Roasted Vegetable Salad

Over the weekend the weather was incredible and made me want to get out the grill. After going to the grocery and buying a ton of awesome fresh veggies, it started to snow. So, a grilled vegetable salad turned into a roasted vegetable salad. Roasted vegetables are very versatile. I thought about doing a roasted vegetable quinoa dish, or adding some chicken to a vegetable salad as well.

roasted veggies

Tonight I decided to just go with a plain roasted vegetable salad, with balsamic dressing and goat cheese. After eating, I think adding a nut like walnuts would have been delicious too. Plus, nuts would add omega 3 fatty acids which help with inflammation. And since I roasted so many vegetables, I can certainly make quinoa tomorrow. Vegetables are like the holy grail of health food. There isn’t one that is bad for you, they’re all delicious, the more you eat the better and they’re chock full of phytochemicals and antioxidants.

Phytochemicals: These are chemicals found naturally in fruits and vegetables that protect plants against bacteria and viruses, and in turn, decrease our risk of developing diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other nasty diseases that we can help to prevent. Some examples of phytochemicals are lycopene (tomatoes), allicin (garlic and onion), bioflavinoids (citrus fruits), carotenoids (green leafy veggies) and lutein (green leafy veggies).

The more colors  you eat in your diet, the better. And I’m not talking about things like jelly beans, I’m talking about fruits and vegetables. Phytochemicals are also found in whole grains (lignans and phenolics).

Antioxidants: These are protective agents and inhibit oxidation in our body. Oxidation, or free radicals attack our healthy cells and are thought to contribute to diseases like cancer.

The same thing applies to antioxidants as it does to phytochemicals. The more colors  you eat, the healthier you are going to be. Examples of antioxidants are Vitamin C (citrus fruit) and beta carotene (green leafy veggies).  So, if you combine the vegetables that I roasted, and place them on top of spinach, kale, romaine lettuce you’ve just a meal chock full of good carbs, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and a bit of fat and protein with balsamic dressing and goat cheese.

roasted veggie salad

Roasted Vegetable Salad (4 servings)

  • 2 yellow squash, chopped
  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 bunch of asparagus chopped into 3 inch pieces
  • 1 red onion chopped into chunks
  • 2 red peppers, chopped
  • 2 cups of mushrooms, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Spices-pepper, salt, italian spices
  • Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, romaine
  • Feta Cheese/Goat cheese
  • Balsamic dressing
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil
  2. Chop vegetables and place into a bowl (except mushrooms)
  3. Sprinkle in olive oil, salt, pepper and added spices and stir. Dump onto the baking sheet.
  4. Roast for 15 to 20 min
  5. Add mushrooms and stir. Roast an additional 15-20 min until vegetables are tender, but not too mushy.
  6. Place a large heap of greens onto your plate. Place a large cup of veggies on top of the greens. Sprinkle on goat cheese and sprinkle with balsamic dressing.


  • 237kcal
  • 17g carbohydrate
  • 15g fat
  • 12g protein
  • 5g fiber


Why Protein is Vital to Athletes

Working at PowerBar I get the privilege of working alongside some pretty fantastic scientists. And they are always available to answer questions and give any info I might need. Usually when I am doing a nutrition clinic, or I am at an event, and someone asks a question, I love that I generally have the answer, or can get the answer from them. Sometimes I get a bit of skepticism that I am just giving a “corporate  answer,” or an answer that PowerBar wants me to say. I’m not, but doing this IOC program is definitely validation. Over the course of the month, we have spent hours on protein. Pretty much anything you could want to know about it. And I’m happy to report, everything we went over this month, was exactly the same thing PowerBar has been saying. One example is, we use three different types of protein, the IOC program recommends the three proteins, in the same amounts. Validation!

Protein seems to be the hot new topic today. And for good reason too. It’s vital for athletes to take in enough protein for muscle growth and muscle repair, along with other important body functions like building bone, cartilage and blood. I’m not going to focus on high protein diets, paleo diets, weight loss, etc. That’s not my goal of this article. The goal is to help to educate on why, how much and what kinds should we be taking in. First, let’s look at the definition of protein.

Protein: (from Wikipedia)

Proteins are large biological molecules, or macromolecules, consisting of one or more chains of amino acid residues.
Amino Acids:
The building blocks of protein.


Why should we be taking in protein? The two things that I am going to focus on muscle growth and repair. Post exercise is a very important time for protein consumption, and I’m going to say the most important time too.

