Thursday, February 28, 2013

Athletes: 4 ways to ruin your spring season

We are almost to March, which means many of you are about to start the spring season (either in competition if you are a high school/college athlete or in training if you have spring/summer races planned). You have waited all winter to get to this point. You are determined this will be your best year yet. But little do you know, you may be making huge mistakes with your nutrition that will cost you big come game/race-day. Looking to ruin your season? Try this............

1. Don't eat breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal for athletes. It re-plenishes muscles after an overnight fast. It also gets muscles ready to work that day - regardless of what time your training session(s) will be. Skipping breakfast forces the body to pull from other stores - often times this means breaking down muscle. Have an early-morning workout and think skipping breakfast is okay? Think again. You might as well skip the workout and keep sleeping. Not a breakfast eater typically? Start small - Greek yogurt, bagel with peanut butter, or a piece of fruit....and work up from there. Anything is better than nothing.

2. Don't sleep
Sleep is probably one of the most important things you will do over the course of 24 hours. Sleep is when your body repairs, replenishes and builds. In addition, the longer you are awake, the more opportunities to eat, which can mean too many calories coming on board. Trying to drop fat or gain muscle? Hoping to improve recovery and relieve soreness? Wanting to prevent illness and injury? Looking for more energy during the day or during training? Aim to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep on average to help that happen.

3. Don't eat any fruits and vegetables
No one likes them anyway, right? And you burn so many calories, you can eat whatever you want, right? WRONG. While getting enough calories is important, it's about quality within that quantity. Fruits and vegetables are essential to athletes. They contain vitamins and minerals that help with recovery of tired, sore muscles as well as metabolism of every type of food you eat. In addition, they help hydrate the body. Dehydration is the number one cause of nutrition-related performance deficit. Write down everything you eat for a day or two. Count the number of times you eat fruits or veggies. If it is less than 5, you have work to do. Five servings is the minimum, so get munching.

4. Don't worry about what you eat until the night before you compete
Ah - the pre-competition pasta dinner. The perfect start to a perfect game. While this may be true, that should not be the start of your performance nutrition. It is not just about what you eat the night before, but also the days, weeks and months before. So start assessing your intake now. Meet with a sports RD who can help you meet your athletic goals. Don't waste precious time by not helping your body train (and eventually compete) the way you want it to.

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

5 Foods to Always Have on Hand

As hard as we try, sometimes we just run out of time to meal plan. To make sure you can throw together something quick and healthy even when the pantry is bare, here are 5 shelf-stable foods to always have on hand. Buy them in bulk; stock up. With these, you'll be good to go regardless of what meal it is.

1. Quinoa
Besides being quick and easy to make, this grain doubles as a great protein source at 8 grams per cup (as much as 1 cup of milk). Toss in some dried fruit or cooked veggies with nuts and you have a nice meal for lunch or dinner.

2. Frozen veggies
While fresh veggies are great, the nutrient content isn't necessarily highest when compared to frozen or canned. Frozen veggies are frozen right after they are picked, sealing in the nutrients. Fresh veggies, on the other hand, may have been shipped across the country over a period of days, resulting in much of the nutrients being lost. Choose frozen veggies that are not in sauces and the darker the better. Try frozen spinach, carrots, peppers, or broccoli. Toss into pastas or...quinoa perhaps? And don't be fooled by the steam-in-a-bag kinds. Any frozen vegetable can be heated up in the microwave just as fast - though clearly in a bowl instead of the bag.

3. Canned or frozen fruit
Along the same lines as the veggies, frozen or canned fruit might actually be higher in nutrient content. The trick with canned fruit is to buy fruit in its own juice and drain the can before consuming. When you run out of fresh, frozen or canned is a nice emergency back-up that is still high in nutrients. One downside with canned fruits is less fiber, as most are peeled before they are canned. So, be sure to choose frozen or fresh some of the time.

4. Olive or canola oil
There is so much you can do with oils - in baking and cooking. They are a great source of energy when you don't have much on hand and help make the meal more satisfying. Making that quinoa and veggies I talked about? Toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil for a great flavor.

5. Nuts and nut butters
Well, I know technically this is two items, but I suppose I'll cheat on this one. Nuts and nut butters are a great, quick source of energy including protein and healthy fats. Buy nuts in bulk and store the extra in the freezer to lengthen the life of the nut. Look for nut butters whose ingredients are only the nut itself (no salt, sugar, preservatives, etc.) to get the best nutrition. When in a pinch, PBJs are still a great go-to and nuts can be combined with anything listed thus far for added crunch, flavor and satisfaction.

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Going Gluten-Free: Cost-Cutting Tips

So many people are going gluten-free. Luckily, eating gluten-free is not as difficult as it was in the past. More and more products are available that meet the standards for gluten-free. But simply buying packaged gluten-free items can get quite expensive. So how do you toss out the gluten without losing all your cash too? Here are some tips.

1. Start with the basics
Go for naturally gluten-free grains instead of buying specialty mixes. Try quinoa (buy in bulk for best price) or buckwheat....both available in most grocery stores. Remember too that rice and potatoes are gluten-free! Also look for gluten-free oatmeal.

