3 Non-Traditional Energy Drinks


When you’re tired and having trouble getting through your day, you might be tempted to reach for a big cup of coffee, or, if you’re really fading, an store-bought energy drink. You know the ones – they’re fizzy and taste sort of like pop, but have a medicinal undertone. These drinks are highly caffeinated and often contain loads of sugar and other ingredients that might not be the best for your health. They give you the boost of energy you’re looking for, but you could end up feeling worse in the long run. Energy drinks have been known to cause headaches, anxiety, and to disturb sleep.

With all that’s on a caregiver’s plate, it’s common for fatigue to creep in. So, what should you reach for when you’re feeling a dip in energy but still need to get some things done? Here are 3 suggestions.

WATER | Sometimes when you’re tired, you’re really just thirsty. Ask yourself how much water you’ve had today. Fill up and drink a glass or two, then reevaluate your energy levels. Not a fan of water? Add lemons, cucumber, or berries for a delicious infusion!

SMOOTHIE | If you’re feeling tired and craving a boost, your body could be telling you that you need some fuel. A smoothie packed with nutritious ingredients is a great way to get some nutrients and give your body some lasting energy. Avoid adding too much sugar if you want to prevent a crash. I love this recipe by Carley Mendes.

MATCHA | If you’re an avid coffee drinker but you’re not crazy about how you feel after drinking a late afternoon cup, consider matcha. Matcha still contains caffeine, but less than coffee. It can be heated and whisked in to water or milk and mixed with sweetener for a delicious take on a latte. Click here for a recipe.

What do you do when you’re tired and need some energy? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!

Cassandra Van Dyck


Foodie Friday – A Simple Fall Meal


A friend introduced me to the simplicity and deliciousness of this meal years ago and I return to it every fall when the days start to cool. It is inexpensive, quick, nourishing and won’t create stacks of dishes. It easily makes extra so you can eat it for lunch for a few days after. Read on for the recipe and enjoy!

Autumn Bake


root vegetables such as potatoes, yams, squash (acorn and butternut are great choices), carrots, beets, garlic, and onions


olive oil

salt & pepper


Pre-heat oven to 375F. Chop vegetables in big pieces and place in a large casserole dish. Toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place in the oven and stir every 15 minutes or so for approximately 45 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and browned.

Make quinoa on stove top.

Combine quinoa and vegetables in a bowl. Eat as is or add avocado or a boiled egg.


Cassandra Van Dyck


Foodie Friday – 3 Quick Snack Ideas for Caregivers


You probably know the feeling well. You’ve eaten breakfast, but it’s not quite time for lunch, or you’ve had your mid-day meal, but there’s still a few hours before dinner time. Maybe you’re busy, and you just can’t quite fit in the time to make a full, but you need to eat something to keep you going. You’re hungry, and you need to eat something quick! But what to eat? Read on for a few healthy, quick snack ideas for caregivers!

Nut Butter on Fruit

There are so many possibilities depending on what you have on hand! Here’s some of my favourites:

peanut butter on sliced banana

almond butter on apple slices with cinnamon

almond butter on figs

pumpkin seed butter on strawberries


We’ve shared some wonderful recommendations here, but I’ve got a secret smoothie hack to share with you today! If you’re like me, you may have made smoothies before and felt hungry 30 minutes after finishing it. If you struggle with this too, add fat! A teaspoon of coconut oil or butter, some nut butter, or half an avocado should do the trick.

Yam Toast

Slice yam thinly and pop it in the toaster! You might have to toast it a few times, depending on what sort of consistency you’d like to achieve. Top with avocado and salt and pepper if you’d like something savoury, or (you guessed it) nut butter, if you’d prefer a sweeter snack.

What snacks do you reach for when you’re hungry? We’d love to hear from you in our comments!

Cassandra Van Dyck


Foodie Friday – 3 Bars to Fuel Your Day


When you’re a caregiver, you may spend a lot of time outside of your home. If you’re not working, you might be dashing around to different appointments, picking up prescriptions, grocery shopping, or running other errands. If you’re at home, it’s a lot easier to access food when you’re hungry. You can toast a piece of bread or heat up a bowl of soup. When you’re out, it can be more challenging. Fast food restaurants are convenient but offer few economical and healthy options.

Preparing some snacks to take with you on your journeys may require a bit more work when you’re home, but it will save you time and money in the long run. Eating nutritious snacks when you’re hungry will give you fuel and prevent energy crashes. 

