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).

 

 

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!

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!

 

Own The Day with Nii.

 

If you were at Portland VegFest this past November, it is likely you were introduced to a new food bar that, if you are into bars and healthy snacks, should be in your pantry. For that matter, keep one in your glove compartment and your office desk while you’re at it. Nii (rhymes with “bye”) Bars are nutrient-packed and have ingredients that make for sustainable, long-term energy to keep you fueled throughout your workday afternoon as well as your outdoor adventures.

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I came across Nii bars while grocery shopping one day. I picked up what I thought was a “Knee” bar and the simple, whole foods ingredients led me to grab a couple more. What caught my attention right away was the first ingredient of the Almond Chocolate Chip bar that was in my hand: raw organic almond butter. Listen here people: a nut butter as the first ingredient is something you just don’t see in other food/protein/energy/nutrition bars; typically you’ll see dates or some form of syrup sweetener.

I did some research and realized I could totally get behind what Nii was and is about. Their “Own the Day” philosophy is one I try to live by each day and their ingredients are what I look for in a food bar. They’re not only vegan which is a huge plus for me (obviously), but they are organic and made of whole foods ingredients which is exactly what I want to be putting in my body especially as fuel for my running. Not much time had passed before I was accepted as a Nii Ambassador and I’ve been happy to spread the Nii love and awareness of this delicious and nutritious bar for those who want to maintain or pursue healthy and active lifestyles, especially for those in the Portland area (home for me).

They’re good all year round!

I’m ecstatic to finally publish this  post because just today, Nii Foods has launched their new website and it is a beauty!! The new website isn’t something that is just a new URL address or a prettier online space for customers and potential customers. This undoubtedly marks a new chapter for the Nii team just as turning That Vegan Runner (my previous blogspot site) into Eat, Run, and Done. marked a new chapter for me. For example, in addition to the site, Nii simultaneously launched their Nii Tribe which was a project  that I know they’ve been looking forward to putting together for a while now. I know, because I’m in the tribe! Click on the link and scroll down to check it out and see who else is part of this great community.

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Nii Foods founder, Shanais Pelka (above right), was kind enough to answer some Nii questions that I was curious about and I figured the curious potential consumer would like to know as well.

W is me (Will) and S is Shanais. Sorry if I just insulted some people’s intelligence.  😮

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W: What does Nii mean? What was the inspiration behind calling your bars, “Nii Bars?” 

S: Nii is my nickname. It is short for Shanais and it is what all my closest friends called me in middle school. 

W: They may go by different names (e.g. nutrition bar, protein bar, energy bar, granola bar, adventure bar, etc.), but there are hundreds of bars out in the market. What made you dissatisfied with the options enough to get you to start creating what would become Nii bars?

S: I was dissatisfied with the other bars on the market for numerous reasons. Many bars contained soy protein or GMO whey protein. I wanted to create a bar made of real, whole foods.  Out of all the organic bars on the shelves, the sweetener, such as dates, agave, or rice syrup, was generally the first ingredient. I wanted to create a bar with nut butter as the first ingredient, therefore making a nutrient-dense sustainable food that would provide long-lasting energy. Finally, I worked very hard to avoid agave syrup, and so I chose to use coconut nectar, which is sustainable and is loaded with enzymes and nutrients. 

W: Did your children have any role in the five flavors of the Nii Foods bars? 

S: Yes, my children spent many hours in the kitchen with me as we mixed different nut butters, seeds and fruits. My children and their friends were the taste-testers with each new prototype.

W: Some potential consumers may say that the fat content in Nii bars are too high. What is or would be your response? 

S: This is a common misconception. Fats are, in fact, an essential macronutrient. Every single cell membrane in our body is made of fat and fats are needed for muscle and tissue health, metabolism, energy, and hormonal balance. Omega 3 and 6 fats, as well as medium chain fats from coconut, are extremely important in hormonal balance, gut health, muscle and skin health, and in moderating inflammation.

W: You are a mother first, I’m sure, but you are also a nutritionist and an educator. Do you find yourself combining those two titles at times and becoming a nutrition educator?

