1/4/08

Foods I like!

Seeing that is it 2008, 2007 has past and we can all reflect on the good and bad. With most people resolving to lose weight or get in control of better eating habits, I thought I'd provide my insight on some of my favorite foods and why I eat them. As far as dislikes, I believe everything should be eaten in moderation. I always think about my heart and what my body needs to be an active, healthy women and I don't enjoy having trans fat, processed, high fructose corn syrup, high fat, sugar alcohols and high calorie foods in my diet. I eat in moderation and if I want something, I just eat a little of it..very occasionally.

1) Bread-YUM!!! The perfect carb for me. I stick with high fiber, whole grain and low calorie breads. My favorite is Nature's Own which is low in calorie and offers a good helping of fiber. I suggest going low in calories for bread because when making sandwiches, eating toast, etc. the calories in bread can add up. There's nothing wrong with bread but I live by the theory a little of everything is better than a lot of one thing. Therefore, rather than having 1-2 pieces of 120 calorie bread, I'm better off making French toast with 3-4 pieces of 50 calorie bread. I suggest eating a little protein before and with your bread, especially if you are eating from a bread basket at dinner. In order to prevent a fluctuation in blood sugar, have a piece of cheese, a few nuts or a small glass of milk before eating a meal. Insulin will be released from the pancreas at a much slower rate than by just eating bread alone. Same thing applies when finishing a workout. When you are in need of carbs for refueling, help yourself to some protein immediately after the workout to help you from overeating at the next meal, while preventing a rise and drop in blood sugar.
2) Nuts- Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts and cashews. Those are my favorites. Again, I love nuts to help stabilize the blood sugar between and with meals. Nuts offer great nutrients and are packed with good fats. I'd avoid the macademia and pecans which can be a little higher in fat and calories than the other nuts. Either way, portion control your nuts and avoid eating directly from the bag/jar. Grab a handful (or pick out the almonds like I do) and enjoy. I also like to eat nuts and raisins w/ my yogurt, oatmeal, salads and fruit. Again, combine protein w/ carbs to stabilize the body. Also, combining a little good fat (mono/poly unsaturated fat) with your meals will keep you fuller longer.
3) Fruit-Of my favorites, ripe bananas (less sugar than brown or bright yellow), honeydew, strawberries, oranges, pink lady apples and nectarines. And my #1 favorite are blueberries!!!! I could guzzle a container of berries in a second. When I buy fruit, I wait to wash it until I'm ready to eat it. Be careful when keeping fruit out in a bowl because some fruit spoils if it is left to react w/ oxygen in the air or if it touches other fruit. Same goes for veggies, wait to wash when you are ready to use. Usually when I buy fruit, I wash and cut it up into small slices right away. I make a big fruit salad and divide the fruit into two Tupperware containers. I put one in the fridge to be eaten fresh anytime and the other I put in the freezer. Frozen fruits are perfect for smoothies but they are always great in the evening for a sweet frozen desert. Just put a bit in the microwave (remove container from freezer for 5-10 min. to help thaw before scooping) for 10-15 sec. to melt a bit. As far as fruit which can be sliced (apples and pears), cut up fruit and put in baggies. Fibrous fruit works great to eat on the way home from work or after a non-exhaustive workout. Eating a little (50-100 calories) before dinner will help you from grazing the pantry and from overeating at your meal.
4) PB-yes, I eat PB. I stick with organic or natural brands which have very few ingredients. Have you seen the label on some brand-named PB's??? SO much in there, including high fructose corn syrup and/or hydrogenated oils which are two ingredients I try to avoid in my foods. Even if a food lists 0 trans fat, check the label and see if hydrogenated oils are in the ingredients. The FDA allows .5g trans fat in the food to be listed as a zero trans fat food. Therefore, go to the label and see where hydrogenated oils are listed. The ingredients which are in high quantity are listed first and get smaller as the list goes on. I suggest a PB which has omega's or flax seeds added. I don't do 100% organic but PB is one which I have debated about saving a buck or two. But when I compare labels (which I do for everything I buy and eat) there is no question that I always want a food which has few ingredients. Ever check out the label on fresh veggies and fruit??? Trick question..there isn't one!! Enjoy foods which are fresh and natural, rather than processed and loaded with additives.
