Posts Tagged ‘Fitness’

ID-10061999Please take a look at my first article written for Examiner.com about 5 diet myths that are not entirely true. <—(just click on the link)

I would love to hear your thoughts so please let me know what you think and if there are any food related topics you would like me to write about!

ID-100128822You can hit that gym for 3 hours burning over 2,000 calories, or walk your dog around the block…depending on your fitness level, you still need to think about what to eat to recover after intense activity so you can keep yourself in top shape without turning into a zombie the following day.  It is recommended to have protein for muscle recovery and carbs/fat to replenish energy storage 30 minutes after activity.  Don’t assume that because you have SOME protein you will ‘bulk up’ as it is just as important for recovery as it is for muscle building. Here are a few good options for post workout recovering, or to recoup after shoveling all that snow:

  • Eggs – 1 large egg contain only 70 calories with almost 7 grams of protein. Pair some eggs up with kale, tomatoes, onions and avocado, and you have a super nutritious meal that will fill you up, and is surprisingly healthy.
  • Hummus and Pita – Chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) have both protein and carbs, plus when blended with olive oil and tahini, you have a very dense mix of protein, carbs, and healthy fats.  Remember that this is a bit calorically dense, but since you just used up a bunch of energy, this is the perfect time to add energy back.
  • Trail Mix – Nuts for protein and fats, fruit for carbs, trail mix is natures candy! It also has the benefit of being portable…so mix your own and take it with you.  Pairing nuts with dried blueberries and banana will also keep your immune systems in tip-top form.
  • Quinoa – It is super trendy AND super healthy with even more nutrients than brown rice, plus the added fiber will keep you fuller longer.  It can be eaten hot or cold and can be snuck in meals anytime of the day.
  • Protein Shake – You may or may not consider this an option, but protein shakes have been specifically formulated for muscle growth, recovery, and storage.  However, make sure you do not overdue it, as you may be gaining weight in either muscle, or fat form.  You need no more than 20 to 40 grams depending on the type of activity you just finished.  Also make sure you have carbs in the mix to replenish your energy as well.
  • Stir Fry – Many people are very hungry after workouts, but as stated before, don’t assume you can eat truckloads of food. For those of us who like the ‘full’ feeling, its a good idea to bulk on on the low calorie veggies, with the addition of protein (shrimp, chicken, tofu…) and some whole grains.  Sodium is an electrolyte that needs to be replenished if you worked up a good sweat, so a little soy sauce doesn’t hurt either.
  • The Salad – Maybe not smothered is super high fat dressing or made with 50% cheese, but a well planned salad full of colors, crunchy nuts and seeds, and even some dried fruit would be an excellent choice after raking up all those leaves.
  • Sandwiches – Protein and carbs in sandwich form.  Easy to make, easy to carry, but tasty to eat!

There are 1,000’s of other options, so comment with your favorite post-activity meal or snack!

Random chubby guy eating pizza. Ooohhh the irony...

Random chubby guy eating pizza. Ooohhh the irony…

Like I said before, I like to feel full when I eat.  This causes a problem when also on a calorie restricted diet!  Here is a list of low calorie food options that you should add to your diet to pack in the VOLUME of food you want, with a low amount of calories!

  • Arugula – The is a peppery flavored leafy green packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  There are also some findings that dark leafy greens improve your libido. (Wink wink, nudge nudge…know what I mean?!)
  • Cabbage – The darker green and brighter purple the better.  Very affordable, great crunchy texture, and contains properties that may reduce your risk of cancer and stink up your house when cooked.
  • Kale – You have seen, and will see this ingredient popping up more and more on menus and store shelves.  It has been classified as one of the best super-foods, which means it packs an amazing nutritional punch with very little calories. You can also call yourself a hipster while eating it.
  • Beets – A slightly sweet, earthy vegetable with beautiful color and rich in iron, potassium, and folate.  It is also growing on the ‘trendy’ side by being added to veggie burgers, and new improved salads. Dr. Dre would be proud.
  • Cauliflower – Another great source of vitamin C and folate, this vegetable is wonderful in place of mashed potatoes, used in indian curry dishes, and a whole head can be sliced into planks and grilled for cool presentations.
  • Mushrooms – No matter if you use standard button mushrooms, or branch out into the hundreds of varieties available, mushrooms are low in calories but are full of immune-boosting antioxidants.  They also contain the elusive UMAMI flavor profile which will add some savory meat flavor to your recipes.
  • Tomatoes – Real tomatoes are actually very low in calories! It is only when we associate they with pizza, ketchup, and meat sauce do they pack in the calories.  Tomatoes contain all those healthy vitamins and minerals you are looking for plus some natural sweetness.
  • Zucchini – This squash is VERY low in calories while being VERY easy to grow in your own garden. It is pack with vitamin A and is a tasty treat raw, or cooked. Call them courgettes to be extra fancy.
  • Egg whites – 1 whole cup of egg whites has about 120 calories and 26 grams of protein. HHHMMM maybe make an omelet with all the above ingredients mixed together?!?!?
  • Cod – This is a mild white fish that is very high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids.  Since it is so mild, it will easily blend with any other flavors you add to it.
  • Bison – If you are a red meat fan, grass fed bison is actually a healthier option due to minimal fat marbling, and it contains just as much omega-3 fatty acids as salmon. It also contains even fewer fat calories, and lower cholesterol than skinless chicken! Also, Dances With Wolves is a must watch 😉
  • Fat-free cottage cheese – You can get about 11g of protein for a half cup serving with only 70 calories.  This type of protein is digested very fast, so it is perfect for recuperating after a tough workout.
  • Coffee/tea – It is only when you blend with heavy cream, sugar, whipped cream, honey, chocolate syrup, and caramel do these beverages become high in calories.  There is also, of course, caffein which has been shown to improve your calorie burning thru the day, but still does not increase the quality of your work, or make that morning meeting any better.

