Monthly Archives: June 2013

Importance of Meal Planning + Healthy Breakfast Favorites :)

Wow it’s hard to believe that summer is about half over already… I still have A LOT of cooking left to do before I head back to school in August. I’ve heard from countless people that one of the major obstacles to healthy eating for them is the issue of not having the time to make healthy meals and consequently reaching for poor food choices. I experience this same problem, especially during the school year when a typical day may involve two workouts sandwiching a full school day and then a homework load that takes until bedtime or later to complete.

The solution to this problem is planning! The more I learn about cooking and eating well, the more I realize how important it is to commit to healthy habits and planning ahead. By mapping out the meals you want to prepare for dinner throughout the week and grocery shopping on the weekend, eating balanced meals during the week when you’re busy will be much more manageable. Make Sundays your “prep” day and do as much of your cooking ahead of time as possible. Chop any needed veggies and freeze foods to pull out and reheat later in the week. Most foods you prepare will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Get into this routine and you will feel empowered and in control of your health, I promise!

The banana bread I made this week is a great example of something you can make ahead of time and enjoy all week. I found the recipe here. I loved this recipe because it is made from natural ingredients and does not contain any sugar or butter! It is a tasty treat, without the nutritional fallout, and who doesn’t want that kind of deal?!

Warm and chocolatey banana bread= YUM

Warm and chocolatey banana bread= YUM

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 C  oats
  • 1 C plain nonfat greek yogurt       
       
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C honey
  • 1 bar of 88% dark chocolate, chopped into  small chunks, keep a few out of the batter to drop on top of bread or muffins before placing in the oven

Directions: Place oats in food processor and let run 10-15 seconds, or until “flour-like”. Pour into mixing bowl. Process bananas until smooth, liquid consistency. Add to bowl of oats, along with the remaining ingredients. Stir until all ingredients are well combined. Spray pan with non-stick spray. Cook at 400 degrees. Muffins will take 18-20 minutes, while bread in a loaf pan will take 40- 45 minutes.  Cover the loaf pan with foil to allow the inside of the bread to cook fully without over-browning the top.

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Here is another one of my breakfast creations this week. This is a healthy twist on the traditional egg and potato breakfast eaten by many. Microwave 1 small sweet potato for 3 minutes, then cut into cubes. Dice up 1 cup of spinach along with two pinches of fresh rosemary. Sprinkle greens over eggs in a skillet. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add diced sweet potatoes to skillet and cook, turning over often, until lightly browned. This is a great way to start your day with quality sources of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and nutrients. Not to mention this meal provides two servings of veggies before noon! #Plantstrong

More to Life Than Peanut Butter

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1 cup dry roasted soy nuts

They say that variety is the spice of life, and it is also the healthiest way to eat. By mixing up the fruit, veggie, whole grain, and protein sources you take in throughout the week, you are more likely to get the full range of nutrients your body needs to function at its best, as well as fend off diet boredom.

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In the food processor

Whether you’re spreading it on celery, apple slices, bread, or enjoying it in ice cream or a cookie- peanut butter is a healthy, favorite food for many people. Health-food store regulars and those who call themselves “foodies” may be aware that other nut butters, such as almond, sunflower, cashew, and soy nut butter, to name a few, exist as well. All types of nut butter can be part of a healthy diet in moderation, with comparable amounts of fat and protein. Each kind offers a slightly different array of vitamins and nutrients, for example almond butter is higher in vitamin E. Whichever kind you choose, just make sure that the only ingredient is nuts, and possibly salt. Some of my favorites are Smucker’s Natural Peanut butter (also available in organic), Krema natural peanut butter, and MaraNatha Sunflower Seed Butter. Most natural varieties separate easily so you will have to stir them well after opening. Keep them refrigerated so the oil does not separate again.

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The finished product

The protein in nut butters can help keep you fuller longer than other refined snacks. By spreading the butter on a source of carbohydrate such as bread or apples, the mix of carbs and proteins will keep blood sugar steady. Keeping blood sugar levels steady will prevent energy highs and lows, allowing you to go about your day with proper fuel for better concentration. Other benefits include better mood, and decreased likelihood of overeating at your next meal.

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Soy nut butter spread on a plain rice cake

Today I made my own homemade soy nut butter. If you have a basic food processor, making nut butters at home is a simple process. I poured 1 cup of dry roasted soy nuts into the food processor and mixed on the high pulse setting for about 30 minutes. Many recipes suggest soaking the soy nuts in water for 7-10 minutes before mixing. Instead, I added water as needed throughout the mixing process to attain the smooth, creamy texture that I was looking for. This technique worked fine. Because I have a pretty basic food processor, I had to stop and let the mixer cool off every 5-10 minutes to prevent it from overheating. I added a little bit of salt and cinnamon for flavor because the finished product was mild in taste. I only used 1 Cup of soy nuts due to the size of my food processor. One cup of nuts plus the added water yielded about 12 oz of nut butter. This same procedure can be used with other types of nuts to make other kinds of nut butter. Try adding vanilla, flax, honey, or dark chocolate for a variety of decadent spreads!

Curried Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadillas

photo (4)Many athletes know that in order to reach their peak performance, the most important macronutrient for maintenance of adequate energy stores is carbohydrates, with protein and fat being of secondary importance. Eating as soon as possible after exercise is the best way to replenish drained energy stores fast so that you can be at your best for your next workout, whether that be later the same day, or within 24 hours.

