Keeping Your Nutrition on Track During the Holiday Season

It’s that time of year again when dieters around the world tremble in fear: that’s right, it’s holiday time!  Even though I’m not into diets, I do get that the holidays are a time when we are bombarded with parties and social gatherings and food and drink flow abundantly. I believe this food and drink should be enjoyed, but I get that no one wants to sideline their nutrition and health in the process.  So below is a blog I wrote awhile on back on Navigating the Holidays.

 

YImageou’ve heard the shocking statistics: the average American gains 5 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s! (Or something equally shocking).  Do I buy it? Not exactly, as a person would have to eat an extra 500 calories every day to gain that much weight in that time frame.  I do believe, however, that the holiday season sets us up for possible weight gain.  Not only do the holidays tend to revolve around big family meals, but there’s also usually lots of goodies lurking in the break room at work.  Holiday parties and travel make it hard to stick to a regular workout routine and eating schedule as well.  Alcohol flows like water.  It’s a set up, I get it, but if you have a plan you can navigate the holidays without weight gain and still enjoy yourself! Here’s how:

At parties:

    • Scan the buffet.  Check out the options before you start filling your plate and prioritize what you really want to try as opposed to going through the line and taking some of everything.  Make sure there are some veggies on your plate too.
    • Don’t skip meals to stockpile calories for later.  This strategy almost always backfires as you will likely get so hungry that you end up eating more than planned.  Eat regular meals as scheduled and have a small healthy snack before the event so that you don’t arrive ravenous.
    • Keep a glass of water in hand.  If your hand is busy, you’ll be less likely to mindlessly reach for food when you aren’t even hungry.  If you plan to drink alcohol, try to drink a glass of water after every alcoholic beverage to slow yourself down and stay hydrated.
    • Choose your beverage wisely.  Eggnog is awesome but it’s a calorie bomb too.  Limit your intake of high calorie beverages such as eggnog (or anything with cream), margaritas, and white Russians.  Your best bet? A heart-healthy glass of red wine.
    • Dance.  If there’s a dance floor at the party hit it up.  Not only does dancing count as exercise, but it’s pretty hard to mindlessly eat while getting your boogey on!
  • At work:
    • Don’t eat just to be nice.  That’s so great that your coworker was kind enough to bring in that pie, cake, cookie, or whatever other sugar laden goodie that is calling your name, but you don’t have to eat it just because it’s there.  If you are getting pressured to try some and really don’t want to, you can always be polite and say “no thanks, I had some cookies earlier”.  One little white lie won’t guarantee you get coal in your stocking.
    • Enlist the support of a coworker with similar goals. A like-minded friend can help keep you in check when tempted to over-do it. Also, just telling someone your plan, say to only have 1 cookie, will help you stick to it.
    • Remove yourself from the situation.  Out of sight out of mind, right? If you know the staff lounge is full of treats don’t spend too much time there drooling over them.
  • At family gatherings:
    • Set boundaries and know when to say no.  Have a plan to set boundaries if you know you may encounter pushy family members.  Sometimes people will react better if you emphasize health and not weight, such as by saying “No thank you, I am watching my cholesterol” instead of saying that you are watching your weight. Your crazy aunt may think you are perfect and don’t need to diet and get pushy about trying her dessert, but she likely won’t want to raise your cholesterol
    • Bring a nutritious dish of your own such as a veggie tray or vegetable based side dish like roasted Brussels sprouts.  Then make sure it fills up a good portion of your plate (at least ¼ of your plate should be veggies)
    • Have a game plan.  As with regular meal planning, having a plan is important with holiday eating.  The plan can be general if you’re not sure what foods will be available (i.e. “I’ll leave space for one dessert”) or specific if you do know (i.e. “I’ll indulge in one piece of chocolate cake”)
    • If you’ll be traveling for the holidays bring plenty of your own healthy snacks (nuts anyone?) to stave off hunger and avoid potential cookie binges.At family gatherings: 
  • In general:
    • Don’t feel that you have to attend every engagement you are invited to.  Prioritize the parties you really want to or feel you should attend, and let the others pass by with a polite “Sorry, I already have plans”.  It’s okay if your “plans” include staying home and hitting the hay early.
    • As always, moderation is key. Don’t deny yourself the treats you really want as this often backfires and makes you want it more (and eat more when you finally do give in).  Enjoy the foods you really want, but do so in moderation.
    • Most importantly, if you do overeat, don’t stress.  Shaming yourself will only make you feel worse and may lead to emotional or stress eating.  Remember, one meal will not make or break you or your health.   Do your best to get back on track and don’t beat yourself up over it.
    • Lastly, keep your training schedule, at least as much as possible.  Don’t be an all or nothing person; a little exercise is better than none.  If you are limited for time focus on short intense workouts, such as 30 minutes of interval training.
    • Change your attitude.  Sure, it seems like the holidays are all about food, but really they should be about giving thanks and celebrating life with the people you care about.  Shift your focus from the food and drinks to the family and friends.  Start a non-food related tradition. Sometimes just changing your attitude is helpful with meeting your nutrition goals!

