Friday, July 18, 2014

The New Proposed Food Label

The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), in order to help the public make healthier food choices, has proposed changes to the nutrition fact and supplement labels. The label was first established in 1993 (more than 20 years ago - wow!), therefore, it is well due for a change! Don't you think?!
The proposed changes include:

  1. Adding "added sugar" to the label. Added sugars have been in the spot light for quite some time now due to excessive intake causing health related risks including: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, etc. The daily recommendations for women are to not exceed 100 kcal/day (6 tsp of sugar) and for men to not exceed 150 kcal/day (9 tsp of sugar).   
  2. Adding potassium and vitamin D to the label due to their public health importance. Potassium has been shown to assist with improving blood pressure. Vitamin D has many health benefits including bone health and improved immunity.
  3. Daily values will be updated for certain nutrients, such as sodium, fiber and vitamin D since their recommendations have changed throughout the past years. 
  4. Calories from fat will be removed from the label because the type of fat is more important than the calories from fat.
  5. The serving size will be changed based on what people really eat vs what they "should" be eating. Lets face it, who eats only half a cup of ice-cream?! most people eat 1 cup.
  6. Foods and beverages that are consumed in one sitting will be labeled as a single serving. Example: Gatorade, has on the 20 oz bottle, nutrition facts for a serving of 8 oz. You would need to multiply the facts by 2.5 to get what you consumed in one bottle. The new proposal states that the nutrition facts should use the whole bottle as the serving since most people will drink it all. Same goes for a frozen dinner, chocolate milk, etc.
  7. Food and beverages that are larger but could be consumed in one sitting will have both calories per serving and calories per whole package on the label. Example: medium size bag of chips, ice-cream pint or 24 oz bottles of fluid.
  8. Design changes have also been proposed. Mainly changing the location of the DV% (daily value percentage) as well as bigger/bolder calories and servings font.
These are the 2 labels one against the other (taken from FDA website) - The left label is the current one and the one on the right is the new proposed label
                  Original Nutrition Facts Label        Proposed Nutrition Facts Label

For more info - FDA website has the full details.
What are your thoughts on the new proposed changes? Do you think it will cause less confusion and allow us to choose better when we go shopping?
If it gets approved, we will surely find out!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Nutrition for the Injured Athlete

We talk all the time about nutrition for performance and nutrition for recovery but there is not much talk about nutrition for injury. Is there even a specific regimen for the injured athlete?!
Unfortunately, there is not much research out there on the injured athlete so we don't have a specific regimen, however, we do have some knowledge and recommendations to help heal faster and get back in the game sooner.

Injury has 3 healing phases:

