More Than Just Oats

Health & Lifestyle

Anyone who really knows me, will know that I live off of oats. Short for oatmeal, oats is a breakfast meal that I was introduced to as a child. Back then I knew it as porridge. My earliest memories of porridge was of it being cooked in milk in a pot on the stove. I remember its creamy colour and the watery consistency it had. Mainly due to the amount of milk that was added. As I got older and into my teenage years, I would go on to consume Quakers Instant Oatmeal from a small brown packet in a variety of different flavours such as apples and cinnamon, maple and brown sugar, cinnamon and spice, and sometimes the dino eggs. Thinking about it now, I can’t believe how long I have been eating oats for and the many sugary flavours that I would consume it in. Talk about a sweet tooth! Years later, I turned to cold cereal as an easy morning breakfast option that would get me quickly out the door and on my way to school. Over those years, my stomach became sensitive to dairy and cold milk in the morning. As I got busier, I needed more than just a quick bowl of cereal to sustain me through the morning. This was when I returned to my beloved oats.

About Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a classic breakfast food that has been consumed over many years. It is made from whole-grain oats, is nutritious, and has great health benefits. What I love most about it is how versatile it is, since it can be prepared in so many different ways. For the past few years, it has and continues to be the meal that I choose to start off my day with.

Its Benefits

a bowl of delicious and healthy breakfast

A significant health benefit of oatmeal is that it’s high in fiber which is an essential nutrient that supports healthy digestion, regulates blood sugar levels, and helps to reduce the risk of heart disease. The fiber in oatmeal is known as beta-glucan. It’s a soluble fiber that forms a gel-like substance in the digestive system and helps to slow down digestion, keep you feeling fuller for longer periods and prevents overeating. This is one of the main reasons why I opt for oats to get me through a busy morning and long days.

In addition, oatmeal is a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. It is rich in vitamins that help to support the production of energy and proper metabolism. Oatmeal also contains iron, which is essential for healthy blood circulation, and magnesium, which promotes strong bones and muscles. It’s a healthy breakfast choice for those looking to manage their weight as it is also low in fat and calories.

Making It

Oatmeal is super easy to make and can be adjusted to your preference. It can be made with water, milk, or dairy-free milk such as almond, oat, or coconut milk. When I make my oatmeal, I mainly use oat milk. For those like me that may have a sweet tooth, it can be topped with fresh fruits such as apples, berries or bananas. For crunch and added flavour, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits can also be included.

Choosing It

a basket with a wooden spoon in a jar of oatmeal beside an avocado and a lime

What’s great about oatmeal is that it is an affordable and widely available food. It can be found in grocery stores and is a great choice for those on a budget.

While oatmeal is a nutritious food, it is important to choose the right type. Instant oatmeal and flavored varieties (like the kind I was having as a kid) often contain added sugars and preservatives, which can negate some of oatmeal’s health benefits. Alternatively, opt for plain, unsweetened oatmeal or steel-cut oats, which are lightly processed and contain more fiber and nutrients. The sweetness can be adjusted to your liking. Sometimes I like to add a little maple syrup to mine.

What’s JUSTproats?

While I have spent many years eating oatmeal, even until this day, I’d like to share a new way that I have been enjoying it. JUSTproats is an Ontario based company that makes a healthy plant-based breakfast blend of oats, chia seeds, plant protein, fruits, veggies and superfoods. For me, JUSTproats is so much more than just proats (protein oats). It contains a staple food item that has and continues to sustain me throughout busy days, but with the addition of so much more that is needed as part of a healthy, well-rounded diet. Made available in so many flavours such as vanilla, banana, mocha, chocolate and shortcake, with a new flavour added each month, JUSTproats is even easier to prepare and enjoy as a breakfast, mid-day snack or an evening dessert. They are even perfect to pack for road trips! I just add it to a jar with my oat milk, stir, and refrigerate it the night before. By morning it’s ready to eat or to carry with me for the day. If you’re located in Ontario or Quebec in Canada and would like to give JUSTproats a try, save 10% on me by using SMYARDE at checkout. Enter address during checkout to see eligibility. Enjoy!

Sources: Google, JustProats

Beyond Skin Deep: Holistic Health for Glowing Skin

Health & Lifestyle

Presented by Rhiannon Lytle, RHN with Organika (source)

The skin is a reflection of what’s going on inside the body. 

What’s causing my skin issues?

Some common triggers for skin issues include:

  • An unbalanced gut
  • Sluggish detox pathways (i.e., liver)
  • Food intolerances/sensitivities
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Lack of sleep
  • High-stress lifestyle
  • Hydration 
slices assorted fruits near water bottle

Balancing Your Gut

  • Your gut is made up of good and bad bacteria
  • When it’s imbalanced, we can have trouble absorbing the right nutrients and getting rid of toxins
  • When it shows up on your skin, you’re not moving it through your body (extra toxins, additional hormones)
  • Skin is another organ of elimination

What to look out for:

  • Acne, eczema and/or rosacea 
  • Mental fatigue/brain fog
  • Inability to focus
  • White coating on the tongue
  • Digestive issues 

Keep Things Moving 

  • Regular bowel movements are KEY – at least one daily
  • Constipation can lead to poor skin health as we are unable to rid toxins and excessive hormones
  • Constipation can also create an imbalance of our good and bad bacteria (dysbiosis) 

Gut Disruptors

  • Sugar intake (refined sugars)
  • NSAIDs (like Advil)
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Nutrient deficiencies 
  • Inflammation
  • Stress
  • Yeast overgrowth
  • Antibiotics (can wipe out good bacteria) 
  • Certain medications (Birth Control Pill & PPIs)
  • C-sections 

What does detox have to do with my skin?

