Moooove Over Milk. A Nutritionist Shares 3 Alternative Sources of Calcium

You might have been told by your Naturopath to avoid milk products, or you might have made the decision to ditch the dairy all on your own. Personally, I made the choice over a year ago when I found myself bloated, cramping after I had dairy products, and my skin no longer had that glow.

Being a woman in my forties, the need for calcium in my diet is strong. Girls and women, at every age, need calcium to keep bones strong, for muscle contraction (this includes your beating heart), and for nerve transmission.

The bad news is that many of us were brought up to believe the only way to get calcium was to drink a few glasses of milk a day. The good news is that we have choices, and there are several plant-based sources of calcium that are probably in your kitchen as we speak.

Let me share what this Holistic Nutritionist feeds her body, for her daily dose of calcium sources. Mooove over milk, I have 3 other choices for you.

Tofu (1 cup= 860mg calcium): Try spicing it up with some coconut aminos, turmeric, cayenne pepper and cumin.  Let it marinate for a few minutes, then fry it in coconut oil. Let the edges get crispy and brown, then add it to your favorite salad.

Almond butter (2 Tbsp= 111mg calcium): I love using almond butter in bliss balls, granola bars, gluten-free baking and warmed up over fruit. The healthy fats and protein in almond butter help to slow the glucose release in fruit. Simply warm 2 Tablespoons in a saucepan, add some cinnamon and a pinch of cloves, and drizzle it over your fruit salad or apple slices.

White beans (1 cup= 190mg calcium): Aside from a good homemade chili, I use white beans in my garlic hummus. Rinse and drain 1 can of white beans and puree with olive oil, lemon, tahini (another great source of calcium), garlic, salt and pepper. Serve with veggie sticks or rice crackers on your next appetizer platter.

Sticking to what we are “told” to eat never really did work for me.  I am all for choices and what feels right for my body. Don’t get me wrong, I eat the occasional piece of cheese pizza.

Life is all about balance, right?

Jen Casey is a Holistic Nutritionist with Next Bite Nutrition Coaching in Vancouver, BC. She focuses her practice on whole body wellness and building a solid foundation for the pillars of health. Learn more about Jen and her healthy recipes on Instagram.


Wellness Community Member: Jen Casey, Holistic Nutritionist

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Let me introduce myself: I’m Jen Casey, a Holistic Nutritionist and mama of 2. I’m a Toronto girl, now living in Vancouver. I used to be a MakeUp Artist for fashion, film and tv, before trading in my brushes for forks and measuring cups.

This is what wellness means to me: For me, wellness is a whole body experience.  This includes the mind. It’s about balancing the pillars of health: nutrition, movement, sleep and managing stress. If one of these is out of place, the whole system is off and the body is affected. Wellness is about community, support, gratitude and making people smile.

I contribute to the wellness community by: I work as a Holistic Nutritionist and teach workplace wellness programs and nutrition classes around the Vancouver area. I don’t just tell you what to eat, I want to teach you the why’s and how’s around it so you have the tools to build your own wellness regime.

One item I can’t live without: Lip balm! Natural, of course.

My favourite self care practice: Exercise. I never played a sport growing up and only starting regularly exercising in my mid 30’s. As I age, I find movement vital to stress reduction, blood circulation and just feeling great. For me, I don’t exercise to lose weight (that’s through nutrition). I exercise to feel good.

How I keep my wellness simplified: I read labels, I make most of my own products (skin care, hair care, cleaning products), and I keep my ingredients to a minimum. Simpler really is better! When you have less ingredients in a meal, your body has an easier time digesting it.

This is what motivates me: Staying creative. I’m the type of person who needs to be doing and making all the time. Whether it’s a new skin care product or a recipe, I like to stay creative and learn something new every day.

Learn more about me at:

Next Bite Nutrition Coaching

Instagram @nextbitenutrition

Facebook @NextBiteNutritionCoaching

Join our community! Email us to be added here.

5 Sources of Fibre and Why You Should Be Including Them In Your Diet

When you think of fibre, you probably go straight to bowel health. And, you are correct. Fibre helps clean you out and keeps you regular. But, this essential nutrient has a few other health benefits that you might not associate it with, other than digestion and elimination.

