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How do I Select the Perfect Squash


Winter squashes come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and tastes. Make sure that it is not heavy for its size and has taut skin with not soft spots or cracks.


This gets it’s name from the tree nut it resembles. It has mostly dark green skin with yellow-orange flesh that has subtle taste. These are great for roasting, perfect for stuffing with various grain salads and taste great with syrup sauces such as pomegranate or balsamic.


This hour-glass shaped squash has a silky texture and a taste reminiscent of sweet potato bathed in butter. You can roast, steam in cubes for a tasty addition to salads, frittatas and tacos. You can also mash it and use it as a stuffing for ravioli or spread for a sandwich or pizza sauce.


This giant of the squash family is available in blue-grey, green or orange-red varieties. All have a warty skin and grain, mildly sweet flesh. You can use this squash cut into cubes or string onto kebab skewers or toss with parsnips and rutabaga for a roasted vegetable medley.


Watermelon shaped with a golden yellow rind. This squash once cooked, the flesh pulls apart into slightly nutty spaghetti-like strands. Toss the strands with pesto or top with meat sauce for a twist on pasta night. Some people also use this for pizza base.

So for different squashes you can mash it, puree and freeze them. They can be used in a range of dishes like dips, baked goods, pancakes and oatmeal. But don’t forget about the seeds. Squash seeds deliver a range of nutrients such as protein, zinc, magnesium, iron and phosphorus. So roast those seeds and use them on top of salads, soups, granola or just as they are. To roast put in a 300 degree oven on a cookie sheet and roast until golden approximately 15 minutes.

Gwen Cottingham, Registered Nutritionist 905-778-9998

Categories Gwen's Blog

Winterizing you Body


In our Canadian winters, it is all too easy to give in to the tendency to hibernate all season. There are too many fun things to do with friends and family during this season to hibernate. With the right gear and knowledge low key activities such as cross-country skiing, Nordic pole walking, walking the dog and snowshoeing are all fantastic ways to get outside, spend time in nature and get the body moving. Also check out local parks and ski resorts for rental rates on winter equipment and their different activities.


You should always bring something warm to drink. It could be as simple as hot water with some lemon wedges or green tea. You can also bring some broth-based soup if you are out all day. Stay clear of the temptation to bring coffee, hot chocolate etc. These choices are drinks that will help make your body less able to deal with stress and will decrease your immune system.


Our internal clocks are largely governed by light exposure, so at this time of year when we only have 9 hours of sunlight in December compared to 15 hours in June, crawling out of bed to do something is hard. Hibernation is what we tend to go more towards. Making sure you get outside is really important as well as making sure you get your daily dose of Omega-3, Vitamin D and Vitamin A.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. This vitamin has many health benefits associated with it. It was once believed that it was converted by our kidney, but new research shows that our bodies convert Vitamin D3 into calcitriol throughout the cells. Calcitriol is an important element in the life cycle of keeping our cells in the body healthy. There is no better source to help your body synthesize Vitamin D than the sun itself. In our northern climate it can be difficult to get out in the sun every single day for enough time. To ensure that you are getting RDA of 400 IU, make sure you eat wild, pacific salmon, sardines, skim milk and check your breakfast cereal as well for fortification. Some more common foods are lettuce, dates, cottage cheese and eggs. These are just a few foods that help with Vitamin D.

Vitamin D has many health benefits for our bodies. It helps to keep your bones and teeth strong by promoting calcium absorption and bone building in the body.

It helps to regulate immune system activity and prevents, prolonged inflammatory response in the body.

Helps prevent Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis and cancer.

Regulates the growth and activity of cells in the body. It can be linked to obesity, rickets and diabetes in children and certain types of cancers.

There are several forms of Vitamin D. Here are the different types of Vitamin D.

Vitamin D2 (ergocaciferol) which comes from food sources.

Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) which is synthesized in the skin.

Synthetic form is identified as Vitamin D5.

Vitamin D2 requires conversion by the liver and then by the kidney, before it becomes active. This is why people who have liver or kidney disorders are at a high risk for osetoporosis.

Vitamin D3 is usually received from the sun. Once your skin is exposed to the sun, a cholesterol compound in the skin is transformed into a precursor or Vitamin D3.


