10/23/10

Plant-based diet

As a vegetarian, it would seem logical that I would choose a plant-based diet. However, as a vegetarian athlete, it is important that I have a variety of foods in my diet to fuel my workouts and my lifestyle. More importantly, as a wife, doggy and cat mommy, daughter and sister, it is important that I give my body the best source of foods possible in order to live a long, active and healthy life. For me personally, I don't buy organic but maybe I will in the future. I stick to a budget with my groceries and I like to shop around. We are all different and we all have different nutrient needs. More so, we all live in different areas of the US/World and we all have different habits based on our culture and upbringing.
Having said that, I have spent the last few years working with athletes and fitness enthusiast on the daily diet, training nutrition and racing nutrition. Alongside working with athletes, I have also spent many years trying to understand my own dietary needs in order to feel the best possible on a day-to-day basis. I believe that we should all eat the same diet throughout the year, regardless if it is during the training season or the off-season. It is very important to me that I understand how to eat to maintain my weight with "regular" exercise and that I also understand how to eat in an effort to fuel my IM training. Although we should all eat similar foods (male, female, fitness enthusiast, triathlete, runner, cyclist) we are all going to have different nutrient needs. Therefore, while our macronutrient distributions may differ (carbs, protein, fat) and we may prioritize nutrient timing, there is absolutely no reason why we all shouldn't emphasize fruits and veggies, as well as wholesome foods with little to no ingredients.

One of the best ways to increase satiety (the feeling of fullness) is to consume foods that promote fullness. However, it is first important that we recognize why we are eating and to identify the cues of hunger versus boredom or cravings. With myself included, I have worked with so many athletes on reducing their intake of processed foods (including "diet" and "sports" foods/drinks) and have noticed so many amazing results. I believe that there is a strong correlation with the increase in obesity as it relates to the increase of processed food. Considering that as a processed food becomes "healthier" (this is not my idea of healthy but according to the consumer, a well-marketed food with a fancy label may seem healthy), the calories may go down but the ingredients go up. My favorite example is the Special K protein bar which contains over 60 ingredients. Just thinking about your daily diet, wouldn't you rather eat 60 different types of foods than 60 ingredients in 1 bar?

As you work on developing a healthy relationship with food, I hope that we can all realize that a plant-based diet does not mean you have an eating disorder or that you are on a diet. Alongside a plant-based diet, it is important that you balance your fruits and veggies with fiber-rich grains, healthy fats and quality protein (low fat dairy, lean meats and vegetarian protein). Understanding that you don't "fail" if you eat a granola bar or that cookies, ice cream and cereal are "off limit" because they contain ingredients, it will be only a matter of weeks (or days) before there is a shift in blood, brain and body chemistry and you see food differently. Cravings go down (or away) and your food preferences shift to foods that are natural and fresh. Although I can't explain the exact science behind it, I strongly believe that the brain craves processed food and that the body doesn't recognize fullness or satisfaction from foods containing a hefty amount of ingredients.

10/22/10

Theme Meal - At least I didn't serve Tofu





I really needed a good night of sleep to reflect on the past few weeks. This was probably one of the most exhausting non-triathlon related things that I have ever done..both mentally and physically.
A theme meal was the big project for my food service rotation. I have a bunch of other assignments and projects for this rotation but planning, preparing and serving a meal was the spotlight of this rotation. I spent the first 5 weeks of this rotation learning how the food service system works in the nursing home and familiarizing myself with equipment as well as ordering and preparing food in the most cost effective and safe manner. I still have 5 weeks to go to soak up as much information as I can but at half way, I feel really good as a dietetic intern, trying to learn how to be a dietary manager. I am certain that a dietary manager is not in my future as a career choice, but I am trying to make the most of it because I know that every part of this internship is valuable now and in the future. Becoming a registered dietitian is no joke and I can't wait to put all of my experiences and knowledge to good use in about 7 months!!

The concept of my "farm to table" theme came to me while I was in my community nutrition rotation. My preceptor at the time (who is now my mentor and friend) shared a similar passion with me which included fresh and wholesome foods. Rather than using the word "healthy" (which is often overused in our society) when talking about nutritious recipes or foods, we tried to replace the word with something more descriptive and specific. We would often say "powerful" nutrition because we both felt as if wholesome food...straight from the earth...is the most powerful food source that you can put into your body. Of course, there are lots of other products on the market that I eat on a daily/weekly basis that contain ingredients, but overall, I feel as if fruits and veggies are the most effective food sources to living a long and healthy life.