Eating a bar is a great way to quickly get some nutrition when you’re out and about. Read on for three tasty recipes!

PUMPKIN OATMEAL ANYTIME SQUARES | These are wonderful if you have a sugar craving and you’d like to avoid your local pastry shop! Get the full recipe here.

DIY FRUIT, NUT AND FLOWER CHOCOLATE BARS | Chocolate? You read that correctly! Look for chocolate that’s low in sugar and add in lots of nuts and dried fruits and you’ll have yourself a beautiful afternoon snack! Click here for the details.

BREAKFAST BARS | Do you need to rush out the door in the morning? Take one (or two) of these with you to make sure you don’t skip the most important meal of the day!


Cassandra Van Dyck


Foodie Friday – 4 Ways to Eat Oatmeal


Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, and not because it’s supposed to be the most important one. I love the ritual of waking up in the morning, filling the kettle, and grinding beans while waiting for the water to boil. I make my coffee in a Chemex and prepare breakfast in between pours of hot water. To me, that first hour of the day feels sacred. Taking the time to appreciate and savour that first cup of coffee and a simple meal an set the mood for the whole day.

I save weekends for the big breakfasts – pancakes with blueberries and maple syrup or savoury eggs on toast. Monday to Friday, I make oatmeal. It wasn’t always that way. I grew up knowing oatmeal as the mushy option at a breakfast buffet, only made slightly better with milk, brown sugar, and raisins. It wasn’t until my adult years that I discovered the versatility of oatmeal. Did you know it doesn’t have to be so mushy? Steelcut oats take longer to cook, but they are deliciously chewy. Rolled oats can be cooked with more or less water to appeal to your palate. What makes oatmeal really interesting is the different options for toppings. Oatmeal is not just for those with a sweet tooth! Add eggs or vegetables and skip the milk, and you have yourself a hardy breakfast. Oatmeal is inexpensive, quick to prepare, and fabulous fuel for a busy day.

Though the base stays the same, I prefer to change my toppings with the seasons. Because of my distaste for mushy oatmeal, I stick with steelcut oats. As mentioned, they take a little longer to prepare, but a few minutes of evening preparation can save you time in the morning. Read on for 4 oatmeal recipes for all seasons!


The ratio for steelcut oats is 3-1 (3 cups of water to 1 cup of oats). You could choose to make more at the beginning of the week and reheat it in the morning, but I prepare to make it fresh every day.

To prepare the oats the night before, bring 3 cups of water to a boil on the stove.

Carefully pour in 1 cup of steel cut oats and boil for 1 minute.

Remove oats from the heat and allow to cool. Place the pot in your fridge overnight.

In the morning, put the pot on the stove and turn the element to a low-medium heat setting. The oats should be ready in approximately 15-20 minutes.



Is there anything more comforting than eating a warm bowl of oatmeal with freshly harvested, baked fruit on a cold autumn morning while the leaves fall outside your window? Likely not.

Bake fruit for a short time in the oven, Toss it in cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, or all three! Roast some nuts and add them in the mix. Warm nut or dairy milk on the stove and add that in your bowl as well.



Oatmeal will warm your bones on cold winter mornings, but finding appealing toppings may be more challenging. This is the time of year to spice your oats and crack open jars of preserves. Hopefully you’ve stocked up on canned peaches! Experiment with adding proteins if you start to bore of your daily oats.



If it was tricky to top your oats in the winter, you might find spring even harder. It’s such a hopeful, strange time of year, isn’t it?! You know the hot days and fresh fruits are right around the corner, but they’re not there yet! Rhubarb to the rescue! Try boiling or baking a large batch once a week and storing it in your fridge. Add it to your oats with dairy or almond milk and savour the first fresh fruits of the year.



Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries… the possibilities are endless! They add a freshness and coolness to your oatmeal that may be welcomed on summer days. Try letting your oatmeal cool on the stove for a little longer than usual or add cold milk if you don’t feel like a hot meal first thing in the morning.


What’s your favourite quick, easy breakfast? We’d love to hear from you!


Cassandra Van Dyck



Foodie Friday – 2 Seasonal Salads


The summer season is well under way, which means fresh, local fruits and vegetables will be stocked in grocery stores and farmer’s markets! Why not turn all the fresh produce in to delicious salads?

