Making a Stand

I just got home from an all day triathlon symposium in Richmond, VA. It was a long day, 8am-5pm, but I love going to symposiums. They are an awesome way to connect with like-minded coaches, athletes and learn the newest and greatest in triathlon training, injury prevention, nutrition, etc. That being said, today there were some highlights (Andy Potts is a phenomenal speaker) and some low points. The low points came in the form of the nutrition speaker, and one of the orthopedic surgeons presenting.

I really don’t want to turn this into a negative rant about a specific person or persons, so I just want to make a few points, and move on. However, due to some of the things I heard today, and something I heard on the radio yesterday, I feel compelled to 1. Say something about it, and 2. Give my own recommendations. All that I’m speaking of, is on nutrition. Let me start off my saying, everyone has their own opinions. The speaker(s) might not agree with me, and you may not agree with me. If that’s the case, no worries, we are all entitled to our own opinions. In addition, I do not have a MS after my name (yet), and I don’t have an MD either. The speakers had either an MS or MD behind their names, so from a higher level of education standpoint, they have higher degrees.

Even though I don’t have my MS in Exercise Physiology/Sports Nutrition yet, I have been a student of sports nutrition for years (my undergrad degree is these fields), in addition to being 1 year through the program. I have some of the best professors in the world, including Louise Burke, the head of the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport). She is at the top of her game nutritionally, in addition to my other outstanding professors. When I say that they want the best for athletes, and they are doing cutting edge research, they truly are.

So as I sat through some of the speakers today, I became more discouraged by the lack of information and the misinformation out there. Here are some tidbits from what I heard:

1. “It’s ok to eat a Macintosh apple, but it’s not ok to eat a Granny Smith apple.” The one apple is slightly sweeter then the other. Really???

2. “You should avoid grapes, carrots and bananas, but berries are ok.”Grapes, carrots and bananas have a higher glycemic index. If you are eating grapes, carrots, bananas and berries, that’s awesome! And if you are more worried about the glycemic index, eat them with some protein or fat. If you’re an athlete, higher glycemic index foods are fine for you.

3. “As an endurance athlete, eating 50-100g of carbs (total) per day is a good goal.” This is far from the truth unless you want to be in ketosis, which I don’t recommend unless your doctor prescribes it, or you are an ultra runner (50miles+). Even then I’m not a fan.

4. “If a sports nutritionist or dietician tells you that you should go by a certain calorie count, or macronutrient count, run as fast and as far from them as you can.” This is hogwash. Any dietician or nutritionist worth their salt would need to know where you are starting from calorically to be able to figure out where you need to change things up. If you’re trying to put on weight, how would you know where you are starting at? If you need to lose weight, how would you know where you are? If all I said was, decrease the processed foods and carbs, and increase healthy fat, you could eat 3x avocados, 1 cup of nuts, you might gain a ton of weight. I don’t believe in counting calories, but I do believe that everyone needs to understand where they are starting from, learn what the correct portion size is, then either adjust up or down to meet their goal. Once they are there, then it’s ok to not go by calories. In fact I don’t believe in counting calories for the rest of your life. But the first time I meet you, you better be sure I need to know what you’re eating, the quantities, and what goals you should be shooting for.

5.”Gluten and inflammation are the cause of your knee problems.” When someone who is a orthopedist gives a 20min talk on  inflammation from foods causing knee problems, and being the root of all evil, I have a problem with it. Especially when they tell a group of 200 athletes and coaches, that simple sugars are terrible. When in fact, endurance athletes, specifically IM triathletes, can benefit greatly from simple sugars (while training and competing). If he was speaking to a group of non athletes who sat on the couch, then yes, simple sugars are not your friend. When you’re an athlete, simple sugars are the simplest thing for your body to use for energy. Plus, being an orthopedist does not necessarily qualify you to give athletes sports nutrition info.

Now that I’ve gotten that out, I’ve realized that part of the problem with just teaching about healthy eating, and not having buzzwords and catch phrases, is that it’s not fun and “sexy.” I read another dietician’s blog that said being a dietician these days isn’t sexy. They don’t promote gluten-free, paleo, Atkins or any other special diet. Dieticians promote what is best for the individual, not the latest fad. Dieticians promote research backed nutrition ideas. Yes, there might be room for improvement in the governments nutrition recommendations, but on a whole, everything a dietician is taught, and says is backed by years and years of proven data. And everything that I teach, is also backed by years of sports nutrition data.

