Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nothing but Pumpkin

October is one of my favorite months. Not just because of Halloween (my favorite holiday) but because of pumpkin! One of my favorite fall vegetables. I enjoy many things pumpkin, although at times I feel that we may go overboard with everything pumpkin. Nonetheless, it's still a reason to celebrate this awesome crop. If you don't like it, you can just use it as decor.

 

Nutritionally, pumpkin is from the squash family (see previous post on winter squash). It's low in calories at 50 kcal per cup (cooked), high in fiber and rich with antioxidants as well as vitamins and minerals. It contains one of the highest levels of vitamin A, that is important for wound healing, healthy skin and healthy eye sight. Moreover, it contains many of the B vitamins such as folic acid, thiamine, B6, etc. Pumpkins are also rich with minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium and phosphorus that help us to keep healthy bones, among other things. Pumpkin seeds should also be used since they are rich with magnesium, zinc, iron, selenium and niacin.

Here are ways and recipes to incorporate pumpkins in your diet:

Roasted pumpkin
1 medium size pumpkin (about 6-8 lbs) peeled and diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
0.5 tsp sea salt
0.5 tsp pepper
3 Tbsp of fresh or dried rosemary
2 Tbsp dried marjoram

Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. 
Spread the seasoned pumpkin on a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until soft. 

Make sure you enjoy this vegetable before it's gone! I know I will. Happy Halloween 

          





Friday, October 17, 2014

How to Build The Perfect Athlete's Plate

One of the most basic questions we get asked as dietitians all the time is "what should I eat?". Its a fairly simple question with a complex answer. However, there are ways to simplify this question, especially when it comes to athletes. The best way to simplify it is by showing you how an athletes plate should look like based on their training regimen.

           

On easy training days, rest days or if I am trying to focus on weight management (probably during off season) my plate should look like the one noted above. Working less, requires less carbohydrates for energy but more produce to assist with recovery and sustaining health. It should contain:

  • 1/4 grains, ideally whole grains such as whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, whole wheat bread, etc. 
  • 1/4 protein. Focus on lean protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, lean parts of the beef or pork, tofu, eggs, etc. Prefer grilled, roasted, broiled or baked over fried or pan fried. 
  • 1/2 vegetables and fruits. Example: green beans, roasted beets, salad, sauteed cauliflower, broccoli and carrots, etc.
  • Make sure you always have healthy fats in there such as: olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds, avocado.
  • Hydration is always important. Continue hydrating adequately with mainly water.
  • Example of a whole plate: chicken breast, brown rice with almonds and broccoli or large salad with egg, cheese, pumpkin seeds, lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber, carrots and cabbage. 
As training increases our plate changes to accommodate more carbohydrates to assist with energy demands of the sport. Moderate training is typically when you have 1-2 training sessions a day that may include one easy workout and a second hard/moderate workout or just one hard workout.
          
This plate should contain:
  • 1/3 grains. As noted before, prefer whole grains. A day before a game or a competition, you might want to consider limiting whole grains so they do not cause a stomach upset.
  • 1/4 protein. As intensity increases we still need enough protein to help rebuild and recover.
  • 1/3+ vegetables and fruits. Variety is important to help fight inflammation, assist with recovery and support a healthy immune system.
  • Continue to incorporate healthy fats.
  • Hydration - keep hydrating appropriately. Weigh before and after practice. For every pound lost, drink 16-20 oz liquid. Sports drinks could be incorporated. See previous post for more specific info on hydration.
Last but not least, when training intensity and duration have increased even more, we focus more on carbohydrates as that is our major source of energy. Hard training or competition day (depending on the sport) is when we have at least 2 workouts a day that are fairly high intensity or if duration is long
            
This plate should contain:
  • 1/2 grains. The higher the intensity the more we rely on carbohydrates. This plate may need to contain more easily digestible carbohydrates such as regular rice and white pasta vs whole grain to prevent stomach issues.
  • 1/4 protein. As intensity increases we still need enough protein to help rebuild and recover.
  • 1/4 vegetables and fruits. Variety is important to help fight inflammation, assist with recovery and support a healthy immune system.
  • Healthy fats are increased slightly to accommodate inflammation as well as being able to meet calorie goals. 
  • Hydration continues to be very important. See above for recommendations 
As you can see, its quite simple. Whether you cook at home, eat at the dinning hall/training table or eat out, you should be able to build a healthy plate. Hopefully, these visuals have helped. You can also print out this cool education sheet the NCAA Sports Science Institute has created to building a performance plate.  

