January 15, 2015

The Newest Health Food: Pizza

Question: When is pizza a health food?

Answer: 1. When your name is Domino’s, 2. You belong to the US Congress, or 3. When you start thinking outside the box.

A couple of days ago, I was sent an article link detailing the many creative ways to use cauliflower in place of wheat, gluten, chick peas, packing insulation (ok, that one I may have made up, but I’m sure there’s a significant number of people out there who feel that is what cauliflower is best suited for).

The link itself was posted on Buzz Feed and it’s here for any of you who like a gander: 23 Insanely Clever Ways to Eat Cauliflower Instead of Carbs.

Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that cauliflower, being a vegetable and all, is actually a carbohydrate-based food. So that title of the article would more appropriately read: 23 Insanely Clever Ways to Eat Vegetables Instead of Stuffing Yourself on Nutritionally Devoid, Heavily Refined Grain Products…

But I guess the editors must have vetoed that.

Anyway, comments about factually incorrect titles aside, the article did highlight how a little creativity in the kitchen is a great way to still enjoy many of the foods we’ve come to know and love, without the guilt (or calorie bomb action) of the meals.

Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that is surprisingly versatile and you can do quite a bit with it, as highlighted in the article.

After reading that piece, it reminded me that I should really post an updated recipe of my own. Several years ago, I showed how cauliflower makes an excellent substitution for white potatoes in meals like shepperd’s pie.

Today, I’d like to share with you my recipe for cauliflower pizza.

The key with this recipe is that you don’t boil the cauliflower (which turns your crust into a mushy mess), but rather rice the cauliflower and then microwave the cauliflower crumbles in the microwave.

You get tender cauliflower pieces without excess water… win/win!

With 1/4 of this pizza giving you a macronutrient breakdown of:

  • 350 kcal
  • 28 g of carbs (7 being fiber)
  • 28 g of protein
  • 16 g of fat
  • and a full day’s worth of vitamin C due to the cauliflower

That ain’t too shabby… not too shabby indeed. For those of you who wanted to drop the calorie and or fat count even further, you’d could use partially skimmed mozarella in there as well.

Of course, what good is giving you a recipe and telling you it’s healthier for you… there a billion health bloggers out there telling me to eat more vegetables.

As a loyal reader of this blog, you are above merely being told to do stuff. Rather, you are among the refined readers who like getting your learn on with a healthy dose of facts… and sarcasm.

So for today’s stroll down nutrition idiocy lane, I took the liberty of heading over to the Domino’s Canada website for a quick pizza comparison.

Now if you’ve ever been to to Domino’s Canada website, best of luck finding their nutrition info.


 You’ll have greater luck finding the Supreme Leader than a calorie count for a meat lover supreme…

Locating this information is such a monumentally difficult task, that I would strongly suggest that Sony hire the Dominos web designers to be their new chiefs of internet security.

Eventually, I was able to locate what I needed and immediately was greeted by the following statement:


Nice Play Domino’… using a document with a tenuous grasp on human biochemistry to support your health claims…

I guess I must have missed the part of the food guide where it covers “pizza” as a food group.

This got me wondering, was this document written by the same US Congress who deemed pizza sauce to be a legitimate serving of vegetables in US school?

After that winning cover page, what followed was the most convoluted approach to displaying nutrition data I’ve ever seen.

You might image that if you were interested in knowing the calorie content of a slice of medium Domino’s Deluxe pizza, you’d look under a table for “Deluxe pizza, 1 slice (1/6 of a pie), medium” or something of that nature to find the information you needed.

You’d assume that… and you’d be dead wrong.

Domino’s has decided to give you the nutrition facts for each individual ingredient.

Domino nutrition facts

Urgh… just looking through this table is making my brain hurt.

On the one hand, you can just image the suits as Domino’s smugly informing us that this approach allows “consumers to pinpoint exactly their unique pizza make-up”. On the other hand, Domino’s knows full well that 99.99% won’t take the time to look up this info and those who do won’t be bothered to calculate it for themselves.

Well played Domino’s… well played.

So I took the liberty of running the data myself for 2 slices of a large deluxe Domino’s pizza.

Ingredient Calories Carbs (g) Fiber (g) Fat (g) Protein (g)
Crust 320 60 2 5 12
Sauce 22 4 1 0 1
Cheese 90 0 0 9 11
Green pepper 4 1 0 0 0
Mushroom 8 1 0 0 1
Pepperoni 80 0 0 6 4
Sausage 90 2 0 8 2
Totals 614 68 3 28 31

As you can see, 2 slices of Domino’s pizza will give you close to 2x the calories, 3x the carbohydrates and nearly 2x as much fat as making your own with cauliflower as the base.

Canada Food Guide and “healthy, balanced diets” for the win!

If you really want to make pizza part of a healthy balanced diet, get in the habit of making it yourself. With cauliflower as the crust, you’ll be making huge inroads into getting your daily servings of vegetables, while keeping your calorie consumption in check.

Pizza: part of a healthy diet… just not the way Domino’s or the US Congress would recommend we do it 😉

Train hard and eat clean!

December 18, 2014

Carb-Cycling Through The Holidays

For many of us, Christmas is a time to revisit our treasured holiday traditions of decorating our Christmas trees, setting up nativity scenes and watching our crazy aunt Susan have one too many glasses of punch, then faceplant while trying to put a bow on the dog’s head.

