7 Ingredient Carrot Cake Bites

I love carrot cake. In my family, it’s usually an Easter treat. I’ve made many different versions over the years from traditional, to gluten free, to paleo. I don’t think I’ve ever had a carrot cake I didn’t like. So when I was thinking up a new recipe, I was inspired by the warm spices of carrot cake.

I had medjool dates, shredded coconut, carrots and spices on hand so the recipe came together quite quickly.

I like using medjool dates when making bites or ball recipes as they are naturally very sweet. This means you don’t have to add any sweeteners like honey or maple syrup to what you’re making. Dates are also rich in potassium and magnesium as well as copper, iron, manganese and Vitamin B6. Dates are high in fibre too which is going to support your digestive system and contribute to regularity.

The Recipe:

  • 1 carrot, finely shredded (I just use the shredding attachment on my food processor)
  • 8 medjool dates, pits removed
  • 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut (choose unsulphured)
  • 2 tbsp collagen powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

Throw all ingredients into a food processor and pulse just until the mixture starts to stick together, almost forming a “dough”.

Scoop by the 1/2 tbsp and roll into balls. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and into the fridge to firm up a bit. Before refrigerating, you could give them a roll in more coconut.

Makes approximately 16 Carrot Cake Bites.

*I was keeping the ingredient list short but feel free to add vanilla extract or a pinch of pink salt to enhance the flavour. A couple teaspoons of coconut flour added would make for a more cake-like texture.

©2019 Vibrancy Health Solutions

Winter Skin Fixes

So the warmer weather has arrived! We’ve just spent months wrapped up in layers as the harsh cold and winter winds hit our faces. You might be noticing your skin is a little dry, maybe dull. If you’ve been moisturizing your skin and it still hasn’t recovered from winter, there’s a little more you could be doing.

While it’s important to be applying moisturizer to your skin, don’t forget about moisturizing from the inside. That might sound a little weird to you but by consuming healthy fats, we’re helping our skin from the inside out. Fats like avocado, nuts and seeds, omega 3s from fish, evening primrose oil and GLA oil are excellent oils for skin. They will help keep your skin hydrated, glowing, plump and clear.

Water is also essential for beautiful skin. Keeping hydrated will keep your skin hydrated. If water is boring to you, try adding fruits and herbs like watermelon, lemon, strawberries, cucumber or mint to add a fresh twist.

orange fruits on brown wooden surface
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

What you’re applying to your skin will also determine if it’s dry or not. Choose a moisturizer with clean ingredients. Read my post here about how to select clean beauty products.

I moisturize my skin in both the morning and evening. In addition, after a shower, I take the opportunity to moisturize the rest of my body. Not just my face. At night I love using an oil. Oils are great at night because they leave your skin fresh and soft in the morning. Using them during the day might affect your makeup application or make you look a little too “glowy”. My choices includes the antioxidant-rich and anti-aging Argan oil which I’ll add 1-2 drops of Lavender essential oil to once it’s in the palm of my hand or Blue Tansy Oil from Acure.

Supplements can also help make a difference. Collagen and antioxidants will keep your skin youthful and glowing. In addition, probiotics can help support your skin health especially if acne is of a concern. Check out this post on probiotics to learn more. 

A final note I will make is on sunscreen. Sunscreen is necessary to protect our skin from the damaging effects of the sun. Look for physical sunscreens with Zinc Oxide rather than chemical sunscreens. The Environmental Working group has an exceptional list each year of the best natural and clean sunscreens. Here’s the link to see how clean your sunscreen really is. It also offers alternative choices for your family so only the safest products are going on your skin.

My Favourite Essential Oils

There are so many brands of essential oils out there that it can be overwhelming for someone who hasn’t used them before. How do you know which brand to buy? What scents do you buy? How do you use them? Here’s a few of my personal tips as well as my top 5 favourite essential oils and how I used them.

When selecting a brand to buy, do your research! Essential oils can be adulterated which means the oils are cut with other substances to cheapen the product. A reputable company will have trusted suppliers with lab tested ingredients. If the oils are also very inexpensive, second guess it. Yes, some oils such as citrus are fairly inexpensive across all brands but just be wary as you price compare. This is one of my favourite brands. 