  1. Inflammation - occurs immediately up to 2-5 days post injury
  2. Proliferation -  occurs 5 days - 3 weeks post. During this phase there is rebuilding and repairing 
  3. Maturation - occurs 3 weeks - 2 years (depending on severity of injury). During this phase there is remodeling to a stronger structure
If the injury is serious we may not be able to immobilize which in turn will cause less muscle building, muscle loss, decrease in strength and of course decrease in performance.  
Nutritionally, we divide recommendations to 2 phases
  1. Injury and immobilization - during this phase most of the muscle loss occurs
  2. Rehabilitation - during this phase exercise is re-introduced in the form of therapy and advanced to full practice when able
Nutrition recommendations during Injury and immobilization (= inflammation and proliferation phase of healing):
  • Energy (kcal) - demands of energy are slightly higher in order to assist with the healing processes. If injury is severe, energy expenditure can go up by 20%. If on crutches, energy expenditure can be 2-3 times higher than walking. Sometimes, a small weight gain is beneficial because with out enough calories we can prevent muscle protein synthesis (building muscle)
  • Protein - During the immobilization phase we lose muscle which then causes us to lose strength. Protein helps us build and repair, therefore, are needs for protein are higher. Although we do not have an exact number of grams/lb we need per day, we assume its more than the DRI (dietary reference intake) which is 0.8 grams/kg (0.35 grams/lb). Some research suggests we need close to 1-1.2 grams/kg/day (0.45-0.55 grams/lb/day). Since the majority of us eat more protein than we need this should not be an issue
  • Carbohydrates - When we exercise, carbohydrates are our main source of energy. However, when injured, we don't need as much, therefore, we may decrease carbohydrates slightly to prevent excessive weight gain. Sports beverages, gels, sodas and concentrated sweets are highly discouraged during this time
  • Fats - very essential for healing. What type of fats is most important. Omega 3s (found in fatty fish as well as certain seeds/nuts) have been found to possibly help increase muscle protein synthesis (building muscle) as well as help with recovery and decreasing inflammation
  • Vitamins and minerals:
               * Vitamin C - Helps with wound healing, tissue repair and increased immune function. Foods rich in vitamin C include: citrus fruit, strawberries, red bell peppers, watermelon, etc.
               * Vitamin A - Helps with cell growth and development as well as immune function. Foods high in vitamin A include: sweet potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, papaya (orange/red fruits and vegetables)
               * Zinc - Helps with wound healing, protein synthesis and immune function. Foods rich with zinc include: beef, almonds, seeds (sunflower, flax, pumpkin, etc.) and seafood
               * Vitamin D - Important for bone health and immune function. The sun vitamin - get 5-30 minutes of sun between 10 AM - 3 PM (time is based on skin color, the darker the skin the more time you need) or it can be found in dairy products, fatty fish or fortified foods
  • Fluids - fluids are needed in order to deliver the different nutrients to the different organs and tissues. Moreover, its needed to support joints and soft tissues. Roughly, you should be drinking half your weight in ounces, preferably water. 
Nutrition during rehabilitation phase
We treat this phase as we were to treat someone who does strength and conditioning. We put emphasis on enough energy and protein as well as healthy fats and plenty of vegetables and fruits. More on strength and conditioning nutrition in a future blog.

There are also foods/beverages that can prevent us from healing optimally, which we should avoid:
  • Fried fatty foods (example: pizza, fried chicken, french fries, etc.)
  • Added sugars and concentrated sweets (soda, candy, ice-cream, etc.)
  • Being malnourished (more common in elderly but applies to people that restrict eating a lot)
  • Less than optimal sleep (athletes should sleep 8-10 hours/day)
  • Alcohol - it inhibits muscle protein synthesis and increases muscle loss 
So, if you or any of your friends get injured, remember to also focus on nutrition to help speed your healing and recovery! Food always comes first and if need be, consult a sports RD or a sports MD for supplement recommendations.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

It's Eat Your Bean Day

Today, July 3rd, is national eat bean day, so why not celebrate it by adding some beans to your diet.
Beans (a legume) are a great source of protein, fiber, minerals and some B vitamins. They are low in fat and cholesterol. Here is the nutrition information for 0.5 cup cooked beans made from dried beans (taken from "Dietitians Online"):


Although beans do not make a complete protein, when you add them to a grain (example: rice and beans, couscous and lentils, barley and chick peas, etc.) they become a full protein. These combinations can help vegetarians and vegans, that don't eat meat, eggs and/or dairy, to meet their protein needs.
Beans have been shown to help with lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. Moreover, they can reduce risk for heart disease, some cancers, diabetes and bone disease (osteoporosis). Since beans are packed with fiber, they help you feel fuller longer as well as help your bowels move and prevent constipation.
There are multiple vitamins and minerals in beans including: potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, thiamine, folate, B6, manganese, copper and more. Beans also contain anti-oxidants that help fight inflammation. On top of all that, beans are also quite cheap.
With all these great benefits, no wonder some people describe beans as a "super food".So next time you go to the grocery store pick yourself a bag of beans.

Not sure what to make?! check this great recipe for soft tacos with southwest vegetables from Mayo Clinic as well as these great healthy salad recipes from Cooking Light.

