Jen Casey is a mother of 2, a Holistic Nutritionist, a business owner, and a BCRPA Certified Fitness Instructor.
Jen has always had a passion for alternative wellness practices and non-toxic home and body. After the birth of her first baby in 2001, Jen developed her own line of natural baby care products, Dimpleskins Naturals, when she felt that nothing on the market was natural enough for her family. In the past, Jen has worked as a Green Coach with the David Suzuki Foundation, teaching families how to better 'green' their home and life, and still runs classes in Vancouver on ways to reduce chemicals from every day products for a healthier home.
Today, Jen works as the Academic Advisor at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition, is the in-house Nutritionist at two Nature’s Fare locations, and has her own practice with her company, Next Bite Nutrition Coaching. She focuses her practice on whole body wellness, incorporating diet, movement, sleep habits and stress management as part of her customized wellness plans. Her services include meal planning, wellness concierge services, fitness recommendations, diet and lifestyle interventions through the ages. Her recipes have been published in the Wall Street Journal, MindBodyGreen.com, and Global BC.
There is something about homemade seasonings. They are free from all the additives, hidden sugar, sodium and gluten that store-bought seasonings often contain. Who needs added sugar and salt? Not us.
We’ve rounded up some of our fave homemade seasonings that you can add to grilled meats, roasted veggies, fried tofu and fish. Gather up your pantry staples, open up that spice cupboard, and let’s see what you can put together today.
EVERYTHING BAGEL SPICE: A blend of sesame and poppy seeds provide major plant-based calcium and zinc. Combine these with sea salt, dried garlic and onion, and you’ve pretty much got the seasoning of your dreams. A girlfriend of mine recently made her own crackers with this seasoning and….oh, my. Two Peas and Their Pod lays out a simple recipe here.
JERK SPICE: If you’re up for dinner with a kick, this recipe is one of our faves. We’ve made this recipe with chicken thighs, but salmon, cauliflower steaks or tofu would be great vegetarian options. Try it on the bbq this summer and impress your guests (and yourself). Serve it with Caribbean rice and mango salsa to balance out the heat. Thumbs up.
CHAI SPICE: This isn’t just a warm winter cozy essential. Chai spice is packed with ingredients that are anti-inflammatory, they get blood circulating, and they boost your immune system. So, you can pretty much benefit from Chai spice on the daily. I add it to bliss balls, warm coconut milk, and overnight oats. Minimalist Baker has a beautiful, caffeine-free recipe here.
What are your go-to seasoning blends and what dishes do you use them in?
There is so much pressure around diets, diet culture, and trends. Between paleo, keto, gluten-free, vegan, grain-free, vegetarian…it’s hard to know which way to lean. And, when you “break your label”, there’s guilt and shame around it.
Humans like guidelines, structure, and rules. We like to follow plans to help us “stay on track”. But, when there is judgement, restrictions, shame and guilt around it…no thank you.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not referring to those with intolerances and allergies, likes or dislikes when it comes to food choices. I’m talking about the diets and programs that restrict healthy macros (for various reasons) and make you feel miserable and deprived.
Well, here’s my two cents. Do what feels right to you, physically, ethically, emotionally.
If you decide to “break your label”, I say congratulations because you recognize that something is not serving you.
Eat mindfully and intuitively. If a food doesn’t make you feel good, ditch it. If you need something, mindfully add it in.
If you don’t feel right eating animals and animal products, then don’t. I know some vegans who truly felt like they needed to start eating meat, so they did. But, they felt a lot of shame and guilt around it.
Nobody should influence or shame you into eating a certain way. We all have a different genetic makeup that involves vitamin absorption (or not), gluten tolerance, sweet and sour taste preferences, protein or fat breakdown, etc. We are all so different.
There should be no guilt around your choices and nobody knows what is right for your body, except you! (And your health & wellness team)
As a Nutritionist, I support you wherever you are. I know that one “diet” does not suit all. I create recipes that suit YOUR needs and that could include meat, fish or eggs.
What diet do I follow? I eat food that nourishes my body and mind, without guilt or shame.
This recipe involves all the healing spices, immune-boosting veggies, protein and healthy fats for energy and brain health. It is full of flavour and can be adjusted to suit your dietary preferences with different veggies and protein. Serve it over cilantro-lime rice for a beautiful mix of flavours.