  • Muscle protein synthesis is doubled after exercise and will continue to stay up for 48 hours post exercise.  So we help muscle protein synthesis by taking in protein, soon after exercise. I like to say 20-30min post exercise, but at least within an hour.
  • When exercising, you are actually stimulating muscle breakdown, if you don’t consume protein post exercise, you will stay in a negative balance. If you consume protein, you will reverse the muscle breakdown and stimulate synthesis.
  • Ingestion of carbohydrates post exercise will also stop muscle breakdown due to stimulating insulin. The release of insulin prohibits muscle breakdown. Carbohydrates will not promote synthesis though, only protein

How Much?

  • Post exercise, 20-25g of protein seems to be the ideal range for athletes who are in a normal caloric range. If you are actively trying to lose weight, and are in a negative caloric balance, 30g is thought to be better.
  • Also, taking the 25g of protein in at once, is thought to be better than taking it spread over time. One study we looked at examined athletes taking a bolus of 25g, or taking 10×2.5g over the course of the day. There is no difference in the amount of amino acids the muscles will see, however the bolus promoted greater muscle synthesis.
  • During the day in your daily diet, the RDA (recommended daily allowance) is currently at .8g/kg/day. This is too low for athletes, especially athletes doing resistance exercise. New research recommends getting at least 1.4-1.5g/kg/day with up to 2g/kg/day for strength based athletes.

What Types?

  • Dairy proteins are superior to soy or other plant-based proteins. Specifically whey protein is the most superior protein due to the fact that it has the highest amounts of the amino acid leucine in it. Luecine is the metabolic trigger for protein synthesis.
  • In a study done by Sarah B Wilkinson et al, 18g of protein from dairy, and 18g of protein from soy milk was examined. The soy milk was isonitrogenous and isoenergetic, meaning it was designed to mimic dairy. The study showed that those athletes consuming the milk protein had a greater muscle synthesis and repair to the soy drinking athletes.
  • So when they promote chocolate milk, there is an actual scientific basis for it. Enjoy, just enjoy the lower fat versions. And only post exercise due to the amounts of sugar added.
  • Also, plant-based proteins are good sources of protein, but have a higher caloric cost. This means, you have to eat a lot more, to get the same benefits.

The study looked at 25g of protein from 4 sources

  • 3oz of lean beef = 180 kcal
  • 1.5 cups of raw tofu = 236 kcal
  • 3 servings of black beans = 374 kcal
  • 7 tbsp peanut butter = 670 kcal

So, the lean meat provided the fewest calories for the same amounts of protein. I like to eat plant-based meals, however I will continue to eat my whey protein in my recovery drinks, protein bars, cottage cheese, yogurts and more, so I can get these benefits.

Other Things:

  • The three types of proteins that are recommended are Whey, Casein and Soy. Each digest at a different rate, so each provides benefits. Whey is the fastest digesting and has all the amino acids we need. Soy is slower digesting and does not have all the amino acids our bodies need (specifically leucine). Casein is the slowest digesting, however can be sped up if it is hydrolyzed. All three proteins are important to us.
  • While I’m talking about soy, you can forget the myth that you as a man will be given too much psuedo estrogen, you won’t.
  • Taking protein in before exercise (in a weight lifting study) showed that protein is available right after exercise. For endurance athletes, taking protein right before can upset your stomach, so I wouldn’t. I would take in protein asap after exercise.
  • There was one study we looked at that showed that during ultra exercise (over 6 hours), taking in some protein can help you post exercise because it starts protein synthesis, not because there was a performance benefit. This can be upsetting on an athletes stomach, so if you want to try this I would keep your protein to less than 10g per hour.
  • A pilot study (very small), looked at the benefit of taking amino acids in during exercise. The amounts of a.a. taken during the study are very high, and much higher than any commercially available sports nutrition product touts. So, if you’re trying to consume a.a. in your bars, gels, drinks, etc. You aren’t getting enough a.a. to make it beneficial.
  • Amino acids post exercise are crucial though. Leucine is obviously the biggest one we learned about, but I would include the BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) and glutamine. The BCAA’s are leucine, isoleucine and valine. BCAAs are essential, meaning your body can’t make them, you must eat them from other sources. The  BCAAs have been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis and help prevent breakdown.

So, what happens if you don’t drink milk?