Happy Holidays!

Why I’m Going Bananas for Bananas

bananaThe poor banana.  It gets so much bad press.  High carb! High sugar! Many diets shun the banana.  I get that it’s not the most exotic or exciting fruit.  It might even be considered a little boring, especially with all the pomegranate, acai, mangosteen madness the past few years.  I’ve always been against labeling foods as “super foods” so it’s no wonder that I don’t put bananas lower on the nutrition totem pole than any other fruit (does anyone really eat mangosteen anyway?!)   I admit I also tend to root for the underdog, but the banana really has a lot going for it. Sure it’s not a glamorous fruit, but there is still so much to love.

I have to admit that I too had forgotten about the banana.  I’m not even sure why, but I probably went several years without buying a single one!  It wasn’t on purpose, I was just distracted by other, more thrilling fruits I guess.  I came back to the banana this summer though.   I was trying to up my fruit and veggie intake and also on the lookout for new, easily digested foods to integrate into my pre-workout meals and snacks.  The banana was my perfect solution, and I’ve been buying them weekly ever since.  Below is why I like bananas, and hope you will too!

–          Bananas are portable and easy to eat. There are no messy seeds or juices and no utensils needed, making the banana a great on the go snack.  They are also easy to shove in a bike jersey pocket! (Tip: consider pre-peeling the banana if your bike handling skills aren’t impeccable).

–          Bananas are easily digested and a good source of carbohydrate, making them a great food to consume immediately before and during exercise.  They are a great alternative to gels, bars, and chews for athletes wanting to use real food instead of, or in addition to sport nutrition products. One medium banana provides about 30 grams of carbs, which is comparable to one gel.

–          Bananas are high in nutrition.  Bananas are commonly known for being high potassium, but they are also great sources of vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese, and fiber!

–          Bananas are cost effective.  Typically costing less than $1/pound even for the organic kind, bananas aren’t gonna break the bank.  It’s also nice that you can buy just a few at a time so that you don’t have to worry about them going bad before you get around to eating them.

–          Bananas may help with weight management.  Bananas are high in resistant starch, a type of fiber that is not easily digested and is thought to promote feeling satiated and  improve glycemic control (aka stabilize blood sugars).  Some studies have linked diets high in resistant starch to lower body weight, but the jury is still out so don’t over do it with your banana intake.  Eat your bananas uncooked to get the full benefits of resistant starch.

–          Banana’s are super versatile and make an awesome addition to all sorts of meals and snacks:

  • Breakfast: slice up a banana and add it to your morning cereal or oatmeal
  • Snacks: add sliced bananas to Greek yogurt or cottage cheese, or top a slice of whole wheat toast with banana and your favorite nut butter (that is also one of my go to pre-race breakfasts!)
  • Lunch: make a wrap with 1 whole wheat wrap, peanut or almond butter, sliced banana, and a drizzle of honey for the perfect on the go lunch
  • Dinner: spice up a traditional Hawaiian pizza by adding sliced banana
  • Post workout: make a recovery smoothie by blending 8 oz low fat chocolate milk with 1 frozen banana.
  • Dessert: slice a banana and fill the inside with a tablespoon or two of chocolate chips or bits of dark chocolate. Pop in the oven until the chocolate melts. Bonus points if you have  a campfire to make this over!