** Thanks to USOC and UCCS for the great athlete's plate ed material

Friday, October 10, 2014

How to Incorporate More Vegetables in Your Diet

For the college athlete, vegetables and fruits play an important role. Damage and inflammation occur in the body due to exercise and the main way to fight that inflammation is to incorporate more anti-inflammatory foods. Fruits and vegetables are highly anti-inflammatory and should be incorporated on a daily basis. In fact, the athlete has a higher demand for certain vitamins and minerals on top of the need to fight inflammation and therefore, there is a higher recommendation for fruit and vegetable consumption (at least 7 cups a day of fruits and vegetables combined). Most people love fruits and have no issues incorporating them into their daily routine, whether it be in a smoothie, as a snack or as a sweet ending to a meal. However, many struggle with how and where to add all those vegetables.

                
Here are some healthy ways to incorporate more vegetables in your daily routine:
  • For breakfast, add vegetables to your omelette such as spinach, red peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc.
  • If having a breakfast burrito, consider adding salsa.
  • If having a smoothie consider adding things like carrots, beets, kale, spinach, celery, etc. My favorite juice is 50/50 100% orange juice and 100% carrot juice, yum! (note; any smoothie with vegetables needs to have a good balance of fruits as well or else it will taste kind of yucky).
  • Use vegetables as part of your daily snacking for example: carrots and hummus, celery and peanut butter/cream cheese, bell peppers and cottage cheese, tomatoes and Greek yogurt or just a vegetable mix (baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers)
  • When making sauces such as tomato sauce add more vegetables to it, for example: saute onion, garlic, zucchini, squash and eggplant and then add the typical tomato sauce you use. That makes for a richer, tastier sauce
  • Use vegetable rich soups such as minestrone and salads as an appetizer. 
  • Try to create a meal based on vegetables. Consider even going meatless for one day. Examples to try: vegetable stir fry, vegetable lasagna, big salad.
                   
  • Have a side of salad each meal. Make sure you have variety so you do not get bored.
  • What ever vegetable you like, take 2-3 servings of it instead of 1. Example: if you like broccoli, have 2 cups of it, not just one.
  • If you like grilling, make sure you always grill some vegetables, whether they are in kabob form or not. See some ideas on previous blog or on Eating Well .
  • Always have cut up vegetables visible so that you will always be reminded they are there and they can be a good grab and go option.
  • Use shredded or pureed vegetables for things like muffins, cakes, meatloaf, meat balls, breads, casseroles, etc. Example of vegetables you can use: sweet potato, zucchini, carrots. Here is a zucchini, carrot apple muffin recipe.
  • When having pizza, make sure you sprinkle more vegetables such as spinach, onion, mushrooms, etc.
  • When you go to a party or dinner be the one that brings the vegetables. Typically that's the one thing lacking from a party.
  • If you are tired and don't feel like cooking, microwave frozen veggies. They are quick and easy. In fact, it's the best "fast food" around.
  • If you enjoy using the slow cooker, almost everything done in it can have added vegetables. Example: add carrots, peppers and squash to your chili. 
  • Stuff vegetables. Example: make stuffed peppers with meat and rice, stuff tomatoes with cauliflower mash and pesto, Stuff mushrooms with garlic, etc. 
  • Add diced vegetables to your tacos.
All vegetables can be incorporated whether fresh, frozen or canned. I am positive there are far more many ways but these healthy ways are all simple and doable. They can help get any athlete to the 7 cups a day recommendation of vegetables and fruits.  Here are some easy recipes to help get you going.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Importance of Iron for Performance

Iron is one of the most essential trace minerals for athletic performance and the general population. As a college athlete, your body demands extra nutrients, including iron. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) endurance athletes, especially long distance runners, have iron needs that are 70% higher than the general population. Iron is also one of the most common nutrient deficiencies seen in athletes, especially women.