When you are picking a scent, pick whatever is most appealing to you! That’s it! If you enjoy the smell, that’s the one. Essential oils can also elicit a specific effect on the body. For example, lavender will help clam and relax you while peppermint can stimulate and energize you. When researching companies, all this information should be available to you. If it’s not, again, think about choosing another brand.

Essential oils can be used in many ways. You can use them in DIY body products like this lavender body scrub. You can also use them in DIY perfumes and body lotions so long as you use a carrier oil. A carrier oil is an oil that helps dilute the essential oil so it’s safe to use directly on skin. Almond oil and jojoba are a few of my favourites. You can also add essential oils to your laundry. A couple drops of lavender into the wash or if you use wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets, you can drop a couple drops of essential oil onto those before you pop them into the dryer.

My top 5 essential oils (in no particular order)

LAVENDER This oil has a special place in my heart. Before I began working in the natural health industry I thought I hated lavender. Everything lavender whether it was candles, air fresheners, detergent etc all stunk to me. Turns out, it was never true lavender essential oil. It was artificial fragrances and “parfum” as mentioned in my post here. When I smelled real lavender, the difference was incredible and it was now an essential oil I love. I use lavender in diffusers throughout my home. I add a drop or two to my night time skin oil as it has antibacterial properties and is so relaxing. I have added a few drops to body lotions as well as making my own body scrub with it. Lavender is also a great oil to use for DIY home cleaning products.

EUCALYPTUS is a wonderful oil to use in a diffuser if your nose is stuffy. It’s great for opening up the airways. Eucalyptus is also fantastic at getting label glue of glass jars! I love saving glass jars to re-use them but soap and water only seems to go so far. There is always glue residue left. A few drops of this oil onto a cloth or right onto the glass, wipe, and the glue residue will disappear. It has a very fresh scent so it’s great for use as an air freshener too.

PEPPERMINT is another great one to use if your nose is stuffy. I also love a few drops of peppermint in the shower first thing in the morning. This oils energizes and breathing in the peppermint in the steam of the shower is a great wake up.

LEMONGRASS just smells good! I like mixing it with lavender and using it in a diffuser. This one is also great when used in DIY home cleaning products and on those wool dryer balls I mentioned.

SWEET ORANGE is a lovely soft citrus scent that will brighten up any room. I typically add this to a diffuser with other citrus oils. I also enjoy it with lavender.

Here’s a few resources for finding essential oils:

https://www.auracacia.com/

https://divineessence.com/en/

Spring Cleaning: Detox Your Skincare and Home

Do you ever think twice about what’s actually in your moisturizer as you apply it to your skin? What about what’s in the bottle of product you use to clean your kitchen counter tops? Depending on the brands you are using, our skin care products as well as home cleaning products can be filled with endocrine disrupting, allergenic chemicals.

The endocrine system is the hormone system of your body. It’s a series of glands that secret hormones. These hormones range from our sex hormones (testosterone, estrogen and androgens) to insulin, thyroid hormones, adrenaline and more. As you might gather from this list, the endocrine system is a very important system yet we assault it daily with our use of toxic products.

Disruption of the endocrine system means the messages the hormones are trying to send are interfered with. Hormones are natural “messengers”. They are produced by a gland and travel in our blood to the receptor on the target organ where the message is going. When this signal gets interrupted by an endocrine disrupting compound, the level of hormones produced can increase or decrease. This can cause challenges such as low reproductive health, disruption of thyroid health as well as obesity according to the CCOHS.

I encourage you to do some spring cleaning and check your beauty and household products to see if they contain any of the ingredients I’m about to list below. Keep in mind, if you do not see an ingredient list at all or cannot get access to it online, get rid of it! The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety indicates the below as endocrine disruptors.

Parabens are endocrine disruptors found in almost all conventional beauty products as they are the most widely used. They typically have the word “paraben” in the chemical name in the ingredient list. The European Commission on Endocrine Disruption lists parabens as a Category 1 priority substance based on evidence that they interfere with hormone function.

Fragrance/Parfum is a sad thing to see because the ingredients do not need to be disclosed. This means a cocktail of chemicals is put together to make up the “fragrance” added to the product. It’s best to steer clear of this as the compounds in “fragrance” can also be allergenic in addition to hormone disrupting.

