Monday, May 26, 2014

Rehab and Injury Prevention

I've been in a bit of a life slump that has affected my blog. I haven't posted in over two weeks despite having a request for a very important topic - Rehab & Injury Prevention. Therefore, I hope I can make up for my hiatus by writing a relevant post.

First off, if you're hurt, I know it can really mess with your psyche. Therefore, props to you for thinking about nutrition at all. The challenging part is balancing eating enough calories, and the right kind of calories, for healing and repair while still reducing overall calories to stay in balance with a lower energy expenditure. Eating the right kind of foods can expedite the healing process in two ways: 1) reduce inflammation by including foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and 2) include enough protein to repair damaged tissues as well as maintain lean muscle mass.

Omega-3 fatty acids contain a substance called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) which is made into prostoglandins that signal the inflammatory system giving an anti-inflammatory message. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Fatty fish like tuna, salmon, sardines, and herring (2-3 servings per week) 
  • Olive oil and canola oil
  • Flax seeds (Make sure to use ground flax seed. Otherwise the oils stay within the seeds.) 
    • Add to cereal, yogurt, smoothies, salads, 
  • Walnuts (Add chopped nuts to salads, oatmeal, trail mix, or munch on a handful for a snack.) 
If you find it hard to eat the recommended 2-3 servings of fatty fish per week, consider taking a fish oil supplement. I like the burp-free variety so I don't re-taste the supplement all day and personally take a multivitamin with DHA/EPA in it. 

Eating plenty of high quality protein helps you heal and maintain as proteins (amino aids) are building blocks for new tissue. It's also important to eat enough protein to keep as much muscle as possible during a reduced training period. Make sure to include ample carbohydrates (ie Atkins will not help an injury!) so that the protein can be used for growth and repair and not for energy. It's best to choose lean protein foods because higher fat meats can increase inflammation and be counterproductive to the healing process. Great sources of lean proteins include:
  • Eggs (Avoid butter and margarine for cooking and hold the high fat cheese or breakfast meat pairings.)
  • Beans and lentils 
  • Low fat yogurt or cottage cheese
  • Chicken
  • 93/7 ground turkey 
  • Fish
  • Soy (Edamame, tofu, tempeh - don't be scared! Try my fav marinated tofu recipe and experience a whole new side of soy.)
Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D can aid in bone healing and formation. Consider having your doctor check your vitamin D levels as many of us are deficient. I consider myself a very balanced eater and had well below normal levels. We don't get enough sunlight during the hours of 10am-2pm and there aren't enough food sources of vitamin D. Food sources of vitamin D are limited to the flesh and bones of fish (think canned salmon or sardines) and fortified dairy. Even meeting your recommended 3 servings of dairy a day gets you only 50% of the way to your vitamin D needs for the day. If you do find that your levels are low, plan to supplement alongside the fish oil; vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is absorbed better when taken with a fat. 

Vitamin C and zinc are also important nutrients while healing. Zinc plays a role in protein synthesis and wound healing and is found naturally in most animal products (especially oysters if you're looking for an excuse to hit up the raw bar) as well as beans, legumes, oatmeal and yogurt. It's best to get your zinc from food sources because supplements in high doses can cause nausea and vomiting. Vitamin C helps make collagen, the structural protein of connective tissues. Get your vitamin C from:
  • Citrus fruits
  • Red bell peppers (Red peppers have almost twice as much vitamin C as green peppers.) 
  • Kiwi
  • Dark green leafy vegetables 
  • Broccoli 
  • Berries 
  • Tomatoes
  • Peas
Rehab diet for a day (portions and calories will depend on your height, weight, and altered activity levels):

Breakfast - 1-2 slices whole grain toast with almond butter, "Healing Smoothie" with berries, spinach, flax seed, plain Greek yogurt, and unsweetened soy milk 

Morning snack - hard boiled egg, red pepper slices

Lunch - salmon salad with whole grain crackers, orange slices, and cherry tomatoes with hummus 

Afternoon snack - cottage cheese with kiwi and flax seed

Dinner - Ground turkey and black bean burgers with baked sweet potato fries and steamed broccoli with walnuts

Basically by sticking to the same diet that helps fuel performance and recovery, you will be helping your body get back into the game before you know it. If you're nervous about overeating and gaining weight, consider reaching out to a Sports Dietitian (like me!) for more guidance with calorie recommendations and portion suggestions. 


