Turmeric Rice Pudding

turmericI’m not sure if this qualifies as a recipe or just a fun idea for using up leftover rice, but either way it makes a delicious snack and was particularly wonderful on this gloomy New England Wednesday.

Sidenote -> the weather here in Boston is throwing me off so much. It cycles between freezing and 60 and sunny within a week, and now we’re facing a week of January rain. There is nothing more depressing to me than January rain. I am obviously not built for the pacific northwest (which is what I fear New England is turning in to with all this global climate change).

img_1935

Turmeric is gaining speed in the food and health world these days thanks to it’s solid reputation as an immune-boosting and inflammation-reducing herb. Turmeric is a primary component of curry powder, and its yellow tint, which comes from the antioxidant component called curcumin, is not only great at staining fingers but coloring foods. It’s actually now used as the primary coloring agent in Kraft Macaroni and Cheese– go figure!

It’s been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to treat illnesses such as pain, fatigue and rheumatism, and is commonly taken as a supplement today to treat inflammation, arthritis, stomach, liver and gallbladder conditions, among others. Few strong scientific studies have indicated that turmeric actually reduces inflammation in the human body, though like any nutrient or plant chemical, but remember it’s hard for even the strongest and most well-designed studies to truly prove cause and effect. More research is always warranted in the field of nutrition, and there’s lots currently happening with this lovely yellow spice.

Some interesting things in the literature that have been associated with turmeric intake:

  • Reduced number of heart attacks after bypass surgery
  • Controlled osteoarthritic knee pain as effectively as ibuprofen
  • Reduced skin irritation after radiation treatments for breast cancer

The University of Maryland Medical Center has a great resource available of the current Turmeric research in case you’re interested in learning more.

Personally, I love the color that turmeric provides. I find that it has a very mild flavor and gives food just a little bit of smokiness and warmth. For this recipe, I added about a teaspoon of turmeric to the water that I cooked the brown rice in, but you could also add the turmeric to the rice after it is cooked. I used leftover rice to make this, but you could verywell cook up a batch of rice just to make this darn recipe if you so please.

This quick little recipe is a great pre-workout snack to have about 1 hour-45 minutes before activity. The rice and dates provide a quick source of carbohydrates, while the nuts and cinnamon will help to buffer an intense spike in blood sugar and sustain that energy out for a longer duration during a workout. Use brown rice to get the full benefit of the grain, but white rice can be helpful if wanting to limit fiber (ie. right before a run or long workout). Shorter grain rice is better at soaking up liquids and makes more of a pudding-like consistency when cooked here, but all grain lengths will work.

This would also be a delicious side dish to some baked chicken or curry-spiced fish. I might even have it with my leftover peanut stew for dinner tonight.

Ingredients for one serving

  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice (I cooked mine in turmeric. If you didn’t, add about 1/2 teaspoon to the rice)
  • 1 medjool date, pitted and chopped
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (or to taste)
  • 1/3 cup milk of choice (I used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1.5 tablespoons chopped pecans (or nut of choice)

Mix all ingredients together in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for at least 3 minutes until milk is absorbed into rice and has softened the nuts. Fluff with a fork and enjoy!

img_1930

Step one: Add one pitted and chopped medjool date per half cup of cooked rice.

img_1931

Step two: Add a sprinkling of cinnamon to suit your taste (I like a lot of cinnamon), about 1.5 tablespoons of chopped pecans (or whatever nut you have on hand), and about 1/3 cup of almond milk (or whatever milk you have on hand)

img_1932

Step 3: Microwave for at least 3 minutes, until the milk boils and softens the rice and nuts.

img_1933

Step 4: Fluff with a fork, and enjoy!