So you see, really bananas are an athlete’s best friend.  Eat up!

Omega-3s and Fish

bear with fish 2I set out several days ago to write a blog about omega-3 fatty acids and fish that would be both interesting and informative, and of course written with my usual wit and personal anecdotes.  Turns out it’s not possible!  The topic has been written to death about and I have to admit that I couldn’t think of anything new or exciting to say about it.  But since I haven’t written about the topic on this blog before, and frankly got sick of staring at my computer screen trying to be witty, here goes nothing.

So you know by now that fish is good for you.   You might even know why: the omega-3 fatty acids.  But do you know why omega-3s are good for you?

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential polyunsaturated fatty acids.  They are referred to as essential because they cannot be made in the body and must be obtained through the food you eat.  The omega-3s can further be divided into alpha linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  These essential fatty acids are involved in the regulation of many processes in the body including blood pressure regulation, blood clot formation, blood lipids, the immune response and the inflammation response.  They are important for overall health as they are necessary for proper cell growth and functioning, especially in the brain.  They are also integral parts of cell membranes in the body.  They promote heart health and may reduce the risk of coronary artery disease.

As for sports performance, omega-3 s may have some benefits.  They are anti-inflammatory, so can help combat the inflammation that occurs with strenuous exercise .  They decrease blood clot formation and increase blood flow, meaning blood gets to working muscles more easily.  There is some research that suggests that the anti-inflammatory and vasodilation properties of omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial to athletic performance so it is important that athletes get the proper amount in their diet.

The recommendations for omega-3s are 1.6 g/day for men and 1.1 g/day for women.  If you eat 2-3 servings of fish per week you can meet these recs.  If you prefer not to eat fish, flaxseed oil and walnuts are some of the best vegetarian sources of omega-3, but not the same ones as fish.  Fish contains EPA and DHA whereas flaxseeds and walnuts contain only ALA.  Most of the health benefits seen are from EPA and DHA, and even though the body can convert some ALA to DHA and EPA, it doesn’t do so very efficiently.   So if you’re willing to eat fish that’s your best bet for meeting your omega-3 needs. If not, you might want to consider a supplement (fish oil or even flaxseed oil). I’m not one for taking supplements, but one of the few I do take fairly consistently is fish oil.  As always (or so it seems with nutrition), studies on the benefits of fish oil supplements are mixed. Some studies have found reduced triglyceride levels with fish oil supplementation, but most have not found a decreased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.  Since I have a hard time working fish into my diet twice a week (if only sushi wasn’t so expensive…) I use the supplement a few times per week. Remember- food first, supplements second.

Other considerations for fish: mercury content and mislabeling.  Certain types of fish are higher in mercury content that others. Steer clear of: swordfish, Chilean sea bass, grouper, mackerel, orange roughy, and shark as they tend to have the highest mercury content.  As for mislabeling, fish is one of the top mislabeled foods at the grocery store and in restaurants.  Recent figures have estimated that 1 in 3 fish sold is mislabeled! Some of it’s not intentional, fish often passes through multiple hands from the sea to the market, and I guess certain species look the same even to fish mongers.  Most common offenders are red snapper, halibut, grouper, cod, mahi mahi, sole, and wild salmon (sorry, it’s from a farm!)

Omega-3 Content of Select Foods

Food (4 oz fish) Grams of omega-3
Pacific herring 2.4
Mackerel 2.1
Atlantic salmon 2.1
Canned pink salmon 1.9
Trout 1.1
Canned white tuna 0.8
Canned light tuna 0.3
Canned sardines 0.7
Shrimp 0.4
Flaxseed oil (14 g) 8.4
Fish oil capsule (2) 7.2

Racing Weight and Healthy Weight Loss

food scale

Don’t try this at home. Actually, don’t weigh your food anywhere. Ever.