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Sports Nutrition Care Manual. Nutrition from Rehabilitation from Injury. Accessed May 26, 2014. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Eating Healthy While Traveling...or trying to

@KendraThornton reached out to me last month in preparation for her upcoming vacation. She came up with some suggestions for staying healthy while traveling and I thought I’d share some of my own.
Fit Vacation Tips for Anyone Who Struggles with Weight
Getting away from it all is an expression that typically means you can do whatever you want on vacation. I know that I have definitely gotten into this mode while on vacation especially on road trips. I find myself gorging at times, and then I realize there's a better way to stop myself. With some tricks, I have been able to keep my family and I fit even while we go on vacations. These are some of the simple ways that I do it.
Bring Water With You
If you're going on a road trip, one thing you have to pack is your own water. Buying a case of water and bringing it with you will save you time and money in the long run, but it will also mean that you're less tempted to stop for soda and sugary drinks along the way. It's important to stay hydrated, so keeping a bottle of water around works wonders when you're thirsty or when kids just need a pick me up in the car.
Stay at Health-Savvy Hotels
Many hotels are doing all they can to help their guests eat better and stay fit while on vacation. They are offering organic food, lighter fare menus and fitness centers. I find that hotels are also offering better options like fruit for breakfast rather than sugary cereals. Getting in a workout is pretty easy when it's just a floor down from you. I tend to go to the hotel gym in the morning or in between activities if I am feeling restless. For our upcoming trip to Orlando I was able to get a great hotel with a great gym. With so many hotels in Orlando, sites like Gogobot can be a great tool to sort through and read user reviews.
Buy Local Food
I love tasting different cuisine, and going to local restaurants offers great experiences. Typically these restaurants have a greater amount of organic, all natural food than chain restaurants, and they take time preparing wonderful dishes. I love the healthy options that I find at local restaurants.
Stay Sane at the Buffet
The word buffet in itself is exciting. It means you get to eat whatever you want, right? I found that's the best way to get a stomachache on vacation. Instead of gorging, I limit myself to one plate. On that plate, I can have a few treats, but I always make sure to follow up with lighter meals the next day. This is key to keeping weight off if you eat out a lot on vacation.
If you're heading out with your family this summer, remember to stay healthy and active no matter where you go. You'll feel better while you're on the beach and when you get home.
I’m getting just getting back from Boston after traveling this weekend to support my husband and his team for the Cape Cod Ragnar Relay. I brought Tarala along, which involves even more careful planning when it comes to food and timing. Along with Kendra’s suggestions, I have some go-to plans I always make when traveling that I thought I’d share.
Check with the hotel to see if they have a refrigerator and microwave. If they don’t have a fridge, ask if you can rent one. It usually costs around $10 and helps you get in a quick breakfast before a race or before a day of sightseeing. This also allows you to stock leftovers.
Pack some items for snacks and breakfast. I always bring instant oatmeal, bars (like Larabars and KIND bars, and protein powder. I’ll rely on the hot water from the coffee pot in the hotel to make the oatmeal and throw in some peanut butter if I’ve brought it along.
One of my go-tos while I was pregnant was jerky. While not normally in my repeteur, jerky is one of the few non-perishable protein sources out there (nuts work too), so it works great on the go. I keep a wheat-free diet, so I’ll throw in some gluten free crackers and/or bread to make sure I get in some starch at meals even if the menu doesn’t allow. I’ll pack in some yogurt pouches for the baby and whole wheat fig bars. My husband will probably snag a few of those for his racing snacks this weekend. I’ve also brought along small raisin packs and Annie’s bunnies in the past. I kept
reusable baggies with us to keep full of snacks. I definitely recommend renting a locker at an amusement park and keeping a cooler full of lunches and drinks to avoid high prices and heavy foods.

