Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Savvy Super Bowl Swaps

The "Big Game" is often known to bring along with it a big intake of calories. From deep fried boneless wings to gooey spinach artichoke dip, there is no shortage of comfort foods. Instead of throwing up your hands and assuming there is no alternative, try some of these ingredient swaps when choosing and preparing your favorite game-winning dishes. Many of these swaps can be used when cooking or baking, so keep an eye out for all opportunities. Most swaps do not result in a significant change in the flavor of your dish, which means fans won't notice a difference- unless you divulge your secrets.

Substitutes for butter, margarine, or oil
Applesauce or low sugar jam when baking
Oil spray when cooking
Low-fat broth when cooking

Dairy product substitutes
Nonfat ricotta cheese instead of regular ricotta cheese
Nonfat cottage cheese instead of regular cottage cheese
Evaporated skim milk instead of heavy whipping cream
Nonfat cream cheese instead of regular cream cheese
Nonfat/reduced fat cheese instead of regular cheese
Skim milk instead of whole milk
Nonfat yogurt instead of regular yogurt
Nonfat sour cream instead of regular sour cream
Nonfat, plain Greek yogurt instead of regular sour cream

Meat substitutes
Skinless, lean ground turkey instead of regular ground beef
Extra lean ground beef instead of regular ground beef
Skinless chicken or turkey instead of beef, steak or breaded meats

Sauces and condiments
Nonfat salad dressing instead of regular salad dressing (or go for olive/canola-oil based dressings)
Nonfat mayo for regular mayo
Nonfat Greek yogurt for regular mayo
Salsa instead of butter or dressing

Some other tips when preparing your dish:
-Consider skipping the added salt in a recipe. Most dishes are salty enough without it.
-Substitute 1/4 cup egg white substitute or 2 egg whites for each whole egg.
-Cut the amount of sugar in half or consider a sugar substitute, such as Splenda for Baking
-Cut smaller pieces or make smaller-sized cookies

Special note: Alcohol
If you choose to drink alcohol during the game, remember to follow the guideline of 1-2 drinks for men or 1 drink for women. If you choose to drink more, know that alcohol is detrimental to athletes. It acts as a diuretic, interfering with hydration status. It also interferes with recovery and suppresses the use of fat as a fuel during exercise. It not only adds additional calories, but also acts as an appetite stimulant, which may lead to even more intake. Finally, it interferes with sleeping patterns by reducing time spent in restful, deep sleep (important for proper recovery and facilitating weight changes or weight maintenance).

Here's to a great game!

Be Extraordinary,


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

One food every athlete can benefit from eating

It is no secret that protein is an important component of an athlete's diet. From recovery to lean tissue building, protein is a great go-to nutritionally. But protein doesn't have to come from animals or animal sources to be an effective choice. One lesser explored option is soy, often eaten in the form of tofu, soynuts, edamame, soy milk, soy yogurt, or soy protein powder. Before you back away from the scary thought of trying something new, check out the performance-enhancing properties of soy:

1. Antioxidant boosting
When athletes train, they create tiny muscle tears. This is important for muscle adaptation. However, these tears bring with them inflammation. Short term, this inflammation will do no harm. Long term, it is an athlete's worst nightmare...leading to poor recovery, increased soreness and general fatigue. Increasing intake of antioxidants helps the body attack this inflammation to reduce the long-term effect. Research has shown that antioxidants may also help decrease the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Soy is a great source of antioxidants.  

2. Muscle building and recovery
Protein is an important component for muscle building and recovery, and soy protein is no different. However, intake of complete protein sources such as soy provides all of the essential (your body can't make them) and non-essential (your body can make them) amino acids to working muscles, enhancing that recovery and building. Different sources of protein have differing absorption rates. Whey protein is considered "fast", casein is considered "slow" and soy is considered "intermediate". Generally, whey is recommended immediately following workouts to most quickly get necessary nutrients to muscles. By combining intake of whey protein with soy protein, there will be a more sustained source of protein to the muscle, which may contribute to a larger amount of amino acids being absorbed by the muscle. This could eventually lead to greater rates of muscle synthesis and overall increases of lean body tissue.