5) Egg whites, cottage cheese, light soy milk and yogurt- I love my protein! As a vegetarian athlete, I'm very strict on my protein. First with the egg whites, I have nothing against an occasional yolk. There are great nutrients in the yolk but just one yolk has your daily recommendations of cholesterol (200 mg). Because I eat at least 4-6 eggs a day, I try to limit my yolks because I consume eggs on a daily basis. If you only eat eggs 1-2 times a week, no big deal to eat the yolk. I always suggest 3 egg whites to one yolk when cooking. Therefore, if you are making scrambled eggs, throw in some yolk. I do that just to give some extra nutrients, fat and color to my eggs. If you are wondering about brown eggs and health benefits, the egg is brown due to the chicken. The egg has no extra nutrients unless the label reads "added w/..." and it is usually added with omegas. You can buy egg beaters but I suggest looking for a discount on the egg substitutes. But then again, I'm pretty frugal with my money and food. Always looking for the healthy option and at a good price. I also suggest shopping at a fresh market for fruits and veggies. Great discounts too! OK, cottage cheese is a must. The casein in cottage cheese is very slow digesting so just like whey protein, it is perfect for rebuilding tissues and muscles. I suggest a reduced fat or fat-free cottage cheese but there is hardly any difference in the low-fat and fat-free kinds. I am picky when it comes to cottage cheese so I love my Breakstone Cottage fat-free cottage cheese. This is where I draw the line on saving for an off-brand. Karel doesn't mind the generic brand so we each have our own cottage cheese :) hehe. Cottage cheese is another great protein to have for snacks and before meals. My mom likes chocolate chips and pineapple w/ her cottage cheese. I like fresh peaches and cinnamon. I love my soy milk and since Silk has a light option, I can save on sugar and calories. Therefore, I can have the same amount of protein (what milk is best for, with the calcium) as regular milk and save on calories. Milk is perfect for a post workout drink and it is great for meeting protein recommendations. Try skim or soy milk and keep your milk less than 90 calories a serving. As for almond milk, there is only 1-2g protein so you are better off with soy milk if you are choosing a lactose free or non cow milk version. As for yogurt, always choose a low sugar, low calorie yogurt. Check out the labels of yogurt and get ready to be shocked on the sugar in yogurt. 20,30+ grams of sugar!! OUch. Sugar is a big thing to watch when looking for healthy foods for an athlete. BEcause we ingest so much sugar when we are training (and after) when we are in need of quick energy, it is very important that you control your blood sugar levels in the body. have your sweet treat immediately after a hard workout and be sure to combine protein with carbs during the day. You hear of all the pros eating super clean and healthy before a big race and although I think they are trying to stay at a healthy weight weeks before the big day, it is more so because the body needs to be clean and regulated. You have to think of the body as a machine and it requires the best fuel on a daily basis in order to perform the best. When it comes to yogurt, which has great healthy bacteria and a good source of protein, I suggest keeping your yogurt less than 80 calories. You can opt for a 80-120 calorie yogurt after an exhaustive 1 hour workout but otherwise, keep those yogurt calories low to reduce your sugar intake. The body will appreciate it. I also suggest low sugar and sugar free items. However, be careful not to overdo your intake of sugar alcohols. I avoid bars and diet water/fruit juices as much as possible. I don't do sweeteners but when it comes to sugar alcohols, you may experience GI distress and bloating if you try to eat everything sugar-free. Also, you might be better off with several reduced sugar/low sugar items for fullness rather than eating sugar-free foods and always being hungry. Sugar-free will generally be lower in calories but you will have to decide which foods are worth eating with more calories.
Well, there's my list of my staple foods. The one thing I didn't mention is whey protein which is a must for my endurance and high-intensity athletes out there. My fingers are tired so I'll save that LONGGGGG blog for another day. Protein is my area of expertise (so I believe) so I'll leave you waiting until another blog one day.....