 

img_1898

 

 

Advertisements

(Lazy) Day (Off) in the Life // Jan 12, 2017

So I know this is kind of a weird concept, but I secretly love reading these type of blog posts and watching others’ “Day in the life” vlogs on youtube. There is just something exciting about seeing someone else go about the mundane routine of life, and often I’m inspired to try on certain things I see others do in their lives in my own. Nothing like some good ol’ social learning, right? Haha, let’s not make this more academic than it needs to be. I’ve been thinking about jumping on the bandwagon with a day in the life post, showing how I deal with life as a real-live-human and not some ball of perfection and still maintain sanity and health. IT IS POSSIBLE. Health does not equal perfection. Okay, end rant. Let’s get into it. Here’s a “Day in the Life” of me, one day after getting gum graft surgery. I took the day off from all work activities and thought I would be in a lot worse shape than I actually was. Oddly enough, I still haven’t experienced any major pain associated with the procedure. I just have this weird putty stuff over both of the incision points in my mouth that is there to protect the stitches. It’s gross and tastes like rubber and I constantly want to take it out, but I guess I’d rather have that discomfort than any amount of pain. I’m happily able to eat a lot more foods than I thought I’d be able to. This is cake compared to my wisdom teeth removal recovery a few years ago. Definitely do not want to go back there any time soon.

img_1894

2:00am-7:30am – toss and turn despite taking an emergen-ZZ melatonin before bed. Not sure if the asprin was wearing off from the day before or if I just had some unresolved anxiety, but I kept waking up and wanting to get the day started only to realize it was still the middle of the night. By 7:30, I of course felt like I could continue to sleep in bed forever but decided to get moving.

7:30am – Day 11 Yoga Revolution with Adrienne. This 30 minute practice focused on aligning breathing with movement via lots of sun salutations. I was glad that I decided to do it right in the morning, because it was a great gentle wake-up, and transition into the day.

img_1858

8:00am – Breakfast + Coffee + Gut Shot (this was on sale at WF so I splurged – I actually really love the taste, I’m on a major ginger kick these days. Plus I like the thought of getting in a few extra probiotics while I’m on this short stint of antibiotics). I went back and forth between doing a yogurt bowl and a smoothie bowl, and I finally decided on the smoothie bowl just so I could sneak some greens in. My mouth was feeling surprisingly normal. Like, zero pain. I decided not to take another asprin and just let it ride. I discovered that I can actually chew some medium-soft things (like sweet potato skins, perfect bars, bananas) so that has made me feel a lot better. I was afraid this recovery was going to be similar to wisdom-teeth surgery and have me unable to handle anything with more texture than a smoothie. Not the case!

img_1857

Might come as a surprise, but I’m really not much of a smoothie person. I definitely remember a phase of my life about 5 years ago when I would be happy having a smoothie for every meal of the day, but over time I’ve just come to really appreciate texture and variety in my meals and just don’t get the same satisfaction out of smoothies. I definitely need to eat them with a spoon and usually like to put a bunch of toppings on them to get that texture factor. I do think smoothies are a perfect way to get in a lot of nutrients when you might not feel like eating (immediately post-workout, as a breakfast for people with subdued morning appetites, or when chewing power is limited), but it’s important to think about balancing what you throw into the blender. Even though smoothies are great because they retain the fiber of whatever ingredients you use (as opposed to juices, where the fiber is discarded), blending up a lot of fruit without thinking about protein or fat will result in a quick dose of carbohydrates (and depending on how much fruit you blend up, possibly a whopping amount of sugar) but not much staying power.

This bowl of sunshine included:

  • 2 Leaves of curly kale (stems removed)
  • 1 Frozen Banana
  • ¾ of the container of Kite Hill Almond Milk yogurt in vanilla flavor (used ¼ of the container last night to top a sweet potato)
  • ½ tbsp. of chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flax
  • 1/8 cup raw oats
  • A little water to blend

Because this was a meal, I made sure to put in a good portion of natural protein and fat, poured it into a cute bowl, topped with a few easy to chew toppings, and felt very satisfied when it was gone.

img_1863

9:00am – 11:00am – Calls and emails. Started writing a bit of an educational piece for the Tufts Athletics department but got distracted by a call to catch up with my mom. After hanging up, realized I was pretty hungry for a snack and ready to get out of the house for a trip to the grocery store. It was a whopping 60 degrees today in Cambridge and the last thing I wanted to do was be stuck in the house. Also finished off the rest of this kombucha-type tonic drink leftover from yesterday. Again with the ginger!

