Friday, November 14, 2014

Turnip for What?!

The weather is getting colder and with cooler temps also come a variety of foods that we tend to lean towards. We choose dishes that warm us up and are filling like soup, stew and chili are prepared more often. With this great variety of foods also come winter vegetables. One of my new favorites is the turnip.
Turnip is a root vegetable that can be found late fall and winter. It belongs to the cruciferous family (cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts) and is rich with antioxidant properties.  The leaves of the root, turnip greens, can also be eaten and are high in vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, copper and folate. Turnips are fat free, cholesterol free and an excellent source of vitamin C. There are 34 calories in 1 cup of raw turnip. They are versatile and can be eaten raw, baked, mashed, roasted, stir fried and grilled. It is recommended to shop for the small/medium sized heavy turnips as they will have a mild taste. In general, turnips have a slight sweet, spicy, refreshing taste.
Here are some ideas of what to do with this great vegetable:

  • Add it to chili or stew instead of potatoes
  • Turnip fries - just cut in fries shape and bake in the oven
  • Shred and add to your salad
  • Add to any soup
  • Turnip mash
  • Stir fry with the rest of your vegetables
  • Turnip greens can be used in stew, soup, stir fry or even just sauteed by itself
Here are some recipes:
Sauteed turnip greens

4 cups turnip greens
1 small purple union diced
1 garlic clove minced
1 Tbsp canola oil

Heat pan to medium. Heat oil and add onion. Saute for 5 minutes until slightly brown. Add garlic and stir for 2 minutes. Add turnip greens and stir for 5 minutes or until wilted. Serve while hot

Mashed turnips

3 cups turnips peeled and diced
4 cups water
0.25 cup coconut milk or 0.25 1% milk
Dash salt 
Dash pepper

Simmer turnips in lightly salted water until soft and tender. Drain water. Add coconut milk, salt and pepper to turnips and mash. Serve as a side with chopped scallions or chives

Turnip spicy baked fries

2 lbs turnip peeled and cut in rectangular fry shape or round thin circles
Olive oil spray
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp paprika
0.5 tsp sea salt

Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread turnip shaped fries in oven tray. Spray with oil and then spread seasoning over fries. Bake in the oven until golden brown (about 30 minutes). Enjoy!

Here is a great turnip soup recipe and a good beef stew and turnip recipe
Don't shy away from this great root vegetable and next time you are at the store, pick it up and try it.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, November 7, 2014

To Take or Not to Take? That is The Question

In this abundant world of supplements we ask ourselves all the time; to take or not to take? However, not the question nor the answer are that simple. The supplement industry is a billion dollar making industry. Every week there are new supplements on the shelf that give big promises. Do they work? Do they contain what they're supposed to? Are they safe? These are all questions we need to ask ourselves before we go and spend our salary on them. Let me help by pointing some pros and cons:


  • It's convenient, especially for the busy student athlete
  • It could potentially help gain muscle
  • It could potentially help recover or decrease muscle soreness
  • It could potentially help perform better
  • Help provide nutrients lacking in the diet
  • Help fight inflammation
  • Supplements are unregulated. Due to that, some shady supplements out there contain stimulants, steroids and other illegal substances. Moreover, some contain dangerous components that could cause liver failure, stroke and even death. Here is a great piece by USA Today talking about the risks. There are many more articles like that
  • Illegal substances without you knowing, can show positive on a drug test and prevent athletes from finishing school, competing in the college setting (NCAA rules) or even becoming a pro
  • Many supplements don't really work (if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is)
  • Food is cheaper and can be convenient 
  • You can't out supplement a bad diet
  • Most foods can provide the pros that supplements do
How to decide if yes or no?!
  • Make sure your diet is balanced and healthy first and foremost! If the diet is lacking, fix that. For example: if you skip breakfast, don't take a supplement to compensate, just eat breakfast. If you feel you eat enough vegetables and fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein then you can consider a supplement, depending on your goals and sport. 
  • There are a little more than a handful of supplements that work (based on research) for performance (however, not in all people): whey and protein, creatine, beta-alanine, omega 3, tart cherry juice, beet juice, caffeine, sports drinks, iron (if deficient) and calcium/vitamin D (in certain cases).  
  • No matter what, consult with a sport dietitian or a medical professional that understands supplements for performance. Always make sure your doctor knows as well. 
  • Use NSF certified safe for sport website or app to make sure its safe and free of contaminants. Use also to make sure they are not on this list (contains what banned substances were found). 
  • Read and research if a supplement works from reliable sources (no, is not a reliable source). If you do not know where to find reliable sources, ask me or any sports dietitian as well as coach, physician or athletic trainer. 
Remember, you can't out supplement a bad diet! Focus on fueling for performance instead.

