This post has been sponsored by Loblaws. Although they have provided me financial compensation and products, my opinions and words are all my own. I am in partnership with Loblaws and will be bringing blog posts and recipes throughout the rest of the year, and all partnered posts will be marked as sponsored.

Apart from the time I decided to be vegetarian for a few weeks in my early teens (honestly it didn’t last long and if I remember correctly, ended with me getting chicken nuggets and justifying that they weren’t real meat), I have never really thought about cutting meat out of my diet. Restricting foods in my diet has never worked well for me (you always want what you cannot have, right?) so I have made a serious effort to be mindful of the foods I eat and to keep everything in moderation. This month as part of the #FoodLoversUnite campaign, I’m excited to share some of my journey and some of my stories with you as a way of starting a conversation around food and healthy living. What I love about the #FoodLoversUnite campaign is that it speaks to the fact that everyone is a food lover regardless of what you like to eat or how you like to eat it. Just as important in my eyes is emphasizing the fact there are no right or wrong foods, especially as it relates to overall health and wellness, and that there is a time and place for everything in your diet within reason. 

I’ve spoken in the past briefly about weight loss, but it has always been an area of contention for me. Throughout my late teens and early twenties, my weight has fluctuated up and down much to my chagrin. It is only in the last 2 years that I have found a lifestyle that has not only been healthy for me but has led to sustained, slow, long-term weight loss. In addition to eating a (mostly) balanced diet, I also dedicate 3-4 days a week to the gym for bodybuilding and overall strength training. 

While I cannot say that this will work for everyone, I don’t think anyone should be trying to say there is a blanket approach that can work for everyone. That is why it is important to do what works for you and don’t be afraid to adjust that as you go. 

This is why I was excited to meet with a registered dietitian from Loblaws last week. Loblaws offered me the option to spend some time with Karley, the in-store registered dietitian at the Maple Leaf Gardens location to go over some of my eating habits, take a general overview of my health and wellness, and make some recommendations on ways I can help add some more options to meal time! Loblaws has a network of over 70 dietitians across Canada to help you achieve your health and wellness goals in a way that works best for you and your body. Through personalized consultations and store tours, the in-store dietitians help customers reach and maintain their healthy weight and manage their digestive concerns. To learn more or book an appointment, visit bookadietitian.ca. 

I’ll be honest, while I knew there was always someone available to talk about food, I had no idea it was a dietitian, and after learning of the breadth and depth of the services offered, it made me realize how valuable it can be to have that service, especially in a place where I buy my food and spend a lot of time each week.

I met with Karley Fallaise, RD and from the very beginning, she was extremely welcoming and made me feel relaxed. [I feel like I must include this because I am AWFUL with doctors, nurses or healthcare professionals. I get extremely nervous, so someone who can make me feel a bit more relaxed from the beginning means a much more positive experience]. We went through some of the basics about me (height, weight, age, general health, medications, etc.) before moving onto lifestyle and food questions. 

It was great to think about things like my general stress level on a regular basis, how I feel, and what I eat. As we went through my daily food habits, she was able to offer some quick and easy suggestions of ways to include new and exciting grocery items to help provide me with some diversity. As someone who can often fall into a routine when it comes to eating (I have the same breakfast every day and tend to revert to one of a few different dinners) having her provide me with some ideas was excellent.

My favourite part of the entire experience was having Karley walk me through the aisles, showing me some of the items we talked about (so many different beans and grains), and even teaching me a few different ways to prepare foods I was already eating regularly (like spaghetti squash). Even though I have shopped at my local Loblaws for years, I was still able to learn and find new items in the store in aisles I may not have normally visited. Now I have bacon maple tempeh in my fridge as a result, and it is DELICIOUS.

One of my goals when meeting with the dietitian was to find ways to incorporate more plant-based protein in my diet and find different snack ideas. Luckily, after a quick walk through the store and some suggestions, I was well on my way. My first grocery shop following the appointment had me walking the aisles with a new and improved cart and inspiration for the kitchen.

I’m going to share a few recipes with you today, inspired by my appointment and showcasing some of the things I learned from Karley.

The first recipe is something I can’t get enough of: tzatziki. I wanted to take advantage of the locally grown cucumbers and to create something that was light and refreshing for summer, it has quickly become the base for many snacks and meals! In fact, it is going to be the basis of several the following recipes. It has also become a great way for me to add some heft to snack time. Whether it is using it as a dip, or as a sauce base, tzatziki allows me to get a protein-rich snack with healthy veggies and a great serving of healthy fats.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups grated cucumber (about 1 large/full-size cucumber)
  • 1 2/3 cups plain Greek yoghurt (opt for the full fat here)
  • 1.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2.5 tablespoons chopped fresh dill 
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 medium clove garlic, pressed or minced
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt

Instructions:

  • One handful at a time, squeeze the grated cucumber in your hands above the sink to remove the moisture. Transfer to a serving bowl and repeat with the remaining cucumber.
  • Add the yoghurt, olive oil, herbs, lemon juice, garlic, and salt to the bowl, and stir to blend. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before tasting as you want the flavours to mix together. You may need to add some more herbs or salt depending on the flavour of the produce you had. 
  • Serve immediately or cover and keep in the fridge for 3-5 days.

