Hello 2017!

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Image by Cameras and Cupcakes Photography

Do you want to look and feel fresh but don’t feel very inspired? Frustrated with the New Year’s Resolution conversation you always seem to have but never get to work on?  It is not an easy thing to change a habit but with persistence it becomes possible. Why don’t you let me help you see results in a week! Yes ONE week. You won’t reach your target of course but you will achieve what most people can’t, you will break the barrier and actually start ‘doing’ rather than thinking about it and I don’t want you to do it alone, so let’s do it together.

How about we begin the year with a little challenge to get us all fired up!

I want you to choose 1-3 health related goals you would like to target this year and I will challenge you to spend the next 7 days making it happen. Remember that goals don’t need to be fancy, it can be as simple as drink more water, download and use a fitness app, dance to 1 song before I go to bed every night. Don’t worry about what your goals look like to anyone else. They are important because they are yours and I promise you that this challenge is going to be a safe zone where everyone is as excited as you are to make this year THE year of change.

Use your Instagram account and join the party. Think of everyone on this challenge as your support system, people holding you accountable while cheering for you along the way.

Three simple steps to join:

A- Post this on your Instagram feed;

I will spend the next 7 days…

1- ……………………………….

2- ……………………………….

3- ……………………………….

Mine is;

1- Drinking less Coffee (2 cups a day).

2- Eating ‘Clean’.

3- Exercising for 20 minutes on 3 alternating days.

B- Tag friends you would like to run this challenge with, people that will keep you motivated or even better ones you know are always saying they need to improve their health and fitness.

C- Use #HG2017Challenge and check out what others are doing. It is the only way for me to find you and help you along the way.

Last but not least, be creative and have fun!

I will be posting a lot of useful tips that will keep your engines running on full power mode.

The best part? Not only will you have a very rewarding experience but one lucky winner is getting a special treat from me.

A customized 10 day plan with recipes and tips that are specific to you and will help get you on the road to a healthier and happier version of yourself.

Challenge begins on Monday January 9th.

Bonus: Join my mailing list by sending an email to: info@healthygenie.ca titled ‘Join The Challenge’ and receive tips on what to do (hence post) during those 7 days!

Good luck!

Healthy Genie xx

Goodbye 2016…

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It’s that time of the year again, the last few days before we move onto a new chapter which fills us with hope, a chance to achieve the rest of our ‘To Do’ list. Time to reflect on how we did, whether its a running score, weight loss or inches off our hips.

My advice is don’t get stuck on what you couldn’t get done. Instead celebrate all your wins from a simple adjustment like adding a bowl of fresh salad to your diet to bigger ones like cutting off artificially sweetened drinks for good. It could be something entirely different but the point will remain the same; stay positive and focus on what you would like to do next (notice how I didn’t say ‘can do’ because you can do anything should you decide to).

I will share my ‘2016 goal’ story to help put things in perspective.

Even though I never had weight struggles but I wasn’t into any physical activity. I couldn’t get myself to stick to a gym routine, always got bored too quickly. I had my first child in 2014, after which I learned how wrong I was for not building a stronger body. Child birth takes a lot of your strength away and if you are not careful can make you feel very weak, like I did.

People would constantly comment on my weight saying “You are thin you have nothing to worry about” but I wasn’t happy because I felt powerless. I would get dizzy if I had to run on my way to work and experienced a sense of numbness most of the time. After a few blood tests the doctor told me I was perfectly healthy, no deficiencies. She then suggested I try to grow my muscle mass and I thought OK I really need to start exercising.

I tried to do it on my own as my building has a decent gym. Watched every possible YouTube video you can think of and I went for it at the beginning of the year and it barely lasted 6 weeks. I got busy working on my Healthy Genie dream and taking care of my little one and dropped the workout.

6 months ago I was fed up. I realized that even though I probably knew what to do but what I needed was someone to push me to do it, to hold me accountable. I finally did what I should have done a while ago, I called a personal trainer. I still remember our first session; I was out of breath, dizzy and couldn’t tolerate half of the sit ups she was making me do. It felt horrible and I was exhausted but I made a commitment to her and I knew I had to see it through.

30 sessions later, I can’t describe how happy I am. I didn’t particularly achieve my target but it doesn’t matter. I am stronger, no more dizzy episodes, I can see and feel the improvement. My immunity has improved and most of all, my mood! I am happier and more relaxed and trust me running a business is a very stressful deal so the exercise really helps me vent in a very productive way.

