"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food" - Hippocrates

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Healthy Eating on a Budget for Athletes

We are all experiencing the budget crunch. Race entry fees are getting more expensive and food costs are soaring. Even though smart eating can seem difficult when you are counting your pennies, but it doesn’t have to be. With careful meal planning, shopping, and cooking you can trim both your waistline and your food budget. Frequent eating out can be disastrous to your pocketbook. (Spending $5 a day on a "value meal" for lunch adds up to more than $1,200 per year.) Even if you spend a little more on convenience items to make your lunches, you will probably save more in the long run. Here are some suggestions to help you get the most of your food budget.

Monthly Budgeting and Planning

• Plan meals and snacks for your family before you go shopping. Use the foods you have on hand first and use leftovers for meals during the week.

• Base your diet on the Food Guide Pyramid recommendations.

• Use coupons ONLY if they make items you usually buy cost even less. Always check newspaper ads or store flyers for weekly specials.

Shopping Strategies that Save Money

• Shop the perimeter of the store first where you’ll find the basics for a healthful diet (produce, meats and dairy) instead of stacking your cart with junk food fillers.

• Use the unit price to compare costs between brands and different sized packages. Divide the total price by the number of ounces to come up with the unit price per ounce. Choose the cheaper variety!

• Choose generic whenever possible. Check higher or lower shelves for cheaper items because more expensive items are kept at eye-level.

• Watch for mistakes at the checkout line and always double check your receipt and change.


• Buy apples, oranges, grapefruit, potatoes, onions, etc., by the bag, not by the piece—it’s cheaper and will fill more lunch bags and cover more meals.

• Always shop for produce that’s in season, for the best flavor and prices. Compare frozen and fresh produce; buy the cheaper variety; they are equally nutritious.

• When buying canned foods, choose those that are packed in juice and low sodium.


• Choose plain brown rice and whole wheat English muffins and tortillas.

• Check out the day old breads (a great value and still fresh).

• Buy cereals and other grains without fancy packaging (in bulk) to store in airtight containers. Oatmeal is nutritious, economical and can be dressed up with brown sugar, bananas, etc.

• Whole wheat pasta is healthier but more expensive than white, so use a little of each!

Meats/Meat Substitutes

• Ready-to-cook meats are more expensive (e.g. marinated boneless, skinless chicken). Buy plain and skin/season yourself.

• Even though it is more expensive, use 93% lean ground beef. You get more edible yield than higher fat varieties.

• Use canned fish and chicken for sandwiches, enchiladas, casseroles, and salads.

• Extend your protein dollars by eating two or more meatless meals weekly.

• Soups, stews, chili, and spaghetti with sauce stretch your food dollars further and make filling meals (more veggies and potatoes or rice, less meat).

Dairy Products

• Used dried milk powder for recipes, use fluid milk for drinking (choose skim or 1%).

• Buy block cheese and shred it yourself for recipes (versus pre-shredded).

• Use real foods instead of expensive supplements. Instead of gels, use hard candy, raisins, jelly beans or other sweet treats. Make your own energy bars rather than buying them. My friend Becca has a great recipe: http://selfconceptsrecipes.blogspot.com/2009/07/granola-bars.html
Instead of expensive protein shakes post workout, try real foods. You want to aim for a 4:1 ratio (carb to protein). Some great examples are chocolate milk, yogurt with low fat granola and fruit, string cheese and whole grain crackers, or cottage cheese and fruit.

• Buy gels and bars in bulk. Look for sales.

• Switch to generic vitamin/mineral supplements.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Train to eat: A plan for good nutrition

A good nutrition plan is important for fueling the body and investing in overall health. However, nutrition is the most commonly overlooked component in an endurance athlete’s training program. If you are like most Americans, you skip breakfast; work through lunch, and by late afternoon you are starving, so you buy a candy bar from the vending machine. You are so tired after work that you buzz through the nearest fast food drive thru. Many athletes become concerned about nutrition weeks or days prior to an event, but nutrition is an important part of their training year round. A good nutrition plan supports training so that you are able to train efficiently and effectively and improve your health and performance. Let’s get started. As you shape your diet, include these foods for optimal energy.