Enjoy and Happy 4th!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Healthy Options When Eating Out

Many athletes have to travel quite often and may need to rely on fast food restaurants due to money and time constraints. In fact, even when not traveling, we will have days where we are in a rush and looking for something easy and fast. Taking in consideration the main goal, which is fueling for optimal performance and health, with some planning you can easily turn a fast food stop to a healthier choice.
Here are some general rules:

  • Choose grilled and/or baked options
  • Stay away from fried foods. Consider a baked potato or side salad instead of french fries
  • Hold the mayo
  • Do not drench your salad with dressing
  • Have water instead of soda
  • Prefer milk, chocolate milk or 100% juice over soda if trying to gain weight
  • The less legs the better (the less legs the healthier it is for you). Fish then chicken/turkey then cow/pork
  • Don't forget your vegetables and fruits!
Here are some healthier ideas to choose in some of these establishments:

McDonald's/Burger King/Arby's/Wendy's
  • Fruit and yogurt parfait 
  • Fruit and maple oatmeal
  • Egg white Mcmuffin
  • Grilled chicken salad with light dressing
  • Grilled chicken sandwich with BBQ instead of mayo and a side salad with light dressing
  • Veggie Burger (BK) with no mayo, apple slices and milk
  • Regular hamburger and cheeseburger with side salad
  • Sweet chili grilled chicken wrap with apple slices
  • Wendy's large chilly and baked potato/sour cream & chive baked potato
Subway/Jimmy John's/Quizno's
  • Choose whole wheat bread
  • Light on the mayo and dressings
  • Choose lean meats (chicken, turkey, roast beef)
  • Baked chips or fruit as side
  • Load up on the vegetables
Taco Bell/Taco John's
  • Bean burrito
  • Burrito Supreme chicken/steak
  • Any Fresco taco or burrito
  • Gordita Supreme chicken/steak
  • Black beans or black beans and rice
  • Chicken soft taco
  • Santa Fe regular fish bowl (Taco John's)
  • Regular bowl - veg/chicken/beef
Pizza Hut/Domino's/Papa John's
  • Thin crust. If possible whole wheat
  • Veggie pizza
  • Cheese pizza
  • Hawaiian pizza
  • Pizza with veggies and 1 meat (preferably chicken) 
  • Grilled chicken breast with green beans and mash potatoes
  • Chicken littles with no mayo, green beans and corn on the cob

*** Although it may not be the healthiest, these options can fit in any athletes diet. Just don't make it an everyday thing and apply MODERATION.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Soccer Nutrition

As you might have noticed, the world cup just started and it seems as though everyone is watching.
It took enormous amounts of training to get there and now it will take a lot to stay at the top. One of the more important ways to stay at the top, besides good players of course, is nutrition and rest. For those who don't know, only 2 teams brought their dietitian with them to Brazil. Team USA and the team from Italy (you can read more about what they are doing here). Therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about sports nutrition strategies in soccer.

Soccer has a combination of endurance exercise and intense short burst sprints. Professional players that play most of the game, may cover up to 10-13 km (6-8 miles) with multiple sprints in between. Therefore, the main source of energy they utilize is carbohydrate. Athletes who do not consume enough carbohydrates and are insufficiently hydrated will not be able to train and/or compete at high intensities and will likely experience premature fatigue. 
Our nutrition strategy will focus on pre-during-post- activity:

Pre-activity/game nutrition depends on how soon my activity is:
Pre-activity meal (3-4 hours before):
-          High in carbohydrate
-          High in lean protein
-          Low in fiber and fat
-          12-20 fl. oz (e.g., milk, juice, sports drink)
Example:  Grilled chicken, brown rice, corn, green beans, salad and vanilla pudding.

Pre-activity snack (30-60 minutes before)
-          30-60 grams of easily digestible carbohydrate
-          Moderate in protein
-          Low in fiber and fat
-          5-16 fl. oz (e.g., water, sports drink)
Example: Banana & peanut butter, yogurt & small amount of granola, cereal & milk, granola bar, etc.

