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Eating For Energy

Eating For Energy Guide

 By Val MacDonald, RHN


Energy Providing Tips

·        Eat breakfast.  This kick-starts your metabolism and releases energy.

·        DO snack between meals; DON’T go hungry.

·        Include protein, fat and complex carbohydrates with each meal and snack.

·        Choose whole grains over refined grain breads and cereals.

·        Chew your food well.  Digestion starts in the mouth.

·        Stay hydrated throughout the day but drink your water away from meals.

·        Manage your stress; get adequate exercise, rest and sleep.

The key to energy: Balancing your blood sugar

·        When blood sugar gets low, hypoglycemic reactions normally occur.  These include light-headedness, fatigue, irritability, shakiness and hunger.

·        By following the above tips, blood sugar levels can be managed throughout the day, providing a steady supply of energy.

Top Energy Robbers disguised as energy providers

·        Sugar

·        White flour

·        Caffeine

·        Alcohol

These substances, although they give you a boost initially, cause energy to plummet, due to the insulin response they cause.  Therefore, it is recommended that they be used in moderation, or that they be replaced with healthier choices.


Breakfast Ideas

·        Hot cereal; steel-cut oats, millet, quinoa or amaranth are all excellent choices.  Top with greek style yogurt or coconut milk, maple syrup and hemp hearts (aka hemp seeds) for extra protein. 

For a video of me cooking steel cut oats, please visit;

·        Eggs; boiled, poached or fried go very well with a slice of whole grain toast spread with butter or coconut oil.  Alternatively, you can wrap your eggs with a whole grain tortilla, add some cheese and salsa to make a breakfast burrito.

·        Whole sprouted grain toast with organic peanut butter or almond butter. Silver Hills is a good brand of bread.

·        Protein powder smoothie; one scoop protein powder, fruit, juice, water and ice blended together.  I recommend North Coast Naturals Vege Pro-7 brand.  You could even take this on the road with you. 

·        Soup; for some “non breakfasters” soup is a good option.  Choose any soup that would be appetizing to you at this time of day.  Miso soup is fast and easy to prepare and very nutritious.


Lunch Ideas

·        Grain salad; Quinoa salad is my favourite! (see recipe below) Brown rice or millet can be used in place of the quinoa. Also, nuts can be used in place of the sunflower seeds.  Add cooled cooked chicken to make a complete meal.

·        Last night’s dinner; always convenient to pack left-overs for the next day’s meal.

·        Soup; choose a hearty soup, preferably homemade, with lots of chunks of chicken or beef, vegetables, rice, etc.  Add a sprouted whole grain bun or slice of bread spread with butter or coconut oil.

·        Eggs; 2 free-range eggs, boiled, poached or fried, served with a slice of whole grain toast with 1 tbsp butter or coconut oil.

  • Chicken Quesadilla; Heat a 7 to 8-inch diameter sprouted whole grain tortilla in a non-stick pan, top with ½ cup diced cooked chicken and 2 tbsp. aged cheddar cheese; and cook until melted.  Fold and serve topped with salsa.

·        Sandwich or wrap; choose sprouted whole grain bread, pita or tortilla.  Add protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, egg, beef, bison, peanut or almond butter, or a legume spread such as hummus or black bean dip. Mix with real mayonnaise, lettuce, red onion, sliced green peppers, celery, etc. 

·        Pasta salad; Start with a whole grain pasta such as whole wheat, kamut, brown rice or spelt.  Add a protein (see above for examples). Chop up some veggies such as peppers, carrots, green onion; toss together with Val’s Vinaigrette (see recipe below).

  • Tortizza;  Spread a sprouted whole grain tortilla with pesto sauce, sprinkle with feta cheese, cooked chicken or sausage,  and bake until cheese melts slightly.