S: Yes, in fact, I do combine both of these titles frequently.  Prior to starting Nii, I worked as a nutritionist in a holistic pediatrician’s office and I taught Environmental Science for a local college.  There is nothing that I enjoy more than teaching people about health, nutrition and holistic healing. 

W: Before they were Nii bars as we know them, they were Nii nut butterballs. Did you have any initial plan to keep them in ball form?

S: I did initially pursue keeping the Nii balls in ‘ball’ form.  Unfortunately, it was more expensive to create. I do still have hopes of creating small Nii ball bite-sized snacks in the near future. 

W: Is there anything that consumers can expect from Nii Foods in the near or not-so-near future that you are willing to disclose? 

S: I have some new superfood flavors I have been working on. I am hoping to make one of these new flavors a charity bar.

W: Now, here is the big question: What is your favorite Nii Bar? How about your children’s’? 

S: My favorite Nii bar is the cacao coconut flavor because I love raw coconut and raw cacao nibs.  My children’s favorite flavor is peanut butter, hands down. 

niibar6 Decisions, decisions.

For those of you who are curious which my favorite Nii Bar would be, I’d have to agree with Shanais’ children on this one and say Peanut Butter with Almond Chocolate Chip as a very close second, but they’re all delicious…and nutritious.

Check out the videos below for some inspiration and knowledge about what Nii Foods is all about.

Happy Snacking/Eating/Running/& Living!

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And don’t forget to Own The Day.

 

4 Foods I Gravitate Toward When I’m Not Feeling So Hot

I woke up two days ago not feeling too great. I wasn’t shivering or sweating profusely, but there was some swelling around my throat and my sinuses were congested. Feeling anything more than the occasional sniffles only happens once (maybe twice) a year since I started eating a plant-based, vegan diet, so when it happens it’s not just an “Oh, I’m due for a cold and body aches” kind of  moment. Nobody is ever due for that. What’s happening is my body’s way of telling me I took it passed a certain point without caring for it the way I usually do. This is actually how things have been the past few days.

I haven’t been eating junk, but I’ve been eating a bit more sweets than usual and less raw vegetables all the while putting in some really good running workouts. If I wasn’t pushing my body with my running, I may have gotten away with the brief lapse in proper nutrition, but I should have known better. Here what I think: Anytime you get sick, it’s your body telling you not that you have done something wrong, but that you haven’t been doing something right. A cookie (vegan for me…hopefully for you too) or slightly healthier dessert after dinner isn’t going to get you sick. It’s the lack of proper nutrients that will likely be the culprit. So if you’re sneaking a leftover dessert to enjoy while on lunch, fine. But don’t forget to leave room for the fruits and veggies in your lunchbag.

So, when I’m feeling not so hot, I like to reflect on what my food intake has been like. I described this part above and so when I check that step off, I then have to do something about it. So what do I do? First, I figure out when to run. There are plenty of studies that show that sweating boosts the immune system so as long as I don’t push my body to exertion, a good run and a good sweat are a must for me. Next, I figure out the gaps in my recent nutrition. Once I figure those out, I resolve to get back to my proper-eating routine ASAP. Lastly, I start to make a more conscientious decision to intake certain foods that I know will boost my immune system and help me recover as quickly as possible while also helping other systems in my body and preventing other issues from arising. I consume almost all of these foods daily anyway, but sometimes I may forget to incorporate them and so a check-in can be very helpful.

So what are the foods I gravitate toward? Here are four of them:

Turmeric

Turmeric is an antioxidant powerhouse. What this means is that it has antioxidants which fight free roaming radical chemicals that travel through the body and damage healthy cells and cell membranes. When you exercise free radicals in the body are amplified initially which is why proper and smart/targeted nutrition is key to helping your body recover and keep your systems healthy. Increasing one’s antioxidant intake is essential for optimum health. Because the body can’t keep up with antioxidant production, antioxidants (vitamins, minerals, enzymes) must come from one’s daily food intake.

Curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient, is high in antioxidants and is very ant-inflammatory so it’s something I need to be including in my diet daily to take care of my body’s needs.