2 cans full-fat coconut milk
3 C vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 tsp ground ginger (or less of fresh)
2 Tbsp yellow curry powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp tomato sauce (or 1/2 diced tomato)
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp pineapple chunks
Veggies: (choose any, to total 4 servings, combined)
bok choy or spinach
Protein: (choose any, to total 4 servings)
chickpeas or lentils
2 C jasmine rice
bunch of fresh cilantro (or parsley)
On low, heat 1 Tbsp coconut oil in a deep pan or wok. Cook onion until clear, then add in garlic. If you are using chicken, cube it and cook it in the pan, then remove and set aside
Cook in the chopped veggies, starting with the more firm ones, like potato, bell peppers, cauliflower and carrots. At this point, you can add in 1 C vegetable or chicken broth, turn the heat to medium, and let the veggies steam while they cook. Add in remaining veggies, like bok choy and spinach toward the end
Start to add in the curry sauce ingredients, starting with the spices, honey, pineapple, then cans of coconut milk and tomato sauce. Increase the heat to bring the sauce to a low simmer, add in the remaining 2 cups of broth, and cooked chicken. If you are not using chicken, now is the time to add in a can of rinsed beans, or your salmon
Let the flavours cook together, protein cook, and veggies soften a bit more as you simmer it all together for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, cook your rice according to the instructions. Once cooked, stir in juice from 1 lime and chopped cilantro, to taste
Serve the curry over the rice, and top with more cilantro and a wedge of lime
When it comes to skin care, what you eat matters as much as what you use ON your skin. Think healthy fats, like walnuts, flax and coconut, and beta carotene which converts to vitamin A in our body. Other minerals, like zinc, plus vitamin C, fibre and protein also play significant roles.
Is it possible to get most of these ingredients into one beautiful muffin? Yes. I have been scouring the web for healthy recipes that involve minimal ingredients and are free from all the nasties that our skin does NOT love. For most, this includes refined sugar, wheat, and dairy. This might look different for everyone, but those specific ingredients can cause inflammation in the body, which often shows up on our skin.
This Carrot Walnut Muffin recipe is inspired by Pinch of Yum. I swapped out a few of the ingredients that this recipe calls for, only because they weren’t in my pantry at the time, but I am happy with the substitutions. I also added raisins, because I have a life-long love affair with them 🙂
2 C rolled oats
8 pitted dates
1/4 C melted coconut oil
2 C grated carrots
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 C walnuts, plus more for topping
1/4 C raisins
1/4 C honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
Preheat oven to 350F
Combine all ingredients, except for raisins, into a blender. Mix until a smooth batter forms
Stir in raisins and spoon batter into 12 lined muffin tins. Top each muffin with a walnut piece
Bake for 15-18 mins
Let cool before eating. Serve with butter, almond butter, or cream cheese
These store well in the fridge for 5 days, or freezer for 3 months
You are what you eat isn’t just a myth. And, what you put on your body is just as important as what you put in your body. These two things we do know. Foods like sugar and trans fats, and chemicals like fragrance and parabens, all have effects internally in your body and topically on your skin.
There are certain chemicals that I always avoid in my beauty products, which is why I make my own. Not only do I get to control the consistency and texture of a product, but I also get to control exactly what goes into it. My rule is if I can eat it, then I can smear it on my skin. Your skin is your body’s largest organ, so what you put on it can be absorbed directly into your bloodstream.
Nutrition, beauty regimens and lifestyle habits all play a part in glowing skin. Here are my top dietary and lifestyle tips for healthy skin:
Exercise: As you exercise, you increase blood flow which carries oxygen and nutrients to your cells. At the same time, blood carries toxins away from your cells and out through elimination via perspiration, respiration, and elimination. Speaking of perspiration, sweat is antibacterial, so it helps to kill off unwanted germs living on your skin.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: aka good fats. Fatty fish, flax and walnuts reinforce your cell membrane which helps to hold in water. Consuming a good ratio of both Omega 3 and Omega 6 EFAs work from the inside out by repairing the cell membrane and reducing inflammation.
Vitamin C: Antioxidants, especially vitamin C, are important for collagen production. Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body, helping to strengthen and support our tissues. Try adding vitamin C-packed berries and citrus fruits to your water, smoothies or healthy baking.
Avoid these chemicals: I started investigating ingredients in skin care products after the birth of my first baby. Not only are babies born with chemicals already in their system, their little organs are not quite ready to process and eliminate toxins. These chemicals that I discovered and still choose to avoid today, are fragrance, parabens, talc, colour, sodium lauryl sulfate, dioxin, and more. Many I cannot pronounce, and those are the ones I really stay clear of. Worse, most of these chemicals are considered toxic because they can cause cancer (carcinogenic), destroy tissue, cause dermatitis, irritation, are hormone disruptors, and worse. Many are added as fillers, foaming agents, for texture, or smell. Do your skin a favour and use pure, natural ingredients that you would feel comfortable eating.
Exfoliate: Skin cells rejuvinate quickly, which means the dead cells have to be sloughed off. Dry brushing helps, and weekly exfoliation with a mild sugar scrub or mask works. Lactic acid in yogurt naturally dissolves dead skin cells, and sugar plus coconut oil luxuriously sloughs off dead skin. It is important not to over exfoliate. The skin produces oil to protect itself. The more oil you remove, the more oil your skin has to produce. This can result in an over-production of oil, or dry flaky skin. Your diet and other factors will determine this.