Eating salad is a great way to nutrients to give you the energy you need to manage your caregiving duties and any other tasks you have to complete. Spend 1-2 hours per week chopping vegetables and preparing dressings and you’ll have lunches ready every morning!

Here are two seasonal west coast salad recipes:

Diane’s Westcoaster Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette


Serves 6

This Westcoaster Salad is totally a winner. When my daughter Jennifer and partners opened the Tomato Fresh Food Café in 1991, this was our “Number One” salad. Now, new owners Christian Gaudreault and his wife Starllie still feature it on their menu, and it’s as popular as ever.


1/2 lb (250 g) peppered and candied smoked salmon strips or regular sliced smoked salmon

6 cups (1.5 L) mixed greens

1/2 red pepper, seeded and cut into thin julienne strips

1/2 yellow pepper, seeded and cut into thin julienne strips

1 cup (250 mL) crumbled chèvre (goat) cheese

Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 cup (250 mL) olive oil

1/4 to 1/3 cup (60 to 75 mL) balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup (60 mL) pure maple syrup

1 tsp (5 mL) Dijon mustard

freshly ground pepper to taste

2 or 3 days before

Prepare the Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette. Whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, mustard and pepper. Cover and refrigerate.

Just before serving

Peel the skin off the salmon, slice diagonally into 1/4-in (6-mL) thick slices. Set aside.

Divide the greens evenly among 6 salad plates, mounding them high.

Warm the vinaigrette in a frying pan over low heat. Add the slices of salmon and the peppers. Heat briefly a few minutes to warm.

To serve

On each salad plate, divide the salmon mixture equally over the greens, then drizzle over the warm dressing. Top with a good sprinkling of chèvre (goat) cheese. Serve immediately.

Chef’s Secret

Look for this peppered candied smoked salmon in the seafood section of your local food and seafood markets. Candied smoked salmon is usually marinated with a little honey, maple syrup or dark brown sugar and a little salt. Coarsely ground pepper is sometimes added as well. It’s smoked from 8 to 24 hours to give the salmon a sweet, subtle smoky flavor. It’s crusty on the outside, but moist and soft on the inside. Choose nice thick strips. I always keep some on hand in the freezer, take out in the morning and thaw it in the refrigerator.

Vancouver Sun

Vancouver Island Salad


 This salad is composed of ingredients that are cultivated on Vancouver Island and grown or produced within 100 km of your home, so get familiar with this product and all of the rest of the V.I. abundance and make an effort to buy them often.



Red pepper (thin sliced)

Onion (thin sliced)

Tomato (sliced)

Hazelnuts (crushed)

Natural Pastures Brie (sliced)

1/4 cup raspberries (fresh or defrosted)

1/2 cup yogurt

1/4 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons honey

Kosher salt/black pepper to taste


  1.  Combine raspberries, yogurt, buttermilk, honey, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl. Stir well to combine and mash the raspberries until incorporated.
  2.  Combine desired amount of spinach, peppers, onion and tomato in a mixing bowl and toss to combine. Plate and then top salad with desired amount of dressing, hazelnuts and brie cheese. Now eat!
Strawberries, blackberries and blueberries are all grown on Vancouver Island and all make a great substitute for the raspberries if so desired.
Do you have any salad recipes you love to make? Please share them in our comment section!
Cassandra Van Dyck



Smoothie pick-me ups

Caretaking can be a 24/7 role. Whether your loved one lives in the same house as you, or you provide support from across town or even a different province, caring TAKES ENERGY. After a night of interrupted sleep, or fatigue from all you’re doing to make sure the other person is alright; you might really appreciate having some accessible ways to boost your energy.
My nutrition savvy friend introduced me to the Oh She Glows cookbook, which contains a whole range of healthy, energizing vegan recipes. These two smoothies sound super refreshing, and though the ingredients aren’t terribly exotic, having all of them in your kitchen does take a little pre-thought.
These flavour combinations will give you an infusion of vitamins and minerals, and hopefully make you feel able to tackle whatever the day has in store.

All Day Glow Green Smoothie

From http://ohsheglows.com/2016/05/18/all-day-glow-green-smoothie/   -Recipe by Angela Liddon

Keep in mind this is a large batch that just fits in a 64-ounce high-speed blender, so if your blender is smaller you might want to make a half batch. I love to have a glass first thing in the morning, and another in the afternoon. Since there’s no banana in it, it also keeps well until the next day when stored in an airtight container. Be prepared to feel that “all-day” glow!!