It’s a diet obsessed world out there.  It’s sad, really, how much our society focuses on looks and thinness.  Working in the eating disorder field I’ve grown to hate the “D” word.  But this is not a blog about the pitfalls of our society.  No, this is a blog about finding the balance between managing ones weight for sports performance and not sacrificing ones mental and physical health in the process.  There are many athletes with unhealthy and disordered eating habits and athletes are thought to be at a higher risk for developing an eating disorder.  This is not surprising seeing as the reality is that weight does, to some extent, affect endurance sports performance.  Some runner’s talk about their racing weight as if it was a holy grail that they would do anything to obtain.  You hear stats like “your mile time improves by 10 seconds for every pound lost”, or some crap like that.  Cyclists talk about how every pound lost improves power output by so much.  I don’t remember the specific statistic because I don’t care.  I mostly ride my bike because it’s fun.  It’s important not to lose sight of that in the process of trying to lose weight.  You probably started running or riding because it was fun too.  Sure there is a correlation between weight and performance-to some extent– but I challenge any athlete to cut off their hand (that weighs about a pound right?) and suddenly drop 10 seconds from their mile time! Okay, I kid, but seriously, the point is that the mere act of losing weight will not necessarily guarantee that your performance improves.  Lose too much weight or lose weight too quickly and your performance will suffer.  And you might lose your love for the sport in the process.

If you want to lose weight solely because you feel you don’t look like the stereotypical runner/cyclist/fill in the blank kind of athlete then stop right there.  Athletes come in all shapes and sizes and I am a firm believer of not modifying ones diet and exercise in order to change how one looks.  If your only motivation for weight loss is because you think you “have” to or because you want to look better in your underwear then this is probably not the blog for you.  Trust me it’s not worth risking falling into disordered eating or even a full blown eating disorder.  I’ll even admit to my eating disorder patients: sure you can modify your nutrition and exercise to manipulate your body to look however you want, but at what cost? What kind of life would that be? How about working on body acceptance instead of weight loss?

Losing weight for health or sports performance is different, but even those motivations can be taken too far.  It’s not always easy to know when an innocent desire to drop a few pounds to become a better athlete starts to become an unhealthy obsession with weight. As an athlete AND an eating disorder professional, I am acutely aware of the issue and believe that I have developed a pretty healthy and moderate approach to the subject.  I truly believe that if you focus on training right and eating well your weight and body composition will take care of themselves over time.  However, if you feel that some weight loss is truly justified and want to get a jump start read on to learn how to do it as healthfully (for your mind and body) as possible.  I could probably write a book on this topic (maybe I will someday…..) but below are some of my top tips.