Of course, having a healthy relationship with food is the first start of having a healthy diet. Once I learned to stop seeing food as good or bad, I began to see food in a new light. Rather, I looked at foods as fuel to keep me going on a daily basis. I saw food as fuel for my workouts and for my every day activities. Fuel that wouldn't run out in an effort to keep me healthy, strong and happy for the rest of my life. I have never once saw my diet as temporary and I couldn't imagine eating any other way...for the rest of my life. There are no off-limit foods and because of that, I never feel deprived with a plant-based diet. There's always a time for everything..just not all at one time.

Creating a menu that would please the employees at the nursing home was no easy task. Prefacing that everyone at the nursing home is super nice and thoughtful (that includes the administrative staff, the residents, the kitchen staff and the nurses), I have observed many dietary choices that aren't the most heart-healthy options to encouraging a long and healthy life. Sadly, I don't have much of a say as a dietetic intern, especially when it comes to changing the menu for the residents or encouraging the staff to bring their lunch or choose non-fried options. I would certainly not be nice to someone because of how they eat but in my heart, I always want to inspire and motivate others to adopt more heart-healthy habits. As we all know, living a healthy life doesn't not happen over night. I can easily think back to my chicken finger + ranch dressing non-vegetarian days as a young kid, followed by my teenage vegetarian years which included a diet filled with shortbread girl scout cookies, air head candy, cheeze-its, Dr. Pepper, bagel bites, Ranch Doritos, midnight waffle house outings with friends and weekend McDonalds Cinnamon rolls. Oh, I can't forget Thursday school pizza, dipped in ranch dressing.

Having been a lacto-ovo vegetarian since the age of around 11 or 12 (because of animal reasons), my meat-free life has not always been a priority on my list of daily to-do's. Going strong as a vegetarian for the past 16 or 17 years, I am 100% that I will not eat meat or fish for the rest of my life. Now, more than ever, I feel young, healthy and clean and I believe that my diet supports my love for living life to the fullest. However, that is me and I believe in my heart that my role in life is to not persuade others to change dietary habits. Knowing that education is not the key in changing life-long unhealthy habits, I believe that the best thing I can do for others is to motivate and inspire.

My goal for my theme meal was not to educate. Certainly, we all know what to do to lose weight and increase activity but for whatever reason, it is easier said than done. While I was in the dietary office on Thurs, giving myself a well-needed yogurt and fruit break, I heard a nurse talking to another nurse about wanting/needing to lose 20 lbs. Hoping that the nurse would be excited about my meal, she passed on the salad and turkey burger and choose chips, salsa and cookies for her lunch. It was not my role to tell her what she should be eating but I felt as if at least I provide the option for her. I hope that when she is ready, she will have a few recipes in mind for a new start to living the rest of her life.

A day before the employee banquet and my theme meal, I heard that many people were hesitant about my meal. The administrator (who is really nice and allowed me to prepare the meal for their banquet) was also nervous about my meal because she was worried that the employees would not like it. She told the dietary manager that she needed to have another option for the employees so she suggested fried chicken, potato salad and baked beans. I was nearly in tears (although trying to stay strong as I anticipated many set backs in my "healthy" menu) when I heard that there was going to be another food choice at the banquet. All my hard work, time and effort to give the employees just one meal, on one day, that perhaps would open their eyes to a new way of eating and all of that would be thrown down the drain because of "another option". The day before the banquet, I told the administrator that I wouldn't carry on with my menu (even though I had already spent about 5 hours of planning and about 6 hours of prep work) because if you provide others with a non-healthy alternative, it is likely that the healthy option would be overlooked. Even if we all love living a healthy life, we all know that if pizza and salad is served over salad, pizza would be the first thing on our minds (and oh boy..do I love pizza!).
After expressing my thoughts about this meal and my passion for healthy living, the administrator told me that I could keep my menu and that the employees could tough it out for one day. I was thrilled but still extremely nervous and overwhelmed.

To sum up the event, I have never been so exhausted. Of course, with the stress of not knowing if the staff would even eat my meal, I have never worked so hard to prepare a meal for 60 people.
I made homemade mango salsa (spicy w/ jalapeno and non-spicy w/o jalapeno) which went along with original Sun Chips.
I made chocolate chip cookies, as well as raisin cookies from scratch.
I made a strawberry, mandarin and walnut salad and I cut up the fixings for the burgers.
Although the turkey burgers required minimal work (baked in the convention oven and then placed in a little chicken stock to maintain moistness..I wanted to grill them but because of lack of time, this was the only option), the turkey burgers and whole wheat buns were certainly something different for the employees at the nursing home.
It took a lot of hours to prepare this meal and I am really happy with how it turned out. I will admit that I have never been so nervous in my life. However, I didn't want to compromise my beliefs and I would not have felt right putting my heart and soul into this meal and not feeling good about what I was serving to others. Aside from meat and fish, I will never prepare a recipe that I won't eat myself. If the food is good enough to provide to others, there is no reason why I can't eat it myself.