Why is iron important?
Iron is essential for energy production, metabolism and to help carry oxygen to the cells. It is also essential for growth, development and the immune system to function normally.

Common causes of iron deficiency:

  • Individuals on vegetarian or vegan diets. Iron is less available in plant-based products.
  • Inadequate energy intake. 
  • Iron loss in sweat, feces, urine, menstrual bleeding, GI bleed, foot-strike hemolysis (with every foot strike we break red blood cells), injury, and blood donation. 
  • Medical disorder that prevents absorption of iron
  • Pregnancy. More demands due to a growing fetus
  • Growth spurt
Symptoms of iron deficiency:
  • Fatigue, irritability, shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, coldness in your hands and feet, pale skin, chest pain and weakness. 
Consequences of iron deficiency: 
  • Reduced endurance
  • Muscle function weakens and ability to work is limited. 
  • Can lead to iron deficiency anemia, which can take 3-6 months to reverse.
Possible benefits of improving iron deficiency: 
  • Improved work volume and endurance. 
  • Improved oxygen uptake. 
  • Decreased lactate concentrations. 
  • Decreased muscle fatigue. 
How to figure out of you are deficient:

A simple blood test allows to figure if you are deficient or not. The most common test is hemoglobin. However, low hemoglobin of < 12 g/dL for women and < 13.5 g/dL for men indicates iron deficiency anemia, which will require supplementation. You can be iron deficient with no anemia. In this case, it is highly recommended to test ferritin levels. Ferritin helps store iron in the body. If it is low, we have low iron stores as well. Although the normal lab values are 12-300 ng/dL in men and 12-150 ng/dL in women, it is found that ferritin below 35 ng/dL in athletes can affect performance and supplementation may be recommended. 

How to improve iron status:

Eat a balanced diet that meets your dietary needs. Women (19-50 years) need a minimum of 18 mg of iron each day and men 8 mg. Consult your doctor or health professional about taking an iron supplement if you do not feel that you can meet your iron needs by diet alone. 


Rich dietary sources of iron: 
  • The most bio-available (best absorbed) sources of iron (also called heme iron): meat, poultry, and fish. 
  • Other sources (plant derived sources are not absorbed as well. Called non-heme Iron): Ready-to-eat cereal, beans, tofu, nuts and dark leafy greens. 
Tips: 
  • Choose breakfast cereals that are fortified with iron 
  • Choose lean meat sources (e.g. Ground beef with less than 10% fat) 
  • Consume iron rich foods with foods high in vitamin C to help your body absorb the iron better (e.g. Oranges, tomatoes, red peppers). 
  • Avoid drinking tea with your iron containing meals. Substances in tea reduce the absorption of iron. 
  • Avoid drinking milk with your iron containing meal.
  • Oxalates and polyphenols are compounds found in certain fruits, herbs, nuts, chocolate and vegetables such as: spinach, kale, tea, beets, strawberries and rhubarb to name a few, that limit absorption of iron from non-heme sources. Cooking the vegetables may assist in preventing this from occuring.  


Guest Contributor: Emily Seidl, MS, RD

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Nutrition for Recovery

Athletes invest time, effort and money in their sport. They buy cloths, shoes and gear that is necessary for them to excel. But, how much do they invest in their recovery plan?! Yes, recovery is also stretching, foam rolling and ice baths but what about nutrition for recovery?

