Teaching Nutrition Education

When I decided that I would switch my career from Teaching to Nutrition, I had a feeling that the departure from teaching would not be a forever goodbye. I was right.

Last summer, at the very beginning of the nutrition graduate program I am in, I had the opportunity to help out at the Food As Medicine Everyday (FAME) series through the Food As Medicine Institute. At the core of this program is the empowerment of others to take the reins of their health. This is accomplished by a series of classes that combines, in each class, hands-on cooking experiences with nutrition lessons. I  can’t begin to tell you how much this experience with FAME meant to me. That summer with FAME showed me that I can still teach and help others on their own health journey through nutrition. That summer with FAME, a program that is meant to empower its participants, empowered me.

famifames Get a FAME book today!

I stuck around FAME and the Food As Medicine Institute (FAMI) to learn from them in other ways, but that experience with the nutrition education aspect of FAMI was definitely a spark that was ignited. By continuing to work with the program and furthering my own education in nutrition, that spark turned into a flame and that fire needed an outlet.

class2  Natural Grocers kitchen space

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In November, with a local plant-based chef from La Vida Veggie (Heather Solano), I co-presented my first class at a Natural Grocers grocery store for the local community and what an experience that was! I experienced several emotions that day from being a nervous wreck to worrying about how many people would show up to “Oh my gosh, we have 22 people in this kitchen; we can’t screw up!”  Heather and I taught a full-on vegan Thanksgiving menu to those 22 guests who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the nutrition component just as much as the cooking and eating portions. The fire kept growing.

I remember washing the dishes after that vegan Thanksgiving class and feeling so elated about what I was just a part of. I went home that afternoon exhausted, but completely motivated to figure out how to again achieve that feeling of elation. It didn’t take me long to connect with two other local grocery store chains: New Seasons Market and Fred Meyer.

I just taught my first New Seasons Market class on Mindful Eating and what an experience that was. There was no cooking involved, but the health and wellness topic still managed to get a group of eight individuals to commute through the slushy roads from Portland’s melting snow and ice. I may have led this class, but it was more of a facilitation experience thanks to the wonderful conversations and participation of the individuals who were in the room. I have another Mindful Eating class scheduled at a New Seasons Market and I’m definitely looking forward to connecting with another group in an attempt to strengthen their and my own connection to food in a more nourishing way.

fredmeyer Beautiful 20th Century Workshop kitchen space at Stadium Fred Meyer.

With Fred Meyer,  I knew of a local store equipped with a kitchen space that they used for classes. You can probably guess what happened next…I met with the kitchen coordinator, we were both mutually interested in coordinating a class or multiple classes, and we scheduled the first one. I just taught that class a week ago (Jan. 21st) and again I had an amazing experience that was very different from the Natural Grocers class. At this class, the smaller group allowed for a completely hands-on cooking approach that had us all huddled and cooking together while learning about the nutrition and health benefits of 3 plant-based breakfast recipes and enjoying conversations about nutrition and health.

The fire continues to burn and I have scheduled more classes at these listed grocery stores and am even going to begin co-teaching Food As Medicine Everyday classes at an elementary school twice a month. How amazing does that sound?! You’re probably not going to be surprised to hear that I am  currently planning a career that includes community nutrition education because of how inspired I am each time I conduct a class. Teaching at these stores and interacting with their customers has been a phenomenal experience. At a grocery store, you never know who to expect. It’s a wonderful place where different socioeconomic statuses, different levels of nutrition backgrounds, different health perspectives and experiences, and more, are all represented and can be present in the very room you are about to teach your class in. This is what community education is all about–bringing in and interacting with different persons and perspectives while teaching and learning from  each other through the sharing of questions and stories–and I’m grateful for these opportunities, but especially to FAME for igniting that initial spark.

willatgreenfest Manda (friend and FAMI staff) and I working the Food As Medicine Institute contest booth at the Portland Green Festivals, December 2016.

 

Winter Foods for Healthy Running

Note: The following post was originally written for Eugene Marathon as I am a 2017 Ambassador for the race organization (Use code “AMB2017WB” when registering for the Half or Full to save money!).

Depending on where you live, winter training can be challenging. Morning runners may be lacing up before work which could mean pre-sunrise runs in the finger-numbing cold which could very well limit the kind of workout that realistically takes place: really fast runs because your body is dying to warm up or rather slower runs because it’s sub-40 and you are out there before the sun has woken up. Evening runners can’t catch a break either; it might be a tad warmer than in the morning, but probably not by much. No matter your struggle though, you choose to train throughout this season because you are a force to be reckoned with; because you don’t back down when it gets tough; because…you are a runner. And you already registered for Eugene 2017. (Right? Right??)