Nutrition research is ever-changing, and dieticians and sports nutritionists need to stay abreast on the latest research. But what I heard today was disappointing and honestly made me a bit angry. So, my next blog will be my recommendations for a healthy diet and lifestyle. I’ll call it the Fueled and Focused Nutrition Plan. Not sexy, and nothing new and remarkable. But straightforward nutrition data that’s backed by science. And in the coming years, as things evolve and change with research, I am sure I’ll change what I’m saying. Even if no one actually reads or follows this nutrition plan, at least I’m put it out there, as a research backed nutrition plan, that won’t ask you to diet, starve, deprive or totally eliminate whole food groups. Stay tuned…

 

Breaking the Emotional Connection with Food

Too many of us derive our emotions and self-worth from food. I want to tell you to STOP IT! It’s time to start thinking of food as fuel, something that is going to make you a healthier, stronger and faster athlete. This is also one of the things David, the owner of LiveNowFitness and I spoke about yesterday. I am honored and excited to be the sports nutritionist working with LNF and with the athletes that train there. David is a no-nonsense, hard-working and passionate trainer who wants his athletes to succeed. On Feb 1 there is a new fitness program beginning, and yesterday we were taping a few fitness and nutrition clips for the team’s FaceBook page. *It’s not too late to join the program, click the LNF link to contact David.*

Of course what always happens to me when I am in front of a video camera is that I don’t express everything that I wanted to say. I think I have what I’m going to say down, the camera turns out and poof, it’s gone. So while driving home I thought of everything else I wanted to say.

Here’s what I would have said given the opportunity to do it again:

Coming from a background of having an eating disorder, I am the first one to stand up and say, I tied emotions to food. I’m guilty as charged. So if this comes off as sounding like me on a high horse, or saying “oh just don’t do it,” I don’t want you thinking I’m saying it’s easy. I know it’s challenging. But, in order to free yourself from the emotional bondage food has on you, you must.

Do any of these sound familiar:

  • You had a really bad fight with your husband, bring on the wine, cheese and crackers.
  • Stressful day at work, reach into the freezer and pull out the ice cream. No need for a bowl, just eat out of the carton.
  • Having a day where nothing is going right, reach for the cookies you had bought for your kids.

And when you do grab for a “treat” to make yourself feel better, do you? Or are you ridden with guilt or shame? You might feel better at first, and guilty later. As you can imagine, I don’t like the act of using food to fill an emotion, and I don’t like that there is an emotion tied to that food. Guilt or shame will only make things worse.

Or how about these:

  • “I just ate a cookie, now I have to go and workout for an extra hour to burn off the calories. Why did I do that.”
  • “I’ll just have one piece of candy from the candy bowl. Maybe another, these are good. Oh no, what have I done, I’ve gone and blown my total calories for the day on candy.”  I’m a bad person.
  • “Why couldn’t I resist eating that piece of cake. Why wasn’t my will power stronger, I feel so ashamed. I hope no one saw me.”

There’s two different types of emotional eating going on here:

  1. Using food to fill an emotion-anger, stress, frustration, anxiety
  2. Feeling guilt, shame, anger after eating something

From now on, I want you to look at these two things differently. It’s going to be hard, but try. I promise the less you use food to fill a void, and the more control you have over your emotions, the stronger you will become, and the better food choices you’ll make.

FOOD IS FUEL…When you look at something in front of you, ask yourself-will this make me a healthier and stronger person, or not? If not, think about, why are you choosing this choice, when there are so many others to choose from.

FOOD DOES NOT MAKE YOU A GOOD OR BAD PERSON…No matter what you eat, food does not, and should not dictate how you feel about yourself as a person. You are a good person, whether you had the piece of birthday cake or not. You are not a bad person if you eat something that you deem unhealthy. You also shouldn’t feel better about yourself if you were able to deprive yourself of something. For example, you’re at a wedding. You’d like a piece of cake, but because you know that you’ll feel so bad about it, and need to go run it off, you avoid it. You than praise yourself for being so good. This can lead to an eating disorder. Each time you tell yourself how “good” you were for avoiding something, the closer it becomes to depriving yourself. Then from depriving comes starving. Two words I do not use in my nutrition counseling:deprivation and starvation.