During activity depends on length of activity and whether you have one session or more per day:
 If activity is less than 60-90 minutes and that is the only session of the day:
-   hydrate with 5-10 oz of water every 15-20 minutes.
 If activity is more than 60-90 minutes and/or you have multiple sessions a day:
-          Drink 5-10 oz of fluid every 15-20 minutes (preferably a sports drink)
-          Consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrate every hour (by drinking or eating)
-          During half-time (or similar break), eat a simple carbohydrate snack with limited amount of protein, low in fiber and fat
-          Consume snacks that contain sodium (salt)  
Example: Banana, pretzels, crackers, beef jerky and/or a sports drink.

Post activity/Recovery
Recovery starts fairly close to when you finish your activity; therefore, within about 30-45 minute,
- focus on protein and carbohydrate foods and/or drinks. 
Example: Chocolate milk, Greek yogurt and a banana, recovery shake
Post-activity meal (1-2 hours after)
-          High in whole grain carbohydrates
-          High in lean protein
-          Good amount of fiber and fats
-          16-24 fl. oz (e.g. chocolate milk, smoothie, sports drink, water)
Example: 6”-12” sandwich with turkey, cheese & vegetables, trail mix, and oatmeal cookie.

Note - if you will have a meal within an hour post activity/game a recovery drink is not needed. However, if you are not hungry right after and there may be some time before your next meal, a recovery drink is important.

For hydration recommendations please refer to our previous post on that topic.

Remember, the right hydration and nutrition plan can really be a game changer, so make sure you fuel appropriately for your sport pre, during and after activity.

ole, ole, ole, ole, ole, ole .................... 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Grilling Season is on Its Way

This up coming Sunday, June 15th, is fathers day. What better way to celebrate fathers day with a good old BBQ meal (lunch or dinner).
Grilling is a great way to eat healthier as it eliminates a lot of the fat found in other cooking methods such as frying and pan frying. Moreover, it gives food this great smokey flavor that makes anything taste better.
To help assist build a complete & healthy grilled meal My Plate shall be our guide.


For healthy protein we can use: fish (salmon, walleye), chicken breast, loin or sirloin of beef/pork
For healthy grains we can choose a starchy vegetable: grill corn on the cob, grilled sweet potato or just make some brown rice.
For healthy vegetables we can grill up some asparagus, zucchini, summer squash and onions or create vegetable skewers. Cheese can also be added in skewers (ex: halumi, mozzarella)  
For healthy fruits we can have a fruit salad or even grill some pineapple with cinnamon.
Before you start grilling, make sure you clean the grill well. You can do so buy taking half an onion and running it over your hot grill before putting anything on it. Make sure you do the same when you are done as well.

Here are some recipes:
This recipe of Grilled Trout is from Cooking Light website

1 Tbps of fine sea salt
2 tsp of sugar
4 (7 oz) dressed rainbow trout
cooking spray 
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 (1oz) bunches dill sprigs
2 limes thinly sliced
Grilled Trout Recipe

  • Preparation
  • 1. Combine 2 cups water, sea salt, and sugar in a shallow dish; add fish. Let stand 20 minutes. Drain.
  • 2. Prepare charcoal fire in a chimney starter; let coals burn until flames die down. Pour hot coals out of starter; pile on one side of grill. Coat grill grate with cooking spray; put grate in place over coals.
  • 3. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper over fish flesh. Divide dill and lime slices evenly among fish cavities. Coat outside of fish with cooking spray. Place fish over direct heat; grill 4 minutes. Turn over; move to indirect heat. Grill 12 minutes or until done

  • This recipe is for grilled vegetables:
  • Ingredients
    1 zucchini cut into round circles
    1 summer squash cut into round circles
    1 medium red onion cut into thick pieces
    1 cup of cherry tomatoes
    1 cup small mushrooms
    2 Tbsp olive oil
    1 Tbsp garlic powder
    1 tsp sea salt
    Fresh rosemary