  • Our skin is our largest organ of elimination
  • When we’re not working optimally inside, this can show up in skin issues like:
    • Acne
    • Early signs of aging
    • Eczema
    • Rashes
    • Rosacea 
woman in black shirt holding white towel

The Liver

  • Detox pathways need to be working well for good skin health 
  • Drinking isn’t the only thing that can affect your liver
  • What else should you look out for?
    • Environmental toxins 
    • Cleaning products
    • Beauty products 
    • Food sensitivities 
    • Poor diet 

What does my liver do?

  • Primary detox organ 
  • Removes toxins and flushes out excess hormones 
  • When it’s overburdened, toxins and hormones may be re-circulated back through your body
    • Regular bowel movements are also essential
  • Our liver deals with a lot of additional pollutants that we are surrounded by every day 
  • Since our skin is another detox organ, we can see signs of liver congestion with skin issues 

Foods to Include

  • Plants: high in antioxidants to combat free-radical damage
  • Cruciferous vegetables: cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage to support liver detox
  • High-fibre foods: slow carbohydrate, leafy greens, low-sugar fruit 
  • Probiotic-rich foods: kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso paste
  • Clean protein sources: legumes, eggs, unprocessed soy, meat, collagens, bone broth 
white ceramic bowl with yellow liquid

Foods to Avoid

  • High sugar-foods
  • Dairy (can be inflammatory for some people)
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Foods you are sensitive to
    • If you’re unsure, take a food sensitivity test or do an elimination diet

Lifestyle Tips 

  • Use natural homemade cleaning products
    • All-purpose cleaners
    • Hand and dish soaps
    • Laundry detergents
  • Check your beauty routine and products
  • Add in some stress-management practices
  • Get quality sleep
  • Move your body daily  
set of natural reusable cosmetic products


  • Is the most abundant protein in mammals
  • Makes up:
    • 70-80% of our skin
    • 80% tendons
    • 60% muscle mass
    • 60% cartilage 
  • You need Vitamin C to create collagen in your body 

Do I have to supplement?

  • Our body makes collagen on its own
  • As we age, our body doesn’t create collagen like it did when we were young
    • This starts to happen at around 25 years old
  • Supplementing with collagen as we age is extremely important
    • Collagen can also help repair our gut lining
    • Collagen and bone broth contain glutamine

Choosing the Right Collagen

Enhanced Collagen

Marine Collagen

  • Comes from Canadian, wild-caught fish in the North Atlantic ocean
  • Great option for pescatarians
  • Bio-available: body absorbs it a little differently 
  • Hair, skin, nails, gut support 
  • Organika’s Marine Collagen

Plant-Based Collagen Booster

Bone Broth (Chicken)

  • Comes from cage, hormone & antibiotic-free chickens
  • Contain Type 2 collagen which is primarily found in cartilage
  • Bone broth is high in glutamine, which also supports better gut health
  • Organika’s Chicken Bone Broth

Pre + Probiotics

  • Prebiotics: feed and nourish good bacteria
  • Probiotics: provide beneficial bacteria 
  • Together they help to provide and nourish our guts with beneficial bacteria 
  • Organika’s Probiotic + Prebiotic Powder

Better bacteria = better bowel movements and less toxins re-circulating in our body. 

Tremella Mushroom


  • What gives leaves their green pigment
  • Helps to activate liver detoxification
  • High in antioxidants
  • Pair with lemon for extra detoxifying and digesting 
  • Can also reduce body odor
  • Can help boost energy as it “oxygenates” our blood 
  • Organika’s Chlorophyll

Organika Recipes

More from Organika
More from Rhiannon Lytle, RHN


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

Eating Mindfully

Health & Lifestyle

Presented by Jason Wrobel with Commune


photo of vegetable salad in bowls
Photo by Ella Olsson
  • Macronutrients – a class of chemical compounds which humans consume in the largest quantities; carbohydrates, protein, lipids.
  • Fletcherizing – a term introduced by Horace Fletcher, also known as “The Great Masticator,” in which one thoroughly, and slowly, chews their food making it easier to digest, as chewing creates more amylase in the mouth, which is the primary carbohydrate-digestive enzyme.
  • Amylase – the primary carbohydrate-digestive enzyme found in saliva and pancreatic fluid, that converts starch and glycogen into simple sugars.
  • Digestive enzymes – substances produced by our bodies that help us to digest the foods we eat. These enzymes are secreted by various parts of our digestive system and helps to break down food components such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. 

What is a Food Journal?