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Training outdoors during the winter months takes a lot of will and a lot of energy, but it should also include some cautionary steps. Generally, people get sick more often during the winter months and because training for a half or a full marathon can take quite a toll on the body, it is ever-important to make sure you are taking the proper steps to make sure you are handling winter training well. Of course, this means the common sense stuff such as wearing gloves and hats if necessary and certainly running in long sleeves and perhaps a jacket if it’s raining, but what is also very important to not forget is that the food you eat during this time is more than just fuel for the furnace, but fuel for recovery and nourishment as well.

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You can’t train if you can’t train so the most important goal for every runner no matter the season should be to remain healthy. “Healthy” can mean injury-free, but it can also mean free of sickness and with both of these definitions, proper nutrition is important. Eating healthily is not something that comes easy for many people during the winter season so thinking about ways to help you stay on top of your nutrition game can be helpful. One way to do this is to make a list of winter foods local to this area and keep it on your fridge or wherever you will see it often. When you are going grocery shopping or looking for what to make for dinner, play around with a couple of those foods and reap the benefits of the nutrition of the seasonable fruit or vegetable. Below is a short list of only some of the foods that are in season or still in season in the Pacific Northwest area during some or all of the winter months. As you’ll see, it’ll be rather difficult to sustain yourself on only these foods, so remember that this is just a way to get you to include healthy, in-season produce into your diet.

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Beets (and beet greens)          Brussels sprouts

Carrots                                     Cabbage

Chard                                       Collard greens

Cranberries                               Kale

Leeks                                       Mushrooms

Mustard greens                          Potatoes

Shallots                                     Spinach

Winter squash                           Turnips

Watercress

“Winter foods” can also mean foods that one generally eats when the weather gets colder, a.k.a. comfort foods. One of the common realities of winter-eating, for many, is eating foods that make us feel full and warm. Let’s face it: watercress and kale just won’t cut it and that’s perfectly okay. It doesn’t mean that watercress and kale can’t be added to foods that we do love to eat in the winter, such as chili, vegetarian or otherwise. Great idea huh? Or add some of these and other ingredients into a hot, easy-to-make stir fry with some potatoes or brown rice. Talk about a filling meal that would provide a ton of nourishment and nutrients! Adding a ton of vegetables to your soups and even some seeds or nuts (cashews would be great!) is another easy way to make sure you are getting the extra nutrients you need when training such as Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Potassium, Magnesium, and more.

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My go-to winter foods that are not in the produce aisle include oatmeal, brown rice, mashed potatoes, and peanut butter and jam sandwiches. And how would I “nutritionize” these dishes even more? Adding kale or spinach to the brown rice or mashed potatoes is simple enough. Adding hemp hearts or ground flax seeds to oatmeal is a great way to boost its nutrition profile, but so is adding a few leaves of spinach if you’re up to it. Savory oatmeal, anyone?

So think about the foods you gravitate toward in the winter months and brainstorm some ways to add some vegetables, fruit, or whole grains and seeds to it to give it the nutrition kick that it and you could use during your training.

–The author is a sucker for a good peanut butter and jam sandwich and challenges all to add spinach, turmeric, and cinnamon to their next PB&J. See you in Eugene, May 5-7!

 

PS: If you have any questions about nutrition in general or nutrition with regards to training, please don’t hesitate to comment here or email me (info in About page).

 

 

Ground Up Nut Butters- Nutrition Spotlight: Cashews

The following post/article was written as a partnership with Ground Up nut butters, a Portland women-owned and run small business. Part of Ground Up’s mission:  “[T]raining disadvantaged women in the Greater Portland area in marketable skills through the production and sales of delicious & nutritious nut butters!….Our goal is for women to engage in creative self-expression with the hope of gaining confidence and realizing their full potential. Women will work with us for 6-9 months and then transition into full-time employment at Portland-area businesses.”

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Nutrition Spotlight: Cashews

By Wilfredo Benitez, www.EatRunandDone.com

Disclaimer: While the nutritional information contained within this article is supported through research, individuals on a strict diet plan or with a condition should consult with their physician before introducing cashews or other tree nuts into their diet.

If you were to guess which of the most commonly consumed nuts in the U.S. has the lowest lipid profile, would you guess cashews? If so, you’d be right and if not, well now you know. But that’s not to indicate that the fats from nuts and seeds are bad and that consumption of them should be avoided. For some, the lower fat profile is an added benefit for a variety of reasons, but with the many benefits of cashews, this is one nut that should be added to your grocery list if it is not already a regular.