    1. Mix all vegetables together with oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and rosemary. Let sit for 15-20 minutes
    2. Take as much skewers as needed and start putting vegetables on each skewer in a variety.
    3. Place skewers on direct heat. Grill for 5-10 minutes. Turn over and
    grill 5-10 minutes or until done
  • For dessert you may want to use this great pineapple recipe (clean the grill before you put the pineapple in order to prevent meaty taste and contamination):

    1 medium size pineapple cut into circles or chunks
    1 Tbsp cinnamon

    1. Sprinkle cinnamon all over pineapple
    2. Place pineapple with cinnamon directly on the grill.
    Grill for 5-10 minutes or until done

  • There you have it! Grilling like a pro with My Plate.
  • Happy Fathers Day!  

Friday, June 6, 2014

Gastrointestinal Issues in Runners and Strategies to Overcome Them

Bill Rogers, a famous American runner that won four times the Boston and NYC marathon's between 1975-1980 and a 2000 USA Track & Field Hall of Famer stated, "more marathons are won or lost in the portable toilets than at the dinner table". Obviously, he was well aware of the gastrointestinal (GI) issues runners face.
GI issues have a variety of symptoms including: diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, bloating, belching, cramps heartburn and bloody stools. Symptoms are more common in women, younger athletes, elite athletes and people with a history of GI issues. It is estimated to occur in 30-90% of distance runners during and/or after exercise. Complaints of GI issues differ in severity and they may cause a decline in performance and recovery.


There are three main reasons for GI problems:

  • Physiological - When we exercise, depending on the intensity, blood supply to the gut may decrease by up to 80% in order to transfer more blood to the working muscles, skin and heart. This in turn may cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and stomach pain.
  • Mechanical -   Running is a high impact sport with continuous pounding. This pounding also influences the GI tract which in turn can cause GI symptoms. Therefore, runners have a tendency to have more problems than bikers. 
  • Nutritional - The meal timing before exercise as well as beverage and food choices may cause GI symptoms. A meal shortly before running, rich with fiber, fat and protein will cause GI symptoms because these nutrients have a slow emptying rate in the stomach. Drinking a concentrated carbohydrate beverage during or slightly before a race will cause GI symptoms. Moreover, dehydration intensifies GI symptoms. As discussed in the previous blog on alcohol and performance, drinking the night before a run several drinks can cause GI symptoms probably due to its diuretic effect. 
  • Note; Certain people may have a medical condition such as: celiac disease, lactose/fructose mal-absorption and irritable bowel syndrome to name a few, that makes them more susceptible to GI symptoms

Since this blog is a nutrition blog, lets talk about some nutrition strategies to prevent GI symptoms:

  • Hydration, hydration, hydration - before a run, make sure you are hydrated. Focus on hydrating well throughout the day. 
  • Avoid beverages during or slightly before a run rich with fructose such as juice. Prefer water or if running long distance, a sports beverage with 6-8% carbohydrates such as Gatorade or Powerade.
  • Avoid high fiber foods 1-2 hours pre-exercise as well as the day before a big race. 
  • Avoid high fat and high protein foods 1-2 hours pre-exercise
  • "Train the gut" - the gut is very adaptable, therefore, train your gut by eating during your training as well as before (if activity is lower than 60-90 minutes there is no need to eat anything during and water should suffice). Experiment with foods before a training session to check what works and what doesn't.
  • Avoid using non-selective, non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen as they tend to increase GI symptoms.
  • Avoid lactose containing milk products if you think or know that you are lactose intolerant. 
  • Avoid or limit alcohol drinking before a morning run or a big race
It is very important that if you have severe GI symptoms such as bloody stools, you consult with a medical professional.
For specific guidance and assistance if you suffer from the symptoms noted above, consider consulting with a sports dietitian to help you with strategies to prevent any GI symptoms.