  • Taking inventory of what you’re eating each day
  • Recognizing diversity is important when it comes to nutrition (“eating the rainbow”: as many colours in each meal; vitamins, nutrients, phytonutrients)
  • An awareness to what you’re eating and why
    •  Is it for nourishment and fuel or emotional comfort?
    • Recognizing what emotional states are motivating food choices (when feeling happy, sad, stressed, etc.)
    • Paying attention to the body and how you feel 30-50 mins after each meal

How to Keep a Food Journal

acai bowl on a wooden tray
Photo by Taryn Elliott
  1. List what you ate
  2. List ingredients in a meal
  3. Calculate range of calories, proteins, macronutrients
  4. Identify feelings before, during and after a meal
  • Example:
    • Before: Ate a chocolate bar because was feeling lonely
    • Look for consistent patterns (e.g., always eating chocolate when lonely)
    • During: Distracted on phone, forgot the taste of meal, not present; ate too fast
    • After: Bloated from almond milk; gluten sensitivity (bloated, sluggish)

5. Set intentions, changes, and goals for next meals:

  • Will go for dark chocolate or an alternative snack when feeling lonely 
  • Will be more present, eliminate distractions 
  • Will slow down, savour more
  • Will try a different type of milk; will go gluten-free

Why Keep a Food Journal?

  • Gives you a snapshot of what you’re feeling (before, during and after a meal)
  • Allows you to make necessary goals or changes for your next meals
  • Helps you to determine your relationship with food (e.g., eating based on emotions)
  • The aim is to create a positive, loving relationship, being as present as possible

Fletcherizing – Horace Fletcher

  • The more you chewed your food, the easier it is to digest
  •  Chewing creates amylase in mouth
  • For optimal nutrient absorption of food over the course of digestion, it must be reduced to tiny particles and blended evenly with saliva

Benefits of Keeping a Food Journal

brown ceramic cup beside notebook and pen
Photo by Madison Inouye
  • Keeps track of what you’re eating daily
    • Helps to see if there are opportunities to create more diversity in what you’re eating
    • Develops a better understanding of how you’re feeling when you eat foods
    • To see if you’re present or not to what you’re eating
  • The journal can be created in your own way
  • Establishes a practice of being more present at every meal
    • To enjoy feasting with your eyes first, by taking in the food before you consume it (e.g., close your eyes even before your first bite)
    • To take in the smell, relax, breath, and sink into the experience
    • Allows yourself to be undistracted
    • Unlocks gratitude and appreciation for the meal
    • Allows you to eat slower, chew mindfully, allowing for more nutrients absorption (helps to pre-digest the food)
    • Allows for a deeper connected experience to what you’re eating by being more grateful to the fact that you’re nourishing yourself with amazing food every single day!

More from Jason Worbel


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

How I Got Through Some of My Lowest Days in Lockdown (Repost)

Early Childhood, Health & Lifestyle, Self-Regulation

With the stress of the holiday season mostly behind us, I figured what better time than now to repost this article that I wrote during the height of the 2020 global pandemic, when the whole world was under a great deal of stress. With the new year approaching, my hope is that this article might be helpful to readers with understanding how to navigate through times of stress.

Originally published July 2020

I never for a second thought I’d be writing about the days I struggled through during lockdown, with all that I know about the human brain, body, its response to stress and stress management. But, here I am and here you are reading this.

A little over a year ago, I came across The MEHRIT Centre, an organization focused on grounding learning and living in self-regulation. I completed two courses with them and I share many of their resources throughout the self-regulation sections of this website. One of their many useful resources is the Thayer-Matrix. I discovered the Thayer-Matrix last year (2019), but it wasn’t until recently when I revisited its connection to motivation.

Being in Lockdown

Around mid-May 2020, as I was nearing the end of the school year, there were days when my motivation was so low that I found myself mentally checking out from online teaching. I had missed being in the classroom and with my students. Prior to school closures in March 2020, I was spending many hours at school each day, so working from home was quite the adjustment for me. As the school year progressed through online learning, I struggled with transitioning into a new routine and there were days when I didn’t even feel like getting out of bed.

Now let me explain what the Thayer-Matrix is.

The Thayer-Matrix

The Thayer-Matrix was created by Robert E. Thayer, an American psychologist known for his work on the connection between mood, energy, tension and stress which is reflected in his energy/tension (Thayer-Matrix) model (see image below).

(The information and examples provided below are entirely my interpretation of how I’ve applied this model to my own experience, what I’ve learned, and how I understand it.)

High-Energy/Low-Tension (HE/LT)

When our energy is high and tension (i.e., stress) is low, we are in a High-Energy/Low-Tension state. In this state we might tend to feel:

  • Well-rested and energized
  • Calm and relaxed
  • Ready to start the day ahead

An example of this state might be waking up on a day-off, or while on vacation, feeling well-rested (high-energy) and ready to ease into an open-ended kind of day (low-tension).

High-Energy/High-Tension (HE/HT)

When our energy and tension are both high, we are in a High-Energy/High-Tension state. In this state we might tend to feel:

  • Motivated with complete concentration and focus
  • Able to remain at a task for longer and with the most effort
  • Positive and productive

An example of this state might be waking up feeling well-rested (high-energy) and motivated to tackle a busy day ahead (high-tension).

Low-Energy/Low-Tension (LE/LT)

When our energy and tension are both low, we are in a Low-Energy/Low-Tension state. In this state we might tend to feel:

  • Tired, especially towards the end of a long and busy day
  • Ready to wind down and relax
  • Prepared to sleep and replenish our energy

An example of this state might be arriving home, tired from a busy and productive day (low-energy), and ready to ease into the night with a hot cup of tea (low-tension).