• Whole grains and starches such as brown rice, 100% whole wheat bread, oatmeal, popcorn, and barley. Most athletes need 55-60% of their calories from carbohydrates to adequately fuel their muscles. This equates to 6-11 servings per day (1 slice of bread, ½ bagel, ½ cup cooked rice, pasta or cereal equals a serving).

• Fruits (think color) such as oranges, apples, bananas, and strawberries. Fruits improve healing and aid in recovery after exercise. Aim for at least 2 cups per day. A cup equals 1 cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice or ½ cup dried fruit.
• Choose dark, colorful vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, carrots. The recommended intake is at least 3 to 5 servings of vegetables per day. Most people rarely eat that much in a week! A serving of vegetables equals 1 cup raw or cooked, 1 cup vegetable juice, and 2 cups raw leafy greens.
• Protein for muscle building and recovery including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts. Aim for 0.5-0.75 grams of protein per pound. 1 oz (~7g protein) equals 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked dry beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds. Some top choices include: skinless white meat chicken or turkey, fish, lean beef (products with round or loin in the name), peanut butter, canned beans, tofu, and almonds.
• Dairy products for bone health. Try to get in 3 cups a day. 1 cup equals 1 cup of milk or yogurt, or 1 ½ ounces of natural cheese. Make low fat choices such as 1% or skim milk, low fat yogurt, low fat cheeses (part-skim mozzarella, string cheese, light cheddar cheese).

Not a big vegetable fan? Try preparing vegetables in different ways. We all love French fries, but have you tried sweet potato oven fries? Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamins B6, C and beta-carotene, as well as a good source of fiber.

Sweet Potato Oven Fries

3 large sweet potatoes, cleaned with skin on
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 375. Cut potatoes into 1" thick slices using a sharp knife. Place potatoes in large mixing bowl. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Gently stir allowing ingredients to be spread evenly over potatoes. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place potatoes on baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes or until tender and crisp. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Less is More

Thursday I had the pleasure of teaching classes for a diabetes program. I love teaching because it is a great opportunity to share my passion about nutrition with others. Diabetes is a big problem (no pun intended) in our county as well as across the nation. And it is mostly due to poor eating habits. I was explaining portion sizes to the class and someone in the class asked me if I measured out my foods. I told her that I did. Even though I am at my ideal body weight and exercise regularly, that is still not a license to eat whatever I want and as much as I want. I think that this is a myth that many athletes and even regular exercisers believe. If you want to be at or close to your ideal weight, you have to have an idea of how many calories you are taking in(at least for most people- there are a few that are very thin and have trouble keeping on weight). The problem is that our portion sizes have increased so much over the past 20 years, that we don't have an accurate idea of what a correct portion size looks like. There are a couple of great presentations by the National Heart Lung & Blood Institute called "Portion Distortion". You can view them here: http://hp2010.nhlbihin.net/portion/. Basically the presentation compares the portion size of a food item 20 years ago to today's portion. Then you see how long it would take to burn off those calories (based on a 130 lb person). You can see how easily a person could gain weight over time.
There are a couple of different tools that you can use to measure portion sizes. My favorite visual is to use your hand.
  • A fist represents a cup (for cereals, vegetables, casseroles, etc)
  • A cupped hand represents 1/2 cup (pasta, rice, beans, etc)
  • A palm represents 3 ounces of meat (beef, poultry, pork or fish)
  • A thumb represents a tablespoon (peanut butter, salad dressing, etc)
  • A tip of the thumb represents a teaspoon (butter, margarine, oil, etc)
Yes, hand sizes vary but if you are using your hand, that is a good start. I encourage people to cut back gradually. Make small changes so that it is not such a big adjustment. If you are used to going to Outback on the weekends and your steak looks like the size of two entire hands, please don't cut back to a palm's worth! You will be seriously undersatisfied. Cut back to 3/4 or 1/2 of that amount. Fill in the difference with low calorie, nutrient dense foods such as fruits and vegetables. Another visual that I like to use is called the Plate Method. Fill 1/2 of your plate with non-starchy vegetables (salads, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, etc); 1/4 starch (pasta, rice, potatoes or other starchy vegetables, and 1/4 protein (meat, chicken, fish, tofu, etc).
To measure portion sizes you can also use other visuals. Here are a few examples.
  • 3 ounces of meat is the size and thickness of a deck of cards
  • A potato is about the size of a computer mouse
  • A tortilla, pancake or waffle is about this size of a CD
  • 2 tbsp of peanut butter or salad dressing  is the size of a golf ball
  • A cup of cereal is the size of a baseball
  • 1/2 cup of rice or pasta is the size of 1/2 a baseball
  • 1 1/2 oz of cheese is the size of 4 stacked dice
If you are not measuring out your portion sizes, I would encourage you to start. You can also use measuring cups and spoons or even a food scale. Just remember, less is more.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