Snack Ideas

  • Any of the lunches divided in half; by making slightly more lunch, you can save some of it for your afternoon snack.
  • Home-made energy balls (see recipe below).  
  • Salmon salad on Rye Crackers; Mix ½ can sockeye salmon with 2 tbsp real mayonnaise, ½ stalk of celery, 1tbsp. onion, sea salt and pepper to taste.  Serve on whole grain crackers such as Ryvita.
  • Coconut Chia pudding (see recipe below)
  • Trail mix and fruit or veggies; mix a combination of nuts, seeds and dried fruit of your choice together.  Serve a palm-sized portion of trail mix with a fruit or raw vegetable of your choice.  Soaked and roasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds taste great with or without nuts and dried fruit.
  • Take a few dates, and fill each with cream cheese or goat cheese and an almond.  Top with balsamic vinegar reduction.  Yum!
  • Dark chocolate with a handful of roasted sunflower seeds.
  • Apple or other fruit with almond butter or organic peanut butter.
  • Cottage cheese mixed with yogurt, berries, and walnuts or pecans.
  • Celery sticks with almond butter or organic peanut butter.
  • Avocado slices wrapped in nitrate-free deli turkey breast.
  • A piece of sprouted grain toast (sprouted-grain preferred nutritionally over “whole grain”) with almond butter or organic peanut butter.
  • Fresh sliced pineapple with a handful of macadamia nuts.
  • A bowl of blueberries mixed with raw almonds.
  • Cottage cheese with cinnamon, apple slices, and walnuts.
  • Crackers and spread; choose a whole grain cracker, such as Mary’s brand; spread with peanut or almond butter, salmon salad, hummus or other bean dip, cream cheese or yogurt cheese, feta cheese mixed with mayo, pesto mixed with cream cheese, flavoured goat cheese or cottage cheese mixed with salsa.
  • Protein-enhanced yogurt or cottage cheese; add the following to your favourite yogurt or cottage cheese; nuts such as walnuts, almonds, cashews or pecans, hemp hearts and/or seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin or sesame. 
  • Whole grain crackers with cream cheese or goat’s cheese and sliced beets, drizzled with balsamic vinegar reduction.
  • Protein powder smoothie; one scoop of protein powder, fruit, juice, water, ice blended together.  Make enough for two or three and you could have a “smoothie break” with your co-workers. (see recipe below)


  Meal Planning and Time Saving Tips

·        Plan your dinner menus a week in advance.  This way you can create your grocery shopping list based on your menu plan.   Planning ahead goes a long way to saving time at the end of the day, when you’re hungry, tired and just wanting to eat!   Keep a list of your family’s favourite meals and rotate them on your schedule.  For busy nights, plan meals that are quick and easy.

·        Always cook as if you’re cooking for two families.  Use the extra food for lunches, snacks and future dinners.  

  • Grill a couple of extra chicken breasts and cut up into bite-sized chunks for wraps, tortillas, burritos or a salad.
  • Cut up fresh vegetables and toss them into a crisper bag. They’re great for snacking on any time or adding to leftovers to make a quick meal.
  • Carrot sticks keep really well in a container of water in the fridge. 
  • When cutting onions, cut extra and place in a zip-lock bag and freeze.  Defrosted onions work just as well as fresh when you are cooking them.  This way, you only have to cry once!

·        Cook a roast and add vegetables to leftover meat for a stir-fry the next day.   

  • Get friends to gather in a community kitchen to prepare a few meals together.
  • Use ice cube trays to freeze small amounts of sauces, dips, or animal stock; such as pesto, hummus, chicken or beef stock.  Just pop the cubes into a freezer bag after they’re frozen for quick additions to a meal.
  • Make soup stock from left-over chicken or beef roast, or purchase soup bones from butcher.  Use this stock to make homemade soups.  For a video on how to do this, see


Quinoa Salad

3 cups cooked quinoa (see recipe below for cooking instructions)

1 carrot, sliced

1 green onion, chopped

½ cup roasted sunflower seeds

Combine all ingredients and toss with vinaigrette dressing.  (May not need to use all of vinaigrette dressing recipe to cover salad; suit yourself).  To make a more complete meal, add cut-up cooked chicken, beef, sausage or cooked legumes.

To cook quinoa

Measure 1 cup of quinoa into a strainer and run cold water over quinoa into the sink, washing the grains quite well.  Place quinoa into a pot and add 1½ cups of cold water and ½ teaspoon of sea salt.  You may also add 2-3 teaspoon of coconut oil for extra flavor and for good fats added to the diet.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 12-14 minutes.  Quinoa should be light, fluffy and moist-looking when cooked.

Yields 3 cups of cooked quinoa.  Most commonly considered a grain, quinoa is actually a seed, and a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. It is a recently rediscovered ancient "grain" once considered "the gold of the Incas."   Quinoa is considered a complete protein, containing all the amino acids, making it ideal for vegetarians.


Val’s Vinaigrette

⅔ cup olive oil

½ cup lemon juice

⅛ cup balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons maple syrup

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons dried basil

4 garlic cloves, crushed

½ teaspoon salt, pepper to taste

Place all in a glass jar and shake. This recipe can be doubled, of course, to last longer.