5 cups
Prep Time
10 Minutes

Total Time
10 Minutes


  • 1 cup (250 mL) coconut water
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) mango juice (I love Happy Planet Organic Mango juice)
  • 2 large (400 g total) Granny Smith apples, cored and roughly chopped
  • 2 cups (70 g) packed red leaf lettuce or romaine
  • 2/3 cup (18 g) loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup (15 g) packed fresh cilantro leaves*
  • 1/2 cup (70 g) frozen mango chunks
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) packed avocado
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 2 small, pinky-sized pieces (12 g total) peeled fresh turmeric**
  • 5 to 6 large ice cubes, or as needed


  1. Add the coconut water and mango juice into a (64-ounce) high-speed blender. (If your blender is on the small side, you may want to make a half-batch.)
  2. Now add the rest of the ingredients. Blend on high until super smooth. If you have a Vitamix, use the tamper stick to get things moving. Taste and adjust sweetness if desired. If it’s too tart, feel free to add a bit of liquid sweetener.
  3. Serve and enjoy! Place any leftovers into an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 24 hours. I love to enjoy half in the morning, and the other half in the afternoon.


  • * The cilantro flavour in this smoothie is quite pronounced. If you aren’t a cilantro fan, feel free to swap it with more romaine or fresh mint (start with 1/4 cup of mint).
  • ** Fresh turmeric root is becoming more and more common in grocery stores these days; keep your eyes peeled for it in the produce section.

The Blender Girl’s Mystical Mango Smoothie 
From http://ohsheglows.com/2015/08/07/the-blender-girls-mystical-mango-smoothie/

mango smoothie
This recipe is lightly adapted from Tess Master’s The Blender Girl.
“With a creamy texture and exquisite flavor, this immunity blend is a fabulous for collagen formation and glowing skin, hair, and nails. Mango’s enzymes and vitamins A, C, and E cleanse the liver and aid digestion, and its potassium and fibre help regulate blood pressure and cholesterol. This one will make your heart happy.”   -Tess

4 cups (2 servings)
Prep Time
5 Minutes


  • 1.5 cups orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water, or more if needed
  • 1/4 cup avocado
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • 2 cups frozen mango (I used an entire 300g bag)
  • Pure maple syrup, to taste (optional – I added a teaspoon)


  1. Add all of the ingredients into a high speed blender and blend on high for 30-60 seconds, until smooth and creamy. If using the Vitamix, you can use the tamper stick to get things moving. If the mixture seems too thick you can thin it with a bit more water.

Note: You can boost this smoothie with 1/2 teaspoon wheatgrass powder, 1 teaspoon chia seeds, and 1 teaspoon of flaxseed oil.

Let us know how you like these blends.  We’d also be glad to hear about any of your favourite smoothie combinations!

Foodie Friday – 3 Quick Lunches


Do you struggle to eat healthy, satisfying lunches? Do you find yourself on the go, hungry, and without any food on hand?

Lunches just might be the hardest meal to prepare and eat because we’re often out of the house when we get pangs of hunger. You might manage to eat breakfast but can’t find the time to make and pack a lunch to take with you. Often this leaves us with few healthy options to choose from and the added cost of a takeout meal.

With so much on the go, caregivers can struggle to take care of themselves. What you eat effects your energy levels and ability to face the challenges life throws your way. A healthy lunch can help you cope and give you what you need to get through the day! Read on for three quick, healthy suggestions for a healthy lunch on the go.

THE LEFTOVER MEAL | The easiest way to make sure you have a healthy lunch for the following day is to make more dinner the night before. If you struggle to cook enough to have food for another meal, try putting a portion of your meal in lunch containers at the same time you serve yourself dinner.

THE SNACK PACK | If you find it hard to sit down and eat a full meal, it might be worth considering snacking throughout the day instead. The trick here is to make sure that every snack you’re eating is packing a nutritious punch. If you tell yourself you’re going to snack throughout the day and rely on takeout options, you might find yourself eating more sugar and unhealthy fats than you’d planned. Make sure what you pack is easily accessible and contains protein, healthy fats, and protein. Try nuts, boiled eggs, avocado, an apple or banana, sprouted bread with nut butter or veggies and hummus. Experiment with different containers to see which are easiest to eat out of and clean.