To Eat or Not to Eat- Before Exercise

Some of you might have seen the recent study about burning more fat by skipping breakfast. Article link: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2010-06-04-eating-exercise_N.html Hmm... most nutrition experts (myself included) recommend eating before exercise. Well, it depends on what your goals are. Unfortunately, it is difficult to make general nutrition recommendations because each person and their situation is unique.
Whereas the cyclists were able to burn more fat, their performance suffered greatly. So for competitive athletes, this is not a good idea. Especially after an overnight fast. In my opinion, you can find other ways to burn fat without sacrificing performance. Here are some tips:
Happy training and fat burning.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Post-Ride Pancakes!

This morning I decided to ride with the local Saturday group. It was a nice ride, challenging but not too hard. After the ride, as I was making my way home, I started thinking about what I would have for breakfast. Eating after a workout is so important, especially in that 30 minute window to replace glycogen levels. A combination of carbohydrates and protein in a ratio of 3:1 or 4:1 is recommended. There are commercial replacement drinks available such as Accelerade and Endurox but real foods and drinks such as chocolate milk, a turkey sandwich and pancakes work just as well.
Since my weekend schedule is more flexible, I look forward to making pancakes. And yes, you can make healthier pancakes- it is so easy. I use oatmeal for the base, but you could use whole wheat flour instead. I added 1 whole egg and 1 egg white to boost the protein content. Feel free to add in whatever you have on hand. Today I added raisins, walnuts, and carrots (like my friend Betsy says, get in your vegetables at breakfast!). I love adding canned pumpkin, but unfortunately it is impossible to find right now due to a bad harvest. This recipe makes 1 serving but you could easily adjust it for more.

Carrot, Raisin, Walnut Oatmeal Pancakes
1/2 cup oatmeal (use the instant kind- the texture is better for pancakes, cookies, etc.)
1 tbsp whole wheat flour
1 egg, 1 egg white
1/4 cup chopped carrot (I used a food processor.)
2 tbsp raisins
1 tbsp chopped walnuts
1 tbsp flaxseed
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp pumpkin spice
thumb size piece of fresh ginger grated (if you don't have fresh on hand, then just use 1/4 tsp ground)
1/2 cup water

Mix oatmeal, whole wheat flour, flaxseed, carrots, raisins, walnuts and spices in a bowl. Mix water and eggs in a separate bowl. Whisk until foamy (this incorporates air which will result in a fluffier pancake). Add water and eggs to dry mixture. Let sit for 5 minutes to allow oats to soften. Heat pan on the stove to medium.
* A couple of tips and tricks that I have learned from my dad, the pancake master. First, get your pan to the right temperature. Second, be patient. Dad always told us that patience was a Godly virtue (we certainly reminded him about that:). Wait until several small bubbles form before turning over.
Top with syrup, honey, agave nectar or even vanilla yogurt. Today I decided to have syrup. Publix has an awesome sugar free syrup- it doesn't leave a funny aftertaste like some other brands. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Food Revolution- Lose your salt tooth