img_1895

11:15am – Nosh on half of some lemon-blueberry chia pudding I had put together the night before. I added a sample packet of hemp protein so it was very filling. Ate the rest of the banana I had used to top the smoothie bowl earlier. Felt revived and ready to take on Trader Joe’s! Since it was so nice out, I didn’t need to take a coat and just enjoyed the walk listening to the audiobook version of Big Fat Surprise. Have any of you guys read this? I am behind the curve on this one but I finally decided to take the plunge since this whole saturated fat thing has been the prize of nutrition media lately, and back in October at FNCE an equal amount of dietitians surveyed in one presentation said they did not believe saturated fat was the strongest predictor of heart disease in the diet. OI times are a ‘changin

img_1897

12:00ish – scavenge Trader Joe’s and enjoy a rare not-so-busy trip since it’s smack dab in the middle of the day Thursday. This is good, because it’s less stressful, but also notsogood because I have more time to mull over “do I need this?” and end up saying “why not, you’re here just get it!” for lots of items. Including THE LAST BOX of Pumpkin O’s. PRAISE! I thought they would have stopped selling these long ago. I’m not sure if I scored the last box of the season or if they will be restocking soon, but either way I felt like that was enough of a win for the day. Walk out of TJ’s with a bulging backpack. a huge KIND reusable bag and a little bit of a hole in my pocket.

img_1871

1:00pm – after putting away all the groceries, I decided to get right into making one of the fun foods I had been considering whipping up during my time off. Beet hummus! I love working beets in to my diet, especially while training since I like feeling that they might be helping build my endurance (beets and beet root juice have been linked to increased VO2 max when taken regularly). I also love hummus. So this works since I’m not training. It’s also pink, which is happy and fun. The hummus turned out a little less bright pink than I’d hoped and a little more…. Cat vomit pink but I tried to put that out of my mind when I sat down to eat it a little later with the fluffiest Trader Joe’s whole wheat flatbread. These things are SO GOOD. Ate it with a dollop of Cedar’s Zesty Lemon hummus on the side as well.

I used the recipe straight from the Run Fast Eat Slow cookbook, but really you don’t even need a recipe to make good hummus. Just add a can of chickpeas into a food processor, add beets if that’s the kind you’re making (I used 3 of the pre-cooked variety because they were small and I was too lazy to roast my own beets), and add tahini if you’d like (it’s optional – sometimes I don’t add tahini and up the garlic flavor and I absolutely love it), garlic, salt and olive oil and voila!

img_1878

2:00pm – Think about working more on the Athletics piece but feel uninspired and decide to watch a few episodes of GIRLS while eating above hummus and flatbread snack. I recently discovered that I can watch past episodes of GIRLS on demand fo’ free with our cable package so that’s been happening a lot…

2:45pm – remember that I wanted to bake some bread/muffins and head back into the kitchen to get started. I open to the Run Fast Eat Slow ginger molasses bread and the recipe comes together super easily. I was glad that I got a knob of fresh ginger at Trader Joe’s and was actually using it because too often I feel like I buy fresh ginger and never touch it only to let it turn woody and inedible. Realized I did not have any golden raisins that the recipe called for, but I did have some dried Naturebox peach slices that I thought about using instead. I chopped them up super-fine since they are pretty dry and added those in, with a few extra slices on top for the prettiness factor. Pop the bread in the oven at 350 and wait wait wait. Watch some Gilmore Girls (the new one on Netflix that I kind of hate but can’t stop watching). Work a little bit more on the Athletics writing piece, follow up with a few emails.

img_1877

3:30pm – bread is done and out of the oven and I think I overbaked it a little, whoops! I of course have to try a piece right away and it’s very molassessy and kind of dry. Not very sweet, which makes sense since the only sugar in there is the molasses. I feel like it will be good as a breakfast bread, warmed with some cream cheese on top. Or maybe with some almond butter if I had any (oh no, more grocery shopping ideas, make it stop!)