Check out local restaurants and grocery stores before hand, especially if following a special diet. As soon as I know the tentative schedule, I will scope out local trendy, healthy, special-diet-supporting dining spots and peruse the menus. I’ve found some delicious spots this way and it helps save time when it comes to mealtime. If possible, make a reservation ahead of time, especially with a big group. I’ve made a few reservations for our July Disney trip already and always rely on a reservation the night before a race. This also helps us stay within nap constraints.
Fitting in exercise on vacation has never been very challenging for me. Running around Rome on our honeymoon allowed us to see more than we could have! Even when it hasn’t been convenient, I’ve gotten the run out of the way before the day starts. When we were in Punta Cana, we did 16 miles around the 1 mile resort. I don’t think I’ve ever run in such humid weather in my life. In most cases, I will adjust the long run to be before or after the trip instead, but you gotta do what you gotta do. For my readers that are not as avid exercisers, take a walk to see where you’re staying or take advantage of the hotel gym. You’re paying for it anyway, so you might as well use it! The time in the gym will help balance the eating out and help you resume your exercise routine when you come back from vacation.

My number one tip for traveling is to order groceries before you go. Then when you come home after eating out every day to a full refrigerator. My favorite is Harris Teeter Express Lane but you can also look into Safeway delivery or Peapod. This was especially helpful today so we could have lunches and a homemade dinner before we head out of town again on Thursday.
So with all my planning, I have to admit Tarala still ate pretzels, raisins, and peanuts for dinner on Thursday when our plane was delayed. I still didn't get nearly as many vegetables as I would have liked, so today I made two different veggies at dinner and had a bunch of raw veggies at lunch to make up for it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

FIBER and all its wonderful benefits

As athletes, I’ve encouraged you to choose more whole grains. I’ve helped you add protein for recovery and satiety. I’ve pushed fluids before, during and after workouts for hydration. But have I spent enough time touting everyday wellness? May is a crazy month for us with traveling 3 out of 4 weekends, listing our house, writing proposals, finishing school work, picking up odd jobs, and in our spare time being parents. Normally that would leave us short-changing dinners and too tired to pack a wholesome lunch, but after a recent overnight trip to the ER for my husband left us with 1 hour of sleep, I have remained strong in my commitment to include more fiber in both of our diets. While everyone may not be as passionate about fiber as I am (it’s admittedly one of my interests on Facebook), it should be something we all strive to include in our diet.

Why do we need fiber?1

Fiber is a type of food the body cannot digest. Unlike most carbohydrates, it isn’t broken down into sugar. Therefore, it doesn’t provide us with energy but what it does provide us with is so much more:
  • Lower risk of heart disease (even as athletes, we can develop heart disease)
  • Manages cholesterol (soluble fiber helps lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol)
  • Regulation of blood sugars (energy maintenance and balance)
  • Regularity (gotta keep the BMs moving, but not too much - fiber helps both ends of the spectrum)
  • Prevents diverticular disease (risks rise as we age)
Even more, foods high in fiber like fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and flax provide us with multiple other benefits:
  • Antioxidants (repairing damage done from intense or long workouts)
  • Phytonutrients (preventing cancer and disease)
  • Vitamins (helping meet the high demands of an athlete)
  • Healthy fats (providing anti-inflammatory properties)
Therefore, your next challenge is….wait for it, wait for it… increase the fiber in your diet!! And here’s how you can accomplish it:
  • Add beans to a salad, pasta, or rice dish or blend into your own veggie burger (LOVE these burgers, plus they freeze well)
  • Add nuts or flax seed to oatmeal, yogurt, or cottage cheese
  • Scoop nut butters onto fresh fruit as snack
  • Add lentils or beans to a soup (check out my fiber-filled soup ideas here). Smashing some with a potato masher or immersion blender makes the soup thick and creamy without adding extra fat.
  • Blend beans into your own hummus or bean dip (Tarala knows how to work the food processor we make this hummus so often)
  • Add spinach or kale to smoothies, sandwiches, and salads
  • Use ground oats or whole grain cereal in place of bread crumbs
  • Add an extra vegetable or salad to lunch and dinner. Lean on steam in a bag veggies if nothing else.
  • Grab single serve carrot sticks or munch on mini sweet peppers or cherry tomatoes
  • Make homemade sweet potato fries in less than 20 minutes for a side dish with a lean burger or sandwich instead of chips
  • Buy pre-chopped squash and roast at the beginning of the week to add to salads and pastas or for a quick side dish
  • Have baked or refried beans as side dish at dinner (We smash our own with cumin, onion, and garlic or rely on Harris Teeter’s Fat Free Lime Black Beans).
  • Add sauted veggies (mushrooms, carrots, onion, pepper, shredded zucchini) to tacos or chopped veggies to a meatloaf
What are your sneaky ways to fit in more fiber?