Sleep: During REM sleep, your body secretes HGH, or Human Growth Hormone. HGH promotes cell turnover, is responsible for metabolism, skin health, collagen synthesis, muscle strength, bone healing, and more. HGH deficiency shows as many different symptoms, but relating to the skin, you might see dryness and wrinkles. Our HGH levels start to decline with age, so keep your sleep at a quality level.
Herbs: Tinctures are my favourite way to get wonderful plant constituents into my system. Herbs like horsetail, nettles, gotu kola (aka Fountain of Youth), oatstraw and alfalfa keep skin supple, nails strong, hair shiny and connective tissue building. Topically, Calendula, or marigold, which you might have in your garden, is healing and makes a great herbal-infused oil for daily moisturizing, especially on problematic skin.
Facial Steam: Steaming your skin with flowers and essential oils allows the toxins to release and the aromatic benefits of the flowers enter your pores and do their magic. Flowers like chamomile and calendula are soothing and anti-inflammatory, lavender and rose petals are calming and healing and rosemary and citrus oils are uplifting and invigorating. Steaming your skin weekly will help to remove bacteria, clear up skin conditions and leave it glowing, hydrate, help you relax and stimulate circulation.
Choose your flowers, boil water and prepare to relax your mind, body and spirit.
Boil water and add it to a heat safe bowl with about 1 cup of flower petals. Add 5 drops of essential oil to either soothe, relax or uplift. Place a large towel over your head and tent yourself over the bowl of steaming flowers. Don’t get too close or you may burn your skin. If you already have very sensitive skin or broken capillaries, avoid steams or do them with cooler water. Allow your skin to steam for about 5 minutes, then take a break, then repeat. Remember to breathe deeply to receive all the benefits of relaxation and aromatherapy. Repeat 3 times.
After steaming, this is a good time to exfoliate while dead skin cells can be easily sloughed off. Rinse skin with cool water to close pores and moisturize skin while it is still damp for better absorption. Apply a light layer of pure coconut oil or jojoba oil, which is closest to the skin’s natural sebum, or try other edible oils that you might have in your pantry.
As facial steams are a treatment, they should only be done once per week or twice per month. Avoid certain essential oils if pregnant, epileptic or nursing. Consult your healthcare practitioner prior to using any herbal remedy, if you have a medical condition.
Be sure to do a patch test before trying any remedy or treatment. Should you experience any irritations or negative effects of a food, internally or topically, discontinue use.
Do you have a favourite home remedy or DIY skin care recipe? Share it with us and maybe we can try it on our Instagram Live segments, #nextbitecookingclub
In our recent online Nutrition and Fitness class, we touched on the effects of stress eating. If you missed the class, in short, chronic stress can lead to all kinds of issues around digestion, lowered immunity, disturbed sleep cycle, weight gain and depression. Enter cortisol to get us through.
We actually need cortisol to survive. This hormone gets us through quick, tough situations like being late for a meeting, or having to do a nerve-wracking presentation. Prolonged stressful situations, like being isolated and quarantined during the Covid-19 pandemic, is where cortisol remains high and begins to suppress other hormones in the body that are responsible for metabolism, blood sugar regulation, sleep-wake cycles and mood. In particular, serotonin and dopamine, our happy, feel-good, gratification hormones.
We cannot get serotonin from food, but we can get an essential amino acid, tryptophan, from food. Tryptophan triggers the production of our happiness hormone, and it is found in foods like poultry, salmon, cashews, chia seeds, spinach, and oats. Dopamine is manufactured in the body by vitamin D and another amino acid called Tyrosine, which we also find in poultry, eggs, soy, spirulina and dairy products . Our body can also magically make Tyrosine from another essential amino acid, phenylalanine. So, you can see how eating a balanced diet is important to get in all the components that help trigger hormones, and neurotransmitters that keep us feeling good.
Since eating cookies makes us feel good, and so do these particular amino acids, why not combine them into a healthy snack? That is exactly what I did here with these “Feel Good Cookies” to give that serotonin and dopamine a little kickstart.
1 C raw, unsalted cashews
1/2 C rolled oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 C almond butter
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp honey
1 egg or flax egg for a vegan option
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1/4 C dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350F. Spread cashews on to a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes. Allow to cool, then coarsley grind them in a food processor or blender. Add these to a bowl, along with all other ingredients except chia seeds and chocolate chips. Once all ingredients are combined, then add the chia and chocolate chips. Form 15 cookies onto the baking sheet and bake for 9 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Let cool before serving. Cookies keep in the fridge for 3-5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.