Val and I include turmeric in every dinner. We could be having veggies, beans, cooked tofu, quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, mashed white potatoes…it doesn’t matter; there is turmeric in the dish. I’ve included it in oatmeal before just to see if the peanut butter and cacao powder I also use can mask the taste and I’d still get the benefits of turmeric, but uh…that didn’t really happen. It wasn’t disgusting, but it wasn’t something I’m going to repeat. At least I got even more turmeric that day!

Cayenne Pepper

cayenne Photo from NutritionFacts.org

I have to first mention that cayenne pepper is of the Capsicum family and so the benefits of cayenne pepper spice are also the benefits of most other peppers in the Capsicum family. Capsicum is an excellent course of so many key nutrients and properties that truly boost one’s health. Rich in antioxidants, beta carotene, vitamin C, and many other properties, Capsicum and cayenne pepper is extraordinarily good for immediately boosting the immune system. Capsicum is well-supported to almost immediately improve blood flow and circulation in the body as well which is incredibly important for recovery from exercise. If circulation is poor, unwanted issues can arise which is what makes cayenne pepper a staple in my pantry. Capsicum is also really helpful in improving one’s digestion so why adding it to my food is a no-brainer.

I sprinkle cayenne pepper onto my veggies, brown rice, lentils, quinoa…essentially, anything that I cook for dinner.

 

Ginger

I don’t use ginger as often as I should, but it is a food that when I’m rarely feeling under the weather (once, maybe twice a year), I always want to go and get.  What I’ve come to learn about ginger is that there is such a concentration of its properties that you don’t need to consume a large amount of the food in order to reap its positive health effects. So what are these health benefits?

You could write a book about the studies of ginger and the possible effects on the human body (perhaps preventing cancer; fighting gastrointestinal issues), but for purposes of this post…Ginger is antiviral and antibacterial food and it is also anti-inflammatory and has antioxidants. Whew! That’s a lot of anti-anything. This makes it a good for preventing sicknesses and for fighting them. After exercise, the body experiences inflammation and free-roaming radicals that can cause unwanted health issues and fight passed the immune system to render you feeling not so good. For this reason, you want to be sure to take in the best foods possible to reduce the chances of you getting sick after a hard workout.

If you’re into smoothies, add a thing slice or two of ginger into your blends. Like to stir fry or just want to keep it simple with brown rice tonight? Grate some garlic and add it to your dishes for an extra kick and some super tasty flavor. You could even grate some ginger and add it to a glass of room-temperature water with some lemon and cayenne spice to give your immune system the wake-up call it may need. Try it!

 Garlic

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The very same sulfur-containing compounds that give garlic its off-putting odor are some of the very compounds that make it one of the most-supported foods for promoting good health. Just one clove contains about 5mg of calcium, 12 mg of potassium, and tons of sulfuric compounds which makes garlic a no-brainer when it comes boosting the immune system. What’s more, a key property of garlic is allicin which is known to kill certain bacteria and to fight off infection; there are other properties of garlic that have these abilities as well.

There are many ways to consume garlic and many forms it comes in, but Val and I usually slice and dice and then cook it in our dishes. What I’ve learned so regarding cooking garlic is the following:

To get the most out of your garlic, cut the clove open and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before starting to cook with it or consuming it raw. When a clove is left open, allicin starts to form which is where the power punch of garlic really comes from. Cooking the                     garlic does stop the sulfur enzyme from forming, but once the allicin has already started to form (after the clove has been left to sit for up to 10 minutes) it’s my understanding that the allicin has become more heat resistant and can be cooked in low heat for 10-15 minutes without the allicin being destroyed.

 

The body is a marvelous thing. It’s astonishingly good at being Ms. Prevention and Mr. Fix-it at the same time, but it doesn’t mean we can just sit back, eat popcorn and Twizzlers, and simply be along for the ride. We have to be willing to always be in the driver’s seat and to give our body the best care we can give it. It may be okay to put Regular in the gas tank every now and then (I certainly do it), but we should always strive to give our bodies the Premium it deserves.

Some references:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78 

http://www.cayennepepper.info/health-benefits-of-cayenne-pepper.html

 

Q&A with Dr. Michael Greger, MD-the Go-To for All Things Nutrition

His name is Dr. Michael Greger, MD. And he’s coming to Portland.