With a strong immune system you will have more energy and less likely to get sick plus recover quickly if you do. Three words that help with this are: NUTRITION, EXERCISE AND SLEEP.

Get your sleep. If we do not get to that deep sleep stage (REM) our bodies do not benefit from the rejuvenation effects that we all love. Make sure all lights are off in your bedroom, even small lights from electronics (alarm clocks, cell phones etc.).

Water, Water, Water, we highly underestimate just how crucial getting enough water is to our everyday function. It not only helps to lubricate our joints, moisturizes the skin, and helps prevent constipation, but is also key for maintaining a healthy body weight-it increases your metabolism and regulates appetite! Especially when you are feeling sick, extra water is crucial because it keeps your kidneys and liver filtering out toxins. So drink up!!!!


The minute you start negotiating with yourself to make certain food choices or get out to exercise, just always make the right/good choice.


During the winter months, there are many activities to try. Dance lessons, yoga, skiing, Nordic pole walking etc. I will guarantee you will tell yourself “why didn’t I do this before”.


If you fall off the rails, do not be afraid to hit the “Reset button”. You could give up easily on your goals, but instead just reset. During the winter months, if you need to reset, just press that button and start over. Eliminate the “have to be perfect” mentality. The true goal is to never give up.


Having someone that you are accountable to not only keeps you motivated, but keeps you on track with positive reinforcement when you feel like quitting.

The hardest time to stay motivated is now until spring. With all the stress of the holidays, cold weather etc, contribute to a lower immune system which results in “0” motivation to do anything.


Food can be the best tool to use for keeping your body from getting sick.

Foods that work best for the flu are garlic, Vitamin C foods, ginger, yogurt, horseradish and of course water.


Garlic contains allicin which is an active ingredient that has been proven to aid in the body for fighting infection and bacteria.

It also contains a volatile oil that is mostly excreted through the lungs, making it an excellent remedy for respiratory disorders such as bronchitis, mucus, influenza and whooping cough. It is also great in the management of asthma.

Just remember that if you have ulcers that the sulfur compounds in garlic will irritate them. So use them sparingly.

Vitamin C

This vitamin helps to build muscle tissue and boost the immunity. People think of just oranges have high Vitamin C content but broccoli and kiwifruit are just a few foods that are high in Vitamin C.


Ginger can help to ease the nasal congestion that goes with common colds and flu.
Here are foods that help with common cold and influenza—

Blackberry, blueberry, chili, chive, cinnamon, clove, cumin, garlic, ginger, lemon, live yogurt, onion, orange, peppercorns, rosemary, scallion, shellfish, thyme.

Eat plenty of fresh raw fruit and vegetables, especially those that are red, green, or yellow in colour.


This is a good source of healthy bacteria and helps boost your immune system. Please use organic yogurt as there will be less sugar and good quality bacteria in this yogurt. When you do get sick increase your intake of yogurt if you start taking antibiotics for the infection. When you are on antibiotics, they will kill both good and bad bacteria so doing yogurt helps to keep the good bacteria in your colon to help eliminate the bad bacteria/virus.


This helps ease throat and upper respiratory tract infection, plus will help clear out your sinuses. It has antibiotic properties and has also been shown specifically to destroy the flu virus and reduce the severity of flu infections.

Categories Gwen's Blog

Reconnecting with the Earth

Wiggling our toes in the summer grass, sinking our fingers in our garden, or having the ocean waves wash over our feet as we stroll along the beach. All of these give us a sense of happiness and well-being when we reconnect to our planet.

Scientists and other accredited people are now wondering why?

Getting Grounded

The human body is bio electrical in nature. To our bodies this is the functions of our cells, nervous system and more are governed by electric power and pulses of energy in the body. Our planet also holds an incredible amount of energy. Scientists believe that the electrons and fluids found in the earth’s core generates a continuous, powerful magnetic force, energy fields and radiation.