Low-Energy/High-Tension (LE/HT)  

When our energy is low and tension is high, we are in a Low-Energy/High-Tension state. In this state we might tend to feel:

  • Drained and exhausted
  • The least motivated (i.e., listless)
  • Stressed, possibly with lots still to do or on your mind

This was how I was feeling on my lowest day. Super drained with little to no motivation (low-energy), but with a lot on my plate (high-tension). These were the days where I struggled with getting out of bed, starting my workday or working towards getting things done.

Moving Through the Thayer-Matrix

Naturally, we should be moving through each of these states and not get stuck in any one of them for long periods of time. If stuck in a HE/HT state, this is likely being sustained through stimulators such as caffeine or energy boosters, and the natural production of adrenaline that works to keep you at a high-energy state to deal with high-tension. However, high-tension naturally drains our energy reserves. When we aren’t restoring enough through natural and essential sources of energy, such as through a restful sleep, eating healthy foods, and engaging in sustainable routines and practices, we may tend to seek alternative (and often maladaptive) ways to do so, especially at times when we really need to, or simply to cope. From what I learned in my course, being chronically stuck in a LE/HT state can lead to mood disorders. Having a support system and stress awareness and management practices are essential. While staying in a HE/LT state might seem nice to some, that is just not how life flows. Stressors from all around and inside us is what keeps us going, and when effectively managed, thriving. Lastly, we also don’t want to get stuck in a LE/LT state, becoming passive and listless. Humans (as well as animals) have a seeking system that exists in the brain and drives us to meet a need, craving, goal, desire and ultimately, to survive1.

Now, here’s how I was able to get through some of my lowest days in lockdown.

Moving from a LE/HT to a HE/HT State

Leading an online learning session with my students

First to begin, I needed to be aware of when I was in a low-energy/high-tension (LE/HT) state and what that felt like for me. I knew I had low energy because I felt physically, emotionally and mentally drained, listless, and a lack of motivation or desire to do anything. At the beginning of lockdown, a telltale sign of this was when I started losing track of the days. I woke up one morning thinking it was Sunday, when in fact, it was Thursday. I eventually realized this was happening because I wasn’t getting outside and in the sun. The sun sends signals/cues to regulate our circadian rhythm which is our internal sleep-wake 24-hour body clock. It also gives us energy, makes us feel good, and increases serotonin, a neurotransmitter in our body that is responsible for mood, well-being and feelings of happiness. BINGO! So, I knew I needed to get outside more, or as much as I possibly could, considering the circumstances. In addition, the sun is our ultimate source of energy and if we could eat it, we probably would! Instead, we must settle for eating the foods that absorb the sun’s energy for us (to learn more, google: “high vibration foods”). As I think back to it now, that seemed so obvious, right? But at that point in time, it actually wasn’t as clear cut, and I guess that came with adjusting and transitioning to being at home, rather than at school, teaching and preoccupied for most of the day. While I was getting enough sleep, I wasn’t waking up feeling energized and refreshed. (I highly recommend this podcast episode: How to Sleep Well). Having been physically active my whole life, my body wasn’t used to not moving around as much. Because I wasn’t moving around as much as I had been (I was working with toddlers), I wasn’t exerting as much energy, nor was I able to reach a high-energy state. As a result, I knew I needed to resume more physical activity which had always been an energy booster for me. I recognized I was in a high-tension state because of the stressors that were affecting me. Not being able to leave the house as much, see my friends or go out. The list can go on. I was looking at a screen way more and for longer periods at a time for online learning, meetings, program planning, corresponding with colleagues, attending webinars, social media, etc. Because my eyes were feeling strained near the end of the day, I knew I needed to be as mindful as possible of my screen time. I couldn’t change the fact that I still needed to work, be online and in front of a screen, but what I could change was my energy state to match it. Therefore, once I started getting outside (while taking the necessary precautions), working out at home and managing my screen time better, I was able to move myself from a low-energy to a high-energy state in order to meet the demands of my high-tension work week.

Moving from a HE/HT to a LE/LT State

As soon as I was able to balance my energy and tension to a HE/HT state, I began feeling motivated, greater concentration, was able to remain working for longer and with more effort, and overall, I felt good, productive and accomplished. By the end of my workday, my meetings and online learning were done for the day. This is where I transitioned from the high-tension state I was in throughout the day into a low-tension state. By the end of a busy day, our body naturally transitions into a low-energy state, depending on the amount of energy that was exerted, and the tension experienced throughout the day. When the things that are a source of high-tension (i.e., stressors) in your life are recognized, managed and reduced, you can begin to move into a low-tension state. Although this may not always be the case, ideally, LE/LT is where you want to be at the end of the day and it’s all a matter of finding what works for you to maneuver your way in, out and through these states, while knowing your stress load capacity. Some people can cope with and under more stress than others. It’s important to note that children experience and transition through these states as well, but their capacity to deal with stress is much lower than adults. Therefore, supporting them with navigating through these states is very important.