2. Look for substitutes
In place of regular or expensive gluten-free bread, look for gluten-free crackers or breadsticks (you get more servings per package). Or use corn tortillas as a wrap or make a grain-based salad using quinoa or rice.

3. Create your own
How about baking your own gluten-free items? Here are some ideas:
  • Rice pilaf: brown rice and quinoa mix
  • Baking flour: half brown rice + half garbanzo bean flour
  • Use chickpea flour in place of pricey gluten-free baking mix. One use would be to make breakfast/snack cookies instead of buying expensive gluten-free packaged cookies
4. Choose wisely
Many of the larger grocery store chains and some of the local health food stores are often less expensive than buying online. However, check online for specials and look in specialty magazines for coupons.

5. Round out your plate
Fill your plate with plenty of fresh, whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean (unprocessed) meats, low-fat dairy and healthy fats (i.e. avocado, nuts, fresh salmon and tuna). All of these foods are naturally gluten-free to begin with. So start with these groups and then add the specialty gluten-free options as an after-thought. This way you will fill up on the less expensive options first.

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wondering what you will eat tomorrow? Here it is...

Every so often I like to feature recipes I have come across that are quick, easy, and inexpensive. With a four-month old at home and an endless to-do list at work, I certainly don't have time to waste. While many of us value well-rounded entrees, time is often the limiting factor. So here are 3 of my favorites. I make these in my very own kitchen on a regular basis because they are just so delicious that you would never know they could also be good for you. Drum roll please.......

Breakfast: Power Packed Breakfast Cookies
Make a batch of these ahead  of time, wrap individually in saran wrap and throw in the freezer. In the morning grab one, remove saran wrap, pop in the microwave for 10 seconds (or not) and pair with a Greek yogurt or one hard-boiled egg (make those ahead of time too). Pair with a cup of coffee because it is just so delicious. In fact, dunk in coffee for added goodness. Mmmmm....

2 large eggs
1/2 cup brow sugar, packed
1/4 cup canola oil or applesauce
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup dried cherries or other dried fruit
1/3 cup raisins, seedless
1.5 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup raw oats (either quick or old-fashioned will work)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sliced almonds or chopped walnuts
1/3 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, lightly beat egg. Stir in brown sugar and oil. Add spices and dried fruit. Mix.
In a medium bowl, combine all remaining ingredients.
Gently stir flour mixture into egg mixture until everything is just combined (be care not to overmix).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with non-stock oil. Drop 2 tablespoons cookie dough each about 2 inches apart. Gently flatten with damp hands (rinse in water) to assure more even cooking.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until set and very lightly browned at the edges.
Yield: 16 cookies
Source: I can't remember, but I would surely thank them if I knew.

Lunch: Quinoa Tabbouleh
In light of typing this entire recipe, I will defer you to its source and my newest obsession: Budget Bytes. Click on the title above to get there. This blog is fantastic. Each recipe's items are listed along with prices to prove that each is healthy, yet affordable. Her motto is "my wallet is full and my stomach is too". Love her recipes; every one I have tried thus far is easy and delicious. One caution about this particular recipe: it only lasts a few days due to the fresh veggies. So, make enough to have for 2-3 lunches or you might try keeping the dressing to the side and adding when you are ready to enjoy to help everything last longer.

Dinner: Chicken Fried Rice with Vegetables
I love this recipe because it uses one of my best friends: frozen veggies. If you don't have chicken on hand (did you know you can freeze already cooked chicken to use for later???), you can also grab a rotisserie chicken at the store if you are super short on time. Or try cooking chicken in the crock pot while you are at work so it is ready to go when you arrive home. And invest in a rice cooker. Another great "set it and forget it" kitchen appliance. This is hands-down one of my quickest recipes that doesn't taste like it.

1 12-oz skinless, boneless chicken breast half, chopped
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or 4 teaspoons Worchestire sauce + 2 teaspoons water)
1 teaspoon oil (sesame if you got it - otherwise canola or olive oil is fine)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium or 1/2 large onion)
1/2 of 10-oz package frozen mixed vegetables, thawed (or just use the whole package like me - I love my veggies)
4 cups cooked brown rice
3 large eggs
Pepper to taste

In a bowl, toss chicken with soy sauce and the 1 teaspoon of oil. Cover; let stand/marinate for 10 minutes.
Warm a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir-fry chicken and marinade until cooked through (about 4 minutes). Transfer chicken to a plate.
Warm vegetable oil in that same skillet over medium heat. Saute onion for 3 minutes. Add mixed vegetables; saute for 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high; stir in rice and cook for 3 minutes.

Form a well in the rice mixture. Add eggs to well; scramble just until soft. Mix into rice and season dish with pepper.

Let cook undisturbed until a crust forms (about 1 minute). Turn rice with a spatula. Repeat until rice is uniformly golden. Add chicken and stir to combine.

Yield: 4 servings
Source: All You Magazine

Let me know how you like these recipes!

Be Extraordinary,