First, fibre binds to cholesterol and eliminates it through your bowels. This is important for those with cardiovascular disease. According to a study, those at risk for CVD have a 40% lower rate of having a heart attack when adding fibre to their diet.

Fibre can help with weight management as it makes you feel more full. It also regulates blood sugar levels so spikes and crashes are not an issue. This is particularly important in diabetes support as fibre helps to slow the absorption of sugar.

Fibre feeds your gut bacteria.  Our body contains both good and bad bacteria and fibre helps to flush out the bad, while feeding the good. Fibre is plant based and our body does not digest it. Instead, along with water, it helps to form stool that is full of bad bacteria, waste, cholesterol, excess hormones and toxins, and then exits our body.

Fibre is either soluble or insoluble and they work in different ways. If you suffer from constipation, you might want to add more insoluble fibre in to your diet. It adds bulk to stool and speeds up transit time. It is found in whole grains and vegetables. Soluble fibre, like chia, flax and nuts, slows transit time by attracting water, and works well for weight loss as it makes you feel full for longer.

Either way, try to get in 30g fibre a day for optimal health and glowing skin. Be sure to drink plenty of water to help the fibre bind to all the nasties that must exit your body twice (yes, twice!) a day. Try adding fibre to smoothies, salads, bliss balls, soups, and hummus.

5 Easy, high fibre additions are chia seeds, whole grain rice, ground flax, walnuts, and quinoa. A little sprinkle will do ya.


Jen Casey is a Holistic Nutritionist with Next Bite Nutrition Coaching in Vancouver, BC. She focuses her practice on whole body wellness and building a solid foundation for the pillars of health. Learn more about Jen and her healthy recipes on Instagram.

5 Ways to Increase Your Energy at Work

It is easy to get caught up at work and forget about the most important thing in your day…YOU! By Friday, you might feel exhausted, over-worked, and down right done.  There are a few ways to amp up your energy during the week and enhance your mood so you feel a little less exhausted by week’s end.  And, you don’t have to drink coffee on your breaks to get that energy boost. Here, we use nutrition and movement as your 2 best tools:

  1. Eat Snacks with Staying Power: Choose snacks that do not come from a package and do contain protein and fat. This way, they take longer to digest as they regulate blood sugar better than eating simple carbs. Always be prepared and bring your snacks to work.  When hunger strikes or energy is low, you won’t be tempted to grab for the ‘wrong’ choice.  Try peanut butter + banana, walnuts + blueberries, roasted chick peas + fruit, hard boiled egg + veggies sticks, or hummus  + cucumber.chickpeas
  2. Hydrate Without Coffee or Sugar: Avoid soda pop, bottled drinks, and fancy coffee drinks that are high in sugar and will spike your blood glucose levels…leading to a crash. Try replacing coffee with green tea, flavoured water with lemon and mint, ginseng tea, and coconut water for ultimate hydration.
  3. Get Outside: 15-20 minutes of vitamin D from the sunshine increases mood and energy, and decreases your risk of many diseases and depression.  Fresh air lowers anxiety, cleans your lungs, lowers your heart rate and aids in digestion.  Try even a short walk around the block during your break.
  4. Turn Away From All Screens: This also means phones, games, social media. Try not to take your coffee break at your desk.  Get a fresh perspective and view, and let your eyes rest.  Try closing your eyes and listen to a guided coffee break meditation. This is your time to recharge and not work.
  5. Stretch It Out, aka Deskercise: Standing up and stretching will revitalize you, increase blood flow and instantly energize.  Staring at a computer, sitting too long, lifting and sorting will all leave your body feeling sore and tired.  Try some simple stretches once or twice a day to get blood flowing, stay limber, ease muscle tension, reduce headaches and eye strain, and improve your overall health.forest

Jen Casey is a Holistic Nutritionist with Next Bite Nutrition Coaching in Vancouver, BC. She focuses her practice on whole body wellness and building a solid foundation for the pillars of health. Learn more about Jen and her healthy recipes on Instagram.