Friday, April 25, 2014

A Slimmed Down Cinco de Mayo Menu

I'm a little early, but I've been asked to write a blog entry for another website and it got me thinking about Cinco de Mayo. I love Mexican food, but can't imagine going to one on the holiday. I will not wait 2 hours to eat lard-filled refried beans covered in cheese. But I would like to celebrate because I love me some Mexican, so here's what I came up with. Skip the chips, slim down your drink, and make some homemade fish tacos and you’ll avoid the long lines and the high calorie meal. Add a little tequila to this menu and you're in for a real treat!

Broiled Fish Tacos with Grilled Cabbage Slaw
*Broiling fish is super quick and tilapia never dries out. It makes for a quick weeknight meal. I would make extra of this spice rub and keep it around for fish, chicken or pork chops.*

  • 1 lb firm fish (rockfish, cod, tilapia, etc.)
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Fresh limes
  • Greek yogurt (optional)
  • Corn tortillas
  1. Preheat broiler with rack 4 inches from the top.
  2. Add seasoning to small bowl and mix to combine.
  3. Line a pan with foil and spray with non-stick spray and place fish on pan. Brush fish with olive oil. Sprinkle seasoning over fish and rub. Flip fish over and repeat.
  4. Broil fish for 4-5 minutes each side until flaky.
  5. Squeeze fresh lime juice over the fish. Serve in warm corn tortillas with grilled cabbage and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Grilled Cabbage with Spicy Lime Dressing
*I am obsessed with this recipe.*

  • Juice of 3 limes (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves or 2 tsp garlic paste (Garlic paste is a great time saver! You can find it in the refrigerated section of the produce aisle. Our grocer carries Gourmet Garden.)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 head green cabbage
  • Grapeseed or canola oil
  1. Heat a gas or charcoal grill. Combine the limes, olive oil, fish sauce, garlic, cilantro, salt, cayenne and sugar in a small chopper or blender until the sauce is combined.
  2. Remove the loosest, toughest outer leaves from the cabbage, and cut into 8 evenly-sized wedges. Do not remove the stalk or inner core. Lightly brush the wedges with grapeseed or canola oil.
  3. Place the wedges on the grill and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the edges of each layer are blackened and the cabbage is beginning to soften. Flip each wedge over, cover the grill, and cook for an additional 10 minutes on the other side. Remove the cabbage when it is wilted.
  4. Take the cabbage off the grill and shred. Pour the dressing over top and toss.

Slim Rita
*What's Mexican food without tequila?!*

  • 1.5 ounce tequila
  • 1 fresh lime
  • 6 ounces Diet Squirt or other lemon lime soda
  • Salt
  1. Wet the rim of your tumbler or margarita glass with water by tipping it upside down into a bowl of water.
  2. Rub the rim into coarse salt.
  3. Fill the glass with ice, tequila, lime juice, and lemon lime soda. Stir and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gummy Bears & Plain Yogurt

A Facebook question inspired me to write a long-winded, full-post response. It helped me think of some other points I've been meaning to make. See below:

"Thanks for the post Mel!…I love my sugar  Probably should start working on this though as I am sure I take in way too much. Questions-- 1)what about added sugar to things during exercise? Say during a marathon or endurance event. Sometimes I eat gummy bears while riding the bike! 2) I don't really like the taste of the plain greek yogurt, I have used it in cooking but just not straight up. I've usually been getting the fruit flavored ones. Is there anything I can do to make it more palatable for me? Maybe adding fresh fruit to it? Thanks for the info!"

Low to moderate glycemic index foods may benefit your workout 1 hour or so before a workout. These foods are lower in fiber and can be digested quickly. Too much sugar right before working out can cause a reflexive low blood sugar. Therefore, it may be best to try a little bit of protein with the carbs 2 hours before working out. These foods should do ok 1-2 hours before a workout:
  • Apple + string cheese
  • Banana + 2 Tbsp almond butter
  • Walnuts + yogurt
  • Carrots, hummus, whole grain crackers
  • Multigrain toast + low fat cheese or peanut butter
  • Peach + cottage cheese
  • Sports bar
  • Oatmeal + protein powder or nuts
  • Smoothie (fruit + yogurt or protein powder)

As for nutrition during training, you should aim for 30-60g carbohydrates per hour or about 1g/kg/hour. Usually “simple” carbohydrates are usually well digested and absorbed during a workout but the source of carbohydrates also makes a difference. While exercising, you want the fuel that will help raise your blood sugar the fastest.