When you’re faced with an unhealthy choice, if you’d like to eat it, go for it. But know that it’s your choice. When you’ve eaten it, say to yourself “this was my choice, it doesn’t make me a good or bad person.” And by all means, have a delicious piece of cake. Of course I’m not saying to eat cake every day, but life is too short to not enjoy the finer things. And to me, cake happens to be one of them.

When we use food as a weapon against ourselves, it sets ourselves up for an unhealthy mindset, and potentially an eating disorder. Remember, food is the fuel that makes our body’s run, jump, swim, ski, etc. faster and longer. Embrace food for helping make your body stronger and faster. Do not use food as a weapon against yourself. You are not good or bad whether or not you make a certain choice.

Next time you reach for something because you’re feeling stressed, angry, scared, etc. stop and think about it. How are you feeling? Will this food make me feel better? If you say, this is my choice to eat this, I’m going to do it. Great. Just know that it’s your choice, and you aren’t a good or bad person if you did or didn’t eat it.

 

Why You Should Be Consuming Probiotics and a Probiotic Smoothie (GF)

A lot of people have heard that after you’ve been on a course of antibiotics, you should eat more friendly bacteria. Often this comes in the form of yogurt. We all know the Activia commercials with Jaime Lee Curtis. I haven’t seen one in a while, but I bet you remember them. She was always running around a gym or restaurant trying to get others to eat their bacteria filled yogurt.

When we take an antibiotic, the antibiotic is non-discriminant in it’s killing of bacteria. Our body is teeming with good bacteria (in the trillions), and this is a good thing. So, when you take the antibiotic to kill the bad bacteria, you’re also killing off the healthy bacteria. Our body uses the healthy bacteria in our digestive health, and to inhibit the growth of yeast and unfriendly bacteria. Also, some research has shown that the promotion of healthy bacteria can help to prevent colitis and crohns disease and alleviate diarrhea, IBS-irritable bowel syndrome and IBD-inflammatory bowel disease. There are many different strains of probiotics, but the two that are most often spoken about are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium.

There’s not just one good reason to take a probiotic, there are many. The one I want to focus on is immune protection. A 2010 study in the European Journal of Nutrition studied 272 adults taking a probiotic with 10^9 cfu (colony forming units) or a placebo. After 12 weeks, the adults taking the probiotic had a 55% incidence of developing a cold vs 67% of the placebo. In addition, once getting a cold, those taking the probiotics had symptoms dissipate after 6.2 vs 8.6 days. So almost 3 days less of symptoms. I’ll take that!

Supplement or Real Food:

There are certainly a lot of probiotic supplements on the market today. A March, 2014 University of Berkeley’s wellness newsletter stated:Probiotics are a big and rapidly growing business, with annual global sales of products expected to rise to $42 billion by 2016. That’s a pretty huge number.

Because a probiotic is not a drug, it is considered a “food” and not regulated by the FDA. With all supplements, it’s important to be skeptical that what they have on their label is truly what they have in their bottle. At this point I’d be more apt to tell you to consume your probiotics from food sources. The best food sources of probiotics are yogurt and other fermented foods. Just make sure that if the food is labeled, like yogurt or kefir, you’re getting a food that says it has multiple strains of bacteria and billions of probiotics.

Food Sources:

  1. Yogurt
  2. Kefir
  3. Sauerkraut
  4. Kombucha
  5. Miso
  6. Pickles
  7. Kimchi
  8. Tempeh

Of these foods, I prefer yogurt and kefir. Although pickles and sauerkraut are very close to the top as well. I’m not as big of a fan of the others, but that is just my own personal opinion and my taste buds. Yogurt is delicious and as always, you want to look for plain yogurt with no added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Most yogurt is pasteurized, and this process kills the healthy bacteria. Some yogurt, like Activia add the probiotics back in. Kefir is a fermented milk product, that is similar to yogurt, but thinner. Kefir is slightly sour due to the fermentation, but it is delicious added to a smoothie, cereal or just as a drink. In addition to the probiotics, kefir is full of protein, calcium, magnesium, and B-vitamins. For those that are lactose intolerant, it actually aids in lactose digestion and not does not cause any negative symptoms like other dairy products. In fact, I’ve heard anecdotal evidence of lactose intolerant people consuming kefir, which actually boosted their ability to handle lactose, and they now enjoy some dairy products. Here’s the kefir that I drink:

Fueled and Focused Food Pictures 001

Since I’m a big fan of increasing your immunity, eating nutritious foods, and just boosting your overall health, I’m a fan of drinking kefir. Here’s a smoothie I made that will boost your immunity, plus help your overall health. This smoothie also contains vegetables, healthy fat, and oats. It’s an all around great smoothie, and I would recommend this as a recovery smoothie for athletes post workout. You’ve got your protein, carbs, healthy fat, in addition to being chock full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and immunity boosting ingredients. Enjoy!