Now that you’ve got the tzatziki, you have so many different meals and snacks you can make! My favourite (and one of my favourite things I have made this year) is the tzatziki pizza with freshly grated parmesan, bacon maple tempeh and shredded snap peas. Looking for some interesting plant-based proteins, Karley suggested tempeh. Since I’m not a huge fan of tofu (texture, not taste) tempeh was a great option for me. A plant-based protein,  it is very healthy for you. It is high in protein, low in fat, and low in sugar and sodium. It makes for a great protein option. Looking for ways to include this in my diet, I’ve added it as the bacon to my breakfast sandwich and have even started using it in my partner’s lunches. The best was though has been as a topping on my pizza. Inspired by a lot of the beautiful white pizzas I have been seeing on Instagram lately, I thought this would be a chance to put a health-conscious version of one out there. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 Ready Made Pizza Dough (I opted for a PC Thin Crust Pizza Flatbread)
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced 
  • 1/3 cup tzatziki 
  • 1 cup shredded snap peas 
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese shredded 
  • 1/4 cup crumbled tempeh (I opted for the PC Blue Menu Bacon Maple Tempeh)
  • Pinch of black pepper 
  • Freshly chopped chives to serve

Instructions: 

  • Preheat oven to 450F.
  • Scoop tzatziki directly onto the crust, spreading with the back of a spoon to evenly distribute.
  • In alternating rows, place snap peas and shallots (This will give you clean lines and make for a delicious pizza when you cut into slices).
  • Work from the outside in, place the tempeh in little piles all over the pizza. You want to make sure that each piece will have a nice balance of all the ingredients, so be mindful where you’re placing).
  • Sprinkle parmesan evenly over the pizza and add a pinch of black pepper before baking.
  • Bake for 5-7 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
  • Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving, and sprinkle with chives before eating

Now I know I mentioned I was looking for great snack options in addition to meal options. Snacks are important for me, and if I’m being honest, a place that can make or break a day of healthy eating. So, ensuring I had healthy snack options at home that were also tasty was important. I’m a big fan of crunch in my snacks. Cookies, crackers, chips- anything that is crispy, or I can bite into for crunch is the perfect snack in my mind. Karley was great at offering different suggestions for snacks that could fit that build, and I decided to take a lot of those suggestions and turn them into the ultimate snack tray! Using all of the fantastic summer produce that is available at Loblaws (locally grown cucumbers, peppers, herbs and greens) I was thrilled to put this together because it meant snack time could not only be healthy, but a bit of an event (perfect for weeknight get-togethers or even Netflix on the couch).

Ingredients

  • 3-4 leaves Boston Lettuce (Loblaws had SO many varieties, all Ontario grown)
  • ½ Cup Flavoured Tempeh (I opted for PC Blue Menu Maple Bacon)
  • 10-12 Mini Sweet Peppers (Look for Ontario grown)
  • 2-3 Cups PC Mini Cucumbers, whole
  • 1 Cup Tzatziki 
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped finely 

Instructions:

Arrange on a board or tray, placing tempeh into the Boston lettuce leaves as a wrap. Cut the peppers in half and stuff with the tzatziki, topping with fresh chives. Arrange cucumbers, add the bowl of tzatziki and serve!

If you’re looking for another way to serve up those beautiful fresh greens and enjoy the beautiful crunch of Ontario summer vegetables, I’m using something I had never bought before, and came suggested by Karley. Utilizing the rice paper, you can buy in the rice aisle, these sheets are amazing. Soak for 5 seconds in warm water and lay flat and you now have essentially a spring roll wrapper, but for cold items! 

Ingredients:

  • 8 Rice paper wraps (you’ll find these in the dry ingredient aisle usually with the international rices)
  • ½ large cucumber, julienned 
  • 1 red pepper, julienned 
  • 1 yellow pepper, julienned
  • 4 asparagus stalks, julienned
  • Black or white sesame seeds, to sprinkle on top 

Instructions:

  • Follow the instructions on your rice paper to get them ready for wrapping (typically, soak in hot water for 5 seconds and immediately lay on a flat surface.
  • Place a mixture of the julienned vegetables in the bottom centre of the circle.
  • Fold in the sides of the circle to meet in the middle of the vegetables.
  • Roll from the bottom of the circle to the top, being careful to create a seal.
  • Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with a dip or eat on their own!

I hope you’ve been able to take some of these suggestions and ideas and be inspired to include them in your day to day life. There is so much fantastic produce this time of year in Ontario (and Canada as a whole) that it makes it easy to snack and feast on all the amazing fruits and vegetables that Canada has to offer, no matter your food preferences!

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