Strategies for Moving through Energy & Tension States

  • Become aware of what your mind and body feel like in each state of energy and tension. For example:
    • High-Energy:
      • Energized (e.g., during or after a workout)
      • Feeling well-rested and healthy
      • Having positive feelings (e.g., when laughing or talking with others)
      • Feeling motivated
      • Having complete concentration and focus
    • High-Tension:
      • Having lots to do
      • A busy day ahead (e.g., a heavy workload, working on tasks)
      • Feeling stressed or overwhelmed (see: Stress & Stressors to identify the source of your tension)
    • Low-Energy:
      • Feeling tired and exhausted
      • Lack of motivation
      • Feeling sick (when we are sick, our body naturally produces chemicals that make us sleepy)
      • Drained from high-tension
    • Low-Tension:
      • Feeling calm, relaxed, at ease
      • Having stress management strategies in place (e.g., meditation, yoga, deep breathing, prayer, listening to music)
      • Relying on a positive support system, such as family, friends, community and/or professionals
      • Maintaining effective routines and practices
  • Know what personal strategies work to move you to the state you want or need to be in:
    • Getting into a High-Energy state:
      • Getting good sleep: amount, quality, timing, state of mind (these are mentioned in the podcast)
      • Eating healthy and nutritious (high vibration) foods and drinking lots of water
      • Movement (e.g., working out, going for a walk)
      • Re-fuel by practicing self-care (see: Self-Care Begins With You)
    • Entering a High-Tension state:
      • We usually don’t choose to enter this state. Our body naturally enters high-tension states because of the stressors that exist within (e.g., hunger) and around us (e.g., morning traffic). Stressors affect each of us differently, so it’s important to know which ones have the most impact on you. For example, feeling too hot, feeling sick, excessive screen time, watching the news, changes in routine (see: Stress & Stressors).
    • Entering a Low-Energy state:
      • Again, we don’t choose to enter this state. Our body naturally enters low-energy states as we exert energy and experience stress, which is what drains our energy reserve throughout our day. However, we can settle into this state at the end of a long day with an evening routine that might consist of low-tension practices such as reading a book, drinking a cup of tea, praying/spiritual practices, expressing gratitude in writing, meditating, taking a bath, or doing bedtime yoga.
    • Getting into a Low-Tension state:
      • This requires recognizing your stressors, reducing and/or managing them. Engaging in self-care and low-tension practices is also important here. This isn’t always easy, but with time and support, you can develop these practices and habits. For example, I know that too much time in front of a screen strains my eyes so I balance and manage my screen time by taking breaks from it, adjusting display settings, and shutting my devices down at the end of the day and long before bed.
  • Build and maintain a routine:
    • Humans like routine; however, the pandemic disrupted what our normal routines used to be. People lost jobs or had to shift to working from home. When our schedules are different than we are used to, we may be doing less (or more) than we had been before. Develop a morning and an evening routine to move yourself through the energy and tension states you want or need to be in to be productive, make the most, and meet the demands of your day.
  • Engage in movement and physical activity:
    • Our bodies are designed to recover from energy exertion through our parasympathetic system. When we don’t move, our body doesn’t know what to do with the extra energy and this can impact sleep. Go walking, running, bike riding, to the gym, do gardening, spend some time out in nature, sweat and burn energy whenever and however you can.
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself:
    • We are human and we do the best we can in each moment. Remember that the human body consists of a nervous system that responds to stress. What’s most important is understanding this and how to manage it. A great place to start is by learning about self-regulation (see: What is Self-Regulation?) and reframe your understanding about how your body naturally responds when under different types of stress. You can then start to identify what are sources of high-tension (stressors) for you and develop personal stress management strategies that help you navigate through energy and tension states. Realize when things are beyond your control and when needed, seek professional support and connect with people you can talk to and that you trust.

I hope that this article was helpful or useful to you in some way or another. Please feel free to share it with others. Wishing you the very best for 2023. 💞

Reference: 1Shanker, Stuart. Reframed: Self-Reg for a Just Society. University of Toronto Press, 2020.

More Articles & Resources:

What’s Self-Regulation?

Stress & Stressors

Self-Care is Never Selfish

Self-Reg Toolkit

A Guide to COVID-19 and Early Childhood Development

Ontario Mental Health Supports

School Mental Health Ontario

Mental Health Commission of Canada Blog

Mental Fitness – Wondermind

25 Motivational Journal Prompts – Wondermind

Got questions? Contact Me

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This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

Gut Health 101

Health & Lifestyle

Presented by Rhiannon Lytle, RHN with Organika (source)

Photo by Needpix

Gut Microbiome

  • Gut: everything from the mouth to rectum 
  • Microbiome: bacteria, viruses that live on and in the body
    • Everything has a microbiome (even the skin)
  • Gut microbiome is like a “little rainforest” in your body that is made up of cells and organisms
    • Everything works in conjunction (you need good and bad; problems can arise when off balance)
    • Medication or illness can disrupt microbiome and cause an imbalance 


  • An imbalance of too much bad or not enough good organisms composed in the gut
    • Candida (yeast overgrowth) 
    • Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
    • Irritable Bowel Syndrome/Disease (IBS/IBD)
  • Indicators: uncontrollable sugar cravings, bloating after meals, constipation 

Leaky Gut

  • Formally known as Intestinal Permeability 
  • Our intestinal wall has small gaps (called tight junctions) to let water and nutrients that our body needs daily to pass through 
  • Due to inflammatory factors (e.g., foods, medication, illness), small gaps can grow larger in the lining of our gut, allowing toxins and undigested food particles through 