The main purpose of nutrition for recovery is replenishing glycogen stores, repairing and rebuilding muscle as well as re-hydrating in order to get to the next practice like new (the 3 Rs).
Fueling for recovery does change based on the intensity and duration of your workout as well as when your next workout will occur. For example: Someone that has football practice in the morning for 1.5 hours and then a 1.5 hour lifting session in the afternoon will need to put a little more effort in fueling for recovery versus someone that ran for 60 minutes and will play tennis in 2 days. Athletes that rest 24 hours or more between sessions, do not have to put emphasis on nutrient timing when it comes to glycogen, withstanding they consume enough carbohydrates throughout the day.

                Recovery Nutrition is a Science


  • Refuel (=replenish) - The main source of fuel utilized during exercise is carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are stored in the form of glycogen in the muscle and liver and these stores are drained the longer the activity is or the higher the intensity. Therefore, we need to replenish those glycogen stores, especially if there are multiple practices or tournaments in the same day. Refueling should start within 30-45 minutes after exercise. It is recommended to consume 1-1.5 gr/kg of carbohydrate every 2 hours up to 4-6 hours post activity (1 kg = 2.2 lbs. Example: 154 lbs=70 kg - Will need to consume 70-105 grams carbohydrates every 2 hours for up to 4-6 hours post exercise or until eating a meal).
  • Rebuild - Exercise causes damage to the working muscle. Protein is the main nutrient that helps repair the damage and rebuild the muscle (muscle protein synthesis). Protein should be consumed within 2 hours of activity to promote a greater muscle growth. Combining protein with carbohydrate post workout has shown to enhance recovery. Recommendations for protein are 6-20 grams within 2 hours of activity.
  • Rehydrate - During exercise we can lose quite a lot of fluids in the form of sweat. Sweat is not just contrived of water but also multiple electrolytes, mainly sodium, potassium and chloride. Therefore, to recover optimally we need to rehydrate with fluids and electrolytes. The best way to rehydrate properly is weighing yourself before and after practice. For each pound lost, drinking 16-24 oz is recommended. Hydrating throughout the day well, makes rehydrating for recovery much easier. Eating salty snacks and drinking a sports beverage could be a good way to help replenish some of the electrolytes lost.
Simple, right?! However, some people may have a hard time eating something post exercise. In that case, drinking could be an option. In fact, one of the best recovery drinks out there is chocolate milk. It has a combination of whey and casein (fast absorbed and slow absorbed high quality protein respectively), good amount of carbohydrates and its a liquid containing electrolytes. Win win! 
Research also suggests the best ratio of carbohydrate to protein for recovery should be 2:1-4:1, chocolate milk is 3:1. 
Other recovery options can be: 
  • Yogurt with strawberries
  • Milk and a banana
  • Protein bar, water and a fruit
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Turkey and cheese sandwich with a sports beverage
  • Cereal with milk and blueberries
It is also important to mention that part of a good recovery plan includes sleep. For more info on sleep refer to previous Sleep  blog.

Investing in recovery is as important as the time you invest in training so remember to refuel, rebuild and rehydrate to achieve optimal recovery 




Friday, September 19, 2014

Falls' Savory Squash

Summer is out, fall is in. With fall comes an array of fantastic vegetables and fruits. The vegetables most associated with fall are pumpkin, squash, or anything orange for that matter. Pumpkin can be saved for October.
There are many types of squash but the ones I would like to talk about are considered winter squash: acorn squash, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, delicata squash, sweet dumpling squash, buttercup squash and ambercup squash. Although they are considered winter squash, their season actually starts end of summer beginning of fall. They can last for a fairly long time due to their thick rind.

        

Nutritionally, squash is low calorie, contains complex carbohydrates, high in fiber and rich with vitamins and minerals. It's a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, magnesium and potassium as well as other B vitamins and minerals. Vitamin A is a potent antioxidant that helps us fight certain cancers and it is also helps maintain good and healthy vision as well as healthy skin. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps us keep a healthy immune system, is involved in wound healing and tissue repair and helps fight inflammation. Magnesium takes part in many reactions in the body including: keeping normal muscle, immune and nerve function, bone health and many more. Potassium helps maintain fluid and electrolytes in the body. All those qualities make squash an amazing vegetable!