If the earth’s energy is linked to our health and wellness, scientists are worried we may have become too disconnected from these forces. Paved streets, high rise buildings, and other elements are insulating our modern lifestyles which might be blocking our access to the power of nature, thus throwing our bodies’ electrical cycle out of whack. Getting grounded or coming back into contact with the surface of the earth and reconnecting with its energy may be the answer, this is called earthing.


Research studies have found that earthing may help various major health problems. It has shown benefits from chronic pain, reduced stress and anxiety plus improved sleep. For example, research in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reports that being physically connected to the earth “may be the primary factor regulating endocrine and nervous systems.” The same study also noted that it affects blood glucose levels and concentrations of magnesium, iron, and other nutrients in our blood.


The best way to achieve this is with bare-skinned contact with the ground. But that is not always feasible, especially for those of us who live and work in urban environments. Nature offers multiple benefits beyond simply the grounding aspect, here are some different resources as a backup plan if you cannot get outdoors, earthing shoes, universal pads, sheets and mattresses and auto seat pads.

If you would like more information about earthing products and their benefits check out The Earthing Institute at earthinginstitute.net.

Other grounding ideas you should follow are: to try and do it at least 2 to 3 times per day. Even a five minute break outside can be an energizing boost. If you have mobility issues, use a chair, simply sit on the chair and put your bare feet on the ground. Bring water, damp soil is more conductive and can accelerate how quickly you feel the benefits of earthing. If concrete is your second best option, you can even utilizing your basement’s concrete floor. To be conductive, the concrete must be unsealed and unpainted. Asphalt, vinyl, or wood surfaces are not conductive and therefore do not give you any earthing benefits. Last but not least go the beach, wading and swimming is exceptionally beneficial because the minerals found in the oceans are highly conductive and lakes can be mildly conductive depending on their mineral content.

In Canada we are very fortunate to having one of the world’s oldest and most extensive public park systems. Summer is a great time to explore our great Canadian outdoors, so go out and enjoy earthing.

Submitted by Gwen Cottingham, Registered Nutritionist ,

Categories Gwen's Blog

Shiftwork and What it Does to the Body

People who work shifts have the hardest times with health issues. The biggest one being weight gain. If the most physical of jobs can still cause weight gain WHY????

People who do shifts need to realize that they should eat differently to the average person. A shift worker cannot eat the average 3 meals a day like we are all trained to do. They need to rearrange their thinking ideas with regards to meals.

FOR EXAMPLE: Let’s say that your shift starts at 3:00 in the afternoon and finishes at 7:00 in the morning. When you leave work you go home and usually straight to sleep and therefore miss breakfast and lunch as well. How do you work around this? By thinking outside the box.

People on shifts have to eat totally different. If you start at 3:00 try and have your breakfast as your first meal (that would normally be your lunchtime), then lunch around 8:00 pm and your dinner at 2:00 am. Another option is to have your breakfast before you leave work, go home and sleep, wake up have a snack and then still try and have your lunch later and your dinner later. A quick breakfast could consist of yogurt with fruit before you leave work to go home. Sometimes this is not easy to do with your job so think about eating every 3-5 hours. It can be small and simple snacks with only one big meal through your shift. Snacks can be your friend and these could include yogurt, vegetables with a dip, fruit, trial mix and nuts and seeds. Most people who work shifts find that this is better for them than the traditional 3 meals a day.

Sleep is also important but many people find that if they eat a big meal before sleeping this also cause issues with digestion. That is why doing something small keeps away the hunger and lets you get that good sleep that you require. So when you wake up to start you new work day you can start with a big meal if you wish.

Just remember that there is many different ways to eat. Just think outside your box.

Submitted by Gwen Cottingham, Registered Nutritionist
g.cottingham@hotmail.com 905-778-9998

Categories Gwen's Blog

Staying Hydrated Through the Hot Summer Months

During the hot summer months the best way to check your hydration level is to keep track on how often you do not go to the bathroom and if the colour is dark.

Your body is made up of 60% water and drinking only when you are thirsty is not enough to support your hydration needs. Common signs that you are dehydrated are: dry or sticky mouth.