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Let’s take a look at what the health benefits of cashews are and what these benefits are attributed to.

There are different types of fats: saturated fats and unsaturated fats (these include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids). Cashews have a greater amount of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids compared to other fatty acids and this is where most of the benefits of cashews come from. It is well supported that monounsaturated fats can help reduce triglycerides which are normal to have in the body, but a high amount of this form of fat has been linked to a greater risk for heart disease. One study even found that the risk of heart disease was 37% lower for individuals who ate nuts more than four times a week compared to those who never or rarely consumed nuts. To apply this to real life, and with the disclaimer that I am not a medical professional, it may not be a bad idea to enjoy a tablespoon of nut butter a few times a week, perhaps much more depending on your metabolism and lifestyle.

groundup8 Oatmeal for breakfast with some cashew nut butter is a great way to keep full longer and to get healthy fats, protein, and other minerals in your diet. 

 

If you’re worried about gaining weight from including nut butter or nuts in your diet, think again. There are numerous studies that debunk the idea that eating nuts leads to weight gain. Sure, having a diet very high in fat without the lifestyle to warrant it, may indeed lead to weight gain and other issues, but that can be said for almost anything. In fact, many studies have shown that a diet that includes a healthy amount of nuts is linked to better weight control and prevention of weight gain.

Lastly, I wouldn’t be doing cashews justice if I didn’t speak to them as an excellent source of copper, a mineral that we need to get from our diet. This essential mineral is necessary for utilizing iron in the body, energy production, eliminating free radicals in the body that damage cells and organ systems, and for formation of collagen which is essential for bone and tissue health. Not much copper is needed on a daily basis, but an inadequate intake of copper can lead to issues with blood vessels, joint problems, undesirable cholesterol levels, and possibly iron deficiency anemia. It should be good to know that just two tablespoons of whole cashews (about 1 tablespoon of cashew butter) offer about 40% of one’s daily recommended intake of copper.

                      –The author of this article thinks that carrot sticks and Ground Up nut butter is a phenomenal combination and a great way to absorb the fat soluble Vitamin A in carrots. Feel free to connect with him via his blog or on IG: @eatrunanddone.

Beanfields Recipe #2: Roasted Bell Pepper and Eggplant Dip!

Who doesn’t love a good dip? I absolutely love hummus, but I don’t want to eat hummus all the time. So I decided to create this Beanfields Snacks recipe for a dip that I know you’ll enjoy! It’s vegan and gluten-free and it can be used as a spread or, as I can attest to, be eaten straight out of the bowl!  And do you see those ingredients? It’s completely guilt-free and full of nutrients! That’s what I call Food As Medicine.

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Nutrients of this recipe (only some!):

Bell peppers – Vitamin C (157% in 1 cup!), B6, Vitamin A

Eggplant- Not an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, but a source nonetheless. Instead, though, eggplant provides us with nasunin, a potent antioxidant compound that protects cell membranes from damage.

Chickpeas- Manganese, Folate, Copper, Fiber, Phosphorus, Protein, Iron, Zinc

Health Benefits: In short, this recipe is packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients to keep us well. Don’t know what phytonutrients are? Think again. I’m sure you’ve heard of  carotenoids, flavonoids, and polyphenols before. Well, this recipe is full of phytonutrients that work to keep our body healthy and functioning properly. I won’t make specific health claims, but I recommend that if you are really curious about them, visit WHFoods.com to research some of the foods in this recipe and read about the numerous health benefits and you can follow up with the studies that support the claims.

Admittedly, as I’m learning as a nutrition student, it is best to eat bell peppers and many other vegetables without exposing them to heat (i.e. raw) due to the loss of some nutrients, but who says both can’t be done? I mean, what’s to stop you from enjoying this dip with slices of bell pepper, carrots, or celery? So, go ahead and have fun making this dip and eating it too!

ROASTED BELL PEPPER & EGGPLANT DIP

Ingredients

Red bell pepper- 1 medium

Eggplant- ½ medium

Chickpeas- 1 cup

Beanfields Jalapeno chips- ¼ cup crushed

Nutritional yeast- 1tbsp (optional)

Garlic- 1-2 cloves

Onion- ½ onion, sautéed

Olive oil- 4 tbsp (1/4 cup)

Water- 2-3 tbsp

Salt- ¼ teaspoon (more or less to taste)