If you are unlucky to be have a milk allergy, or follow a diet like paleo, you want to make sure you are getting in your BCAA’s, specifically leucine. I would speak with your doctor first, but I have seen upwards of 3-5g in protein powders. Foods that contain leucine (other than whey) include eggs, seaweed, soy and meat.

Wrap Up:

  • Whey is the best source of protein for muscle synthesis due to its high amounts of leucine
  • Consume 1.4-2g/kg/day of protein depending on your sport
  • Take a protein based food or drink immediately after exercise-20-30g depending on your caloric intake
  • Protein during exercise can help to start protein synthesis, but won’t improve your performance
  • Take a BCAA with glutamine if you can’t do dairy sources, or if you just want to make sure you are getting proper recovery

Portobello Mushroom Pizza

Brett had a craving for pizza, so I decided to make him a Boboli pizza while I made myself a portobello mushroom pizza. Yes, I would prefer to make homemade pizza crust, but sometimes, it’s Boboli. And they make a whole wheat crust, which makes me feel just a bit better.

Both portobello pizza and Boboli are very easy to make if you have to, or want to make separate meals for yourself and your family. We both had the same toppings-mushrooms, olives, turkey pepperoni and 2% mozzarella cheese. Realistically, the more veggies you add, the better for you. And if you are a vegetarian, just omit the meat. And if you are vegan, you can substitute vegan cheese. The toppings are virtually endless and delicious every time.

You can either cook the mushrooms plain or marinate them beforehand. Personally I love to marinate my portobello mushrooms in balsamic vinaigrette. I put the mushrooms in a freezer size sandwich bag, sprinkle the balsamic vinaigrette in, and let sit for an hour.


*Portobello mushrooms come in many sizes. I like big caps, it’s like your own personal pan pizza.*

Portobello Mushroom Pizza-Serves 1

  • Portobello mushroom 1 per person with the stem and gills removed
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of tomato based sauce depending on the size of the mushroom
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of 2% mozzarella cheese, or cheese of choice
  • Veggies depending on your liking
  • Extras like olives, garlic, spices, meat
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Remove the stem and gills from the mushroom and wipe clean
  3. Marinate the mushrooms if desired
  4. Cook mushrooms for 10 min in preheated oven-place on a foil lined baking sheet
  5. Add sauce, veggies, extra toppings and cheese
  6. Cook an additional 10-15 min until the veggies are cooked and the cheese is melted
  7. Enjoy!

Nutrition per Pizza:

  • 175kcal
  • 16g carbohydrate
  • 7g fat
  • 12g protein
  • 4g fiber

Nutrition Buzzwords, Part 2

We talked about Organic food and GMO’s, now I’ll move onto some other buzzwords that are just as controversial as Part 1, and will invoke both positive and negative responses from a lot of people. Out in the field, I hear about these a lot. So I want to give a bit of info on each. Today’s post is about vegan, gluten free and the Paleo Diet. And I want to say, I am coming for the standpoint of an athlete. For the average person, things might be a bit different. Athletes do have different nutritional needs at times.

Vegan– Being a vegan means you don’t eat, or use anything that was made with animal products. Some vegans are vegan for health reasons, others are ethical and want to promote animal rights/environmental issues and some are a combination of both. In fact, I have never met a vegan who wasn’t vegan due to both health and ethical reasons.

Being a vegan, or veganism really seemed to take off in the early 200o’s. I would say I hadn’t met one vegan until 2006/2007. I knew many vegetarians, but being vegan was more extreme. It has gotten a lot easier in the past 5 years to be vegan and this is shown through the popularity of vegan foods, websites, restaurants, etc. I won’t go as far as to say it’s easy to be vegan, however it’s certainly easier to be vegan now then it was years ago. Where you live can also make it more or less challenging. In larger cities, and in states like Oregon and California, it’s quite easy to find a large assortment of restaurants catering to vegans. In rural towns, or in cities devoted to say the cattle industry, it can be a bit tougher. So, do you want to be vegan?


  • Being vegan has been shown to reduce heart disease, diabetes, cancer, lower blood pressure, cholesterol and more
  • You’ll generally have a higher intake of fiber, lower calories, saturated fat, cholesterol, and take in a greater amounts of folic acid, Vit C and E and phytochemicals.
  • You’re doing something you feel is positive to help out the environment, animal rights and your health
  • Healthy weight-I don’t have the research on this, but I have never met an overweight vegan.