I always told my clients this but now I will stress on it; baby steps are way better than a sudden change. It helps you maintain your progress and turn it to a life routine rather than a good phase. Going cold turkey can be very tricky because one day you will get busy and it will be difficult to stick to your intensive workout routine or strict dietary intake and then you might be disappointed and find that your body is losing shape again and fall into that vicious weight loss/gain cycle that I always strive to keep my clients out of.

The takeaway here is, you can write down your target for 2017 and I strongly encourage you to do so, but the most important thing is to find a way to keep up the motivation. In my case it was having someone to report to every week. This could be a friend, a family member, personal trainer or a nutritionist. The choice is yours as long as you don’t let it frustrate you and make sure to keep it realistic and fun. Yes fun!

Healthy Genie xx

Easy Tips for a Better Fast

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Image by @camerasncupcakes

Ramadan is approaching it’s end with less than ten days left but it’s still important to know how to keep yourself well nourished, especially if you plan on spending longer nights in prayer and worship.

Fasting from sunrise till sunset is a challenge but if you follow these recommendations it can be more adaptable and will leave you feeling more energetic during the day. The good thing is by now your stomach has shrunk compared to your first day.

Here are a few tips to help maintain a healthy fast:

  • Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate!

Water is your best choice, as juices are tempting to consume but they are full of sugar and I always say don’t drink your fruits. Try to drink 6-12 cups of water between iftar (breaking your fast meal) and suhoor (pre-dawn meal) to help you avoid feeling dehydrated while you fast.

Another way to hydrate is by eating fruits that have high water content especially at your suhoor. Great examples of such fruits are: watermelon, orange, pineapple.

  • Eat a suhoor meal closer to sunrise (around 3 am in Canada)

Having a small yet complete meal closer to the beginning of your fast will help in maintaining regular energy levels throughout the first part of the day (about 5-6 hours).

  • An ideal suhoor meal consists of 40-50% Carbohydrates (the complex unrefined ones like thick oats, whole wheat grains and sweet potato while some can come from eating dates and fruits) 25-30% Protein and up to 25-30% Fat (the good and healthy fats that are found naturally in foods like nuts, avocados and coconut) and should have a low salt content and must include water.

  • Dates are part of the sunnah as they were known to be consumed by prophet Mohammad PBUH on a regular basis and are highly recommended at both iftar and suhoor for their nutrient dense and energy boosting properties not to mention how great they taste.

To get you on board with this here’s an easy make ahead suhoor meal:

Date Pop & Pecan Oatmeal

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Image by @camerasncupcakes

This recipe makes 4 servings

For the oatmeal:

1 cup thick oats

1 ½ cup fresh milk

½ tsp ground cinnamon

For the topping:

4 Healthy Genie Date Pops (choose your favourite flavour – I used the sesame pops for this recipe).

2 Tbsp pecan nuts (or any nuts based on preference).

Organic honey or maple syrup to drizzle on top.

Method:

In a small pan mix the oats with the milk and cinnamon and stir on medium heat until bubbles form.

Lower heat and keep oats cooking for another five minutes or until desired thickness is reached.

Once oats are cooked you can put them in the fridge and keep them for a week.

To serve:

Divide the cooked oats over 4 small bowls.

Cut each Date Pop into 4 pieces and distribute evenly over the bowls.

Sprinkle nuts evenly.

drizzle a small amount of honey or maple syrup on top.

Enjoy!

Tip: If you want to save time you can simply soak the oats in milk over night and just add the toppings when you are ready to serve.

Healthy Genie

7 things Dana Mccauley didn’t know about Ramadan

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Image by @camerasncupcakes

With Ramadan upon us and as the Muslim community in Canada embraces the holy month which involves fasting for 30 days there’s no better time than now to introduce a few fun facts about Ramadan to the non Muslim community.

The idea came up during a conversation I had with Dana Mccauley, Executive Director at Food Starter while I was talking about what goes on during Ramadan and Dana had a lot of ‘ Oh I wasn’t aware of that’ moments.

Here are a few fun facts:

  • Ramadan starts at a different time every year simply because the Muslim calendar is based on the moon sighting and a special committee in every country is assigned to watch out for the moon to determine the beginning and end of every month. In general Ramadan marks a shift of 11 days earlier every year.

  • Fasting involves no consumption of food or drinks from dusk till dawn which adds up to about 17 hours in Canada this year.