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Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Coat roasting dish with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
  3. Slice bell pepper and eggplant and coat with oil using an oil brush. Place on roasting dish and roast in oven for 45 minutes.
  4. Pour and spread teaspoon of olive oil on sauté or frying pan and heat skillet on low heat.
  5. Chop onion and garlic and sauté in skillet on medium heat until almost fully cooked (approx. 5 minutes).
  6. Add chickpeas to pan for another 3-5 minutes. Add another teaspoon of olive oil if necessary.
  7. Take out the bell pepper and eggplant and place all ingredients in a blender, including remaining olive oil, Beanfields chips, and nutritional yeast if you are using it.
  8. Blend the ingredients on a lower mode until a proper dip texture is formed; the dip should not be too thick when in blender as it will thicken more when it sits and cools. Pour/scoop the dip into a bowl or container and place in fridge for an hour or so to cool. (This dip can also be enjoyed hot as a topping or as a side.)
  9. Enjoy however and with whatever you please!

 

Happy Eating & Cooking!

Pump(kin) Up Your Health!

 

The following blog post was written for and published on the Food As Medicine Institute (FAMI) blog.

 

Everyone knows that we are in pumpkin season right now. If you weren’t aware, it’s about time to get your head out of the gutter. Actually, since those gutters are probably full of fallen autumn leaves, you may want to get back to work. I digress…

Did you know that pumpkins are part of the Cucurbitaceae family which include melons, cucumbers, gourds, and squashes? That’s right: pumpkins are related to cucumbers! Neat, right? As a cucurbitacin, pumpkins are high in phytonutrients that will help keep you healthy and well throughout the fall season. But that means you have to eat them, not just take pictures of an orchard or create jack-o’-lanterns with your kids. Sadly, that just won’t cut it.

Healthy because its orange.

The more colorful the food, the better they are for you. If only it were that simple. Well, actually, it often is, with several exceptions of course. Don’t toss out that cauliflower or onion just yet!

The orange hue of the pumpkins’ skin and flesh is due to specific phytonutrients, chemicals found in plant foods. The phytonutrient category that lends the orange color to pumpkins are carotenoids which include specific chemicals you may or may not have heard of such as beta carotene, alpha carotene, lutein, lycopene, and others. Is there another vegetable that you can think of that is orange and might have carotenoids in it?

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But how are pumpkins healthy?

Due to the nutrient profile of pumpkins, this winter squash variety, like most winter squash varieties, is an anti-inflammatory and even an anti-cancer food. While most of the studies on winter squash’s benefits for health have been conducted on laboratory animals, there have been numerous studies on the various nutrients in pumpkin that support the claims made here.

One of the many benefits that the beta carotene nutrient in pumpkin provides for our bodies is reducing organ damage brought on by oxidative stress in the body. What causes oxidative stress? A poor diet, smoking, drug use, and environmental pollutants are among the sources. And what does oxidative stress lead to if left unchecked? Disease and possibly cancer.

Some studies show that adequate or higher levels of carotenoids may result in a reduced risk of pancreatic cancer and a reduced risk of breast cancer for women. And there is adequate research to show that the nutrients found in pumpkin have been shown to improve blood sugar regulation and possibly improve cardiovascular health. Even iron deficiency anemia may be prevented or treated with Vitamin A supplementation and pumpkin has plenty of Vitamin A.

So what are you waiting for? Start pump(kin)ing up your health today!

 Health properties (not every micronutrient is included)

Based on 1 cup:

Calories: approx. 50

Rich in: Vitamin A

Good source of: B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Copper, Iron,

Decent source of: Manganese, Phosphorus, and Potassium.

Bonus: Pumpkin has minimal amounts (but amounts nonetheless!) of all of the essential amino acids.

The pumpkin oatmeal recipe that I wrote up for this blog post can be found on the FAMI blog. 🙂

Enjoy your health!

 

References:

  1. Jansen RJ, Robinson DP, Stolzenberg-solomon RZ, et al. Nutrients from fruit and vegetable consumption reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer. J Gastrointest Cancer. 2013;44(2):152-61.
  2. Esrefoglu M, Akinci A, Taslidere E, Elbe H, Cetin A, Ates B. Ascorbic acid and beta-carotene reduce stress-induced oxidative organ damage in rats. Biotech Histochem. 2016;91(7):455-464.
  3. Jayaprakasam B, Seeram NP, Nair MG. Anticancer and antiinflammatory activities of cucurbitacins from Cucurbita andreana. Cancer Lett. 2003;189(1):11-6.
  4. Eliassen AH, Hendrickson SJ, Brinton LA, et al. Circulating carotenoids and risk of breast cancer: pooled analysis of eight prospective studies. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2012;104(24):1905-16.
  5. Semba RD, Bloem MW. The anemia of vitamin A deficiency: epidemiology and pathogenesis. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2002;56(4):271-281.