Gut Disruptors

  • Refined sugar intake
    • Processed foods, white sugar; can lead to candida (yeast overgrowth)
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
    • Advil
  • Excessive alcohol
    • Depletes good bacteria 
  • Nutrient deficiencies
    • Vitamin A, E, Zinc
  • Inflammation
    • Leaky gut causing irritation/dysbiosis
  • Stress
    • Causes hormone imbalances
  • Antibiotics
    • Pulls out good gut bacteria
    • Taking probiotics after or alongside antibiotics helps create good bacteria
  • Certain medication

Gut-Brain Connection 

Photo by Pixabay
  • There are 500 million neurons in our gut that connect to our brain
  • The gut (also referred to as our “second brain”) communicates with our actual brain through our nervous system, hormones and immune system
  • Is also known as our “gut-brain axis”
  • The vagus nerve is a major nerve connecting our gut and brain
    • Critical for digestion, heart rate, blood, sleep
    • Important to rest and digestion; slowing down breathing supports digestion and nutrient absorption (engages stomach acid preparing us to eat)
  • Our gut is a hub for neurotransmitter production of:
    • Serotonin: the happy hormone
      • Impacts our mood and how we digest food
    • Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA): controls fear and anxiety
  • How we feel impacts gut; gut can impact how we feel

Gut-Immunity Connection 

  • Gut consists of  70% of the cells that make up our immune system
  • Intestinal lining is our first line of defense in our immune health
    • If our lining isn’t working optimally, our immune system may jump in to support
  • Poor gut health can lead to increased inflammation 

Foods to Consume 👍

close up shot of delicious kimchi on white ceramic plate
Photo of kimchi by makafood
  • Foods to reduce inflammation:
    • Fatty fish
    • Leafy greens
    • Nuts
  • Foods high in probiotics:
    • Sauerkraut 
    • Kimchi
    • Kombucha
    • Kefir
    • Tempeh
  • Foods high in fibre:
    • Fruits & vegetables 
    • Oats
    • Quinoa
    • Beans
  • Foods that increase neurotransmitters:
    • Tryptophan (an amino acid that is important for the production of serotonin)-rich foods like poultry, eggs, spinach, seeds
    • GABA-increasing foods like bone broth, whole grains, fermented foods, oolong tea

Foods to (consider) Avoiding 🙅

  • Refined sugars
  • Alcohol 
  • Dairy
  • Gluten 
  • Caffeine

Organika Recipes

More from Organika
More from Rhiannon Lytle, RHN


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

9 Different Kinds of Hunger

Health & Lifestyle
woman in black and white polka dot shirt
Photo by Anna Shvets

A topic I’ve been enjoying learning about is mindfulness. I recently began reading a book called Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays, MD. I want to share with you what she calls the 9 Kinds of Hunger which are: eye, touch, ear, nose, mouth, stomach, cellular, mind and heart hunger. Referencing this book, I’ve explained what they are below and applied them to SMOOV Superfood Blends.  

1. Eye Hunger: The way food is made to look appealing and appetizing such as in food advertisements and photography. Our eyes send signals to the mind and can override signals from the stomach and body that we are full. The colours and shape of food satisfy our eye hunger. Even reading words such as savory, sweet, moist, rich, creamy, chewy or crunchy in a cookbook that is accompanied by a delicious image can elicit eye hunger. Practice mindful eye hunger by looking at food with awareness; connect with your food; use mindful eyes and see the beauty in food.

Satisfying Eye Hunger with SMOOV: Notice the different colour associated with each blend. Notice how this corresponds with the colourful packaging designs. What do your eyes like, notice or make you feel about the colours and unique designs of each of the blends? 

2. Touch Hunger: Touch is essential to human thriving, and our lips and tongue are sensitive to the various textures of foods. Did you know that in some cultures that eat with their hands, utensils are considered like attacking the food with weapons? Eating with your hands helps you to slow down and connect to what you are eating. For example, you cannot eat with hands while using your phone, right? Also, allowing babies to feed themselves helps to promote self-regulation of food intake.

Satisfying Touch Hunger with SMOOV: Open a pouch of one of these superfood blends. Scoop a bit of the blend into your hand. What do your fingers notice about the texture and feel of the blend?  

3. Ear Hunger: The words used to describe food can lead us to image the way it tastes in our minds. Similar to eye hunger, hearing words such as savory, sweet, moist, rich or creamy can elicit our ear hunger. When eating certain foods such as chips and carrots, we expect to hear noises, compared to eating foods like pudding and cake that we don’t. Even the sound of opening a bag of snacks or the sound of eggs sizzling on a pan can elicit our ear hunger.

Satisfying Ear Hunger with SMOOV: Take in the sound of freshness as you open one of the pouches. Listen to the sound your blender makes as it creates one of your favourite smoothie blends! 

4. Nose Hunger: Smells can affect our subconscious mind. This can be due to our olfactory nerves being short outgrowths from the brain or because sense of smell was important to our ancestors for survival, such as smelling whether food was good to eat or had spoiled. Did you know that the taste or flavours we associate with food is entirely due to our sense of smell? Try pinching your nose while eating something. Notice how the taste and flavour returns when you stop pinching your nose.

Satisfying Nose Hunger with SMOOV: Open one of the pouches and notice the unique aroma it has. Do you notice how the green blend kind of smells like matcha? Have you noticed the smell of ginger and cinnamon in the wave blend or the cacao in the euphoric blend? Yum! 