Most commercial products have a variety of sources of carbohydrates include glucose polymers, glucose, sucrose, and fructose. Fructose is not used a lot because it is not well absorbed and therefore can create stomach upset. Most products contain a combination of sources since they are absorbed at different rates. This allows your body to have a more continuous source of fuel. Sports drinks are specially formulated to provide the max amount of glucose that your system can digest without upset, about 4-8% concentrated.

Gummy bears are made up of sugar, glucose syrup, starch, flavoring, food coloring, citric acid and gelatin. Each gummy bear has about 9 calories, all of which are coming from carbohydrates (2.2g per gummy bear). Therefore, if it is the main source of carbohydrates during a workout, you would have to take in 15-30 gummy bears per hour. If this is a reasonable amount, or if you paired the bears with a sports drink, it seems like a good plan. The main thing is to find a “food” and/or drink that is palatable and tolerable over a long time. Always bring a back-up for ultra-endurance events because 10+ hours of gummy bears could get real old.

As for Greek yogurt, you might add any combination of the following:
  • Fresh fruit (my fav is mangos) 
  • Frozen fruit (While it thaws it juices into the yogurt leaving a nice sweetness. I'll buy the giant bag of berries from Costco and mix them with the yogurt, overnight. )
  • Low sugar jelly
  • Granola such as Bear Naked or Nature’s Path
  • Chopped nuts
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice
  • Pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling, which is sweetened)
  • Stevia/Truvia
  • Mix half flavored yogurt with half unflavored
  • Vanilla, almond, or other extract
Hope that helps!


Ryan, M. Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes. Boulder: Velo Press; 2007. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Added sugars 101

How much sugar do we need?  NONE!

Carbohydrates are converted into sugar, so we can rely entirely on nutritive sources of fuel. Sugar on its own contains no vitamins or minerals but instead robs the body of vitamins in order to process sugar.

Ironically, I am writing this from a Starbucks. A frappuccino has 69 g of sugar, which is about 17 teaspoons of sugar.

When you’re reading nutrition labels, do some quick math to give yourself a visual picture -- 4g of sugar = 1 tsp. Therefore, if your yogurt has 4g of sugar naturally (from milk sugars, lactose) and the flavored variety has 16g sugar (Chobani blended versus plain), manufacturers more or less added 3 teaspoons of sugar. Keep in mind these added sugars also don’t contribute to our fullness, whereas the extra 3g of protein from the plain yogurt sure could. Ok, to be honest, 3g of protein probably won’t be more filling, but it provides you with the benefit of high quality of protein that your body can use to make hormones, enzymes, growth and repair.

The average American eats 22 teaspoons of added sugars daily, contributing an extra 350, non-nutritive (ie having no health benefit) calories per day. This could potentially add up to 36 pounds per year!

Right now nutrition facts do not distinguish between natural sugars and added sugars. In late February, the FDA proposed a change that may include a specific line indicating how many grams of added sugars are in the food. Until then, it’s best to take a peek at the ingredients. Ingredients are listed in descending order by volume, so the further up sugar is listed, the more added sugars in the food item.

Added sugars:
  • anhydrous dextrose
  • brown sugar
  • confectioner's powdered sugar
  • corn syrup
  • corn syrup solids
  • dextrose
  • fructose
  • high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • honey
  • invert sugar
  • lactose
  • malt syrup
  • maltose
  • maple syrup
  • molasses
  • nectars (e.g., peach nectar, pear nectar)
  • pancake syrup
  • raw sugar
  • sucrose
  • sugar
  • white granulated sugar
Is honey healthier than sugar? NO! 

If you read carefully, you may have noted that honey was on the list of added sugars. That’s because it is a sugar. Honey gets its sweetness from fructose and glucose whereas table sugar is sucrose, which is composed of fructose and glucose. Oh wait, they’re both fructose and glucose? Yes, they are the same. Both also have very similar degrees of sweetness. 