4:00pm – Lay in bed a bit to take a breather and realize I’m kind of wiped out. End up napping for a good 45 minutes. Oops.

img_1893

The rest of the evening was a happy blur of making Katie’s delicious African Almond Stew, (which I turned into a peanut stew) and making my kitchen smell amazing, watching more Gilmore Girls and eventually enjoying the stew with a cheap bottle of Chardonnay + some quality company from my man. We went between watching the Wild absolutely CRUSH the Canadiens (HELLO) to watching the Netflix documentary about General Tso’s Chicken (so odd, don’t really know if I learned anything, though our conversation tended to veer off into the political landscape once or twice so who knows, might have missed some main points). Finally topped off the night sharing spoonfuls of Coconut Almond Chocolate Chip Talenti (girls, find someone who will bring you Talenti after you have gum surgery à keeper) and a whole bottle of lemon-infused water before bed. (nerdy me is excited to have another Talenti container to use for overnight oats when it’s all gone)

Yesterday was a verryyyy unusual Thursday and it is RARE for me to spend so much time at home, lounging around and cooking things. It felt so weird, and uncomfortable sometimes, to not have anything to do. I often find myself reminding myself to take it easy – that it’s OK to not be going full-speed ahead every second of the day. It’s OK to not be totally inspired to write an education piece today because one of these days I will be and it will turn out fine. I am so grateful for the yoga practice that I’ve started and maintained this year not only for helping me maintain physical flexibility, strength and openness, major support systems for preventing injury while running a lot. But more that it has taught me to slow down and focus on the moment. It sounds SO cheesy but it actually is so helpful. I realized how often I would tend to think about what was next on my list and feel so behind. Focusing on breathing and how it feels to be alive and awake in the present moment helps put everything in perspective, and makes you realize that it’s OK if things don’t go according to plan because life isn’t necessarily linear and each development in life takes it’s own sweet journey that can move up and down, slow and fast, and we aren’t in control of so much of it. Really, it’s just taught me to be more OK with imperfection and taking my hands off from time to time.

dc71bd54a8eb308acb766cf88c2eb8bd.jpg

If you haven’t already started Adrienne’s 31-day yoga video series, it’s not too late! I so highly recommend it and I think starting to practice yoga at home, as opposed to starting with public yoga classes, is so wise and really helps you focus on your own body. I started one of these in the middle of February last year and it set me off on such a great path. When I miss a day, sometimes I do two the next day. Sometimes I just skip and come back to the ones I’ve missed later. But I find that I’m so much a better person when I find the time to fit 25-35 minutes of this into my day. Usually in the morning or right before I go to bed, but sometimes it’s right when I get home from work, or before I run an errand, or after a spin class. The best part is that you can do it anywhere, it’s approachable, and it makes a difference.

Namaste, folks and happy FRIDAY!

img_1898

Where I’ve Been and Where I’m Going

eb7e55d6af94285132fc86b01daef147

Well hello there. Yes, I’m still alive. Yes, I know I’ve neglected this and I could throw a slew of excuses out there as to why (school, work and personal life all decided to ramp up their demands from me at the same time and naturally something had to give – and that was recounting my weekly training). Since my last post, I started my second semester of grad school, this year taking classes part-time to allow myself more breathing room for other life ventures as well as to be able to really dig deep into the classes I am taking if I want to. Last year as a full-time student and half-time employee, I found it really challenging to be able to balance the responsibilities of both. So far, I’m really enjoying the balance of part-time school along with my now two part-time jobs (I found a really awesome gig at a local Cycling + Bootcamp studio that not only pays decently but also allows me to take comped classes during times that I’d otherwise just be sitting around (or managing this blog….) –> WIN. It’s been a busy month of getting used to my new schedule, but the one thing that’s stayed consistent has been my training plan.

img_1098

Well, until now.

img_1216

For the majority of the month, my training plan was stable: two easy runs each week, one work-out run for speed work or hills, and two strength training days with yoga mixed in and a long run on the weekend. The easy runs were breezy – usually done in the ever increasingly dark mornings (bought a blinky light to save my life) while listening to podcasts or a chill playlist to keep my heart rate down. The work out runs were energizing. I’d end them feeling stronger and really excited to notice how much more in-shape I felt since beginning this whole adventure. The strength training was harder to get in to, but as the weeks went on I noticed it hurt a little less each time. I was a little more stable with each one-legged squat. I could do 50 seconds of mountain climbers without wanting to cry. I felt like I was making progress and my body was working with me. My long runs were great, too. Each week increased intensity a little more. After the step-back week of the wedding in Wisconsin, I ramped up to 2 hours and 45 minutes, then 3 hours. I made it up to 18.5 miles and felt amazing. Some of my best runs. I practiced fueling and found my go-to pre-run breakfast I have no intention of swaying from. I trained my body to handle more real-food carbohydrates on the runs without protest. Long story short, I felt like I was heading in a great direction. Until I wasn’t.