Propylene Glycol is a biproduct from fossil fuel such as oil refining and natural gas processing. Basically, it comes from petroleum products. For anyone unfamiliar, petroleum is what is refined to produce fuels such as gasoline! I definitely don’t want this on my skin seeing as your skin is actually your largest organ and what goes on your skin, goes in your skin! This would include petroleum jelly/Vaseline.

Phthalates are used to help soften plastics and added to our beauty products to do the same. You will typically see the word “phthalate” in the name. Where you won’t see it is when it’s used in “fragance” so again, avoid the word “fragrance”.

SO, you’ve check the labels and are concerned your products might not be as clean as you thought. What do you do now? I would suggest doing some online research and chatting with your local health food store about better options. The EWG and David Suzuki Foundation are also great resources. There are some fantastic companies out there doing so much good. My favourite household brands are Attitude Living and The Unscented Company. I use these products to wash my hair and body, moisturize my skin as well as clean my home. You also can’t go wrong checking out any of the other brands below.

I have no affiliation with the brands above. I just really trust the companies and what they put into their products. I also use them on a daily basis and can attest to their effectiveness.

Could you benefit from a probiotic?

Did you know, our bodies have more bacteria in our digestive tract than we do cells in our body

Do you need a probiotic? Well, do you drink caffeine? What about alcohol? Do you have any skin irritations such as rashes or eczema? Have you ever taken an antibiotic? And yes, the one you took 5 years ago still counts.

If you answered yes to any of the above (and I’m sure you did) then yes, you could benefit from taking a probiotic.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help us digest our food, produce neurotransmitters and vitamins and protect our immune system. They help reduce gas and bloating, keep yeast counts in our gut in check and reduce inflammation.

Did you know, our bodies have more bacteria in our digestive tract than we do cells in our body! Literally. There is about 2 lbs of bacteria in your gut. This is why probiotics have such a huge impact for our health.

Our immune system lies within the gut. About 75-80% (depends where you’re reading) of our immune system is in the gut. If your gut health is poor, your immune system is not working optimally and not only do we end up sick but we end up with inflammation or food allergies or gastritis. Supplemental probiotics are available in capsule or powders.

You might be wondering if children can take probiotics and the answer is yes, absolutely. When a baby is born, their first exposure to good bacteria comes from passing through the birth canal. When a baby is born via C-section, they miss this opportunity and so it’s even more important to supplement them with probiotics. Despite the way a baby is brought into this world, probiotics will support their developing immune system. Children, adults and seniors benefit the most from probiotics that support their specific life stage or condition. As we age, our gut bacteria change. A baby does not have the same bacteria as someone who is 35 and someone who is 35 does not have the same bacteria as someone who is 70. Keep reading to find out how to select the right probiotic. 

There are also many fermented foods you can consume to support your gut health. These foods include Kefir, Kimchi, Sauerkraut and brine fermented pickles (not ones soaked in vinegar and sugar). You might be most familiar with yogurt as a probiotic. While it’s true yogurt is fermented with good bacteria, ultimately there’s just not enough bacteria in the final product to support our gut. In fact, “you would need to consume dozens of canisters of yogurt daily to obtain the amount of beneficial probiotics in a single high-potency probiotic supplement”. In addition, many yogurts contain unnecessary added sugars.

“you would need to consume dozens of canisters of yogurt daily to obtain the amount of beneficial probiotics in a single high-potency probiotic supplement”

Caroline Farquhar, RHN http://www.renewlife.ca/blog/probiotics-yogurt/

When taking a supplemental probiotic, there are a few key things to look for:

  • Types of bacteria strains
  • How many bacteria are in each dose
  • Type of formula
  • Guaranteed potency
  • Delivery system (is the probiotic protected from your stomach acid)

To read more about how to select the right probitoic for you and your family check out this blog post by Caroline Farquhar, RHN on Renew Life Canada’s website.

Dill-icious Ranch Dip

I love Ranch anything. Ranch dip, dressings, chips etc. I love it all. What I don’t like about Ranch dip is all the ingredients that don’t have to be in there. For starters, there can be added emulsifiers like soy lecithin which is fine if it’s NON-GMO (and you don’t have a soy allergy) but if it’s not GMO free or Organic, is likely from a genetically modified source. There’s also added sodium in these products as well as milk ingredients.