Ahh… the holidays…

Christmas for many of us is also a two-week bender where we totally blow our diets and stuff ourselves full of egg nog, Christmas cookies and chocolates.


Now as important as it is to periodically take a break from healthy eating, going off the rails for weeks at a time is rarely a strategy that sets anyone up for success.

That’s why one of my favourite holiday diet strategies (hell, it’s one of my favourite year round diet recommendations) is to leverage the benefits of strategic calorie (or carb) cycling.

For the uninitiated, carb-cycling is the dietary approach where you deliberately go between high and low carbohydrate & calorie days throughout the week, in an effort to keep your hormones and metabolism happy.

As you are manipulating the amount of carbohydrates you eat each day, this often means dietary fat intake will also change daily, whereas you’d typically leave protein intake fairly constant.

There isn’t a magic formula for the perfect number of low vs. high calorie days, as your specific low/moderate/high calories breakdown will vary depending on how physically active you are, your weekly training program and how robust your resting metabolism tends to be.

But if we were to sketch out a plan for a client interested in weight loss, their week might look like this:

  • Monday: low calorie
  • Tuesday: moderate calorie
  • Wednesday: moderate calorie
  • Thursday: low calorie
  • Friday: low calorie
  • Saturday: high calorie
  • Sunday: low calorie

Obviously, low vs high calorie is all relative to their size and baseline needs, but hopefully you get the general idea.

To give you a quick synopsis of how and why carb cycling works, here’s a video lesson I put together several years ago.

So this Christmas, why not get the holiday treats working for you, instead of against you?

The beauty of carb-cycing is that when structured correctly, you can leverage your high calorie days for social gatherings.

This allows you to enjoy the social parts of holiday season, without being “that guy or girl” who has to bring all their own food to a party in a tupperware.

If this approach is appealing to you and you’d like to learn more about calorie-cycling and other more advanced diet strategies, I highly recommend you sign up for my free newsletter as I cover these topics and more in greater detail.

Cheers and Happy Holidays everyone!

December 11, 2014

Eat More of This, Lose Weight

Recently, a colleague of mine forwarded me a paper published by McKinsey & Company, Overcoming obesity: An initial economic analysis, that covered the growing obesity epidemic (pun fully intended), that suggested if current trends continue, roughly half of the world’s population will be overweight or obese by 2030!

Obesity, with a current economic cost of 2 trillion dollars, is now considered among the top 3 global social burdens, trailing only smoking and armed violence/war/terrorism.


Uh… still short a few zeroes….

Shortly after being sent this paper, I received an interview request for my thoughts on whether I thought this projection was accurate (I suggested it might be only a slight over exaggeration) and whether we were all doomed to get fat.

Specifically, the interviewer wanted to know how effective exercise was as a tool for combating obesity.

Although reversing obesity levels is a complex problem, the short answer is that exercise, by itself, isn’t all that effective for producing sustained weight loss.

Several years ago a great review paper was published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association investigating the effects of various interventions on long-term weight loss.

Weight loss maintenance

(Franz et al.,Weight-Loss Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Weight-Loss Clinical Trials with a Minimum 1-Year Follow-Up, Volume 107, Issue 10, October 2007, Pages 1755–1767)

As we can see, the only groups that lost weight and kept some of it off were the ones that either involved:

  • caloric restriction
  • medication

Given my leanings as a nutritionist and diet coach, I tend to promote diet interventions as the primary tool for helping people lose weight. While I don’t condone the use of medications for the majority of individuals, clearly they are clinically indicated for some people.

What this review paper also shows us is that interventions that consist of either just exercise or giving people advice don’t tend to do a whole lot.

In other words, just reading about diet strategies or spending countless hours on the elliptical doesn’t produce meaningful weight loss results for most people.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think exercise is awesome!

Not only is regular exercise one of the most potent activities for optimizing your health, but exercise really does seem to have a significant role in preventing weight regain. But for weight loss? It just isn’t all that effective by itself.

If you are new to the blog, feel free to check out some older articles that highlight how ineffective “exercise alone” interventions tend to be:

Now this shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone but simply reading (i.e. the advice) about diet strategies that produce weight loss isn’t going to magically make the weight come off… you actually have to put these diet changes into practice on a regular basis.

Having a long-term commitment to changing your eating behaviours is why rigid meal plans don’t generally lead to great long term results. Far too often meal plans are written in such a way that they don’t help people answer this critical question:

Do I like eating these foods enough that I could see myself eating this way for the rest of my life?

If the answer is no, then the plan isn’t going to work for you.

Although having a template to guide your diet selections can be valuable as a teaching tool and can help you lose weight, if you don’t enjoy the foods you are eating, you eventually will fall off the wagon, go back to your old eating habits and regain much of the weight back.

While I can’t speak for what it’s going to take to stem obesity on a planet wide scale, I can give you one simple strategy to improve your diet immediately: keep your protein intake consistent.

Much of the recent diet literature (which I will be reviewing in the weeks to come) is showing that achieving sufficient protein intake (at a level quite a bit above the RDA mind you) is associated with increased fat loss and superior body composition changes.

So if you are someone who finds your current weight loss efforts stuck, here is where you can start: download my protein bar recipe guide.

It’s a collection of my 5 favourite homemade protein bars… the kind of recipes I give my clients to help them build a diet approach that keeps them lean for life.

These recipes have helped them drop thousands of pounds over the years, and I know they’ll help you too!

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