  • Fasting is not mandatory if you are ill, pregnant, breastfeeding and when travelling. Only if you are a healthy adult capable of fasting without it causing you any malnutrition or illness then you are required to do so and it’s healthy for you.

  • Most Muslims break their fast by eating dates as it was known that the Prophet Mohammad did so and turns out they are ideal for that as they are nutritious and help rejuvenate your energy levels quickly. In fact dates are a big gift item during this month so if you want to surprise a friend or colleague then choose one of our gift boxes which will definitely put a smile on their face.

  • Fasting is meant to help a person appreciate the value of having food on the table, to feel with the poor and to be at his/her best behaviour. It’s similar to a detox only it’s both physical and spiritual.

  • Muslims are not offended when they see other people eat or drink during their fast. It’s a nice gesture to spread wishes of happy Ramadan.

  • Ramadan decorations are a big thing. Special accents and lanterns are usually used to turn the household into a Ramadan themed one and children love that. It’s like Christmas only it goes on for a whole month and ends with a big celebration called Eid.

Ramadan is a beautiful and peaceful experience for the Muslim community, and Iftar time (breaking the fast) is best when shared with people. I encourage you to share Iftar with someone this year. I will be posting more tips on how to prepare for a healthy fast and special Ramadan recipes in the coming weeks, stay tuned.

Wishing the Muslim community a happy and healthy Ramadan.

Healthy Genie

Eat ‘Clean’

 

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My inspiration board for 2016 is all about finding my balance!

Eat clean

Pray more often

Love every single day

Being your Healthy Genie my focus in here will be all about clean eating, what it means and how you can incorporate it easily into your daily routine.

Don’t let this new buzz get you all worked up and worried about another new way to eat. ‘clean’ is just a trendy new name that takes us back to healthy eating basics. A well balanced eating pattern using the small frequent meals concept that includes all the ‘good for you’ food groups in proper proportions while avoiding artificial ingredients and refined sugar as much as possible if not at all.

Now the last bit is the tricky one, because it involves a lot more work on your end in terms of reading labels and choosing your items more carefully. Yes it might feel like a chore at first but trust me once you get the hang of it it will feel as easy as picking the same brand of facial cream that you trust and buy every single time.

To make things short but sweet I will get into where it all starts with, when you’re at your food store of choice and have a shopping list in hand (the importance of a list is a fun subject that I’ll tamper into in a future post). The one weapon I want you to have when buying food items is the power of reading a food label. Not reading the words but knowing all the good and evil that comes with it.

I like putting things down in bullet points so let’s do this!

The four most important things to look for in a food label:

  • The ingredient list: the shorter the list the better and if you want to focus on one thing only then I’d look at the very first ingredient because that’s the one you’re eating the most from when you consume the product in your hand. so to use an example, if kale chips is what you are checking out then kale needs to be the first ingredient on the list. If not then I wouldn’t buy it.

 

  • Serving size: we are all in a rush and you can easily mistaken the numbers written on the label to be for the entire pack. Now in some cases when it’s a small pack like a snack bar then the serving size most probably is the entire pack but in others it is not always the case. Give it a quick read and check what constitutes a serving size so you know exactly what you’re getting in every bite.

 

  • Sodium: which translates to salt, is one of the oldest methods of preserving food known to human kind and it is natural. But you need to keep track of the amount of sodium that you consume because having too much of it can have serious adverse effects, one of the most obvious ones is an elevated blood pressure. A quick guide to use is 5% is low 20% is high. I’m talking percentage here because sodium is usually stated with a %DV next to it and that’s percentage daily value which is based on 100% of the recommended amount of sodium, which is less than 2400 milligrams (mg) per day.

 

  • Sugar: There’s naturally occurring and there’s added sugar. The issue is usually with the added one because it means that the manufacturing company added sugar to a food item that didn’t contain it and it’s either to improve taste or as a preservative. Current nutrition label law doesn’t ask manufacturers to separate natural vs added so you have it all under ‘sugar’ and it’s hard to tell unless you’re an experienced label reader and can analyze it based on the ingredient list. But who has the time to do that? well I kind of do that for personal and professional reasons and I am here to help you figure it out without doing too much work. I plan on giving you a more detailed analysis of different products in the future but for now I will list down some of the food products that you normally buy without expecting them to have much sugar in them, yet they can be loaded with it. It is a surprise to a lot of people. This includes: bread, crackers, pasta sauce, salad dressing, teriyaki sauce, granola, cereal (even the healthy ones, go ahead and check) and peanut butter to name a few. The good news is you can have those without any added sugar. How? Stay tuned for my next post.