And I am thrilled.

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A couple months ago, I learned that a family member had high LDL (the bad kind) cholesterol. Unfortunately, many people in this country have high cholesterol, but the cholesterol levels coupled with the family history made this more of an issue than it may be for others. I later found out that that same family member was just diagnosed with another possibly debilitating ailment, but one that, luckily, can be reversed and prevented with proper nutrition and a removal of meat (and hopefully dairy) from the diet. When I shared the news with Val, her response indicated she was reading my mind: “Watch some NutritionFacts.org videos about it and what can be done.” So we did just that and the family member was absolutely shocked at what she learned and I was shocked at how well she understood everything Dr. Greger was saying. I shouldn’t have been because I knew that his videos are so easy to follow and to grasp. I’m grateful to have a resource that is of such importance and one that my family can now utilize when they have their own questions and concerns.

As an aspiring nutritionist and with a fiancé who is studying naturopathic medicine, I look up to Dr. Greger as a kind of savior for American society. He understands the importance of nutrition as medicine and has made it his life’s work to teach others that you really are, or will become, what you eat…metaphorically, of course!

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When I first heard about Dr. Greger, it was from Val telling me that I needed to visit the NutritionFacts.org site and now I’m telling you to do the same. But don’t stop there. Watch his nutrition videos, read his articles, binge watch YouTube recordings, and if you’re local, come meet and hear him speak in Portland on January 19th. Oh! And if you really want to educate yourself…get his new book How Not to Die and prepare to have your eyes opened.

Dr. Greger was gracious enough to answer some questions I had for him and the following screenshot is semi-proof that I’m not making these responses up!

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Q&A with Dr. Michael Greger

Why did you decide to write How Not to Die?

It all started with my grandma, actually. The reversal of her end-stage heart disease with a plant-based diet is what inspired me to go to medical school, but when I got there I was shocked to find out that this whole body of evidence on reversing chronic disease with lifestyle changes—opening up arteries without drugs, without surgery—was being largely ignored by mainstream medicine. And so if the cure to our #1 killer could get lost down the rabbit hole, what else might be buried in the medical literature that could help my patients? I made it my life’s mission to find out. That’s what led me to start NutritionFacts.org and that’s what led me to write the book.
What should people who don’t like to be overwhelmed, but want to improve their health focus on first: their food/nutrition or exercise?

 

The #1 cause of death and the #1 cause of disability is diet (with smoking at #2 and inactivity somewhere around #5), so definitely changing what we eat.

 

It is a common belief, and one that is well-supported, that MDs generally do not have adequate education in proper nutrition for maintaining a healthy diet as well as fighting various illnesses and disease. Is any of your work targeting the lack of nutrition education in our society’s most esteemed medical profession?

 

Indeed. Doctors have a severe nutrition deficiency–in education. Most doctors are just never taught the impact healthy nutrition can have on the course of illness and so they graduate without this powerful tool in their medical toolbox. There are also institutional barriers, such as time constraints and lack of reimbursement. In general, doctors simply aren’t paid for counseling people on how to take care of themselves. Of course the drug companies also play a role in influencing medical education and practice. Ask your doctor when’s the last time they were taken out to dinner by Big Broccoli.

 

Are you optimistic that the overall health of our society will improve over time and that more and more people will be knowledgeable about food and nutrition?

 

Absolutely! It’s like smoking in the ‘50s. We already had decades of science linking smoking with lung cancer, but it was ignored because smoking was normal. Most doctors smoked. The average per capita cigarette consumption was 4,000 cigarettes a year, meaning the average American smoked a half a pack a day. The American Medical Association was reassuring everyone that smoking in moderation was ok. There was this disconnect between the science and public policy. It took more than 25 years and 7,000 studies before the first Surgeon General report against smoking came out in the 60’s. Until the system changes, we have to take personal responsibility for our own health and for our family’s health. We can’t wait until society catches up to the science, because it’s a matter of life and death. But just like [with] smoking, society will eventually catch up

 

More and more books, personalities, celebrities, restaurants, and films that focus on plant-based diets and veganism are being more frequently recognized and discussed in health, nutrition, and food conversations throughout the country. Do you think this is because more people in this country are recognizing that vegetarianism and veganism are healthier diets and lifestyles for a person and for the planet or do you think such recognition is just to satisfy a new market or audience?