  • It can be a challenge to figure out which foods to eat to make sure you are getting all the correct nutrients
  • Vegan diets can be lower in omega 3’s, Vit D, Calcium, Zinc, B-12 and protein and need to eat fortified foods, or take supplements to get some of these key nutrients.
  • You could have a tougher time with restaurants, travel, eating out, etc.

There are some famous vegans today, and the one that a lot of people know, is Bill Clinton.  Today vegans make up an estimated 1-3% of the population. And thankfully, because of the increased demand of being vegan, there are more choices in foods, supplements, protein powders, restaurants, etc. There are even a large number of endurance athletes that are vegan, or have at least dabbled in it. If you aren’t careful, and just decide to be vegan without exploring books, website, blogs or a doctor, you could become deficient very quickly in needed nutrients. So please, before you just jump into veganism, do some research. A good resource is my friend and cardiologist Heather Shenkman. Heather is also a vegan triathlete who resides in LA. She has a very helpful blog called that includes good recipes and chronicles her life as a vegan triathlete.

Gluten Free

This term has quickly gained a stronghold in the endurance community, and while I do think there are some people with true gluten sensitivities, I also do think it’s a fad. I want to explain a few different terms, then give some pros and cons.

What is gluten: Gluten refers to the proteins found in wheat. Gluten both nourishes plant embryos during germination and later affects the elasticity of dough, which in turn affects the chewiness of baked wheat products (and makes them yummy).

Wheat Allergy:  This is an allergy to wheat where there is an overreaction of the immune system to the wheat protein. When the food protein is ingested, it can trigger an allergic reaction that may include a range of symptoms from mild symptoms (rashes, hives, itching, swelling, etc.) to severe symptoms (trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness, etc.). A food allergy can be potentially fatal. Approximately .4 % of kids, and less than .1% of adults have a wheat allergy.

Celiacs Disease: This is an actual disease where the small intestine is effected, and is caused by an abnormal immune reaction to gluten. Celiacs disease can be very hard to diagnose, and must be done by a doctor, most likely a gastroenterologist. If someone with Celiacs eats wheat, they can have intestinal damage, or even malnutrition. Approximately 1/133 people or .007% of the population has Celiacs Disease.

Gluten Sensitivity: This is a wide category and people can have varying levels of gluten sensitivity or intolerance. This is the area I come across most in the endurance world. There are definitely people that are gluten sensitive, but I do believe others are using it as a way to eat low carb, or to just jump on a fad. There is no known number of people with gluten sensitivity as with the varying levels of sensitivity and with little way to collect data, we don’t have a number. Scientists can approximate that 5-6% of the population has a gluten sensitivity. If you need further understanding please read the article cited below. One of my professors from Scotland shared this with us.

The lowdown on celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and celebrity wheat-bashing: In conversation with Dr Alessio Fasano

At the end of the article, Dr Alessio explains and rebuts the argument that our bodies can not handle wheat gluten. Critics are saying that since we have only been eating wheat for 6-7000 years, our bodies can’t properly digest the wheat, causing inflammation. This just isn’t the case. Go to pubmed to find further articles.

There are two other things that I want to mention here. There are two possibilities for athletes who think they might be gluten sensitive, to really be not. Here they are.

1. The first one is kind of hard to swallow. People use the excuse of, “when I exercise and I eat sports nutrition containing gluten, I get sick.” While yes, this might be the case, what also might be happening is that you are pushing your body too hard and trying to take in sports nutrition. I see this a lot. People need to take in nutrition during training, at the same intensity they plan to race at. That way they know they can handle it.

2. FODMAP-One believe starting to take hold is that people who think they might have a gluten sensitivity might actual have FODMAP. What is this?  The acronym FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These short-chain carbohydrates are incompletely absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and can be easily fermented by gut bacteria. This will lead to GI distress, gas, pain and diarrhea. What foods are considered FODMAP?

  • Lactose from dairy products, fructose from certain fruit, coconut products, and sweeteners, fructans from fibrous vegetables, and polyols from fruit and sugar alcohols

So, let’s look at the Pros:

  • Most people who are on gluten free diets have eliminated processed foods like breads, pasta, cookies, cake, this is good.
  • They instead focus on very healthy carbohydrates like fruits and veggies, this is also good.
  • If they have a GI disorder or sensitivity, this can eliminate it


  • Most people don’t need to go gluten free. So, they are cutting out all grains. Not all grains are bad. 100% whole wheat, barely, oats and many more provide many heart healthy and training benefits.
  • It’s expensive to eat gluten free
  • When you’re not eating things like fortified 100% whole wheat bread, you might be missing out on ingredients like folate and insoluble fiber.