3. A beef alternative
Some studies show that consumption of soy protein is just as effective as animal sources of protein (such as beef) at increasing strength and improving body composition. This is a great option for athletes concerned about their saturated fat intake, as soy contains no saturated fat. Several studies have also shown soy to effectively reduce cholesterol levels.

No need for caution
When I mention soy as an option to my athletes, many have concerns about its effect on men, as well as breast cancer survivors. There has been a lot of press about the "dangers" of eating soy. Rest assured that soy is perfectly safe for consumption in these groups too. Research over the past 20 years has shown no effect of soy consumption on breast cancer or testosterone. In addition, the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society recommend that breast cancer survivors can safely consume anywhere from a few servings per week to 3 servings per day of soy. In fact, evidence has shown that when soy is consumed during childhood and adolescence it may actually protect against breast cancer.

So I encourage you to branch out and give soy a try.

Be Extraordinary,


Source: Diekman, Connie. Role of Soy in the Performance of Active and Athletic Americans. SCANNERS. Spring 2012; 4:1.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How to eat a healthy, quick dinner every night

You have had a long day at school or work. It's 5:30pm, and in your rush to get home you realize you have nothing planned for dinner. Once home, your peruse the refrigerator and realize the only two options are blue box mac 'n' cheese or peanut butter and jelly.

Sound familiar? Athletes today have so much going on that meal planning consists of the 5 minutes before they want to eat. But meal planning doesn't have to be 2 hrs of cooking a 4-course meal every night. You can eat healthy with only a little pre-planning and minimal food preparation. Here's how:

Sunday: This is often a less hectic day for all of us. Use this day to plan your meals for the week and shop. Often the grocery store is markedly less busy on Sunday nights. Make a list so you don't buy frivolous things or waste time. When choosing meals, don't reinvent the wheel. There are an infinite number of websites and blogs out there that provide quick, easy, cheap and HEALTHY recipes. Here is my newest favorite:  Sign up for her email list and have dinner ideas sent right to your inbox - how easy is that?! If you have time today, you can even prep for Monday and Tuesday's dinner (i.e. chopping vegetables, cooking pasta or rice, etc.).

Monday: Cook enough tonight that you have enough to eat on Friday. In other words, cook once - eat twice. Therefore, choose something that freezes easily, such as chili, lasagna or a meat dish.

Tuesday: Focus on fresh foods that are easy to prepare. Think salads or low-sodium deli meat sandwiches loaded with veggies. You want to use your produce before it goes bad. Top salads with easy protein foods like canned beans, hard-boiled eggs or pre-cooked shrimp.

Wednesday: Slow cooker day! Give yourself a break and prepare this the night before. Wednesday morning, set the crock pot and go. Pretty much anything can be made in a crock pot (even meat loaf), but some easy ideas are chicken and potatoes, mushroom-barley soup, or fajitas.

Thursday: Pantry day. Use those non-perishable items and supplement with any leftover produce. How about a quick pasta and veggie dish or quinoa with black beans?

Friday: My favorite day. Just defrost Monday's leftovers and you are good to go.

Help yourself out and make sure you own these kitchen appliances. They cut your prep time significantly and just overall make your life a whole lot easier:
-Crock pot/slow cooker
-Rice cooker (also cooks lentils)
-Toaster oven (especially when baking for one or two - heats up and cooks much faster)
-A good blender

With a little pre-planning, eating healthy every night is much easier than you think. It's 2013. Make the commitment; make it a habit. Good luck!

Be Extraordinary,


Adapted from "Eat a Healthy Dinner Every Night", Women's Day, 2009, Karen Ansel, RD

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Building Muscle - Know Your Numbers

Athletes have a lot of misconceptions about what it takes to gain muscle. To help clarify, here are some numbers to keep in mind in your own quest to put on muscle.