img_1082

My last long run was two weeks ago. 2 hours and 45 minutes, and by the end of it I knew something was wrong. It was my first run that was derailed by real GI issues and forced me to stop to use a bathroom (surprisingly, since this happened to me multiple times while training for my half on much shorter runs). After stopping, my body did not want to start again. Thankfully, I had basically completed the entire run at this point and just walked for the remaining 20 minutes back home to cool down. I tried to speed up to a light jog, but it was a no-go. I chocked it up to one too many beers the night before (and perhaps one too many nachos while watching the badger game) and spent the rest of the day eating simple foods. I couldn’t help but notice the nagging pain in my foot that stuck around longer than normal, despite elevating my feet against the wall of my bed as usual. I wore rain boots downtown to work that evening and felt sharp pains with some steps. I figured my feet just needed rest, but the next morning on my short, 30-minute shakeout run I couldn’t even finish 25 minutes of running. My heart rate was sky high for the pace I was going (felt like crawling) and I knew something was off. It was my shoes, I was sure. I know I had put in hundreds of miles on them over the summer and that I was due for a new pair. I only wish I had realized that BEFORE the problem set in. Runners: Don’t ignore footwear. Lesson LEARNED. I made an emergency trip to Marathon Sports that Monday and picked up a brand new pair of the same Mizuno Wave Inspires since they had carried me through most of my training successfully.

img_1231

Rest day??

The ankle problem persisted that week despite taking it easier and modifying some of the workouts I had planned. Of course as timing would have it I was going to be running the BAA Half Marathon on the following Sunday, and really didn’t even consider not running it until the day before, when I was on my feet all morning and could tell that the issue had definitely not fully resolved. Basically, on the inside of my left ankle, I have a tightness in what I now believe is the tendon that runs from my ankle down to the bottom of my foot. I’ve tried to ice it and wear a compression brace for as much as I can and that has seemed to help. The problem is that I really can’t let it fully rest. Being in Boston, and used to walking pretty much everywhere while also working on my feet twice a week at the spin studio, I’ve still managed to stay relatively active. Great, except when it’s not. I worked out a plan for the half with my coach the day before the race, and since I had already picked up my bib and gotten excited about it with some friends who were also running, it was near impossible for me to think about skipping it. More lessons learned — let the ego GO when it comes to healing and taking care of your body. I made the decision that I would go to the race mostly to practice pre-race strategy, but pull back and DNF the minute I started to feel pain.

(Eats + Treats from the past month…)

The day of the race was miserable and rainy and cold, perfectly, and though I was able to run a (SLOW) 4.5 miles before deciding that enough was enough, shutting down my watch and settling in to the idea that this weekend was a bust, I couldn’t get back to the starting line without continuing my march forward with the rest of the runners. I stopped at one medical tent to see if there would be sweepers picking up injured runners (hello), but the only sweeper would be at the end of the race – meaning I’d have to wait a full two hours just to be shuttled back to the starting line where most of my friends would probably already have left. I decided to keep walking, but after 3 miles of walking and trying to find a short cut in the pouring rain, I felt so impatient and worn down and I just wanted to be done. I upped it to a jog despite knowing that I was probably making a mistake, and ran another mile or so until I found the branching point where the runners go out and back for a loop – I jumped in on the pack of runners that were coming back and probably bypassed about 3 miles of the course. I tried to sneak back to the finish line without finishing the race – did not feel like I deserved to run through that finish line – but found that the only way to get to where the finishers were was to run through that line. After I finished, I shoveled a hamburger into my mouth and regretted what I had just done. I had to keep repeating to myself along the course that it was OK – this wasn’t my race – New York would be my race, where I would put it all out there and really go for it. It was OK to hold back here, but it was hard to be in that place amongst all of the other runners who had worked so hard to get to this day and this course. The post-race was the worst part. There was nowhere to go to escape the rain and cold, and I ever-so-smartly forgot to pack a change of clothes or even a sweatshirt, so I shivered my way all back home and FINALLY took a hot hot shower once I was back. I prayed that I didn’t do as much damage to my ankle as I expected I did and checked back in with Heather to adjust my plan.