So, my take is, the majority of people do not need to go gluten free. In fact, there are some foods with gluten that are wonderful for you. I’ve mentioned them above, but cutting out whole grains just isn’t necessary. If you think you have a sensitivity, please go talk to your doctor. There could be a myriad of different things occurring and you don’t want to assume it’s gluten. Please don’t just jump on the gluten is bad bandwagon. If you want to eat low carb, just eat low carb. Yes, highly processed white bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, etc are not good for you. But even those on occasion are ok. Birthday cake anyone?

And last but not least, The Paleo Diet.

I am one of those athletes that is also a science nerd (if you couldn’t tell). So, whenever something new comes onto the market, I like to read everything there is about it, to find out if I should include it in my, or my athletes training. So, in 2004 or 2005, I found a book called The Paleo Diet for Athletes. I thought to myself, what is this, and should I try it? At that time, there wasn’t a lot of data on it, and to be honest, I didn’t know one single athlete on it. So, I decided to use myself as a guinea pig. And that was hard. I learned very quickly I was not going to be a Paleo convert. There are many reasons, but mainly things like whole grains, dairy, and legumes. These are not allowed, and I think they provided many wonderful benefits (unless you have an allergy of course). Currently while injured I have cut back on my carb intake, so I am making more paleo type foods. Once I can resume 15 hours a week of training, I’ll be eating more grains again.

What is The Paleo Diet? The Paleo Diet was created by Dr. Lorain Cordain. This is a diet, or way of eating that eliminates any food that our paleolithic ancestors did not eat. If you are a paleo convert, there are a number of studies that show you are right in doing what you are doing. There are other studies (many more in fact) that show diets filled with whole grains, dairy and legumes are very healthy for you. These are the things that the paleo diet has eliminated. Ok, what can you eat on the paleo diet?

Allowable foods:

  • Lean meats
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Nuts/Seeds
  • Some oils and fats

What can’t you eat:

  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Any processed foods- but of course, no one should be eating these anyway.

So, if the argument is we should only eat what our ancestors ate, here is a biological anthropologist’s reasons why to not believe the Paleo Diet:

Barbara J. King, a biological anthropologist at the College of William and Mary, reported on NPR in October 2011: “Here’s where science most forcefully speaks back. First, ancient hunter-gatherer groups adapted to local environments that were regionally and seasonally variable — for instance, coastal or inland, game-saturated or grain-abundant (eating grains was not necessarily incompatible with hunter-gatherer living). Second, genes were not in control. People learned what worked in local context for survival and reproduction, and surely, just as in other primates, cultural traditions began to play a role in who ate what. In short, there was no single hunter-gatherer foraging strategy, and genes no more “designed” our eating behavior than they designed our language or our ways of relating between the genders.”

There are many other evolutionary biologists that concur with Dr. King above. People could debate for hours about the Paleo Diet. So, I’ll just give my pros and cons.


  • The diet cuts down on processed foods- this includes white bread, refined flours, artificial products, packaged meats, sugary cereals, cookies, cake, etc. These are bad in any diet
  • The diet emphasizes eating lots of vegetables, which is very important
  • They emphasize natural meat, no hormones, no steroids, etc


  • Any diet that eliminates whole food groups is not a diet to stick with. Whole grains, dairy and legumes provide fiber, proteins, photochemicals, vitamins, minerals and many more important nutrients
  • Founded on pseudo science, not fact based science
  • Can be harmful to eat large quantities of protein for prolonged periods
  • It is a very expensive diet to follow
  • It can be a hard diet plan to stick with, and a bit unrealistic for the majority of people

Any diet that emphasizes natural food, with a large emphasis on vegetables is good. Where I think they go wrong is believing that our bodies can not process foods like dairy, grains and legumes. This just isn’t the case. Please do more research if you think what I am writing isn’t true. Or, reach out to your doctor or a local sports dietician.

