Restoration over resolution

Restoration over resolution

by Lalitha Taylor

I absolutely love the holiday season, but the multiple festive parties and gatherings can leave me feeling run down and drained when it’s time to go back to work. Come January, rather than making one-time resolutions, I try to focus on restoration with a few simple tips.

Savour that sleep
One of the first questions I ask new clients is, “How are you sleeping?” More zzz at night generally means better overall health. Most people function best with seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night. Not enough could mean decreased energy as well as increased hunger and impulsivity. A King’s College London study revealed sleep-deprived individuals consumed 400 more calories daily than those that were well-rested. Add that up over time and less sleep means more weight gain.

Regular exercise can improve sleep. Unfortunately, when feeling fatigued it’s more difficult to be active in the first place. I know if I’m tired I would rather just sit down, watch TV and eat a big bowl of popcorn; the last thing I want to think about is going for a run. But then exercise doesn’t happen and the negative cycle continues.

Work to establish a better sleep routine by avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening. Darken your bedroom and remove electronics. Finally, talk with your health professional if you are concerned about sleep apnea or insomnia.

Take those work breaks
If you are fortunate to have paid break time built into your workday, take it.

In Alberta, an employee is entitled to 30 minutes of break time for any work shift of five hours or more that can be used all at once or split into separate breaks of 10 or 15 minutes. Many of my clients and colleagues work during their lunch break; breaks need to be viewed as an opportunity to restore one’s energy supplies.

People are exhausted when they get home from work. Instead, find ways to deposit energy throughout the day. Start with a 10-minute walk during your lunch break. If it’s too cold, consider deep breathing and stretching in your workspace. This gets the body moving and the mental break will help you find balance and provide an opportunity to reduce stress.

People underestimate the role of stress and its impact on weight management. When the brain is stressed, the limbic system, the emotional part of the brain, becomes more dominant, leading to reactionary and impulsive decision- making. Typically, when it comes to food, my impulse choices are unhealthy choices. When we are mentally in balance, it’s easier to make better choices when it comes to how we fuel our bodies.

Stress less through meal planning
It bothers me when I come home and realize I don’t know what to eat. Meal planning ahead of time can lower stress, increase health through exposure to healthy food, and save money. So take 15 to 20 minutes a week to determine what you and your family would like to eat before you make a grocery list. By doing this, your grocery list becomes meaningful and food will not spoil in your fridge.

In my family, we cook three to four times during the week and rollover leftovers into lunches. When creating your meals, strike a balance. Over- consuming any one ingredient means displacing other important nutrients. A great tool to get you started planning balanced meals is the Eat Well Plate found on

Save money and nourish your body with a meatless meal
Both of my parents immigrated to Canada bringing with them their traditional cuisines, including many plant-based protein dishes. They utilized lentils, chickpeas, green peas, beans (kidney, soy, fava) and nuts and seeds. Plant-based proteins are a rich source of nutrients including fibre, iron, folate and potassium. Cost, taste and convenience all play a factor in our decision-making about food choices; plant-based proteins can check the boxes beside all of these.

Plant-based proteins are economical, accessible and available all year round. With food costs continuously on the rise, our family will often have three or four meatless meals per week. A diet rich in plant-based foods is also linked to healthier body weight and a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer.

Start simple by incorporating one meatless meal as part of your weekly meal plan. Look towards ethnic dishes for inspiring meatless cooking ideas. One of our favorites is whole-grain pita with hummus and Greek salad. But when it’s cold outside, a comforting and hearty stew like my recipe below helps to restore the energy supplies for my family and me. Enjoy!

Registered Dietitian Lalitha Taylor adores eating a delicious home-made meal (especially when someone else makes it for her) and creating concoctions with her daughter in the kitchen. She is the national spokesperson for Dietitians of Canada and the founder of

Hearty Pot Barley Bok Choy Stew

1 T vegetable oil
1 or 2 onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
8 c vegetable broth (I use McCormick vegetable MSG free bouillon or create my own)
4 c baby bok choy, bottoms of the stalks chopped off
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 19-ounce can (540 mL) white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 28-ounce (796 mL) can of whole tomatoes, drained and shredded
1 c pot barley
2 t cumin
1 t oregano
1 t dried basil
freshly-ground pepper
1 T lemon juice
1 c frozen green peas

In a soup pot, add the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook, stirring for about 2-3 minutes until onions and garlic are softened. Pour in broth. Toss in the bok choy, carrots, celery ribs, white kidney beans and tomatoes. Add pot barley. Stir in cumin, oregano, basil and a few turns of freshly ground pepper. Add lemon juice.

Bring the soup to a vigorous boil, then reduce to a low-medium heat. Cover with lid and simmer for 45 minutes, while stirring occasionally.

Prior to serving, add frozen peas. I love this trick! It helps cool the soup to prevent your little one’s tongue from burning on hot, hot soup.

Serves 8-10.