Get Those Kids Moving!

An article I recently read on ScienceDaily.com is the motivation behind this post. That article  covered a study that was recently published in Sports Medicine on how high-intensity (this is measured, not simply just an extreme or inhumane amount of exercise) exercise can reduce the amount of adipose tissue of 6-8 year old kids. Obvious right? Get a kid doing sprint intervals on a track or sign him or her up for a daily boot camp session at your local gym and he or she is bound to burn off some fat and lose some weight, extra or not. But in this study, just 10 minutes (yes, 10, not an hour or 2 hours)  of high-intensity exercise resulted in less central adiposity (when fat is stored in the mid-section, it is a risk factor for many diseases and other health problems).

Ten minutes is nothing right? Wrong. It maybe used to be “nothing”, but in a time where recess at school is not necessarily the norm and physical education, or gym class, does not happen every day, those 10 minutes of healthy activity–exercise, if you will–may be more hard for your children to come by then you would think.

So here’s an idea: on days that your child doesn’t have gym class or soccer practice or gymnastics practice, etc., plan to do something active with them for a minimum of ten minutes. You may think, “Oh, they have soccer practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a game every Saturday. They really need those other days off to just relax.” Not necessarily. First off, they likely won’t get burnt out by playing at your local park,  scootering, skateboarding, or biking around the neighborhood, or playing some frisbee in a nearby safe open space. They’re kids! In fact, they’ll probably love the extra time they get to spend with neighborhood friends, mom, dad, sister, brother, cousin, babysitter, aunt, uncle, etc. If having kids exercise in a fun, healthy way isn’t great enough, here’s a bonus: if you’re involved, this idea gets you out the door as well! Heck, stay inside and play some DDR or whatever has replaced DDR at this point (I haven’t played video games in quite a long time); if DDR isn’t high-intensity, I don’t know what is!

But here’s something you must, must remember to do or else the “health” aspect just goes right out the window: fuel your kiddo(s) with some healthful, nourishing, love-filled foods before and after this exercise time. If your child is grabbing a handful of Skittles or downing a bag of Doritos before you start your bonding/exercise/playing time, they’re not going to be getting the same health effects that should be resulting from the healthy activities. The same thing goes for if they walk in the door after a half-hour of playing at the park and go right for the cookies or whatever else is their go-to. This applies to us as adults so why not foster these healthy habits in our youth. It’s kind of our moral obligation in a way.

So how do we do this? How do we abide by our moral obligation to help keep our youth healthy? We teach them. We talk to them and with them. We learn together–no matter how much you already know–that an apple (classic example so please substitute this with any other fruit, vegetable, etc.) is healthier than the Skittles and we learn why that is as well. We learn that we can add peanut butter to the apple slices and maybe a dash of cinnamon and we have a delicious treat. We make our own granola bars or we get really smart about what bars we bring into the home. We strive to make at least one recipe a week with our children to teach them the importance of preparing our own meals, and we have fun while doing it.  We model what we preach. We walk our talk. We don’t grab the cookies when we walk in the door. We don’t buy the potato chips but then tell our kids that they can’t have any…they’ll just have some when you’re not looking. We need to be great, not just good, at role modeling what we want our kids to do or not do. And lastly, we need to build on what our kids are learning about in school when it comes to food and nutrition. There are some great programs and articles for kids out there that do a great job about teaching our children the importance of eating healthily and limiting the junk food, but all of these articles and nutrition programs have very little effect if these conversations and new ideas are not continued and fostered at home. Let’s change that!

Let’s make healthy fun. Let’s make “exercise” fun (maybe without even saying the word exercise!). Let’s make food fun and engaging and something we can all look forward to learning about together.

So get going. Go have some fun with the kiddo(s) in your life!

PS: That’s me in the picture above with my niece. This was taken a few years ago so she was either 6 or 7. You may be thinking, “How is she ‘moving’ if she’s on your shoulders?” She’s on my shoulders because she and I “ran” the entire first mile off and on and had a blast while doing it. She would sprint. I would chase her. She would chase me. We ran in circles. We pet dogs. We had so much fun and I put her on my shoulders to pose for this picture, but we continued running off and on for the next mile. She didn’t want to complete the 5k and there was no harm in that!

A Summer of FAME

Update! — The Food As Medicine Institute is a finalist for the Green Festivals Community Award. This award is for $5,000 and will help spread nutrition education to schools and other communities. I have worked for this program and I know the doctors and people who are involved and you can trust me when I tell you that great work is being done. Please take 10 seconds to click on the link above and vote for the Food As Medicine Institute to win this award! 