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Kale Cherry Recovery Smoothie (Serves 1)

1 cup plain nonfat kefir
1/2 banana
3/4 cup dark cherries (I used frozen, add ice if you’re using fresh)
1 cup kale
1 tbsp peanut butter
1/4 cup oats

  • In a blender pour kefir, and add additional ingredients. Blend till smooth
  • Add additional ice if necessary

Nutrition:

  • Kcal: 450
  • Carb: 70g
  • Protein: 20g
  • Fat: 12g
  • Fiber: 10g

*If you’re not an athlete and not looking for this to be a recovery drink, you an omit the oats. This will then make the smoothie nutrition:

  • Kcal: 380
  • Carb: 58g
  • Protein: 18g
  • Fat:11g
  • Fiber: 8g

So, still a healthy and delicious smoothie. The oats add a fantastic creaminess, in addition to healthy carbs, fiber, more immune boost, and vitamins.

 

Source:

Berggren A, Lazou Ahrén I, Larsson N, Önning G; Lazou Ahrén; Larsson; Önning (Aug 2010). “Randomised, double-blind and placebo-controlled study using new probiotic lactobacilli for strengthening the body immune defence against viral infections”. Eur J Nutr. 50 (3): 203–10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banana Oat and Chocolate Chunk Breakfast Cookies, GF

So many people have a hard time fitting in breakfast. Between an early morning workout, getting the kids up and out the door, and getting to work on time, things can be a bit rushed. I love breakfasts you can take on the go, so the easier the better. As doctors and dieticians have been telling you for years, breakfast is an important meal. Arguably the  most important meal of the day.

Why?

  • Overnight, your body is still using glycogen for fuel. When you wake up, your glycogen stores are running low and need to be refueled for the day ahead.
  • Studies have shown that those that skip breakfast have a harder time losing weight.
  • When you start your day off with a meal of complex carbs (like the oats below), healthy fat (nut butter) and protein (eggs) you rev up your metabolism for the day.
  • If you start off with a healthy breakfast, you’re also starting your day off on the right note. If you skip breakfast, or opt for a fast food breakfast, you are potentially setting yourself up for a day of eating “not the best” choices.

These breakfast cookies contain all the right ingredients to make up a winning combo for breakfast. As listed above, each cookie contains complex carbs, healthy fat, protein, and fiber. In addition, these have no added sugar (minus the miniscule amount from the dark chocolate) and flax seed. Flax seed is chock full of omega 3 fatty acids and fiber. Because I didn’t add any additional protein to these, I would recommend consuming additional protein. I’d look for around 8-13 more grams of protein. This could come from a glass of skim milk, non fat plain Greek yogurt, hard boiled (for easy “to go” access) or scrambled eggs, etc.

I used 88% dark chocolate in these. The darker the chocolate, the healthier it is for you. Plus, having a little dark chocolate gets your day started and off on a more positive note! If you’re not a fan of chocolate, go ahead and use blueberries. They would be delicious as well.

The cookies will stay fresh in the fridge for a few days, but can be frozen and re-heated for breakfast. I actually think they taste better warmed up, so go ahead and pop them in the microwave for 20-30sec. It might take a bit longer if frozen. I made these in a larger size, but they can also be cut in half, so you make cookies that are 125 calories each. If you are looking for a pre-workout meal, one of the smaller cookies would fit that bill. You’d be getting in a good amount of carbs, and just a bit of fat and protein, with not enough fiber to cause any GI distress.