5. Mouth Hunger: The taste, flavours and textures of food is what satisfies our mouth hunger. Our mouth hunger can be associated with our genetics – having an acquired taste to certain foods possibly due to our genes, family food habits such as always having spaghetti made with meatballs, cultural traditions that have conditioned and trained the mouth through repeated exposure, and both pleasant or unpleasant experiences with food.

Satisfying Mouth Hunger with SMOOV: Practice mindfulness while consuming one of these blends. Open your awareness to the sensations from the various types of hunger such as eye, nose and mouth hunger. You’ll begin to notice unique differences from each experience!  

6. Stomach Hunger: The right amount and types of food is what satisfies stomach hunger. It is our routines that conditions our stomachs to feel hungry. For example, if you eat breakfast every morning, you’ll experience hunger around that time. But if you don’t, your stomach knows not to feel hungry or expect food then. The stomach’s main concern is the amount of food it needs to feel comfortably satisfied. The stomach does not like be feel overfilled and in pain. An empty stomach is what helps it to restore. Anxiety can sometimes be mistaken for stomach hunger, leading us to eat when we may not actually be hungry.

Satisfying Stomach Hunger with SMOOV: The balance of fruits, vegetables and superfoods found in these blends will surely satisfy your stomach hunger!

7. Cellular Hunger: This is a primary skill of mindful eating. It’s a signal, wisdom or instinctive awareness from our body that tell us when to eat and when to stop. Our cellular hunger gets lost as we get older from inner and outer voices that tell us how we should eat such as from our parents, friends, advertisements, diets, movies or mirrors. They lead to confusion, desires, impulses, and aversions in the foods we choose to eat. By turning our awareness inward, we can create a healthy balanced relationship with food. The cells in our bodies alert us to certain nutrients it needs such as water, salt, potassium, iron, zinc, protein, vitamins, minerals, calcium, magnesium or Omega-3. Symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, irritability, light-headedness, or loss of energy can indicate that our bodies are missing essential elements that satisfy our cellular hunger.

Satisfying Cellular Hunger with SMOOV: Each of the Smoov blends consist of loads of nutrients that our bodies need and can benefit from. Calcium, iron and magnesium can be found in the cacao from the euphoric blend. Rich vitamin C from the goji berries and camu camu berries in the golden blend, while protein, vitamins B, C, iron and Omega-3 can be found from the chlorella in the green blend.  

8. Mind Hunger: This is influenced by our thoughts from the information or criticism we hear, leading us to look at food as good vs. bad, to eat or not to eat because of this, that and the other. Foods that are considered good for you one year by researchers, scientists and doctors are deemed bad for you the next. Mind hunger is very powerful and requires you to quiet your mind. Here is where you can tap into mindfulness when it comes to the way you interpret and the thoughts you have about what to eat. Each body is different. That’s why the choices we make about what we should or should not eat should be based on our own specific needs. You can learn more about how your brain is connected to your gut here.

Satisfying Mind Hunger with SMOOV: Take a second to quiet your mind. Think about what your body needs overall or throughout your day. Do you need an immunity boost to get you through those cold Canadian winter months? Grab the golden blend. Maybe you could use more energy and focus to get through your day. Look to the fuel blend to give you just that. 

9. Heart Hunger: This is the moods and emotions evoked by food associated with pleasant or unpleasant memories and experiences. Food can bring back moments filled with warmth and happiness or times of sadness and loneliness. Heart hunger can often be eating to fill emotional needs. I’m sure you may be familiar with the act of eating an entire tub ice cream after a break-up. However, food could never fill a heartache. Talking and opening up to someone you trust can. We feed our hearts when we take care in preparing food for ourselves as we would our guests.

Satisfying Heart Hunger with SMOOV: My hope is that one or more of these blends evoke positive feelings both within your heart and body as they do for me. Take the time to enjoy and share these blends with the people who matter to you most. Let Smoov be apart of filling and satisfying your heart hunger 😊  

Bays, Jan Chozen. Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food. Shambhala, 2017. 

This article was written for SMOOV Superfood Blends.

Are you’re looking for an easy way to get your greens in, boost your immunity, energy or mood? SMOOV Superfood Blends is a Canadian-based company that carries a variety of healthy, organic and all-natural superfood blends powder. Visit SMOOV today!


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

7 Ways to Encourage Kids to Eat their Veggies

Early Childhood, Health & Lifestyle
a child eating strawberry beside her father
Photo by PNW Production

Working with young children, I know just how hard it can sometimes be to get them to try and hopefully jump at the thought of eating vegetables at snack and mealtimes. I can only imagine how hard it may be to do this at home. So, if you’re struggling in this area, here is a list of 7 ways you could try to get your kids to eat those veggies: 

1. Begin as early as possible: As soon as your little one is ready to begin eating solid foods is a great time to introduce vegetables. Depending on their age, cut them up small pieces or puree them. Because we all know just how good vegetables are for us! Plus, there is so much that can be taught to kids about healthy eating at a young age when they are interested in every single thing.

2. Explore with all senses and make it fun: Don’t expect them to love vegetables right away or rush the process. If there’s some hesitation, begin by simply touching, smelling, and tasting (or licking) them. Slowly work their way up to (hopefully) eventually eating them. Talk about the crunch carrots make when you bite into them or the squishiness of tomatoes.