There will always be people that believe one thing, and others that believe another. I try to make informed decisions based on the current research available. Research is always changing, that’s one thing that makes science so interesting. If you want to try any of the diets or ways of eating that we talked about, please speak with your doctor or a sports dietician. The diet might work for you, or it might not. If you’re curious as I was with the Paleo Diet, give it a try. I might add I think one of the ways the Paleo Diet lost me was when they said I had to make my own things like ketchup. And they advocated for eating organ meats, especially for breakfast. Personally, I just couldn’t and didn’t want to do it. But if you want to try it, go for it. Hopefully you will have a bit more info about each.

Banana Blueberry Pancakes (Paleo, GF)

I’ve always loved snow, and especially snow storms. I might be in the minority, but snow to me means warm and cozy sweaters, fires in the fireplace, sledding, skiing, snowshoeing, and pancakes. Yesterday and today the entire East Coast was slammed with snow and rain. And then later today we are getting more snow as well. If it’s going to be cold, there might as well be snow so you can enjoy it. So far we have 9.5 inches of snow and expect more this afternoon and evening.

downloadFor Christmas Brett got me a griddle for the stove. Pancakes are one of my favorite foods and grilled cheese is one of his. So he was so excited to give it to me this Christmas. It’s pretty awesome and cleans up very easily.

Since my injury, I’ve been cutting back on high carb food like pancakes. But at times like this when it’s cold out and we’re getting snow, warm and fluffy pancakes are a must. Normally I would make whole wheat pancakes, but instead today I used almond flour and oat flour. Both are lower in carbs and higher in protein, and fat. If you want to follow paleo, I would use 2 cups of almond flour instead of oat flour. I do not follow a Paleo diet as I love dairy including skim milk, cottage cheese and yogurt. So in my pancake recipe, I used normal skim milk. Feel free to use almond milk, soy milk or water. I don’t know if any oil is really needed as the eggs supply the lipids for the batter, but I added just a bit. Feel free to leave it out if you would like.


Banana Blueberry Pancakes-(18-4inch pancakes)

  • 2-3 ripe bananas (the riper the sweeter)
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4c natural unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c oat flour
  • 1 c almond flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon or additional spices like nutmeg
  • 1/2 c milk (skim, almond, soy) or water, more if needed
  • 1/2 c of blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat skillet or pan to medium heat

  1. In a medium sized bowl, mash the bananas with a fork
  2. Add the oil and applesauce and stir
  3. Create a well in the wet ingredients, add eggs and whisk. Stir the eggs into the rest of the wet mixture and stir in the vanilla until all ingredients are blended
  4. In another bowl mix flours, baking soda and spices
  5. Combine wet and dry ingredients adding milk as necessary to make a desired consistency. I used the entire 1/2 cup
  6. Gently stir in blueberries
  7. Pour batter by 1/4 cup onto hot griddle. Once you see bubbles on the top of the pancakes check to see what the bottom of the pancakes look like. My pancakes took between 4-5min to cook, flipping after 1:30-2min.
  8. Enjoy the hot pancakes with fruit on top, or plain. Our favorite is with crushed pineapple

Nutrition per serving for 4 servings:

  • 413kcal
  • 39g  carbohydrate
  • 24g fat
  • 15g protein

Nutrition Buzzwords, Part 1

There are a lot of buzzwords in nutrition today and sometimes they are confusing. Because I might write a bit, I’m breaking it into two parts. There’s a lot of info out there and I want to give as much info as I can. I will use science based research, and then form my own opinions on them. Please do the same, and we might not agree. And that’s ok too, that’s one of the ways we all keep learning. Plus, these posts aren’t supposed to be political in nature. Please don’t get upset if you politically don’t agree with what I’m saying, I am approaching this scientifically and will not talk politics on here.

One of my biggest gripes today is that it seems like anyone can read a magazine article and they think they are an expert on what everyone should be and shouldn’t be eating. In the professional nutrition world, before something can be accepted, it has to be studied rigorously and have gone through many research studies and peer reviewed in journals. Then, the research can be announced and people can read the research. This is a lengthy process. Somethings that I hear on a day to day basis are not proven in research, they are more opinion based, or based in fear. Fear mongering is something that I hate. People are perpetuating a fear, that is unfounded. Then, the more people say something, the more people think it must be true. So I’m going to try to take the fear out of these nutrition buzzwords below.

Organic– Organic foods are produced with little synthetic inputs such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Organic farmers can use organic pesticides, just not synthetic. The organic farming industry is a regulated industry where the US, and other countries require a special certification in order to market foods as organic. There are organic standards set by our national government (USDA) and other organizations. The organic movement started back in the 40’s and really started to take off in the 1960’s with the Green Revolution. Today, about 70% of Americans buy organic food occasionally and 25%  buy organic each week.