There are many different ways to keep cool and hydrated through the heat. Here are some ideas to help. Stay away from sugary drinks such as soda and some fruit juices. Sugar makes you more thirsty and therefore does not help the body to hydrate itself. Coffee and tea are also drinks that cause more dehydration because of the caffeine. Freeze water in a water bottle. Wrap in a towel to prevent water condensation forming. As well as drinking water use it as a spritz. Fill a spray bottle with pure water and place in refrigerator. When you feel hot spray a mist over face and body to cool you down quickly. You can also run cool water on your wrists for a few minutes but remember It also helps to keep your head and the back of your neck cool. Drinking water is the best way to keep your body hydrated but using certain foods is also the other way to go.

Foods that you should avoid because they will cause you to dehydrate are: eating junk food, it lacks healthy nutrients and is often hot and greasy. Eating meat and protein are heavy foods and during the heat can increase metabolic heat production in your body which in turn adds to loss of water.

There are many ways and different foods to eat to help keep you hydrated through the hot months of summer. Foods can keep you cool provided you make the right choices. The right foods to eat are fresh raw food such as fruits, vegetables and salads, eat cold soups, do meals or foods that require no cooking to avoid heating up the house and include frequent small meals such as low fat dairy and cold fruit.

Research has shown that eating foods high in water helps to keep you satisfied.

Here are some foods and what their percentage of water is:

Cucumbers: 95% water, they also supply you with fiber, and they can be pumped up higher for the hydrating factor if mixed with yogurt.

Salad Greens: 90% water, supply you with folate, fiber and antioxidants.

Strawberries: 91% water, supply you with folate, Vitamin B and C.

Raspberries: 85% water

Blueberries: 85% water

Watermelon: 92% water, supply you with Vitamin C and the red version has more lycopene that tomatoes, lycopene helps to protect against heart disease and prostate cancer.

Papaya: 88% water, supply you with fiber.

Cantaloupe: 90% water, supply you with Vitamin A and C.

Yogurt: plain 85-88% water, supply you with calcium and probiotics.

Butternut Squash: 88% water, supply you with Vitamin A which is important in eye health and Vitamin C, potassium and manganese.

Iceberg Lettuce: 95% water, can use them for wraps and hamburger buns as well as in a salad.

Celery: 95% water, supply you with Vitamin A, C and K, neutralizes stomach acid as well and is a natural remedy for heartburn and acid reflux.

Radishes: 95% water, supply you with antioxidants and has a crunchy spicy/sweet flavour for different dishes/salads.

Tomatoes: 94% water, a great food for snacking especially the cherry tomatoes.

Green peppers: 94% water, the green ones are the highest in water content. Can use for snacks and pre-dinner foods as well as salads and stuffing them with rice, and other ingredients.

Cauliflower: 92% water, it also helps to lower cholesterol and fight cancer.

Spinach: 91% water, it does have a higher water content than iceberg lettuce and is rich in lutein, potassium, fiber and folate.

Broccoli: 90% water, supply you with fiber, potassium, Vitamin A and C.

Grapefruit: 90% water, watch if you are on medicine as this interferes with these.

Baby carrots: 90% water, these are more hydrating then the big ones.

Gwen Cottingham, Registered Nutritionist
905-778-9998  g.cottingham@hotmail.com

Categories Gwen's Blog

Stretch at Your Desk

These 10 stretches you can do at your desk will keep you bendy and feeling good. Like yoga … at your desk.

1. Rubber Neck
Sit up tall and drop your right  ear down towards your right shoulder (you don’t have to touch it!) and hold for a few seconds and repeat for the left side.

2. Reach for the Stars
Interlace your fingers and reach up towards the sky, as high as you can … keeping your palms facing up towards the ceiling.

3. Look Around
Turn your head the left and try and look over your shoulder and hold for a few seconds … repeat on the right.

4. Bobblehead
Drop your chin down towards your chest and GENTLY roll your head from side to side.

5. Shrugs
Raise both shoulders up towards your ears and hold for a few seconds and release. Repeat a few times for good measure.

6. Chest Opener
Bring your hands behind your back, press your palms together, sit up tall and hold for 5–10 seconds.

7. Seated Toy Soldier
Sit up tall and extend your right arm all the way up towards the ceiling. Straighten your left leg out and raise it up as you bring your right arm down and try to touch your left foot. Do 8–10 on each side.