Now before you yell at me…yes I know there are plenty of other healthy, low calorie food options (feel free to post your favorites!)  Before you troll my post…yes I know there are other, more nutrient dense foods like fruits, whole grains, legumes, and all that fun stuff.  Before you comment with your biased opinion…yes I know you feel that processed foods are to blame for being fat, and you should eat clean.  Before you post about your vegan, paleo, or gluten-free diet…maybe this post isn’t for you.  Read the title and you will get it 🙂

p.s. There is no spoon…

ID-10061999Some times you gotta be fresh…and other times, frozen may be fresher than fresh.  Some studies have shown that frozen fruits and vegetables can contain higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants compared to the fresh varieties from stores or farmers markets.

This is due to the fact that many frozen fruits and vegetables are processed and frozen right at the source, from minutes to hours after being picked or harvested during their peak ripeness.  On the other hand, fresh produce maybe be held for days, weeks, or even months before being sold to consumers, then held at the home for even more time before being used. When these products are held at ambient temperatures or even refrigerated, they slowly and naturally lose some of their healthy properties over time.  When product is frozen, it inhibits the loss of these volatile compounds, and provides more health benefits.  Some fresh produce is also picked before being fully ripened to handle the delay in consumption, which reduces the overall health advantages even more.

Supermarkets and even farmers markets have a list of ways to make their foods look fresh, such as water misting and trimming.  While these practices are normal, the overall health profile of these foods can often time be less than the frozen counterparts. There are even instances that refrigeration will INCREASE degradation of healthy compounds in certain food items, specifically soft fruits.  It is still recommended that foods picked right from the ground are the best, but frozen can be just as good of an option.

And as a side note, if you do want to cook your fruits and vegetables while keeping the most nutritional value in the products, steaming is the optimal way to insure the least about of benefit loss.  This is of course second to eating them raw.

ID-100101588Here is a list of some interesting and no-so-popular ingredients you may want incorporate into your menu:

  • Scorpion Chile – Sorry Ghost chile, there is a new, (not really that new) king of fire in town. This is a variety in the capsicum chinense family that on average, has a SHU measurement of 1.2 million.  That is face melting heat, and the current world record is held by the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion burning at over 2 million SHU’s.  New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute regulates the testing and authentication of these chiles.  These chiles also have a a sweet, fruity flavor profile which you may forget after your tongue falls off.
  • Wiri Wiri Chile – Averaging at around 70,000 SHU’s, this chile still packs a punch but add a delightful fresh, bright flavor when used.  Works great when blended into a hot sauce sweetened with fruit.
  • Yellow Eye Steuben Bean – This bean has a mild flavor and a beautiful mustard colored spot on a off white background.  The hold up exceptionally well when cooked and make an excellent carrier for strong flavors.  They are actually related to the kidney bean.
  • Chinese Black Rice – This is a medium grain glutinous rice perfect for all kinds of interesting recipes.  It is relatively sweet and slightly sticky, but will impart its deep indigo color to anything you cook with it.  Stop using a boring all purpose white rice already!
  • Grano – This is an ancient whole kernel pearled wheat berry from Italy. It has a texture between al dente pasta and brown rice, but with a vibrant golden hue.  Grano is made from durum wheat, the same used to make most upscale pasta. This grain holds up great after cooking, so use in soups, salads, and pilaf dishes, and can be ground then used like a hot cereal.  (I used it to make this salad.)
  • Kaniwa – A close relative to quinoa and also a member of the goosefoot family.  It is used just like quinoa in many applications and has all of the same nutritional benefits, Kaniwa has the added bonus of not containing saponins, which sometimes causes quinoa to be bitter.
  • Fregola Sarda – This is a toasted form of couscous and comes in a variety of sizes.  It has a rough texture which help sauce cling to it, and the toasted gives it a beautiful browned color and and firm bite.
  • Sumac – The North America variety is poisonous, however varieties grown in the Middle East impart a sour flavor the same way you might use lemon or lime juice.  It also has a dark red color which makes for a fantastic presentation.
  • Black Garlic – Originally made by letting garlic cloves ferment over vats of soy sauce, black garlic imparts a deep molasses-like profile with tangy garlic undertones.  The texture becomes soft and gooey similar to dried fruit.  It does not leave you with the pungent fresh garlic flavor or odor you may be used to.
  • Long Pepper – This was the first pepper variety brought to the West.  It has a more intense flavor compared to traditional peppercorns, as well as sweet undertones.  It can also be ground just like it’s black or white peppercorn brethren.
  • Fleur De Sel – Most chefs and foodies will know this is the purest, most pricy sea salt available.  Produced in France, it has a bright white color, a wet, grainy texture, and is best used to finish a dish, as well as up-charge your guests.
  • Hemp Hearts – Considered a ‘super-food’ due to their nutritional value, they are the soft, creamy nut inside the hemp shell.  Very high in plant protein, vitamin E, and omega-6 fatty acid, they make a great alternative to those with nut allergies.