Overall, I would say that most of the employees enjoyed the meal. Not sure if they will continue eating like they did at the banquet but I did receive a lot of comments that I did a great job preparing the meal and that the food was delicious and excellent. I was on the serving line for the meal and I couldn't believe how many people loved my salsa. I was quite surprised that the salad ran out by the end of the banquet.

Of course, I wasn't surprised by the comments I heard. I didn't take them to heart and I kept my mouth shut, but I just wanted others to try something new for only one day (or one meal). Again, my goal wasn't to educate but rather to inspire. If I could open up one mind, I guess I would feel like I accomplished something.

Here are some comments I heard...
"What's all this...healthy stuff?"
"Oh, I don't do healthy food"
"What kind of burger is that? That's the only meat you have? Are you serious that is the only meat you are serving?"
"I don't want a salad"
"Oh.. today we are eating healthy"
"Oh alright, I'll try it" (of course, several plates still had salad and burgers on them when the banquet was over..but at least they tried them)

On the bright side, I did have several people who came up to me wanting recipes and thanking me for preparing a healthy meal. I felt like everyone appreciated my effort in preparing this meal but I think only a handful really left the meal feeling like they did something great for their body.

Well, I guess I will leave you with pics of my Farm To Table Theme Meal. I will post recipes tomorrow...Without a doubt, I'm sure you all will LOVE them!
Thanks for your support.

6 quarts Mango Salsa





96 Homemade Cookies





60 Turkey Burgers



Salad and burger fixings




Condiments and Cookies
(it took a long time to put the cookies in bags, as well as the mustard, ketchup and mayo in little containers as well as the salad dressings)


The Final Product





10/20/10

Almost ready

Well, tomorrow is my big theme day meal. I will be serving food to 60 employees for the monthly employee banquet at the Lakeside Nursing Home. I could not be more nervous about serving my "Farm to Table" selections to individuals who don't quite appreciate the benefits of healthy eating. Everyone at the facility is super nice but the rumor around the halls is that many of the employees are not too excited about trying my meal.
This leaves me a little sad about tomorrow but I'm hoping for the best. I really compromised with my menu and I believe that the employees are really going to enjoy some, if not all, of my items.
For the menu:
Turkey Burger on Whole Wheat Bun
Sun Chips
Homemade Mango Salsa
Walnut, Mandarin and Strawberry Salad
Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today I spent several hours in the kitchen preparing my homemade salsa and cookies. The cookies came out fantastic! So moist and yummy. I will be posting the recipes to my items (with pics) after tomorrow. While I was spooning the cookies onto the baking sheet, an employee asked me if I made the cookies from scratch. I said yes and she was impressed. In my mind, I thought to myself "how else would I make cookies?". I guess I am just so use to making my meals from wholesome foods that I didn't even consider using a cookie dough mix.
The salsa is super spicy which I am a bit nervous about. I tried to de-spice the jalepeno peppers with a little vinegar and sugar but I will likely pick out some of the peppers so that it isn't too hot. I LOVED my hot mango salsa but just to be on the safe side, I decided (last minute) to make a non-jalepeno mango salsa. I decided on sun chips because they don't have a lot of ingredients and I want the employees to enjoy the salsa with something crunchy and familiar.
I'm most worried about the salad because I don't know how it will go over with the staff. I decided to take the word "turkey" off my menu because I am also worried that "turkey burgers" may deter people from even trying it.

I was a little creative with my theme meal and I made several cut-outs of fruits from construction papers and put tips on healthy eating all over them.

My goal tomorrow is to give the employees something delicious....perhaps, maybe even open some eyes to how wonderful "healthy" eating can be. Although I am sad that many people are not too excited about me preparing the foods for the October Employee Banquet, I look forward to the opportunity to share my passion for healthy eating and to show people that you can take any favorite food and make it heart-healthy. I am very passionate about the way I eat which reflects the way that I live. I try to live life to the fullest and I know I couldn't do so without putting wholesome and healthy food in my body.

10/19/10

Alfalfa Sprouts, Tofu Salad - Creations

Based on the name, I don't think my salad could be any more "vegetarian". I don't know why alfalfa sprouts and tofu get a bad reputation...as if only vegetarians can enjoy two amazing foods which contain great nutrients?!?!?
Did you know that 1 cup of alfalfa sprouts contains 3g protein?
Or that 1 cup contains 25% of your daily intake of vitamin C?
I just love fruits and veggies.....there is so much goodness found in food straight from the earth. For me, personally, I know that my body loves food that contains little to no ingredients. Because of my plant-based diet (which is balanced with whole grains, healthy carbs, healthy fats, and quality protein), I experience very little sweet cravings and feel really in-tune with my appetite and every day nutrient needs. Even when I do enjoy something that is not in my typical diet, it is really easy to quickly feel satisfied. I can't say that my current daily diet happened overnight, but with meals like tonight....I can't help but love the food that I put inside my body. And Karel enjoyed the salad as well!
Enjoy!