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This past summer was extremely busy and went by rather quickly due to starting grad school again at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM). This may or may not mean that I’ve still not been to the Oregon coast and now likely won’t get there until sometime next year (eek!), but I did participate in something else that I’ll certainly remember Summer 2016 for: FAME.

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FAME stands for Food As Medicine Everyday and it is a cooking series of (generally) 12 weekly classes that combines simple and fun cooking experiences with nutrition education. The two naturopathic physicians who primarily led this summer’s Food as Medicine Everyday series used the recipes from their book  to teach participants simple cooking techniques right in Charlee’s Kitchen in NUNM’s Helfgott Research Institute building. It was so inspiring to watch everyone become so comfortable with a knife, a Vitamix, with spicing foods, and with having fun while cooking, and then return to the dining table as a group to learn about a health and nutrition topic that varied with each weekly class. And by “inspiring”, I mean that my experience with the cooking classes and with FAME behind-the-scenes a bit more has made it clear to me that community nutrition education is an area I want to explore for my career after graduation.

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My role and the role of the other two or three staff who I worked with throughout the summer was to supervise one of three cooking stations as well as initiate and/or facilitate conversations about meal prep, cooking, or even the nutrition of the foods we were preparing and boy was that a fun experience. I mean, I got paid to help supervise cooking and to socialize with new people who really want to be there. How sweet is that? And how do I know they actually wanted to be there? Well, they told me. But also because they signed up for a class that started at 6pm on Wednesday…in Portland. If you’ve driven near downtown Portland at 6pm on a weekday, you know the level of commitment I’m talking about.

I know that the participants learned quite a lot over the 10 weeks of the class (it was shortened for the summer) such as various cooking techniques, recipes, reading labels, and a great deal on pertinent health topics, but the FAME series proved to be a learning experience for me as well. It is always invaluable to practice skills such as supervising, teaching, listening, and working on a team and that’s what working the FAME series this summer allowed me to do.

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I’m incredibly grateful for the experience that I was given and for the opportunity to continue working with the Institute this fall as a blogger and with other tasks. I feel a calling to learn all I can from everyone at FAMI and the work they do and I can actually see myself following their lead after graduating from this nutrition program. I believe that when one is in school, they often learn or experience the most valuable things outside of the classroom and I think FAMI is and will continue to be that valuable experience for me.

Update: I’ll be tailoring and teaching (possibly co-teaching) FAME classes to two 5th grade classes to a school in West Linn, Oregon. I cannot wait for this awesome experience! I’ve been wanting to teach nutrition education to kids for sometime now and I’m humbled to do this while still a student (though I am also a licensed teacher so that helps!).

In February, the Institute will be putting on their 4th annual Food As Medicine Symposium  and you can bet I’ll be there. I hope to see you some of you Portlanders there, too. Until then…

Happy Eating! And Cooking!

 

5 Ways to Stay Hydrated For a Run

The official start of summer is almost here, but I’m sure you’ve already experienced some rather warm days or downright scorchers…I know I have! Here in Portland, we had two 100 degree days last weekend sandwiched between a couple 90-92 degree days. “Unseasonably hot” is an understatement to explain those early June temperatures But as they always say, the run must go on!

I have a marathon coming up in July–still trying to decide between two: Foot Traffic Flat or The Oregon Marathon–and there’s no time to waste! My training period is shorter than I’d like to be by at least 4 weeks so I have had to take advantage of every opportunity to run that there has been.

When it was 100 degrees, as previously mentioned, this mentality didn’t shift. Of course, the planned mileage was altered and I didn’t run for 13 or so miles in 2 hours in 95 degrees, but I did run for 10 miles which took almost two hours due to stopping several times to cool down. I had two bottles with me–one was for drinking and so it had an electrolyte tablet in it, and the other was to use on me to cool me down when by body was heating up…man did that help! I remember when my mom was out for a run one time a few years ago and it was 90 degrees and humid back in New Jersey at the time. You were dripping sweat just from walking to your car. Well, she got lightheaded and dizzy after about 2 or 3 miles and called me to pick her up and I’ll never forget the sound of her voice. She knew she was hot and thirsty which she has experienced, but she was actually afraid something was wrong with her because she had never felt like this way before. Luckily I picked her up and she had been standing in the shade to cool off and she was completely fine, but my heart was racing the whole drive to get her.

Please, please, please…Do not underestimate the sun and the heat. It can be very dangerous to do so and the danger can really sneak up on you. I’m not saying don’t run or be outside; just be well-prepared. And hydration is an important part of that preparation.