15 Pantry Essentials a Holistic Nutritionist Keeps on Hand


Keeping your pantry stocked with some essential ingredients ensures that you will always have something nutritious to whip up in a pinch.  As a Holistic Nutritionist, my wellness plans are not just about what you eat, but include the pillars of health. Stress can play a big role in many aspects of your life, including digestion, so my number one tip for reducing stress is to meal plan.  If you keep some essentials on hand, you lower your risk of becoming hangry, having low blood sugar, and reduce cravings.  Use these pantry basics to boost up Bliss Balls, Chia Pudding, smoothies, salads and snacks with some staples that have a lengthy shelf life and pack a nutrient-dense punch. Keep these 15 ingredients well stocked for their blood sugar regulating, protein packing, healthy fats, energy-boosting and high fibre properties.

  1. Nutritional Yeast:  aka, “nooch”, is a new fave in the plant-based world. If you are lucky, you can find a brand that is fortified with vitamin B12, which does not normally exist naturally in plant-based foods. These dry flakes give a cheesy, nutty flavour that is naturally low in sodium but still packs alot of flavour. Nutritional yeast can be turned into a dairy-free cheese sauce, a vegan “parmesan”, and crisps up nicely on roasted chick peas.

nooch chick peas

2. Apple Cider Vinegar: Keep this on hand to use in salad dressings and as a way to start your day.  Take 1 Tblsp each morning before you eat or drink anything else, to set your metabolism and get your digestive juices flowing for the day. I also love ACV as a skin toner for oily areas on the face and as a hair rinse. Be sure to buy ACV with the “mother”, for it’s nutritional benefits.

3.  Canned Coconut Milk: Full fat coconut milk makes a decadent chia seed pudding, thickens up smoothies, makes a rich whipped cream,  and is a great base to cook rice in. This healthy fat is easily metabolized by your body for energy, and benefits your brain, hair, nails and skin. It is also a nice alternative to dairy and nut milks.

Add coconut milk to smoothies for a rich, creamy texture.

4. Sea Salt: A great source of iodine that is usually not processed, and is needed for a healthy thyroid, to regulate your body’s fluid balance and to prevent dehydration. Limit your sodium intake to 2300mg/day or less. Natural sea salt, that is not processed, should be light grey, sometimes pink in colour. Just a pinch will do you.

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Natural sea salt should be your source of iodine for a healthy thyroid.

5. Olive Oil: A healthy monounsaturated fat with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  Olive oil benefits the brain, hair, skin, and the heart. Keep Extra Virgin Olive Oil on hand to use as salad dressing or for baking.  Avoid frying with olive oil or cooking with it at high heat as it can damage the nutrient properties.

6. Oats: Rolled oat flakes are a soothing, plant-based protein that help to regulate blood sugar, are easy to digest, nutrient-dense, and a great source of B vitamins for energy. Use them in overnight oats, make a dairy-free milk alternative, use in baking or use raw in smoothies.

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Dairy-free Oat Milk takes just minutes to make.

7. Chia Seeds: High in fibre, chia seeds help to regulate blood glucose levels, they keep you satiated, and are a great source of plant-based protein. Use them as your base in chia seed pudding and bliss balls, or try a Chia Fresca with coconut water in the summer.

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Decadent Chia Seed Pudding with Coconut Milk.

8. Turmeric: This nutrient-dense root is most known for it’s anti-inflammatory properties and has been used medicinally for thousands of years. The root can be grated and used fresh, or you can get the powdered version, which is more bioavailable in the body. Phytonutrients in curcumin, the compound in turmeric, help to reduce swelling, ease digestion and IBS, boost immunity, inhibit cancer cell growth and, topically, can help improve the suppleness of skin. Add 1 Tblsp of turmeric to 1 cup of coconut milk, along with cloves, black pepper, maple syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg for a soothing, nutrient-dense drink.

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9. Coconut Oil: I keep coconut oil on hand for frying, to use in place of butter or oils in baking, and to use topically as a skin moisturizer. Coconut oil is a saturated fat, but from a plant, and it is considered one of the healthiest fats to eat.  This medium chain fatty acid, or MCFA, is easily digested by the body and used immediately for fuel, unlike some fats that are stored in the body. Coconut oil is naturally antimicrobial and antifungal, so it makes for a safe, chemical-free moisturizer on the skin and is useful for oral health.