THE SANDWICH | The tried and true lunch of champions. Sandwiches can be made the night before or the morning of, as long as you practice some careful layering techniques to prevent soggy bread. Nobody likes soggy bread. Need some recipe suggestions? Try this, this or this.

How do you ensure you eat a healthy lunch? We’d love to hear from you?

Did you get any good ideas from this article? Please share it!

Cassandra Van Dyck

Foodie Friday – 5 Nuts and Why You Should be Eating Them


Do you eat nuts?

If not, I’d strongly encourage you to! The health benefits of nuts are endless. They pack protein and most contain unsaturated fats, omega 3 fatty acids, fibre, and vitamin E. Consuming these nutrients helps support brain function, blood sugar levels, and will give you the energy you need to get through your day and help you sleep at night. Unlike lots of other food suggestions, nuts are so easy to eat! If you buy them without shells, they require no preparation to consume and they’re easy to take with you wherever you go. Try eating a handful instead of grabbing a muffin or a coffee and see if you notice a difference in how you feel 2-3 hours after eating them.

If we’ve convinced you to try this healthy snack, read on for some suggestions on which to eat!



Health Benefits: source of Vitamin E, which supports skin health, slows the rate of glucose absorption which helps control blood sugar levels, riboflavin and L-carnitine support positive neurological activity and prevent cognitive decline.

How to eat them: raw, roasted, turned in to mylk, or covered in chocolate!



Health Benefits: low on fibre, but high in vitamins E, K, and B6!

How to eat them: raw, roasted, or if you really want to be adventurous, turned in to ice cream!



Health Benefits: Rich in antioxidants and a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for brain health!

How to eat them: raw, maple glazed, in a bliss ball!

What are your favourite ways to eat nuts? We’d love to hear from you!

Did you like this article? Please share it!

Cassandra Van Dyck

Foodie Friday: 3 Ways to Beat Sugar Cravings


Most of us know that sugary treats are supposed to be just that – treats. Something to be savoured and enjoyed in small quantities during times of celebration. Most of us also know that sweets are rarely consumed with such mindfulness. Enormous amounts of sugar is in everything these days, from our breakfast cereal to our salad dressings. It makes things taste good, which explains why it’s used so often in store-bought foods. Not only is it consumed for celebration, it’s a pick-me-up when we’re feeling down or tired, and something we turn to when we’re stressed.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles on the internet and in magazines about the harmful effects of sugar. It’s probably a safe bet that if you’re reading this, it’s not the first time you’ve heard it. “You’ll find a ton of literature that suggests that removing dairy from the diet or meat or consuming those substances are bad for you based your nutritional method of interest.  But never in the history of health will you find any literature that suggests removing sugar from your diet is bad for you.  Nowhere,” says Lacy Phillips.

We could all benefit from reducing the amount of sugar in our diets. It’s easier said than done though, right? Sugar is everywhere! One way to tackle sugar cravings is to have substitutes on hand (or at least in mind) when you get the urge to chow down. Here are some suggestions:


Eat fruit. Although we’re lucky enough to access it any time of year, we’re getting in to the golden months for fruit! Salmonberries will be popping up on bushes soon, followed by raspberries, huckleberries and blackberries. If you can’t forage them, you can purchase local fruit at your grocery store or a weekend farmer’s market! Fruit is filled with antioxidants, vitamins and fibre. Keeping some on hand and eating it when you’re craving sugar might energize you for a few hours instead of leaving you tired and wired after a big piece of cake.

Drink water. I know… it can seem boring. But did you know that sometimes when you’re craving sugar, you may just be thirsty? Our body’s can send us some confusing messages! If you have a craving, try drinking 1-2 glasses of water before indulging in a donut. The craving may just go away! If your water seems lackluster, add a squeeze of lemon, a few slices of cucumber or some frozen berries for a subtle, sugar-free boost!

Take a nap. Because sugar gives us a temporary energy spike, we often crave it when we’re tired. We might want a cookie but what we really need is a nap! If you’re noticing you’re craving sugar every day around the same time, it might be worth looking at your sleep habits and making some shifts. For example, some people say they get sugar cravings late at night, while watching television or reading a book. It might be their body’s way of signalling them to go to bed! If this is happening to you, try having a glass of water, brushing your teeth, and getting cozy in your sheets instead of opening the fridge.

Cassandra Van Dyck