10/18/10

Amelia Island Half Ironman - Spectating

A BIG congrats goes out to ALL of the olympic distance and half ironman athletes on Sunday. What a fantastic event with such a beautiful day. I recommend this event to any newbie triathlete or a triathlete seeking a beautiful course...and a run course that has a lot of shade!

To all of the locals, it was great seeing so many smiling faces and such great performances.
Congrats to Katrine for placing 3rd place overall female and to her hubby, who placed 7th overall male. What a team! You both really raced hard and left it all out on the course!
Congrats to Doris for racing strong despite a tummy ache the night before.
Congrats to Rachel and Tyler for racing in their first ever Olympic Distance triathlon!
Congrats to our good friend David in the Olympic distance...thanks for managing one of the best resorts in Florida...Ponte Vedra Lodge!
Congrats to Hilary H. for having a PR in the Olympic distance, along with a 10K PR!
Congrats to Susan Haag for being an unbelievable endurance athlete...also, I'm glad you think my husband has a cute accent. :)
Congrats to Campy's 2nd mommy (Laura) for beating Lupus and showing people than anything is possible. Laura-you are an inspiration to many and I love being able to count on you to give Campy a great home when we are away for a day or for a week. I'm so glad Campy has his best bud (Beethoven), you and Patrick to give him love while we are away at a cycling event or triathlon/Ironman.
Although my hubby needs no congrats, I am so happy that I can spend much of a weekend day, at a triathlon, with my hubby and enjoy every moment of it and never feel bored or hear a complaint. It was actually his idea to spend the weekend in Amelia and I am so happy that he talked me into it and allowed me to relax my mind for a few days.

Enjoy the pics!
































What a weekend....

10/17/10

Amelia Island

It was time to get away. I needed a break from interning SO bad.
Karel decided that this weekend would be perfect for us to spend a little time together....of course, with our furry little one. Although only an hour away, we made a trip to Campy's hometown. This trip was extra special because we found Campy online (Petfinder) and he was being fostered by a wonderful family who lived in Amelia Island. I lost their number but we so badly wanted to contact them this weekend and tell them in person how much we adore our rescued pet. We don't know Campy's story but we know that he spent some time on the streets of Amelia Island prior to being found/rescued. Now he has a family...and a mommy who loves him way too much.
We took the ferry from Atlantic Beach to Fernandina beach and that was fun for all of us. Only a 5 min commute ($5 fee per car) but it was nice to do something we have never done before.
We stayed at the Days inn and Suites which was at a perfect location for the triathlon that was happening on Sun. Amelia Island is a great small town and everyone is super friendly (and pet-friendly). Campy had a blast and Karel and myself were so impressed that Campy was on his best behavior all weekend.
Campy was treated to his first ever Bacon treat (real Bacon!) at the Happy Tomato (for lunch). After spending the later part of the afternoon at an antique car show and walking around downtown, we stopped by the athlete check-in to see a few of our friends competing in the olympic distance and half ironman Amelia triathlon.
Starting our morning with a 3-hour group ride on our road bikes left us ready for a pizza dinner in downtown Amelia. We ended up our day with the best brick oven vegetarian pizza (Ham on half of it for Karel) from ARTE pizza and I enjoyed pistachio ice cream at a local ice cream and fudge shop afterwards. As usual, Campy enjoyed everything with us...well except the bakery cupcake and several beers that Karel enjoyed alone. I have to say that yesterday was one of the best days that we all have spent together. Beautiful weather, stress-free and lots of memories.

After a well-needed 9 1/2 hours of sleep (my 4:30am wake up times last week left me super tired this weekend) we woke up early to be at the start of the triathlon. Although cool in the morning (around 45 degrees) the day turned out to be absolutely beautiful.
We spent all morning cheering on all of our friends and Karel managed to squeeze in a mountain bike ride at Fort Clinch Park while Campy and I checked out of the room.

We had a great time taking pics and supporting our friends and all of the other athletes. This was Campy's first triathlon and he had a great time doing what he loves to do...be outside.

I think it is really important that Karel and I take time out of our day to support the local athletes. As a coach, there is nothing I love more than helping people with training, as well as racing nutrition, and seeing people put their training to the test. For Karel, it was fun to see him spot bikes in the transition area and then let me know who was racing. I guess as the lead bike mechanic of the Trek Store (and general manager), Karel can recognize bikes faster than he can recognize people in wetsuits.

Hope you enjoy the pics! Congrats everyone who raced today!




















More pics to come tomorrow from Race Day...