Here are my 5 ways to stay hydrated before and during a run:

no1        Small Bottle

4  I use amphipod bottles because I like the way they feel in my hand. They are ergonomically designed which makes them, for me, easier to hold which is important because you don’t want to run with any sort of added stress or discomfort other than what may be in your head. This small bottle pictured above is 10 oz and I use it on warm to mildly hot days of mileage anywhere from 8 miles to 14 miles. I have two of them so if I need one to be a water squirting bottle, the other can be my hydration bottle. It’s perfect. Nuun is my electrolye of choice but 16 oz is ideal for a whole tablet and so I only use half a tablet when I use these smaller bottles. It’s a tad lighter since 10 oz is more than 8 oz, but it’s still drinkable and I’m not doing it for flavor anyway!

no2  Large Bottle

5 This larger 20 oz Amphipod bottle is probably one of my best running investments. I’ll use the larger bottle for anything over 15 miles or 2 hours of running in temps ranging from warm to hot. It took some time to get used to running with over a pound in your hand, but I got used to it quickly. The design of the amphipod bottle really helps here. I have two of these bottles and I’ve used both on a run with the same purpose as stated above. I am contemplating using two bottles for the July marathon as one 20 oz bottle proved to not be enough during my last marathon. You may not like the idea of holding a bottle while you run–although I promise you that you will likely get used to it–and so there is another option you may prefer.

no3Bladder pack or pack with pockets

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A bladder pack allows you to run with a lightweight, running-specific pack with a water bladder inside and a straw that connects to it. This can be a heavier option depending on the pack you choose and how much water you put in it, but it can be a life-saver for those who run long, in very hot temperatures, and/or those who sweat a lot. When I was training for my first ultramarathon, I was running with a walking-pack with a bladder (not meant for running and so it was on the heavier side) but I realized that I prefer a lighter pack that can maybe hold a bottle in the pack and free up my hands for an additional bottle or two. The Nathan pack pictured above is super lightweight and doesn’t offer much for carrying purposes, but it has two pockets which are great for my cell and for my 10 oz bottle. That way, I can run without anything in my hands, or I can hold another bottle. Also, there is enough room for keys and/or gels or dates if you desire the calories on the run.

no4  Bottle Stash!

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Another option is to hide your bottles of water or hydration beverage along your running route. This option requires a bit more time to place your bottles (depending on your route), but can be pretty convenient if you really don’t like running while holding anything whether it be on your back or in your hands. You can stash a bottle in a bush somewhere or behind a tree that stands out. If you are running on a looped route near your home, an option is to leave a bottle on your porch or maybe your mailbox. I haven’t done this before as I don’t mind holding anything, but it’s definitely a good option for staying hydrated during the run.

no5Hydrate Before

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And I’ve saved the most important for last! You can plan to down two 20 oz bottles during your weekend long run, but if you haven’t hydrated or are actually dehydrated from the beginning, those 40 oz will likely not prevent you from feeling the effects of poor hydration. Muscle cramps. Tiring. Slow paces. Increased effort to run. Fuzziness or dizziness. It’s all possible when you’re dehydrated from the start. Throughout the week you should obviously be drinking plenty of water, but it’s important to be getting all of your electrolytes through proper nutrition as well. Fruits and plenty of vegetables are great for this, but make sure your sodium intake is good as well especially if you will be running in the heat often and even more especially if you are a heavy sweater. To help with my hydration and electrolyte intake, I try to always have coconut water (my favorite is C2O) waiting for me in the fridge to help out with my potassium and sodium (not high in sodium though) levels.

There you have it! Five options for staying hydrated before and during your summer running (and even your fall, winter, and spring running).

Run smart. Run Happy.

Lesson Learned

This spring season hasn’t been what I thought it would be. Receiving a puncture wound from stepping on glass during what should have been an “easy” sub-7 minute 10 miler back in February was not part of the marathon training plan! I promise…I wrote it myself!

I thought that once the sutures were taken out of my foot after waiting far too long to seek proper professional care that I’d be able to run just fine. Admittedly, I started to think that part of why I was hesitant to step down normally on a light jog was because I knew the sutures were still in my foot. I can tell you now that the presence of the sutures was not the reason for my cautious running mechanics…pain was actually present.

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But not three days after the sutures were out, I ran a 5:49 mile. I shouldn’t have and I wasn’t supposed to. I intended on finding a pick-up soccer game (plenty of those around here in Portland), and the last field I checked out ended up being the track near my apartment where I run my track workouts. I decided I’d jog a mile or wo to make up for not playing soccer, but afer jogging a mile and completing a training hurdles routine, I felt really good and decided to run a second mile; I had no idea I’d run it in under 6 minutes. That effort, coupled with a week of about 30 miles and a slight muscle strain I felt while playing soccer the following weekend, have rendered me back to square one on my recovery road back to running.

asics4 Square one includes having to wear my old Asics clunkers as the extra cushion prevents my foot from hurting when I run.