So what is the big deal with the extra sugar anyway? 

Well, cells use glucose for energy, but fructose first has to be converted to glucose (fructolysis) which only occurs in the liver. Triglycerides, uric acid, and free radicals are end product of the fructose conversion. You may have heard of triglycerides before -- they are a component of your total cholesterol (⅕ x triglycerides is added into the total cholesterol count). The triglycerides can build up in your liver creating a condition called fatty liver disease, which now affects ⅓ of adults. Triglycerides also contribute to the accumulation of fatty plaque on artery walls. And free radicals circulate through the body creating damage on otherwise healthy cells. And then we’ve got insulin resistance from the constant influx of sugar in the system. Insulin is produced to help lower blood sugars, so if there is a constant stream of high sugars, the body overproduces insulin (hyperinsulinemia) and over time no longer responds to the hormone. None of this sounds good, does it? 

What about agave nectar? 

Agave nectar is also a sugar made up of fructose and glucose, but has been touted as having a lower glycemic index. This means it supposedly has less of an impact on blood sugars. Glycemic index gives a numerical rating corresponding to the blood sugar increase after having a 50g load of carbohydrates. Agave’s is 19 compared to table sugar’s (sucrose) 58. Since a 50g serving of carbohydrates is not always a reasonable portion, a better indicator is glycemic load. This multiplies the glycemic index by a normal portion. When this is taken into account, agave has a glycemic load of 2 compared to a 6 for table sugar. No significant difference. 

Common sugar culprits include:
  • Cereal 
  • Instant oatmeal 
  • Cereal bars
  • Yogurt
  • Desserts
  • Soda and other flavored beverages
  • Dried fruit 
  • Jams and jellies (Look for Smucker’s low sugar jelly instead. Uses no artificial sweeteners either but has half the sugar!)
  • Ketchup 
  • Salad dressing
  • Peanut butter (Really?! Doesn’t it taste pretty darn good on it’s own?!)
  • Canned fruit 
So this week's challenge involves picking up a food, turning it around, and examining the nutrition facts and ingredients before putting the food in your mouth. Can you trim some of the unnecessary added sugars from your diet? 


Johnson RK, Appel LJ, Brands M, et al. Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2009;120:1011-20.

Skerrett, P. (2011, April 26). Is fructose bad for you?. Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Whole Grained Meatloaf & Challenge Update

It's taken me a minute to post again because our family computer has been occupied with taxes. I'm sneaking in a post before they're done to tell you that I did it! I ate my 8-grain cereal 3 days last week and already started my week of right be eating it for breakfast this morning. I discovered that making the cereal with milk makes it plenty sweet and filling for me. I used to always make oatmeal with water and then had to add protein powder to sweeten it and bulk up the protein. I like my new plan to go the more natural route and cut down on the steps to make it. I added 1/2 banana and topped it with a plop of cottage cheese or almond butter, depending on the day. I also discovered microwaving it in a giant Pyrex bowl prevents the boil over and microwave mess. 3 minutes did the trick for me.

I also discovered a quick whole grain option at Costco. This little pack microwaves in 90 seconds and fed our little family of 3 - Arjun, me and Monica. Tarala housed her own packet and while she didn't finish it, I did refill her plate 5 times. It was very moist and flavorful. I also like getting the Minute Rice brown or wild rice cups for Tarala. I never mind cleaning up her leftovers. It's one cup of rice and is ready in one minute. I don't really understand how the microwave rice can be so yummy but it's nice to have some time-saving foods to help fit in the whole grains.

Did you know grain could be a verb? Well I just made it one. "Grained" means you make the food a whole grain. I almost always make my meatloaf in these mini tins. I bought mine a while back at World Market before Internet shopping was the gold standard. Now you can get six of these little guys on Amazon for $6.99. They not only make your meatloaf (or banana bread) super cute, but it cuts the cooking time in half. A 30 min meatloaf sounds way more doable on a weeknight than a 60 min meatloaf. Plus it helps with portion control. If you don't want to invest in these muffin tins, you can always bake the meatloaf in muffin tins.