I recently heard about a health fair where someone brought a one year old Happy Meal to a health fair. It looked pretty similar to a fresh one. Visit the link to see a picture: http://consumerist.com/2010/03/this-1-year-old-happy-meal-has-aged-surprisingly-well.html. Granted this person was trying to sell Juice Plus, a supplement that claims to be the "next best thing to fruits and vegetables. So why not just eat fruits and vegetables! Well, anyway, I will save that rant for another post:). The 1-year old Happy Meal is high on the shock value, but if you think about it, it's no surprise. Even though Americans lead crazy, hectic lives, they better slow down and pay attention to their health.
Fast food is chock full of preservatives, including sodium. I was researching a presentation for a summer boot camp about fast food and was shocked at the sodium content. I knew it was bad, but when you really start looking, it is almost impossible to find something on the menu with less than half of the recommended daily intake. The American Heart Association and the Dietary Guidelines recommend less than 2400 mg per day. To put this in perspective, a teaspoon of salt (the size of the tip of my thumb) has 2000 mg of sodium. Why is too much sodium a bad thing? It can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. In addition, a diet high in salt content is often associated with weight gain. Moreover, recent research indicates that if Americans would moderately reduce their sodium intake, they would dramatically improve their health:
So what can you do to lose your salt tooth?
  • When I am counseling, I tell people that salt is an acquired taste. So they need to cut back gradually. Don't immediately go to salt-free products. Try reduced sodium products instead.
  • Try to consume more of your meals at home versus eating out. That grilled chicken sandwich from Chick-FilA might sound healthy, but it contains 1300 mg of sodium- more than half of your daily needs!
  • Learn to use other spices and seasonings to flavor your food. Acids like wine, vinegar, or citrus juices bring out the flavors in foods without using salt. Also fresh herbs, garlic, onions or shallots can help ease the transition to lower-salt cooking by waking up other flavors. Also, look for salt free seasonings such as Mrs. Dash.
  • Cut the salt in your pantry staples. It's no surprise that sodium is high in canned foods, but it is hiding in alot of other foods. Breakfast cereals, salad dressings, marinara sauce, and breads are some examples. Compare brands and make the better choice. Or you can also make your own. Check out this recipe for homemade marinara sauce. It's so easy and best of all, you can control the amount of sodium and sugar.
Homemade Marinara Sauce

1 tsp olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

4 fresh beefsteak tomatoes, chopped or 14 oz can of no salt added tomatoes

1 small can of tomato paste

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar or red wine (optional)

Salt and ground black pepper to taste


In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion until softened, usually about 4-5 mins. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the remaining ingredients and cook uncovered for about 10 mins. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Let's start a revolution.... A food revolution that is

Obesity is a big problem, no pun intended. Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon offering their solution to the problem. Recently ABC aired a mini series featuring Chef Jamie Oliver and his campaign to improve the health of the community in Huntington, West Virginia. This town has the highest obesity rate in the nation, although not much off the national average. If you didn't get the opportunity to watch this, you can view it online here: http://abc.go.com/watch/jamie-olivers-food-revolution/250784/254757/episode-101. I love it when he dresses up like a pea and the kids are chasing after him while he shouts "EAT YOUR VEGETABLES!" LOL.
Jamie's solution to the problem: get people to stop eating the processed crap and cook wholesome, fresh food from scratch. I agree with Jamie. There are so many additives including sodium and sugar in processed foods. You can make nutritious meals from scratch and they actually taste better!
I checked out Jamie's cookbook, Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals, from the library. The cookbook features recipes for all types of foods including seafood,  salads, curries, and desserts. There are lots of pictures to visually entice your appetite. Check out some of Jamie's recipes here: http://www.jamieoliver.com/.
The first recipe that I decided to try was for Chicken Tikka Masala. I love spicy Indian food. Here is the recipe: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1076321/Spice-life-Jamie-Olivers-hot-recipes-tasty-curries.html
Let's start a food revolution! Find some tasty recipes, make a list and go to the grocery store, and enjoy home cooked food. Your body will thank you for it:)

What's your favorite home cooked recipe?