 

Fueled and Focused Food Pictures 138

Banana Oat and Chocolate Chunk Breakfast Cookies (8 large cookies)

  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup nut butter (I used peanut butter this time)
  • 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup almond or skim milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup ground oat flour
  • 1.5 cup oats
  • 1/3 cup stevia
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1x 3oz 88% dark chocolate bar chopped, or 1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a baking sheet.
  2. Mash the ripe bananas in a medium sized bowl.
  3. To that bowl, stir in the next 5 ingredients (through the vanilla). Mix well as it might be hard to mix the nut butter. If you think it will be challenging, you can microwave the nut butter for :30 until it softens up. Don’t add the egg when it’s piping hot, wait till it’s just warm.
  4. In another medium bowl add the oat flour and oats. Stir
  5. Stir in the remaining ingredients, minus the dark chocolate.
  6. Add the banana mixture gently to the flour mixture and stir until combined.
  7. Gently fold in the chopped dark chocolate.
  8. Gently form the mixture into 8 even size cookies. Bake for approximately 12min, or until cookies are soft, but slightly darkened on the bottom. Ovens can vary, so check your cookies so they don’t burn.

Nutrition Per Cookie:

  • 250 kcal
  • 36g of carb
  • 11g fat
  • 7g protein
  • 5g fiber

Fear Based Marketing

While working over the weekend, I had a pretty terrible experience with someone. I hesitate to call them a customer or even athlete, as I don’t know if they were one, or if they walked in just to try to start an argument with me. I think it was the later. On Saturday I was at the Reston Performance Bike sampling some of our fruit blends, chews, wafers and protein bars-just typical sports nutrition. Sample events are great because it gives athletes a way to taste our products before buying them. It’s a win for the shop (bringing in customers), a win for the athlete (trying new things before buying) and a win for me/PowerBar (people trying our products). Well, part way into the day, a man walks in, walks right up to me, and starts to bait me.

I say bait because each of the questions he asked were designed to trick me, and each time I answered the question correctly, he got more mad. For example, he walks up to me and asks “which of these should I take to not increase my insulin?” Before answering him, I ask him if he’s a diabetic, trying to understand where he is coming from. He says no, and then I proceed to answer him that they all will. This then led into him spending the next 15 minutes telling me why companies like PowerBar, and the rest of corporate food companies in America are killing Americans. He believes that everyone should live in ketosis and not consume any carbs. Ketosis is defined as: accumulation of excessive amounts of ketone bodies in body tissues and fluids, occurring when fatty acids are incompletely metabolized. Or, in other words, the person isn’t using carbs as a fuel source, but must use fat, that has been converted to glycogen to then be used as a fuel source. 

I did my best to explain to him the latest research on athletes, and how athletic performance isn’t benefited on ketosis. Additionally, our products were for athletes, not the general population, and I too believe that the general population should not be consuming them. After a while I realized it was futile to try to speak with him. I asked him to leave, then the manager asked him to leave, and still he stood in the middle of the store screaming things like “You’re all so dumb, You’re all blanking Lemmings, etc.” Needless to say, I was pretty upset at the fact that he made such a scene in the bike shop.

It also got me thinking about how upset I get when people like him, use fear to intimidate. If someone with little understanding of nutrition heard him screaming, they might have started thinking that they should also be in ketosis, and that carbs are bad. I have no problem with ketosis, but I do not recommend it for athletes, and carbs are certainly not bad. Last year I spoke a few times about fear mongering, and how detrimental I thought it was for the society. Let me back up and say, I am all for free speech, I am all for people living their lives how they want, and I am all for people becoming more educated in nutrition. I love that people want to be more educated, and I love for people to ask questions, try new things, etc.

That being said, I am not in favor of fear mongering or using fear as a marketing tool. Yes, I get how it is a useful tool for an insurance company (get this or you’ll lose everything in a house fire, you’ll go bankrupt from a hospital bill, etc), but not useful in other ways. If we look around society, you’ll hear different things coming from each corner of the nutrition world, and that can be overwhelming. Additionally, there is good (and bad) research coming from both sides of the aisle. I believe we need to follow research, as it is the best impartial data we have. Anecdotal evidence can be helpful, but true research (not just correlational or observational) that has been collected on thousands of people, over multiple years, is the best we have.

Here’s an example of fear based marketing, or using fear to confuse:

  • Vegans or plant-based groups say soy milk is beneficial and prevents cancer (because you’ve eliminated cows milk) vs other groups like Paleo saying it causes disturbances in hormone levels and it can be GMO vs the dairy promoters saying it doesn’t contain as much calcium as cows milk, and cows milk prevents cancer/promotes weight loss.