Whole Grained Meatloaf

1 package lean ground turkey (1.25 lbs)
1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill 8-Grain cereal or similar variety
1 egg or 2 egg whites
Few splashes of Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
Salt & pepper
Squeeze of Dijon mustard

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees 
  2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl
  3. Spray tins with non-stick cooking spray 
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until loaves reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees
  5. Serve with a whole grain side or sweet potatoes and a green veggie. Try the microwavable bags of veggies for a quick meal. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

I Dare You to Eat More Whole Grains

As athletes our nutritional needs are higher. We need overall more calories than the sedentary person, so we need more carbs, protein, fluid, and vitamins. Sometimes we lose sight of this and slip into the old adage that because our metabolic ovens burn hot, we can eat whatever we want and more of it. In reality, we should be hyper-focused on what goes into our bodies to efficiently fuel our sport.  In a two part-series, I’m going to challenge you to take a closer look at your food. First, we’ll aim to eat more whole grain sources of carbohydrates. Next week I’ll help you trim out added sugars. So without further ado….

  • Lower the risk of chronic disease
  • Prevents leaky gut and food intolerances
  • Provides us with more antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins
  • Protects cognitive function
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Control weight

Benefits of whole grains to your performance:

  • Longer lasting energy. Whole grains have more fiber and take longer to break down (aka complex carbs). Therefore, they provide you with more sustainable energy.
  • More vitamins. Whole grains are less processed than their “white” counterparts. The refining process strips grains of their endosperm (aka fiber) and vitamins. These vitamins (vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, selenium, phosphorus) help keep our immune systems fighting and help convert our food into energy.
  • More protein. Although not our best source (and not a complete source) of protein, grains do provide us with some. As athletes our needs are higher for recovery and repair, so the added bonus is great. We also know the protein/carb combo helps us recover and keeps us full. One cup of cooked quinoa provides 8g protein versus 4 grams from a cup of white rice. 


The bread and cereal aisles are even confusing to me, so I thought I’d give you a few tips. First off, you need to pick up the food, turn it over, and look at it before placing it in the grocery cart. Look for the first ingredient to be 100% or look for the whole grain stamp on the box.
Here is a review and list of best bets for bread. Some of the options may have been updated (the list is from a few years back), it will still be a great starting place.

Here is a similar review and list for cereal. I’ve also posted on the cereal aisle before, so make sure to check out that.

An even better bet is to skip the bag or the box and go for the real thing. Instead of bread at lunch, go for brown rice or quinoa (and if you’re really feeling edgy, millet or buckwheat) with some lean meat and veggies. Or have a hot or cold version of the hot cereals at breakfast. If you soak grains overnight in milk, yogurt or other non-dairy beverage, you can eat them cold. I’ve mentioned before that my daughter is really into the Bob’s Red Mill 8 Grain Wheat-less cereal. I don’t like a lot of variety at breakfast and find myself reaching for the cereal bag (I buy those giant, compostable bags of Nature’s Path GF cereals) or some buckwheat frozen waffles so I too need a good nutritional kick in the butt. I am writing it for everyone to witness and hold me accountable: my goal this week is to eat the 8 Grain cereal three times. And I’m going to try overnight oats at least once. Who’s with me? Come on - I dare you! And if you’re already doing oatmeal, explore other hot cereals or mix it up with a combo.

If you are gluten free, it can be more challenging to find whole grains but it’s definitely possible if you put your mind to it. By incorporating grains like amaranth, quinoa (my favorite, as you know!), millet, buckwheat, teff, stone ground corn (polenta, grits), sorghum, and oats*, you can incorporate some hearty starches and not miss out on fiber or vitamins. *Oats are inherently gluten free but are usually processed or farmed with wheat. Gluten free oats are available; Bob’s Red Mill, my favorite whole grain and gluten free product line, offers a variety. You can also substitute some wholesome flours by using a bean or nut flour. We made falafel last night and used garbanzo bean flour instead of AP flour. I had a GF pizza in NY City that was made out of garbanzo bean flour. I think about that pizza all the time and wish I could remember where I got it. I would drive up there this weekend if I could figure it out….Before I diverge any more, you can check out more on whole grain and gluten free by visiting the Whole Grains Council web page. 

Check back later this week to see how my cereal challenge is going. If my 19-month old can do it, so can I!


Nutrition Action Healthletter by the Center for Science in the Public Interest
Whole Grains Council