This week I tried out this recipe for Curried Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadillas. Not only was it DELICIOUS, but super fast and easy to prepare, which is a major priority for many athletes who are ready to eat anything in sight after a hard workout. The tortilla, beans, and sweet potato all provide carbohydrate, while the beans also serve as a good source of protein. I used Whole Wheat Ezekiel tortillas, which are a complete protein source due to the unique combination of sprouted grain, lentil, and soybean ingredients. Complete protein sources are especially important for vegetarian athletes who do not take in animal protein, which is more readily used by the body in comparison with plant sources.

Ingredients:

  • Ezekiel whole wheat tortillas
  • Curry (add to your liking, I used several large dashes of the spice, but the flavor was still very mild when combined with the other ingredients)
  • 1/2 can of black beans (rinse to decrease sodium if you prefer, although extra salt may aid hydration efforts post workout)
  • 1/2 medium sweet potato, diced into small cubes
  • Shredded cheese
  • Avocado, for slicing and serving on the side

I precooked the sweet potato for about 3 minutes in the microwave to soften it before cutting. Combine ingredients, but do not over fill tortillas or they may get too heavy, cook on high heat until crisp and cheese has melted together with beans and potato. Enjoy!

Hearty Post-Run Breakfast

Following a solid 8 mile run this morning, I decided to try out a new breakfast recipe I found on fedandfit.com for egg-stuffed tomatoes.

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What a good idea!! I sliced off the top of the tomato with a knife, then hollowed out the inside with a spoon. I mixed 2 eggs, diced arugula, fresh chopped basil from the garden, and a dash of salt and pepper in a bowl. Next I poured the mixture into the hollowed out tomato. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Eggs will be on the runnier side.

I served the tomato on a bed of quinoa and enjoyed a big bowl of watermelon on the side. Some black coffee completed the meal, although it was already pretty hot at 9 am this morning. There was a heat flash that followed. Too bad I don’t like iced coffee!

Nothing like a good BURGER!

Anyone who knows me well will tell you there are a few foods that I have an absolute weakness for, particularly peanut butter… and BURGERS:) Unfortunately, depending on the burger, it can be a pretty saturated fat laden and calorific indulgence. The good news? It doesn’t have to be!

After taking some time off post track season, I am beginning to slowly work back up to running a moderate amount of mileage, and with that comes the kind of hunger only an athlete can identify with. One of my favorite things about summer is spending time outdoors on warm summer nights. Cooking a delicious and healthy meal then dining in the fresh air post run= a wonderfully simple pleasure in life.

This week after a particularly satisfying trail run over hills, I made fruit salad, oven baked asparagus spears, and turkey burgers.

Turkey Burgers (makes 4 burgers)  photo (3)

  •  1 lb 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard

Combine turkey, salt, and mustard in a bowl, form into patties, and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Cook patties 8-10 minutes on each side at 375 degrees. Careful not to overcook because turkey burgers will be lighter in color than beef and can dry out quickly. I used whole wheat sandwich thins as a lighter bun option. I combined 1 mashed avocado, a dash of hot sauce, and fresh cilantro from the garden for a fresh and flavorful spread. Arugula’s peppery flavor complemented the mustard in the burgers and added texture.

Fruit Salad

  • 2 peachesphoto (2)
  • ¾ C blueberries
  • ½ C dried cranberries
  • ½ C pecans
  • juice from ½ a lime

It can be hard for athletes who are trying to eat healthy, but also run high mileage, to get enough calories. Adding calorie dense dried fruit and nuts to a fruit salad like this one, can help ensure that both nutrient and energy needs are met, leading to better recovery and performance.

Asparagus

Squeeze juice from ½ a lime, lightly salt, and pepper. Bake 15 min

Berry Healthy

Summer is berry season! What does that mean for you? Lower prices and more flavor! I have been adding strawberries to many of my meals and snacks this week for a delicious and seasonal nutrition boost.

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Mixed salad greens topped with alfalfa sprouts, sliced strawberries, raisins, and sunflower seeds

Strawberries, which are a member of the rose family, provide 3g of fiber, 150% daily value of Vitamin C, 8g of sugar, and about 50 calories per cup. Like most fruits and vegetables, they are  a good source of fiber, which is why despite their sugar content strawberries are a low glycemic food (meaning they do not cause rapid spikes and drops in blood sugar).

Like all berries, strawberries are associated with decreased risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. They are also believed to delay the onset of memory loss by up to 2.5 years. The deep red and blue color of berries, like strawberries and blueberries, indicates the presence of disease-fighting antioxidant compounds such as anthocyanins and ellagic acid.

Strawberries are a particularly good source of the trace mineral, manganese which aids in calcium absorption, promotes the activity of bone building enzymes, and regulates function of sex hormones. Folate (also helpful in bone mass formation) and potassium are present in substantial quantities as well.

The difference between conventional and organic varieties is minimal. The goal is just to include more fruits and veggies in your diet! Store strawberries in the refrigerator for 1-3 days and do not wash until ready to eat in order to maintain optimal freshness.

photo (24)Salted cucumber salad: As the summer weather gets hotter, I am finding that I always come back from my runs super thirsty! Instead of grabbing a lab-designed gatorade that is full of added sugars and wonderful artificial colors, I like this natural source of sugar and salt (sweet and salty 🙂 ) to replenish my lost electrolytes.

Slice 1/2 a cucumber, place in a bowl and cover with a few dashes of salt. Add sliced watermelon, strawberries, and blueberries. YUM! If you use 1/4 C of both strawberries and blueberries and 1 C of Watermelon, the calorie count will be about the same as 20 oz of gatorade (120 calories), and this snack will help fill you up, unlike the empty liquid calories you will get from gatorade. There is value in extra calories for athletes who are very active and need to keep their energy intake adequate, however this is not most of the everyday people who drink gatorade when they should be drinking water!