I rushed back into running. My favorite thing to do was put on pause for 2 months and I couldn’t wait to get back to it. It would have been one thing to just jog a mile or two a day for a week and let my foot and leg muscles remember what it is to run; it’s another thing to run 5 miles one morning and 5 mile in the afternoon or to run 8 miles in one run two days in a row. I should have known better. And I should have listened to the podiatrist who told me to ease back into running and to still take it easy for a few weeks. Well…I learned that lesson the hard way.

I had to take an additional five days off from running last week due to the constant throbbing of my foot whenever I ran. I continued and continue to play soccer as, almost miraculously, running in my soccer cleat results in no pain whatsoever, so I’ve stayed in decent enough shape. It stinks, though, that I went from training for a personal best Boston Qualifying marathon time (my first one was last fall here in Pdx at the Portland Marathon) to being tired and tight after a 3 miler at 8 minutes per mile pace; but I did this to myself.

The moral of the story is clear: If the foot doctor says you need to ease back into running or activity, you should probably listen. 

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Don’t rush things. I love running and I couldn’t to get back to doing it, but this means two things: 1) I have enough passion that won’t allow running to ever get away from me and 2) I need to learn to respect the stress that running has on the body especially when recovering from any kind of injury.

Train Smart & Happy Running!

Injuries Suck!

No pictures today, but I think you’ll survive.  The reason is two-fold:

  1. I just don’t have any. And,
  2. Even if I did have some, working them into a post while I’m at work takes way too much time.

We’re always pressed for time aren’t we? There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish we had at least 1 more hour in the day. 25 hours. It sounds like a great number, doesn’t it? That’s an extra hour to get errands done; to spend with our loved ones; or to run. But alas, we only have 24 and we have to work with what we’ve got. So if I have to go to bed at 11 because I’m catching up on shows or writing up track workouts and I have to wake up at 5:00 or 5:15am to get a decent run in, then so be it. I’ll sacrifice the hour of extra sleep to make sure I get to do what truly makes me feel fully alive, especially after not being able to do it for 8 of the last 10 weeks.

Returning from an injury is something I haven’t experienced in years and not running for 2 months really did leave something unfulfilled in me for that time. I started to get used to not running after the first few weeks of my injury. I started frequenting the gym during that time–cycling and strength training saved my sanity and shortened the time it would take me to bounce back–but it wasn’t the same as being outside and moving my body through the world around me. Over the past two weeks of running, I’ve been hyper-aware of the pure bliss that I feel from running. As I climb the hill, turn out of my apartment complex, and embark on another daily running journey, I feel invigorated and anew and so grateful for the body’s ability to heal; the body truly is a remarkable thing.

It was upsetting that I would get injured right before the track season officially began. For months, I had imagined leading my group of distance runners on a long road run. I heard that hoots and hollers as I sped around the track, showing my sprinters earlier on that it is indeed possible to run more than 5 sub-30 second 200 meter sprints with less than a minute rest in between each one; it just wasn’t meant to be this year. So instead of coaching by modeling, I had to coach on the sidelines. But now I’m back to running and I feel like my energy has magnified. Literally. It’s like all of my neurons are firing and my coaching brain is at 110% lately as I’ve begun strategizing the heck out of the girls and guys teams to get as many kids as I can to qualify for Oregon Track and Field HS State Championships down at Historic Hayward Field in Eugene in a few weeks. One thing that I’m having to deal with on this road to high school greatness is something I preferred to have behind me: injuries. Not mine…but I still feel their pain.

Calf tightness. Pain in the hip flexors area. Strained hamstrings. Moderate, but painful shin splints. When you push your body to the limit, there is likely to always be something that’s not going to feel 100% all the time, but seeing my high school kids continue to show up and–for those who can– put in 100% of what they have left is so inspiring.

Injuries suck. But injuries teach us a lot such as how to cope; how to avoid re-injury after healing; and how much we actually love what we can no longer do or do normally. We may have to take a few days off or even a few weeks or months, but generally, the body recovers if you let and help it to do so. Injuries come with the territory, as it is said. With love comes anger and with running comes injury. What’s good about this combination is that injuries, a majority of the time, merely fade into lessons and memories.

In the wise words of Amby Burfoot : “You could spend a lifetime regretting the days when you continued running; you’ll never regret the three to seven days of rest.”

Be smart out there.

Happy Running!