  • Don’t count calories.  Just because you meet your body’s caloric needs doesn’t mean you are eating right or getting the nutrients your body needs.  You could meet your daily caloric needs with ice cream for Heaven’s sake!  Calorie counting can easily become compulsive, as it puts so much emphasis on hitting numbers and looking at nutrition labels.  Instead of counting calories, count servings from the food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, proteins, and fats.   All the rest, desserts and alcohol for example, would fall into the category of extras and you wouldn’t have a target for those, you would just aim to not have too many of them! (Not sure how many of each group you need? Consult an RD!)
  • Keep a food journal.  But not all the time, especially if you know this tends to become a compulsive “diet” activity for you.  Keeping a food journal for a few days will give you a picture of how much you are getting from all of the food groups mentioned above.  Once you know your baseline, you can work on eating more from some of the food groups, and possibly less from others.  Keeping a food journal can also help you keep tabs on mindless eating and boredom eating, which are common problems.  A handful of food here and there might not seem like a lot in your head, but it can add up quickly, and having it on paper helps put it in perspective.
  • Keep an eye on portions.  Most people have no concept of portions, and it’s not surprising given the ridiculous amount of food we are served at some restaurants.  Note: a giant plate of pasta does not count as one serving.  One grain’s worth of pasta is actually only ½ cup- the size of ½ of a baseball.
  • Focus on what you want to eat more of, not less.  The answer will probably be vegetables and fruits, as most Americans don’t meet the minimum recommendations of 5-9 servings/day.  I think that it’s mentally more helpful to focus on what you want to eat more of, instead of what you want to eat less of, since telling yourself you can’t have something will likely make you want it more (blame human nature). Plus, I find that when I’m able to up my vegetable intake I naturally do not have room for, or crave, the less than healthy foods I typically like (desserts and wine mmm!).
  • Choose foods that don’t come in a package more often than not.  You’ve also probably heard that it’s best to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. That’s because that is where most of the whole foods are, like fruits, veggies, meats, dairy, and to some extent whole grains.   There are plenty of healthful foods that come in packages though, so don’t avoid the inner aisles completely.  When buying packaged products aim for ones with very few ingredients (i.e. if you are buying brown rice the ingredient list should look like this- ingredients: brown rice).
  • Don’t make food rules.  Then you fall into the good food, bad food trap and feel like a bad person when you eat a “bad” food.  Take the judgment out of eating. There are no “good” foods and “bad” foods.  Just foods. Some foods you should eat more often and some foods should be occasional treats.
  • Don’t skip breakfast.  I truly believe it’s the most important meal of the day and studies have consistently shown that breakfast eaters tend to weigh less than breakfast skippers.  This could be because skipping breakfast makes you hungrier and more likely to overeat later in the day.
  • Listen to your body.  Try to check in with your hunger.  If you are hungry eat.  If not, wait until you start to feel some hunger.  Don’t wait until you are starving to start eating, as you will be more likely to reach for high sugar/more processed foods and to over eat.  Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed.
  • Plan ahead.  Think about what you want to make for your meals during the week and make sure you have the food on hand.  I know that if I leave work hungry and with no dinner plan I’m not going to have the patience to go to the store and cook something healthy. I’m doing take out.  Same with snacks. Bring your own snacks to work so that you don’t have to rely on the office donuts for a mid afternoon pick me up.
  • Drink up.  Water that is.  Thirst is often mistaken for hunger.  Make sure you are meeting your fluid needs.  Not sure if you are? Hint: your urine should be a very pale yellow.
  • Know when to use sports nutrition products.  Sports drinks, energy gels, and protein shakes are all great when used appropriately.  But if you are drinking Gatorade throughout the day or eating gels on 45 minute runs you are taking in more sugar and calories than you need to be.
  • Be safe.  DO NOT use diet pills, laxatives, diuretics, or any other weight loss aid. Period.
  • Monitor your body fat too, not just weight.  Your body fat percentage tells you a lot more than a number on the scale. Healthy ranges are:
Males Females Rating
5-10 8-15 Athletic
11-14 16-23 Good
15-20 24-30 Acceptable
21-24 31-36 Overweight
>24 >37 Obese

(from Sport Nutrition, 2nd Edition, by Asker Jeukendrup, PhD, and Michael Gleeson, PhD, on the Human Kinetics publishing website)

  • Don’t weigh yourself more than once a day.  Don’t even weigh every day if you can help it. Your weight will fluctuate naturally from day to day and seeing those fluctuations may just psych you out. It’s more important to look at overall trends, taken into consideration with body fat percentage, than daily numbers.
  • Be realistic. Set small and slow weight loss goals.  If you lose too much weight or lose it too quickly you will sacrifice your performance. You shouldn’t lose more than 1-2 pounds/week.  You might not lose any weight one week, and that’s okay too-it doesn’t mean you need to lose more the next.
  • Monitor your sports performance as you lose.  You may not need to lose as much as you think to hit those time goals.  You may also need to accept that your body may be built a certain way, and to change that may involve extreme deprivation or excessive exercise.  If you find that you have to cut your intake to the point of starving to drop weight your body is telling you something. Listen to it.
  • Train right.  As I mentioned above, to some extent your body will adapt and change naturally in response to your training. Be patient with this process.  Try to focus more on your training then your weight.
  • Don’t try to lose weight during the middle of your racing season.  Your performance will likely suffer if you do so.  The off season and pre-season are actually the best time to tackle weight loss goals.

Can I Visualize Myself to the Finish Line?!