img_1017

What it’s looked like this week: Not a lot of running. Yesterday was the first time I laced up for a jog since Sunday, actually. Other than that, I took the two days following the race completely “off,” though both days I somehow managed to rack up 15,000+ steps despite only going to work and class. Wednesday I was able to go to a yoga class focused on stability and stretching big workhorse muscles like the quads and core, and also did some basic core and hip strengthening moves at home. I iced my ankle every night and propped it up whenever possible. I willed it to heal, but it’s been a slow process.

img_1175

I was supposed to have my last big push of a run today, Friday, before the national nutrition conference FNCE this weekend. One more 3 hour run to set the stage for my two taper weeks coming up before November 6th. But yesterday on my quick 30 minute run it was obvious things were still not 100% – though they have improved a lot since last week. After a bit of warming up, I could run without thinking about the pain in my ankle but this was just 30 minutes – I had no idea what would lay ahead of me during a 3 hour training run and the last thing I want to do is mess things up even more with less and less time to recover. Moving ahead this week, it’s looking pretty conservative. Trying to agitate it as little as possible and that means little to no real road miles. As scary as that seems, heading in to the last weeks of my training without reaching for high miles, I have to trust this process. I trust that my coach has given me the tools to train myself to be prepared for the race, and I have to take care of my body for all of that training to pay off. The last thing I need is to ignore all the lessons I’ve learned over the years and continue to train on a stressed body in need of rest.

img_0934

A true lesson in patience and letting go of the stubborn will to push myself farther. It’s about keeping the bigger picture in focus. I’ll be OK as long as I let myself heal. That’s the important thing right now. The mantra I’ve repeated to myself this whole training season is still relevant: Get Through The Mud. But I need a solid footing to do that, so hopefully by next weekend I have it back.

Current Fave = My Pride & JOY of a Running Playlist – Getting a lot of play time despite the lack of mileage

Have you run through an injury before? How did you handle it? Mistakes you learned from or success stories you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you!

Balancing The Plate

As a dietitian, it’s about time I posted a nutrition-related topic on the blog, don’t you think?

7-14

Running dominates the blog these days because I’m constantly learning new things and am definitely not an expert at it yet, so writing about it helps me process the journey of becoming stronger in the sport. It’s too easy to take the nutrition side for granted since it’s the one thing I’m the most comfortable with. But anyone who knows me know I can talk your ear off about nutrition so let’s get started.

IMG_0659

As much as I like the word “Balance” because it encompasses my approach to pretty much all aspects of life, I think it gets thrown around a lot and is quickly be coming the new “Moderation” (ugh). Like any word, it needs to be defined to have a meaning. In life, balance to me means taking the good with the bad, accepting imperfection and approaching life holistically. Balance means being okay with taking one step backward in your journey forward, because at the end of the day you still made progress. Balance means getting a little bit of everything and not too much of one thing. It’s about the big picture, but the beauty is in the details.

Nutrition-wise, it’s a little less poetic. Balance doesn’t mean eating burgers and pizza at every meal, but it does leave room for those things when life happens. It’s about fueling your body with valuable nutrition for the majority of the time and not stressing out over having  a not-so-nutritious meal on occasion, or a glass of wine with dinner every evening. Overall, having a balance of food is important because our bodies work best with a mix of nutrients and lots of variety. We don’t just require one nutrient or super-doses of any one thing. Any time we eliminate entire food groups from our diet, or avoid certain foods, we run the risk of depriving our bodies of valuable nutrients and developing unhealthy relationships with food. Our body systems are complex and work best with a little bit of everything. As a result we FEEL the best when we fuel ourselves with a little bit of everything. And hello food is a lot more satisfying, and nutrition a lot less complicated, when we allow ourselves to eat everything.