So, just that one example shows 3 different opinions, all using fear, cancer and hormone imbalances as their basis. I can say with certainty that all 3 opinions have research done on them, and all show some data in their favor. Cows milk has been shown to prevent some cancer (but may lead to others), it has been shown to promote weight loss, and it contains more usable calcium than soy. Soy is a phytoestrogen and while it won’t cause a man to grow breasts, in too large of a quantity, it can cause a hormone disturbance.

Here’s a few more:

  • Artificial sweeteners- they cause cancer, negative neurological effects, vs, they allow diabetics and others to reduce their overall sugar intake, thus reducing incidence of diabetes, heart disease, etc.
  • Whole grains/wheat- they cause inflammation and we don’t need them in our diet vs other groups touting their benefits-reducing cholesterol, reducing heart disease, a good energy source
  • Organic-If you don’t eat organic foods you’re killing your body by ingesting pesticides and they are more healthful, vs organic foods also contain pesticides and there is no evidence they are more healthful.
  • Saturated fat-saturated fat isn’t what causes heart disease, so go ahead and eat that bacon, vs saturated fat causes heart disease
  • Doctors- Doctors that studied traditional medicine don’t understand the natural human body or nutrition vs Doctors that study “integrative” medicine are more knowledgeable, so don’t believe a traditional doc

Once again, there are studies showing both sides to every argument. So, what are you to do when you’re being hit from every angle on the things listed above, plus many other things in our society? What I believe, and yes, this is my opinion only, is that we have to:

  1. Believe science that comes from reputable sources that have been studied and repeated-www.pubmed.com allows you to do your own research
  2. Find good websites or blogs to follow that don’t use fear based tactics or highlight studies that are not well done, or come up with conclusions that are not based on their findings
  3. Give your body what makes it perform its best-everyone is different
  4. Remember that everything in moderation is the key

My last point is the most important one I think-moderation. Too much anything is a bad thing, no matter what you’re talking about. Even fruit, let’s look at that. Fruit is an awesome food because it contains carbohydrates, vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, etc. Even though fruit is natural carbohydrates, it’s still carbohydrates, so if you eat too much, it can be stored as fat. Additionally, if you consume too many antioxidants as an athlete, you can actually hinder your performance. With athletes, inflammation is how we get stronger, faster, etc. So am I saying eliminate fruit? NO!

What I’m saying is, have several pieces of fruit per day. It doesn’t have to be organic, but if you can afford it and it makes you feel better, go for it. If you can’t afford it, please still eat fruit, you’ll lose out on the benefits. Eat one apple, don’t eat an entire bag of apples.

If you’d like to drink cow’s milk and your body can handle it, great. If you’d like to drink soy milk, great. Just stick to a moderate amount. If you’d like to eat a slice of bacon, go ahead, one slice won’t kill you. If you’d rather not, that’s fine too. If you’re trying to cut back on sugar, but want to indulge in one diet drink when you go out, are you killing yourself? Not in my opinion. Is it best to stay away from sugary drinks and artificial sweeteners, yes. But should you be afraid that you are killing yourself, no.

I read different research studies every day. Every day something new is being said, and every day the media is reporting something different. I especially like eat bacon vs don’t eat bacon. Or eat paleo vs whole grain carbs are ok. It can be a nightmare to navigate the news.

So, my last recommendation for every day nutrition is this:

  • Make half of your plate veggies-colorful and leafy greens are the best
  • Include fruit-concentrate on berries
  • Include lean protein-meat, eggs, fish
  • If you’d like to, consume dairy and/or soy milk in moderation
  • Consume whole grains, but feel free to do things that are sprouted, “ancient grains” like quinoa or spelt, or do gluten free. But whole grains are a great choice for athletes and gluten free grains still are beneficial
  • Include healthy fat-nuts, avocado, olive oil, hummus
  • Stay away from added sugar, artificial sweeteners, white flours (except when racing), packaged foods and sports nutrition (unless you need it for exercise-90min+). If you occasionally want to have a diet Coke, or you’d really like some crackers or chips and dip, go for it. Everything in moderation and you’ll be ok.