As I was driving home from a training run on Mt Evans last weekend, sitting in I-70 traffic, I started thinking about how the words “awesome” and “awful”, although fairly opposite by definition,  sound pretty similar.   I’m guessing they both come from the same root word-“awe”, which according to a quick Google search is defined as “a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder”.  Yup, that about sums up how I feel about Mt Evans.   I’m betting that the Mt Evan’s Ascent will be a roller coaster that is both awesome and awful, possibly at the same time, and hopefully ultimately worth the battle.

I am at that weird place in training right before a race where there is really nothing you can do but sit back, relax, eat right, and hope that you’ve done the appropriate training to reach your goals. It’s sorta like that last hour before a big test.   There is typically a fair amount of freaking out during this time, but cramming won’t help, and might actually hurt you.   But there actually is something I can be doing: visualizing a successful race.  I once heard about a study that had basketball players practice visualizing themselves shooting the perfect free-throw over and over again.  They never actually touched a basketball, but their shooting average went up (sorry if that is incorrect basketball terminology).  So just by merely imaging yourself performing your particular sport with perfection, you may actually improve your performance.  The theory was that, if you do it right, you can “trick” (or teach if you are a glass half full kind of person) your brain into thinking you’ve physically practiced a bunch of free throws, and new neural pathways can be created, because your brain basically doesn’t know the difference between doing a free throw in real life and only imaging you are doing one (again you can choose to think of this as awesome that the brain is this powerful, or awful that the brain is this stupid!)  Think of it as an imaginary dress rehearsal.   It’s pretty cool stuff.

I’ve seen visualization mentioned in many other articles, so I figure it’s worth a shot.  I’m not talking cheesy “The Secret” type stuff, just simply picturing myself running up the course, feeling strong and fast, pumping my arms and breathing steadily….I’m feeling better about it already!

And even if it doesn’t help, it’s unlikely to hurt me (note to self: do not visualize self tripping and falling!)  If nothing else, doing it may help build confidence in my abilities and distract me from all of my nervous thoughts about what may go wrong during the race.

So time to sit back, eat carbs, and visualize success!

 

For info regarding visualization or “mental imagery”:

http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AnS/psychology/health_psychology/mentalimagery.html

Why I’m Marinating My Meats

One of the many qualms with nutrition that I have wrote about on here before is the feeling that no matter how hard you try to eat healthfully it’s never good enough.  Sometimes it seems that no matter what you are doing, there is another step to be taken towards “perfect” health.  For instance, maybe you decide instead of going out and getting fried chicken, you’ll bake some at home yourself.  Good move towards better health! Now let’s say you choose the chicken breast labeled “natural” at the grocery store and you feel pretty good about that too. But is it organic?  Nope.  Well, is it locally raised? Nope.  Opps, could’ve done better! And did you know that when you cook that chicken, you could be creating harmful carcinogens? See what I mean?!  What started as a great step toward eating more healthfully (baked chicken instead of fried) is now not good enough.  Taken too far, an unhealthy obsession with eating healthfully is unofficially called “orthorexia”, and I see it all time working with eating disorders.

It is my personal belief that the ever changing face of nutrition, along with this “never good enough” or “I should eat more healthfully” mentality sets us up for failure when it comes to meeting our nutrition goals and feeling good about it.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed and develop a “why bother?” attitude, which is unfortunate because nutrition is important.  But it is hard to navigate the ever-changing “facts” about what optimal nutrition really looks like, and to determine what’s important enough to actually implement and what not to worry too much about.  We all draw the “ah screw it” line in different places, which is totally fine.  Life is too short to worry too much about the quest for perfect nutrition (see that blog), so we each have to determine individually how much we want to pay attention to our health and nutrition.  So is buying chicken at the store instead of getting fried restaurant chicken enough? Well, generally I’d say yes, as small steps are better than no steps, but it also depends on who you are and what your health goals are.  For the average American choosing to bake at home instead of going out to eat and ordering a fried chicken is a positive step toward better nutrition.  However, if you already do that consistently maybe you are ready to take the next step, such as marinating your meats.  That is where I find myself today.