You may have heard of the dirty dozen. These are the 12 fruits/veggies that showed the highest pesticide load. If you an afford organic, here are the 12 to buy

  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Nectarines
  • Cucumbers
  • Potatoes
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Hot Peppers


  1. Nutrition- Organic foods may have a higher nutritional value due to the fact that in the absence of pesticides/fertilizers, plants  boost their production of phytochemicals (antioxidants)
  2. Less Antibiotics- many animals are given antibiotics to fight infections, even before they are sick. The antibiotics given to animals, are then transferred to our plates, and they are less effective in fighting infections when we get them


  1. The cost- food prices will be as much as 50% higher with organic foods

Conclusion: If you can afford to pay the prices of organic food and dairy products, then go for it. If cost is a determining factor on what you can and can’t buy, you are better to buy conventional food, then to go without. For example, if you can’t afford to buy organic strawberries, are you better off skipping them or eating them for the nutritional value they provide? In my opinion, conventional is better than none at all. Interestingly, there were some studies done that showed that organic foods are not safer and healthier than conventional foods. Here are some studies to look at.

-Magkos F et al (2006)-Organic Food: buying more safety or just piece of mind-Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr

-Williams, Christine M (2002)-Nutritional quality of organic food:shades of grey or shades of green-Proceedings of the Nurtition Society

-Dangour AD et al (2009)-Nutritional Quality of organic foods: a systematic review-The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

GMOs-This is a very hot debate right now in the US and around the world. GMO’s are genetically modified organisms, or in other words they are organisms that include one or more genes from another organism such as a bacteria, that give beneficial characteristics to the original organism. There are two sides to this debate, but I feel and fear the majority of people haven’t looked closely enough into the research to clearly understand the issues. I’m not going to say that I am a bio-geneticist or that I have all of the answers, but my goal is to help people to not get caught up in the fear mongering that is occurring today. I’ve read a lot of the negative articles on GM crops, and there is little scientific research given, it’s mostly opinion based.

Pros– There are many advantages that scientists believe GMO’s give us. These include:

  1. Pest resistance-helps eliminate the application of pesticides and reduces the cost of bringing a crop to market
  2. Herbicide tolerance- reduces the amount of herbicides needed, preventing environmental damage,
  3. Disease resistance-plants are susceptible to disease, and the scientists are working towards creating plants that are resistant to the different diseases
  4. Drought tolerance- they are creating plants that can withstand long periods of drought, so that more plants can grow in less than ideal conditions
  5. Adding nutrition-scientists are adding things to rice like Vit.A to help cure some of the world’s deficiencies.


  1. Reduced effectiveness of pesticides- people are worried that insects will become resistant to GM crops
  2. Gene transfer-the transfer of genes from GM crops into non modified crops
  3. Allergen risks- that introducing a gene into a plant will cause new allergens
  4. Antibiotic resistance-antibiotic resistance genes may transfer into other organisms and contribute to the growing concern of antibiotic resistant organism
  5. Unknown health effects- there has been 20 years of data gathered that has shown there are no long term effects on our health. In the grand scheme of things, 20 years isn’t very long. More research is needed.

Conclusion: Multiple health organizations including WHO, AMA, American Association for the Advancement of Science, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, National Academies of Science all believe that GM crops currently pose little to no health risks to humans. The European Food Safety Authority conducted a study of “A Decade of EU-Funded GMO research” and the data can be seen at Another study can be seen at There have been many research studies conducted that show that GMO’s don’t post any threat to humans. And a majority of the research that had negative conclusions seem to be done in ethics journals, or I’ve seen articles in newsletters/publications done by small farmers. You can’t trust info given by companies on either side of the debate like Monsanto, or companies hurt by Monsanto, you need to read evidence from studies that are non partisan. If you’re curious, go to pubmed and do your own research. One journal to look at is the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry-Unintended Compositional Changes in GM Crops- 20 years research. Another easy to read site is the University of California-San Diego:20 Questions about GMO Food.

My personal belief is that a lot of the US fear of GMOs comes from the Monsanto’s large business practices. Monsanto has definitely done some questionable practices when it comes to ethics regarding suing small farmers. When Monsanto sells it’s GM seeds to farmers they consider the seeds to be intellectual property and require farmers to buy them each year. Some farmers were reusing the seeds instead of buying more, so Monsanto sued. Monsanto is doing what all big businesses do, trying to make more money. Someone’s dislike of a large corporation shouldn’t extend to a fear of all GM crops.