If you’re vegan or dairy free, you need to seek alternatives. There are many great (and not-so-great) alternatives on the shelves of your local grocery or health food store. This recipe came from my desire for a dairy-free ranch dressing. I bought a very well-known brand of dairy free ranch salad dressing, excited for how delicious it would be. Let’s just say after I tasted it, I was very disappointed. It was not tasty nor was it cheap! I poured an expensive bottle down the drain and decided I could make some myself, from scratch.

Ranch is thick and creamy. I needed to get that texture without using dairy. I opted for an unsweetened, dairy free yogurt. I chose Silk coconut yogurt. I also had on hand, vegan dairy free mayo. I figured the two together would give me the consistency I needed.

Ranch Dip 2

 

All the Ranch I typically love has lots of dill in it so I made sure this recipe has a lot. You can add as little or as much dill as you’d like. It’s important to use fresh dill. You’ll get a better flavour out of it and all the little green leaves will look pretty in your dip.

What you will need:

  • Vegan Mayo (keep it dairy free and vegan)
  • Unsweetened non-dairy yogurt (I use Silk coconut, linked above)
  • Green onion
  • Fresh garlic
  • Fresh dill
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper

You’ll likely have most (if not all) of these ingredients already in your house. I find it tastes best if it sits for a day before you eat it BUT it taste great immediately.

Ranch Dip4

The Recipe:

1/2 cup vegan mayo (like this brand here)

1/2 cup unsweetened, non dairy yogurt

1 green onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

2-3 tbsp fresh dill, chopped

1 tsp unfiltered, apple cider vinegar

1/8 tsp Hebamere* seasoning

1/8 tsp salt

sprinkle of pepper

Combine mayo and yogurt in a glass jar or dish. Add chopped garlic, green onion and dill. Add mustard, apple cider vinegar, Herbamere seasoning, salt & pepper. Whisk and you’re done!

Store in your fridge in an air tight container and enjoy on salads, veggies, potatoes and anything else you’d like! Works well as a yummy sandwich spread too. Can keep in your fridge for a week (if it lasts that long!)

*can be omitted but it’s a super yummy addition 

Ranch Dip 3

 

©2018 Vibrancy Health Solutions

 

 

DIY Brown Sugar Lavender Body Scrub

Winter has arrived and in the cold weather, it’s even more important to take care of your skin. I love using home-made body scrubs to remove dry skin.  One of my favourites to make is very simple and uses ingredients probably already in your house!

I am a huge fan of essential oils and love mixing. This one, I kept very simple using just lavender oil. It’s important when using essential oils to use a carrier oil. A carrier oil is an oil you can use on your skin that helps dilute the essential oil. A few examples are Coconut oil, Jojoba, Avocado, Apricot and Almond. Jojoba has a neutral scent and is very hydrating. Great for winter months!

Brown Sugar Lavender Body Scrub

When working with essential oils, you want to use dark amber coloured glass. Essential oils do not fare well with direct light so the dark colour helps protect them. I used a 4 oz wide mouth jar from Aura Cacia (www.auracacia.com). In fact, all ingredients (less the sugar) are from this company.

I love this company because of the quality of their products. They work with small farmers all over the world to source their oils. When they go into these countries to partner with the farmers they help the community. They build schools, wells and support the women with jobs. They give a lot back and a few years ago, I had the opportunity to tour their facility in Iowa. The employees are treated incredibly well with an onsite daycare! and organic subsidized hot lunch everyday.  Meeting and speaking with their employees and you quickly learned that everyone loves their job.

So you know a little bit about one of my favourite oil brands, now let’s get to the recipe:

  • 4 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp jojoba oil
  • 20-40 drops lavender essential oil

Add all ingredients to glass jar, mix to combine. Use as you’d like in the shower! It’s that easy.

You can change up the quanity of oil and sugar to get less of a paste texture (use more oil) and you can change and mix the oils to suit your preferences. Just keep the total number of drops the same, too much oil without enough carrier and you may expeirnce some negative reacions on your skin due to the concentration of the oils.

May more recipes like this one can be found on their website (linked above). DIY oil products also make great gifts and can help reduce product waste. Experiment, have fun and #livevibrantly