So back to the carcinogen topic:  Carcinogens are compounds that can cause cancer.  There is data that says that marinating your meats before cooking can cut down on the level of carcinogens, particularly heterocyclic amines (HAs or HCAs), created during the cooking process (particularly in grilling and frying, but to a lesser extent in baking as well).  Researchers aren’t entirely sure why the marinades work, but the theory is that the marinade creates a barrier on the meat’s surface which prevents water-soluble molecules from moving to the surface where they would be turned into HCAs by the high temperature, reducing the HCAs created by as much as 99% in some cases.

This is one nutrition philosophy that I do feel is worthy of implementing.  Why? Well firstly because cancer scares the crap out of me, so if I can do something simple to reduce my risk I’m all for that. Second, marinating meats is pretty easy. It won’t cost a lot of money or take a lot of time.  All marinades help reduce HCAs.  Lastly, marinating meats is delicious!  Whether or not marinating meats falls below your “screw it” line or not is up to you, but if not below are some of the marinades I’ve used.  Feel free to recommend others, I’ve got a lot of marinating to do!

Salmon marinated in white wine and lemon, with an avocado/mango salsa

Salmon marinated in white wine and lemon, with an avocado/mango salsa

 

For steak/red meat: soy sauce and/or Worcestershire sauce; beer (yup, beer); red wine and rosemary

For chicken: orange juice and bbq sauce; apricot preserves; rosemary and olive oil

For salmon: honey with ginger and lime; white wine with lemon; soy sauce (w/ honey)

 

 

Super Foods: Super Healthy or Super Silly?

One of the first books I did a report on during my undergraduate nutrition program was “Super Foods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life” by Steven Pratt and Kathy Matthews.  I think I liked the book at the time, but I honestly don’t remember what I said in the report, and unfortunately it’s on a floppy disk somewhere so I can’t access it anymore (yes, college was that long ago for me!).  The 14 “super foods” were beans, blueberries, broccoli, oats, oranges, pumpkin, salmon, soy, spinach, tea (green or black), tomatoes, turkey, walnuts, and yogurt.  You may be surprised by some of those, but bear in mind the book was written in 2004.  Since then many other foods have been labeled super foods. Remember Acai?  It got booted by Chia.  And these days you hear more about kale than spinach.  The ever changing list of super foods is, to me, proof that there really are no magical super foods.  Sure kale is good for you.  Spinach is good for you too. I’d say the most “super” one is the one you like the most, because if you enjoy what you are eating you’ll be more likely to keep it in your diet long term, and thus reap the health benefits.  Choking down a vegetable (or whatever the health food du jour is) that you find disgusting is not the best path to true health.  That’s why it is unlikely that I will never force myself to eat a mushroom (sorry mom).  Maybe I’ll miss out on a few nutrients, but I’m pretty sure I can get them in less vile forms.  That’s the thing about super foods-maybe they have more of a particular nutrient than other foods, but they aren’t they only food with that nutrient.  And by focusing too much on incorporating one holy grail of foods, you’ll likely end up leaving out many others or possibly even exceeding your energy needs by eating too much of the super food.  So let’s all stop worrying about incorporating a few key “super” foods.  What shall we focus on then?  Glad you asked. Below is my top list of nutrition rules for dummies (although not really dummies, it’s for everyone!)

vegetables

Nutrition For Dummies:

  • Choose from a wide variety of foods. Different foods= different nutrients. Try not to eliminate any food group , unless you have a legitimate allergy or sensitivity to it.
  • Bright colors = lots of nutrients and antioxidants.  This is assuming that the bright colors are natural, like in fruits and vegetables, and not the result of added food dyes.
  • Choose foods that don’t come in a package more often than not.  Less processed foods tend to have more nutrients, so make sure the base of your diet is from whole foods.  The closer a food is to its natural form, the better.  The less ingredients, then better.
  • Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you are satisfied (not stuffed!).
  • Mind your portions. Don’t measure your food but just be aware of serving sizes.  Portions at restaurants these days are pretty out of control.  For example, a standard serving of meat is 3 oz, which is the size of the palm of your hand.
  • Hydrate.  Your body is mostly water so be sure to keep it supplied! Generally, aim to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces per day.
  • Balance and moderation.  Yup, I said it again.  Allow yourself moderate portions of less than healthy foods you enjoy.  Denial often leads to over eating down the road.