Let food be thy medicine


Friday, October 31, 2014

Microwave Meals for The College Athlete

For the college athlete sometimes cooking may be a burden. Moreover, lack of time or resources, such as living in a dorm, may create a challenging situation when it comes to fueling right. These challenges may cause athletes to skip meals or eat out (mainly fast food) often. However, in order to eat to compete optimally a solid diet is crucial. Whether you live in a dorm or off campus you most probably have a microwave, fridge and if your lucky a toaster oven.


 Therefore, here are some quick and easy recipes and ideas to help you fuel right quickly with minimum resources.

Breakfast #1 - Quick Oatmeal
0.5 cup oatmeal
1 cup water or 1 cup 1% milk
1 Tbsp honey
0.5 cup raspberries (or any fruit)
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 oz pumpkin seeds

Heat oatmeal and water in microwave for 2 minutes (or until you like the consistency). Add all other ingredients and enjoy. Here are some other oatmeal combinations.

Breakfast #2 - Scrambled Eggs 
1-2 eggs (or egg substitute)
2 Tbsp shredded cheese
1 Tbsp cilantro or parsley
Pinch salt and pepper

Whip eggs in a microwave safe bowel or mug. Add cheese and herbs. Microwave for 1.5-2 minutes. Season and enjoy. You can also make it a breakfast burrito by putting it in a tortilla.

Breakfast #3 - Granola with yogurt and fruit
0.5 cup granola
6 oz low fat yogurt vanilla or plain
0.5 cup strawberries
0.5 cup blueberries

No need for a microwave here! Mix all ingredients together and enjoy

Lunch/Dinner #1 - Sweet Potato, Green Beans and Salmon
1 Salmon filet
1.5 tsp olive oil
0.5 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried chives
2 slices lemon
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of pepper

Put salmon in a microwave safe plate (skin face down). Spread oil on fish. Season with all herbs and spices. Top with lemon. Heat for 3-4 minutes or until ready (every microwave will be different).
+ Wash sweet potato and put in microwave for 5 minutes or until soft.
+ Heat green beans in microwave for 3-4 minutes or until ready.
Enjoy this great colorful meal!

Lunch/Dinner #2 - Chicken Parmesan
Here is a great recipe for microwave Chicken Parmesan
Just add some vegetable mix and you are good to go!

Lunch/Dinner #3 - Vegetarian Chili 
Since I found a great recipe online, I decided to share

Lunch/Dinner #4 - Chicken Salad
1 chicken breast cut to small cubes
1 tsp olive oil
0.5 tsp paprika
0.5 tsp cumin
2 cups spinach
1 medium tomato diced
0.5 cup carrots diced
0.5 red pepper diced
1 small cucumber cut into rounds
1 cup croutons
1 oz shaved almonds
Season per liking

In a microwave safe bowel mix chicken, olive oil, paprika and cumin. Add salt and pepper if you desire. Heat in microwave for 3.5-5 minutes or until chicken is ready. Set chicken aside to cool down. In the mean time mix all other salad ingredients in a bowel stir and add dressing to your liking (in moderation). Add chicken to mixed salad. You can also use canned chicken which will be even quicker.

For more creative and cool ideas for microwave meals feel free to check this out. Potatoes, vegetables and couscous are also very easy to make in the microwave and do not require any recipe.

Cooking should not be a burden because it can be fast and easy. No excuses! Whether you are at the dorm or off campus you should be able to make these recipes. Go eat to compete!

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. 
  • 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