 

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and ‘clean’ 2016!

Love,

Healthy Genie

 

 

 

 

 

Burghol B Koussa – Bulgur Wheat & Zucchini

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Photography & Styling by @camerasncupcakes

A beautiful well balanced vegan dish that makes me smile because the texture and aroma are carved in my memory. My mother always cooked us this dish and it might be the reason I grew up to love the flavour of cilantro! Just thinking about it makes me hungry!!!

Easy recipe to follow and it’s 100% vegan! Some other ways of cooking it would involve adding beef but I prefer this version!

Makes 6 servings:

2 cups bulgur wheat

2 pounds zucchini cut into small cubes (1 inch)

1 bunch fresh cilantro finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic minced

Salt & Pepper to taste

2 Tablespoons olive oil

3 cups of hot water

Method:

– In a small bowl mix garlic mince and cilantro until well incorporated.

– In a pan on medium heat add oil, half garlic and cilantro mix and cook for a few minutes.

– Once mix is warm add the zucchini cubes, salt & pepper and mix all ingredients well. Let it cook until zucchini cubes are half cooked.

– Add bulgur wheat and mix well.

– Add the water, cover the pan and lower heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.

– Add the remaining garlic & cilantro mix and let it all cook for five more minutes.

This dish is usually enjoyed with a side of a cucumber & yogurt salad or if you want to keep it vegan then you can serve it with a side of a spinach & tomato salad!

Bon Appetit!

Healthy Genie xx

Warm Black Kale & Chickpea Salad

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Photopgraphy & Styling by @camerasncupcakes @camerasncupcakesstudio

Since I’m fairly new in Canada I always try to use local ingredients to recreate a lot of our Middle Eastern recipes while adding my own healthy twist. Kale is an ingredient I never consumed or used until I moved here(shocking I know!) and now I am in love with it. High in vitamin K, A & C and having a low GI (Glycemic Index = a guide that indicates the effect of food on blood sugar levels) makes this one superfood that you have to add to your daily meals.

This salad was inspired by a spinach recipe that my mom always cooked when spinach was in season!

I used black kale because I found it to be easier to cook and had a very nice texture to it but feel free to use any variety.

This recipe is enough for 2-3 persons

You will need:

  • Black Kale: 2 cups chopped with tough ends removed (I actually just tore them into large pieces using my hands)
  • Chickpeas: 1 cup previously cooked chickpeas or if you don’t have time you can used canned ones
  • White onion: 1 small or 1/2 medium sliced lengthwise
  • Spring onion: 2 stalks finely sliced
  • Garlic: 2 cloves mashed
  • Lemon: freshly squeezed, about 2 Tbsp
  • Sea salt: 1 tsp
  • Ground pepper: 1 tsp
  • Paprika powder: 1 tsp
  • Cumin powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Extra virgin olive oil: 2 Tbsp
  • Silvered raw almonds: 2 tsp (optional)

Method:

  • In a small bowl mix chickpeas with paprika, cumin and lemon juice.
  • In a sauce pan over medium heat add olive oil, garlic, white & spring onion, salt & pepper and mix well until the onions are slightly soft.
  • Add chickpeas mix and cook for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Toss in the kale and mix well with all other ingredients, cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and serve with almonds sprinkled on top.

This salad is so easy and tasty not to mention nutritious!

Love,

The Healthy Genie xx

#blackkale #healthysalad

What is ‘Healthy Eating’ anyway?

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Photography by @camerasncupcakes @camerasncupcakesstudio

I face this question almost everyday and sometimes several times a day!

What makes your food intake healthy?

Organic?

Vegan?

Vegetarian?

Mediterranean?

Paleo?

High protein?

Zero carbs?

Fat free?

Sugar free?

The truth is nobody really knows the answer to this question. You will hear different opinions stating complex terms and study results to support why they believe so and so is bad or good for you and they all mean well!

I studied Nutrition and Food Technology and practised as a dietitian back home for 7 years and what I can tell you out of my hands on experience is we are all different! There’s no cookie cutter solution that works for everyone.

Our environment, body structure, hormonal levels, emotional status, social status, (the list goes on) are all factors that contribute to how our body behaves and reacts to what we eat.

Yes there are basic tips that everyone is advised to follow in terms of how many meals a day, how important staying hydrated is, a balanced food intake, some form of activity etc.

