast show up to school (or work) yawning, with low energy, have difficulty concentrating on the task at hand and are sometimes a little grumpy.

So you say, well, it’s only one meal and they have a lunch so the rest of the day should be fine, right?

Maybe, maybe not. Because the child has missed breakfast, he or she will likely eat most (or all) of that lunch at recess, causing blood sugar levels to spike, only to have it crash again around lunch time when there is very little food left to bring it back up.

Spiking and crashing blood sugar causes hormones to become unbalanced and can cause mood swings, behaviour issues, impaired concentration and focus, lack of overall energy and a general “wiped-out” feeling by the end of the school (or work) day.

Sound like any kids (or parents) you know?

The bad news is that there are a lot of kids out there that fit this description.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be your kid.

Being organized is key. Making lunches and planning breakfast the night before, as well as waking up 15 mins earlier, are simple strategies to help ensure your child starts his day alert and continues through it focused and ready to learn.

Aim to prepare and pack a healthy protein, fat and carbohydrate for each time your child eats during the day.

Here are a few of our family’s favourites.

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • chicken breast
  • tuna
  • salmon
  • Greek yogurt

These are all great protein options.

Avoid regular yogurt and tubes as they have very little protein, loads of sugar and colour as well as additives.

Avocado, olives, hard cheeses, hummus, tzatziki, pumpkin or sunflower seeds and spreads like seed butters rather than our old go-to peanut or nut butters not allowed in schools, are a few examples of healthy fat choices.

Fruits, veggies, oatmeal and quinoa are all excellent choices for the carb portion of each meal.  Use breads, crackers, chips, processed foods, juice boxes etc., sparingly as these foods cause blood sugar spikes and have very little nutritional value.

Don’t forget to include a large water bottle to wash it all down.

Why not try planning and packing lunches together with your child? Educate him on how many PFC meals he will need throughout the day and why and let him choose the combinations.

Kids who are involved in the process are more likely to eat what they have had a hand in choosing. You and your child will both learn and grow healthier together.

The bottom line is that children will grow up regardless of the level of nutrition we as parents provide them.

How healthy they are during that process and how long they will live as a result of that nutritional foundation is what’s important.

More FIT Talk With Tania articles

About the Author

Nutritionist Tania Gustafson, owner of FIT Nutrition, has been active in the health and fitness industry since 1986 when she entered as a fitness instructor and trainer.

In 2011, Tania partnered with internationally renowned nutrition and fitness expert Mark Macdonald, and in 2017 officially earned the title of Master Nutrition Coach in conjunction with Venice Nutrition and the International Board of Nutrition and Fitness Coaches (IBNFC).

Tania is one of only five health professionals licensed and certified in Canada to deliver this proven, three-phase program of blood sugar stabilization, not dieting.Tania is committed to ending the dieting madness both locally and globally and educates her clients on how to increase health with age.

Tania is able to work with clients across Canada, the U.S. and U.K. to restore health and achieve their weight loss goals.Tania is a wife, mother of three adult children, global entrepreneur, speaker, workshop facilitator, writer, blogger, podcast host, travel junkie and self-proclaimed gym rat.

For more information and to book your complimentary health assessment go to www.fuelignitethrive.com. Check https://www.facebook.com/fuelignitethrive/  and https://www.facebook.com/groups/8weeksisallittakes/

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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