Don’t be afraid of what you eat. Use it as a fuel source to make yourself stronger. If you have questions about something, turn to your doctor or a licensed dietician. There are too many people with certifications that they get in one day, spouting off with fear induced rants. Food should be enjoyable, and not something to be feared. Life is too short to spend your entire day worrying. There is certainly a lot to worry about-employment, the economy, foreign nations, your families, etc. Don’t get caught up in the trap of one day this is in fashion, the next day this, the next day this. Science will continue to evolve, and our opinions on things will change. That’s good and how things work in science. Today though, focus on making  smart choices, think less processed=better, but don’t fear food.

 

Black Eyed Peas Gumbo, GF

Happy New Years! Well, it’s technically the second of January, but it’s the first day after new years day. So I’m close. Today everyone will be starting on their new years resolutions and getting excited for the year to come. This past year has been a challenging one for me, but with the downs, came many ups as well. I’m excited to see what 2015 brings, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a good year.

I am superstitious, and I have been for as long as I can remember. When I was swimming, before every big race in junior high/high school, I would listen to the same psych up song: Right Now by Van Halen. I’m singing it in my head as I’m writing this. The keyboard, the drums, that beat…What a great song. Sorry, I digress, back to superstitions. I’m not from the south, and I’ve never even lived there. New England, the Mid West, the Pacific Northwest and the Mid Atlantic. I’ve lived in several places, but for some reason, I’ve chosen a traditional southern dish as our new years tradition.

I’ve been making black eyed pea gumbo for at least the past 7 years. It might not be the traditional way of making it, but I think it’s delicious, it warms the soul and is healthy to boot. Here’s a small write up of why black eyed pea gumbo is a good luck superstition. This is from the Houston Press:

“White Southerners trace the custom of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day to the Civil War, when the residents of Confederate Vicksburg were sustained during a blockade by the food they previously considered cow fodder. But black-eyed peas came to the New World from Africa, where their spiritual significance goes back much further.

Black-eyed peas are a favored food of the river goddess Oshun, the mistress of abundance and passion in the African ­Yoruba and New World Santeria religions. We summon the goddess and her blessings when we serve her favorite food.”

So there you go, black eyed peas are good luck. I’m not sure I’d call them cow fodder, I think they are delicious.  Here’s why they are healthy:

Black eyed peas are not actually peas, but beans. Beans are chock full of:

  • Healthy carbs/complex carbs
  • Fiber
  • Plant based protein
  • Vitamin K
  • Several B Vitamins-Thiamin and Folate
  • Low in fat

In addition to the black eyed peas, this gumbo contains multiple veggies (onion, pepper, celery, okra, tomatoes), brown rice and a natural/nitrate free/lower in fat andouille sausage. Plus a nice spice kick with some creole seasoning. This is a very easy to make meal, and feel free to make some homemade corn bread to serve with it. Preferably make your own, as you can dictate the amount of sugar or “other” ingredients used. It also makes quite a lot, so prepare yourself and the family for leftovers, or freeze some for later use.

This can be made vegetarian by leaving out the sausage and substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth. The gumbo will still be delicious without the meat. It is also naturally gluten free, just double check the creole seasoning you use.

 

Fueled and Focused Food Pictures 149

Black Eyed Peas Gumbo, (Serves 8)

3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
2 cups of frozen okra/or fresh, frozen is just what’s available for me in Maryland
3x 15oz cans of black eyed peas, rinsed and drained- or 5 cups of dried beans cooked
2x 14oz cans of no salt added diced tomatoes, drained or 1x can of diced tomatoes and 1x can rotel (more spice)
1 cup dry brown rice
2 cups of lower sodium chicken broth
4 cups of water
12oz Aidells andouille sausage, sliced- you can use another brand, although this is a nitrate free/no hormones brand
1-2 tsp creole seasoning-depending on how spicy you’d like it
black pepper to taste

  1. Swirl one tbsp olive oil in a large stock pot heat over medium
  2. Saute garlic, onion, green pepper and celery for 5 minutes
  3. Add okra, black eyed peas, tomatoes, brown rice, chicken broth and water. Raise heat to high till the mixture starts to boil. Add in the sausage if using, cover the pot, and reduce  heat to medium low.
  4. Cook for 30-40 minutes or until the rice and vegetables are tender.
  5. Add in the spices starting a little at a time until you reach the desired taste (hint: spices magnify in flavor as they are cooked, so add them at the end, or near the end)

Makes 16 cups, so each serving is 2 cups of gumbo

Nutrition per serving:

  • 370kcal
  • 55g carb
  • 8g fat
  • 24g protein
  • 14g fiber