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I am thrilled to have Dr. Tara’s Sunshine Food Joy page on the website.  I absolutely love experimenting with healthy foods and creating nutritious and delicious recipes for my family and friends.  As a doctor, psychotherapist, mother, and athlete, I have also seen firsthand the impact of lifestyle choices on physical, mental and social well-being.  I firmly believe that healthy habits relating to diet, activity and sleep are fundamental to engaging in a full and joyful life.  Our guts, bodies and brains are intricately and beautifully interconnected in ways that science is still learning to understand.   

Food Joy: Let’s Begin with Breakfast!

If you take a look at the first of the posted recipes, you will see that I am a bit of a smoothie fanatic.  In fact, the Vitamix is probably the best-used kitchen appliance in my house!  While smoothies can be enjoyed any time of the day or night, they are a breakfast staple for us.  It is my hope that the recipes and food facts will encourage you to have fun preparing and sharing this super important first meal of the day.  Instead of looking at it as a mundane necessity, let’s think outside the cereal box and consider breakfast as a starting point for improving the overall health and happiness of ourselves and our families.  Please check-out my resource, "The Family Meal: Why & How", for the latest research on the benefits of breakfast and helpful tips to start your own family breakfast routine.

Food for Thought: Making the Move to Mindful Eating

Unfortunately, many of us have a love-hate relationship with food.  We have gotten into the habit of mindless or emotional eating.  Instead of recognizing our hunger and satiety cues, we eat when we are stressed or sad or bored and then feel guilty about it.  Food is frequently consumed rapidly, on autopilot, or while multitasking, and at random times and in random places.  Who has not had the experience of inhaling far too many unhealthy snacks while sitting in front of the computer or television?  Often we can’t quite understand how we managed to eat so much without fully registering the taste or stopping to appreciate it.  

Part of my goal with this endeavour is to reconnect people with the Joy of Food.  By paying attention to and respecting both our food and our bodies, we can re-learn how to eat for nourishment, satisfaction, and pleasure.  Mindful eating replaces self-judgment, shame and criticism with intention, observation and awareness.   

While this may sound like a lofty goal for those of you who have struggled for years with binge eating, yo-yo dieting and weight fluctuations, the key here -- as with the majority of topics I address in Dr. Tara’s Sunshine -- is to pick a place, hunker down, and just get going.

Where to Start?: Food Prep 101

Perhaps one of the best ways to begin reconnecting with food in a healthy way is by making it.  When we prepare our own meals instead of purchasing pre-fabricated, pre-packaged items, we necessarily become more conscious of what we are putting into our bodies.  The same thing happens when we get to know our ingredients.  We can visit farmer’s markets, learn what’s in season, and acquaint ourselves with the basic nutritional information of the frequently-used superfoods.  To facilitate this, I will provide lots of helpful health facts on the website.  The upfront work will pay-off and I suspect many of you will quickly become comfortable whipping-up nutritious and delicious homemade meals (in fact, you may evolve into healthy eating aficionados before you know it!).  And truth be told, one of the reasons I have gravitated to smoothie-making is because it is fun, flexible and fast!

The majority of recipes that will be posted on Food Joy are simple and easy to make.  Even the shakes with seemingly long lists of ingredients take only minutes to prepare with a well-stocked and well-organized pantry.  I would encourage you to pick one specific area in both your cupboard and your fridge where you keep your smoothie staples.  I have my go-tos like chia seeds and cacao nibs in glass jars with scoops for quick and convenient adding.

One very important thing to remember is that blending isn’t baking.  Smoothies can be modified and measurements adjusted to meet individual needs and preferences.  For unfamiliar foods and spices, start with less and build-up gradually until you see how they impact your body and your taste buds.  Similarly, while I do not adhere to one specific dietary plan beyond focusing on real, whole, unprocessed ingredients, many of my recipes can easily be tailored to fit common lifestyles such as vegan, paleo or gluten-free.

Last but not least, I would encourage you to turn the preparation and enjoyment of my Food Joy recipes into an event.  This doesn’t mean you need loads of extra time, a sous-chef, or a personal clone (although that would certainly be helpful sometimes!).  Just be thoughtful and intentional about the process.  Set a time, pick a place, put your phone away, and turn your television and devices off, even if you only have 5 or 10 minutes to spare.  If eating alone, make a point of savouring the full sensory experience - the colour, aroma, taste and texture.  If eating with others, take a moment to share your observations.  When I make smoothies for my kids, they challenge themselves by guessing the ingredients and describing the flavour profile.  We talk about the benefits of the different foods and concepts such as “eating the rainbow”.  These interactions allow me to share my passion for healthy living and to teach my children that nutritious really can be delicious!

So let’s get creative in the kitchen and have some fun!  I would love to hear your feedback and suggestions and even share your favourite healthy eating tips and recipes.