Roasted Pumpkin Seeds or Sunflower Seeds

2-4 cups raw, unsalted pumpkin or sunflower seeds

sea salt, to taste

You can find unsalted sunflower seeds in grocery stores.  Pumpkin seeds can be found in health food stores.

Soak seeds overnight in a glass jar filled with enough water to cover seeds by three inches.  By soaking seeds, the nutrients become more bioavailable.

After soaking, rinse and drain seeds in a colander and wrap in a tea towel to dry.

Heat oven to the lowest setting your oven allows. (Mine is 175°F)  Spread seeds on a cookie sheet or glass pan, with seeds not overlapping one another.

Bake seeds in the oven, stirring occasionally.   Sunflower seeds take about 4 or 5 hours.  Pumpkin seeds take less time, usually about 3 or 4 hours.

The oven temperature must be kept low in order to protect the delicate essential fatty acids within the seeds.  So it does take a long time, but they’re worth it!

After seeds are baked (they will be toasted-looking, not dry but not wet) sprinkle with sea salt.  Keep in the refrigerator in a glass jar for 2 weeks.  Use on salads or in cooked cereal or as a grab-and-go snack. 


Multi-herbed pesto

4 garlic cloves

⅓ cup nuts; you can use pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts. You can also use seeds, such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, or hemp hearts.

1 cup fresh basil, chopped

1 cup combined fresh herbs; mint, cilantro, parsley; any combination of these or any of these on its’ own)

¼ cup grated parmesean cheese or nutritional yeast*

⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ tsp celtic sea salt

Process garlic and nuts in a food processor until finely ground.  Add salt, basil, other herbs and cheese or nutritional yeast and process until blended.  With food processor on, slowly add olive oil and process until smooth.  Use pesto on boiled new potatoes, pasta or as a topping for chicken.  Pesto may be frozen in ice cube trays for future use.   Serve over noodles, rice, quinoa, barley, etc.

*nutritional yeast is a good substitute for cheese for lactose intolerant individuals and is available at health food stores.  It is an excellent source of protein, fibre and B vitamins.



2 cloves garlic

1 (398 ml) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

⅔ cup olive oil

½ cup tahini (sesame paste)

4 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp sea salt

½ tsp cumin  

Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.  Garnish with parsley and/or paprika.

Use as a dip for raw veggies, or as a spread for whole grain crackers or pita bread.

Tahini is dry roasted sesame seeds, ground into a paste.  It is rich in calcium, fibre and iron.  It can be enjoyed on its’ own or in this hummus recipe.


Energy Balls

1 cup raw almonds

1 cup dates (pitted)

1 cup raisins

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ cup almond butter

1 cup unsweetened coconut (shredded)

In a food processor, grind the almonds until finely ground.  Add the dates, raisins and cinnamon.  Grind to a fine meal.  Add the almond butter, process again until thoroughly mixed.  Form into balls and roll in shredded coconut.  Store in a sealed container on the counter for up to 3 days, or refrigerate for up to a week.


Coconut Chia Pudding

⅔ cup chia seeds

2 cups coconut milk (could also use rice, almond or cow’s milk)

4 Tbsp honey or maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla

3 Tbsp cocoa powder

¼ tsp sea salt

Place milk, sweetener, vanilla, cocoa powder and sea salt in a bowl.  Mix with a whisk until smooth.  Add chia seeds and stir until coated in milk.  Let sit at room temperature 20-30 minutes or refrigerate.

Chia is one of the highest sources of plant based omega 3’s on the planet.  It is also an excellent source of fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. 


Oven Roasted Broccoli

4 cups broccoli spears

⅓ cup unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp sea salt

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed (optional)

Steam broccoli for 4 minutes.   Pour melted butter all over broccoli.  Sprinkle salt over, add garlic (if using) and toss with a pair of tongs.  Place in a casserole dish in a preheated 350ºF oven on the middle rack.  Roast for 8-12 minutes, or until desired tenderness is reached.


Blueberry Kale smoothie

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

1 cup water

½ or 1 full serving of protein powder

(use a non-soy brand such as North Coast Naturals Vege Pro-7)

⅓ cup plain yogurt

2-3 leaves of kale, without the centre stem

2 tsp honey

2 ice cubes (omit if using frozen blueberries)

Place all in a blender and blend until smooth.   May add some superfoods for added nutrition; chia seeds, hemphearts, maca powder, etc.  Add more water, if necessary for smoother consistency.





©2011 ©2014 ©2015 ©2017 Val MacDonald