Some obvious NO Nos would include high salt, high sugar, junk food, saturated fats and some obvious YES YESs like fresh produce, a rainbow of vegetables and fruits, moderate healthy fat intake are usually recommended.

But my point is the food idustry, the media and anyone who influences people’s food intake decisions are constantly giving us the ‘consumer’ new information, new super foods to love for this year and others to throw out even though we were told to love them a few years ago!

So that leaves us all confused!

What I believe in is that you need to listen to your body. Some of us have what is called a food sensitivity or intolerance and for those of you who know (there are tests to show what causes your body an intolerance or allergic reaction) then these foods become the bad guys and so they should be avoided but for others who don’t get a bad reaction eating them these foods are still the good guys!

I believe that you need to enjoy what you eat and not feel stressed over counting calories or portions! It should all be natural to you. I prefer if people ate foods when in season because that’s when you get the most nutritional value out of them and if you educate yourself about how to read labels and how to use your eyes and only your eyes to determine whether this is enough then you’ll do great.

How do you do this? There are many tools online and in books that are catered to help you learn about food and food intake in a simple way. There are also Nutritionists and Dietitians who can answer your concerns and help you better understand how to eat in a balanced, healthy and mindful way.

I know I didn’t get into specifics here but this is an introduction to upcoming posts through which I will dive deeper into the different types of food groups and what makes up a healthy ‘diet’.

If you have any specific questions please don’t hesitate to send me an email and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Love

Healthy Genie x

How I became an Entrepreneur!

Hello again!

I know this will sound silly but back when I was 16 and we had long summer days. I used to lay around my bed talking to my sister and we would day dream about what we would want to become when we were really old, like 30! (Haha) and the dream was? Becoming successful business owners! Yep that’s all I wanted and after working for 10 years I felt like it was time to let go of my routine and do something I loved under my own terms.
Choosing the business that I’m in was the easiest part of my decision. Having a healthy relationship with food is something I would love to inspire as many people as possible to have and ENJOY!! so to me starting Healthy Genie felt like a natural outcome of my passion and years of experience in the field.
I made a very difficult decision! I quit my job and decided to move thousands of miles away from home. Packed my bags but then something unexpected happened, I faced a new challenge tam tam taaaaaaaaa I was pregnant!

Add that to the previous mix and you have one emotional woman with a huge challenge ahead. Of course after battling the issue in my head and trying to avoid that annoying voice that was telling me it’s probably not the right time to start a new business while you are about to become a mother for the very first time in a country you’ve never lived in before (annoying right?) I had to listen and decided to wait which was probably just as hard as was my decision to move.
Two years later I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did. It gave me time to absorb the city, be mama ready (and I can’t tell you how great it is to be able to spend all this time with your little one) and once I felt I established a reasonable routine and had all the support that I needed I went ahead and pushed the button!
It’s been 4 months since and I’m still learning something new everyday, facing new challenges but most importantly LOVING it!

Love

Healthy Genie x

Hello and welcome to my blog!

My name is Maryam Munaf and I’m the Healthy Genie!

I’m a nutritionist by passion and profession. My affair with food goes way back to when I was 12 years old and decided to experiment with recipes using my mama’s cookbook. Then I started watching a famous dietitian on our local TV channel and that’s when it clicked! a healthy relationship with food! that’s what I want to teach people and that’s what I went after!

I graduated with a B.Sc. in Nutrition & Food Technology and spent over 7 years working in a healthy catering company. Helping people reach their goals and learn how to have a balanced eating lifestyle while developing healthy recipes was a major part of my job and one I especially enjoyed!

I love to travel and I believe that you don’t know a city well enough until you’ve sampled its local cuisine. I took a fun journey with memorable trips around the globe starting from my first trip to Malaysia where my addiction and desire to explore got stirred up and I ended up visiting over 10 countries in 5 years! I recently decided to move homes and came to beautiful Toronto and this is where I got inspired to start my own healthy eating entity.

If healthy eating feels like a chore or you don’t know where to begin when it comes to making the right choice then I hope this is the place for you. I will be featuring some easy tips that can turn any recipe to a healthier one that tastes just as delicious, while my email will be available for all your inquiries (please go ahead and send me all the questions that you struggle with while getting into shape) and I am currently catering healthy treats and snacks to corporate events and private parties.

Thank you for joining me and I hope you enjoy the ride!

Love

Healthy Genie x

#feelgoodblogging