My hope is that the science is slowly, but surely getting out there!

 

Information about his Portland visit can be found at the NW Veg website. I’ve copy and pasted some info below. As of this posting there are only 50 spots left! Click here to reserve your spot before it’s too late. Hope to see you there!

NW VEG and Adventist Medical Center present Dr. Michael Greger with “Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating Disease with Diet” on Thursday, January 19th at 6:30pm at the Adventist Medical Center (Amphitheater), 10123 SE Market St., Portland 97216. Doors open at 6pm. This event is free and open to the public.

Recovering from the Marathon and Bouncing Back for 5ks

So I’m really excited to write this post. Really excited.

It’s been 1 week since I qualified for Boston with a 3:04:10. It’s likely I won’t actually meet the cutoff time to register for the most renowned marathon in the world, BUT…I got the BQ. I guess the old saying is right: Third time’s a charm (the Portland Marathon was my 4th marathon, but only my 3rd time going after a BQ).

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Val rarely misses a race. She’s definitely my biggest supporter.

I knew before marathon day that I would need to really focus on recovery immediately after the race. It was highly likely that a local food bar company, Betsy’s Best bar none (B3N), was going to be sponsoring an upcoming race and I had a feeling it was going to be really soon. Turns out I was right. They decided to sponsor two races and the first, the Race for the Rescues, was yesterday. I opted for the 5k distance as there was no way I was going to push my body to race a 10k only a week after giving the 26.2 everything I had. So with a 5k to get my body ready to race, proper and speedy recovery was absolutely necessary.

I’ve never had to actually try to recover. What I mean is, I’ve only just let recovery happen naturally. Typical stuff: sleep more, rest more, run a bit less, eat well, etc. But with just less than 7 days to bounce back, I needed to be much more active in my recovery approach. Below are sectioned details of how I consciously sped up my recovery in order to race a 5k one week after a personal best and Boston qualifying marathon time. I was hoping for my fastest 5k time (previous PR set back in 2012: 17:50), and despite some confusion and running off-course and through dirt, I was able to achieve that in what was approximately 17:04.

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And they’re off! Sporting Betsy’s Best bar none who sponsored me for the Race for the Rescues 5k. 

Nutrition during the week: I didn’t set out to eat more calories and I didn’t set out eat less calories. Instead, I ate every calorie with a purpose. Granted, I may have eaten more calories but as I don’t count my calorie intake, I have no way of knowing for sure and, in any case, I didn’t plan to do so. I knew that hydration was something I really needed to focus on so I increased my water intake by quite a lot. As you lose electrolytes every time you pee, I knew I had to make sure that I took in more electrolytes than usual. For this I looked to extra bananas (3 a day at least; a couple of days I had 5) and I also added salt–for sodium, which is the electrolyte that is most lost when you work out and sweat–to my breakfast oatmeal and my dinners. I ate a very good amount of starchy carbohydrates in the form of oatmeal or muesli (every day for breakfast), pasta, and potatoes to restock my glycogen stores. Lastly, I made sure I had protein at every meal. In the morning, I added cacao powder, flax seeds, and chia seeds to my oatmeal. For lunch, I brought along a Nii bar to ensure some protein intake although I eat nearly entirely fruits and veggies at lunch (apple, bananas, carrots, spinach, celery). And for dinner it was a mix of lentils, quinoa, and soy (tofu or tempeh) with veggies and a starchy carb.

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Peanut butter chocolate-chip toast and chocolate chip pancakes…Carbs right? 

I was very conscious of my nutrition this past week and was overly set on eating mindfully to ensure I was taking care of what my body needed to recover well.

Running: I knew I needed at least a couple of days of complete rest. I could have perhaps got a couple of miles in on Tuesday but I decided to give it another day just in case. As you will be able to see, I eased into running again with an easy 2 miler and since I felt good, I decided to run another 4 later after work. Thursday’s and Friday’s runs were really able to get the movement back into my legs. I didn’t test speed until Friday’s 5.5 miler, when I decided include a two miles between 6:28 and 6:35 pace to get some decent speed and turnover back into my legs. I was careful not to overdo any of the running and took a complete rest day Saturday to let my legs rest up for the 5k.