There are many different dietary patterns that allow you to achieve balance – it’s totally possible to be vegan, vegetarian, paleo, whole30, sugar-free, WHATEVER suits your fancy, and have a balanced diet. But, it isn’t always very straightforward –even if everything on your plate seems to pass the “healthy” test.  Just as important as it is to make sure you give your body a mix of nutrients every day, keeping each meal and snack balanced in nutrients is the most effective way to keep our bodies functioning efficiently. Of course, these recommendations are for most generally healthy people and those who are managing specific diseases like diabetes or healing from severe injury have different requirements. The ratios of the different food groups can be adjusted depending on specific needs, but overall, EVERYONE benefits from getting a balance with every bite. Let’s start with the big 3 (macronutrients, that is).

IMG_0654

1. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates, carbs, CHO, however you like to call ’em, are the preferred energy source of muscles, the brain and our heart. (Did you know that the brain can ONLY use glucose, the breakdown product of carbohydrates, for energy?). It’s recommended that roughly half of our calories come from carbohydrates every day. Realize that “carbs” don’t only come from pasta, bread and rice — fruits, vegetables and dairy products also contain carbohydrates and these bring along a wider variety of nutrients like vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and water for each gram of carb they provide. Whole grains like brown rice, wheat, barley, oats etc. offer a concentrated source of carbohydrates with an extra boost of protein and fat that refined carbs (think white flour) lack. Whole grains also retain a host of micronutrients that are lost in the refining process. 

fa62aac5c69d512d0174b0789f4b3e47

2. Protein

Protein, another macronutrient, is important to include at meals and snacks not only because it provides the building blocks for just about every structural and functional element in our bodies, but because it helps slow the digestive process so we stay satisfied longer and benefit from more stable energy levels. The reason we suffer from “sugar highs” and “sugar crashes” is because our bodies don’t have a protein buffer to keep from burning through the easily available fuel right away. With a bit of protein in the mix, our cells get a slower, more steady stream of energy and our brains don’t scream out in hunger just hours after we finished a meal. Protein is everywhere these days. And while part of me is grateful it’s easier now to find traditionally carb-heavy options like oatmeal and bread with a boost of protein, it’s really not necessary to aim for super-high protein intakes that are often recommended by those who don’t really know what they are talking about. Generally (again, for those who aren’t recovering from serious injury or illness), we should aim for .8-1.7 g of protein per KILOGRAM of our body weight. For Americans who aren’t used to referring to their weight in kilos, this often gets mistranslated as .8-1.7 g per pound, which ends up being a considerable difference. To get your weight in kilograms, divide pounds by 2.2. Then multiply by .8 if you are on the smaller side and have a low activity level for the grams of protein you should generally aim to get each day. Multiply the number by 1.7 if you have more body mass and if you undergo intense exercise and need to rebuild broken down tissue every day. Shoot for somewhere in the middle if you fall somewhere in between. Protein really deserves a post all to itself, so I’m going to stop here to keep it simple.

3. Fat

Fat! Fat is fun. Fat is necessary. Fat is back as they say. Fats are the cherry on top of the carbohydrate and protein sundae, and they serve a major role in transporting and storing vitamins A, E, D and K. Without fat, we don’t absorb those nutrients! Fats also slow the emptying of our stomach, so like protein, they help us feel satisfied with a smaller amount of food. Like anything, some is good but more is not always better. Fat is the most energy-dense nutrient, meaning each gram of fat provides the most amount of calories — 9 calories to be exact (more than double that of carbs and protein). Overdoing it on fat often leads to overdoing it on calories because it’s difficult for our brains to keep up with the high doses that come from fat-heavy foods, like fries and pizza, to tell us when enough is enough. Current recommendations for most healthy adults are to consume about 30% of calories per day from fat. For a long time, Americans have been afraid of incorporating fat into a healthy diet because it had been so often associated with gaining weight. And because we group a whole bunch of different types of fat together under one label, it can be confusing to distinguish between some fats that are worse for us than others. It is true that high intake of some fats has been associated with increased risk of chronic disease (KEY WORD: HIGH INTAKE). The “bad fats,” as they are commonly termed, are the solid fats that come from animal products, and they seem to raise the risk of heart disease when they are consumed in excess. The research in this area is so difficult to tease apart because humans don’t eat just fats — usually the people who eat a lot of animal fats also eat a lot of refined carbohydrates, sweetened beverages, and not a whole lot of fruits and vegetables, which makes it hard to determine whether the fat itself is the problem (less likely) or the diet as a whole (more likely). When we took out fat from a lot of the products in the food supply in the 90’s, we replaced it with sugar, which led to a whole lot of imbalance in the favor of refined carbohydrates and was notttttt such a great move for our overall health. One thing that is clear is trans fats should be avoided at all costs. Nothing good comes from these artificial fats, and they are slowly being removed from the food supply. Best to avoid commercial fats in packaged and refined products altogether, and look to incorporate more unsaturated fats found in plants and fish. Fat from dairy products and eggs seems to be relatively neutral and is probably fine if not consumed excessively.