8. Knee Hugger
With a bent knee, lift your right leg up and grab it with your arms and pull it in as close to your chest as you can. Hold for 5–10 seconds and make sure and do it on the left side, too.

9. Reach and Bend
Extend your right arm over your head and reach out as far as you can to the left and gently bend over. Hold for a few seconds and do it the other way.

10. Knee Press
This one stretches out the glutes. With your right ankle on your left knee, gently press against the right knee a few times. Of course, after you’re done with the right side, be sure and give the left side some love, too.

The Twinkle Toe
Tap into your inner Fred Astaire  by speedily tapping those toes on the floor under your desk. Or graduate to a harder (and less inconspicuous) move: Stand in front of a small trashcan and lift up those legs to tap the toes on its edge, alternating feet, in soccer-drill fashion.

The Namaste
Whether you’re praying for a project extension or for more defined arms, this move has you covered. Seated upright with feet flat on the floor, bring the palms together in front of the chest and push both hands together powerfully until you feel the arm muscles contract. Hold the prayer hands pushed together for 20 seconds. Release and repeat the sequence until you feel a little more zen.

The Desk Chair Swivel
Lucky enough to have a fun swivel chair? Use its twirl to your advantage with this oblique abs fix. Sitting upright and with the feet hovering over the floor, hold the edge of your desk with your fingers and thumb. Next, use the core to swivel the chair from side to side. Swish back and forth for 15 rounds.

The “Weeee” Desk Chair Wheel
Go ahead, play with your wheelie chair (everyone wants to!). While seated in a chair with wheels, position yourself at arm’s length from a desk or table and grasp its edge with your hands. Next, engage the core, raise the feet slightly off the ground, and pull with your arms until the chair slowly rolls forward and your chest touches the desk’s edge. Then roll back by pushing away, with the feet still raised. Repeat 20 times, or until you burn holes into the carpet.

Gwen Cottingham, Registered Nutritionist,g.cottingham@hotmail.com  905-778-9998

Categories Gwen's Blog

Sunflower Butter

The days of peanut butter are no longer. There are many different nut butters available that supply us with the same or better nutritional valve. One of these is sunflower seed butter.

Because this butter is deprived from a seed, it is a terrific option for anyone with a nut or peanut allergy.

Sunflower seed has many benefits for your body. It is very high in protein, great for a pre and post gym snack and has about 3 grams of protein, especially when paired with a carbohydrate.

This butter is loaded with Vitamin E which supplies our body with antioxidants, balances our cholesterol and reduces free radical damage in our cells. It helps our immune system to stay healthy. Sunflower butter supplies 24% of our daily needs in just 1 tablespoon.

One of the most important mineral magnesium is found in high percentages in sunflower seed butter. Magnesium deficiency causes low energy levels, sleep issues, helps to keep you going to the bathroom and relieves muscle spasms.

Lastly sunflower seed butter is highly unprocessed and full of healthy fats. Healthy fats provide the tools to carry vitamins through the body, absorb nutrients and improve skin health.

Sunflower seed butter is not processed like peanut butter. In the processing procedure for peanut butter, sugars and hydrogenated oils are often added. With sunflower butter you can also purchase your own seeds and use a food processor to make your own.

So if you are looking for an alternative to nut butters, sunflower seed butter is a great choice. It provides you with some high nutritional valve and can be used like peanut butter in recipes, on toast as a spread or anyway that you use peanut butter.

By Gwen Cottingham, Registered Nutritionist.

Categories Gwen's Blog

Support Outdoor Classrooms

A glance at your school playgrounds on recess shows how kids love the outdoors.

What if traditional class time could be used for growing and exploring the outdoors and using nature as their classroom.

Canada’s first forest school opened near Ottawa in 2008 and there are now similar programs launched around the country. There is also companies that sponsor schools and school boards to put gardens, ponds and planting trees as part of the school grounds and the kids are responsible to keep these working.

This is a great tool for teaching children about nature and how vegetation grows. It also helps the kids of today to preserve our earth so that generations from now will have the fresh water,soil to grow our food and
clean air.