Sunday: Marathon

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 2mi AM run (easy pace); 4mi PM run (7:34/mi avg.)

Thursday: 5mi easy pace

Friday: 5.5mi (6:58 avg.)

Saturday: Rest day (aside from stretching my legs with some dynamic stretching and light jogging < quarter mile)

Sunday: 5k (17:04 watch time)

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A huge majority of the people at the race ran with their dogs. It was so cool to see so many fit four legged friends out on the course! 

b3n2

Betsy’s Best bar none is a super tasty food bar unlike any other food bar I’ve had before. They have unique flavors such as chili chocolate chip (pictured; talk about a kick!), savory rosemary, and orange poppyseed. Their peppermint chocolate chip and chili chocolate chip have to be my favorite though. They’re Portland-made so I love that I can support a local business and fuel with their product as well. Vegan, soy-free, gluten free, organic…it goes on and one with B3N.

Sleep: Another important part of recovery is sleep. I didn’t increase the amount of hours I slept, but I never felt any kind of fatigue that was unusual. I sleep and slept anywhere from 6 – 7.5 hours.

So that’s how my recovery has been. I’d like to say that I’m completely recovered, but there is not way that is possible only a week from a marathon race. Even though I had a great 5k race yesterday and am not sore or feeling sluggish in anyway, I know I need to still think “recovery” for this week. As I have another race this coming Sunday with Betsy’s Best as my sponsor, I’ll be tip-top with my nutrition, stretching, and running just enough and nothing extra to ensure a healthy race.

Question time: How do you recover from your races? What does the following look like for you: nutrition, running, rest, stretching, sleep, etc.? What’s the shortest or longest amount of time it took you to recover from a race or hard workout and what was the distance or workout? I’d love to chat about these topics and any other comments or questions you have!

CONGRATULATIONS to everyone who has been racing this fall season, especially to those tackling racing and/or new distances for the first time! 

My Top 4 Breakfast Choices As A Runner

We all have heard it before: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well I’m here to tell you that…It’s true! Oh,  come on! What’d you expect me to say?

Skipping breakfast can have so many effects on the rest of your day and can lead to unhealthy habits such as snacking a lot, and often on foods high in fat and sugar. Skipping also means it can be more difficult to get all of the necessary nutrients your body needs on a daily basis and if you’re a runner or exercise regularly, you’re looking at an even more difficult time achieving proper daily nutrition. This doesn’t mean you can’t get all the nutrients you need if you skip breakfast; it will just require more effort.

Why in the world you want to skip breakfast anyway?! Let’s be real…the breakfast food category has the best foods: Coffee, pancakes, oatmeal, coffee, fruits, (tofu) scrambles, pastries, pancakes, hashbrowns, coffee, homefries, french toast, pancakes, bagels, donuts, coffee, pancakes, coffee, pancakes, coffee, pancakes, and fruit. And pancakes. With coffee. And a side of roasted potatoes.

For many reasons though, people do skip breakfast. It could be they don’t have time for it (popular one, especially from my track athletes) or that they don’t like eating too early and when they get to work, they’re too busy to eat. I’ve even had a track athlete tell me that she forgot to eat breakfast. Important: If you are a person, but especially an athlete (even more especially, a young, developing athlete) you it’s a big risk (and ask) to skip meals and think your body will continue to meet all your demands. I think eventually, if this habit is long-lasting and your activity levels are more than moderate, you may experience the consequences of such a habit (e.g. fatigue, poor skin health, poor eye health, lower brain activity/performance, low energy, or other possible and likely outcomes of improper nutrition).

So:

  • Don’t have time? Wake up earlier. 15 minutes. That’s all you need to prep and eat a minimally decent breakfast. 15 minutes is much time to shave off of your sleep? Go to bed 15 minutes earlier. Solved!
  • Work is too busy? Grab something on-the-go. Oatmeal cups, nutrition bars, fruit, bagel (skip the butter and CC), and more.
  • Forgot? Err….Umm….What’s wrong with you!? Kidding. But, I don’t how to help with that one. I suppose a phone reminder or post-it note on your bathroom mirror could help.