Here are some great recipes for each kind:
- Acorn squash - Roasted acorn squash soup
- Butternut squash - Butternut squash, caramelized onion and spinach lasagna
- Spaghetti squash - Spaghetti squash Greek style
- Ambercup squash-  Roasted Ambercup Squash

Ingredients:
Ambercup squash cut into cubes or 1.5" slices
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
Pinch of pepper1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp of fresh rosemary

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F
2. Spread aluminum foil on a oven tray
3. Mix squash with oil, pepper, garlic powder in a bowl and stir
4. Spread squash on tray
5. Spread rosemary on squash
6. Bake until soft and golden (about 40 minutes) and serve

Delicata squash - Garlic delicata
Buttercup squash - Roasted buttercup squash quesadillas
Sweet dumpling squash - Baked sweet dumpling squash

No matter what squash you choose you can use any of these recipes. All you need is to pick one at the grocery store and start experimenting. I promise, you will not regret it. Squash is a great addition to any athletes plate.


Friday, September 12, 2014

The Importance of Breakfast

We have all been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You have probably heard it from your coach, parents, teachers, nurses, doctors and other family members. But have they ever told you why? Although every meal is important, let me tell you why breakfast is:




  • Breakfast means break the fast (fast during sleep). Breakfast kick starts our body's metabolism. More so if we eat good nutrients to start the day. It's like starting a car that has a full tank of gas versus just half a tank.
  • Studies show that students that eat breakfast are able to concentrate better and perform better academically. 
  • Athletes that need to consume a large amount of calories will have a hard time reaching their calorie goals if they skip breakfast. This in turn will hurt performance and could cause undesired weight loss.
  • Breakfast has been shown to help people maintain body weight.
  • Skipping breakfast may cause overeating later on, which in turn can cause weight gain.
  • If you skip breakfast, by the time lunch arrives you are so hungry you eat everything in sight. Research shows that most probably you will reach for the calorie dense, nutrient poor foods such as: fast food and concentrated sweets.
  • Skipping breakfast will probably prevent most people from meeting the daily requirement for the different vitamins and minerals that help us heal and recover post exercise.
  •  People that eat breakfast tend to be more alert throughout the day without having a mid-morning crash.
              
Now that you know why it's so important here are some tips for how to build a good breakfast:
  • Try to have at least 3 food groups, for example: fruits, grains, dairy or protein, grains, vegetables.
  • Focus on whole grains such as oats and whole wheat bread/cereal.
  • Always have a fruit or a vegetable.
  • Try to get 15-30 grams protein. Having a good amount of protein for breakfast helps you feel fuller for longer and prevent over eating as well as help sustain energy.   
  • Drink at least 16-20 oz of fluids, preferably water. Fluids can also be milk, tea, coffee and juice.
  • Prefer eating fruit/vegetables versus juicing as that way you can get the fiber and some nutrients that are lost with juicing.
  • Not all breakfasts can be a sit down breakfast. Nonetheless, grab something for the road such as: apple and cheese stick, granola bar and a cup of milk, smoothie, oats on the go, etc.
Here are some ideas for a healthy breakfast:
  • Whole wheat cereal (Kashi is a great choice) with 1% milk and strawberries
  • Oatmeal with pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and blueberries
  • Scrambled eggs with whole wheat bread and watermelon
  • Smoothie made with: Greek yogurt, strawberries, pineapple, spinach, kiwi, chia seeds and kale
  • Toast with peanut butter and jelly and a cup of milk
  • Sandwich with cheese and avocado and 100% orange juice
  • Yogurt with granola and fruit
  • Leftovers from dinner :)
  • Spinach and feta cheese omelet with toast
  • Muffin with egg, ham, cheese  and spinach and a cup of 100% orange juice
  • Be creative and make sure your plate is colorful! 
Make no excuses and start the day right with a good breakfast!