What does this actually look like? How can you really get a balanced bite at every meal and snack? Here are a few of my favorite examples – all of which you can probably tell make use of simple cooking methods and affordable ingredients –> I am in grad school after all.

Breakfast:

IMG_0388

Whole Grain Toast + Egg + Avocado + Grapes and a little low-fat Cream Cheese

IMG_0448

Smoothie made with blueberries, banana, spinach, almond milk and whey protein powder + 1/2 a banana, hemp seeds and dried fruit with nuts

IMG_0937

Greek yogurt, banana, and mixed nuts

IMG_1551

Oatmeal made with one egg white, peanut butter, mixed berries and walnuts

IMG_1623

One egg, one banana, one rice cake and some peanut butter

LUNCH

IMG_0842

Whole Grain Toast + Avocado + Chicken Sausage

IMG_0474

Salad Greens + Sweet Potato + Salmon and a little tahini dressing

IMG_0380

Shrimp Spring Rolls in Rice Paper with spring mix, broccoli slaw, radish and avocado

IMG_1165

Chicken Black Bean and Corn Enchilada Stew + Avcocado

 

IMG_1107

Quinoa, Kale, Broccoli and Buffalo baked Chicken Breast with a little Low-fat Cheese

 

 

DINNER

IMG_0023

Roasted Root Vegetables (Carrots and Potatoes here I believe) + Salmon + Kale + Salsa and Guacamole

IMG_1619

Pizza! On Whole grain crust, topped with marinara sauce, lots of veggies, and part-skim mozzarella cheese

IMG_0546

Baked Salmon on top of Avocado, Roasted Corn, Black Beans, Blueberries + Lime juice

IMG_1477

Sauteed Kale and Broccoli, Roasted Potatoes, and Baked Fish

IMG_1519

Roasted Parsnips and Potatoes, Carrots, Beets, and Kale + Egg with a little Goat Cheese

IMG_1076

Turkey Taco Salads + Avocado + A little low-fat cheese

IMG_0982

Steamed Sweet Potato + Black beans, Salsa, and Broccoli + Cheese

My favorite balanced snack options:

Fruit + Nut Butter or Strong and KIND Bar

Yogurt-based dressing or Hummus + Fresh Veggies

Homemade Trail Mix (I love dried chickpeas, nuts, whole grain cereal, dried fruit and a little dark chocolate)

Plain Greek Yogurt + Picky Bar

RX Bars

The concept of nutritional balance at meals and snacks is useful for anyone. The exact ratios of carbohydrates, to fats, to proteins can be individualized to your specific needs. I’ve tracked my intake for a while and found that I function best day-to-day with about 50% of my calories from carbohydrates, 35% from fat, and 15% from protein and try to get a little bit of each in with every eating opportunity.

Diets that promote very low or high intake of any one of these macronutrients are not balanced and because of this are usually not sustainable in the long-term.

Resources

https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/

Trumbo, Paula, et al. “Dietary reference intakes for energy, carbohydrate, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein and amino acids.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 102.11 (2002): 1621-1630.

Lagiou, P., Sandin, S., Lof, M., Trichopoulos, D., Adami, H.-O., & Weiderpass, E. (2012). Low carbohydrate-high protein diet and incidence of cardiovascular diseases in Swedish women: prospective cohort study. Bmj, 344(jun26 3), e4026–e4026. http://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e4026

Chowdhury et al., (2011). Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk. Annals of Internal Medicine, 155(9), 139–141. http://doi.org/10.7326/M14-0538