Photo by Liza Summer

3. Use them in dishes and invite kids into the kitchen: There are so many different meals that can be made with vegetables! Try making a vegetable stir-fry, tomato soup or cauliflower rice. The flavour added from a little salt or pepper can help to mask the taste that some kids just don’t seem to like. Get them to help out with the cooking process, even if it’s with washing the vegetables or sprinkling the seasoning. 

4. Keep trying!: It takes time to acquire a liking to something new. Don’t give up after the first try. Introduce the broccoli or cucumber more than once with a variety of meals, such as with rice one day and then pasta on another occasion. 

5. Set an example and limits: Kids, especially at a young age like to imitate the actions and behaviours of the adults in their lives. If they see you eating them, there’s a chance they’ll be willing to give them a try. If they see something else more appealing advertised on TV, they’ll probably want that instead. So keep that in mind too! 

6. Talk with them: Kids understand everything that goes on around them and learn quickly. Spend time having conversations with them about healthy eating habits and what hungry and satiety feel like. Take pauses at mealtimes for conversations and to slow the process of eating down in order to enjoy the food and the time spent together.

7. Smoothies: We saved the best for last! Smoothies are a great way for kids to get the most fruits and veggies in the shortest amount of time. Not only are smoothies tasty and colourful, they are healthy, fun and super easy to make! Throw in some baby spinach along with blueberries and a banana and voilà! But maybe those fruits and vegetables don’t even last a week in your house before they go bad. Or, maybe you want to top up on your kids already existing vegetable intake. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Add SMOOV Superfood Blends’ Healthy Kids Bundle to your cart and just make sure you have some water or milk at home for when our bundle arrives to you. You can even add their superfood blends to that Spinach Blueberry Banana smoothie. That’s simply all you need to get those veggies in, plus your kids and you will enjoy it! Don’t forget to always make it fun: talk about the loud sound the blender makes! 

This article was written for SMOOV Superfood Blends.

Are you’re looking for an easy way to get your greens in, boost your immunity, energy or mood? SMOOV Superfood Blends is a Canadian-based company that carries a variety of healthy, organic and all-natural superfood blends powder. Visit SMOOV today!


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

7 Ways to Practice Mindful Eating

Health & Lifestyle
Photo by Lisa Fotios

Caught up in our day-to-day, we’ve forgotten how to slow down, be present and what that even feels like.

Mindfulness is simply defined as attending (through awareness) to the here and now, to what you’re doing and why. Today, mindfulness has become a popular topic. So much so that it has led to discussions around Mindful Eating; something I’m sure many believe they don’t have time for.

According to Jan Chozen Bays, MD, author of Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food, the mind has two distinct functions which is thinking and awareness1. When we are caught up with thinking, awareness (a fundamental part of mindfulness) goes down.

Coming from personal experience, I myself have realized that when I’m not fully present when and with what I’m eating, I tend not to feel truly full. Ultimately, I have lost a sense of connection and true enjoyment of eating, especially when half of the time I’m scoffing down snacks and lunch, 5 days of the week! 

Sadly, we’ve become a generation that takes food for granted. Mindful eating allows us to restore that balance and sense of satisfaction in food and eating. Below is a list of 7 ways you can practice mindful eating, as well as with your kids:   

1. Eat and serve nutritionally healthy food options
When shopping for food, select from a wide and diverse range of healthy food options such as fruits & berries, vegetables, nuts & seeds, whole-grains & legumes and organic options. Serve these wholesome options for kid’s snacks, lunches and dinners.

2. Try different types of foods 
Learn, explore and try various types, flavours and textures of foods. Did you know, babies begin to learn about foods from before they are born. While in the womb, babies taste what the mother eats, resulting in a preference for certain foods and flavours after they are born. As well, research has suggested that it takes many tries before a child accepts a new food, so be mindful of this. 

3. Focus only on eating
Slow down, eliminate distractions, enhance your awareness and explore eating with all your senses.

4. Enjoy meals with others, at specific times and places
Allocate specific time for family meals, even if it’s 3 times a week. Focus on the present and presence of each other. Limit distractions such as from electronics and enjoy one another’s company. Learn together. Talk about the process that it took for the food to get to your plate. How is a tomato or rice grown?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

5. Think and discuss where your food comes from & explore gardening at home
Whether in the grocery store or sitting down for dinner, take some time to talk with your kids about the different parts of the world food comes from. You can sometimes find this on the sticker of fruits or on the back of food packaging. Take a shot at growing your own fruits and vegetables and explore with kids the process from beginning (planting the seed) to end (when it reaches the dinner table).

6. Learn to eat based on your body’s signal of hunger and satiety
Become familiar with the signs your body gives you when you are hungry and when you are full. Trust in your child’s ability in learning how to tell when they are hungry or full as well. Serve appropriate portions and allow them the opportunity to request for more. 

 7. Be mindful of the relationship that is established with food 
Foster your own and your child’s healthy relationship with food by making eating an enjoyable experience from the start. By recognizing and respecting the cues and signs your body gives you will prevent overeating, frustration and builds positive eating habits. Building a child’s healthy relationship with food is fundamental to lifelong development that all begins with You!  

1 Bays, Jan Chozen. Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food. Shambhala, 2017. 

Interested in more mindful eating tips?

Check out 7 Tips for How to Practice Mindful Eating by Choosing Therapy


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.