30: When it comes to protein intake, more is not necessarily better. Eating more than 30 grams of protein at one time is not effective for muscle gain and can actually lead to a significant gain in fat mass. Stick to eating 20-30 grams at each meal. This is equivalent to approximately a piece of meat the size of a deck of cards (3 ounces), 4 eggs, 1/2 cup soy nuts, or 6 thin slices of deli meat (6 ounces).

15: For most athletes, 10-15 grams of protein per snack (2-3 snacks daily) is more than appropriate. You need to limit this to assure that your overall protein intake for the day is enough without being too much. This amount is equivalent to approximately 1 cup of milk, 2 Tbsp peanut butter, 1 container Greek yogurt, or 1 string cheese.

4: It takes 3-4 weeks to see any concrete changes in muscle. So while it may be tempting to weigh yourself every day, stick to one weight per week (same day, early in the morning, same scale, same clothing) but don't do an overall assessment until at least 3-4 weeks into a training regimen.

3: Contrary to popular belief, muscle gain is not only about protein intake. In order for your muscles to absorb that protein, you need carbohydrate. In fact, plan to eat a minimum of 2.5-3x as many grams of carbohydrate as protein at each meal. So, that would mean 60-75 grams of carb for a 25 gram protein meal. An example of 60 grams is 2 pieces of whole-wheat bread, 1 Tbsp jelly, an orange,  and 1 cup milk (yes - all of it).

2: If you are watching the scale, the goal is to gain 1-2 pounds per week. Anything faster is too fast, which means you may be gaining a majority of fat vs. muscle.

1: Don't arrive to training without having eaten in the 3 hours prior. Skipping a pre-workout meal even ONE time can set you back multiple days in your training regimen.

Be Extraordinary,


Thursday, January 3, 2013

5 Essential Foods for 2013

Looking to jump-start your New Year's Resolution to improve fitness or body composition? Here are 5 foods full of nutrients that will help you feel more energized, ward off illness and contribute to a successful weight change program.

1. Avocado
These little green gems are a great source of monounsaturated fat, which can help lower cholesterol when eaten in place of saturated fat. Fat also helps you feel more satisfied after a meal or snack, leading to better choices the next time you eat. And did you know that the more you work out, the more fat you need in your diet? It is essential to help you replace the energy you burn as well as assist with recovery. 

2. Tofu
Tofu is a great source of protein and iron and comes in a variety of types for use in different recipes: silken, soft and firm. Great for vegetarians, tofu is one of the only plant-based foods that can stand alone as a complete protein, meaning it provides all of the essential amino acids that your body doesn't make in one tofu-rrific package. Amino acids are critical for muscle building and repair. Try each variety of tofu to discover your favorite: silken in smoothies, soft in soups, and firm in stir-frys.

3. Quinoa
Though actually a seed, quinoa is prepared like a whole grain (such as rice), but takes significantly less time (10-15 min vs. 40 min). Like tofu, it is a complete protein. It is an excellent choice for those suffering from celiac or gluten-intolerance as it is also a gluten-free grain. Add that it is a great source of protein and healthy fat and this is one powerhouse food! Quinoa can be served hot or cold, so be creative with the plethora of recipes available online.

4. Peppers
As an athlete, a big player when it comes to fighting colds and promoting recovery is antioxidants. Antioxidants help "clean up" your muscles after exercise and enhance the function of your immune system. Peppers are a great source of these antioxidant vitamins; any color will do.

5. Berries
Like peppers, berries pack an antioxidant punch. They are also a great source of carbohydrate, which helps fuel and recover your muscles for exercise.

Want to try all 5 together? How about warm quinoa with red and orange peppers and avocado served with a smoothie of silken tofu and berries? Yumm....

Here's to a great 2013!

Be Extraordinary,