Next Bite Granola Squares
Dates make a healthy alternative to artificial sweeteners.

10. Dates: I use dates as a natural sweetener in baking, bliss balls, homemade oat and nut milks, bitter smoothies and blended coffee. Medjool dates are the sweeter variety, and can be eaten fresh or dried. Aside from having a high natural sugar content, they do contain fibre, which helps to slow the glucose release, keeps your digestive tract healthy, and gives a natural energy boost.

11. Dried Herbs: Herbs and spices pack alot of nutrient punch and flavour that is useful to replace salt in foods. Rosemary, Thyme, Basil, Parsley, all dry and freeze well, so you can grow them and keep them for cooking.  If freezing, fill ice cube trays with water or olive oil, and place in finely chopped herbs. Simply pop out a cube for cooking.

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Salted Almond Butter Cups made with raw cacao powder and no added sugar.

12. Cacao Powder: Raw cacao powder comes from the edible pods of the Theobroma cacao plant and is considered a superfood, high in antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, and iron.  Cocoa, or raw chocolate is made from the powder, and it is a great way to boost up baking and treats without all the added sugar. Simply mix raw cacao powder with coconut oil, maple syrup or dates, and use it as a base for Almond Butter Cups, Avocado Pudding, or Chocolate Bark.

stuffed portobellos13. Quinoa: Considered a superfood, this seed that is eaten like a grain and has more nutritional value and protein than other plants. It makes a great alternative to rice, when boiled, and can also be popped like popcorn when dry. The seeds can also be soaked and sprouted for easier digestion. Once a week, make a big pot of cooked quinoa and add it to salads, stuff it into peppers or portobello mushrooms for dinners, use it in wraps and homemade granola, to sneak in extra protein throughout your days.

14. Nuts: Nuts, particularly walnuts and almonds, are high in plant-based protein and high in fibre. Ground nuts make a wonderful pie crust, dairy-free milk, topping on salads or yogurt. It is really simple to add nuts in to your meals as they can be eaten raw. Also try nut butters and nut oils on salads. Aim for the raw or dry roasted, unsalted, varieties. Nuts should be stored in your freezer as they can go rancid easily.

15. Ground Flax Seeds: Most beneficial when ground, flax seeds contain the most omega 3, which is anti-inflammatory, skin, brain and heart healthy. It is a source of phytoestrogen and lignans for women’s health,  and antioxidants for boosting the immune system. Flax naturally gels when mixed with water, so it is often used as an egg replacement in vegan baking. Add ground flax to granola, bliss balls, cereals, in baked goods, on yogurt and in smoothies.  Also try flax oil in salad dressing or on its own for it’s blood sugar-regulating properties.

Jen Casey is a Holistic Nutritionist with Next Bite Nutrition Coaching in Vancouver, BC. She focuses her practice on whole body wellness and building a solid foundation for the pillars of health. Learn more about Jen and her healthy recipes on Instagram.

5 Natural Ways to Wake Up Your Mind, Body + Spirit (Yes, sex is on the List)

What is the first thing that goes through your mind when the sun peeks in and wakes you in the morning? Is it a crazy dream that you are trying to analyze, or is it the hundred things on your list for the day? Whatever it might be, those first few moments before you get out of bed set the tone for your entire day.

Are you familiar with the expression, “Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed today?” This is precisely what I’m going on about. Taking the time for breakfast is number one, because if you don’t, you will not have the energy you need to sustain your day. But, before you head to the kitchen for that overnight chia pudding, these 5 steps could greatly improve your mind, body and spirit:

  1. Drink a shot.  Before coffee, mix up some ACV (apple cider vinegar) with 1/2 tsp grated ginger and a squeeze of lemon. I suggest a shot because this has a distinctive taste that you might want to just get down quickly.  The benefits: Warming, alkalizing, and stimulates your digestive enzymes for better metabolism throughout your day.
  2. Wake your skin up with coffee. Again, before drinking your coffee, hop into the shower with a cup of coffee grounds mixed with brown sugar and a bit of olive oil instead. Rub this invigorating concoction all over your face and body, rinse well. The benefits: Stimulates blood circulation, the aroma of coffee naturally wakes you up, skin exfoliation and toning.
  3. Uplift with Rosemary + cold water. On the floor of your shower, try adding 3 drops of Rosemary essential oil (Rosmarinus officinalis) and let the aromatherapy steam up into your face. You can even add a drop into your shampoo and massage it into your scalp. Just before you are ready to get out, turn off the hot water, turn up the cold and take it all in for 30 seconds. The benefits: Rosemary naturally improves memory and enhances alertness.  Cold water closes your pores, improves circulation and can effectively relieve depression.
  4. Set your intention for the day. This daily practice could change your life. It allows for clarity and focus.  Whether you stay in bed for a short guided meditation, or take a few minutes to journal your thoughts for day, your mind and spirit will greatly benefit. Ask yourself, How do I want to feel today?. You have control of your mindset and, by setting your intention, you have something to come back to if you feel like your day is going astray on you. The benefits: Empowerment, clarity, control and self-direction, accountability, and a useful tool to filter out how you do not want to feel.
  5. Have morning sex. You bet.  You could pair this up with exercise, but why would you? We can just skip ahead to…  The benefits: Sex improves connection with your partner, self confidence and self love, stimulates blood flow and circulation (an immune booster!), and releases oxytocin, the feel good hormone. Even taking time for a quickie in the morning will leave you calm and ready to take on your day.

So, tomorrow morning, before you start your day, consider what side of the bed you want to wake up on. You get to choose.

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5 Ways to Use Oats…Other Than Oatmeal

I am one of those picky eaters, where texture can make or break my meal. Oats are one ingredient that I always have stocked in my pantry, but I cannot eat them in the traditional fashion.

Oats are one plant-based protein source that pack alot of nutrient punch, plus they have demulcent properties, which soothes the digestive tract and soothes the skin topically. They are also a galactogogue, stimulating milk supply in nursing mothers. Oats are wonderfully filling, and have a naturally sweet taste. I honestly cannot live without them, so I have to stay creative in the kitchen, finding other ways to incorporate oats in to my own meal plans. (yes, even Nutritionists make their own meal plans)

One of my favorite ways to use oats is topically in skin care.  You probably have had an oatmeal bath as a kid, to soothe chicken pox or hives.  Being demulcent and soothing, simply adding 1 cup of oats to your bath with instantly relieve itchiness, dryness and redness. To prevent the oats from clogging your drain, steep the oats in boiling water for 10 minutes, like you are making tea. Then, strain the oats through a fine strainer and add the oat water to your warm bath.

Oat milk is my new dairy-free choice for smoothies and cereal. I have seen the effects of cow’s milk on my daughter’s skin, so we now avoid it completely. I add dates to naturally sweeten the milk, which is delicious in coffee, and I got creative by adding raw cacao to make a healthy chocolate milk.

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Bliss Balls, or Energy Bites, are a healthy snack that I suggest on all the Wellness Plans I create for clients.  They are loaded with healthy fats and plant-based protein to keep your brain nourished, blood sugar balanced, and energy up. I have several recipes that I swap between, some with matcha, some nut-free, some with espresso! But, they all have at least 1 cup of oats in them. The best part about these snacks is that the oats do not have to be cooked, so meal prep days go all that much more smoothly.

Having two children and packing lunches for several years, I wanted to come up with a homemade granola bar that is kid-approved, healthy, and reduces all that individual packaging. The Next Bite Granola Squares are the fave in our house. They make the ultimate mid-day snack, providing those healthy fats and protein again to keep energy up without sugar.

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My version of oatmeal, without the texture, is an Oat Smoothie. I do soak the oats for a bit to soften them, and this also makes them easier to digest. I soak 1/3 C oats, 1/3 C cashews, and 2 pitted dates in 1 1/2 C water for 15 minutes. I add the whole mix to a blender, plus 1/2 banana and a scoop of pumpkin protein powder, and blend until smooth. I like my smoothies thick, but you could add more water to thin, if desired.

oat smoothie

So, there are my oatmeal alternatives.  I still get in the nutrients from this pantry essential, but found creative ways to avoid the oatmeal texture. Do you have any other oat recipes to share? Follow us and tag us on social media.  We’d love to see them!