Kids could plant vegetable and flower gardens. It teaches them the process of how a flower grows and this can be taken into the classroom as part of the curriculum but seeing it first hand is easier for a lot of kids in the learning process. It is also a way to beautify our schools as well.

In some schools, the kids start their day in an outdoor gathering circle. They sit on cedar stumps, sing songs, share ideas and plan the day together. They then set out to see the changes in the gardens or outdoor space. The kids enjoy seeing the subtle changes such as newly formed buds, birds and the veggies starting to grow in the gardens. We are also giving the kids a talent and knowledge on how things grow and the ecosystem
of our earth.

So let us think about asking our children’s schools to implement gardens into our school grounds and investigating some of the companies that will help financially for this. Playing outside encourages inquisitiveness and a sense of wonder. Through classroom activities such as recycling, composting and gardening the children will become more eco-aware and learning what we need to use from the land to live.

So go out and seek nature-base activities with your family and have the kids share what they learn.

Submitted by Gwen Cottingham, Registered nutritionist,g.cottingham@hotmail.com  905-778-9998

Categories Gwen's Blog

Using Tea in Your Food

Tea is the world’s second most consumed beverage after water.

It has been used in Asian cooking for hundreds of years. This secret ingredient has recently been discovered by North Americans. Adding tea to our dishes imparts wonderful flavour and it also maximizes and enhances our exposure to tea’s many health-promoting compounds.

You may ask what is the health benefits? Tea leaves are teeming with polyphenols. Studies have shown that these have beneficial compounds that may help reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and Parkinson’s disease. Tea is also great for keeping our teeth healthy. Research studies have found that tea may help increase the acid resistance in tooth enamel and reduce the risk of gum disease.

You may ask what is the health benefits? Tea leaves are teeming with polyphenols. Studies have shown that these have beneficial compounds that may help reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and Parkinson’s disease. Tea is also great for keeping our teeth healthy. Research studies have found that tea may help increase the acid resistance in tooth enamel and reduce the risk of gum disease.

How do I use tea in my food? You can use brewed tea for poaching fish or chicken. You can use them in cooking grains or in soups, stews, gravies and marinades. The tea leaves can be ground and used as a rub for poultry. Or add tea leaves to baked goods, omelettes, smoothies, spreads and dressings.

How do you use different teas in foods, here are some examples: rooibos chai tea leaves give a great spicy flavour for chicken as a rub, earl grey should not be over brewed, it is great in salads and gives them a citrusy aroma, and matcha tea gives food the sweetness that you would like to find in desserts or frozen foods such as popsicles.

Once you begin cooking with tea, you will be delighted by its ability to impart flavour and create memorable meals. The possibilities are endless.


1 cup vanilla yogurt                                    ¾ cup fresh/frozen strawberries

½ cup sparkling water                                 1 tbsp protein powder (or milk)

1 tsp matcha green tea powder

Blend all ingredients together on high speed in blender or food processor. Pour into ice pop moulds or 4 small paper cups. Insert stick in centre and freeze.

Gwen Cottingham, Registered Nutritionist, g.cottingham@hotmail.com

Categories Gwen's Blog

Want to Live to be 100?

I know that I want to live to be 100. I want to see my kids/grandkids get married. I have a bucket list that I have not even had a chance to start yet and I keep adding to, but many people ask how do we achieve this. It is easy.

Researchers who studied people who live the longest, healthiest lives found that nearly all shared the some health habits. This included walking. The average person lived 10 years longer, when they walked everyday.

Most people say that they do not have me but if you walk 10 minutes briskly, this is me enough to provide benefits. These benefits include, lower risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, as much as running can. It is a perfect low impact form of aerobic fitness for all ages. Walking daily reduces the danger of developing certain types of cancers, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis, all conditions that are contributed to ageing.

So go out for a walk through the forest and enjoy the birds singing and the other wildlife that you may see. You can incorporate walking into your day by walking the kids to school, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, in the office walking over to talk to a colleague instead of texting or emailing, at work start a walking club at lunchtime, walking with a friend regularly after work and get up and just walk whenever you can.

by Gwen Cottingham, Registered Nutrionist, Bradford, 905-778-9998