All of this was just a long introduction to the crux of this post:

MY  TOP  4  BREAKFAST  CHOICES  (As a Runner)

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I hate that we categorize foods as breakfast, lunch, or dinner foods because it makes me feel bad for wanting pancakes for dinner, when everyone should want pancakes for dinner! 

Homemade pancakes are just too darn tasty to not be on this list. Of my favorite foods, they are only second to potatoes. But their taste and fluffiness only contribute to why they are #1 on my top 4 breakfast choices. The reason I included “homemade” is not because I have anything against going out and getting some delicious dairy and egg-free pancakes for brunch (hence the picture, taken at Portobello Trattoria in Portland). It’s just that when you make the batter yourself, you can add ingredients that would turn that fluffy flapjack into a nutrient powerhouse. Chia seeds, flax seeds, maca powder, cacao powder, cinnamon, berries, a pinch of salt…the list can go on and on. I won’t make pancakes before a run, but when I get back from a long run, I know I can rely on pancakes to replenish my glycogen stores and give me the nutrients I need to recover properly and quickly.

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Oatmeal is probably one of the foods that doctors, nutritionists, food professionals and breakfast enthusiasts can all agree is a top choice for breakfast. If you don’t like oatmeal, you’re not doing it right. Have you had Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal? No? Click on the link and start living. What you can do with a hot bowl of oats, like pancakes, is endless! For starters, before you cook ’em, you can make the oatmeal cold (simple take on Muesli, anyone?). Similar to pancakes though, you can add so much to oatmeal before it becomes too much (is that even possible?): cinnamon, chia or flax seeds, pinch of salt, banana slices, cacao powder, and some peanut butter are what I frequently add, but you can do so much more. Berries, apple slices, coconut flakes, sliced nuts, teaspoon of fresh jam, a dollop of thick non-dairy Greek yogurt…Such an easy way to pack a bowl of nutrients (fiber, protein, carbs, and vitamins from your add-ins) into a bowl of hot oats, steel cut or rolled! Oh, and for your busy people…Bob’s Red Mill has new cups of oatmeal for your busy mornings!

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6  Not pretty. Still delicious.

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1 Scrambled…Tofu. Or just “tofu scramble.” No matter how you call it, it’s delicious. And, again, it’s a great way to get a whopping amount of nutrients onto your plate! Organic tofu is something I frequently eat, especially for its protein value and versatility. Then I add all of the other ingredients as an easy way to increase my vitamin intake (K, C, D, A, B’s, etc).

tofu2    tofu

To make a tofu scramble, I add a bit of oil in a skillet and set the gas to low. Then I slice some onions and add them to the skillet on a higher heat. I then chop (?) the tofu into the desired bit sizes I want (you can use a knife, fork, or spatula for this) and add the tofu to the skillet.Then I slice and dice the rest of the veggies and add those a couple of minutes later. The color comes from the curry powder, turmeric, and the paprika, but I also add cayenne and garlic to taste.

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green smoothie  bananas

Fruit: Blended into a fruit smoothie with vegetables or just as it is in its delicious raw form. When you blend, you can, for the fourth time, add many ingredients to maximize the nutrients that end up in your glass, but the result could also be quite a bit of sugar in your glass as well. If you are limiting your sugar intake for health concerns or preferences then you may want to just stick to a few pieces of fruit as you’ll be full longer. As a runner, I make sure to eat fruit in the morning (bananas especially) for a couple reasons: the fiber keeps me full longer and I ensure that I am taking the first opportunity I get to get the nutrients my body needs.

So I’ll leave you with a bunch of stuff here at the end of this post. You’re treated to questions, a brief peek into the breakfast life of Lolo Jones, and wise words from the one and only Winnie the Pooh.

QUESTIONS: What are your go-to breakfast foods/meals? Do you eat those same foods before a run? After a run? And what’s your reasoning behind your responses? Try to find a reason even if you don’t think you have one…I believe people should always be mindful about what they eat and this includes why they’re eating something.

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”  p&p

Wise words. Pooh Bear. Wise words.