When it comes to labeling GM food, I do believe that consumers do have a right to know what they are putting in their bodies. On the other hand making companies label all foods created with GM crops would be very costly and would lead consumers to believe that GMs are bad for us (when they haven’t been proven to be). One number I heard was the average person’s grocery bill would rise $400/year if companies were required to label. So, then you might think, just stop creating GM foods and there won’t be a problem. If that happens, all of the pros listed above, plus higher costs of producing foods organically, will occur.

This is my opinion only, but I believe we have to keep doing research and see the long term effects of consuming GM foods. The scientific research right now shows that GM crops are not harmful. We have to believe that organizations and associations that are not being paid by companies like Monsanto, are putting forth accurate research. Some might call me naive, but I believe the WHO and the American Medical Association are trying to put human lives ahead of big business.

If the fear of consuming GM foods has you worried, then your only option is to grow your own food or eat 100% organic. This is time consuming and costly. But, if you are afraid there might be something we see that is negative in the research down the road, then go this route. But let me say again, in the research that I’ve looked at, there are no scientific associations that think GMOs are harmful to our health. I feel like there is a fear mongering around GMO’s and this is what makes me upset. When so many people aren’t even getting a good amount of veggies, fruits and whole grains, etc. into their diets, to add more on top makes it harder for people to make good choices.

And lastly I want to add, if I gave contradictory opinions/evidence, it’s because there is contradictory opinions and evidence out there. Science is always evolving and growing. We’ll keep learning and experimenting and things will change. My hope was to shed some light on some hot topics today, so you had a better understanding of what was being said. Next time we’ll look at the Paleo Diet, gluten free and vegan diets.

Italian Sausage and Lentil Soup

I love sales, and sales at the grocery store on things like beans and lentils. But occasionally, the pantry builds up and it’s time to look around and see what you can make. So tonight I decided to do something with my large stash of lentils. Plus, it’s cold and wet, we had an ice storm today. Sounds like the perfect time for a warm lentil soup. Lentils are definitely a power food, they have so many benefits.

Lentil Benefits:

  • High in Fiber-reduces your risk of heart disease, lowers cholesterol, keeps you feeling full, stabilizes your blood sugar and helps your digestive system to keep you regular-very important for athletes
  • Good Protein-legumes contain a high percentage of protein. 26% of lentil’s calories are from protein, perfect for vegetarians or athletes looking to fuel up
  • High in Iron-very important for athletes, particularly women. Iron helps transport oxygen throughout the body
  • Weight Loss benefits– because of the high fiber, they will keep you feeling full reducing your appetite, without a high number of calories
  • They’re cheap-no explanation needed

I am not a vegetarian, but I do tend to eat that way. My husband is also not a vegetarian and will occasionally revolt if we haven’t had meat in a little while. So tonight, instead of just making just lentil soup, I added some low fat/no hormone added chicken sausage as well. You can make this soup completely vegetarian by just leaving out the sausage and using vegetable broth. It’s just as good. The sausage adds a bit more spice, so if you leave it out, you might need to up your spices amount.

Lentil soup

Italian Sausage Lentil Soup (6 servings)

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil, or one swirl around the pan
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cups of chopped carrots
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 large potatoes, chopped
  • 1 package of low fat/natural italian turkey or chicken sausage
  • 1x 14oz can diced italian tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tsp italian seasoning
  • 1 pound of lentils, rinsed and sorted
  • 4 cups of low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1/2 9oz package of fresh spinach
  • ground pepper, additional seasonings as desired
  1. Heat a large pot over medium heat and add one swirl of olive oil. Add onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes
  2. Add carrots, celery and potatoes to the pot and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Add chopped sausage if using.
  3. Add lentils, stir to coat.
  4. Add diced tomatoes and seasoning to the pot and stir.
  5. Add 8 cups of liquid and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the lentils are tender, stirring occasionally about 25min. You can add more broth if the soup is getting to thick.
  6. Stir in spinach and cook an additional 5 min. Add any additional spices and check to make sure the lentils and vegetables are tender. Cook for additional time if they aren’t.


  • 515kcal
  • 77g carbohydrate
  • 10g fat
  • 33g protein
  • 25g fiber