What are some of your not-so-familiar food ingredients???

ID-100142619The American diet as it relates to calories has actually changed very little over the past 80 years.  There has been a switch from a high carbohydrate and animal fat diet in the past, to a high vegetable fat based, higher protein diet in more recent years.  We also have the addition of increased fiber, understanding of healthy fats, as well as an increase in raw vegetable and fruit consumption.  This shift, specifically over the last 40 years, does not proportionally match the increase in the obesity problem. So what is the cause?

Due to the breakthroughs in technology, the average calorie expenditure of individuals has DRASTICALLY decreased, especially starting in the 80’s.  A reduction in jobs requiring manual labor, new modes of transportation, and a huge increase in the tech. industry has wiped out the need for the population to get their hands dirty, focusing more on computer skills and less on physical activity, as well as the use of things like the internet, TV, and video games.  (For the record, I love the internet, TV, and video games.) This basically means that the diets of the average person has remained relatively unchanged (with a slow and steady caloric increase,) while our way of life has drastically reduced general physical activity.  In the 60’s over half of the private jobs required some kind of manual labor, but now it is less than 16%.

Although red meat still reigns supreme in the US diet over the past years, chicken consumption increased drastically since the 1970’s as did the average fruit and vegetable daily intake.  Although the vegetable and salad oil use has increased a good amount over this same time period, most likely due to the availability of fried foods and snacks, the use of butter and margarine spreads at meal times has decreased along with a huge swing from whole milk to lower fat varieties.  There has been an obvious increase in carbohydrate consumption over the years due to things like HFCS as well, but as stated before, this does not proportionately reflect the skyrocketing obesity rates. Also, the diets of previous years had a larger portion of calories coming from carb. sources like breads, pasta, white rice and potatoes.

Americans have drastically increased in eating out as opposed to cooking at home, but the options available at restaurants have shifted to healthier options, even if a good portion of consumers still do not choose them.  The American consumer also forged the path to larger portion size.  They demanded greater value and their purchasing habits reflected this, however the actually content of the food has remain steady of the years, which supports the fact that the food industry should not be directly to blame for this obesity epidemic, but the US lifestyle should.  Just like any industry, it reacts to the purchasing habits of its consumers, and the food industry is no exception. That being said, the food industry could defiantly do a better job in promoting low calorie, fresher foods.

I just want to leave you with one more interesting fact…the average person is now 33 pounds heavier then they were in the 60’s and also burn almost 200 less calories a day, which can account for almost 60% of those extra pounds.  Add just a bit more of physical activity, we can start shedding the weight.

 

Honey Dijon Farro Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Fontina Cheese, Flat Leaf Parsley

Honey Dijon Farro Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Fontina Cheese, Flat Leaf Parsley

This is how you make a real bacon bowl!

This is how you make a real bacon bowl!

Gruyere and Caramelized Leek Couscous Stuffed Tomato with Porcini Mushrooms and Fennel

Gruyere and Caramelized Leek Couscous Stuffed Tomato with Porcini Mushrooms and Fennel

Arugula and Red Cabbage Salad with Maple Vinegrette, Roasted Pears, Caramelized Pearl Onions, Candied Walnuts, and Cheddar Chip

Arugula and Red Cabbage Salad with Maple Vinegrette, Roasted Pears, Caramelized Pearl Onions, Candied Walnuts, and Cheddar Chip

BACON!!!!!!!!!

BACON!!!!!!!!!

Grano Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette, Baby Kale, Red Onions, Diced Cherry Tomatoes, and BACON!

Grano Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette, Baby Kale, Red Onions, Diced Cherry Tomatoes, and BACON!